Monday, June 27, 2011

The Same Me

How much of you can you trace to the source? Your interests, your hobbies, your dreams; can you pin down the moment they became yours? How much of you has come from forgotten interactions? What has molded you?

The summer after my junior year in high school I got the opportunity to spend a week in Washington, D.C. as part of a program where students from around the country spend a week seeing the sights, discussing politics and current events, and even meeting some of the nation's leaders. My week of Presidential Classroom was in June of 1991. I have generally regarded it as just a fun and interesting week. I don’t usually have any tales to tell or interesting anecdotes. "I saw Al Gore. From very far away." A fun week as I recall, but not one packed with life-altering experiences that "made me the person I am today." Or was it?

My memories of that week are fragmented. I no longer hold a coherent sequence of events in my head. What remains are pieces. Bits of conversations. Colors. Remembered feelings. Nothing stands out as striking. But if I look closely at those fragments, I see me. I see the me that has always been and the me who, while nearly an adult, was still so very young.

Pieces of memories. Like dreams that don't flow smoothly from one image to the next.
  • We are divided into “caucuses." I have no idea what this word means. I assume it’s some sort of group. I am not about to ask.
  • We play a game with a beach ball with questions written on it. You throw the ball to someone in the group, they answer the first question they see when they catch the ball. A girl catches the ball. She reads, “Tell us something about your home town that we don’t know.” She thinks. “I’m from Chicago. I guess… it’s not really that windy.” I really want the ball. I really want to add that it’s not called “The Windy City” because of actual wind. The question I get was not about my home town. It doesn't really matter. I never would have actually said that anyway.
  • I have three roommates. We exchange addresses. One comments that she will put us on her Christmas card list. She tells an story that involves her not understanding how you can say you’re "good friends" with someone if you don’t have their address, meaning you don’t even send them a Christmas card. My mother never sent out Christmas cards. I don't remember if we ever even received any Christmas cards. I have sent out Christmas cards every year since then.
  • Someone asked me where I would be going to college. I responded, "U of I." As I said it, I realized that this was probably not helpful to people not from Illinois.
  • We visited the National Mall. There is a conversation about a boy who was confused by our plans for the day. "He thought we were going to a shopping mall!" At that moment, I realized we would not be going to a mall later in the day. I, of course, said nothing. They thought that guy was an idiot. I laughed along. I still didn't get why it was called a mall.
  • We spent a day at the Smithsonian. A cute boy in my group named Aaron was very into planes. We spent a lot of time at the Air and Space museum. As he named every plane, I thought he got even cuter. I have loved the name Aaron ever since. I threw it in the hopper as potential baby names for both of my pregnancies.
  • We saw the hope diamond. It was blue. Seemed like a really big deal for a blue diamond. Weren't diamonds supposed to be clear?
  • I met young people who liked country music? I never knew anyone who liked country music. We broke into a group singing of The Gambler. Even northerners know all the words.
  • Bob Dole spoke to us. It was exciting. He was someone we had actually heard of. I couldn't think of a single question to ask him. Instead, the girl sitting next to me and I wrote notes on my notepad throughout his speech.
  • We visited the senators and representatives from our states. Illinois' congressmen were largely unavailable that week. We met one. He talked the entire time about softball. I did not play softball. I was bored.
  • We took the Metro (aka subway). We were told repeatedly: “Stand to the right. Walk to the left.” This seemed brilliant. Why didn't everyone in the world know this? After one day, we, too, were annoyed with the tourists who stood on the left. I still am.
  • The Metro escalators were unbelievably tall. On one trip, the line for the up escalator was incredibly long. We saw that the other up escalator wasn't moving. Some of us decided to walk up the escalator. At some point, it became clear how enormous this escalator was. We all made it, though. I wonder what I would think of that escalator now. Would it seem so much smaller now, in the way that everything from your youth seemed so large? Or would I stare in amazement that my youthful body was ever so fit?
  • In the basement of the Capital Building, security closed off the hallways and made us wait behind temporary barriers like those that coral the masses at theme parks into orderly lines. In the distance, we watched Vice President Al Gore exit an elevator.
One week. A week that if not for the unfamiliarity of the surroundings, would have faded into memory nothingness. But because the faces of that week inhabit no other of my memories, I can see specific moments, moments that appeared insignificant, but left a lasting impression on the person I became. I can pinpoint to the inspiration for my annual Christmas card marathon and the reason why I lobbied twice to name a son Aaron. I can also see the me that existed before my trip and after. The me that was so insecure, hoping that no one realized how much I didn't know, but always wanting to correct other people’s mistakes to show off the things I did know. The me that thought that brains were sexy. The me that could scale a wall of escalators. That me, is the same me…without the escalator climbing prowess of my youth.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Week in Tweets: From Bambi to Marriage Equality

These are my personal ten favorite tweets from this past week.

Now go... follow the funny.

(FollowtheFunny is a Twitter list of the tweeps that have recently appeared on my This Week in Tweets.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

How I Follow a Million Blogs

I have a thing for systems. I have a system for everything. If I don't have a system, stuff doesn't get done.

As I've become a more avid blog reader, I've developed a new system for keeping track of them all, reading the ones I love regularly without cluttering up my reader with the scores of blogs I come across that I find interesting, but haven't decided if I'm in love with just yet. But when I find a new blog that's kinda' cool, I want to come back later and see if I do fall in love with it.

So I present to you...

My Blog Reading System

You're reading my blog right now, so there's a decent chance that you read other blogs, too. If you don't, this post isn't for you. Also, this is how I organize my blog reading. In addition to loving systems, I also change them all the time! Because what worked when I read 10 blogs, no longer works now that I read many more than that. So depending on your reading habits, do what works for you. This is what I do.

1) I use Google Reader. Mostly because my blog is here on Blogger. And Google is awesome.

2) When I come across a blog post that I find interesting or memorable, I go ahead and click "follow." I learned that there are times when I read something and think, "not bad" and then days or weeks later I'm still thinking about something in the post. But if I don't follow it right then, I'll never be able to find my way back to it. So if it strikes a chord at all, I follow right away rather than lose it to the vastness of the Internet.

3) I love my folders!
I have created the following categories for the blogs I follow:
  • IRL - Blogs written by the people I know and love in real life. I want to know what they're up to and read what they write. Also, I want to be caught up if I should actually run into them... in real life.
  • Dailies - My favorite blogs of people I don't know IRL. I want to read them daily (time permitting).
  • Good stuff - I often enjoy the posts on these sites, so they're high on my list. They're just not, "OMG! I missed a post!" good. But don't get me wrong though... they're good.
  • New - All the other blogs that I stumble on that struck a chord (as I said above). One good post can land you in my New bucket.
(Obviously you can create folders for however you read. Craft blogs, mom blogs, funny blogs, etc.)

So if you don't know how to do folders in Google Reader, it's pretty easy. Here's how:

Go to Google Reader ( Click the tiny link in the bottom left-hand corner that says Manage subscriptions.

You will see a list of all of the blogs you follow. Each one will have the option of changing the folder.

Or you can just click on the check boxes next to each of the blogs you want to group together and then click on More actions at the top and then put all of those selected blogs into the same folder.

4) Bookmarks make it easy!
Are you still with me? OK, one last step and setup is done. But here it is: the whole reason for creating the folders is so that I can jump straight to the posts in that folder without having to go to Google Reader. Here's how: at the top of that page that listed all of your blog subscriptions, there's also a link that says Goodies.

Go there. About halfway down the page there is a section that says Put Reader in your bookmark.

I have created a bookmark for each of my folders. You select the folder you want from the list and then that little Next button next to the drop down box changes. If you're on your computer, you can then just drag that little button up to your bookmark bar in your browser and voila! Instant bookmark to the newest post in that folder.

In my world, I do all my blog reading on my iPad now. Setting up the bookmarks on an iPad is a little trickier, but totally worth it because...

5) Read blogs!
I open my iPad and click the IRL bookmark. I go straight to the newest blog post in that folder. I read. I comment. I click the IRL bookmark again. I go to the next post. On and on that way until I click the link and it tells me, "There are no more unread items in your IRL folder." Sweet. I move on to Dailies. Then I vacillate between Good Stuff and New. Depends on whether I'm loving the Good Stuff, or if I'm in the mood to check out some New stuff. Sometimes there are guest bloggers. So I go to their blogs. (I, of course, subscribe if it's interesting.) Oh! Did I mention that back on that Goodies page on Google Reader there's a button that you can drag to your bookmarks bar that will subscribe for you? So if it's not a Blogger blog, you can just click the Subscribe button. Yeah, that's cool, too.

6) OK. One last thing. I occasionally have to go back to Google Reader to reorganize. This is the part that I'll probably lose you. (What? I lost you two steps ago? Oh well, here's the last step anyway.) Sometimes things need to move. New blogs prove worthy of being upgraded to Good Stuff. Some aren't my thing, so I unsubscribe. So when a blog needs to move, I head back to Google Reader. And while I'm there, I fix one other thing: all those new blogs that I've found and subscribed to, well, they don't automatically go into my New folder. (Bummer, I know.) So every now and then, I go to Google Reader and go to that Manage Subscriptions page. I click the link that says Unassigned and then throw everything into New.

OK. I have to say. I love my system. Now that it's all set up, I sit in bed with my iPad and just read and comment and read and comment and it's great. But now that I've explained all that goes into the setup, I'm afraid that I may have scared you all away. What do you think? Too complicated? Simply awesome? What is your system? Like I said, I love my systems, but I am also always changing them if I can find a way to make them better. Let me know what you think!

And someday, maybe I'll share my system for keeping my pantry organized or getting old clothes out of my closet. Probably not though. If you think my blog reading system is complicated, you should see the rest of my life.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baby Shower in Brief

Note: This post was written right after the shower. Due to popular demand, I have written a more detailed post on this baby shower, including a template for the oh so popular uterus: The Rubyspikes Guide to Hosting a Baby Shower That Doesn't Suck. On that page, you'll even find a link to the entire post in PDF form so you print it all out and plan yourself a rocking, non-sucky baby shower.)


I was the MC for my sister's baby shower today. It was a blast. It was also a long day. So this post is a little short on details and heavy on photos. It was a marathon shower (7 hours - for a variety of reasons), so there were a ton of activities small and large. Here were some of the favorites.

Baby Faces
Using Mommy & Daddy's faces, assemble the face of their baby.

Weird faces result, I'm telling you. Hilarious, but creepy.

Then people use the pieces on themselves. Also creepy.

Play-Doh Baby
Make a baby out of Play-Doh. Mommy & Daddy judge and choose the winner. People were damn creative. My baby was the one that most resembled the the lump of Play-Doh when you first pull it out of the canister.

Pin the Sperm on the Egg
It took me a while to figure out how to do a "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" type game without it sucking. No one ever wants to be blindfolded and spun around, so people usually avoid these games like the plague. I finally came up with this idea. We created a construction paper uterus. (My husband actually did. Mad construction paper skills, y'all.) People were given a paper and ribbon sperm when they arrived. They wrote their name on it and stuck it anywhere on the uterus. Then once everyone was done, we blindfolded just Mommy and she pinned the egg on the uterus. Closest sperm won. The cuteness of the sperm alone was a hit. Plus, you get to take pictures of people sitting around talking underneath a uterus. And who doesn't want to be photographed under a uterus?

Beer Chug
Yes, it sounds a little like college, but it was damn hilarious. 3 ounces of beer in a baby bottle. First person to finish wins. One rule: the nipple (and no part of the nipple) can not come off the bottle. Go. (Note: If you do try this at home, you could easily go with 1.5-2 ounces. Those nipples are slow!)

All in all, it was a really fun an funny day. My sister did miss out on some of the classics, like gift bingo for example, but I don't think she's gonna' lose any sleep over it.

Want to read more? Here's the follow up post: The Rubyspikes Guide to Hosting a Baby Shower That Doesn't Suck.


Linked up with Adventures in Mommyhood's

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Instant Replay

In case you're new here, today's probably not the best day to start reading my blog. Go back, read some older posts. Some are fun. Some are serious. This one, kinda the post of a crazy person. Who was writing at 3 or 4 in the morning. After being pretty upset. But I just want to put this out there, give myself a sense of closure, and move on. I hope you come back tomorrow. Today, a little off.

So if you are new here, I need to start by telling you that I employ a heavy dose of sarcasm in my daily speech. This may be obvious, given the name of my blog, but it is germane to the story. My sarcasm often gets me into trouble. Sometimes I say something sarcastic and it's not very clear that it's sarcasm. Sometimes I say something sarcastic and sarcasm is inappropriate. Sometimes I say something sarcastic, my husband reacts to it, I react to him, and fifteen minutes later we are literally arguing about how we got to the point that we've spent 15 minutes arguing about how I said x. Obviously I wasn't serious when I said x! Obvious to me; not so much to him. And there have been hundreds of times where I have wished we had a video camera so we could wind it back and see where the simple conversation went off the rails.

Well tonight, I got my wish. Tonight I got into a "disagreement" with someone on Twitter. Not my husband, no, but with someone, and the cameras were rolling; Twitter cameras that is. And after it was all over, I went back again and again to see how things went wrong. And even though every person who follows me on Twitter who was also awake at 1 in the morning said not to lose sleep over it, by 3 am, it became clear to me that I wasn't going to fall asleep until I got a resolution. So this post is for me, my dear readers. I am sorry to bore you (this is one LONG post), but if I don't get this mess out of my head, I will NEVER get to sleep.

The Instant Replay of My First Twitter Argument

Note: I am not going to include the name if the person who the disagreement was with, or any of the other people who got involved. I am going to assume she was a she, so I call her "HER" just as a generic alias. I still believe that this was just a misunderstanding, so I don't want anyone else tweeting her saying they're on my side or her side or who was wrong and who was right. This isn't about getting people on my side. It's a little to explain my side, but mostly so that I can get some sort of closure in my head. So no sides. OK?

9:42 am - Me
How many tweets do we think I can get in today? I'm guessing 3. :( Real life sucks sometimes. Gonna go make some money now.

*** Work has been so crazy busy lately that it's really been stressing me out. Quick check in with Twitter is all I have time for. When I next login to Twitter 9 hours later, I have 6 #FF tweets which just totally makes my day. I also have 3 tweets in direct response to the above tweet from people whom I do not follow. 2 of which are clearly spam. "My brother found this FREE opportunity to make $$$!" with a link, for example. Really, Twiter? Clearly I said I was going to make money. I don't need your help on this. I hate Twitter spam. The 3rd is a little different. ***

6:04 pm - HER
@rubyspikes very funny tweets & excellently sarcastic blog. Looking forward to more LOL! (plus a link)

*** My first thought: "Wow! That's like the sweetest tweet! From someone I don't even follow! ... Wait, there's a link to a website. And it's in response to my 'making money' tweet. I guess I should make sure this isn't an automated tweet to some work-at-home website." I click on her profile. I view her Twitter stream. Most recent tweets have lots of links, but doesn't look like a bunch of spam. Yay! I follow back. And then I tweet her back. ***

7:13 pm - Me
@HER wow. That was so nice. I kinda thought you were a bot. But if you are, at least you're a really sweet bot. :)

*** Yeah. In hind sight, she didn't really have the whole story that was in my head. Have I mentioned lately that I hate being limited to 140 characters? Then, some other stuff happens. ***

7:18 pm - otherperson1
@rubyspikes I thought that @HER was a bot too. Hmm

*** @otherperson1 already follows @HER, so I take this as a continuation of the sarcasm. I would totally not think twice of calling someone I know on Twitter a bot. But I mostly follow people, not businesses or organizations or groups, etc. And it's pretty obvious that @TheNextMartha is not a bot, even if I tweeted her, "you crazy bot." Well, that was my thought anyway.

I then have to log off of Twitter. Because in addition to being crazy busy at work, I am also hosting a baby shower for my sister this weekend & there will be 50 people there and I have SO MUCH still to do. I actually managed to stay off of Twitter all night because I was so busy and I didn't want to get distracted. At 1 am, I decided to quit party planning for the night since I knew I'd have a long day tomorrow. I got into bed and decided to give myself 5 minutes to check Twitter. (Yes, I'm a little addicted.) I saw the following tweets from earlier in the night. ***

7:41 pm - HER
@rubyspikes bots? Hmm...We don't really like bots.

7:43 pm - HER
@otherperson1 @rubyspikes Thanks for the compliment (I think)...Been accused of many things - this is a new one LOL!

7:42 pm - HER
@rubyspikes Sugar & spice + everything nice.

*** That last one was in response to my tweet above where I said that if she was a bot, she was a really sweet one. I decided to respond to that tweet of hers about it being a compliment "I think".

1:00 am - Me
@HER compliment. Plus lately, I think EVERYONE is a well-disguised spammer. @otherperson1

*** I do think that. A lot. Every time I see a new follower, I think, "Real person or spam? Probably spam." I'd really like to just follow everyone back. But I just don't have time to look through everyone's tweet stream and see if they're just selling stuff. I tweet for fun. That is not fun. So I suck at following back. I'm sorry to all my new followers, but if you don't @ me, then I just suck. And if you do @ me, I might still think you're spam if all you say is, "I like you're blog." Because my blog is only 3 months old and it's schizophrenic and I haven't written a post in a week and what's to love about that. And I clearly have some self-esteem issues. Anyway, moving on. She immediately responds. ***

1:02 am - HER
@rubyspikes Honestly Ruby - I didn't appreciate the accusation. We work very hard at delivering a personal touch. We are not spammers.

*** I immediately begin typing a response. Her tweets were sent before mine, but I didn't see them until after I sent this: ***

1:05 am - Me
@HER oh my gosh. Seriously did not mean to offend. Was so appreciative of the kind words that I jokingly said, "this can't be real"

1:05 am - Me
@HER so really don't want to upset anyone, especially after the really nice 1st tweet. Really.

*** I hit send and see three more tweets in my mentions, which actually were sent while I was typing my response. ***

1:03 am - HER
@rubyspikes A little info about us - we always follow moms back, visit their sites, & say hello personally when they follow us.

*** Ok. But, um, I didn't follow you, so you weren't following me back. You were a stranger. But whatever, ok. ***

1:03 am - HER
@rubyspikes Time consuming & not easy. So you can imagine the feeling I got when I saw what you said. have a good night.

*** Yeah, that sucks. I am really sorry. Let me respond and say sorry again. Wait. Let me read this one more tweet from @HER. ***

1:04 am - HER
@rubyspikes Not to mention - "you're nice- so you must be a spammer" takes messed up to a whole 'nother level. Just saying.

*** Wait. Just saying? Did you just call me messed up? WTH? What happened to "this is a new one LOL!" And I said "complement." AND I apologized. WTH? So yeah, I didn't tweet a 3rd apology. Instead, I was kind of like, WTH? Then I get another tweet from @HER. ***

1:07 am - HER
@rubyspikes right ;) You must be a "spammer" isn't upsetting. Not at all...

*** I check the conversation thread. This is in direct reply to my, "really don't want to upset anyone" tweet. Really? So I said I'm sorry, but you want to tell me that, what, that's not good enough? Or that I should have known better? Or that you think I'm an idiot? What? Really? WTH? ***

1:08 am - Me
@HER yes. I'm messed up. Sorry about that. One important reminder: I use a lot of sarcasm. A lot.

1:09 am - HER
@rubyspikes Understood. Luv sarcasm - as I said originally. Lack of consideration - not so much.

*** Ok. So now I'm messed up AND inconsiderate??? WTF??? So this is where I look to see which of my followers is still tweeting at 1:00 in the morning. (My time anyway.) There aren't many. But really I'm feeling like this woman is just berating me and I'm about to go to bed and I want to talk to SOMEONE who actually likes me before I go to sleep. I tweet. ***

1:16 am - Me
OMG! Apparently I have broken a cardinal rule of Twitter. These really need to be written down somewhere. I need a Twitter owners manual.

*** Yes, I expected people to ask what I did. And they did. And I expected the people who regularly follow me to read the tweets I sent, know my tone, and know, based on my past behavior, that I had meant no ill toward anyone. I expected them to say, "Well we love you. Now go to bed." I kinda forgot that Twitter is the wild west. And at the moment, I was pretty annoyed at being called inconsiderate and really messed up. So some of my followers read the conversation. Most said that it was clear that I was joking. Some tweeted @HER to tell her to lighten up. Not sure what else my followers said to her or what she said to them. All I know is that It was all a big mess. I tried to put my phone down and just go to sleep. I couldn't. I picked up my phone. I had a tweet from someone I don't follow. There is good evidence that this new person is one of HER friends. ***

2:10 am - HERfriend
@rubyspikes I saw this discussion & I feel that Ruby was originally rude & then to make it worse, she semed insincere with her apology.

*** WHAT??? HOW could I have been more sincere. Let's recap. I said, "oh my gosh. Seriously did not mean to offend. Was so appreciative of the kind words that I jokingly said, 'this can't be real'" OK. I'm not going to win here. It's after 2 am and I decided that I needed to put this mess down because I had a baby shower to plan. I laid in bed for an hour... and couldn't sleep. I picked up my phone and saw another tweet from @HERfriend ***

3:09 am - @HERfriend
@RubySpikes Even if none of your friends will say this-I will: Saying what you said, the non-apology, & puling other people in wasn't right.

*** Now I'm just exhausted. And I don't know why I'm letting this bother me. I know, whether anyone on Twitter believes me or not, I absolutely did not start off to hurt anyone and I was absolutely sincere in my apology. I still believe that neither my "bot" tweet nor my "spam" tweet were particularly offensive, but that's not really the point. The second she tweeted me that it bothered her, I immediately, as genuinely as I could in 140 characters, tried to convey my sincerest apology. I really did, whether she or her friend believe me. And then she got all name cally on me. And then I turned to my Twitter friends and they jumped in, which was not my intention either, but again, that's not the point. They did. And now it's 4:45 in the morning. I haven't slept. My sisters baby shower is in 30 hours. My baby will be waking up in 2 hours. And all I've learned is that sometimes I'm going to say shit that some people are going to misunderstand or disagree with. And that maybe I am too thin-skinned to be out here on the World Wide Web, because even though I don't know this woman from Eve, I am apparently still upset that this woman and her friend and probably several other people who I will never ever meet, think less of me now than they did yesterday. Shit, yesterday they didn't know I existed an today they think I'm an inconsiderate jerk.

Let me tell you something, people, I don't ever want to be famous. I don't think I could handle the number of people who would dislike me. I totally get that not everyone's going to want to join the rubyspikes' fan club. But the people who want to join the rubyspikes anti-fan club, yeah, I'm not so good with that.

Also learned: having Instant Replay doesn't do JACK! It's not that you don't remember exactly what was said, it's that what you say and what you mean and what the other person thinks you mean are often three totally different things.

So in conclusion.

@HER, I really am sorry. I hope that if you read this, you will understand what I was thinking, now that I have more than 140 characters to explain it. I am sorry that you thought my apology seemed insincere. I was quite sincere, but admittedly became less so the moment you said I was really messed up. But also know that I think that I am owed an apology just as much as you are. I'll assume the best and assume that your "messed up" comments and all your other jabs were really just you upset as well an maybe not your finest moments. I'll hope anyway.

And to everybody else that made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. I am a work in progress. And I know this is a bit of a crazy post that really just demonstrates that one of my biggest personal demons is my own insecurity. So I seriously considered keeping this post unpublished and just for me. But so many of my favorite blogs deal with overcoming postpartum depression and facing life with autism and losing a child. And the strength of those women seems so amazing to me. This, by comparison, is so very trivial. So I'm putting it out there. Tomorrow, we will move on to something more.... superficial.


Monday morning update: In case you read this now and are worried that I'm stressing too much on it, I'm over it. I said something that was meant innocently, but could easily be misinterpreted. I apologized. I tried to be sincere. I got offended. I fired back. I inadvertently sucked other people into the disagreement. I have considered sending both people additional apologies or clarifications or just a link to this post, but I have abstained since I'm pretty sure we'll all be happier if we move on instead of rehashing Friday night. So I'm done. Moving on.

This morning: one of my followers who had NO IDEA of my weekend escapades detailed above tweeted this to me.

@daydreaminfool no. No exploding @rubyspikes head. Unless she's a bot. Are you a bot? If so, you make a pretty good impression of a human.

Oh gosh. I couldn't stop giggling.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Ritual

I work in an office building. I am very thankful that I live in the age of climate control and air conditioning, but the building I work in takes conditioning air to an extreme. Simply put, it is freezing. I go to work in the summer dressed in my cute, little, short-sleeved, summer tops and then sit at my desk and work with my fleece jacket on. Yes, a fleece. I keep it at my desk to keep my arms from turning into blocks of ice. I leave it at my desk when I go to meetings or go speak with another co-worker since it's not the most attractive garment, but in general, I spend my day straddling the line between having goosebumps and not. On the bright side, it leads me to a summer ritual that I enjoy each evening.

By the end of each work day, I have usually grown accustomed to the fact that I am just cold. I almost don't even notice any more. So when I open the door and step outside, the warmth is instantly relaxing, like a physical reminder that the work is done for the day. I open my car, toss in my laptop and purse and then get in myself. It is that first moment in my car that I revel in. Sitting in the sun all day, my car is filled with warm, dry air that most people hurry to vacate with open windows and high-powered A/C. I prefer the opposite approach. My skin is still cold from eight hours in a virtual ice box and the warmth of the air is penetrating. The difference in temperature is so stark it's as though the heat is practically hugging me.

With the warmth all around me, I start my car and drive away. I feel as though I could drive for hours in the toasted air inside my car. And I do drive with windows up and no A/C. I do not last hours. Somewhere around fifteen minutes, it is as though a switch is flipped inside me and I go from enjoying the feeling of my skin soaking up the warmth around me to instantly feeling as though I'm being suffocated by the oppressive heat. I suddenly need to cool the inside of my car. But after a full day in artificially cooled air, my car's A/C is not an option. I am headed home to my husband and children and no longer have a need for perfectly coiffed hair. I roll down my windows as I drive 55 mph down the highway. I breathe in the summer air as it whirls all around, whipping this way and that the few strands of hair that are too short for the quick pony tail I just threw my hair into. I turn on the radio and hope for some good summer driving music. Life is good.

Ten minutes later, those frolicking locks have gotten the better of me. What were symbols of summer carelessness just moments earlier are already transformed into just another annoyance in my daily commute: little wisps of hair that can't seem to stay out of my eyes and stop whipping into face as I attempt to navigate my way home.

And so, less than thirty minutes into my sixty minute commute home, the windows go up and the air conditioning goes on. I spend the last half hour in a closed car, listening to NPR. You could view it as a failure. Every day I escape into summer's reckless abandon, only to succumb to the predictable evenness of modern-day climate-controlled convenience. But I don't think of it that way. Because tomorrow, I will escape again... if only for a half an hour.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This Week in Tweets

My ten favorite tweets of the week.

Now... go follow funny.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Creative Gift to the World

I would like to take a moment to thank The Next Martha (of Twitter fame) for finding this little gem among all the sludge on the Interwebs: Watching Jon Stewart Might Make You More Creative. You could read the article, but let me just save you the trouble. It basically says that scientists did an experiment that showed that after listening to sarcasm, participants were better at solving problems that required them to be creative. So I would like to say "you're welcome" to each of you. By visiting my blog, you are each improving your creative problem solving abilities.

Don't believe me? Well, I did a little experiment of my own. You see, my husband has been listening to my siren song of creativity-inspiring sarcasm for the last seventeen years or so. So he should be really good at this. However, he is not a fan of puzzles. I, on the other hand, rock at puzzles. So, from the aforementioned article, here is a sample of a problem that requires "creative thinking":
A room has three light switches. You can switch them on and off as you wish and then go to another room where there are three light bulbs. How can you identify which switch belongs to which light bulb? You cannot return to the room with the switches, the wall between the rooms is sealed, and the door is closed.
I stared at this "puzzle" for several minutes. Nothing. Damn! Why can't I figure this out. I know why! Because Mr. Wonderful is rarely sarcastic. Damn him! He's been thwarting my creative juices all this time! So then I look over at Hubby. I read him the problem. His response is immediate. "Easy." And he proceeds to nail the solution. Quite cleverly, I might add.

Now if that isn't rock-solid evidence of my ability to inspire brilliance, then I really don't know what is.

And if you need further proof that my husband's lack of sarcastic wit has caused me to be completely devoid of creativity, look at this picture of my Lego creations from a few months back.

Sad, isn't it.

So to all of you, my dear readers, you are welcome. Be sure to come back regularly for a daily dose of creative instigation. You clearly will not be finding creative inspirations.


Note: I will post the solution to the puzzle (or at least my husband's solution) in a couple days. I wanted to give you a chance to mull it over.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Comments, Tweets, FB, or Phone Calls

I got a call earlier this week from my husband's cousin. She lives about 4 1/2 hours from us, so we don't see her very often. Mostly on holidays and other special occasions. But she's great. Want an example? Well, that call that I got earlier in the week, it was to tell me that she reads my blogs. She doesn't always comment (do any of us?), but wanted to let me know that she does read them and really likes them. Is that not the coolest thing ever? It totally made my day.

I know that lots of bloggers really prefer the response to their blog posts to come in the form of comments. I, too love comments. (Even though I can't get my new comments to work quite the way that I want them to just yet. *sigh*) So if you're feeling so inclined, please leave a comment. But I also know that sometimes leaving comments is probably the least user-friendly way of responding to a blog post. You have to enter your name and your email address and your web address. Sometimes you need to need to login through some other account. Some people have (gasp) captcha. I do a lot of blog reading from my iPhone, so jumping through all those hoops on my tiny little screen is an even bigger pain. OR if I read blogs through my Google Reader iPhone app, it's an even bigger pain, since you have to leave the Reader format to go to the actual site, but when I get there, Google still makes me login even though it knows it's me since I'm logged into Reader, just to leave a comments. In the end, a response tweet or a comment through FB is just SO much easier.

And then there are all those blog posts that you read that make you smile or think or that you just kinda like, but don't have any really deep response to. And it makes me think that what I always thought of as the stupid Facebook Like button maybe wasn't such a bad idea after all. Because sometimes all of those hoops you have to jump through just to say, "nice post" just aren't worth it.

So I'm going on record. I love comments. Feel free to leave me one. But if you'd rather respond via Tweet or FB or even by giving me a call, I'm totally cool with that, too. (I realize that most of you don't have access to that last option. Sorry about that. And no, I'm not giving you my phone number.)

And to cousin-in-law Becky: Thanks. You made my day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lobbying Against Common Sense

What do you remember about school lunches from when you were a kid? When I was a kid in public grade school, I remember this: we had cheese and sausage pizza every Friday. We loved it. Mmm. Those rectangular slices of cheesy doughy goodness. And I distinctly remember my first week in the 7th grade lunch line. Now that we were in junior high, we could choose what we wanted to eat, as opposed to everyone just getting the same tray of food. That first week, they ran out of whatever they were serving, and we had to wait for more to come out of the oven. While we were waiting, the lunch lady walked down the line to let everyone know that they did still have fries. So if anyone was just ordering fries, they could go to the front of the line and get them without waiting. I asked a second lunch lady, "Who would get only fries for lunch?" She responded, "Well, some of the girls only get fries if they're on a diet." My 7th grade reaction: "What? They're on a diet and they're eating french fries?" But yes, they were. And I'm afraid to report that 7th grade me was apparently wiser than some of the folks wandering around our nation's capital these days.

You see, the US Department of Agriculture just released their new guidelines for school nutrition standards. They're not official yet, they've just released them for public comment. And let me tell you, there are some CRAZY things in there. Crazy. But not to worry, there are some fine, fine lobbyists that are attempting to set things straight.

Crazy Example #1: The new guidelines limit starchy vegetables (corn, peas, lima beans, and *drum roll please* pototoes) to two servings a week. That's right. The government is suggesting that it's maybe not such a hot idea to feed kids french fries five days a week. CRAZY I told you. But John Keeling of the National Potato Council is here to defend the noble potato. For one thing, he tells NPR, "The products that are in schools today basically are not your daddy's french fries." Really, John? They're still made out of potatoes, right? So even before you fry them, a potato has about 200 calories. And I don't know if you know this, John, but schools have been cutting recess, so when are the kids supposed to burn off all of those carbohydrates? But that's not all. John also tells NPR, "You won't solve obesity on the backs of a single vegetable." Really, John? Thanks for that tidbit. So if all we do is eliminate french fries, we won't cure childhood obesity? Well then, I guess we're just screwed, aren't we, John. Chocolate cake for everyone!!!

Crazy Example #2: Senator Susan Collins from Maine (they grow a lot of potatoes in Maine) apparently brought a potato and a head of lettuce to the senate and held one in each hand as she shared this bit of useful information: "One medium white potato has nearly twice as much vitamin C as this entire head of iceberg lettuce." Really, Susan? No, I mean, really? You forgot to mention that a potato also has more vitamin C than a ream of paper. You see, lettuce contains very little vitamin C. Orange rinds contain more vitamin C than lettuce, too. Should we all start eating orange rinds? No? Could this be because there are more palatable foods that also have more vitamin C than lettuce? Hmm, I wonder. So your medium potato has 28% of our daily vitamin C, but it comes with 161 calories. But look at this handy little chart I made with the help of World's Healthiest Foods:

Look at that! Not only does potato not make the top ten, but look what does.... strawberries. God, do you think we'll be able to find a way to get our kids to eat strawberries? That seems like quite a tough job. We'd probably have to cut them into strips and deep fry them. No wait... that's potatoes.

Crazy Example #3: Under the current guidelines, the tomato sauce on frozen school pizza counts as a full serving of vegetables. Yes, that's right. Do we need to give the kids another vegetable? Give them a slice a of pizza! But according to Corey Henry of the American Frozen Food Institute, if we eliminate this guideline "You would likely see a dramatic reduction in the amount of frozen pizza, or pizza in general, that you're able to serve in school cafeterias." You know what, Corey? I'm gonna' go with that being a good thing. I do not consider frozen pizza to be at the top of the list of foods I'm super thrilled with my kid eating on a regular basis. Sure, my kid eats pizza, but it's not on my list of foods my kid needs to consume every week. Newsflash, Corey: frozen pizza is not a health food.

Now I know that we parents don't always feed our kids the best possible foods for every meal. There are plenty of frozen chicken nuggets being served up to our little darlings. But the fact that food producers are trying to convince our legislators to sacrifice the health of our children for their bottom lines is about all I can stand. And I know that there are people who believe that the government should not be dictating what kinds of foods Americans eat, so I want to remind you that this is not what we're talking about. You can eat whatever you want. You can give your kids whatever food you want. What these guidelines do is tell the schools what kinds of foods they can serve to America's children. There are already guidelines in place that are supposedly aimed at providing healthy meals in our schools. These guidelines state that children must be served a certain number of vegetables, for example. But these guidelines then state that pizza counts as a vegetable! Forgive me, but it does not take a certified nutritionist to tell you that frozen pizza and french fries are not the components of a healthy diet and are not what you think of when you tell kids to "eat their veggies."

So kids... email your senators and congressmen. Tell them that you know what every American already knows. Pizza and french fries are not health foods and should not form the cornerstone of our school menus.


This post was inspired by a story I heard on NPR today: Lobbyists Want Fries And Pizza To Stay In School. Thank's NPR. You're always an inspiration.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Master of All Masters

I remember such minutia from my childhood. I remember how to differentiate between doric, ionic, and corinthian columns, for example. Similarly, I can discern cumulus clouds from stratus or cirrus clouds. But the quirkiest thing that my mind has squirreled away was a story that my aunt told me when I was probably only eight or nine. She probably only told me the story twice, but for some reason or another, it stuck with me. Maybe it’s because my aunt is an amazing story teller. Maybe it’s just because my mind wanted a challenge. Either way, I can recite the ending to this story as though it was one of the many books I owned and re-read a thousand times.

The story itself is a bit curious. A man hires a maid and then proceeds to walk her through his home telling her all the strange names that he has given to different items in his home. Fire is not called fire, it is called hot cockalorum, for example. He has names for his cat (Whiteface Shimminy), his pants (squibs and crackers), his bed (barnacle), water (pondalorum), his house (high topper mountain), and himself (Master). He tells her all of these names and then tells her that if she doesn’t use the proper names, he will fire her. (Master kinda’ seems like a jerk now that I’m old enough to notice.) Anyway, the girl works all day and doesn’t say a word since she’s afraid she’ll call something by the wrong name. At the end of the day she heads to bed. In the middle of the night the man is woken by the girl who informs him:
Master, master, get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers. Whiteface Shimminy has a spark of hot cockalorum on his tail, and if you don’t get some pondalorum, high topper mountain will be all hot cockalorum.
Really, brain? You can’t remember all of the US Presidents, but you’ve been saving room for that?

With the invention of the Internet, I have since looked up the story. It is called Master of All Masters by Joseph Jacobs. Two important last points: 1) No, I did not look it up in order to write this post. That little nugget has been stuck in my brain for nearly 30 years, without the help of the Internet. 2) My aunt's telling of the story was WAY more interesting than Mr. Jacob's.


This post written for The Red Dress Club's memoir meme.



In the last few days I happen to have read a few posts and tweets that have to do with how we moms refer to ourselves. First, I read a blog post on The Heir to Blair about working vs stay at home moms. The next day @DontSpkWhinese tweeted: "Is it wrong for me to find it offensive when a married Mom refers to herself as a Single Mom when her hubs is out of town?", which sparked a really interesting debate on Twitter. So I've decided to add my two cents on the subject. So here you go, an overview of mominology, and what you might want to consider when using each of the terms.

Stay-at-home Mom (SAHM)
Accepted Definition: A mom who does not work outside the home.
Usage Notes: Possibly the only term of the bunch that does not come with baggage. Feel free to use this term whenever you encounter a mom who cares for her children 24/7.  

Full-Time Mom
Accepted Definition: Alternative to SAHM
Usage Notes: Many stay at home mom's use this term to indicate that they do, in fact, have a full-time job of raising their children. But everyone should be careful when using this term. Some non-SAHM's dislike the implication that they are not "full-time" moms, as though they cease being moms when they are at work. On the other hand, non-SAHM's should keep in mind that this term is probably being used by women who dislike the implication that they don't have "real" jobs. So everyone, just be sensitive, ok?

Working Mom
Accepted Definition: A mom who, in addition to raising her children, also has a job outside the home.
Usage Notes: Some SAHM's dislike this term because it implies that SAHM's don't work. To them I say: most moms know how hard you work. This isn't a term used for comparison to SAHM's, it's just the best term that there is. So please, try not to be offended.

Accepted Definition: none
Usage Notes: Don't. Just don't. You may think this term is a corollary to the full-time mom. It's not. Full-time mom's are mom's full-time, but this does not mean that mom's that work are part-time moms. I have even heard this term used to describe women who work part-time outside the home, hence making them not full-time mom's but rather part-time moms. But it doesn't work that way. No one is a part-time mom. So just remember, do not use this term. Ever.

OK. Now that that's clear, there is ONE exception to the never-use-this-term rule: If YOU are the mom in question and you are talking about yourself, go for it.

Single Mom
Accepted Definition: A mom who is raising children on her own
Usage Notes: There are many ways one becomes a single mom. Divorce, death, breakup, father never in the picture to begin with. Being a mom is tough. Being a single mom is even tougher. Some women have been known to refer to themselves as "single moms" when their husbands are deployed, away on business, or even out for the night. Here's what you should know before referring to yourself as a single mom because your husband is away for a week... actual single moms are probably not gonna' think that's so cute. Your husband will be coming home. While he's gone, he's probably going to call you to check in on how you're holding up. And all the while, your household income will not be reduced to solely what you earn. Referring to yourself as a single mom when you're not really a single mom... likely to make real single moms think you totally don't get it. 

Solo Mom
Accepted Definition: A mom who is parenting without assistance for a period of time
Usage Notes: This seems to be a better alternative for mom's who are going to be on their own for a period of time while their husbands are away. It doesn't imply that you're really experiencing the difficulties of being a single mom, but does suggest that things are gonna' be harder on you for a while while your significant other is away.

Accepted Definition: Someone who watches children while their parents are away
Usage Notes: Did you get the part about it not being babysitting if they are YOUR kids? Moms and dads, please make a note of this. Moms, do not refer to your husband "babysitting" when you're out with the girls. Dads, do not tell your buddies that you can't go out because you are "babysitting" the kids. That is not babysitting. That is parenting. If you do not know the difference, you should know that it makes the rest of us parents want to call social services on your ass.

(I know that last one isn't a mom-term, but is there anybody who doesn't find that annoying?)

So what do you think? Are we all being too sensitive, or should we be more careful with the terms we use? And what terms did I miss?

If you'd like to read more from the people who inspired this post, here are their links:

Full Disclosure: I am a married mom of two boys. I quit my job after my first was born and was a SAHM for a year. I then went back to work two days/week. Then three. Now I am practically full time. I consider myself extremely lucky to have an amazing husband who is also an amazing father. I have rarely had to parent without him, but when I have, it always reminds me of the amazing strength of single moms and military moms. My own mom raised three kids on her own. It is a job I still can't fully appreciate, but am grateful for and inspired by just the same.

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Favorite Tweets: May 2011

I am a collector. I collect books, candles, empty diet coke cans. Not so much that last one, but you'd think I do if you could see my nightstand right now. Anyway, I find that I have been collecting tweets as well. I favorite them and hold on to them because I think they're funny. And that is no way to use Twitter. I do not need one more area of my life where I am compulsively collecting items. So since y'all like my Top Ten Rapture-Related Tweets so much, I figured I'd grab a few more of my favorites, throw them up here, and then have them saved on my blog for perpetuity. Also, those of you not on The Twitter will see it's awesomeness. And those of you who are on The Twitter may find some new peeps to follow. Anyhoo, here they are, my favorite tweets of May 2011 (minus the aforementioned rapture-related tweets).

Now go follow these awesome and funny Tweeps: @mommyboots, @michellew_, @MomIn_AMillion, @smonkyou, @juliasegal, @notthatkendall, @BorowitzReport, @CaitsConcepts, @jillsmo, @mireyamayor, @JohnFugelsang, @grace134, @phxguy88, @RenegadeRuby, @alexandrawrote, @KelleysBreakRm, @QuirkOut, @Brain_Wash, @sbellelauren

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

If I Ran the Zoo

I was the chaperone for my 4 year old's zoo field trip today. Overall, it was a really great day. Great weather. Great kids. Great time. But if you wanted to read about sunshine and rainbows, you'd be reading my other blog, where I've already posted about what a good time I had today with my kid. (Little Ants: Field Trip Chaperone)

So while it was a good day, a great day really, I still would like to offer some advice to the folks that run the zoo. First, let me write their disclaimer for them: it is a free zoo. So really, I've got no business complaining. But like that's gonna' stop me.

We had a great morning of looking at all the animals, from bald eagles to crocodiles to wolves. We had a great time eating lunch in the shaded picnic area and running around in the grass and under the trees. While eating lunch, we saw a tram go by. (And by tram I mean like those bus/train things with passenger cars that are linked up and pulled around the zoo.) The kids got excited and the teacher suggested that we ride the free tram as a last treat before boarding the buses to go back to school.

So I gathered my four charges, including my son, ranging in age from 4 to 6, and we head to the zoo entrance where the tram boards. As we arrive, the tram is full and is about to leave. We get in line and will be on the next ride. We wait. And wait. And wait. I could go on. Suffice it to say, it was excruciating. Like Disney World, only without ever moving or walking past depictions of Peter Pan or Buzz Lightyear and without the promise of being able to fly on Dumbo. There is a large, grumpy (and I mean seriously grumpy) woman who walks down the line every 5 minutes to tell the kids not to climb on the barricade. I completely support her reprimanding the children. I did not support her glowering at them as though they were vandals. If you don't like kids, how about you don't get a job at the free zoo.

After 15 minutes standing in the sun, the poor kids were getting more than a little restless. Most of the other moms were doing their best to just keep the kids from climbing all over the barricades and flower boxes. I decided to try a game of I Spy. It was tough. Kinda' like standing in the middle of a forest and saying, "I spy with my little eye something.... green." Yeah, it was exciting. But we used the kids clothes and it kept them occupied for five minutes. Then we played the Where-Is-The-Tram game, where we imagined why the tram was taking so long. We imagined that it got lost or went to the moon or got carried away by a swarm of angry butterflies. (We would soon learn the tragic answer.) After 20-25 minutes, the tram finally arrives. The swarm of field trip kids (the only kids in line) start jumping with excitement. The tram stops and we all begin to move toward the "gate" to board. As we pass Madame Grumpy, she informs each of the adults that they are only allowed two children per adult. Really? We've been standing here for 20 minutes? Every child is wearing the exact same purple shirt. Every adult has approximately 4 children in their care. What are we supposed to do now, Madame Grumpy, choose two children to leave behind, or tell them that after standing in the most boring spot in the entire zoo for twenty minutes that we do not get to ride the tram? How about none of the above? How about I'm putting the children on the tram and you can take a step back? Yeah, that's what we did.

Anywho, we all got on the tram. Then Madame Grumpy got into the drivers seat and just sat there. At first I didn't realize why we weren't moving, but then I noticed that some teenage kid at the back of the tram was giving some sort of speech that was coming out through some really crummy speakers on the tram cars. So we were waiting for the point in the speech where we could begin driving. His speech went something like this:
*** monotone voice - think Charlie Brown grown up voice ***
The park was founded as a gift from wah wah wah waaah wah waaaah wah wah.
Today the zoo is home to animals from various regions including waaah wah wah waaaaah wah wah.
Oh, God! Dude, Open! Your! Eyes! The tram is filled with 5 year olds. No one cares when the park was founded. Just drive the tram. We need a 10 minute ride to make the kids happy!

Finally the tram starts driving. Mr. Monotone never once says, "Hey, kids! Look! An elk!" That's because A) he was an idiot and B) the tram almost immediately left the zoo area and began driving around the surrounding park. For twenty minutes! Driving past practically nothing! A pond with nothing in it. No animals. No boats. Just weeds. A highlight was an "super tall" (7 story) apartment building which we passed twice. Again, after 15 minutes, the poor kids are bored to tears. I try to engage them.
Me: (to the kids) Isn't the tram cool?
Kid: No.
Me: But haven't we seen some cool stuff? We saw those ducks!
Kid: Yeah. I guess.
Me: Oooh! And look over there! A really big pile of rocks!
At this point I don't know what the kid responded because the mom behind me starts cracking up. Seriously folks, the pile of debris was a highlight at that point.

Well, the tram ride from hell finally ended. We got off the tram and by then it was time to go. I herded the kids toward the bus. We were the first ones on the bus and two of the kids needed to use the bathroom. So I got them off the bus, walked with them to the visitors center, followed the signs to the bathrooms, and opened the bathroom door and led the two kids in to find...

Only two stalls AND two lines of women and children: a shorter line from the door I had entered and a longer line out the other door on the other side of the bathroom. So after a few women from the other line took an open stall every time it opened, the somewhat insecure teenage girls in front of me turned to ask me what to do since they had been reportedly waiting quite a while even though they were at the front of the "short" line. I told them that we were now alternating lines and that the next stall that opened was theirs. When they did take the open stall, I then got glares from all the other moms in the longer line. To them, I would like to say the following:
WHAT? I followed the signs to the bathroom and entered to find a line on this side and that side. It is not my fault some idiot designed a public bathroom with two doors on different sides. Did you want me to walk back out and around the gift shop to get to the back of your line? I'm sorry, no. We're alternating. Also, every child in the bathroom was wearing the same purple shirt. So guess what, even if I wait for every one of you to go first and we wait here until the end time, you are gonna have to wait for these two kids with me to go pee, because I'm pretty sure they're not gonna' let the buses leave until all the kids are on them. So chill out!