Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Funniest Typo Yet!

Since I type all day at my job, typos are a common occurrence. Thank the good Lord for spell check, you know?

One of these days, I’m going to have to write a list of my funniest typos, but just a few days ago, I made my funniest one yet.

Intended sentence: “…working over 50 hours a week.”

Typo: “…whoring over 50 hours a week.”

Oops! Talk about your big mistakes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Time, Travel, and Traffic Jams

You know what they say about best-laid plans, right?

Case in point, Brett and I have had to sacrifice (written with much longing, huffing, and sighing) to meet our big bills this month. One thing we “paid up” was Brett’s I-Pass.

The I-Pass was a must-have when Brett was traveling to Villa Park and even when he worked at Staples and Lowe’s. It enabled him to shave time off the drive and save a little on the cost of fuel.

We had let it run down, since we are more concerned with meeting our mortgage right now. However, we were still using the I-Pass on the weekends when we traveled to our church.

Since our church is on the other side of the moon (okay, okay, not THAT far…but still a good long hike), it was faster for us to use the spanking new 173 interchange to I-90 to get to church in under 30 minutes.

Anyway, we used it a couple Sundays ago and noticed the light blinked the “wrong” color as we drove through. When we got home, we checked on the Internet and saw the I-Pass fund was depleted.

For the next couple Sundays, we used the rut-encrusted, tire-destroying, pothole-abundant road that is the almighty Alpine to get to church. For as much as we hate it, at least it’s free.

For those who dare.

Anyway, taking Alpine to church was a PAIN. Not only did it cause damage to our cars, it took us nearly forty minutes to make it across the galaxy…I mean, town…to get to church.

So, we moved a few dollars around and decided to pay the minimal re-up cost, so we could take I-90.

This Sunday, as we sailed past traffic on our way to the 173 interchange, I asked Brett if he was going to take Alpine or I-90. He looked at me like I was crazy, and said “I-90!”

I’m guessing the “duh” was implied.

Anyway, we’d no more than gotten on the toll way when we ran into a MONSTER traffic jam! At first, I thought it was going to be okay, since I’d already planned a half hour for the finding-a-seat-activity we go through every Sunday.

I watched as time ticked away.

Then, I thought, “Well, fine. So we’ll get there a little late, and then we can sit in the precious Reserved-For-Latecomer seats we normally covet.”

More time.

Nearly an HOUR later, we crawled our way up to the East State Street exit and got off the (still very backed-up) toll way.

It was too late to go to church. By the time we’d have gotten there, it would have been over. So, instead, we decided to go to Barnes and Noble (since we WERE right there at the CherryVale Mall).

And that takes me to my next post….The B Word.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Birthday Blessing

One very nice thing about being an only child was…the birthday parties!

I’ve heard in multiple-child families that extravagant birthday parties are often confined to the “big” birthdays. Each family, of course, has different qualifications on what a “big” birthday is – 10, 12, 13, 16, 18, etc.

But as an only child, I enjoyed pretty nice birthday parties just about every year.

I especially remember my Sweet Sixteen where my parents paid for me and all my friends and to go see a live production of Oklahoma! Afterwards, we had a huge meal at the now-defunct Cheddar’s. It must have cost them a mint, but I loved every minute of it.

Today, my friend Alice blogged about a unique child’s birthday party she attended. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see some folks really are “getting it right.”

Check it out!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Best in Show

You are in the presence of greatness.

I’m not sure when the awards ceremony is, but you can be sure I’ll send you an RSVP.

That’s right; Brett and I are a shoo-in to win “World’s Most Stupid and Pointless Argument” in the Married People division.

I think what really put us over the top is the passion and dedication we used in arguing our respective sides of said argument.

What prompted this award-winning argument? I’ll tell you.

Toilet paper.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “They must have argued over whether the toilet paper dispenses from the top or the bottom.”

That is strictly an amateur argument.

I remind you, after 8 years, Brett and I are professionals. (And, of course, everyone knows toilet paper should be dispensed from the TOP.)

The next assumption is that the argument might be about whether “someone” forgot to replace the roll after using all the toilet paper.

And by “someone,” I mean Brett.

Alas, although that is an all too common happenstance in our home, it was not what prompted this particular argument.

Shall I “set the scene” for you?

Since Brett has been unemployed, we’ve had to conserve our pennies. Taking advice from Gary, Mom’s husband and former penny-pincher, we’ve started to buy things only when we run out of them.

So far, this plan has worked well. It serves to make us conscious of what our needs really are, and prompts us to use up any excess before we buy new supplies.

Anyway, we had both noticed we were running low on toilet paper. Well, you know how things go, and we just got too busy and neither of us thought to go out and buy some more.

Finally, the inevitable happened. I was downstairs when I heard my husband yelp from the upstairs bathroom.

“We’re out of toilet paper,” he bellowed at me from his indelicate position.

“Wait, wait!” I yelled back up at him as I frantically searched for a spare roll. My efforts were finally rewarded when I found a roll in the downstairs bathroom closet.

I rushed upstairs to my husband’s aid. Jubilantly, I presented him with the roll.

“Now, there’s about 2/3 left on that roll, so use it sparingly until we can go to Wal-Mart,” I cautioned him.

My husband was extremely grateful and happy, if the speed with which he snatched the roll from my hand said anything.

After work that day (just me, of course), we managed to eke out the energy to go to Wal-Mart.

I readied our list, putting toilet paper as our headliner, adding in a few other odds and ends. I headed upstairs to tell Brett I was just about ready to go.

He was puttering around in the bathroom, as I said, “We’re just about ready to go. Let me just use the bathroom, and we can go.”

(I can just SEE the lights going on above everyone’s heads.)

Well, as I stepped into the bathroom, (but before I sat down, thank goodness) you can guess what I saw.

The paper had completely disappeared. The cardboard holder sat there empty, like a lamb shorn from its fluffy whiteness.

I stepped back out of the bathroom. “You used ALL the toilet paper?” I stabbed accusatory glances at my beloved.


“Yeah? Yeah? What exactly am I supposed to use?”

Brett started to reach for the Kleenex box, but one glare from me had him putting his hands in his pockets.

“You knew we only had one roll left. Why would you use ALL of it?” I questioned angrily.

“There was hardly anything on it.” Brett countered.

“It was at least 2/3 of a full roll. How could you use all that paper in only a few hours?” I pointed my finger at him.

(You’ll notice my opening argument here is legitimate. Brett grabs toilet paper like he’s spinning the money wheel on The Price is Right.)

“Look, I had to go, and I used it. What did you expect me to use? My hands?”

(Now, this is a classic “Brett” move. I call it “the-15-year-old” since it is something a moody, uncouth 15 year old might use to argue with his parents.)

“What are you? 15?”

(I often feel the need to point out to him that being crass is not the way to win an argument.)

“Look, I don’t see what the problem is. We’re leaving for Wal-Mart right now. We can get more toilet paper, bring it home, and THEN you can use it…”

(The implied ending line here is not spoken but is clearly, “…and get off my back about it.”)

“The POINT is that I need to go to the bathroom NOW. And the POINT is …what if we weren’t going to Wal-Mart tonight? What if we both were too tired to go to Wal-Mart? You STILL left me NO toilet paper. It is COMMON COURTESY when there is only a little of something, anything, to leave a little bit for your SPOUSE.”

(I’m pretty sure that last line is in the Ten Commandments somewhere.)

(Here, you’ll see my classic move. I call it “the eventual.” I will project a problem farther out and change all the circumstances surrounding it, and then yell at Brett for doing the same thing in completely imagined circumstances. That’s why it’s a classic!)

After that charming little exchange, we both stomped down the stairs. I stomped a little lighter since my bladder was full.

I had no intention of using his “pity” Kleenex for other than its intended purpose, and besides I was standing on principal for wives everywhere.

It’s thankless work being right all the time.

In the bumpy car ride to Wal-Mart, we exchanged mumbled insults under our breath.

“Common courtesy. Raised in a biker bar. Inconsiderate jerk,” were my favored insults.

“Big deal out of nothing. What was I supposed to use? Who does she think she is,” were his.

We were both practically on fire when we got out of the car and marched into Wal-Mart. Our revved-up anger was almost immediately squelched at the sight that greeted us.

The shelves were completely bare in the front of the store. We flagged an associate and learned all the Wal-Mart freezers and refrigerators had gone down. Everything was being moved to the freezers in the back, but nothing in the cases could be sold.

Our argument vanished as we went into survival mode. We searched the remaining shelves and consulted each other on possible dinners without the assistance of our usual freezer-dependence.

When we reached the toilet paper aisle, we exchanged glances. Deciding it was better for our marriage if, just this once, we avoided Gary’s good advice. Brett selected the BIG 48 JUMBO ROLL pack and threw it in the cart.

We made it home in relatively good humor, lightened by our experience and our joint hatred of our dependence on Wal-Mart prices.

Brett settled in to watch TV while I went upstairs to read. About an hour later, my bladder reminded me urgently that I’d never actually used the bathroom.

I raced downstairs and searched frantically through the grocery bags, but I couldn’t find the toilet paper!

I was furious. How could we forget the toilet paper? Was it still sitting at the cashier station at Wal-Mart? Had we managed to drop it in the parking lot?

Disdainfully, I grabbed the Kleenex box and stumbled back up the stairs.

I went into the upstairs bathroom, and you could have knocked me down with a feather! There, sitting proudly on its handle, was a brand new toilet paper roll!

For the first time (in his life, I think) Brett had stealthily snuck upstairs and put all new rolls in all the bathrooms! I was thunderstruck. Our argument had actually produced a positive RESULT!

And really, I think that is what is going to clinch the win for us. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sizzling Soderstroms

I decided to come home.

After a blissfully cool week in Mom’s air-conditioned house, I knew I had to at least make an appearance. So, on Saturday, I came home. I got caught up on laundry, dishes, and bunny chores in our little hothouse.

Brett was glad to have me home, even if he did have to break the bad news on our air-conditioning situation.

Now, I’m going to use quotes here, because I don’t actually know what any of these words mean.

Apparently, our whole “unit” has to be replaced. The “blower” doesn’t work. The “capacitor” is broken, and of course, our “motherboard” is fried. It sounds so serious, you know?

Anyway, we had a professional company come in and do the analysis, and then we asked my cousin Dave (who used to work in heating and air conditioning) to give us a second opinion.

We were so grateful to Dave for being willing to come out and give us a second opinion. Even if he did have to confirm what we’d already been told.

It’s going to cost us a MINT. And we don’t have a MINT, obviously. With Brett being unemployed, the non-existent MINT is already melting.

So, for now, we are left with no choice. We can sweat, swelter, or simmer in our simian shelter.

It (I can’t help it) sucks.

So, I sit here wearing an outfit I would never, never wear normally. Spandex biker shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt. I look like a chubby extra from My Name is Earl.

Necessity is not the mother of modesty. But, I will tell you that all those half-naked photos in the National Geographic are starting to make sense to me.

I’m seriously debating a return trip to Mom’s for the upcoming work week.

For those of you who think I’m just being a big baby…let me explain today.

I had to work today (Sunday). I slept in our sauna of a house last night, got up, and tried to get ready for work this morning.

I showered, blow-dried and set my hair, and put my make-up on. By the time I got to work, my hair was slick with sweat (it looked like I had just showered) and there wasn’t a part of my face that wasn’t awash with sweat.

Ann-Marie does not do well with heat!

It was a hassle, more driving, and having to pick up one set of work clothes after another during the work week last week. But at least I could sleep at night and look professional at work during the day.

Hence my waffling here. If I’m gone during the week, I miss my husband. I miss my bunnies. I get behind on chores.

BUT…if I stay…I’m miserable.


Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a big deal if I didn’t HAVE to look polished and professional. But I do. And if I’m honest with myself, I would still want to look my best.

And my best is not pouring perspiration on everyone I meet.

So, anyway, I’m sure these whiny, woe-is-me, heat-hating posts is grating on your nerves. I’ll stop…I’ll try to stop.

I will, however, relate a conversation a friend and I had recently.

She said, “Ann-Marie, you never would have made it as a pioneer.”

To which I replied, “Only in space. Only in heavenly, air-conditioned space.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sweaty Story

If you know me, even a little bit, you know how much I hate to be hot. Heat and humidity make me a very grumpy, unhappy, and sweaty person. So, I just have to share this little story about the night before last.

Our air-conditioner was broken, and I went to bed early. I was trying to sleep with the windows open, multiple fans blowing, and wearing as little as possible. It took a while, but eventually I fell into an uncomfortable sleep.

Sometime in the night, I felt the mugginess closing around me, and I yelled, “WILL YOU JUST GET OFF ME!” at my husband…

…who was downstairs at the time.

Yep, I was SO hot; I thought Brett was trying to sweat-hug me, and HE WASN’T EVEN IN THE ROOM!

Hopefully, this gives you a little insight into what living with me when I am too-hot-for-comfort is like…and now I’m sure you see why my loved ones endeavor to keep me cool!

P.S. – I slept wonderfully at Mom and Gary’s last night in their spare room. It was blissfully cool, and they even had a fan set up for me! God bless the indulgent!

P.P.S. – Sweetest thing? Seriously? This morning when I got up, I discovered Mom made a lunch for me to take to work. Say it with me, “Aww…” (I know, I know…I’m one spoiled chick!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Inhumanity of Humidity

Well, our air conditioner is blown. It finally snapped. Gone. Poof.

We thought it had been knocked out by a recent storm, but it turned out our unit was just old and ready to die.

And DIE it did.

I was getting ready for work today, and by the time I did my hair and put on my make-up I was dripping sweat (the hair went flat, and the make-up slid right off).

I believe I screamed something like, “I can’t live like this!” about five times, increasing in volume each time.

My dear, sweet husband (who kindly tolerates my frustration at heat and humidity) let me sob on his shoulder. This resulted in soaking his shirt - not from my tears, but from the freakish amount of sweat pouring out my overworked glands.

Of course, news of an AC crisis is not welcome at any time, but especially not this week which the overly-excited meteorologists are predicting as “the hottest week of summer yet.”

So, we are having to shell out an outrageous amount of money (akin I’d like to believe to selling our souls) to purchase a new unit. An expenditure of this magnitude would (again) not be welcomed at any time, but especially now – with Brett still unemployed – it is wicked inconvenient.

When Brett called to break the news, I was kind, sweet, supportive, and said what every good wife would say in this situation.

“I’m going to my mother’s.”

And, indeed I am.

Just as Mom and Gary have lost one houseguest (my Aunt Linda), they are gaining another one (me). Actually, Mom was exceedingly gracious when I asked if I could stay with her for a couple of days.

She said, “Did you think we’d get lonely without Aunt Linda?”

Then, she said, of course, I was welcome to come and stay with her and agreed I can’t show up for work looking like a sweat hog. Which is actually a rather generous term for what I look like in the heat and humidity of northern Illinois.

Mom also had the brilliant suggestion for us to move the bunnies to the basement. The poor things are practically panting with the heat, even though we have two fans on them and have replenished their water bowls with ice.

So, my husband is reverting to his bachelor status and becoming a single bunny parent, at least until Friday – when it appears Pearson may (no promises…they say) come and install our new unit.

I promised for better and for worse, but no one said anything about heat!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blu-Cool Waters

This is my latest bracelet.

Despite my dislike for the outdoors, I love to swim - lakes, oceans, name it! So, I chose glass beads for this bracelet that would reflect the light blue of sky and darker blue of nice, cool water.

I wanted it to look eclectic, but it actually takes much more time to make sure it looks haphazard. Patterns always want to emerge, so I had to restring the beads a couple of times.

Iridescent Exposure

My second attempt with the abalone shell beads was much more successful! I paired the shell beads with large iridescent beads and multi-colored seed beads to create this bracelet.

I've worn this bracelet more than any other, since it goes with virtually everything I own. It is especially suited to all the black, white, and gray in my closet. The nice thing about using iridescent beads is that you can wear them with gold OR silver.


I had the MOST fun making this bracelet.

I love the idea of random charms, and I'm a writer, so word charms are fast becoming my favorite. This whimsical bracelet had one of my most-loved animals, a chirpy little bird, and the word "spirit" engraved on the silver charms on either side. The long purple bugle beads were too cute paired with my adorable little bird!

Sandy Shore

Sandy Shore was my first try at a multi-strand bracelet.

Since I didn't have any multi-strand closures, I made three bracelets and just wore them together.

I love the color of the glass and "sand" beads in the center bracelet. It just brought to mind the beachfront. The outer strands are made from brown, tan, and copper seed beads.

The Vaselet

Here is my first attempt at a bracelet.

I used abalone shell beads, but I made it too large. Since I was too lazy to start over, I decided to use it to decorate a vase in my kitchen. I think it looks nice on the vase and adds a touch of class to my kitchen.

R&B Necklace

Here is my first attempt at jewelry-making!

Heidi helped me choose the right beads, and both Robin and Heidi loaned me the start-up supplies for my first necklace.

I call this my R&B Necklace - both because it's red and black, and it makes me think of jazz!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Hat tip to my uber-cool friend and Christian broadcasting sensation, Cindy, for tuning me into the Thursday Thirteen.

Thirteen books I re-read at least five times during the year:

Bad Luck & Trouble

Lee Child

Body Politic
Paul Johnston

Dave Barry is from Mars and Venus
Dave Barry

Die Trying
Lee Child

Last Man Standing
David Balducci

Mama’s Boarding House
John D. Fitzgerald

Odd Thomas
Dean Koontz

Silent Joe
T. Jefferson Parker

The Bone Yard
Paul Johnston

The Chosen
Chaim Potok

The Hiding Place
Corrie Ten Boom

The Long Winter
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Visions in Death
J.D. Robb

Notes on selected favorites:
Bad Luck & Trouble
Die Trying
I’ve written about my undying love and appreciation for Mr. Child’s Jack Reacher series before, but these are (so far) my two favorite books in the series. Bad Luck & Trouble is the first book to feature an amazing ensemble cast, including characters who hold their own against tough-guy Reacher.

My favorite Reacher book, however, is definitely Die Trying. In a case of mistaken identity, Reacher takes part in the botched-up kidnapping of a female FBI agent. Along the way, there is a great story that includes militia mind-set, remote cult-like camps in Montana, explosions, and page-turning angst in who may or may not be a double-agent.

Body Politic
The Bone Yard
I discovered Paul Johnston, the amazing, award-wining Scottish crime-writer, after I checked out his Water of Death when it was given a 5 star review on The Mystery Reader. I became hooked on his Quintilian Dalrymple series which is set in futuristic Scotland and centers on a non-conformist private-eye.

My only regrets are that he has only written five “Quint” novels, and since they are published exclusively in the UK, they are very hard to find in the US. Currently, I only own the two on the list and have to rely on local libraries for the other ones – which I check out repeatedly.

Dave Barry is from Mars and Venus
I bought this at a garage sale for 25 cents when I was in high school, and I’ve had it ever since. I grew up reading Dave Barry’s humor column in the Sunday newspaper. Often, I’d read it out loud as Mom and Dad and I drove home from church. We usually laughed the whole way home.

When I was 15, Mr. Barry did a satirical column on why teens shouldn’t smoke. I sent him a letter about how great I thought the column was, and he mailed me a hand-written post card telling me how much he appreciated my comments!

This book, in particular, never fails to cheer me up, no matter HOW depressed I get. There are too many funny lines to remember them all, but I think one of my favorite-favorites is when he talks about people writing him nasty comments, but how he can’t reprint them since “this is a family newspaper. Let’s just say I get a lot of people who say ‘duck shoe’ to me.”

Mama’s Boarding House
This was a rare find at on old book store! I grew up reading The Great Brain juvenile series.

Mama’s Boarding House features the same cast of characters, but in a grown-up setting and written in novel form. All the old favorites come back, and we get to see them as they grow, age, and prove it doesn’t matter how old you are…what you do with your life matters to others.

The Hiding Place

My all-time favorite book will always be The Hiding Place, as it holds a special and sentimental place in my heart. In this post, you can read my thoughts after I first read The Hiding Place as a twelve year old.

What’s your favorite book?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dessert & The Double-Standard

I’m going to preface this by saying I live by a number of double-standards when it comes to marriage.

For instance, I may take a nap whenever I want, but if my husband takes a nap when I think he should be doing something else, he may not take a nap. But he would never (never) dare to tell me (for whatever reason) that I could not take a nap simply because he didn’t think I should.

I am also free to tell Brett to take out the garbage NOW, but he would never think to tell me to clean the toilet NOW, because he knows I would kill him.

So, I am quite guilty (on occasion) of executing the double-standard maneuver.

However, I recently discovered my husband has his own little double-standard rule.

I guess I’ve known about it for some time, but I just thought he wasn’t a dessert person.

I, on the other hand, only eat the meal to get to the dessert. If society did away with meals in favor of desserts, I would die a happy, happy woman (you couldn’t fit me in a casket, but I’d be happy).

Brett comes from a family of non-dessert people. His family’s idea of “dessert” is (deep breath---oooh----this one’s a toughie) - FRUIT. Fruit! Can you believe it? Health food for dessert! Crazies.

Oh, and they make this pretzel crust, strawberry yogurt “dessert” (I’m putting it in quotes only because they think of it as a dessert) that is a HIT at all their family parties.

Pretzels AND fruit. Yeah. Sign me up for that.

I’ll never forget when I brought double-chocolate brownies to a Soderstrom party. I was the ONLY person at the entire 40 person party who had any. And just to be sure it wasn’t because they tasted bad or anything, I ate two.

Then again, I grew up in a family where we had ice cream every night. Brett had salad every night. I weep at the thought of his deprived, bland, and tasteless childhood.

In spite of their fondness for well-balanced meals, Brett’s parents loved to eat out. The four of us went to a LOT of restaurants when Brett and I were dating.

I began to notice a pattern. We’d eat our meal, and when the sever would ask if we wanted dessert, my three dinner companions would wave him away while I was mid-sentence of “Hot fudge sund….”

“No, no. We couldn’t possibly. We’re too full!” They’d cheerfully protest while I’d stomp on Brett’s foot and hiss in his ear softly. “I want ice cream, you fool!”

Despite our 12 years of togetherness, my husband is still in wonder that I crave sugar, chocolate, and pure decadence to cap off a meal out. He also thinks it’s ridiculous to shell out money for dessert.

“Can’t you just eat a candy bar at the gas station?” he’ll ask. (I did not marry him for his sense of class.)

But recently, I discovered his double-standard.

The man I love orders his meal just like I do. BUT he also consistently orders a full-size salad and a bowl of soup BEFORE his meal. Occasionally, he’ll even order an appetizer.

When I pointed out that his extra salad, soup, and appetizer add up to $10, and my measly little chocolate chip mini-pizza is only $4, he became indignant.

“But what I order is real food. You’re just ordering fluff!”

“TO YOU!” I said. “I happen to LOVE dessert, just like you LOVE salad, soup, and appetizers. No wonder you never want dessert. I’m surprised you can even MOVE after all that REAL food.”

My point is that if he can spend $4 on salad, then I can spend $4 on dessert. Turnabout, my friends, is fair play.

Still, it happens every time we go out to dinner. He’ll order hearty “starters” and a meal, and I’ll catch him rolling his eyes or holding his breath in hopes I’ll decide not to order dessert and add an extra $4 to the exorbitant bill he’s mostly created.

With our decreased income, we’ve had to lay off the outside dinners lately. However, we had some money recently to go out to eat. Brett wanted to “maximize” our money, so we couldn’t go somewhere where we’d have to leave a tip. He also made me promise not to order “some $5 dessert.”

When I tried to extract a promise that he wouldn’t order salad or soup, he said, “Sweetheart, I’ve got to eat, you know.”

Overall, I was a grumpy little camper as we drove to the restaurant, unsatisfied with the CLEAR double-standard taking place. Brett noticed my pooched-out lip and defiant posture and gently squeezed my knee, “I’ve just got to make a quick stop.”

The next thing I knew, he threw a candy bar in my lap. I looked up and saw the red and blue Mobil sign.

“There’s a little dessert for later,” he said, smiling, oblivious to my wide eyes and shocked expression.

“You really are an idiot, aren’t you?” I said.

“What? I thought you’d like it,” my husband said, clearly shocked I was not cheering in gratitude of his 49 cent thoughtfulness.

“If you’re going to be eating a restaurant-quality salad, soup, and appetizer, and expect ME to be satisfied with a GAS STATION CANDY BAR, you are sadly mistaken,” I informed him, eyes blazing.

“Fine! Fine! You can order dessert, okay? Sheesh!”

Then, I watched in amazement as he reached for the candy bar in my lap.

“What are you doing?” I asked, snatching the candy bar from his grasp.

“You obviously don’t want it,” he said. “I just thought I’d keep it.”

“You thoughtless boor. This is my candy bar. Mine. You understand?” I tucked the candy bar in my purse and glared at him.

“Okay. Okay. Let’s just go,” said my beleaguered husband as we backed out of the gas station.

We drove all the way to the restaurant in silence until my husband piped up, “I can’t believe I’m out 49 cents for nothing.”

Double-standard or not, it took all the self-control I had not to slap him.

12 Going on 20

Do you remember when twelve year old girls used to dress like twelve year old girls?

My friend Cindy just posted an excellent essay on the reemergence of modesty in the fashion world. If you’re tired of the twenty year old twelve year old, check it out for some great insight, laughs, and links!

Monday, July 07, 2008

On a Scale of 1 to 10 with 10 Being the Worst

This is a photo of actor, Dudley Moore. It is also a fair representation of how my hair looks today.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More Than Just Jewelry

A few days ago, I got my first taste of jewelry-making from Robin and Heidi, my jewelry-making gurus.

Before this, I’d had all about given up on my crafting abilities.

I grew up in a home where my mom created beautiful handmade goods, including eye-crossing cross stitch projects that would rival paintings in the Louvre. Her other specialties included crochet and a designer’s eye that had our house looking like a quaint country cottage, always in season.

My aunts - Kathy, Jan, and Louise, especially - shared Mom’s uncanny decorator’s ability to make any place look amazing. And, if you ever visit my cousins Charity and Colleen’s Southern abode, you would marvel at their beautifully arranged rooms.

In our family, I’ve long been known as “the writer.” I think everyone is just being kind, in recognition of my zero crafting abilities.

(And I just heard a chorus of Rehfeldt-blooded readers saying, “I’ve never called you 'the writer.'” Yeah, yeah, I know.)

I’ve tried candle-making (we’re still finding wax on the silverware), card-making (a friend thought my card was from her 5 year old niece), and soap-making (I, um, itched in uncomfortable places for WEEKS!).

So, when Heidi and Robin suggested I try jewelry making, I was understandably skeptical. H&R were insistent I at least TRY it, even after I warned them of my previous attempts at crafting.

A week or so before the event, Heidi met me at a craft store to help me pick out the jewelry-making necessities. “You don’t need to spend a fortune. You just need some reasonably-priced beads, and you can use our supplies for everything else.”

I stared at the beautiful rows of beads in every shape and color imaginable. I felt very much like young Charlie ushered into the bubble room. Greed and desire crept up my spine like icy fingers, and I realized I wanted them ALL!

Heidi, possibly the most practical and common-sense-having among all my friends, managed to point out that buying them ALL would be impractical, and of course, I would regret bankruptcy “based on beads.”

With her help, I picked out a string of red glass beads, silver ball beads twisted delicately around black beads, and some silver spacer beads (I, at this point, had no idea what spacer beads were or why I needed them.)

As she settled her three girls back in the van, she told me why she thought I’d like making jewelry. “It’s affordable, wearable, sellable, and it’s instant gratification!”

Well, she had me there. Instant gratification is my middle name. (Hey, I’m an American!)

I ducked out of work mid-afternoon one Monday, muttering something about going to a beading/prayer group (I prayed in the car!).

Somehow, I went perpendicular on all the right streets and ended up at Heidi’s house. A few minutes later, Robin’s van pulled up, and we all made our way inside.

Heidi has three girls, and Robin has three boys.

The older boys instantly whipped out some high-tech device (I believe Robin said it was Nintendo Super….something or another) and settled in to play games. The girls grabbed their American Girl Dolls, and (much to my surprise) the three adults were free to sit down and start beading within just a couple minutes.

Now, I’m going to stop right here and say I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like jewelry-making. I was convinced (like card-making, candle-making, and soap-making) I wouldn’t have the skills, creativity, or patience to be any good at it.

And if you know me, you know I hate being mediocre. If I don’t excel at it, I don’t waste my time on it. It’s my way of protecting myself against criticism.

Anyway, in my mind, I was there for the sistership and good conversation. Heidi set up my station with beading wire while Robin walked me through the basics of beading.

She decried her abilities at teaching, but I will state right here that Robin is an excellent teacher. If I were just a little younger, I’d nominate her for a Golden Apple.

In just a few minutes, I was absorbed in creating a necklace pattern with the beads I’d chosen. As Heidi promised, I found almost instant gratification in arranging and rearranging the beads on Robin’s design board.

Meanwhile, Robin and Heidi were contentedly stringing their jewelry and answering my incessant questions. After a while, I started to string my necklace. As the three of us worked in tandem and conversation flowed, I felt something odd.

I felt the room around me melt in some kind of a whirl.

The kids running in and out of the room, asking for food or permission, playing with dolls and games. Heidi and Robin lifting their works-in-progress to ask questions. My own necklace even started to look a little blurry.

Everything was just slightly golden, almost honey-colored in tone, and I found myself realizing that this moment – the occasion itself – has most likely existed in every time in our human history.

Women gathering together to share and craft while kids run and play. The necklaces we were working on could have been quilts in the 1800’s. The Nintendo games could have been wooden soldiers controlled by sticks and strings. The American Girl Dolls could have been rag or corn husk dolls with painted-on faces.

And, in that moment, I got it. I finally understood what it was like. I understood why women do this. And the wonderful sense of sistership, family, community, (and in our case, spiritual support) it provides.

No wonder everything felt honey-colored.

Reality came rushing back in, as the kids clamored for dinner. After the small tribe was fed, the three of us sat down to Heidi’s delicious spaghetti and bread, my store-bought salad, and Robin’s so-good-they-should-be-declared-illegal homemade frosted brownies.

After dinner, I found myself with a beautiful red and black necklace. I raced to the mirror to see it on myself, and Heidi and Robin’s eyes mirrored my thrill back at me.

“Exciting, isn’t it?” Heidi asked me, no doubt remembering her first time admiring her own handiwork.

I headed out the door with a wealth of new information, just a handful of leftover beads, and a new work of Ann-Marie’s art draped around my neck.

At home, I showed Brett my new necklace. I was a little worried about starting a new hobby, and even a little more anxious telling my husband.

Brett is very supportive of all my endeavors (no doubt hoping I will someday discover my calling and make us rich beyond our wildest dreams…or at least rich enough he doesn’t have to work a 9-5 day). However, he has seen me fail at a number of crafting hobbies and has, on occasion, found wax on his silverware mid-bite.

I shouldn’t have worried. He complimented my necklace. “It looks like rubies,” he declared, sweetly. (No doubt thinking, “My lucky day! I’ll never have to buy her jewelry again!”)

Over the next few days, he cleared a working space for me. He found containers for my “tools” and my beads, and he even gave input on what colors he liked to see me wear.

And so it was, this past Thursday night, I sat at my new space stringing beads for a bracelet while my husband worked on our (ever-decreasing) checkbook.

Brett put the Read the Bible CD’s in our DVD player. He wanted to start with Revelations, but I talked him into 1st Samuel instead (lately, Hannah’s story has given me great inspiration).

So, the two of us worked quietly while God’s Word played on the airwaves above our heads.
The room went all blurry on me again. Again, I felt like Laura Ingalls working on some elaborate stitching project.

At least until the end of 1st Samuel, when we decided to settle in on the couch for a nice adventure movie from our extensive collection.

But even then, cuddled up and toasty (and yes, wearing my latest creation), I was pretty sure Laura would have understood.