31 December 2009

Year's Favorite HNT '09


It's that time of year again when all good HNT-ers follow the rules guidelines and post their favorite HNT of the year. Not their favorite HNT that someone else posted, but their favorite that they posted.

Y'all know about my love-hate relationship with HNT. There is so much good about it, yet there is a side of it that I struggle with and that began outweighing the good. I'm not saying that HNT is bad, just that it became bad for me, yet I thoroughly enjoyed looking back through my 2009 shots. Each one has a story and sometimes the story is far better than the picture.

I wasn't able to narrow it down a single favorite, so instead I am re-posting three of my favorites that are favorites for very different reasons. Just remember that clicking may piss of your IT folks if you are at work or damage your children for a lifetime if you are at home and they are peeking over your shoulder!

I've pulled most of my HNT's back into draft, and this post will likely see the same fate, but for now ...


I had fun with the "retro" HNT's this year - attempting to go back to what I interpreted as the original intent of HNT. This was by far my favorite of that genre.



I used a LOT of Gimp and Paint.net with this photo and in doing so managed to capture exactly how I was feeling - minimized, isolated and alone. It took feeling like this, and being able to capture that feeling in a photo, for me to get the courage to move forward.



One of the things that really challenged me was finding an HNT opportunity that others might miss. If I had to pick an overall favorite, this one might just edge out the other two based only on composition.


It was a good HNT year - one that allowed me to fall in love with photography and afforded me personal growth through that medium.

Who knows, there might be an HNT or two in my 2010 future, but for now I'll just appreciate all that it was!



30 December 2009

Rants - Because Sometimes You Just Need to Complain


I'm an accountant. I love what I do. Numbers are perfect, predictable. There aren't any surprises with numbers. Sometimes there are puzzles, but they are always solvable (that's a word, right?). There are deadlines in accounting. Month-end is always a little crazy. Year end? Chaos sums it up well. The only thing worse than year end is an audit.

I work for a company whose fiscal year coincides with the calendar year which means we are smack dab in the middle of hell week. Saying I am busy would be an understatement. Everyone knows accounting is crazy this time of year so they just stay on their side of the building and throw coffee at us on occasion. Everyone except IT.

Yesterday we get an email from the IT department. It says:

This Thursday, December 31st, we will be taking down a few servers for maintenance from noon to 1 PM Central Standard Time.

The servers that will be down are:
[insert list of servers which includes the server than has our accounting software on it]

You will not be able to access files stored on the network. For some users this includes files located in your My Documents folder. This will also affect some network printing.

The servers may be back up before 1 PM, but please don’t count on it.

IT is going to take down the server that hosts the accounting software, in the middle of the busiest work day of the year, and hope it comes back up by 1 PM?? This should be fun.


Yesterday was the day that the deer damage on the Cavalier was to be addressed. As it turned out, husband offered to do the headlight replacement (I know ... I know ... this week's Sunday Secret indicated what an ass he is, yet he offers up helpful things like this. It confuses me too). I ordered the parts, paid for them, and dropped the car off at husband's house at lunch yesterday.

All went well. The headlight replacement took about 25 minutes from start to finish but there was an issue with the running light that sits next to the headlight.

So what is my rant? There are still a few industries where men believe that all women are clueless. The automotive industry seems to be one of those. Now, I'm not an automotive genius, but I know a dipstick when I see one. I could tell that Charlie, the Chevy dealer parts guy, was going to be one of those guys.

When I told him what I needed - giving him the year, make and model of the car, he said, "Do you have the VIN ... you do know what the VIN is, right?" I quietly rolled my eyes on the other end of the phone and assured him I knew what the VIN was and gave him the number. Experience has taught me that these guys aren't usually receptive to being told they are nothing more than short dicked chauvinistic idiots. It's usually better to just get through the conversation.

I gave him the list of the parts I needed. I was very specific about the location of the light assemblies as I didn't have a schematic with names of the parts. I was a little concerned about the running light assembly as it seemed the cost was way out of line. When Charlie said, "You know, if you aren't sure what you need you might want to have your husband call. These parts are not returnable." I wanted to jump through the phone and castrate him by hand shake him violently, but instead asked him if he was certain the part number he gave me was, indeed, the light assembly that sits adjacent to the headlight assembly. He assured me it was.

When I picked up the parts, I opened the running light assembly box to make sure it was what I needed. It didn't look right AT.ALL. I had the Cavalier with me so asked Charlie if he would go out and take a look to make sure this was the light I needed. He poo-poo'ed my questioning of his automotive prowess and told me again he was certain. I took the parts and threw them in the back seat.

I'm rambling, but I'm getting there ...

Husband goes to put the parts on the car yesterday. Guess what? The running light assembly? It was the wrong part. Now here is where I get a little perturbed.

My options were twofold. I could call Charlie and tell him I was right and he was wrong, that a woman *gasp* knew more about her car than he did, neener-neener-neener, and hope that he would take the part back with a full refund, or I could have husband call and do the grunting male bonding moment and know for certain Charlie would take the part back for a full refund. I just wasn't in the mood to deal with misogynistic Charlie, so begged asked husband to call.

Charlie actually apologized to husband and offered to expedite the part in today and offered a full refund on the special order part. What do you suppose the chances were that Charlie would have done the same thing for me?


29 December 2009

Have You Heard of Project 365?


You, too, can join WWC. You'll find information over at Jay's place, on Facebook or on Flickr.


Yes, this should be where I post pictures taken with my handy-dandy cell phone in celebration of this week's words "7" and "Photojournalism" ... but I'm not gonna. Nope! I'm going to be a rebel, throwing all caution to the wind. Not really ... my new found freedom hasn't altered my obsession with need for structure and routine, but I am looking for a little different outlet.

I've decided to participate in Project 365 beginning January 1st. You can read all about it [HERE], but in a nutshell, you take pictures daily, then post a picture a day for ... can you guess?? 365 days! Imagine that.

Here's what I like about it. I can take a picture of whatever I want, for whatever reason I want. If I want to take pictures of bug sex, I can! If I want to take Retro HNT shots, I can! In other words, the only rules are that I post a picture every day. No themes, no constraints - just pictures.

Some of you might already read blogs that participate in this project. Emmy over at Right Turn without Signaling has been participating this year. I've also been an avid lurker over at [THIS] Project 365 blog. Following these two blogs is what got me thinking that maybe this Project 365 thing wasn't just for those evil scrap-booking bloggers. Maybe there was room in this project for a normal, wholesome, creative motherly type like myself. Yeah ... OK ... I'm not buying that either, but you know what I mean!

I was going to set up this little poll on my blog asking you what your preference was on posting these photos. Should I do a separate post on this blog? Should I combine my daily photo with my regular posts here? Should I set up a new blog? Then I thought, screw you! it's my blog - my project - I'll do with it what I want to!

There is a new blog. It's called Dana Does Project 365 Dana Does Digital (*EDIT* I couldn't pass up Matt-Man's suggestion - it was just too good!). I was so wishing I lived in Dallas, or Denver, or Dubuque (well, not really Dubuque) just so that I could have a catchy blog title, but ... *shrugs* You're stuck with practical instead of catchy. *EDIT* Now you've got catchy! Yes, you can go look now (GO! LOOK! Add it to your reader and/or RSS feed!). The blog is up and ready to go, as soon as I flip the calendar over to January (hopefully on the 1st). Dana Does Project 365 Digital will be limited to participation in the photo-a-day project.

I don't anticipate this blog will change ... well ... anymore than any blog changes as we trudge through life's muck. I'll still do my Sunday Secrets, my Friday Wrap-Ups and all of the other garbage intriguing posts you've grown so accustomed to. I know, that disappoints some of you but you'll get over it - or leave - one or the other!

**NOTE** If you added the blog link to your reader prior to 7:15 AM Central time, you might want to check the link. My OCD got the best of me and I couldn't stand the URL/blog name mismatch. The Project 365 blog can be found at http://dana-does-digital.blogspot.com/


28 December 2009

The Christmas Story Was Just Too Perfect


Many of you have asked about Cam's reaction to finding the Xbox 360 Elite, Modern Warfare 2 Limited Edition under the tree on Christmas morning. Well ...

Have I ever mentioned that I am gaming system challenged? I'm old enough that I remember how exciting it was to get PONG ... I was 11. I did have the very first version of the Game Boy - my parents bought it for me the Christmas I spent in Korea while in the Army - but my generation kind of missed the whole video game frenzy.

Why the background? I've heard stories of the latest, greatest gaming systems being hot items at Christmas - cat-fights at WalMart trying to get the last available system - eBay entrepreneurs stalking stores, waiting for the delivery trucks to show up so they can grab one to sell for the promise of a first born son some outrageous profit - but I hadn't heard anything about the system Cam wanted having these issues. In fact, I hadn't heard ANYTHING about the system Cam wanted. That should have been a clue.

I was a bit delinquent in my shopping. I didn't know until the 23rd that I'd actually be able to pull this off, and I had to find time to do the shopping without Cam. I ran to WalMart on my lunch hour that day only to find they carried two other Xbox bundles, but not THE ONE that Cam had his heart set on.

Thursday morning - yes, Christmas Eve - I started frantically surfing the internet. I went to the Microsoft Xbox website and visited every single store listed as having THE ONE. I made phone calls even when the on-line status indicated there were none of the systems in stock. No one had THE ONE ... except for Amazon ... and Amazon wasn't going to be able to get it to me until tomorrow, even with overnight shipping.

Apparently, THE ONE was a limited edition system (hence the Xbox 360 Elite, Modern Warfare 2 Limited Edition name). Microsoft shipped a limited number of the systems to each authorized dealer and once those were gone, there were no more shipped. I went through all seven steps of the grieving process in about 42.7 seconds.

An extremely helpful sales associate at GameStop told me he could easily put a similar "bundle" together using components he had in stock. The key word here is similar. It wouldn't be THE ONE. What to do ... what to do ...

Since Cam knew he was going to get this system at some point after Christmas, I let him decide. I called him from work Thursday morning and asked if he'd rather have a similar system under the tree Christmas morning, or if he wanted to wait until Tuesday for THE ONE. I gotta tell y'all, THE ONE must have magical powers because he didn't even hesitate when he answered, "I'll wait until Tuesday."

The good news is that he was still surprised Christmas morning. He opened up his gifts and started to hand over the $150 in gift cards he received. I told him they were his to keep - that we had been blessed with people who love and care for us - and with their help I was able to cover the full cost of the system. Saturday we braved the weather and he quickly spent his gift cards on these *shakes head*

It really was the most magical Christmas we've ever experienced!


27 December 2009

Sunday Secret



26 December 2009

A Different View Of Christmas - The Conclusion


**NOTE** This is the fourth and final part of my Christmas series where I share with y'all a little different view of Christmas. A view that has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. A view that I hope will remind us all to slow down, take a deep breath amidst the chaos, and take a moment to remember why it is we celebrate Christmas.


When I think about what has happened over the past three weeks - the changes - the upheaval - the unspoken promise of a brighter future - I experience a full range of emotions. When I think about the people who have stood by me, when they had every right to walk away throwing their hands up in the air, I am overcome with emotion.

Christmas was so very different for us this year. There were times when I felt overwhelming guilt knowing that I wasn't going to be able to provide the Christmas so many of Cam's friends were going to experience, yet every time those feelings crept in, there was some other event that occurred that quickly overshadowed that guilt.

One of the the things I did when Cam and I first moved was to join several local Freecycle groups. If you are not familiar with Freecycle, they are a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Their focus is reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. There are still a few things Cam and I could use that I was hoping to find on Freecycle.

Soon after I joined, my group had a "contest" for a free Christmas dinner. They were looking for inspiring stories from group members. I submitted a modified version of my When it Doesn't Leave a Mark You Can See blog post. I prefaced the story by explaining that Cam and I are fortunate - we would have food for the holiday - but that a "traditional" meal wasn't in our budget. I also explained that getting my story out (one that I believe is more common than people realize) was far more important to me than the "traditional" Christmas dinner and asked that it be published even if Cam and I didn't win.

We did win a dinner - as it turned out EVERYONE who submitted a story received a dinner. Last week a complete stranger brought Cam and me the fixings for a turkey dinner and, while she hugged me, told me how inspiring my story was.

Then there was the biggest surprise of all. I know I've talked about the single moms email list I was a part of for 11 years. You might remember hearing about it when I was having such huge issues with snugs (she had been a member of that same list). I left the list - GAHHH - I don't know - one or two years ago? I remember, at the time, my reasoning seemed logical and solid. Today? I don't remember what "wrong" I perceived that made me leave ... which is quite insightful in itself.

Anyway, when Cam and I moved out, I decided to go back to the list. I grovelled apologized to them and hoped they'd welcome me back, but expected some backlash (deserved). They were amazingly understanding and supportive - it was as if I'd never left.

One of the things the list has done for quite a few years is a "Secret Santa" project. I headed up the project for quite a few years and was thrilled to see that it had continued. I specifically wrote to the person heading up the project this year telling her that if my name came up, I didn't want to be considered. Cam and I would be fine - I dug my own hole and needed to get myself out of it. Apparently, she ignored me!

Last week I received this box ...

... and this box ...

I was just so taken aback. I cannot begin to tell you how many of these women are struggling themselves, yet they got together and did this for Cam and me. They had every opportunity to judge - to decide that I had created my own mess making some very bad choices putting Cam's safety and well-being at risk. But they didn't.

I have grown accustomed to people with harsh words who never back up their criticisms with support. This year I realized that there really are just a handful of people like that. There will always be those who enjoy watching the train wreck - condemning the actions of others - then moving on to the next train wreck when the one they've been watching is cleaned up.

But most people? Most people want to help. Sometimes you have to be strong enough to ask for help and vulnerable enough to allow people to care. It's difficult. The walls are far easier to put up than they are to tear down, but when I dared to do just that? I was given the greatest Christmas of all!


23 December 2009

A Different View Of Christmas - Part 3


This is the third part of my series leading up to Christmas sharing with y'all a little different view of Christmas. A view that has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. A view that I hope will remind us all to slow down, take a deep breath amidst the chaos, and take a moment to remember why it is we celebrate Christmas.


One of my biggest worries leading up to Christmas was Cam. He's been a trooper through this, but he has struggled with the sudden and complete change in lifestyle. There just wasn't any way for me to keep it from him and, quite honestly, it was time he realized the insignificance of the material things we had so that he could appreciate the peace of where we are headed.

Still ...

Cam has asked for just one gift - the Xbox 360 Elite, Modern Warfare 2 Limited Edition.

Understand, this is not just another entitled kid asking for yet another gaming system. This is much bigger than that.

You see, Cam was never "allowed" to have a gaming system, nor was I "allowed" to purchase one for him. Why? Because he never deserved one. Some of you might remember earlier in the year when husband purchased a PS3, hooked it up to the living room TV, then told all of us that it was his and only he was allowed to play it.

So, not only was Cam never "allowed" to have a gaming system, one was dangled in front of him - daily - for almost a year. A reminder that he wasn't good enough. This year I have the opportunity to show him that he is good enough, even though he isn't perfect.

The problem? Although I was one of the fortunate employees this year who received a year-end bonus, my available budget was for an Xbox 360 Arcade system.

The difference between the two systems? A ton of technology and about $200 that wasn't in my budget.

From everything I read and hear ('cause I know NOTHING about gaming systems), what you get for the extra $200 is well worth the investment, but I just couldn't shit eek the extra money out of the budget no matter how hard I tried.

I sat down with Cam to discuss the situation. I explained that I knew what he wanted, but I just couldn't get there. Rather than throw a fit of entitled teen, he had a solution.

It's not unusual for him to receive somewhere between $100-$200 in cash gifts from family over the holidays. He asked if he could get the Xbox 360 Elite, Modern Warfare 2 Limited Edition if he covered the difference between the cost of the two with the cash gifts he gets from family.

I explained that meant there would be nothing for him under the Christmas tree - that we'd have to wait until the day after Christmas to get his gift. He assured me it was well worth the wait and since I *LIED* to him about Santa Claus (Cam believed in Santa until just last year and he hasn't let me forget that I lied for 12 years), it wasn't like he'd feel that Santa missed our house or anything.

I was proud of him. He didn't get upset. He didn't pout and whine. Instead, he was grateful for what I could contribute and willing to contribute what he could.

Enter in more magic of Christmas ...

As if Cam and I hadn't received enough, hadn't been blessed beyond my wildest imagination, more came.

I'll admit it, I've always been one of those people who denied reality until it hit me up along side the head with a 2 x 4, and that has been kind of a negative thing in the past, but this time it's been clear that it's a "worthy and goodness" 2 x 4 beating on me.

There is the Christmas check my mom sent me that I wasn't at all expecting and, that in a previous life, I would have never cashed (I've only recently discovered just how selfish those kinds of actions are on my part). There is the "little something to help you out" that someone very near and dear to my heart surprised me with. And there was the $75 VISA gift card that showed up yesterday from a very unlikely source (more on that tomorrow - and no, it wasn't from husband).

These gifts? These blessings? They more than make up for the difference in the price of what I could afford and what Cam will now receive.

Shhhh! Don't tell anyone, but there will be an Xbox 360 Elite, Modern Warfare 2 Limited Edition under the tree Christmas morning. My gift this Christmas? There have been an abundance of them, but this one will be to see the glow of surprise and gratitude on Cam's face Christmas morning!


22 December 2009

A Different View Of Christmas - Part 2


**NOTE** This is the second part of my series leading up to Christmas sharing with y'all a little different view of Christmas. A view that has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. A view that I hope will remind us all to slow down, take a deep breath amidst the chaos, and take a moment to remember why it is we celebrate Christmas.


Christmas for Cam and me has been a month-long celebration this year. I'd be lying if I said the decision to leave the abusive environment, and the days following, were easy. There were times when I knew this was the right thing to do, and others when doubt, loneliness and worthlessness dug deep into my heart and mind.

December 4th was moving day. I had arranged for my friend G and her husband B, along with the middle school youth pastor from church, to help me move. It was an easy move. Just two trips in the 10' U-Haul, and about 2-1/2 hours, and we were finished. G was quite concerned with the lack of "things" we were taking from the old house. She kept asking if I was sure Cam and my basic needs - food, toilet paper, soap - were taken care of. I was still far too stuck in pride to admit that I didn't know how we were going to get through the week. It had taken every penny I had to secure the apartment.

G, being the good friend that she is, was quite observant though and wasn't going to let my pride stop her. Saturday morning, she showed up with 4 bags of groceries and $40 in vouchers to our local market that she was able to get as an emergency disbursement from the food pantry at her church. I was never so grateful to see spaghetti-O's and canned corn. I cried ... one of those big ugly cries.

Sunday morning, when I went out to the car to load up laundry, I opened the front door to find a HUGE box filled with more canned food items, packages of frozen hamburger and lunch meat, toilet paper, and a few things that really made me pause. There were candles (I wasn't "allowed" to burn candles in the old house) a wooden paper towel holder, some plastic food storage containers and a CD of Christmas music. This box was left on the doorstep anonymously. I still have no idea where it came from or who to thank.

That first week was overwhelmingly difficult. The emotions were still raw. Very high highs and very low lows. I kept second guessing the timing of the move - should I have waited longer? Should I have made sure we were more financially secure? Did I do the right thing? Yet it seemed every time I had a doubt, someone was there to remind me that I did make the right decision, and more importantly, that we were loved and cared about.

There were encouraging text messages from Lynn (Real Live Lesbian), emails from some of my blogger family members just checking in on me, the gift from an anonymous donor to pay Cam's $59 registration fee for a middle school church youth group activity, and this gift basket from our church:

*NOTE* You know you go to a "progressive" church when they include packages of Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels coffee

In addition to what you see, there were also gift certificates to Target, Meijer, McDonald's and Chilli's. Again, there were tears of gratitude.

Not only have I used pride as an excuse to keep from letting people love me, I'll also admit to having the occasional "If I only had family near" pity party. My family is not only hundreds of miles away, but neither my mom nor my dad are in a position where they could help Cam an me financially. I haven't shared the hardships with them as I don't want them to feel the pain of wanting to help yet not being able to do.

Then I had one of those moments ... where I realized that what Cam and I are "missing" isn't family, but relatives who live near by. We have, and have always had, the gift of family - our community family - our church family - our blogger family. I just needed to learn to let them love us!


21 December 2009

A Different View Of Christmas - Part 1


**NOTE** I'm going to spend the last few days leading up to Christmas to give y'all a little different view of Christmas. A view that has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. A view that I hope will remind us all to slow down, take a deep breath amidst the chaos, and take a moment to remember why it is we celebrate Christmas.


As I'm sure y'all can imagine, Christmas looks much different in our house this year. Some of the traditions from previous years are gone (like our family tree hunt), but new ones are being created. This is - in no way - a bad thing. In fact, it's been a gift in itself.

Take, for example, our Christmas tree ...

When we moved to the "big house," we had an annual tradition of renting a van and visiting a local tree farm to pick out a live tree. Each year, Delaney and Cam took turns selecting the tree. We'd load it up, drag it into the house and spend the following day decorating it. These were HUGE trees - between 8' and 9' tall. They were beautiful, but they lacked any real meaning. They were little more than a grand symbol of prosperity that we showed off through the front room window.

This year? There wasn't money in the budget to start from scratch - to purchase a tree, stand, lights and decorations. I was a little bummed, but knew Christmas really wasn't about the tree. Then something magical happened.

My hair stylist's business partner heard about our move and lack of a tree. She happened to have an extra tree, having replaced her tree last year. She "gifted" the tree to Cam and me.

At that point, I was thinking I'd just decorate the tree without lights. Lights are probably one of the more expensive decorating items for the tree, but not (IMHO) a necessary accessory. Then I mentioned to a co-worker that I was without lights for my tree. Seems she and her husband changed their color scheme on their tree this year and they had a bunch of white and red lights sitting in a bag in their garage waiting for trash day. She ran home at lunch and brought them in for me.

Now I had a tree and lights, but no decorations. I stopped at the "local" Dollar Store (I live in the puckies, remember? Local is 12 miles away) and gave myself a $20 budget for decorations. I used up $5 on a tree skirt, but got plenty of decorations for the remaining $15. Cam and I took a chunk out of Saturday and decorated our tree.

I have to tell you guys, this is one of the most beautiful Christmas trees I've ever seen! It's not a 9' symbol of prosperity that we show off through the front room window, but rather a 5' symbol of community and the true Christmas spirit!


20 December 2009

Sunday Secret



18 December 2009

Friday Wrap-Up


Soooo ... do you ever have one of those days ... months ... YEARS ... where you feel like you just can't catch a break? Where you are really, REALLY trying to do the right things and then another challenge comes your way?

Last night, on the way to family night at Cam's school, we had an up close and personal meeting with one of Rudolph's cousins (not to worry kids, I didn't take out any of Santa's reindeer, your gifts should still be there on time). You know the saying, "She looked like a deer caught in the headlights"? Well, we had a deer ... caught in the headlight.

I saw the doe hit the passenger side - Cam had a really good view ...

... and then listened to her wrap around the side of the car ...

Rumor has it she was given the death penalty for her actions. I was talking about hitting a deer when one of my co-workers confirmed my "kill". He saw her on his way into work this morning.

In the grand scheme of things this was a "minor" deer collision. I've seen cars totaled - and people killed - from collisions with deer.

The good news? Cam and I weren't hurt, although we were both a little shaken up.

The bad news? My car is 12 years old and has - or had - a Blue Book value of about $1400. I was carrying full coverage on the car until LAST WEEK when I decided it was really silly to be paying close to $1000 a year for full-coverage insurance on a car that was barely worth that. Yeah ... it's been one of those years ...


Cam has had a rough week at school which means I've had far too many phone calls and emails from the school. Most of the issues have been ... well ... IDIOTIC! For example, he and a female classmate were acting up in class. The girl crumpled up a piece of paper and flung it hitting Cam in the head. Cam grabbed it and threw it back hitting her in the chest and said, "I really wasn't aiming for your boob." Want to know what zero tolerance policies call that? SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Yes ... I'm serious.

I just got an email from the vice principal saying we need to schedule another meeting, and I explained that, although I support the efforts of the school, I will NOT sit in another meeting, listening to teachers tell me that Cam is disruptive, not completing work in class, a frustration for them and other students, then offer up the same solutions that didn't work the last time.

Although I'm not looking forward to all of Cam's unsupervised free time over the next two weeks, *I* need a break from all of the ridiculousness.


And...here we go!

1. No, we will NOT hang your Grinch boxers from the Christmas tree and call them a decoration.
2. Many of the world's problems have been solved with Christmas cookies and eggnog at the old kitchen table.
3. I watched the steam rising from the hot cup of coffee (or tea) and thought: a shot of Bailey's would be really good in this.
4. Everyone keeps telling me it's going to be okay. (Most days, I believe them)
5. I'll take "Sexual Practices of the South American Amphibian" for $100 Pat.
6. No, deer hair is not a desirable car accessory, at least from my point of view.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to decorating my Christmas tree (seems I was artificial tree assembly challenged), tomorrow my plans include baking sugar cookies and going to a Christmas party that could get me in trouble and Sunday, I want to get laundry done early and spend the day watching sappy Christmas movies!


17 December 2009

HNT - Christmas Tree '09


Well ... not exactly ...

As any of you who regularly read know, Cam and I moved just 12 days ago. We didn't take much and a tree was not on our necessity list. That said, one of my friends here in town had a spare tree that she loaned me, but there was one itty-bitty problem ... about 3 rows of branches were missing. The box has the very bottom row of branches and the very top portion of branches. Everything in the middle is ... well ... a green painted metal pole!

Unfortunately, I didn't discover this until I had made a stop at the Dollar Store for a few ornaments and secured 8 strings of lights - a donation from a co-worker.

So what does one do with Christmas tree lights but no tree to put them on? No you sillies! I don't run out and buy a tree, I see if they offer good photographic lighting!

For anyone feeling similar to Osbasso in his comment:

OK, is my disease-addled brain the only one that doesn't know exactly what he's looking at? I see fingers, I see a tattoo...after that I'm lost...

The intent was for you to be lost ... to make you wonder and imagine ... kind of the "magical" fantasy that Christmas is.



16 December 2009

A Crafty Kwanzaa


I am often times amazed by the cosmic happenstance that occurs in the blogsphere.

Yesterday, Matt-Man wrote a piece on Kwanzaa in only the way that Matt-Man can. I laughed so hard I pee'd my pants cried, then kept reading the comments all day waiting for the shit to hit the fan thoughtful and caring words of wisdom from his many enlightened readers.

As fate would have it (here's where that cosmic happenstance comes in), I was minding my own business on Twitter, when one of the crafters I follow (don't act so surprised) tweeted this series of 140 character or less thoughts:

OK, so maybe I *do* stereotype people a little bit, but I certainly didn't expect to see a craft blogger posting about racism ... even the "casual" variety. We all know that crafters are far more into knitting pouches to hold all of their Christmas gifts than they are about world peace ... or racism ... right?? Curiosity got the best of me and off I clicked.

What I found was Alexis of One Grand Home and her views on a group who call themselves "Knitta, please." Without going into too much detail, "Knitta, please" is a knit graffiti crew. They "tag" parking meters, buses, bike racks, lamp posts, car antennas, columns, statues, exposed plumbing, etc. with - you guessed it - granny squares. Alexis takes issue with what she calls the "casual racism" of the Knitta, please name. Her post, Racism Is Not Crafty, got me thinking on several levels.

First, who knew? My obvious stereotyping slapped me right up along side the head. I couldn't imagine there was an undercurrent of heavy subjects like racism in the knitting/crafting world. How does one find the time to consider such lofty topics when they are knitting one and pearling two?

Second, why hasn't Knitta, please come to Chicago to warm our parking meters? Heaven knows the parking meters in Austin Texas stay warm all winter. They don't need a cozy!

Then I pictured Matt-Man wrapped up in a crocheted afghan, and Alexis with a bottle of Wild Irish Rose, and realized they are really both doing the same thing, just in very different ways.

My guess is that Alexis would find Matt-Man's Kwanzaa post beyond "casual" racism, ranking right up there with overt racism, and that Matt-Man still hasn't stopped kicking himself in the ass for not copyrighting the term Knitta, please before those crafty Texans did.

But beyond that, they both got people talking about a topic we don't like to talk about. One that remains far more of an issue in this country than many of us are aware of. Matt-Man tends to do this by taking the power out of the words through satire where Alexis does it by encouraging people to be more aware of how little bits of racism innocently creep into our lives.

Which way do you lean? Will you drink from the Wild Irish Rose bottle or are you working on a granny square?


I've continued following the discussion thread over at
Racism Is Not Crafty and I have to tell you that I am truly amazed at some of the comments - from using the acronym POC (for People of Color, rather than using a human descriptor) and then calling everyone who supports "Knitta, please" racist, to implying that if one is tired of being PC (and let's be honest, who isn't no matter if you are a "POC" or a "P w/o C") they are "too lazy/scared/uninterested in educating" themselves makes me realize that we have even farther to go in this plight than I imagined ... and it's the people who are so vocal in claiming they AREN'T racist who are the greatest hurdle!

Unfortunately, this discussion on race at Racism Is Not Crafty ended as so many do ... with shutting down the comments of those who dared find nothing wrong with the moniker "Knitta, please" I find that unfortunate.

In her follow-up post she gave kudos to those willing to do something about "Knitta, please" - to somehow shut them down - and gave credit only to commenters who agreed with her position. Again, terribly unfortunate.

Alexis, in her final reply to my comments wrote:


I’m going to respond to you one last time and then you can have the final word because I don’t think dialog with you is going to be productive. If you are offended by the abbreviation POC, it is probably because you don’t spend any substantial time conversing about race online. The abbreviations POC, WOC, AfAm, AA, COC, EA, SA and on and on are all used in various contexts to speed communication about various groups of people just like DH, DS, DD are used in online conversations about family structure. That’s all.

As for your chuckles at the n-word and hearty enjoyment of racist caricatures about African American holidays, I leave you to it.

... and then a general comment to all of her readers:

Moderation warning: If you create different aliases to manufacture a fiction of agreement with your perspective, your posts will be deleted and you will be banned.

Way to keep those lines of communication open! She is definitely not interested in the Wild Irish Rose method and much prefers her comfortable, safe granny squares where all can be predicted and controlled. It's too bad ... really ...

If anyone is interested, earlier this month CNN published a GREAT article titled Urban knitters spin yarn into graffiti that talks about Knitta, please and their "gorilla street art". If you'd like to see how a genuine artistic effort is being manipulated into what Alexis refers to as "casual racism" read the article and judge for yourself.

Mountain out of a mole hill anyone?


15 December 2009

WWC - 1/2 Portion


You, too, can join WWC. You'll find information over at Jay's place, on Facebook or on Flickr.

This week’s words are Americana and Sports. I was going to attempt to dazzle you with an excuse as to why I have absolutely NOTHING for sports, but then remembered y'all are too smart for that kind of nonsense. Bottom line? I remembered WWC Sunday morning and had no photo opps for sports.

There are times when I hate living in such a small town - the Post Office incident comes to mind - and other times that I absolutely wouldn't live anywhere else. This town is the epitome of Americana, from the acres of farm land (*NOTE* These first three pictures are not mine but ones I found when doing a Google image search - all are local) ...

... to the water towers ...

... to the institution of the local drive in that doesn't take debit or credit cards, but will gladly accept your check ...

Due to the move and the absence of laundry facilities in my 6-plex, I've been spending Sunday mornings in the laundromat. Now, I've seen some pretty hi-tech laundromats in bigger cities, but ours? Well, it's purely Americana, from the simple rows of washers and dryers, half of which have little notes with "OUT OF ORDER" scrawled on them (*NOTE* These pictures are mine, taken with my handy-dandy cell phone camera)

... to the Suds 'n Such machine that includes a box of Borax as one of the $0.50 options ...

... and the row of wood chairs recovered from the bowling alley that closed down almost 10 years ago ...

And if you have a few minutes, and are lucky enough to catch the barber during the five hours he works each week, you can run next door and have Jim attend to your needs!


14 December 2009

Real Beauty or Real Marketing?


Earlier in the month, Another Suburban Mom hosted a giveaway of Dove products as part of their Campaign for Real Beauty. I applaud ASM for her part in supporting real women, and Dove for progress, but Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is still, at its core, nothing more than a campaign to sell more Dove products.

The ads tell us that "real" women are beautiful, yet they are selling us anti-aging products and firming creams. If "real" women are beautiful just the way we are, why do we need those anti-aging products and firming creams?

Dove's official statement on the ads reads as follows:

“We have made the commitment not to distort any of our images to create an unrealistic or unattainable view of beauty. As we have said, this does not mean we do absolutely nothing to the images to make them suitable for printing. There is always something that needs a bit of adjustment to meet professional standards - even in the best run photo shoot with the best photographers. Removing or correcting these things does not mean that people don't see the woman as she really is and does not change our commitment to real women.”

In other words, although Dove did not "distort" images to create an "unrealistic or unattainable" view of beauty, they did "correct" the photos to meet professional standards. Hmmm ...

Let's start with the facts. Dove says these ladies range from size 4 to size 12. In a country where the average woman is a size 14, we've already pushed the boundaries of a "real" woman.

The Dove ads say it's cool to be curvaceous as long as your skin is taut and firm and perfect. What? You love your real curves, but you've got a little cellulite? Better run out and buy some of that Dove firming cream! You love the way you've aged, but you are noticing a few more lines and wrinkles around your eyes? Better run out and buy some of those Dove anti-aging products!

In the end, you simply can't sell a beauty product without somehow playing on women's insecurities. What these ads say is that the women in the ads look sort of like me, except they seem really happy and confident. Maybe if I buy this Dove Firming Cream, I'll stop hating myself!

If women thought they looked perfect - just the way they are - they wouldn't buy these products.

And for the record, Unilever, the parent company of Dove, also manufactures Axe. You know, that can of spray stuff teenage boys bathe in rather than taking a shower? And one of there recent ad campaigns?

A half-naked stunning blond incomplete print ad with the most "naughty parts" missing… and with a message: "to complete this ad send Axe to 2345 after 9pm" Marketers then send you back a pic text to complete ad.

Soooo Unilever ... it's OK to be a "real" woman, but if you use Axe you don't have to settle for a "real" woman?


13 December 2009

Sunday Secret



11 December 2009

Friday Foodie and Fill-Ins


Last year, Another Suburban Mom (be careful with this link - ASM is a mixture of mom and NSFW) did a virtual cookie exchange. This year, she's calling it a "Treat Exchange" which gave me an idea. A treat doesn't have to be a cookie, right? It could be an appetizer, right? Right?? I thought so!

This recipe was shared with me by Kell, who just happens to be Jay's sister. I made these for Cam's football banquet about a month ago and they were a huge hit! My favorite thing? They can be made ahead of time, popped in the freezer, then cooked up in just 20 minutes whenever you need them!

Spinach Balls

2 packages Chopped spinach, well drained
3c. (8oz) Pepperidge Farm stuffing (with spice) crushed slightly
2 lg Onions, finely minced
6 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2c Butter, melted
1/2c Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
3 Cloves garlic (finely minced)
1/2t Thyme, crushed
1T Black pepper
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a very big bowl. Chill briefly. Form into 1" diameter balls.

Place on a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid. Transfer to plastic bags for storage.

Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 325 for 18-20 minutes. Makes about 80 balls.



And ... here we go!

1. Good times: I'm beginning to learn what they are again!.
2. For the first time in a long time, it's my home.
3. Sleigh bells ring every time Santa hits a bump.
4. “Happiness consists not in having much, but in being content with little.” ~ Marguerite Gardiner
5. Once more I'm making the decisions that are best for us.
6. Is this really the end?
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to grocery shopping, tomorrow my plans include volunteering at the foodbank and Saturday night church service and Sunday, I want to get laundry done in under 74 minutes!


10 December 2009

Brain Freeze


It's cold! No ... FRIGID! -1 degree F air temperature, -23 degrees F with the wind chill. I've not been this cold, this early in the winter, since leaving Minnesota 6 years ago. I even had to plug in my car last night! I'm sure the new neighbors loved the 100', orange extension cord I strung under their door mat *shrugs* All I know is that my car started - without much effort - this morning.

That said, days like this are absolutely beautiful, especially with a fresh snow fall. After starting my car this morning, I snapped a few pictures (all click to BIG). Hopefully, some sort of jealousy will be felt by all of you who were able to drive your this morning without listening to the tires rub on the "carnicles"!



This is my kitchen window - from the outside! Those ice crystals? They are actually on the inside of the window!)


09 December 2009

Opening Lines


I'm stealing ... kind of ... or maybe not! I stole this last year from Os, who originally stole it from Leesa (sorry, no link) back in 2005, so I think at this point I'm just recycling rather than actually stealing.

What was the first line from your blog the first day of each month in 2009?

*I've linked each entry in case that opening line has you begging for more!*

It has been quite some time since I did a vlog and I thought it was the best way to usher in the new year!

When the battle between love and hate was raging, I was often overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, disappointed, insecure, angry and fearful.

As a parent, there really are no words that can explain the love for a child and the love from a child.

Accountability. There has been much talk about it, but like so many things, it seems to be lip service.

Because I want to sit at the cool table with Os and M ...
1. The first rule of working in an office and getting along is don't fart in your cubicle and try to blame it on your neighbor.

I have been a very bad blogger and I want a spanking deserve a scolding!

1. How many speeding tickets have you had? Accidents?
I've been driving for thirty a few years, so I've had ample opportunity to get more than my fair share of tickets, but only one of those was a speeding ticket and it was dismissed after attending traffic school (got to love California).

My roommate and I once: Had sex in the same room, at the same time, but with different people

Monday Morning rolls around.

Whew! What a week! Not necessarily a bad week, but certainly one that was just a bit complicated by this nasty sinus crud Jay gave me.

If you treated me with the same amount of love and respect when people weren't looking as you do when they are, we'd have a very different marriage.

Will you look back on life and say, "I wish I had," or "I'm glad I did?"


It amazes me that this simple exercise gives such insight into an entire year of life.


08 December 2009

Words and Moving Pictures!


First and foremost, to those of you who were nasty and belittled me publicly (on the blog) on my decisions and/or indecisions - SCREW YOU! You did far more harm than good.

Rather than being honest in a supportive way (yes, it can be done - most of those who read my blog have done just that) and attempting to help me get to a place where I believed enough in myself to make the changes I needed to make, you chose to be the kind of people who see someone is down and stomp on their back to insure it takes them just a wee bit longer to get up.

That said, I'd like to thank you! You helped me see that I can sometimes be guilty of that very same thing and you showed me the pain that I may have caused others. Some day, I hope you quit hurting people and reach out a helping hand instead.

Next, to those of you who were nasty and belittled me privately (via email and amongst our Facebook "friends") on my decisions and/or indecisions - FUCK YOU! You didn't even have the gonads to belittle me publicly but instead, decided to hide behind email and your (not so) protected Facebook profiles.

I can only imagine what your motivation was. Maybe you needed to feel better about your own screwed up lives? I don't know, nor do I really care. There is no justification for what you did. You were downright UGLY in the way you treated me, and I know that you've topped the ugliness off with lies - denying and/or minimizing what you've done to the mutual "friends" we share.

That said, I'd like to thank you! You helped me see through your "artificial nice" and the "artificial nice" of a handful of our mutual friends. It made it much easier for me to figure out who I could trust - who really cared about me - and who didn't. Some day, I hope you're able to grow up enough that you'll realize just how destructive gossip and backstabbing are - that you'll discover that you can't really call yourself a friend if your not willing to stand up to another friend when they are wrong.

To everyone else - THANK YOU! You helped me feel just good enough about myself that I was able to make this move. You've been there at times when hearing a kind word was the difference between making a really bad choice and making a better choice.

You've shown me that there really are people out there who love unconditionally - who continue to give love even when I don't really "deserve" it - who stand by me not just to watch the train wreck, but to try to help me get off the tracks before the train barrels down on me.

I'll never be able to put into words the gratitude I feel towards so many of you. You literally helped saved two lives!


... and now for a little fun! Here I am in all of my Sunday night, no makeup, flat spot on the back of my head, had a busy day glory giving you a little tour of the new place. It's 5 minutes long, so if you don't want to watch the whole thing, just skip to like the last 90 seconds. You shouldn't miss that part!


07 December 2009

There's No Place Like Home!


OK, so it took a little more than clicking the heels of my ruby slippers to get here, but here we are!

The move went very well. As it turned out, I ended up with more than enough help to move the big stuff. With B & G (friends who live here in town), Cam's youth pastor, Cam (who found himself suspended Friday for “inappropriate” language) and I all working diligently, and the rental of a 10' U-Haul, we were able to get the furniture moved in two loads and in about two hours.

I made a few more trips back and forth with the car to get the boxes and bags of miscellaneous “stuff” and by Saturday morning we were settled in.

The first night in the apartment was QUIET! Cam spent the night with a friend and with no TV or internet … well, what in the world did we do before cable and the internet? Read books and listen to the radio? EGADS!

Saturday I decided I had better get some books – off to the library. BONUS! The library has free wifi. I got caught up on my email, went through my reader (one of these days I'll have enough time to start commenting again) and checked my bank balance. Then I had a moment of brilliance – my laptop plays DVD's … the library loans DVD's … it's almost like TV! I've watched “Angels and Demons”, “Martian Child” and “Fireproof”. The best part? I got to pick the movies I wanted to watch!

Saturday night I got to meet Cam's new girlfriend (more on that later – for now, let's just say she's a nice girl, with tons of drama and a few too many (IMHO) years on Cam) and took them both to the Christmas show at church.

Sunday? Laundry day! We don't have laundry facilities here at the apartment complex, but we do have a laundromat in town. This is my new laundry room.

You know how laundromats have those wheeled wire baskets for transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer? Well, my laundromat has those too … they're just a little different than the ones I'm familiar with.

Hey! they worked, and soon the clothes were in the drier.

The total cost to wash three loads of clothes? $3.75. The total cost to dry three load of clothes? $2.25. Completing three loads of laundry in 74 minutes? Priceless! And I was able to pick up a rogue wifi signal there too!

I want to thank you all for the thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and texts throughout the weekend. Being “home” still doesn't feel real. I had grown so accustomed to the controlled, chaotic lifestyle I was living that being here seems … well … weird. It's going to take some time to let go of some of the senseless “rituals” that were required of me before the move and to allow myself to be the person I was meant to be. At times I feel overwhelmed with peace and quiet. I'm working on resetting my “normal” meter!


04 December 2009

Moving Day


I'll likely be "off the grid" for a bit. We do have a library in town, and they recently got WiFi, so I may feed my addiction from there, but no promises!

I'm nervous, excited, scared, thrilled ... you name it I have probably felt that emotion over the last few weeks.

Deep breath ....


7:24AM - Husband is making this easier. As he walked out the door, reminding me to leave my garage door opener, he said, "Good luck." No hug. No kiss. No "I love you." Just "Good luck"

I'm already missing what I had hoped would be but am finding resolve in acknowledging what is.


9:37 - The U-Haul is in the driveway. I'm throwing together dishes and have Cam in his room working on getting his stereo ready to go. Moving help arrives at 10:00 and then we are officially on the move!


03 December 2009

When Only The Post Office Will Do


Tuesday was bad on several fronts. In addition to losing it over a $7 math workbook, I was also served a big old helping of awkward cake at the post office.

I live in a neighborhood that is EXTREMELY cliquey. I've mentioned on several occasions that we live in a *small* town, but in addition my neighborhood is notorious for gossip. The SAHM's can be seen waiting with their kids at the bus stop catching up on the latest "news" and the Bunko players are on the group gossip circuit.

I've never been a part of these groups - in fact, I've gone out of my way to avoid all of the brew-ha-ha, but once in a while it catches up with me anyway.

I was at the post office Tuesday, putting in my change of address forms, when my neighbor from across the street approached me and said, "I've been hearing rumors in the neighborhood about your husband and if someone was saying these things about my family I'd want to know - so I'm going to tell you."

After my initial thought that I was going to finally discover which of my neighbors posted an ad on Ashley Madison, I calmly said, "Yes?"

She told me that neighbors were saying husband beats Cam - that Cam had apparently shared the information with a few people on his football team and now the parents were talking.

I stood there for a brief moment and said, "Husband has definitely taken discipline beyond what is acceptable on several occasions. Cam and I are moving out on Friday because of this" ... and then I started crying in the middle of the post office.

You know, I battle between telling half truths (I could have just said we were having family issues and left it at that) and tiring of keeping husband's "secrets". I have never told Cam to hide what goes on in this house, nor have I encouraged him to tell everyone. I've kind of left the decision up to him. I know all too well what it is like to be burdened by the secrets of adult behavior.

The neighbor actually seemed shocked to hear that there was some truth to the rumor. It was pretty clear from her body language that she was hoping to get a neighbor "in trouble" for telling lies ... but they weren't exactly lies.

I don't know if I did the right thing - sharing the information that I did - but I know that I felt a tinge of guilt. I mean, it's not like husband comes home every night and whoops up on Cam. Has "discipline" gone too far on more than one occasion? Yes! Is it abusive? Yes! But how much honesty about others is mine to share?


02 December 2009

It's Just Like Riding American Eagle But Not Quite As Fun!


I love roller coasters. In fact, I'm one of those nutcases who rides in the front with hands waving wildly in the air. But in life? I prefer a carousel ride - little, smooth ups and downs. These last two weeks? American Eagle!

There are days when I am certain I'm moving in the right direction. Passive aggressive laundry day was one of those days.

Then there are the days where I wonder if the relative "security" of husband's income is worth trying to keep the peace in this house. Yeah ... yeah ... I always know the answer to that question, but still. I've certainly proclaimed it really isn't about the money, but there are days when it really is all about the money.

Yesterday, my morning email reading included a low balance alert from MealPayPlus - the company than manages the middle school lunch accounts. I've been trying to keep Cam from eating, but he insists it's a requirement. It's not unusual for him to get two lunches (at $2.50 each) and sometimes he even gets three. The balance in his lunch account as of yesterday morning? $5.20. My next payday? December 10th. Yeah ... that account is a bit short. Looks like 5 days of PB & J and water.

Then it was time to go through Cam's backpack before sending him to school. I find a demand request for $7 to cover the cost of a book he lost, a demand request for the $125 school registration fees I still haven't paid, and a letter demanding I pay yet another optional fee informing me that if Cam wants a yearbook he'll need to order it no later than December 8th to the tune of $28. Next payday? Still December 10th.

Off to work I go, already with a piss poor attitude. Doesn't matter how hard I work, payday is still December 10th.

Soon after getting to work, I get an email from Cam's Math teacher. Seems Cam's math workbook grew legs and walked away. We've looked for it at home - at school - it's off enjoying a holiday in Bermuda. Her email reads:

I’m sorry that Cam’s math workbook grew legs and walked away. I have heard of that happening on many occasions. :~)

Every student was issued a workbook free of charge. The cost to replace the workbook is $7.00. I am happy to give Cam an extension on the assignment through the weekend. Is it possible for Cam to bring in the $7 within the next few days? The other option would be for Cam to copy every problem down from my copy, than complete each problem on a separate sheet of paper. However, I don’t think that would be the best option for Cam. Also, we will be using the workbook much more now that the concepts are getting more difficult. The textbook just does not offer enough examples for practice.

Please let me know when Cam would be able to bring in the $7.

December 10th? So Cam will need to copy every problem down from the teacher copy of the workbook, then complete each problem on a separate sheet of paper until December 10th? This one made the tears fall. I have done my best to "protect" Cam from the sudden loss of income, but now he was going to "pay" for my inability to pay. EPIC.MOM.FAIL

*A special thanks to a Twitter follower, and blog reader, who offered to cover the $7 for the math workbook*

Then I called the cable company to schedule installation. Although the installation is free, they'll need $78.14 on the day of installation to cover the first month of service (tv, internet and phone). Installation date? December 7th. Payday? Still December 10th.

So, here I sit with $774.87 in my checking account. $700 of that is slotted for December rent (prorated). That leaves me $74.87 until ... December 10th. The realization that there are a few things I still need to get for the apartment (like curtains, and groceries), that I haven't figured out a way to make my car run on "love", and that $19.95 (plus $1.09/mile) is going out to cover the cost of a moving truck hit me hard.

No, it shouldn't be about money, but when you are looking at a huge deficit - even if only temporary - what shouldn't be ... is.

We'll be OK. I'll suck it up and make it work.

Humble sure feels like humiliating ...