Archives for 2010

See Ya, 2010. Don’t Let the door smack your butt on the way out.

I’m pretty sure I entered this year with a fair amount of optimism and cheer. I am pretty sure the first several months were amazing and I LOVED 2010, even though people around me were cursing it and calling it names.

And for all intents and purposes, I suppose the year wasn’t awful.

I could list all the things that went right and all the things that went…not right – and maybe one side might be more skewed than the other and I could hope that the side tipping the balance was the side of good things. At least in sheer number of small moments, there were many great moments.

The not-so-great moments just felt massive.

I’m not sure what that means for 2011. Being unsure about life and what’s ahead is kind of a scary thing, to a degree — on the other hand – if you have no expectations, how can things fall short? I don’t know what the new year will bring. I have no clue.

I hope for kindness and love from family and friends. I hope for time spent laughing so hard I cry. I hope for good health for those I care about (oh, and myself too). I hope for good books, good movies, good music and good food. I hope for ice cream cones on sunny days and perfect cappuccinos on a late fall afternoon.

I hope for a good mile pace and shoes that don’t blister my feet. I hope for jeans that make my ass look good and shampoo that smooths the frizz. I hope for travel to new places and revisiting familiar sites. I hope for dancing. I hope for long drives with the windows rolled down and the radio turned up. I hope for days when my daughters don’t whine and all the chips fall into place perfectly. I hope to not have writer’s block and I hope to feel free to write here about what’s on my mind – even if it’s not pretty.

I hope to revisit Central Park. I hope for creamy cheesecake and hot coffee. I hope to find joy in my work. I hope to learn to view my reflection differently, with a kinder eye and a less critical spirit. I hope for comfortable shoes that still look hot.

What are your hopes for the year ahead? I wish you a good one. One full of love and joy and exciting things. And even the not so exciting things.

Thursday Ten: Unintentional Holiday Break Edition

1. Well, hello there. Guess I took a break. I didn’t mean to. I sure have a lot to talk about – like Christmas, and how I made a cheesecake so good that it could bring a tear to your eye. I’ll do that. Soon. Just as soon as the holiday chaos settles – JUST A LITTLE.
Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

2. I told y’all last week how I was test driving the amazing Dell Inspiron One 23? Yeah. Dell provided the computer to me for review and we are basically smitten with the thing (Hello? HD screen? Amazing for photos) – and now I’m giving one away over on BD. If you’re a US resident over the age of 18, get thee on over and enter to win it.

3. I’m finding it hard to believe that 2010 is nearly over – whether that’s good or bad, I’m not really sure. I’m excited to see what the new year will bring.

4. It’s currently 38° and rainy. After the brutally cold temps of the past few weeks (brutal is my word – really, I suppose it could have been worse out there), anything over freezing feels like a heatwave.

5. I try to keep the begging to a minimum here, but since it IS the end of the year – tis the season to make last minute charitable contributions to great causes! And in case you needed one to support… I am walking in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer again this coming summer. 39.3 miles over two days. It’s an amazing experience, and if you would like to support me, and support the cause of kicking breast cancer’s ass, click and donate. (Love y’all. You look pretty today)

6. I need to go and get my hair trimmed but finding the time is so freaking hard. I am really going to be fighting the urge I always get midwinter to chop all my hair off – which is why I have to go SOON so that “hey! Cutting off four inches of hair seems like a good idea” thought doesn’t wander into my brain.

7. I am incapable of typing the word “brain” without typing the word “brian” first. Stupid fingers. And I just typed “weord” instead of “word” and oh my goodness, I think maybe I need a little more sleep.

8. I have been going through an intense perfume smell testing process that evolved from a friend sending me massive quantities of perfume samples from Sephora (I love internet people). After everything I smelled (and there were TONS), I have narrowed it down to Bliss or Philosophy’s Amazing Grace. I loved Versace’s Bright Crystal but think it might be a little TOO MUCH for me. I have such a sensitive sense of smell, I am so easily overwhelmed by fragrance. The lighter the better.

9. I finally bought a Speedlite (well, I got a gift card for Christmas, so I bought nothing). I picked it up the other day and LOVE that I can have some light in my inside pictures without the subject being totally flooded in fake flash. Why did I wait so long?

10. I finally saw Black Swan. Have you seen it? WHOA. I knew it was being billed as a “psychological thriller” but I had expected more ‘psychological’ and less ‘thriller’. I jumped so many times – frankly, it creeped me out a lot. It was one of those movies – I can’t say I enjoyed it – because that would just seem weird. Extremely well done. Extremely thought provoking. Extremely scare the bejeezus out of me.

Merry Christmas Eve Day To You

Dear Internet:

I’m not sure if you celebrate Christmas – and if you don’t, this letter is still for you anyway – because I’m not here to talk about the “reason for the season” or any of the whoosy-whatsit stuff. Just here to send some holiday love – and we could all use some, am I right?

I didn’t send Christmas cards this year – I couldn’t get myself into enough of a Christmas lather to get it done. I think it’s been a hard year – or the last few months have been – and trying to write on a card, “It’s been a great year!” or “We’re all doing well!” was just a bit more than I could deal with.

I had no pictures of all the kids together – and I couldn’t send a picture of the girls without Stepson with them — it would have raised too many questions, would have had too many people pointing a finger at the wicked stepmother excluding him from the holidays. And that wasn’t it. It just wasn’t the kind of year where we could sit the three kids together and get a picture. Stepson needed a lot of help, and he’s getting that now – but the result was not Christmas letter material.

And that’s just the way the cookie crumbled this year.

So this brings me to my letter to you, dear Internet, and where you come in.

I don’t know how 2010 was for you – I don’t know if it was the best or worst year of your life. I don’t know if it was filled with joy or filled with heartbreak – loneliness or the warmth and comfort of good friends. I have no idea.

But I know this.

I have always loved the joy that surrounds Christmas. It’s taken me a lot longer to find that place this year – I’m not 100% sure I’m in that place right now – but I know that when I wake up tomorrow and my kids see their stockings overflowing from a visit from that big fat guy who eats all their cookies (yeah, that’s Santa – btw), the light on their faces – their joy, that magic – that’s going to put me there. That’s going to get me to where I want to be: feeling their belief in magic and miracles and good things.

My wish for you is that you have a fabulous Christmas eve today – that you are with people you love (or even people who don’t completely annoy you). I wish you good food (or good alcohol, as the case may be – family time is tough, I know!). I wish you a deep sleep tonight filled with dreams of sugar plums and I hope you wake up tomorrow morning with a feeling of magic and hope and of love.

You all deserve a happy holiday – and if Christmas isn’t your thang, you deserve a fantastic Friday and an amazing Saturday.

Love and be loved, y’all,


Thursday Ten: Christmas Eve Eve Day Edition

1. Tomorrow is Christmas eve – I can’t believe how quickly it’s come – and how utterly unprepared I feel, even though I know that I’ve bought every gift I meant to buy (don’t ask me how much of it I’ve wrapped though, because…blergh. I’ll be wrapping presents all night tomorrow). Tomorrow, the girls and I will continue our yearly tradition of making monkey bread. Christmas morning, while we’re opening gifts, we’ll warm the monkey bread in the oven – and once all the gifts are open, we’ll frost and eat monkey bread for breakfast. Yes, most of my holiday traditions revolve around baking. You’re not surprised, right?

2. The awesome folks at Oceanhouse Media have given me some iTunes codes for their apps to share with y’all. Oceanhouse makes some of my favorite iPhone apps to share with my kids – WE LOVE the Dr. Seuss story apps – it allows my kids to either read the story to themselves – or it will autoplay to read the story to them. I have seven codes for seven different apps – and I’ll give ’em on a first come – first serve basis. If you want one, let me know. Some are holiday related (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph Camera, etc) – some aren’t (Hop on Pop, One Fish Two Fish). They’re awesome though, and they’re yours. Just ask.

3. We’ve nearly made it through the first week of the kids being home on holiday break – we’re finding our groove – which is good. Monday? Was rough. So was Tuesday. Yesterday? A wee bit better. I figure by next Friday we ought to be golden… you know… just in time for them to return to school after the first of the year.

4. This morning over breakfast (everything bagel with REAL butter and a glass of cranberry juice), I allowed myself a few more pages of one of the gifts I purchased for myself for Christmas. Karen Walrond’s The Beauty of Different is beautiful and rich and the essays are meaningful and thought-provoking. I’m just enamored by this book. If I’d read it earlier in the holiday season, it would have been a gift I shared with family and friends for sure. I bet I’ll be gifting it in 2011.

5. Pumpkin has two volumes: Yelling and Sleeping. As I type, she’s sitting on the stairs, yelling at the dog about something (she gives him far too much credit – I’m sure he has no idea what the hell she’s yelling about). Yelling drives me bonkers – so lately, on a mission to curb the volume, I’ve told her that I won’t respond if she’s yelling for no good reason. Biting my tongue is awfully difficult. {“STOP YELLING! STOP YELLING! STOP YELLING! – There. I had to get that out of my system.}

6. If you came over because of my interview with @MeetingBoy this week, I hope you’ll stay and hang out awhile. Delurk, say hello, put up your feet and have a drink (don’t forget to use a coaster).

7. I have been road testing a Dell Inspiron One over at BD – and I have to say, I think I’m in love. The touch screen is pretty awesome – and I’ve had a blast exploring its features. Keep an eye out in the next week or so (don’t worry, I’ll remind you), as we’ll be giving one away on BD. Trust me, you’ll want to win one. I’m pretty amazed by it. As I’ve mentioned over there, I received it for review from Dell – and the opinions are my own and only my own (Well, the girls have an opinion too – their opinion is that I’m the best mom ever because my computer is so cool).

8. Remember when I posted my lovely pictures of holiday lights? I needed some Christmas cheer this year so we got some indoor/outdoor lights and I thought of how much they would uplift me to have these colorful bulbs framing my windows. Yeah, well. Those suckers get hot. No more lights. Also, I may need to work a little upholstery mojo on this chair.

9. Sooooo, that Skype outage yesterday… That sucked, didn’t it? (Raise your hand if it made you even a tiny bit twitchy)

10. Alright, so I’ve shared some of my traditions with you (Sugar. Sugar. More sugar). Do you have any holiday traditions? Tell me about ’em.

We didn’t opt for the “pawdicure”

Nearly six months of pet ownership and there may be a little bit of a groove we’ve fallen into. While the pup is by far still WAY more work that The Princess’s pet fish (Admittedly, I can go days without remembering there’s a pet fish), he’s a little less of a pain than he had been as of late.


He is one crabby little puppy when he feels neglected. It’s not uncommon for me to come downstairs after a few hours of work to find that magazine I was saving to read later shredded by vindictive little puppy teeth in a huge pile in the dining room. And know what’s uglier than a generic Croc? Pieces of a generic Croc scattered around the living room.

But things have been better lately – pulverized publications aside – especially since the puppy has learned the joys of going outside BY HIMSELF to do his business. Somehow, he’s a lot more enjoyable when I don’t have to accompany him around the front yard, holding his leash and shivering while he looks for JUST THE RIGHT SPOT. (And seriously dog, REALLY? Three laps around the front yard in thirteen degree temps? In the dark? In the snow? JUST TO DO THAT?)

So, now that I have a little more love for my pup it was with pet ownership pride (or pure laziness) that we booked pup for an appointment with the groomer to pretty him up (trim the nails, trim the fur and a bath to make him pretty pretty).

There are so many options of things you can have done for your dog – a stress relief bath (WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES HE HAVE TO BE STRESSED ABOUT? Up until a week ago, he had people following him around waiting for him to make a mess of the front yard like he was some kind of royalty. Him, stressed? I should think not). An anti-itch bath. A pawdicure (uh, whut?).

So, I’m being pretty frugal comparatively – just a trim for the fur, a bath, the nails. He doesn’t need a deep conditioning treatment (but I do – and I haven’t had one so by god, even if the dog DID need one…ME FIRST). No to this, no to that.

And then she said…

“Would you like me to address his sanitary areas?’


The uh – sanitary areas. She gestured to the vicinity of his undercarriage.

Yes. YES. THAT I’m more than happy to let them do. Whatever it was. Whatever they did. I don’t want to do it. I’m not that great of a pet owner.

Sanitary areas.


P.S. That picture above is the dog post-grooming – he looks adorable and is very soft and fluffy. As for the “sanitary areas”, I didn’t check but I’m just gonna assume that it’s all a-okay and I don’t have to deal with it.

The Flip Side: In Shadows and Light

There are days in winter when the sky is filled with bloated clouds that hover and blanket the sky and block the sun and my heart falls because I need the light and the colors and the smiling kiss of sun on my face, even when the temperatures are chilled.

There are days when the sun comes out and the sun reflects against the frozen cover of snow and it’s as if the earth around me is full of glitter and unicorn pee.

Okay, maybe not the unicorn pee (which is probably totally amazing).

Yesterday, the stream of sunshine flooded my office and the play of shadows on the floor brought a smile to my face. The way the shadows fell in lines, the way I felt the warmth at my back… all an amazing dose of exactly what I needed.

I probably get a smidge of Seasonal Affective Disorder – there’s no denying that I’m notably less pleasant this time of year – I don’t like to be cold. BUT, if you’ll think back to the summer months, brutally hot weather makes me cranky too.

Why do I live here, again?

I have no idea.

You may be pleased to know, however, that I finally bought a coat so I’m not totally reliant on puffy vests to keep me warm and that I don’t always go outside looking like a big inflatable lawn decoration. Now? I have a BRIGHT GREEN wool coat. Yes, green. Like you expected something different?

@MeetingBoy, Working from Home, And Guzzling Laxatives

Recently, the Meeting Boy (Or, @MeetingBoy, as you’ll find him on Twitter) took a moment from his busy meeting schedule to answer some questions for me. Why would he do such a thing? Well, it’s because I’m a little bit awesome – and I may have bribed him with cookies. That I never sent. Whoops. Sorry, Meeting Boy. Still friends?
Anyway, he sent me one of his awesome calendars – and knowing as he does that I work from home, the inscription reads: Remember: working from home just makes home awful too!
Well, not quite. But I have flashbacks of my office bound days occasionally when I read @MeetingBoy tweets – and am grateful that most of the meetings I have now can be conducted via Skype while I’m wearing fuzzy slippers and eating crackers.
1. What do you do if you don’t have “the perfect boss”? I was following #theidealboss and noticing I don’t have an ideal boss.
MeetingBoy: #theidealboss doesn’t call you after hours because he knows that it can wait until morning. Everything can wait until morning.

#theidealboss doesn’t hold you accountable for the actions of people who don’t report to you.

#theidealboss doesn’t forget the project plan and agree to anything every time another big shot walks by.

#theidealboss buys everyone a 2011 Meeting Boy calendar for their cube:

The best thing is to use Jedi mind tricks to get them to do what you want. However, most bosses can figure out when you are backseat driving them. Leading them to the way you want things done, all the while making them think it’s their idea.

MeetingBoy: If I’d known that all it takes to sell you a good idea is for you to take all the credit, we could’ve been at lunch an hour ago. Separately.

I’ve had some success with this personally though. The trick is to find the things they want to do, their bad habits, etc. and then press. When my boss first showed up, he was hard to predict, and I ended up working long hours to avoid looking bad. But I realized he doesn’t work very hard and doesn’t like to come in early. So I convinced him that meetings before 10 AM should not be accepted, as there’s always some urgent matter that shows up in email or comes from top management. By leaving his calendar open, he’d be able to respond and not be unnecessarily rushed. Of course the net effect of this was that he would just check his Blackberry at home and then come in late if there was nothing pressing. He now strolls in between 10 and 10:30 on non-crisis days. Getting him to go home early didn’t take any work– he hasn’t missed a happy hour since his divorce. Now I can work regular hours but still be in first and leave last.

Of course failing that, I’d recommend poisoning him at the department potluck and just take your chances with the next boss. Sure, you might be questioned by the police, but if you use a common household poison and your boss is truly awful, then there should be too many suspects for the police to ever solve the crime.

MeetingBoy: Apparently “do whatever it takes” doesn’t include poisoning the difficult account director. Maybe there will be fewer meetings in prison.

2. What are your favorite strategies for cutting a meeting short? (My favorite idea has always been to have everyone guzzle a bottle of water before the meeting starts.)

MeetingBoy: That meeting threatened to drag on for 3 hours. Drinking the bottle of laxative was my only way out. I regret nothing.

I know you think you have good ideas, and you do, but first lesson, rookie, is no one calls a meeting to hear someone else talk.

That’s a good one. In theory. However, in practice, it usually turns out to just have everyone being really uncomfortable, but the meeting still dragging on. This is because unless the boss has to go more than they like to hear themselves talk, they will just keep going.

Though on further reflection, maybe it would work with a small enhancement: force all bosses to get bladder reduction surgery. In the same way that obese people get surgery to reduce their stomach size which then forces them to eat smaller portions, if we gave bosses smaller bladders, then they would be forced to hold shorter meetings. This could work!

Another strategy would be to only hold meetings on a log headed into a lumber saw. Or on a railroad track as a train approaches. Though once the group has escaped danger, the boss will probably just convene a “follow-up and touch-base” meeting. And those can be the worst meetings because they only appear to have an agenda.

MeetingBoy: Just got an email “Group Touchbase – 2:00”. I checked with the sender and, yes, that is a euphemism for group masturbation.

3. What makes your calendar so great?

The calendar has 12 illustrated tweets, and a tweet on every workday so there’s no room to write in meetings. You can always look up and say, “Can I make your planning meeting for another meeting about a project that has no budget or scope? Nope, I’ve got something that day.” Click this link to buy one now or download a sample HERE.

#theidealboss can deflect blame away from the department: “these are not the scapegoats you are looking for…”

Weekly Winners, Holiday Style

So, I took a little break from Lotus’s Weekly Winners. Because I’m a slacker. Yeah.

Here are some of my favorite shots of the week, though.

a mug of tea on a sunny day

selfie - photo prompt to take a picture of my favorite mug

some holiday cheer? Yes please.

the lights are up! the lights are up!

Just a few of my favorite shots from this week – I may have been in such a tizzy about the upcoming holiday break that I haven’t taken as many pictures as usual. That’s okay – I’m sure I’ll make up for it this week.

Thursday Ten: My List Overflo-eth Edition

1. ‘Tis the season to be busy – that’s for sure! Between Christmas shopping, work, and all of the holiday obligations (I have two school holiday parties to attend today. One down, one to go), it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day. I am glad I have the habit of making to-do lists, because then not TOO much falls through the cracks… but looking at that list can be a little overwhelming at times.

2. I think the best part about having completed Christmas shopping is that I MAY FINALLY STOP SHOPPING FOR MYSELF. Not sure what my deal is, since I’m not usually a shopper (even when camera lenses are involved, I tend to think for a long time before purchasing… because I really don’t love spending money), and yet… I’ve done a LOT of retail therapy this year. Ugh.

3. My plans to see “Black Swan” last week were thwarted by the fact that southwest Michigan apparently doesn’t have it in any ANY ANY theater yet. Nice one. I love it when there’s a lot of buzz about a movie, I start looking forward to seeing it and then… I have to wait. Super.

4. Gearing up to host several small people at our annual holiday cookie decorating party Saturday. That means a large portion of my day tomorrow will be spent baking cookies (sugar and gingerbread). By the time I’ve made five or so dozen, I’m kind of underwhelmed with the process and ready to punch myself in the face for getting myself into this… again. Then the party rolls around and the kids have so much I remember why I’m doing this (for the fourth year in a row!).

5. Reminder: Sarah, buy butter to make cookie dough with. And parchment paper. And little paintbrushes for the frosting and glaze. (Blogging my grocery list – a new low)

6. Last week, I has posted a picture of myself and asked people what song they thought I was listening. They were all wrong – however, someone suggested I was listening to Edie Brickell’s “What I Am” – which I then had to download because I had forgotten I love that song.

I was REALLY listening to Graham Colton.

7. Guitar lesson went better this week (Oh the miraculous effects of ACTUALLY PRACTICING) – working on Missy Higgins’s “Where I Stood” – which is actually easy, but the bar chords are what I was needing to work on – so it’s good for that.

8. My kids loved the Nutcracker. They LOVED it. I am so thrilled – especially given that they were so grumpish about going. There may be hope for starting an annual Nutcracker tradition yet.

9. It is with great sadness that I’ve determined that I need to cut way back on caffeine. I  never really thought caffeine had any effect on me, but lately I feel the effects and I don’t like them. It doesn’t make me any less tired, just more heart-explodey. No bueno.

10. Dear celebrities that my kids like: STOP BEING STUPID. (Miley Cyrus, I’m currently looking at you. Yes, you. Put some clothes on and start being a nice girl) I don’t count on celebs to be role models to my children, but for the love of puppies, if you’re going to do something (like things that involve bongs), you might make sure that no one is filming it. Please.

One of them days

Yeah. That's how I look. Pixely.

Do you ever have those days where nothing goes spectacularly awful and yet you think that if you could just load your car with a big jug of extra foamy cappuccinos and bags of beef jerky you would just drive and drive until you got tired of driving? And then you would turn around and go home and then you would feel lighter and the funk would be gone and you would feel lovely and it would have just been a nice break from just another Wednesday?

That was my day.

Lately, Pumpkin has been waking up in these horrid moods. I am grateful that she’s no longer waking up before 6 a.m. – but these moods she starts the day in – these delicate moods where she has a meltdown if the dog wags his tail the wrong way – they undo me. To start my day like that… it’s difficult.

We ran errands – the library, finished Christmas shopping. There was another meltdown at home about lunch (her, not me). And with every tantrum I could feel those little pieces of pleasant fading. Trying to balance getting things done and not having a meltdown of my own kind of made me retreat into myself. I longed for a nap – just fifteen minutes of calm – I may have fallen asleep during a marathon of “Land Before Time” – I don’t know. I opened my eyes less together, more groggy than when I had settled in on the sofa.

And then I curled up and Pumpkin curled up in the space I left and then the puppy curled up propping his head on my legs and in that moment it was fine. Calm, even.

The Christmas tree is in the playroom so the dog won’t knock it over or eat the ornaments from the low branches – and I admit, not seeing it regularly makes me forget it’s even there. Christmas is in ten days and I wrap presents and put them under the tree in the playroom – shoving aside Barbies and stuffed animals hoping that Christmas morning we’ll be able to find everything we stashed beneath the tree. I miss the Christmas tree.

This afternoon, Pumpkin and I shared a bowl of popcorn. She said to me, “Sharing a bowl of popcorn with your parents is fun. I like sharing with you best of all. Sometimes parents get grumpy about popcorn.” I don’t even know what that means.

The cold has a way of getting to me – making the inconsequential seem huge, making the silly petty things seem much bigger than they should. The kids have cabin fever. I do too. We’re cranky and grumpy.

Tomorrow is a new day and there will be school holiday parties and pancake breakfasts (WHY PANCAKES? WHY IS IT ALWAYS PANCAKES? WHAT DO PEOPLE HAVE AGAINST WAFFLES?!). Sandwiched between holiday parties, somehow I will try to beat my to-do list with a tennis racket until it yields to me and fades into a distant memory. Or, y’know, just so’s I have every line item scribbled out and I can walk away knowing I accomplished something.

Tomorrow is new.

And I’ll start fresh. We’ll all start fresh and maybe we’ll make something better with it than we did today.

If nothing else, at least there’ll be pancakes.