Running Theme

I was enjoying the first hour or so of my “free Friday” (I’ve got a 4-day weekend, baby! Yeah!!) by, what else, reading blogs. Really, guys, I don’t just blog for fun – it’s mostly because I’m just so inspired by the blogs that I read that it encourages me to write, myself. I get my encouragement from these generally faceless, wonderful women (mostly). While my writing is generally about, hell, ANYTHING going on (can anyone determine what this blog’s about? Eco-stuff? DIY and design? Married life? Eating? Cats? Ranting? Maybe I should pare it down…hee hee, who am I kidding?), most of the blogs that I’m interested in are design and DIY-based. These chicks (again, the occasional guy…er, one, John from YHL) may be talking patterns and paint, but they’re courageous and downright inspirational.

So, while reading my daily dose of YHL, Sherry mentioned that they’ve taken a lot of risks as far as their new house is concerned, including lots of interesting color choices and great patterns, and just thinking outside of the box for the most part. (Mind you, I adooooored their first house, but am excited to see what they accomplish with this one.) She posted a link to another blog, Nesting Place that puts, quite eloquently, the words to the fear that many readers AND bloggers (I’d say people in general) feel about making changes to their homes.

Nailing holes (why is picture-hanging so terrifying??). Purchasing furniture. Hell, purchasing ANYTHING to coexist in a funky, interesting (but not “gah”) way. Painting. Painting. Painting. And let’s not get started on larger renovations.

It all reminds me of my recent to-do list, which specifically stated:

Yeah, I’ve been pretty desperate lately when I take into consideration the whole mess of a color scheme goin’ on in this place. Like, “time to re-paint the living room and dining room” sort of craziness. As I mentioned, things are looking a little too monochromatic, and not in the good way.

But, what has me froze with insecurity? Several things.

A- We know that this isn’t our forever home, but we’re also not sure how long we WILL be here…so changes that the average local buyer wouldn’t like may be detrimental to an eventual quick sale.

B- Also, the age of the house makes me question decisions…lots. While I LOVE and NEED an older home (it’s just in my blood, don’t make me explain it ;-)), I also like to mix the old with the new, especially in terms of color and pattern. And my mother would kill me if I painted the woodwork any more than it currently is (I know she’s secretly wishing that I’d strip it all and refinish it, but I doubt that’s happenin’).

C- Another question mark, for me, is the fact that I’m not alone in my decisions; financially and emotionally, my hubby is along for the ride. And, man, does he like details. And, man, am I not good at describing my thoughts – or, at least, the plan that I have cropping up mentally for a space that may or may not work out. When I try to explain, I frequently get the supportive-yet-confused look — you just have to see it to believe it, it exists. But, at least he at least pretends to trust me enough to let me try ideas.

D- I just question myself too much. My general self-confidence level determines whether I’m motivated enough to accomplish a project, simple as that. This is my biggest deterrent.

Things like Polyvore and doing the legwork to figure out what I like (by searching for online images or tearing pages out of magazines that inspire me) give me a little more confidence. But, where do I get the most inspiration and confidence? Those blogs. And the blogs I read today made me feel like it’s okay to go back and adjust some of the choices I’ve made, or to change my mind about some of the projects I’m about to start. It’s a good life lesson in itself: just try what you’d like and if it doesn’t work out, try something else. You can’t force more confidence onto yourself, but you can look to others for inspiration, which is the seed of confidence.

Now, time to sport some goggles and sand the bathroom ceiling before finally taking a shower. Gotta love a free Friday!

Rain, Rain…You Know the Rest

In our neck of the woods (depending on who you ask Upstate or Central NY), spring is a luxury. It usually lasts a month, tops, before hitting the gas and speeding into summer. While we’ve had some humidity and high-ish temperatures this year, we’ve definitely had a SPRING. I write that in all-caps because we’ve had an ungodly amount of rain.

Aside from some flooding and already a few tornado touch-downs (which is rare around these parts), we’ve generally been subjected to just lots ‘n lots ‘n lots of rain…or at least warnings of rain. Some days we had “chances” of rain, so we made plans accordingly, only to see a mostly sunny, gorgeous day. Looking at the 7-day forecast has been enough to make you cry, especially when you’re dying to get your garden going.

So, rather than bitch about things that we cannot control (but, sigh, isn’t it good to do that from time to time?), I shall focus both this blog post and my general mental state towards the projects that I’m itching to complete…once the forecasts for rain (and tornado waches) taper off.

My list includes those things that I’ve look at while holding Winston for his once-and-awhile “outside time” (gotta hold him tightly, that cat is FAST), thinking to myself “I should….” In other words, these may be summer projects…or autumn projects…or….

– Stain and paint the deck (which has had a year to “cure” since it was built – and, yes, I’m both staining AND painting the thing. Don’t judge. It’s gonna look fab.)
– Actually put furniture and the grill ON the deck!!! (Clearly have waited to do that until the above is completed.)
– Finish weeding.
– Prep last year’s veggie bed and build/fill/prep the new one (and mound a “pile o’ dirt” for the zukes ‘n taters). The building can’t be accomplished ’til a weekend since the hubs and I enjoy building stuff together. Gotta keep things fresh and exciting, ya know!
– PLANT both veggies AND flowers, finally.
– Get the front porch fixed…and stain/paint accordingly when done. It’s fine, really, just not regulation. Whatever (ahem, holding my tongue) individual built the thing originally before selling/dumping the house built the porch part without measuring the proper height for the stairs, so there’s a mini 1″ step up at the top. Not so safe. Silly.
– Take tree pictures. Gonna miss that sucker, especially with its wildlife and shade…but it’s just too dangerous and half-dead. Bittersweet. The cats will hate us for getting rid of their #1 place for entertainment. (It’ll be taken down in late June.)
– Finish digging out the rest of the intrusive ivy plants.
– Get the windows wrapped… (This one’s kind of out of my hands, but they look bad so it bugs me. Oh, and I’d just like to brag that we have almost all-new windows. Almost.)
– Power wash the house. Hope that the siding doesn’t lose any color in the process. Paint the whole darn thing if it does damage. *sigh*
– Paint the foundation, side door, shutters, and possibly scrape ‘n paint the garage. Yeah, you know this isn’t all going to happen this summer. A girl can dream, right?
– Speaking of “ain’t happenin’ this summer” (there IS such a thing as $$$…wait, does that make me an adult now? Crap.), one compound word: driveway. It’s N-E-V-E-R been re-done since it was first put in well over 50 years ago. Can we say “ruts”?
– Spray paint my clearance matchstick blinds. Yeah, there’s no other place to do that without asphyxiating myself, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? All I can picture is the cats saying, “But but but who will take us outside? And clip our nails? And punish us LOUDLY? Oh, wait.”
– FINALLY Drylok & paint the basement, then organize. Yes, that’s inside, but the walls and floor need to be completely dry before we Drylok, and right now we’re experiencing seepage. Hee hee. Seepage. Love that word!

I’m guessing there’s more, but I just don’t have it in my head right now. But, guess what! Here are some things that I CAN do INside while I wait for the weather to change:

– Turn my sights back to the bathroom. Why is it that whenever I get the motivation (sorry, but the ceiling work makes my hernia act up, very uncomfortable…TMI?) it’s at a moment that I have plans coming up and probably shouldn’t show up to them with drywall dust and paint all over my head and face.
– Clean. That includes the fact that I probably should go down to the cellar and condense stuff so that things are easier to work with when we DO finally get to the painting.
– Work on plans for my sister’s baby shower. (Excitement!!!!!!!!!)
– Redesign the blog. Somehow, this gets me nothing but more frustrated.
– Actually FINALLY order professional-ish prints from the wedding. Ka-ching. 😉 But, this could help with adding some art to the house. This is another thing I should ppprrrrobably do with Dave.
– Draw/paint.
– Read.
– I’d bake bread, but it’s sooooooo humid and hot lately!!! Okay, okay. I’ll crack out the bread maker that my mother-in-law so graciously let me take. Oh, but that means I’ll have to look up baking instructions online. There. That’s on the checklist.
– Research some grants for the theater.
– Start planning for the next show we’re doing.
– Determine a final color scheme for the living room/staircase. When this rug is finally pulled up (oh, what a happy day that will be! Er. I hope. God, I can picture something horrible happening and my going nuts just tearing this sucker out. *shivers* Okay, let’s hope that doesn’t happen), that will change the entire ball game as far as design. Currently, the living room feels okay but slightly outdated with dark tan, sage green, crimson and cream (the dining room is crimson and also neeeeeeeeds to be transformed)…but things seem to be leaning towards the tans/browns/creams — too monochromatic. Eh. Clearly need more thinking on this point. Any suggestions are welcome.
– I’m sure my husband has a handful of friendly reminders. There are far too many “to do” lists when one owns a house. But, we’re lucky.
– Ah! Sleep!! You can SLEEP inside. Nice. A thousand points for me.

Did I miss anything I should add?? Do you have any projects or overwhelming (or even underwhelming) tasks on your radar? Feel free to vent.

As a post-script, I’d like to send my condolences to those who have lost everything, from belongings and homes to loved ones, in the tornadic events of the Midwest. I can’t imagine and am lucky. Period.

Reupholstering Life

While I’ve only reupholstered one piece of furniture in my life, there’s something strangely therapeutic in it. I’m cleaaaaarly no expert – I mean, I’ve got a sewing machine but have yet to figure out what the heck I’ve done to jam it up and render it practically useless. (Note to self: Call Mom about that.) But, if it’s a simple enough project, it can be fun and, while time consuming, a good way to keep one’s hands busy…especially with a good movie on to watch while doing it.

The first chair that I did was a cheapy from Salvation Army. I purchased it while we were waiting for our current house to close, so I NEEDED a low-cost project to busy myself with. The lines were great; the original fabric…whoa. It was the texture of a shower curtain liner. Not a shower curtain. The liner. No exaggeration. Great for those with incontinence issues.

Anyhoo, the actual tearing out of the original fabric and staples took awhile…as did the final upholstery job. But, what I ended up with was a cute, satin-esque, “vintage”-looking chair. The chair is on the right side of this awesome professional pic of Dave and I (taken by our wedding photog, Sarah Beck). Can’t see it great, but the whiteness worked unexpectedly well when we bought our black and white floor. I always wanted a couch in the kitchen, just like mentioned in old stories like Little Women, so in a small-ish space, an upholstered armchair works just fine!

This chair, due to unforeseen circumstances that I will discuss when I’m good ‘n ready and not a minute sooner (sob, sob), will be reupholstered yet again this summer. Besides, satin (although it was inexpensive – clearly not the “real stuff”) isn’t the most practical of fabrics for a kitchen, right?

To dip my toe back into the reupholstering pool, I recently re-carpeted our kitty scratching post. Seriously! The original one was $14 or so, and the carpet piece that I found was $1.99 – and will be used twice, with some leftover. Hey, when you find something that both the little guys will adhere to, you don’t want to move their cheese too much. New carpeting was just the trick. Here’s the play-by-play:

Beardslee, getting an A+ in demonstrating the finer points of scratching a post.

 …and suddenly being struck by the debilitating shyness that so frequently consumes him.

Winston, growing suspicious of why I might be taking pictures of the scratching post.
Smart lil’ guy.

 It was wrecked.

The tools. Carpet. Scissors. Pliers. Staple “gun” (not really a gun…probably the wrong term). Safety blade I ended up using to get most of the original carpeting off.

Luckily, the carpet was quite cheap and the thick backing came off easily.

Cutting the rug…exciting stuff.

 The empty “post”. ie Very thick cardboard.

A few minutes of stapling, and here’s the finished product. Proud to say the boys haven’t torn out any staples yet!

No matter how hard they may try…

So, as a little project (can be called a summer project…or not, since I may get at least one finished before the summer), I’ve picked up several pieces to reupholster. One, an ottoman I’ve been DYING to use in the living room, I got for around $20 at a tag sale sort of place. The other two items, an armchair (with only the seat to reupholster – it’s still in the car, so no pics of that available currently) and a bench, I got for just under $13 TOTAL at Salvation Army. After shelling out around $50 on new batting and fabric (still need to get some paint, but I’ll have to match it), you can average each piece to costing just shy of $28. Not too shabby – although I’m sure I’ll show favoritism to the cheapest pieces. No lie.

Here’s where the decision-making lies… I’m going to ponder over the choices and will let you know, or, if I have a really hard time deciding, I’ll show you way better pictures (including that pesky armchair and a broader shot of the now-green ottoman) and take your advice! As it is, here’s a sneak preview:

The fabric I’m deciding between for the chair and ottoman…

The boys christening their new toys. “You got deef for uf, right??” Actually, that’s partly true.
Boo pondering my third fabric choice. This one, I KNOW I’m going to use on the bench he has so ceremoniously dubbed his throne. He’d better like it!

Yeah, that throne. In rough shape, but lots of potential.
(The bench, not Beardslee! He’s doing just fine…well, except for his allergies and ear issues…)

You can at least see a side-by-side comparison of each fabric on the ottoman. Anything’s better than the green! I’ll gladly take suggestions now, but without getting into the color schemes in each room (clearly, I’ve got a brown thing goin’ on), it’s hard to get TOO into it.


I’m up much earlier than I normally am on a Saturday…and, while it’s quiet outside, I’m pretty sure the Rapture ain’t happenin’. For the most part, I’m not an early riser, and I’m not sure I ever will be. Just not a morning person. Strangely enough, it turns out that I’m not a night person, either! On most nights, you’ll find me in bed around 9:30. What was that? Oh, I’m 29…why do you ask?

Anyhoo, usually if I get the itch to awaken at, say, 6:10am on a Saturday, I start hustling all over the house doing laundry and dishes, calling my VERY early-rising mother, and doing a slew of other don’t-wake-the-husband chores. Today, I’m just “awake” with very little motivation. What’s got me awake? I’m thinking it’s my uncomfortable tummy. Which invariably gets me thinking about characteristics that I share with my family.

This year, I found out that I have acid reflux. Big whoop, I had it in college, but it had seemed to taper off and didn’t keep me up at night anymore. Did you know it can be stress-inducted? Well, there ya go. But, apparently, said acid reflux had secretly taken a summer home in the south and decided to make its home there, deteriorating my esophagus without my even noticing. After the very rare occasion of sitting down to a lovely meal with the hubs and suddenly finding myself bent over with a 10 out of 10 chest pain, I decided to look into it. (The pains were rare, not the lovely mealtimes.)

After an endoscopy, it was confirmed that not only do I have acid reflux, but I also have a hiatal hernia. Those are the ones that are pretty much right below the ribcage. The one that has bothered me for years without being painful enough to say “It hurts RIIIIIGHT here”. The one that made it impossible to get any breath support in “1940s Radio Hour” because I was wearing a belt there.

When I heard my diagnosis, I called my mother to let her know. “Oh, Grandma McCoy and Bill (my brother) have hiatal hernias.” In a strange way, it made me feel that I had something in common with them.

So, with my strange pains in full force this morning, I ponder some of the other traits that I share with family and loved ones…

My sister and I look alike. My brother, Ryan, and I have bad allergies and fought asthma as children (rarely as adults, but it’s pretty much dormant and can pop up unexpectedly). My brother, Bill, and I have an aptitude for unabashed crying at funerals and other, well, sad times; this may sound normal to you, but Mary and Ryan are generally the ones rolling their eyes while handing over tissues. On the same token, Ryan and I can be much moodier and more likely to get downright pissed off, whereas Mary and Bill are quieter and even-tempered. In some strange way, the four of us share different traits and not others; other families I’ve heard of 4 kids, all complete individuals who share nada, so I think it’s pretty cool. Obviously, we’re unique in our own ways and have very different life goals and even varying intelligences (street smart vs. practical vs. book smart, etc), but genetics plays an interesting role.

Oh, and in a strange way…I’m not sure if my sister agrees with this or not, but I find that her husband and I (and her best friend, Katie) are verrrrrry similar in many ways, generally personality-wise. On the flip side, I think that my husband’s quieter, more reserved qualities remind me of my sister. We’ve kinda married opposites. It works, though.

But, then, there’s the last generation. I agree that personality is something that can be genetically passed, mostly, while behavior is environmentally learned and sculpted. My personality comes from many areas, and some of the time is even reminiscent of my Aunt Nancy, whom I have only seen a handful of times in my life. However, as I grow older, I find a lot of my mother showing – for better or for worse. As far as most of my memory is concerned, she was our sole caretaker, with much help from her parents, so all of that influence is in me.

I don’t find it strange in the slightest that my favorite movies are classics, and I’d much rather read about history than any other topic. I have a profound respect for the past and my heart aches for the hardships that our predecessors endured. Most of my opinions on life are rooted in my grandparents; namely, my mother’s dad. 

So, what connects me so fiercely to the ’60s? (My friends here know that I’m not really of the 21st century, but might have been much happier in a different time – be it the ’60s, ’30s-40s, or the 1800s.) I wanted nothing more in the world to feel a connection to my father, who was a high schooler in the ’60s. But, then it took on a life of its own. There’s no way he was a Beatles fan, or, egads, a Monkees fan…or Mamas and the Papas or the Doors, and probably not Simon and Garfunkel. But, because I’d opened that door to the past and kept my own mind’s door open to it, the interests just flowed.

Enough rambling, it really is time to take after my mother and get “a load in the washer, a load in the dryer”. What about you? Do you share any interesting (or, heck, not even interesting — look at what I listed!) traits with any siblings or other family members? Or, cooler still, any connections with non-family folk?


I am aware that by writing this I am opening myself up to a litany of eye rolls and snickers, but I feel I must share my feelings even when it opens me up to ridicule or exposes my weaknesses.
So, we’ve been down to basic cable since Monday, and (without sounding too dang whiny), it’s kinda tough. Let me rephrase that truthfully: it’s kinda tough…for me. Dave’s already in “Isn’t this great?!” mode, to which I say, “Give me time.”
I’m impressed and in awe over his ability to see the positive in so many things (not all, but lots). In this situation, it actually sort of makes me feel even worse. I’m going through withdrawal over a silly, frivolous thing that people in developing nations would only DREAM to waste their time on, and to make it worse, my husband’s a saint and can see the forest for the trees. Perfect.
I’m hoping to catch up to his outlook on this, and soon-ish. Right now, my mind is trained to think “Oooooo, 4pm, it’s time for Nigella on the Cooking Network…or something wonderful on HGTV (“Sarah’s House” on Fridays!). Then, yay, 5pm means “Barefoot Contessa” or “Gilmore Girls”!” and so on. So far, I’ve diverted my attention to a) finally putting another layer of spackle on the bathroom ceiling, b) starting a new book — “Bossypants” by Tina Fey! and c) daydreaming by Googling to my heart’s content. Clearly nothing Earth-shatteringly productive, but the weather’s been crrrrrap lately. Otherwise, I’d be working on the garden. 🙂
Honestly, I can’t wait until the weather IS nicer, so it’ll be easier to use my free non-TV-watching time being productive and hopefully building skills and interests that I can lean back on for years to come.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things…

It was a pretty hard week. The kind where one more thing couldn’t possibly make it worse…then does. Where you’ve got several days blocked with many, many students, you’re introducing a concept they should have been practicing since 4th grade (but are just being made aware of as high schoolers) and frustration from every party involved is imminent. The kind of week where any additional attitude magnifies itself beyond frustration. When you’ve got an observation scheduled, on top of everything else, and it seems like there wasn’t a break from the week prior.

The kind of week that was so much harder for your husband, you feel mortally guilty to mention a word of your horrid week at home. The kind of week where you question yourself. The kind of week where your grandfather is transferred from rehab for psychiatric evaluation, and in your heart you’d rather be with him and knowing exactly what’s going on than anywhere else in the world. The kind of week that brings waves of unthinkably bad news, all affecting the folks at school. The kind of week that you’d kinda like to give up.

Today, in the midst of the down slope of that treacherous week, the students gave me hope, in the form of a small gesture of kindness, and a good laugh.

While monitoring a 7th grade Spanish class in the library working on a project, I had a girl call me over to her table. I made my way over, after quickly helping a couple of other kids first. She sat there, along with two other silent girls. Bluntly, she said, “You are soooo pretty, y’know.” I was shocked, and thanked her, and walked away feeling that the weekend had already started.

You see, I’ve been having some self esteem issues lately, so a genuine comment like that from a middle schooler (generally a highly critical breed of human) struck an unexpected chord. It was as if the popular kids back in high school were suddenly very nice, specifically to ME, the outgoing but awkward band geek. Of course, the thought that she was joking crossed my mind for a second, but the fact that she and the other girls all smiled (let’s face it, I’m pretty used to the “turn your back, snicker” thing that we get all too often in the library) indicated that there was sincerity involved. It pretty much made my day.

At another point in the day, I was reading a book to 4th graders. In it, the phrase “No wonder they pity us” was uttered, to which a student said, “That’s what Mr. T. has on his hands. They’re, like, rings or something.” Before I knew it, I was doing my Mr. T. impersonation – “Oh, yeah, Mr. T! ‘I pity duh fooh.’ So, what does pity mean?” Wait, did I even know I HAD a Mr. T. impression?? And how old WAS this kid that he knew Mr. T.?! So, I asked how he knew — apparently he watches “The A Team” (…TV Land, maybe?). 

Kids started sharing what THEY watch, or who THEY know from “olden times”. Suddenly, I heard a name that sounded a little too familiar. A quiet voice squeaked, “I know Dwight Shrute.” Wait. That’s not even an old reference. And what 4th grader watches “The Office”?! I stood there, dumbstruck, staring at the pint-sized girl. Somehow, I wasn’t too surprised. She lives on a farm, after all…who couldn’t relate to Dwight Shrute’s shrewd agricultural talents?

Sometimes it’s the little things that drag you out of the muck, unexpectedly. And who else is an expert on “the little things” but kids? And how can a reference to “The Office” not make you smile?

Cutting the Cord

Is it strange that I often leave the bathroom door open when I’m about to do my business since I know that one of the cats (98% of the time, Mr. I-Do-What-I-Want Winston) will join me for the adventure, anyway. If only he knew how to close it behind him, we’d be all set.
Don’t you hate when you email someone only to discover that you never attached the important document in the first place? This is, somehow, even more embarrassing when it’s your husband (rather than, say, your boss), who usually has a glowing opinion of how intelligent you are. He has no idea what he’s gotten into. Hee hee.
I suppose there is a purpose to this post, after all! So, last Friday evening while awaiting the hub’s return and fooling around with Photoshop, I also found myself wasting time searching the Internet. I do this way more than I probably should. Email, email, email. The occasional FB look-in (while I have tried to swear it off, I’ve won perhaps 85% of that battle). Reading up on Sherry/John, Kate & Layla – they’re my virtual friends, they just don’t know it. Reading random Yahoo articles. Then, it occurred to me that I really haven’t been watching that much TV lately.
Sure, we’re up to date on the latest non-Michael “The Office” (sniffle, sniffle), which had us both slack-jawed at the end last night. We peruse the higher-up channels when there’s “nothing on”. But, honestly, if I’m going to waste time and feel badly about it…I can do it just as easily sitting here at good ol’ lappy.

After skimming through a Yahoo article about cost cutting, the thought of cutting down our cable to the “basics” ran through my mind for the zillionth time. Dave and I have discussed it lots. And lots and lots and lots. ‘N lots ‘n lots. I’ll get upset over Time Warner’s ability to charge both and arm AND a leg while providing a crappy cuts-in-and-out signal. Yet, the comfort of flipping to Food Network and Planet Green have overtaken us. On Demand has consumed Dave. And don’t get me started on the random Katharine Hepburn interview TCM gifted me recently. We’re trapped…in strange phases. At times, it’s a regular part of our daily lives. At other times, we’ve escaped without even realizing it.

But, after receiving my latest Time Warner bill as well as a “friendly reminder, you were overdrawn” notice from my bank (even though I had the $ in the account…apparently the computer just thought it was too close for comfort and decided to transfer funds FOR me), I thought, “Well, this is ridiculous.” I called Time Warner Cable and downgraded – same Internet (still costly, but in my opinion, NECESSARY), basic cable.

After hanging up with the rather shocked customer service rep, I immediately came to my senses. Several minutes later, I got up off the floor (just kidding) with a heavy heart (not kidding). “This will be good for us. This will force me to be a better housekeeper. This will force me to pay attention to my garden more this year. This will strengthen our relationship. This will help us to be creative. This will give us more time with our friends and family, and each other.” I’m still coming up with positive affirmations to try and convince myself that this was right. And, hey, if it wasn’t, I can always get it back…but I’d like to at least try.

Besides, we have streaming Netflix and the “Internet Channel” on Wii. Maybe I’ll just have to learn how to use that thing, after all, for something other than Wii Fit (which, sorry to say, I haven’t been paying much attention to lately — another for the “Cable-Less To-Do List”).

So, are any of you trying to simplify your lives a bit, either for financial, environmental or other personal reasons? Any advice for the newly cableless?

P.S. A special message to you, my favorites…my stand-out stations in a rash of crappy reality series and immature comedies. The channels that lifted me up, that taught me, that inspired me, and that transported me to other times. I will miss you, Food Network and Cooking Channel, for your sweet personalities and attainable recipes. HGTV and DIY Network, for your design gods (like Genevieve, Sarah and Candace), DIY handymen and house-selling gurus, I thank and will miss you, too. But, mostly, to Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, and your cast of a thousand timeless stars – I will cry silently over losing my TCM. As my family taught me, even if you have the movie on recording (back then, VHS; now, DVD), there’s nothing like the excitement of seeing it “live” on TV, knowing that thousands of other people are enjoying it at that moment just as much. Let’s hope the separation is bearable and that I can overcome it with eventual grace.

Keeping up with the Greens

I remember the first time I heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” in high school. Strangely enough, it came out of the mouth of one of the most judgmental, “high and mighty” teachers I’ve ever encountered. But, I digress. This KUWTJ mentality has followed me throughout life, whether I knew what it was called or not. I think, as Americans, we can all relate to this aspect of our society. You have to be a very strong-willed, independent person to not buy into it.

And I’m not that strong. One of my biggest challenges in life is trying to find the balance – of being content with who I am, how I live my life, and simply not caring what others think. I suck at it. You know who’s really, really quite good at it? My husband. I admire him SO much that he’s his own man. Whether we know where our future leads us or not, he’s confident in his own abilities and in the fact that happiness will find us no matter what. It’s something that I admire in him and, at times, it’s all I have to keep my head above water. That’s a good thing about our marriage – somehow, when one of us gets to the point of desperation (be it from any frustrations that may find us), the other one is buoyant enough to pick the other up.

Admittedly, we’re not a KUWTJ type of household. We live in a sort of protective bubble. It may be a slightly crooked, grass-too-long, cat toys everywhere sort of bubble, but it’s our escape and happiness from regular stresses. I don’t care what the neighbors do to their home; if I make a change, it’s for my OWN enjoyment. If I want to paint my shutters, sobeit, it’s because I think they’re shabby and am prouder of my house than to allow it to wear shabby shutters. (That’d be a good company name. “Shabby Shutters.” Hee hee.) But, when out of the house and in the “real world”, it’s easy to see what friends and co-workers have or do and feel a twinge of “I’m not good enough.” It’s not even that I want what they have; I’m not possession-bound. I’m more concerned about being judged for NOT wanting what they have. So…I’m quiet.

But, these days, there’s a new form of KUWTJ. It’s called KUWTG – Keeping Up With the Greens (or Greenies), and I’m not sure if it’s an actual term used out there, but I honestly just pulled it out of my you-know-what, so maybe thousands of other bloggers have discussed this already. Who knows? 😉

Regardless, thanks to the popularity of the green movement (which I fondly like to think of as a popularization of liberalism and hippiedom – perhaps it’s the only way to force issues without getting political or needing to back a particular politician?), any yuppie who can afford organic is all over it like that silly Juicy sweatpant trend from a few years back. I hate to be judgmental, but I can’t help but think that they’ll follow it until the next big thing comes in.

And, hey, maybe I shouldn’t be judgmental. Over the last year, I’ve made some life changes that, I’ve found, tend to bring everything from polite jabs to full-blown eye rolls. I have yet to get a true argument, but I’m ready when it comes. I tend to face the whole “going organic” thing (although we’ve by no means gotten to this stage yet — hey, we’re newlyweds, and have some debt we’re dealing with — all natural and hormone free is as important to us, right now, as organic) with some humor, mostly because that’s how I’ve learned how to deflect rudeness over the years. I think it’s amusing when my students catch me eating a slice of delicious non-organic pizza, and am ready to joke with them, mostly because they do it in a non-vindictive, “we understand that it’s how you are” sort of way. If only adults could be more understanding. Or, at least, all of our family. Some are very kind about it; others…well, they’re family, and we love them, even if they think we’re nuts.

So, there are two sides of the coin here: the judgmental, non-organic (or at least less understanding) side, and the “you’re not doing enough” side.

While I have yet to be TOLD that I’m not doing enough to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, the more research and reading I do, the more the Green Guilt sets in. I create garbage. In moments of weakness, I consume not only non-organic foods, but *gasp* high fructose corn syrup (although my body reacts noticeably to it and I feel completely sluggish and strange from that, and artificial preservatives; trying to finish off a 2-liter of cream soda my sister kindly bought for me has got me napping after school lately). I buy new rather than used. I. Fail. Miserably.

I’ve come to terms that it takes work to build up to a green lifestyle. As with all things in life, it’s about the journey and the learning process moreso than an end to a means. I mean, I don’t want to be Ed Begley about things, after all. I just want to do my part, live healthily and responsibly, and teach the same to my children. I’m not out to convert anyone (which is why I’d at least appreciate some understanding from loved ones); this may be part of our religion, but it’s not everyone’s, and I’m not out to make it so. I’d like to become more of an advocate one day, but I’m simply not confident enough a person to do so. Like I said, I just care too much what other people think.

So, I turn to my wonderful husband and remember that we’re a team here. It’s just us. Our life is ours to live, and if we inspire others, GREAT! But we’re not out to compete. We’re running a race together, slow and steady, and there’s no finish line to worry about. We’re proud of what we accomplish and shaking off the stumbles we encounter.

Getting On Track

After a downer of a, well, week, I’m…well, I’m still pretty down, but am trying my best to get through it. All will work out. It has to. 🙂

So, to feel that I have SOME control in life, I decided to do a little (very little) bit of organizing. Sometimes anything larger seems too daunting. But this I could handle.

We purchased these wall organizers from Target awhile ago. Like, before we were married. I knew I loved their design and neutral palette, but didn’t quite know what to do with them. Today, inspiration struck. I drilled 4 screws into the wall with all my might – seriously, our walls are like cement – and hung them up.

 Now, I have one system for my current theater goings-on and another for my important bills ‘n things. In a huge confession of personal flaw, I must say that while I pay my bills (mostly) on time, I’m horrible at keeping them organized and getting them filed away. So, this system will not only keep them from stacking up on my desk, but will remind me “oh, yeah, that’s getting way too full…time to file.” Or, at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. 😉

The bottom section of the “personal bills” container is for current “must pay” bills – a visual to give me that good kind of stress that says “Hey, stupid, pay this.” The larger back part is for stuff that has to be filed.

The other container houses recent minutes in the top, large section and miscellaneous theater things (as you see, a script I have to read, among other odds ‘n ends) in the bottom. Since Dave and I are (gasp) officially planning on still being on the board next season (unless we receive a flood of nominations from the floor at our next dinner meeting), I’m encouraged to have things in a normal, orderly, shall-I-say routine spot.

While I was at it, I finally decided to fling my plan of finding proper frames, and simply nail up our New Year’s Resolution collages. So, here they are: 

You can’t quite see all of our goals (in visual form) in this picture, which is a good thing – some of them are kinda personal and it’s nice to keep some things private. But, for those wondering, here are the highlights (in no particular order):
– More eco-friendly products, represented by the Tom’s toothpaste and Meyer’s cleaning liquid.
– Kitties! Yep, we found a sketch of a cat, which is strange because we got our second cat shortly after snipping the picture. Aaaand who knows, perhaps we’ll get a third! (I may be going crazy, what do you think?)
– Keeping an open mind.
– More all-natural eating, from more fruits ‘n veggies to making our own salad dressing. The hardest part is using up the numerous dressings we already have on hand, especially after tasting my very own homemade thousand islands…and, recently, my very own homemade thousand islands with homemade mayo. Yes. Yes, I am going crazy, I think…but it’s kinda fun. At least I don’t have relish made from homemade pickles or homemade ketchup. Yet.
– Writing more/tapping into our creative sides.

– Home improvement on a budget!
– Finding happiness, wherever it is and whatever it may mean. 

So, there’s my little corner of our office. It’s starting to match the other walls a little more, even if that may mean “clutter.” To me, it’s “us”. We’ve got a huge movie poster of “The Philadelphia Story”, a crappy painting I did of sleeping Beardslee, some floating shelves, and tons of sketches and we’re-so-proud articles of Dave’s. It may not be 50-50 yet, but eventually the office will belong to both of us…and hopefully turn into one of my favorite places in the house, rather than one of my least faves.

Stress Cracks

Is it just me, or is my crazy hippie friend, Steve, totally right that this 2012 thing is not only going to happen, already IS happening? With the last magnetic shift in the earth, things just seem to be completely off, and we’re all just trying to hold on for dear life. Sure, there are waves of regularity, but then *woosh*, back into melancholy and worry.

Maybe it IS just me. Or, maybe it’s just the strange, sad situations around me. Things could be worse. They could ALWAYS be worse, and I always try to remember that. But it doesn’t make you stop feeling sad, or keep you from letting your cracks show with a sudden emotional outburst.

The biggest thing on my mind right now is my grandfather, who fell and broke his back last weekend, which also led us to discover that he’d had another episode akin to a stroke awhile back. This man…well, he’s my favorite man, is the best way I could put it. A close second is my mother, his daughter. She’s exhausted, clearly worried, yet handling things quite well, as are her siblings. But I should still worry, because I know what’s coming.

All that’s pretty selfish. The NEXT thing on my mind is those students, co-workers and their families, who experienced major flood devastation and loss last week near our school and surrounding areas. People lost nearly everything. Others just lost a little, but any loss creates sadness and despair, and must be considered.

Then there are those whom I may not call relatives, but who are near and dear to my family members, who are ailing, big-time. Both of my siblings-in-law have a father going through tough medical battles. So strange. So sad. Yet, so hopeful – they’re fighters, and some good is BOUND to come our way.

People rejoicing over murder, even if it was an evil man. Cynicism over something as beautiful as a wedding. Fighting at the theater over petty things. People thinking we’re crazy to care so deeply about a random stray cat, whom I then had to force myself to turn over to the Animal Control Officer, moments before bursting into tears. Giving a detention to a terribly rude kid after I solicited no such response. Computers finding it hilarious to delete all our patrons AND books – it wasn’t April 1st, Computer System, and it wasn’t funny.

But there’s always an underlying good. Think of how many people are doing well, are no longer ailing, are happy. Think about my sister, who, in mere months, will give us a new niece or nephew. Think that my brother will be coming for one of his rare, but always welcome, encouraging visits. Think about my dear friend who has newly found love and joy in the most wonderful of ways. Think of the kindred spirits we have at that theater, regardless of silly fights. Think about all the people who do care about whether we’re happy people and want us to enjoy life.

I try to draw some strength, encouragement and positivity from wherever I can…but, lately, this seems to be the biggest challenge of all.