Thursday, February 19, 2015

There's food in the breakroom!

A strange thing happens when you bring food to work. People, civilized, nicely dressed, well-paid people, turn into ravenous wolves that have apparently not eaten in days.

Don't believe me? Bring any kind of leftover to work, put it on the table in the break room and then stand back to watch the crumbs fly. I've seen half-eaten boxes of cereal brought in and then quickly emptied; uneaten sandwiches and pasta from lunch meetings are gone faster than the blink of an eye and dessert is devoured almost simultaneously. For a group of people who remain largely inactive, office employees sure do like to eat a lot.

For someone like me who has enough of her grandmother in her not to see good food go to waste, I have found it a satisfying, though oft disturbing, environment. It’s a great way to get rid of extra holiday candy or peanut brittle or loaf bread, for that matter.

A recent study showed that providing lunches for employees boast loyalty. It can also cause employees to bite the hand that feeds them so to speak. For example, my former office had a donut day. The first day they were hot and from Krispy Kreme, and we all ate and appreciated them. By the second time, however, we were criticizing the fact that they weren't hot, and by the third, we bemoaned the fact that they were no longer from Krispy Kreme. By the fourth time, we were completely disgusted, “What the heck is this? “ Why can’t we have bacon and eggs?” “Who chose these flavors? Pink icing with sprinkles? We aren't kids!” we said, bitterly.

I guess our complaining worked. We no longer get donut day.

My sister has had a similar experience at her office. She works in Alaska, so her boss is kind enough to bring them lunch almost daily, so they don’t have to get out in the cold – until he went on a diet, that is. Her office was no longer filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread, pizza and cookies for dessert.

“He’s got to get off this %$* diet,” my sister and her coworkers complained. “I don’t care if he losing weight for his health, we need some food up in here!”

So much for loyalty. The stomach wants what the stomach wants, even in the workplace. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Living lean and (not) mean in 2015

Today is a new year, but more importantly, it’s a new day. The sun is shining. I have a nice new fuzzy red blanket that looks a lot like Santa’s cape covering my lap, and I’m sipping coffee from a mug that says “Meow” that my daughter made me. Never mind that she wrote “Crazy Cat Lady Club” on the bottom.

So much emphasis is put on a new year. My email was bombarded with “New Year, New You” messages about everything from teeth whitening services to something called lipotropic weight loss shots, to microdermabrasion - which I actually considered for a second before I realized there is nothing wrong with my skin, and I really don’t even know what that is – along with constant messages from a boot camp telling me my backside will get three sizes bigger if I don’t show up for its trial session this Saturday. It’s so overwhelming that it makes me want to break my get-out-of-bed-before-nine resolution and crawl back under the covers.

I can’t say in the past that I would have signed up for all of the above, but I would have differently felt guilty for NOT signing up. I have tried every approach to resolutions from making them, to not making them, to changing the time of year I made them. Yes, I made 4th of July resolutions for several years. You can read about them here. And here.

Nothing worked. I tried narrowing my focus, for example, to work out every day, instead of the vague “get into shape.” I tried making my resolutions more realistic; for example, work out three days a week versus every day. That helped, but it never stuck. Go to the gym in February, if you don’t believe me. You’re more than likely to see the same people who were there in Dec., with the January influx having already tapered off.

This New Year, however, things are different. I am different. I no longer expect that when the ball drops, I’m magically going to become this new person who loves working out at 6 a.m., never leaves trash in her car, and can’t wait to get home from working all day to cook a healthy yet delicious meal and then help her kids with their science fair projects. But, I am the kind of person now who if I can do one of those things in a day, heck, in a week, I will be satisfied.

And, I think that is key. Accepting oneself and one’s shortcomings, but being open and willing to improving, not by some magic that comes from turning of the calendar and toasting of the new year, but by hard work that requires constant effort day by day. I think self-improvement comes from waking up each day and saying, “What can I do to help other people? How can I be kind to others?” and, most of the time, that includes being kind to myself.

Wishing you and yours the very best every day of the new year. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Picture perfect

I begged my family to take one beach photo. Here is the result.
As I scrolled through my Facebook page and saw gorgeous family picture after picture, I asked myself, “Where are my gorgeous family pictures?”

Actually, I thought, “Where are my family pictures?” Period.

It’s that time of year again. The time when I go to a lot of trouble finding the “perfect” picture to mail to our friends as a holiday greeting. Of course, that’s all a farce, not the perfect picture part, but the idea that I’ll actually mail them.

Just joking – sort of.

My children are teenagers, and despite the money I’ve spent on their braces and the number of selfies they take with their friends, they do not want to smile for their mama. And nothing makes me madder. I don’t ask for a lot, but I would like to take one picture of the four of us before the year ends, so I can plaster it on a card. That’s all. Call it my birthday, Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and Christmas Day gift. Just take it. One. Picture.

Recently, at the beach, the sun began to set, and I said, “Now, let’s go take our pictures. It’s the perfect time.”

Groans and moans emit from the back seat. One would think I’d picked up a few zombie hitchhikers.
“Everybody does that, Mom,” my daughter said, “Don’t be cliché.”

“I’m not making you wear all white,” I said. “Just stand there. I’m not asking for much.”
As the sun set on my request, I began to resort to more drastic measures of persuasion, “I gave birth to you!”

I’m not sure why moms say that. We are the only ones who remember what we put our bodies through, and the pain we endured. The kids see only the pictures, the happy, smiling pictures that we moms made sure were taken before our infants became teens and refused.

This was not the case when I was a child. We had our family picture taken every year and looked forward to it. Granted that’s because we had them taken at the county fair, but I still like to think I’d look forward to it even if promises of rides and candy apples weren't
part of the bargain.

The more than a decade worth of photos rank among my most treasured possessions, despite my awkward phase that seemed to last an abnormally long time and my penchant for closing my eyes at the exact time the shutter went off. Today’s kids are lucky. Thanks to the delete button and unlimited outtakes, they’ll grow up and never have a poor picture of themselves. Of course, in my kids’ case, they’ll be no pictures at all past the age of 13.

The best family pictures, come to think of it, have been totally unexpected and unplanned, like the one I used on last year’s Christmas card. We were at a Braves baseball game, and a lady who looked a lot like the actress Sofia Vergara asked if we’d take her picture. My husband almost broke his neck doing so, and the woman offered to take ours in exchange. Her accent was so endearing, we all agreed. She leaned over and took it with quite a bit of fuss. The result was the four of us looking into the camera with natural smiles on our faces and two guys snickering in the background.

Another great natural shot happened during a vacation to St. Mary’s, located on the coast of Georgia, when my children were younger. We’d eaten a great seafood meal, had indulged in a nice beverage and were out strolling the streets at dusk when a lady, from out of nowhere, offered to take our picture. Surprised, we agreed. We stopped for a second, smiled as she snapped and wandered on to watch the sunset.

As I recall that time, I think maybe the kids are right.  Sunset photos are cliché. Now watching it as a family with a full belly on a warm night, that’s another story. One that’s documented in our memory banks alone.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Messy mom guilty as charged

My family and I watched a television show not long ago about the power of observation. The show depicted police officers looking for subtle clues to decide on a suspect’s guilt or innocence.

In one true scenario, an officer was on the lookout for a stolen red Mustang without tags. It just so happened that two were parked outside a convenience store. The officers staked out the place and witnessed a man with his head down walk quickly toward one of the vehicles, toss his trash in a nearby can, jump in, slam it into reverse and drive away. A second man soon followed, except this one took his time, glanced at the policeman and nodded, turned up his bag of chips, and then wadded up the bag and threw it in the backseat before casually getting in the vehicle and carefully backing out. Who’s the real crook?

The answer is … number two. What gave him away?

“Who throws trash into his own car?” asked the show’s host, incredulously.

At this point, my entire family turns and looks at me, and I know what they are thinking, “We’d better save some bail money.”

My grandmother, the tidiest person I ever knew, would be appalled if she saw the back seat of my car. It’s true, I’m embarrassed to admit, I tend to throw things back there. It’s usually as I drive, and it’s usually with great flourish. For example, I will finish off my bottle of sparkling water, say “Ah,” and toss it in the back.

At which point, I will usually get a sounding chorus of outraged voices going, “MOM!”

My messy car has not been the only source of admonishment from my children. I also have trouble with papers. You know all the hundreds of thousands of papers that the kids bring home from school every day. Why, why, why so many papers? And, where, where, where is a parent supposed to put them? I tried organizational boxes with the kids’ names on them, the dining room table, behind the pepper jar in the kitchen, and for a long while, on top of the pool table, but since we sold that, I’ve now regulated them all to a big, fat stack. You need your physical form, your field trip form, your science Olympiad schedule? Check the stack.

It worked pretty well until my son had to ride the bus for the first time this year. He came home and said, “Where is my bus form?”

I told him to - say it with me - “Check the stack.”

He looked there, and then we went down the list of other locations: behind the pepper jar, on the dining room, and even his book bag, which is the equivalent of the Lost and Found, but no bus form.
“Just get another one tomorrow,” I advised.

“Um, I will, but I don’t think she’ll like it much.”

Next day, he came back with the form, and I dutifully filled it out. I took him to school that morning, and he rode the bus home and promptly asked if his sister could pick him up the next day.
I looked at him and said, “You lost your form, didn’t you?”

Turns out, the bus driver told him that was his last one, and he wasn’t going to get on the bus without it. We eventually found it. No, not in the stack but tossed in the backseat of my car, along with some empty sparkling water bottles, and some other miscellaneous papers.

Please don’t judge me. I've already called the Mom police, and they are on their way. I’ll be in the red Mustang finishing up my chips.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thank you, Easter bunny!

Sadly, I could only find one photo (above). The caption on the back
has my son's name and the Easter bunny, you know, just in case
you didn't recognize him.
Easter is upon us, which means the resurrection of Christ, whose rebirth is symbolized by all things spring – Easter lilies, abundant eggs to decorate with beautiful colors and designs, little baby chicks, and, oh, yeah, big-a** rabbits.

A friend brought the question to my attention – what IS our fascination with giant rabbits? And did the movie Harvey starring James Stewart and his invisible 6’3 ½” rabbit best friend play a part in it?

I understand that bunnies represent the fertility of spring, but do they have to be so large? And do we have to dress up our precious children and put them in their giant laps and expect them to smile? What kind of torment is that? It’s no coincidence that the Easter bunny as we know him was created in 1958 and child psychology a year later.

When my daughter was younger, she accepted that Santa came down the chimney and spied on her throughout the year, seeing her when she’s sleeping. She was OK with the tooth fairy fluttering about her room and was even fond of setting leprechaun traps, but a rabbit that resembles a grown man hopping down the bunny trail? Now, that was too much.

“How does he get in? Does he have a key to the house?” she asked, clearly alarmed.

I thought that perhaps a visit to see the Easter bunny might alleviate her fears, though I knew from experience I must tread lightly. When my oldest was young, I took her to have her photo made with the Easter bunny at the mall. I thought it went well. She sat on his lap and flashed a big, cute smile, not the least bit afraid. I even had a key chain made from the picture to commemorate the moment.

It was on the way home that things turned sour.

“Mommy, there’s a man inside the Easter bunny,” she said.

“No, sweetie, of course there’s not.”

“Yes, there is. I see his face inside of the bunny’s mouth,” she responded.

It was then I noticed she was inspecting the photo inside our new key chain.

“What? Let me see that,” I said.

I studied it and realized, yes, Virginia, there is a man inside the Easter bunny. In fact, his creepy face was peering right through the giant bunny’s smile, just as my daughter had said.

With this in mind, I decided the best way to relieve my younger daughter’s fears was to dress as a non-threatening bunny myself at our church’s egg hunt. Well, that, and I was the only person who could fit in the costume. At least that was what I was told. It was only later that I learned I was the only fool who would put on a bunny suit that had been around since the early 70s, especially when the bank that loaned it to us left these instructions: Fragile. Do not dry clean.

Though it felt dirty, I donned the suit, knowing dozens of kids would be disappointed if the bunny didn't show up, including my own. As I stepped around the corner out into the open, guided by my so-called girlfriend who had talked me into it, the reaction from the crowd was nothing short of a Godzilla movie. Kids were running and screaming; parents were snapping photos and forcing the children they could catch into my arms. I was doing my best to appear friendly and hold on to them as they attempted to wriggle free, all the while worrying about what communicable bunny diseases I might be contracting from the germs inside the suit.

Despite the discomfort, it was worth it. Moms were able to snap the obligatory kids-so-scared-it’s-cute photos, while my daughter totally overcame her fear. In fact, she came right up and held my hand. I was so proud of her for being so brave. So proud, in fact, I knelt down and hugged her, and as she squeezed my neck, I heard her say, “I know that’s you, Mommy.”

And from that day on, she never worried about a giant bunny having keys to our house again.

Thank you, Easter bunny, for the memories.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The weather is coming!

The weather is coming! The weather is coming! And, I must admit, I’m feeling rather anxious. I guess it’s natural since it comes just weeks after friends and family members were trapped in their cars on the interstate due to icy conditions.

 Fortunately, I was safe at home with a full belly and a comfy couch, and, most importantly, my children. The news was riveting; however, and the Facebook stories horrific. I spent a lot of time praying for those having to spend the night in their cars, and the hundreds of school kids separated from their parents.

There have been parodies on some comedy shows, including a pretty hilarious interview with fictitious Southern gentleman Buford Callaway, on Saturday Night Live who expresses horror over what he calls, “the devil’s dandruff,” but the truth is it was scary. Perhaps the worst story was of a mom who had to pee on the side of the interstate with everyone watching. Her Facebook post read, “Kill me now!” That could have been me, I thought. Heck, that would have been me.

While the predictions of catastrophic ice alone make me want to wet my pants, some of my fondest memories as a child centered on snow and ice storms, which back then, were equated with long power outages. I can remember one time in particular when it was out at least a week. Others may have suffered, but my dad had the wood burning stove roaring. In fact, we got so hot, we had to open the front door.

The best part about it was not the snow or being out of school, however. The best part was the food. Mom had cooked a huge meal the week before – turkey and dressing, sweet potato soufflé, mashed potatoes, squash casserole - and that is what we ate, heated up in aluminum foil on the stove.

While today, my family is outfitted in North Face and Patagonia, as a child, I used socks for gloves and an old Georgia Bulldog toboggan, which I still have today. Despite our lack of designer clothes, my sister, friends and I braved the storm for hours upon end, not wanting to waste a moment for fear it would disappear. We made sleds out of plastic swimming pools, cardboard boxes (as long as they lasted) and scraps of metal from heaven knows where, but our primary purpose was the construction of a snowman.  

Our goal was to make him as large as we could, and we worked for hours doing so. That year, my friend’s dad chipped in and helped us roll the base. I can recall feeling such elation. In hindsight, it was probably because the socks on my hands were soaking wet, and I could barely move my fingers. I don’t remember minding it then. In fact, it was exhilarating.

Eventually, though, my sister and I would go in the house and hang our soaking wet clothes out to dry in front of the stove. And, after a time, the power came back on, and the snow melted – all but our masterpiece in the front yard.

I can recall riding the bus home from school and feeling delighted that he still was. We played with what snow was left day by day, until one bright sunny afternoon we came home, and he was gone.

I’m not sure what this year’s (or week’s) snow and ice storm will bring. I don’t have any delicious leftovers nor do I have a wood-burning stove, but I hope we can find something to sled on, and more importantly, the desire to do so.

And, who knows, maybe we’ll bring Frosty back some day.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Useless Southern talents

This new year has me thinking a lot about God-given talents, something which I think everyone has. They just aren't always readily apparent.

Take mine for example. I have quite a few that go utterly wasted. Here are some off the top of my head:

Fly swatting – When I was child, instead of air conditioning, we had screens on the windows, which would sometimes get holes, usually exacerbated by my mindlessly picking at them when I should have been washing dishes. We also had screen doors, which I was known to hold open long enough that my parents would yell, “Close the door! You’re letting in the flies!”

All of this to say, we grew up vigilant about killing those pesky creatures. I can recall my dad with a fork in one hand and a fly swatter in the other at the kitchen table. Flies were an inevitable evil of growing up in the South. We always had a swatter within arm’s reach, and I grew pretty darn good with one.

So much so, that, today, when a rare fly strays into our air conditioned home, I rush to the pantry to pull out my decorative swatter and say, “Watch this kids!” right before I smash its brains out. Don’t worry, the foul creatures never know what hits them. They’re gone before they get a chance to glance up and cry, “Help me.”

Arm wrestling – My dad had a rule that no boy could date me unless they beat him at arm wrestling. He chose his means of competition wisely. He was very good at it, and I did not have many brave dates. So, I spent my Friday nights arm wrestling him myself, increasing my strength and picking up a bit of technique in the process. Today, I’m fairly confident in my ability. Perhaps I should offer the same deal to my son’s future girlfriends.

Taxi hailing – I discovered this talent when I visited New York City with my husband this summer. Getting a taxi to stop plagued my husband, the bell hop and even other New Yorkers, but I simply raised my hand, took a step forward and waited less than a second for one to whip over. It even worked at night in Times Square. In the South, this skill goes, mercifully, unused. I say mercifully because if you need a cab down here, you’re more than likely intoxicated and have offended any friends who may have given you a ride home.

Picking up objects with my toes – This is another skill I learned from my dad. I can use my toes like fingers to pick items – like socks - up without bending. I am nowhere near as skilled as my dad who can actually use his toes to put on his socks. And he’s remarkably quick about it, impressing us all with this hidden talent after his recent hip replacement. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll amaze the world yet with this one.

Remembering what I wore almost every day of my life – Yep, if it’s a day I can remember, I can tell you what I had on. The time I got sent to the corner in kindergarten? Remember it. Of course, that’s partially because it was my wardrobe getting me in trouble – at five and 15. In kindergarten, it was for wearing fake glasses, in high school, well, let’s just say my wardrobe was a little too Madonna-ish …

Ultimately, I may not be able to sing like an angel, play an instrument like my friend, Staci, draw and paint like my daughter, decorate a house like Martha Stewart, and sew like my mama, but I can kill a fly almost as good as Sensei in The Karate Kid, and if you don’t believe me, I’ll arm wrestle you, hail a cab, toss you in and later tell you exactly what shoes I had one when I did it. A useless Southern girl can survive ...