Sunday, October 9, 2011

Real Reality: Home Improvement

Flashback: June 2011. I blogged about our new bathroom tile. I waxed poetic about the plans I had to turn that space into something grand. The metamorphosis would happen over night.

Flashforward: October 2011. Our master bathroom wall looked like this until last week:

For the life of us, we could not find a suitable paint color. This pic doesn't even show the extent of our challenge because we painted over some of the colors with new swatches. In all, we tried 12 different colors. 

But, thanks to Mark, we have found the perfect color and our project is back on track! In fact, the painting is almost done! The mirror frame is here and ready for installation when the painting is done. We still need to select the faucets ($$$$) and coordinating details, but I'm excited!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Frugality Rules!

I rarely lose anything, but when I do lose something, it's usually something significant. By significant, I mean expensive to replace. Some time ago, the key fob to my Escape broke off my key chain. Mark attempted to reattach it using some sort of mysterious expoxy goo. It held for awhile, but it was not a permanent fix. For months, I carried my fob around in my pocket whenever we went anywhere. It wasn't the best situation, but it worked. Getting a new one meant spending about $130. No thanks.

And then, the fob disappeared. I think it fell out of my purse when I was rummaging through it during a performace of Mama Mia! at Starlight Theatre. All of sudden, what had been an annoyance was now an extreme inconvenience. What's funny is that when I started driving, the concept of key fobs wasn't even on the car manufacturers' radar. How I ever managed to unlock my Chevy Chevette without a key fob is a mystery to me.

Our local Ford dealer was kind enough to recommed searching for one on Ebay. If I found one, the dealer would program it for a mere $30. Love me some Ebay. I scored a fob for $11.24. Better yet, it came with programming directions that worked like a charm. I am back in business!

Who doesn't love a little frugality once on awhile?

Sunday, August 28, 2011



I thrive on organization, structure, and routine. I used to be ashamed to say that, but I'm finally comfortable with that part of who I am. Right now, I don't have any of those things in place. For the past two weeks, I have felt like the Greek figure, Sisyphus, the guy whose eternal punishment was to roll a ginormous boulder up a hill over and over and over. It's been a rough two weeks, not just for me, but for the fam, too. Longer days, new routines, less time together. I just have to keep reminding myself that this feeling is temporary. Soon enough, I will uncover my classroom groove, and my family will adjust to our new routine. Deep breaths. Lots of patience. It will pass. Soon enough, my whole head will be above water instead of just my eyes and one nostril. Soon enough.

Here it is again: My Ideal Reality (getting a teaching job) suddenly became my Real Reality. Like many things in life, real reality rarely matches up with our ideal reality. That's ok. It keeps life interesting. I'm still enjoying being back in the classroom and teaching in a school where I think I can make a real difference.

Onward and upward!

Whatever you are up to these days (and I would LOVE to know. Hint: Comment, please!), keep it real.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Real Reality Thursday

I'm about to wrap up my first week of teaching. I am soooooooooo tired! Apparently, I have been living the life of luxury for the past year (sure didn't feel like it) because this week has kicked my hiney. But it's been good. My students are cute and fun and smart. I'm really looking forward to spending the year with them.

The school is slowly coming together. The lockers and student desks arrived today. Those items will eliminate two major headaches for teachers. I'm loving how things pop up every day. It's like Christmas. Yesterday it was our clocks; any day we'll get our phones. The lounge has a fridge, coffee pot (with all the accoutrements supplied!), and a copier. All a teacher really needs.

My biggest challenge to date - and it's not just my challenge  - is our eighth grade class. It's the first year that the school has an eighth grade (7th, too, for that matter). The grade consists of seven students: 6 Hispanic students (one male; five females) and one African-American (female) student. It's a long story, but the dynamics are not ideal. The road is paved for an uphill battle in so many ways. We're committed to making it work, though. It's a great group of kiddos, and I really want to see them succeed at this school.

I'm really looking forward to the weekend! I'm already thinking about what beer or other alkie bev I'm going to drink.

Hope you had a great Thursday. Whatever you did, I hope you kept it real.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Real Reality Thursday

Wow! It's already Thursday! I almost forgot to post!

Today's Real Reality Thursday consisted of Emergency Response Training at the school level. Interesting stuff and information that I hope never factors into my real reality, I hung out wth some Comm Arts colleagues and brainstormed ideas of how to make our subject a little more cohesive from grade to grade. The new middle school (one floor of an old office building) is still under construction. They are getting close, and I am really really really hoping the school gets its occupancy permit tomorrow so I can start setting up my room. Keep your fingers crossed. School starts Monday, and I'm getting a little nervous! All the rooms have SMART Boards in them. I am SO excited. Learning my way around this technology has been on my To Do list for a few years now. Trial by fire, baby. Tomorrow night is Meet and Greet. I get to meet my students!

What have you been up to today? Whatever is was, I hope you kept it real!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Real Reality Thursday

Happy Thursday, folks! I am writing this before I scoot out the door for Day 4 of my new teaching adventure. So far, things are going well. We are using this week to do some long-term planning. It's an opportunity I haven't had before in previous teaching jobs, and I am enjoying it. I love that we have time to pull together a big picture. Gives me peace of mind. I've met lots of creative, dedicated, and enthusiastic teachers this week. At this point, it's all good. Next week is some professional development, and the kiddos show up on August 15. That's when the true adventure begins. Deep Breath.

One of the many things I'm looking forward to with this job is the reinstatement of the concept of the weekend. When I'm not working, one day seems to blend into the next. Kind of like that movie Groundhog Day. Know what I mean? Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays arejust more days. Starting this week, weekends will begin to hold some meaning and importance for me again. A strange thing to be excited about, huh?

What do you have on tap for today? Whatever it is, remember to keep it real!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Real Reality Thursday. Er ... Friday

I completely blew off Real Reality Thursday, didn't I? Here's why:

I landed a teaching job! Remember the charter school interview I mentioned in last week's Real Reality Thursday post? Well, the principal offered me a job! I am going to teach 6th grade and 8th grade English/Language Arts. I am also going to be the middle school reading interventionist (hello, master's degree at work!). AND I'm going to be the librarian? Huh? That's what I said. But apparently, the library doesn't have any books yet. Lots of details are up in the air. I'm excited about this new adventure. And from what I can tell, it WILL be an adventure!

Let the crazyness begin! Hopefully, I will still find time to post on an irregular basis.

What are you up to today? Or, what were you up to yesterday? Whatever it is/was ... keep it real.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Choose Seven Days

I just finished reading I, Lorelai, by Yeardley Smith. It's a YA novel about an 11-year-old girl, Lorelai, who decides to keep a diary after her beloved cat, Mud, dies. She writes directly to Mud, sharing her concerns about her parents constant arguing, the challenges of evolving friendships, the trials and tribulations of being Tiger Lily in her middle school's version of Peter Pan, and the excitement a first boyfriend brings. It's a truly sweet book.

After I finished, one passage in particular stayed with me. In her diary, Lorelai writes about a game she used to play with her grandpa before he died.

He would say, "Lorelai, if you could relive seven days of your life, which would they be?" Then he'd give me sixty seconds to decide.
That got me wondering about what days I would choose. Here's what I came up with. It wasn't easy, and it look me longer than sixty seconds! And, as life goes on, my list will change.

  1. I would love to relive just one day with my mother. Any day before she got sick. Even the day on which she dumped a bowl of Quaker oatmeal on my head out of frustration.
  2. The day I flew out of the U.S. for the very first time. 
  3. The day I spent exploring Venice, Italy, on  my own.
  4. The day I bought my first house. All on my own. It was a great little bachelorette pad!
  5. My first date with Mark. We went swingdancing! Well ... HE swingdanced. I just giggled and made a fool of myself.
  6. My post-wedding/pre-honeymoon camping trip with Mark. Perfecto!
  7. The night the peeps arrived, and I heard them both screaming with life. In those two minutes, I knew they were both healthy.
Your turn! Give me your seven days!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Real Reality Thursday

I just realized today is Thursday! If I don't get this posted now, well, it won't get posted. I have exactly 10 minutes before I leave to pick up the peeps. When the peeps are in the house, a whole lot of nuthin' gets done.

Here is how my day is shaping up.

  • Job interview @ 9:30 a.m. Done. Charter school. Strangest interview for a teaching position ever. Took about 20 minutes. I think the interviewer asked me five questions. Next step: talk to principal. On the way out, the asst. principal asked me the minimum salary I would take. Huh? Totally caught me off guard. So, I tossed out a number that I believe is reasonable given my experience and education. We shall see.
  • Wrap up The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. I'm so loving this book! It's the second in the series, and I must must must get my hands on the first one. (Slight problem: Read here.)
  • Find ways to entertain the peeps. Going outside is not an option. Actual temp will reach 100 degrees. Add the good ol' heat index, and we're looking at 110. UGH! This is day 5 of excessive heat.
  • Tonight: Watch Sense & Sensibility. I DVR'd it a long time ago and then burned it to DVD. I don't even know which version it is. But after reading Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, I have to have some frame of reference. Usually, I prefer book over movie, but I'm a little stacked with the books.

What about you? What'cha up to? Whatever you do, keep it real!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ideal Reality: My Bedside Reading

Here's what's clogging my nightstand as we speak. I borrowed them all from the library, and I really want to finish them all. Easy peasy, right?

I Explain a Few Things by Pablo Neruda
World's End by Pablo Neruda
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
You Are Your Choices by Alexandra Stoddard
Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale
Theodore Boone - Kid Lawyer - by John Grisham
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Real Reality: Being Who You Really Are

One of my all-time favorite books is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Her recent blog post Beware the Snare of the Linen Cocktail Napkin really gets to the heart of the challenge of finding common ground between our ideal reality and our real reality

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pillow Power

Our completed tile job, which you can read about here, has me in home improvement mode. I've also been ogling several home decor blogs. Here are a few of my faves:

On my trip to Pier 1 Imports last week, I bought this:


Apparently, it's a wine cushion. (WHT?) I thought it was a seat cushion. (Still do). You can't see them in the photos, but the pillow has two braided red, pink, and green ropes popping out of the top (like seat cushion ties. It is a seat cushion). Glass beads tassles adorn the rope ends. The picture isn't that great, but IRL the pillow is cue-tee patootie. I LOVE the colors. I'm calling this my inspiration pillow. It's going play quite prominently in my guest bedroom makeover. Someday.

Yesterday, I bought decorative couch pillows from Gordman's. The store has some great items. I made a mental note to up my visits. Our front room couch went from this:

Hey, grandma! Love those couch pillows!
To this:

How fun are those pillows? Someday soon that lovely lamp shade will go to the outdated lamp shade retirement village. I'd love to replace the white spindles with wrought iron. Sigh. Right now though I have Mark focused on painting the master bath and bedroom.

Real Reality Thursday

What'cha up to today?

I'm playing catch up. My goal is to take care of some of those simple, yet annoying, tasks that always seem to remain in the "I'll get to that later" category. Only "later" never shows its face.

  • Laundry
  • Online job application updates (aka The Black Hole; aka Fruitless Endeavor)
  • Selecting a mirror frame for the master bath ( - highly recommended!)
  • Making giant bubble wands for the girls (I like to do kid crafts when the peeps aren't around. Less mess. Nice surprise for the peeps.)
  • This and That

Whatever you decide to do today ... keep it real.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Woodshedding. Isn't that a great word? I ran into it while reading this blog post created by Trent, who blogs at The Simple Dollar. It's a personal finance blog with tons of practical, common sense information. I've enjoyed Trent's writing style as much as I have his insights into financial matters. I could easily see myself chatting him up over a cold beer.

Woodshedding. What does it mean? It means doing something simply for the pleasure it brings you. No compensation needed. It's your passion, your love, your dream.

The Urban Dictionary defines woodshedding as
to practice or hone skills, particularly musical skills. the origin is from the fact that for purposes of privacy people would go to their woodshed to practice without being overheard
Last night, I started down the path of woodshedding. As I've mentioned a few times before (OK, a zillion times before), I can't find a teaching job. I earned my master's degree in literacy education at the end of 2010, and all I want to do is help kids build their reading skills. But in these economic times, teaching jobs in my areas of expertise (Communication Arts and Special Reading, in case anyone in the KC Metro is looking to hire an awesome teacher) are few and far between. Competition is fierce, and districts can save some K's by hiring new grads.

Back to woodshedding. Last night I attended a volunteer orientation session at Literacy Kansas City, a local organization that matches volunteer literacy tutors with adults who want to improve their reading skills. I get to practice my passion, hone my skills, make new connections, and share my gift. Super duper excited to get started!

What about you? Do you woodshed? If so, how?

Real Reality Thursday

Good morning! It's a rainy morning here in KC. Good for gardens, but not good for our already-flooded rivers. And not good for the mamma who told her peeps she would take them to Chuck E. Cheese on the next rainy day. Yeah, I'm talking about moi.

How is your Real Reality Thursday shaping up? Mine looks something like this:

  • Laundry (No, really? Shocker.)
  • CVS
  • Walgreens (2/$4 Smuckers jelly - we eat a lot of jelly around here; and 2/$1 candy bars - got me a coop-un for 50c/ 2 3 Musketeers. Repeat after me: "Hop on the fatty wagon, sister.")
  • Bed/Bath/Beyond
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Lowe's
  • Pier 1
  • Blog about Woodshedding
We'll see what happens ... this list might actually be my Ideal Reality.

Whatever you do today, keep it real.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jennifer Aniston and Me

Last night, I dreamed that I met Jennifer Aniston. Out of all the people in the universe I would like to meet, she's not at the top of the list. She's not at the bottom, either. She's more of an "I met Jennifer Aniston today. That was cool." Middle of the list, I guess?

Here's the weird part: In my dream, I was taller than Jennifer Aniston. For those of you who have seen me IRL, you know why this is weird/funny/strange/unsettling. For those of you who haven't met me, well, I'm barely 5 feet tall. In my dream, I was still barely 5 feet tall. And I was taller than Jennifer Aniston.

Any one dare - or care - to analyze?

Yummy Quote

LOVE this:

"I don't know how anyone else sees the world, and no one else knows exactly how I see the world! We each see in our own, unique way. There isn't a Right or a Wrong, and that's how it's meant to be."

- Zoomy Chamberlain, The Danger Box by Blue Balliett

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Real Reality Thursday

I finished reading Jennifer Brown's sophomore YA novel Bitter End last night. Actually, finished reading doesn't begin to describe it. I attacked and devoured this book. So good. SO GOOD.

This week, I accomplished something that has been on my To Do list for, like, forever. I registered for the July 6 Volunteer Orientation session for Literacy Kansas City. I used to do a ton of volunteer work, but have gotten away from it over the past several years. Since I'm having a tough time landing a permanent teaching gig, I have some time on my hands. Volunteering though Literacy Kansas City will allow me to share my passion teaching reading by helping adults build their reading skills. Not sure if I'll do some one-on-one tutoring or teach a small group. Obviously, I'll gain more experience and expand my network of contacts. Always good. I'm super excited! First steps always make me tingly!

What's on tap for Real Reality Thursday?
Whatever you decide to do today, enjoy and keep it real!

(Ok ... I've tried a bajillion times to fix the font on the end. UNCLE! Going for my pedi now ...)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Le Discret"

This past weekend, I bought a Sunday paper for the first time in ages. It had this article about "Le Discret," an oil painting by French artist Joseph Ducreux. And now I am obsessed with finding a print for the abode. sells a pair of thong panties with the image, but I don't think I want to go that route. And I doubt anyone else would want me too, either.

Le Discret by Joseph Ducreux

Summer Stuff

Here is my new favorite summertime song. I'm really diggin' the Zac Brown Band these days. YouTube also has a Chipmunks version. I love the Chipmunks. "I still want a hoola-hoop."

I also just signed up at, the "postcard crossing project." You can send and receive postcards from all over the world. The girls have been complaining that they NEVER get "Ruth and Audrey" mail, so I thought this would be a unique way for them to get mail and learn about the world. It will also be a cheap way for me to feed my travel fettish. I bought three postcards from Barnes & Noble and addressed them to people in Canada, Russia, and Poland (assigned by Postcrossing). I'll pop them in the mail on my way to my hair appointment today. We'll see what happens!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Boy Who Loved Words

I really heart this book. It's my new fave.

This book makes me want my own classroom so badly I want to cry. Can't you just see a life-size Selig on the classroom wall surrounded by words? And can't you just hear students rushing in with their latest and greatest word find to share with Selig and their peers?

This is a simply gorgeous book.

Read more about Roni Schotter.

Real Reality Thursday

Right now, I'm waiting for paint to dry. Literally. I just painted the trim in our downstairs bathroom. It is the last room that needed trim paint after our tile floor installation. So, I'm waiting for the paint to dry so I can slap on a quick second coat and be done with it. Onward and upward.

Also on today's agenda:

Old Navy (Groupon, baby!)
Best Buy (return... GRRR)
Barnes & Noble
Bed, Bath & Beyond (just cuz)
Pier 1 Imports (just cuz)
Reading in the sunshine!
Dino O'Dell with the peeps and my sister @ the library in the next town
Root touch up
Grocery store for a few bits and pieces
Play with my blog?

How is your Real Reality Thursday shaping up?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Real Reality Thursday Update & Wine

Update on Real Reality Thursdays
1. No bueno on the job. I'm gonna put my shoes on and keep truckin'.

2. Sam's Club: Tried to sneak in the PLUS members doors 8 minutes before the store opened to the general public. (I've gotten away with it before ... ). Super-efficient zombie employee tracked me down and kicked me out.

3. After I was allowed in the store, I bought three bottles of wine un addition to a hineyload of food. 

I like wine. In my ideal reality, I am a wine connoisseur of the most sophisticated heights. In my real reality, I'm a gal who is attracted to fun labels, unique names, and a semi-cheap price. (I had to upgrade from ultra-cheap status after an unfortunate run-in with a $2.99 Manager's Special bottle of Sangria. Note to self: Do not buy wine from a grocery cart. Show some self-respect, woman!).

Here is my curret collection, minus one, which I'll explain in a moment.

From left: Adam Puchta Winery's Berry Black;
Cupcake Vineyards' Merlot, Prosecco, and Malbec; and
Jowler Creek's Traminette.

I'm on a BIG Cupcake Vineyards kick right now. The Adam Puchta came from a trip to Hermann, MO, last October, and Mark picked up the Jowler Creek recently. It's from a local winery in Platte County, MO.

And now for the minus one:

This is a SeaGlass Riesling. I bought it because the bottle is a stunningly beautiful blue color. You know, like sea glass. The website is stunningly beautiful, too. Check it out.

And now for the best part: My wine cabinet.

Highly sophisticated, yes? It sits above the microwave, and as you can tell, it is multifunctional. Not only does it store my wine, but it is big enough to hold two random vases, our used-once-each-year turkey roaster, and two Dora the Explorer lunch bags. Awesome.

I'm in the market for a genuine wine rack, but I can't decide if I want a wall-mounted rack or a standing floor table kind of jobbie. I do know that I do not want a countertop one. For now, this will have to do ...

Enoy the weeknd!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Real Reality Thursdays

It's 9:16 a.m. I just dropped the peeps off at Veggie Tales camp, and I am sip-slurping a Chai Tea Latte @ Panera (free WiFi baby!) while waiting for Sam's Club to  open @ 10. It's time to load up the food cabinets at the Rydings' casa. Lookin' a little bare. I think the person in charge of that household should be fired.

This morning I had a meltdown over Disney Theme Day at Veggie Tales camp. I'm over it now, and both peeps went to camp adorned in some sort of Disney something that we pulled together this a.m.

I had a job interview last Wednesday for a 7/8 Comm Arts job. I thought the interview went really well, and I think it's a school in which I could do some great things. The interviewers said they would contact me this week. Alas, it is Real Reality Thursday, and I have heard nothing. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Null. No Way Jose. I guess my instincts are just as out of whack as the rest of me these days.

Off to Sam's, then to get the peep-o-rino's, home for lunch, then we take Dead Reckoning (aka 2005 Ford Escape) in for her 80,000-mile check.

And that, my friends, is Real Reality Thursday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Queen Ala Commode

Last week, we bumped the floors in our bathrooms and laundry room from Real Reality status to Ideal Reality status. I guess that makes them our new Real Reality? We still have some fancyin' up to do, but I am lovin' my new tile floors!

I have to give a ginormous shout out to Taff's Carpets!

Flooring before ...

Flooring after! (It's a brownish-grayish color. Hard to tell because of my "expert" photog skills.)

Master bath tub tile before ...

Master bath tub tile after ... (yes, we are getting a new faucet!)

A closer look at the tub tile work. So beautiful!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Me in the Kitchen

This might be my new favorite magazine. This is the June 2011 issue of Food Network magazine.

Last Saturday, my husband smoked a brisket ...

And he smoked some chicken wings ...

Out my new favorite magazine, I made this:

Spinach and Cheese Flatbread (To Die For!!)
And this ...

Baby Spinach, Sliced Strawberries, Walnuts, & Red Wine Vinaigrette (Healthy!)

And these ...

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-BACON Cookies (Not So Healthy, BUT Yummy in My Tummy!)

Mark paired his dinner with a Boulevard Pilsner, and I chose Cupcake Vineyards' Malbec. We both agreed that this was the best dinner we had created in a long time. Translation: It wasn't pizza, mac/cheese, hotdogs, or chicken fingers.

This was one of those rare moments when my ideal reality (gourmet chef) intertwined with my real reality. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thoughts on Tiger Mother

I finished reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua a few days ago. You can check out my reaction to the first few chapters here. As I continued reading, I jotted down the thoughts and questions that popped into my head. Random.

  • You can't force respect; you earn it.
  • Braggart.
  • Seems like she feels she must prove herself to Western mothers.
  • Seems to think she is superior to Western mothers.
  • Am I critical of Chua because I do not parent the way she does, but think maybe I should?
  • Am I critical because I'm insecure about my parenting skills?
  • Is this entire book about Chua's insecurities over her parenting skills?
  • What if I AM her? Is she some distorted reflection of myself? Is that why I criticize her?
  • Admire her tenancity and focs.
  • How did she invest this much time and energy into ther children? I'm exhausted all the time, and I don't even really do anything.
  • Why would her husband stay with her? She paints him as a wimp.
  • Should I sacrifice more for my girls? Should I put them first more than I do?

After closing the book, I decided that Chua is no different than any other mother. She wants what is best for her girls. She has an ideal reality in her head, and she's trying anything and everything to make the ideal real. Her parenting methods are just really, REALLY, foreign to most of us. This is a must read for any mother. Even if you are horrified, disgusted, and embarrased for Chua, the book should make any thinking woman - and we are all thinking women - pause, reflect, ponder, and question.

After all ...

"I don't know how anyone else sees the world, and no one else knows exactly how I see the world! We each see in our own, unique way. There isn't a Right or a Wrong, and that's how it's meant to be."  - Zoomy Chamberlain, The Danger Box by Blue Balliett

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Real Reality: Joplin, MO

An F4 tornado churned through Joplin, Missouri, Sunday afternoon. The destruction is so overwhelming that I can't look at the flood of pictures and videos coming out of the scene for more than a few minutes at a time. I can't imagine what it is like for the people who are living through this nightmare. At last count, 117 people died. Thankfully, all my family is ok.

In the Midwest, spring tornadoes are real reality.

My dad grew up on the outskirts of Joplin. His brother and sisters and most of their families still live there. I spent countless summers at my grandma's house in Oronogo, a teeny tiny map spot about six miles from Joplin. One of my heart memories is the Friday night trip into "town" so my grandma could do her grocery shopping.

This is what's left.,29307,2073456,00.html

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fart Face

In case you were wondering, this is what a Fart Face looks like. At least, it is my Ruthie's interpretation of one. Sigh.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ideal Reality Vs. Real Reality: Garage Sales

I'm not big on garage sales. My friends talk about the fantastico bargains they find, but everytime I venture out, I end up disappointed. In my ideal reality, I find fantastico bargains of my own. In my real reality, I find, well, other people's unwanted junk. But perhaps my luck has changed. My neighborhood had its annual garage sale last weekend, and looky at what I found:

Two kids sleeping bags (rated to 45 degrees F), which I've been looking for. $2 each. Mint condition. A ginormous dump truck for my Ruthie. $1. And a Little Mermaid dress-up costume - with sweet high heels - for my Audrey. $3 (usually $20 at Target). I also picked up an armload of books, which we have been enjoying.

Lovin' it!

Tiger Mother or Nutty Coconutty?

I'm fairly selective about the books I read. I usually don't buy into all the hype that surrounds some books, and I rarely read the books that everyone and their brother is reading. I'm kind of snobby that way. I have this weird belief that if everyone and their brother is reading a certain book, then it's probably not that good. I rely on the discerning tastes of my bibliophilic friends who have never disappointed me. At the very least, I wait until the frenzy and froth subsides away. That's not to say that I haven't made exceptions. Here is one of them.
I first heard about Amy Chua and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother on NPR a couple of months ago. I just started reading it this week. Just a few chapters in, Chua had me vacillating between wanting to punch her in the head (Chua REALLY likes herself to the point that it's completely annoying), thinking she may be on to something, and wondering if she was just plain nutty. Regardless, I can't stop reading. I find myself in "horrific car accident, but can't look away" mode.

Absentee Update

Gosh and golly time flies when you're having fun ... and even when you're not. What have I been up to?

Well, I made it to a second round of interviews for a reading specialist position (YAY!). But ... they chose someone else (Not so YAY.) Yes, I'm supposed to feel good about myself because I was one of three finalists and competition is fierce. But the bottom line is, I didn't get the job. In Mari speak, that translates into, "I wasn't good enough." In reality speak, that translates into, "You were great, but it just wasn't the right fit." I'm trying to go with that. Landing the job would have meant a two hour, round trip commute. Everything happens for a reason.

In the meantime, I've been working on a freelance project for the American Society of Baking. It involves reading and editing almost 200 pages of oral presentation transcriptions. From bakery engineers. Very technical. Very dry. Ingredient formulation. Safety regulations. Sodium reduction. My eyes are so dry from staring at a computer screen that I'm pretty sure they are going to plop out of my head at any moment. But, it keeps me busy, and the paycheck will fund my ceramic tile project. 

Said home improvement project was supposed to start today. But, bummer. My tile is on a truck at a warehouse in Alabama. Said warehouse is surrounded by flood waters. We rescheduled for May 31 Not a big deal; just a little disappointed.

Onward and upward!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Keurig Vs. Cuisinart

In my ideal reality, my coffee making god looks like this:
Sleek, sophisticated, graceful, independent. The Keurig gives the impression that one has the freedom to leisurely sip coffee at a sidewalk cafe, soaking up sun, eavesdropping on conversations, la dee dah-ing, not a care in the world. After all, with a gazillion little cups of flavor to choose from, the world must truly be the Keurig owner's oyster.

In my real reality, my coffee making god looks like this:
This work of Cuisinart, a 12-cup coffee generator with a built-in bean grinder, was part of my Mother's Day present. Sleek and sophisticated? I think so. But unlike the Keurig, it's built for coffee drinkin'. This baby gives the impression that one is gonna kick come coffee hiney. Heck to the yeah! (Sorry for the hiney and the yeah. I am really trying to stop swearing. Not that I have a sailor's mouth or anything, but we've had some close calls with the peeps. Nothing says Bad Mom like a four-year-old who swears like a sailor).

Perhaps the best part about this machine is that when the grinder kicks in, it sounds like a helicopter is about to land on the roof. Seriously cool. It makes a person sit straight up in bed. At 4:55 am. Which is when I prefer my coffee to perform its percolation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sweet Serendipity

I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural production of Spinning Tree Theatre a couple of Fridays ago. The theatre company is the dream child of one of my high school friends and his partner. I wanted to support them, so I purchased tickets to their production of William Finn's Make Me a Song. I expected a relaxing and fun evening of song and talent, and I wasn't disappointed. What I didn't expect to find was a little comfort for one of the permanent nicks that life inflicted upon my heart many years ago.

I've written before about how, on some days, I really miss my mom. She passed away when I was five years old, so it's a little strange that I should find myself thinking about her so much now that I'm older. Still, 35 years after her death, I hold tightly to the belief that she can see and hear me, and I rage at the frustration I feel because I can't see or hear her.

But, just as life can inflict pain, it can also soothe it serendipitously.

And that's what happened as I sat in the Off Center Theatre a couple of Fridays ago. When I heard the song, Anytime (I Am There), it was as if my mom was finally responding to the thousands of words I've silently spoken to her over the years. Peace and comfort filled my soul. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pity Party - Over and Out

The pity party is over. I love how the space of a few days and a little reflection pulls things back into perspective for me. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here.

First, 110 people applied for the job, and only a handful were invited to interview. My husband offered this encouragment: "If there were over 100 applicants, you could be in the top 2% and still not get the job." That made me feel a little better.

Second, I came across one of Gretchen Rubin's (author of The Happines Project, one of my favorite books) personal commandments: Find the Fun in Failure. There is always a lesson to learn from failing. After a few days, I realized that the lesson I learned was not that I am a loser. (My catch phrase for a couple of days. I told you I had a pity party.) Instead, I learned I needed to brush up intergrating technology into the classroom, motivating students, and effectively communicating what I believe every English teacher needs to know in terms of content knowledge. I'll be ready for the next interview.

My gut feeling says there will be a next interview, and doors will open. They may not be the doors I expect and they may not open on my timetable, but I guess but that's the thrill of life, right? Onward and upward.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Job Hunting: My Real Reality

Well, suckity, suck, suck, suck.

I just found out that I didn't get a teaching job I interviewed for on Tuesday. My second job rejection in two days.

Suckity, suck, suck, suck. Job hunting sucks.

Now I am going to go count my blessings (while grumbling).

More later ...

Did I mention that this suckity, suck, sucks, sucks?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Forever Young - The Ideal Reality

Mark and I watched the documentary Young@Heart last weekend. It's a film about a Massachusetts chorus whose members are  each 70+ years old. What sets them apart is that they cover songs from the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Coldplay, and other suprising musicians. It's a fascinating and fun documentary, and it really made me wonder about how I will live my life in later years.

Here's a clip of the group performing Purple Haze.

When the chorus sang Forever Young in tribute to one of its members who passed away the night before a performance, I cried. And I thought about how this was perhaps the ultimate portrayal of how ideal reality and real reality sometimes collide. Throughout the movie, several of the chorus members talked about how alive they felt when they sang with the chorus. Forever Young. This idea was juxtaposed with the reality that all life must end.

I encouraged you to watch the movie. It really is enjoyable. Funny. Intelligent. Heartbreaking. Real.
Check out their website, too.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gettin' My Old On

In just nine days I will celebrate my 40th birthday! Some women approach this societal milestone with trepidation. Me? I am so excited, I can hardly stand it! I have no idea why, but I am seriously giddy. I guess it could be because I've noticed subtle, positive changes in myself over the past few months, and I'm mentally relating those changes to the BIG 4-0. For example, I think I worry less about stuff I can't control. I find that eating healthier and exercising more are not as burdensome as I used to make them out to be. I'm pushing myself to try new things and to squeeze in a little time here and there to do something I enjoy. I can't shake the feeling that 40 is going to be an amazing year for me!

I do have one concern, though. It's this:
I have started hoarding money  in various and random containers. I hide these containers in my closet and tuck my sweaters around them. Nice and snug and safe. I think this means I'm getting old. Isn't this what old people do? Hoard money in their homes because they don't trust the banks? At least, that's what I think they do. I could be wrong. Or not.

I can totally justify my behavior. The Folgers container (a purchase made by my husband, not me, just to clarify) is my 40 X 4 cruise fund. (Bahamas in November or Bust, Baby!). I put my freelance and sub checks in here as well as any scavenged change. I didn't bother washing it because I love the coffee smell that greets my nose each time I put the lid. The Shatto milk bottle shelters mostly dimes and nickels. This is the peeps' allowance jar. They get a whopping 10 cents for completing certain chores around the house, and this is my stash from which I'll pony up. So, see? I have excellent reasons for hoarding money, and they have nothing to do with me not trusting banks.

Anyone else out there approaching 40? Already hit it? How do you/did you feel? Am I delusional for being ecstatic?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Share the Sucky Times, Too

I try to stay away from writing mom-related blog posts because there about 4,578,901 (I'm just estimating) mommy blogs floating around, and most of them are way better than anything I could write. But, sometimes, doing the mom-post  thing is necessary because it relates to my whole real-realty vs. ideal-reality theme I sort of have going on here. This is one of those times because, finally, some crazy lady admitted  - IN WRITING  FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO READ- that she isn't a perfect mom. GASP! And she signed her name. Ballsy. Big 'ol ballsy. You can read Jill Smokler's confession here. If you like that, check out her blog, Scary Mommy.

Most moms - and probably dads, too - want to be perfect parents. For whatever reason(s), we work overtime to create the illusion of perfect parenthood by cherry picking the unicorns, rainbows, and sunshiny days from our lives and sharing only those beautiful, pat-me-on-the-back moments with the outside world. Yes, there many times when our ideal reality morphs into our real reality.

But our collective real reality - the reality that connects parents regardless of time and place - is that, sometimes, being a parent just sucks.

Why can't we share those sucky times, too?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You Are Perfect For This Family

Here is a little slice of what makes my Real Reality so amazing:

The other evening after dinner, I was wiping Ruthie's sweet little hands and sweet little face clean. We had this conversation:

Ruthie: Mommy, you are perfect for this family.
Me: (cue tears): Wow! That was really nice of you to say. What made you think of that?
Ruthie: It was in my heart.

And my heart went pitter-patter.

Not to be outdone by her sister, Audrey followed on Ruthie's heels with this conversation:

Audrey: Mommy, you are smart and beautiful, and the Queen of Everything.
Me: Aw, thanks! That was really nice.

Hugs all around.

I must confess: Audrey (and to some extent, Ruthie) has been trained to tell me that I am smart, beautiful, and the Queen of Everything. But I'll take what I can get when I can get it.

Love those gals.

Ideal Realty Vs. Real Reality: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts ahead:

After my last post about the situation in Libya, and after listening to more news reports and firsthand accounts, it dawned on me. "It" being this (stay with me): Someone's Ideal Reality is alwas someone else's Real Reality, and someone's Real Reality is always someone else's Ideal Reality. For example, the majority of people in Libya apparently want freedeom and, possibly, a democracy that resembles that of the United States. Right now, that is their Ideal Reality, but it is my Real Reality. At this moment in time, I don't have an example of how someone's Real Reality is my Ideal Reality, but hopefully this made some sense. I have a bit of a cold - or allergies - so I'm a little muddled. One last thought on Libya: In the images I've seen, I see lots and lots of Libyan men in the streets protesting, but I don't see women and children along side them. I find this interesting, and it concerns me because that country cannot have true freedeom and a true democracy if they are not willing to let women (and children to some extent) have a voice. End of deep thoughts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NPR Interview With a Libyan Protester

I've taken to listening to NPR lately. I love the voices of the different radio personalities. There is just something so soothing and comforting in those voices. I also love the interview questions they ask their guests. Whether it's an author, an expert, or a person-on-the-street, the questions are intelligent and they really try to get to the heart of the topic. 

I don't get too caught up international politics, but it's hard to ignore what's taking place in North Africa and the Middle East. I heard this interview yesterday with a 31-year-old protestor in Tripoli, Libya. His words have stayed in mind. If you have time, click Listen to the Story. During the interview, Ahmed made the statement that they [the Libyans] are just "fed up." He said it more than once. But it was his tone that made me catch my breath. I knew it was the truth. He was just DONE.  And I know from experience that humankind can take quite a bit and carry quite a burden, but when it has had enough, it has had enough. It was the resolve and determination in Ahmed's voice that made me think, "They can do this. They can break this government."

I hope I'm right ... especially because Ahmed and his wife have a baby on the way. Thoughts and prayers to you, Ahmed.

Books and Blogs

Two books are on  my mind this week.

I just finished The Danger Box by Blue Balliett. It is one of my all-time favorite YA lit books. Charming, thrilling, mysterious, clever. Lovable characters. Well-researched. Blue (very cool name, yes?) is one of my favorite authors. I discovered her through Chasing Vermeer. Then I moved on to The Wright 3, and just devoured The Calder Game. These last three three books follow the adventures of the same three characters. Check them out! I'm on a hunt for more of Blue's writing.

The peeps are loving Emily Gravett's Orange Pear Apple Bear. Actually, I think they just like the picture of the pear bear because he has a big hiney, and the peeps are all about hineys right now. And that's ok. At least, that is what I keep telling myself.

Lastly, I am really enjoying Bull E. Vard's KC Beer Blog. If you're into beer, blogs, and/or Kansas City, get to reading!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of Marriott's and Monster Jams

Looks like I've been away for a little bit. Just haven't felt inspired. Or witty. I've just been pluggin' along.

Mark and I had a Marriott & Monster Jam-themed Valentine's Day celebration. Through a credit card promotion, I earned a free night's stay at Category 4 Marriott. In KC, a Category 4 means the downtown Marriott. As luck would have it, the Monster Truck Jam was in town (and downtown) Valentine's weekend. I've always wanted to go to a Monster Truck Jam (Bucket List Item), so we ordered up some tickets. It was great fun! My favorite was TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). I can't wait to go back and take the peeps. I snagged two bottles of Boulevard's Limited Edition , Much Coveted, Chocolate Ale (beer stalking does pay off). We drank a bottle in our hotel room pre-Jam. IT WAS SOOOOO GOOD!

Let's see. What else? Both peeps have been sick, but I think they are on the mend. I've applied for a few teaching jobs, and I'm freelancing for one of my previous employers. Oh! And I booked a November cruise for the Bahamas with three friends. We're calling it the 40X4 cruise.

I'll leave you with this random thought: Why are there hearts and flowers on my toilet paper? Do that many people really need pretty poo paper?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just Thinkin' Out Of My Head This Morning

I was listening to my car radio yesterday, and the song As She's Walking Away came on. It's by two country artists that I really enjoy: the Zach Brown Band and Alan Jackson. (Side note: AJ is my country singer boyfriend.) (2nd side note: Colin Firth is my British boyfriend). But I digress. There is a line in the song about "the one who got away."

That got me thinking: Am I anyone's "the one who got away"?  Hmmm ....

Well, enough of that. I'm on a quest today. Must find some of Boulevard's Chocolate Ale before it is gone ... gone ... gone.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Missing My Mom

Every time I hear the song, The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert, I cry. It makes me miss my mom so much. It also makes me want to go to our little house on 99th Street in Kansas City, knock on the door, and begged whoever lives there to let me in. For just a little bit. So I can collect the memories I didn't know I was supposed to be collecting when I when I lived there so long ago.

This is what's on my mind today ...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thoughts on The Face of War

The Face of War. Uplifting title, huh? It's the title of the book I've been reading lately. It's a collection of articles written by war correspondent, Martha Gelhorn (better known as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway). Martha covered various wars for nearly 50 years, starting with the Spanish Civil War in 1937. She visited the front lines of many, many wars, and was frequently the only woman to do so. She wrote about the people - civilians mainly - caught in the crossfire of wars created by a few men. She wrote about the aftermath of these wars and the affect they had on soldiers and people like you and me. It's a stunning portrayal. Candid. Human. I can't get this book out of my head. Here are a few thoughts from the book:

From The Battle of the Bulge, written January 1945. "On the night of New Year's Day, I thought of a wonderful New Year's resolution for the men who run the world: get to know the people who only live in it."

From The War in Java: "... a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon separates America from all of the people who have known war in their own countries. War, for Americans, is a fact but not a reality; it has not happened here in living memory. The history of the failed peace and the threatening future would be different if a few bombs had fallen on a few American cities during World War II. It is strange that too much safety should prove to be so dangerous." Yes, we had 9/11, which was a type of war. Still, the majority of us can't grasp the devastation and desperation that traditional war brings to people just like us. People who just want to make a living, be with their families, love, and smile. And I hope I never have to grasp that concept. I am very thankful to be an American, and very thankful for the men and women who choose to protect us at all cost. 

From They Talked of Peace, written December 1946. "For in the end, peace is not in the hands of delegates but in the hands of all people everywhere. It is an almost overpowering effort to be just, informed, sane and strong when you are worried about a roof over your head, money for food, for the children's shoes, for coal, for a little fun, worried and harassed by the daily unending problem of living. But it is an effort that must be made, for lasting peace is not going to come of itself, nor cheaply, nor due to someone else."

Marthal Gelhorn was a phenomenal writer and, at least to me, an interesting person. I've have the pleasure of reading one of her travel memoirs, her biography, and some of her letters. I find her to be intelligent, reflective, talented, and human. I am really looking forward to exploring her novels this year.

Now that I've gottent his out of my head, I'm moving on ... right upstairs to my cozy bed.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ideal Reality Vs. Real Reality: Another Literary Definition

If you've ever read the quote at the top of my blog, you know it relates to the struggle of desiring a life of ideal reality while having to accept a life of real reality. I love the quote because, to me, it defines a struggle that I imagine most of us battle daily.

I just started reading Steve Martin's book, The Pleasure of My Company,  and found this:

"Her  mind is being overwhelmed by two processes that must simultaneously proceed at full steam. One is to deal with and live in the present world. The other is to re-experience and mourn something that happened long ago. It is as though her lightness pulls her toward heaven, but the extra gravity around her keeps her earthbound." Wow. Yep. Ideal vs. Real.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Two New Things I Love

The peeps turned 4 years old this week! Happy Birthday, peeps! My sister bought them this:

And I think I have played it way more than they have. I am lovin' this game. Bye-bye aggression.

I bought myself this: 
My local Michael's is closing and everything in the store was marked 70% off. By the time I got to the sale, the store was stripped clean. But I found this print. Originally $11.99. It was love at first sight. I almost didn't buy it. I held it, then put it back. I held it again, and put it back. It's my shopping ritual. Finally, I held it and never let go. It made me smile. It made me giggle. It still does. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sprinkles, Please

Human behavior fascinates me, especially behavior that is out of my realm of possibility in my little world.

Take, for example, this funky little news article: Man assaults local Tim Horton's employee over doughnut sprinkles. Seriously? Sprinkles are disgusting! Heh heh heh.

Again, seriously. Depending on the type of day I was having, it would be in my realm of possibility to assault someone if I found one itty bitty speck of a sprinkle on my donut. And I wouldn't bother walking into the restaurant. I'd take care of bizness right there at the drive-thru. I'd just crawl right on in because I'm small but scrappy and extremely efficient.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Do You Take Your Play-Doh?

 I like mine like this:

Ahhh ... neat, orderly, each color in its proper container. I'm giddy just looking at this image. I also like my life like this. I used to be ashamed to admit it, but you know what? It works for me. But hold up. Let's whip out the monocle and examine this topic a little more closely.

Here's the interesting thing. (Are you ready? Hold on to your mind, this just might blow it right out of your beautiful head.) In my ideal reality, my life is a wild and crazy mish-mash of color. And in my real reality, my life is a wild and crazy mish-mash of color. For once, I have it both ways! Yet, for whatever reason, I can't quite come to terms that my real reality is one big mound of warm, oozy, smushed, smashed, somewhat salty multi-colored Play-Doh. Weird. I still try my darnedest to put my all the colors in my life into their proper container. Huh. I think I just uncovered an alternate ideal reality in which everything is ordered and precise. Whoa. I think I just blew my own mind. Need more coffee.

In my search to find an image of smushy, mixed up Play-Doh to represent my real reality (obviously, I came up with nada), I came across tons and tons of sites devoted to the age-old question: To mix or not to mix? Apparently, there is a raging debate on this subject. Just Google "mixing playdough colors." Of course, I should give props to Hasbro, the god/goddess of Play-Doh. According to the company, it is 100% A-OK to mix colors. (See the official Color Mixing Guide). How else would you get stunning colors such as Leaf, Plum, Sunset, Sky, Sea and Pumpkin?  And doesn't everyone's life need some stunning color from time to time? I know mine does. Perhaps it's time I start appreciating the colors I do have and mixing some new ones.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Found Another Treasure Box Book!

A quickie post: I just read Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen (Book No. 2), and the main character, Finn, has a treasure box! It's not called a treasure box, but Finn keeps his treasures in an old cigar box. I don't know about you, but it seems that every time something catches my attention - like these treasure boxes - it seems to pop up all the time. Coolio.

I also finished Book No. 3: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future by Michael J. Fox. Quick read. Fun. Recommend. I attempted to read his book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, but after 100 pages I just couldn't get into it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Life's Treasure Boxes

I finished reading Book No. 1 a few days ago! Only 110 left to go on my Centurions quest to read 111 books this year. Mama Mia!

I loved, loved, loved, loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows). Did I mention how much I love this book? It will always and forever be in my book collection. And I will always and forever want to travel to Guernsey. The writing was so alive that should I ever have the opportunity to explore Guernsey, I will expect to meet all of the characters whose letters made up the book. I still can't get over how, with so many characters, the authors manage to carve distinct and unique lives and voices for each of them. It's books like this one that make me realize I will never have what it takes to write a publishable book. Sigh.

One brief spot in the book, consisting of maybe four sentences, had me sobbing. Four-year-old Kit, the orphaned daughter of a woman who had been executed in a German concentration camp, toted a small box tied with ribbon with her wherever she went. Everyone called it her "treasure box." It wasn't until late in the novel that the box's treasures were revealed. It contained mementos of her mother, including the last note she had written concerning Kit.

Like Kit, my mother passed away when I was a young girl. A rare form of cancer. It was Halloween night, and I was five years old. I don't remember my mother well; I was young, and the passing years have stolen most of the concrete memories from my mind. But I have treasures, the most prized of which is a handwritten letter my mother sent to one of her friends when I was a toddler. In the letter, my mom wrote about my upcoming birthday, and the cake she was going to make for me. She sounded happy. I remember those cakes: Fluffy angel food with pink icing and little candy decals for decoration. They still make those decals, and I find myself buying some every year for my own daughters' birthdays. For some reason, her friend kept the letter and was kind enough to send it my way. I can see my mother's handwriting; I can hear her voice through those words.

But unlike Kit, I don't have a designated treasure box. My treasures are stored here and there around the house. But after reading this book (which, by the way, includes a few other characters who have treasure boxes), I want one. And I'm going to make one. Just for my mamma's stuff.

What about you? What do you treasure? And do you have a treasure box like Kit?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One-Word Goals for 2011

Catchy title, huh? Here's what I'll be up to this year. Best wishes to you and yours for a peaceful and prosperous new year!

Model. (Not the beauty kind of modeling. That would be a laugh and a half. The role model kind.)
Read. (Apparently the Centurions Group upped the ante to 111 books this year. YIKES!)

Book No. 1: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I'm on page 84 and HIGHLY recommend it! I can tell it's going to be one of my favorites