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Ghosts of Valentine’s Past

February 14, 2016

In case you ever wonder if it’s a good idea to look at your oldest emails from your oldest email account, let me just tell you: it’s not. I went searching for an email that I remembered my now-husband/then-friend-with-a-crush-on-me and stumbled into a whole other world. This is a world of when I was 19 and emotional crisis was my middle name. My students often ask me what I was like when I was their age and I give them an anecdote about my classes at MSU or the dorms and tell them carpe diem. They don’t ever need to know me as a fool, and lord, was I a fool. My emails from 2000 and 2001 are full of poetic deep thoughts, angst, and petty arguments when it came to boys. But the emails from my girlfriends were funny, poignant and supportive–a striking contrast to me now as an old-ish, grown-up lady.

In high school, Valentine’s Day wasn’t something that I remember celebrating with any boyfriends but I do remember bringing treats to school and giving out cards to my close friends and then handing extras to anyone that happened to be walking by. Not that much has changed in that aspect, you may notice. I had a ‘real’ Valentine’s date with my boyfriend my freshman year of college and I felt so adult–he borrowed a car from his brother, we went out to eat and we went to a spa place that now looking back on it, surely had to be closed for hygienic reasons because who ever thought a hot tub rental by the hour was a classy idea?

But then in 2001, it was all different. My sophomore year boyfriend and I were bickering constantly, only to have one of us call the other in tears (usually me) to apologize for whatever it was, only to have the other (usually him) bring up a new point about how we really weren’t compatible since we seemed to be always on the brink of imploding. I had a friend, this guy named Don, who seemed genuinely interested in listening to me ramble on and say things like “I just don’t feel like we are good together, but how can we not be good when I love him {sob, hiccup}…but we listen to the same music and have a deep connection and it’s just so confusing…” in a tone that ranged from sobbing to infuriated. [side note: how Don wanted to be with me after listening to all that insanity, I have no idea. I was really cute back then but cuteness can only go so far when the chick is clearly unstable…but a whole lot of fun.]

valentine 2001

But I didn’t go with Don to The Dollar [RIP, Dollar]. Instead for some crazy reason I had baked dozens and dozens of baked goods for my then-boyfriend’s fraternity. I can’t remember if they were using them for something Greek-ish or why on earth I had filled my apartment kitchen with mediocre baked goods. I had a literal crap ton of cookies and cupcakes and no one to give them to because whatever it was I had them made them for fell through. Luckily for me I had a friend who was always up for a challenge and an adventure and we filled my 1983 Pontiac 6000 [RIP, Bessie] with all the treats and then spent hours driving around campus delivering the goods. We parked illegally, ran through dorms, apartments, houses and campus buildings handing out cookies and cupcakes, all the time laughing hysterically because we were 19 and 20 and having a ball. I remember dropping Fran off at her dorm and then driving back to my apartment and feeling slightly sad that I hadn’t had a John Hughes moment with my boyfriend and listening to a song that had meaning to me then, a song by an esteemed artist named Uncle Kracker.

When I got back to my apartment there was a small rose bush sitting at my door with a card with a note reading “Te Amo. A Veces.” That summed it up perfectly.

Apparently Don forgave me for not hanging out with him that Valentine’s because a year later, we were newly married. We’ve had epic Valentine’s Day dates (fancy dinner! Phantom of the Opera!) and cozy dates–but now it’s a family affair. The kids get special breakfasts or dinners, hearts are made of hand prints and I think the last time we went to the theater was Phantom of the Opera in 2003. There may not be a lot of over the top dates, and our Valentine’s Days seem to blur together, especially when we threw the kids (so many kids) into the mix but we are never short on love. Love is all over the place around here–from the constant snuggles from the baby to the middle of the night hand holding. It’s hard to put into words. Just imagine that feeling you get when you find an extra $20 in your pocket mixed with falling asleep perfectly content in the warmest blanket you have. Bingo. That’s love around here.

But 15 years later, I feel like the Don of 2001 is a ghost–and so is that crazy girl he loved for some odd reason. Everything has changed and changed utterly, to quote William Butler Yeats.

However, he still calls me babe.

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Buy All The Things (As Long as They Fit Properly and are a Good Investment)

June 8, 2015

My 30 days of no shopping ends tomorrow or tonight at midnight, if you want to think of it that way. Last night in anticipation of my deadline ending I went to oldnavy.com just for a second to look at respectable shorts and other things I need. IMG_5699I told my husband I was working (I was working on some of my contract work) and then when he wasn’t looking I opened another window. I even put a few pairs of 7″ shorts in my virtual basket even though I wasn’t sure what size would fit and started browsing blouses even though I wasn’t sure if they would look right on my buxom self. While I was engrossed in the digital sorter of clearance (you can sort by COLOR now) Don walked by and asked what I was doing. I jumped and felt like I’d been caught red handed–and failing the 30 day challenge by one measly day. I deleted everything in my basket. Today when I got ready to run by work I had to look presentable so I wore a navy jersey dress with sandals and added a Pretty Particular statement necklace. It took me two seconds and I felt stylish and pretty.

Anyway, after I got home from errands and swimming with the kids I took a picture of my closet. This is what it looked like over 30 days ago and this is what it looks like today.

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

Upon cleaning out my closet I had a few mini epiphanies that I would like to share with you (and by you I basically mean Jane and Frances, since this whole thing was their idea and they reveled in my misery).

  • I need a jean vest. There were several times that I wanted something denim to put on over a dress or top that would make my outfit look cooler. It’s too hot for a jean jacket (I still wear my Gap Fall 2003 jacket religiously) but I could wear a vest and it would not be as hot.
  • My work clothes are basically a uniform of gauzy blouses and my one good pair of grey slacks (or jeggings that I wear on the sly and then hide from my Chair/Dean). I can’t stop wearing gauzy blouses because they are perfect for my workplace. It’s either stifling hot in my classroom or freezing cold. When it’s cold I can toss a cardigan or jean jacket over them but when it’s hot they are nice and airy and you can’t see the sweat dripping down my back. In order to make my work uniform look more put together I need to get a few metal statement necklaces and another well fitting pair of pants. I have my eye on Pixie Pants but I won’t buy them until I go and try them on. On my honor I will buy the proper size and then have them tailored if need be. I will not buy a smaller size and then tell myself that I will wear them with Spanx and lose 10 lbs. Cross my heart.
  • Grey sweatshirts are the best thing ever invented in the history of fashion. In college, which was very very long ago, I bought a grey hoodie from the Gap. It felt like heaven. However I promise not to buy anymore because I have two sweatshirts sans hoods and I do not need anymore.
  • When I think about clothes I love, I see my red sleeveless blouse from Loft that I bought on clearance last summer. I need more items that fill me with joy and can be worn not only at work but when I’m out in public with other adults. I seem to have only work clothes or soft clothes. There are very few items in my closet that scream date night or girls night or anything except “wear me to work” and “work is over so take off your pants.” Or maybe I should rephrase that as “take off all your restricting clothes and put on sweats and one of your husband’s shirts.”
  • Stripes are classic but I have too many striped shirts. I vow to not buy anymore.
  • None of my shorts fit or if they fit they are not appropriate to wear at my kid’s school/at my summer workshop/on a date/in a place where anyone takes a picture of me. I will buy at least two pairs of 5″ or 7″ shorts that are appropriate and donate my inappropriate ones.
  • I’m going to master the old school wearing of a silk scarf. I don’t really know exactly how this will happen or when but I have several of my late grandmother’s silk scarves and I am going to bring them back. I even have a few brooches from her as well. Do I dare?
  • My kids need nothing. Ever. I started sorting out their clothes and they have stuff they haven’t ever worn and we get hand me downs for the girls all the time so I really have no excuse. My next endeavor is to donate/sell in lots on yard sale pages and consolidate their wardrobes.
  • I will concede that an organized, pared down wardrobe makes it infinitely more enjoyable to get ready. Usually I stand in my closet, in front of my Crate and Barrel mirror from 2003 that was my first real adult purchase that I will never part with, sans pants while I lament that I have nothing to wear. I do have things to wear and it’s much easier to find my red top and navy blue jersey dress and accessories.

The 30 days gave me enough time to evaluate my clothing and to pare down. But would I do it again? Oh hell no. Even a relatively clean closet and slightly stronger self control doesn’t hold a candle to the rush that finding that top on sale with a coupon code and rewards cash for later brings. But I can’t buy it because it sold out in the 30 days that I wasn’t shopping. I’m going to go cry in my clean closet now.

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Unshopping update and soft pants

May 25, 2015

It’s been almost two weeks since I went public with my plan to stop shopping. I have gone into Target, TJ Maxx and Gap Outlet (exhale) and didn’t buy anything against the rules. Jane is keeping my accountable and makes me show her my receipts. She gets a sick pleasure out of this challenge, even though she will deny it. At TJ Maxx I only bought two organizing soft cubs, a hamper for Lu’s room and a clearance candle, which was clearly a necessity. We have four kids and three pets: it gets stinky around here sometimes. At Target I only purchased necessities and I didn’t even look at the clearance rack, even though I really need some shorts of an appropriate length. And while we were in Destin, Don had to go to the watch outlet and we needed another rash guard for the boys, which ended up being a waste because they took them off anyway.

I’ve cleaned out some of my closet but I’m not ready to show it to anyone yet. I still need to get the clothes that I’m keeping hung up and organized but I’ve managed to pare down my wardrobe quite a bit. A friend who drank the capsule wardrobe Kool-Aid told me about Style Encore (like Plato’s Closet for not teenagers) and I sold several items for a total of $85. A lucky friend in Michigan got a box of my “I just need to lose 15 more lbs” clothes to keep or pass on to her college aged daughter. There are a couple large bags of items to be donated as well, but somehow even with all that out of the equation, my closet doesn’t look right quite yet.

There are things I love that don’t love me back. I struggle with keeping these items; like any true hoarder, I have emotional attachments to my things. One of my new favorite items (purchased before the shopping fast) are soft pants from Old Navy. I bought them on sale ($12!) when I was in Michigan for a GMT (long story) with some of my friends from college. Frances and I drank breakfast margaritas while we got ready for a fun day of eating and shopping and this made our trip to ON even more exciting. Frances was so excited she stripped a mannequin to get the right pattern pants and Jane pretended that she didn’t know us while we giggled with anticipation over our super awesome deal. Jane thinks that soft pants are great for inside your home and probably shouldn’t be worn in public under the guise of being real pants. Frances and I were determined to prove her wrong.

The soft pants were on a special sale and I really wanted a pair. In case you don’t know what soft pants are, they are amazing pants that feel like pajamas but are appropriate to wear in public. Trendy, even. My students wear them all the time and manage to look put together and fashionable. This is not the case when I wear them.

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Exhibit A

They do feel like heaven. But in full disclosure, I am not 5’10” nor am I am able to wear an XS. I have on a medium tank and pants here. Lu took the picture, which is why my face looks weird (but my hair looks great). I wore my trendy pants to pick up my girls from pre-school and my friend Erin, who is known for her candor and bluntness, asked “Are you wearing pajamas?” No, I am wearing really cool trendy soft pants! Right? Maybe if I had on a dressy top and cute sandals they would look less like pajamas and more like really awesome pants. But I can’t buy any white dressy tops right now (I have one that needs to be altered that I could maybe wear someday?) and flip flops are all that I ever wear, so that’s that.

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Jane 1

Unshopping for 30 Days

May 12, 2015

I shuddered a little as I typed those words. My best friend Jane dared me to stop shopping completely for the next 30 days. In my defense, I have a lot of people to shop for in this house–the kids are constantly growing/ruining things/looking like an orphan character out of a Dickens novel. That’s my excuse but it doesn’t hold a lot of water when it comes down to it. I can borrow from my bf-neighbor Rachel and she gives me giant bags of hand me downs for the girls. As much as I want to blame my impulse shopping on the kids, I can’t. I find things regularly that have tags on them that the kids never wore because I either forgot about it, it didn’t work with seasons or I couldn’t remember why I bought it in the first place aside from the fact it was on clearance. When I see the 70% off sign at Target it’s like an out of body experience–when GAP has 50% off sale plus an extra discount for cardholders, I basically lose consciousness. When I come to I have bags of things in my arms and sweat has formed all along my brows (the ones I filled in with my Benefit Brow Zing).

Wasting money is stupid and wrong and I know I need to crack down. There are months when I’ve gone through out bank statement to make a point to my husband about his spending and I’ve seen too many transactions that were mine and I couldn’t remember why I’d gone to the store in the first place nor recall a single real item I had purchased. Costco does not count. I can see the fruits of my labor there when I open my freezer and pantry; there’s no getting around that and I very rarely buy random crap from Costco, except for that time I got make up all over my shirt before work and picked up a lacey shirt for $9.99. I think if I tried to wear it ironically a la GIRLS it would work but it just makes me look like a middle aged mom. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But I have nothing to wear. I have a closet of clothes that are just a little too snug. I wear the same outfits over and over to work (dress pants– until I get tired and switch to jeans and hide from my boss–, blouse-like shirt and boots or flats). I rarely wear dresses but toward the end of the year when it warmed up I did wear a few to work and my students looked suspicious, like I was going on a job interview or had a date lined up.

In the next 28 days (today is day 2 of no shopping), I won’t buy any make up, clothing, shoes, beauty products, toys for kids (with the exception of Lucy’s birthday)–I probably won’t even set foot at the mall for fear of temptation. Target may be my biggest obstacle so I may have to avoid it as well and stick to only buying groceries and household necessities (as in there’s nothing left at all and it needs to be replaced). I may die.

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I’m only a little ashamed.

But alas, something needs to be done. I have so much laundry that I can’t even begin to keep up with it and there are several baskets of clean clothes just sitting in my room that clearly we don’t need because they’ve been sitting there for weeks. And yes, that’s my side of the closet and yes, I am wearing a bridesmaid dress from Frances’ 2006 wedding because I wanted to see if it still fit (it doesn’t) and Jane and Frances asked to see what my closet looks like. In 28 days I will post a new picture of a practically empty, soulless, less hoarder-like closet. My husband might cry when it’s finally all said and done. His one issue with buying this house was that we would have to share a closet–a closet that is not much smaller than the bedrooms we’ve shared when we were first married. First world problems, right?

Day 1: Lunch with Dwaynia, who agrees with everything Jane says, except she would wear soft pants $10

Borrowed cowboy boots from a dance mom (thanks, Joy!)–$0

Day 2: Lent a shirt to Rachel; didn’t buy anything at all

For Kari

September 4, 2014

We were only a few weeks into the school year when we saw him. I was a freshman at Michigan State University in the fall of 1999 and the excitement and anxiousness of living away from home had started to turn into over caffeinated comfort. Jenna was my high school best friend, my roommate freshman year and on this day, my partner in crime. Grand River Avenue, lined with college town shops and restaurants was still a source of wonder to us–so many places to explore. I had picked up a pair of boots that day at a now defunct bootery and had been excited to use my very first credit card for the very first time. We walked back to the dorm, chattering about our new friends in the dorm. One of our new friends was a girl from Muskegon, Michigan, named Kari who had a penchant for hair dye, ’70s rock bands and squirrels. She had recently introduced us to her taxidermy friends, Skippy and Petey. Kari loved squirrels and would often chase them around campus as she yelled “chitter chitter.”

A squirrel had met its match on Grand River Avenue a few days before. The ants and other insects had stripped its body of most of the meat, leaving a furry but mostly intact carcass. The body was on the edge of the road, close to the sidewalk. I’m not sure what came over me, but I began to giggle uncontrollably as I asked Jenna if we should give it to Kari. Jenna, usually the more practical of the two of us, laughed as well and agreed to help me transport the body. I tossed my new boots in my backpack and gingerly moved the squirrel into the shoe box. It has a slight dead animal smell so I held the box out in front of me as we walked back to the dorms, still laughing at the absurdity. We thought Kari would laugh at the gag; there had been no animosity in our plan.

Once we got back to our dorm room, we found an old paper bag and wrapped the shoe box with care. “To KaRi A105 BaILeY HaLL” we wrote on the front in disguised handwriting. “FrAJiLe” I wrote as I laughed hysterically, “PLeaSe HaNdLe with CARE.” The package was ready for delivery. I ran down the long hallway of the dorm, knocked on her door, and dashed back to my room. Only Kari wasn’t home but her roommate Sheena, a quiet, no nonsense girl from Mississippi was and she opened the door, looked down the hall, grabbed the package and closed the door.

That was it. Our plans for a hilarious reaction from Kari had been dashed by our lack of planning–we hadn’t thought to make sure that Kari was home when we made the delivery. We retreated back to our dorm room and worked on homework while we waited for Kari to get home. Hours passed and our excitement  and anxiousness started to wane. Finally, we gave up and went to bed, momentarily forgetting about the package.

The next morning, we ran into Sheena on the way to class. We asked her if Kari had gotten the package. “She sure did,” she replied in her drawl, “I made sure to set it on her bed so she could see it when she came in. I left before she opened it. But she was really sad about her grandma, so whatever it was I hope it cheered her up.”

“What is wrong with her grandma?” asked Jenna nervously.

“Oh, she passed away. Kari packed up and left early this morning to go home to her family,” Sheena said.

I stared at Jenna as an awful feeling began to envelope my stomach. She stared back at me. We were at a loss for words. We didn’t have Kari’s parents’ phone number and we didn’t have cell phones. We would have to wait several days for Kari to come back before we could apologize and explain the situation. We rode our bikes back down Grand River Avenue to find the perfect condolence cards to give to Kari and left them in her room on bed so she could see them as soon as she came in.

Days later, Kari returned and we were able to apologize in person for the horrible prank gone wrong. She told us that she had been crying and then saw the package and started to laugh, only to start crying again once she saw the contents. The dead squirrel prank gone wrong proved to be not all bad–even now, 15 years later, when we reminisce about our days in Bailey Hall, the story of the squirrel carcass still comes up. And Kari is still my friend.

 

 

The Last 8 months

May 1, 2014

I wrote a nice long blog post about the last 8 mos. I talked about Evie J and my new job as as English instructor at a local university.

 

And I don’t know where it went. I saved it as a draft. It’s gone. So to summarize:

  • I had a baby, she is cute and fun.
  • I just finished my first year teaching.
  • I learned a lot from my students and they learned a lot from me. I hope.
  • I quote Kanye West lyrics as much as possible in my classroom.
  • I’m really happy to have a teacher’s schedule and be home with my kids.
  • I say that now, but I will probably lose my mind a little each day.
  • That being said, I will try to blog about have a kick ass summer as cheaply as possible.

The End.

Pregnancy Rage

July 8, 2013

I haven’t been as angry this pregnancy and I was three years ago when I was expecting Lucy. I may have an extra kid to schlep around town, but she’s super cute and I’m only working 2.5 days in the office and from home in the mornings when I’m not in the office, so it’s manageable. Three years ago I was working 40 hours a week in the office and had a 3 and 5 year old that fought incessantly while I attended grad school at night a couple days a week. I kind of had a lot on my plate, especially when you consider I was taking a freaking Chaucer class and I hate hate hate middle English. I may have cried a lot in that class, especially when I had to write a 20 page seminar paper on something Chaucer related and when our prof, who was a really nice guy, kept saying “speculum” in reference to a literary magazine but I laughed so hard I almost wet my 32 weeks pregnant pants.

It’s hasn’t been a particularly hot summer and we’ve managed to stay pretty busy between play dates, the boys’ trip to Michigan and now VBS. God bless VBS. Those lovely people at my kids’ church are teaching them songs and other fun things about how Jesus is their friend and loves them (it’s United Methodist, which I find to be one of the “more love, less hell fire” types of churches) for a couple hours a night every day this week.

My jobs haven’t even been that annoying this summer. I’m going to go ahead and pound on my faux wooden desk right now. I don’t know if it because my schedule is less demanding or if everyone knows that I’m one “Why aren’t you answering the phones? Aren’t you the receptionist?” away from  a stabbing but everyone is keeping their distance and not annoying the crap out of me. [I am NOT the receptionist. I am the social media/PR person but we keep losing receptionists so sometimes I fill in BECAUSE I’M NICE.] My other job consists of me trying to find something interesting and witty to write about a local ginormous company that manufactures telecom networking equipment, which is easier said then done. I rack my brain trying to keep their social media feeds interesting and engaging and then someone posts a picture of the company name carved in a watermelon and that’s what ends up going viral?

Sure, the rage surfaces now and again over inane things. I know I’m entering that last couple months where you just start to hate everyone in general. Oh and if one more person asks if I’m having twins, I may kick them.

30ish weeks, NOT twins.

30ish weeks, NOT twins.