I swear…

Have you seen the prices of movies these days? I mean, have you seen them?  I suppose there are some places in the country where you can get into a matinee pretty inexpensively…but where I live that is not the case.  A matinee ticket costs $10.  A matinee!

That doesn’t sound expensive to you? Well, factor in the cost of a drink and some buttered popcorn – must haves for the movie-going experience with your daughter, let’s say, and all of a sudden you’re spending more than the GDP of many small countries.

In 2015 and 2016 there are a ton of movies coming out – especially Marvel Comic movies which happen to be our personal favorites – like another Avengers, Ant Man, Doctor Strange, and another Captain America….not to mention Deadpool (YAY!!), Woman in Black 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Jurassic World, Suicide Squad, and X-Men Apocalypse. The list just goes on and on.

I want to see them all, but I’m shuddering at the cost and 2015 isn’t even here yet!

Last night, my kids and I were sitting around talking about such things as the Marvel Universe and trying to figure out a way for us to afford to go to all of these movies.  We had what seemed like a brilliant idea – we’d start a slush fund of some sort so we’d have money saved up for when the movies came out.

But just how would we fund this slush fund?

We adjourned and went our separate ways promising to think about it… as I was leaving the room my eye caught sight of a cat in a precarious position in a spot where it knew damn well it didn’t belong. Without thinking (as so often happens), I let loose a loud verbal assault on said cat that included a few choice unprintable words (my mother reads this blog after all).

And a somewhat sarcastic, somewhat serious light bulb went off above my head.

“A ha!” I said. “How about a Swear Jar? Every time one of us swears, a dollar goes into the Swear Jar. By the time Avengers Age of Ultron is released, we’ll have a tidy sum.”

I have to admit that the language in our house is less than nice and sometimes…just sometimes…sounds like a sailor’s convention (if there ever were such things).

Of course my kids laughed but they too immediately saw the pure genius behind this plan, because, after all, they do live here and therefore know that if walls could talk…well…ours would definitely be censored.

Our celebration over this clever fundraising idea was short lived however once reality reared its ugly head.  I mean, let’s face it, when all is said and done, given the frequency with which we’d be paying, we’d just end up having to borrow money from the swear jar to pay the swear jar.

Needless to say, we’re working on a new plan.

Christmas Nerds

So this Christmas is going to be a somewhat lean one for my kids and me – and that’s okay. It’s not something we can’t work through. As we were talking about gift giving for the upcoming holiday, we decided that we’d choose presents we could sort of give to ‘each other’ to share – communal presents as it were, within a certain cost range.

Rather than purchase several gifts for each of us individually, we would choose a special gift that my son and I would give each other to share that would benefit the “whole” and, likewise, a gift that my daughter and I would give each other that would benefit the “whole.” You get the idea.

Anyway.

The choice of presents was theirs and theirs alone…I left that up to them and figured I would be content with whatever they decided. I just wanted them to be happy. They could’ve chosen anything. Here’s what they came up with. Needless to say, they did my geeky little heart proud. Our mutual love for Marvel Comics and Doctor Who runs deep. I love, love, love my Christmas nerds!

Sarah's Choice (to add to our Marvel collection)

Sarah’s Choice (to add to our Marvel collection)

Jake's Choice (we're all Whovians in this house)

Jake’s Choice (we’re all Whovians in this house)

Moving Daze

No one has ever accused me of being a hoarder. Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat. I’m not going to be the subject of a docudrama airing on A&E that chronicles my struggles with throwing out a three-foot thick (and growing!) bundle of used chopped sticks or mountain of “recycled” dryer sheets I need a step-ladder to reach the top of. Definitely I am no hoarder. I can navigate through all the rooms in my house with ease instead of shimmying through a narrow path I’ve cut out through stacks of old TV Guides and flattened cereal boxes.

Am I a pack rat? A stronger case could be made for this classification, I’m sorry to say. I came to this shameful realization just recently when I had to box up everything I own and move into a new place.  I guess the time has flown by since the last time I had to do this because it was pretty close to being utter hell. The entire process of moving is fraught with stress. Having too much stuff but too few boxes was a source of constant concern during the whole thing. It got so bad I was reduced to scrounging for empty boxes from grocery stores.  Now half my stuff smells like Aisle 5 of the local Acme.

Once I did have enough boxes the next obstacle was transporting them. Sounds simple. You load the box, you carry it to the car, you drive to the new place, you carry it inside, you unload it. Easy peasy, right? It would be except that it slipped my mind that boxes have these pesky things called “weight limits.” I loaded many of them up well past their limit without knowing it. The heavy boxes filled with books inevitably ended up falling apart half way between the truck to the house leaving all my precious novels scattered on the pavement and me in need of yet another box to re-pack them into. Okay, well, several boxes.

On top of my admitted clutter problem (I promise to seek help for it one day) and my inability to consider the tensile strength of cardboard, I also have a looming procrastination condition that leaves me constantly at war with myself. I had these aspirations floating around in my head that when I’d be moving I’d be neat and orderly and well-coordinated.  All the boxes would be clearly labeled and stacked together in neat piles just like how the Brady Bunch would do it. It’s a pity to confess that what actually happened ended up looking more like a moving job performed by The Clampetts on their way to Beverly Hills. All my earthly treasures were thrust together without rhyme or reason, tied down with a coarse rope, and rattling around during the whole ride as I hoped whatever I heard just break wasn’t something too important.

But in the end, the job got done. Now I’m not saying it was the prettiest or the most efficient or, hell, even the most sane, but all my stuff made it from Point A to Point B. That’s all that matters.

Now onward to the unpacking!

Gone too Soon

Knowing what we know about owning a pet, why do we own them? We form these intense attachments, give them our all—fall in love even—all the while knowing that they will leave us much sooner than we would like them to. Much sooner. Dogs…we’re lucky if we get 15 years out of them. Cats, a little less. Of course if you own a turtle or a snake you’ll get a bit more mileage out of them, but I’m mainly talking about the snuggly, furry critters we curl up with on the couch and in bed; the cuddly creatures that lick our noses and nuzzle into our warm bodies with all the fervor they can muster.

They give us everything we want out of a companion, how could we not swoon head over heels for them!? For true dog lovers (yes, I’m going to focus on dogs for the rest of the entry), our pets become a part of the family. In turn the dogs love us unconditionally. They’re not edging for an advantage. They don’t have ulterior motives (except maybe a scrap of food from the dinner table). Their love is pure, untarnished, and genuine.

There’s an old joke I like to think about. It goes: lock your significant other and your dog in the trunk of a car, come back in an hour, and see which one is happy to see you. It’s true. The dog would be ecstatic! They’re happy to see you no matter what. You could be gone for a week on a trip to Fiji or just run out to the mailbox. It doesn’t matter. You walk through that front door and the dog’s happiness level is going to be maxed out.

They share in our joys, our failures, our celebrations, our breakups, our new jobs, our firings, our new babies, our mourning, our happiness, the excitement of holidays, and the mediocrity of our stale, humdrum weekdays. They’re not even put off when we’re sick in bed, sniffling and moody with red noses and sweaty palms…instead they snuggle right there with us and keep us company when no one else will.

Even just a simple walk around the block or a car ride to the grocery store elicits their sheer joy and how is that not infectious!? When we’re at our best they’re there to keep us up. More importantly, when we’re at our worst they pull us up.  Sometimes a dog is what helps us get us through the most depressing times in our life. Sometimes they’re the only thing.

Another benefit that fellow humans don’t offer us? The silence. We can divulge our darkest secrets, confess our most embarrassing thoughts and they’re kept in the doggy vault. The pressure comes off our chest, absorbed by the dog, and transformed into unfiltered acceptance. What a perfect system! They don’t care whether we act silly, if we can or can’t dance, if we sing off-key or not. Hell they’ll act silly with us!

Then, they’re gone. No amount of love or strength of resolve can fight Father Time. When they leave they take a piece of our heart with them. Why can’t they stay longer? The answer, I know, is basic biology. Their life span is what they’re given and we can’t change that.

But the next question is, knowing that this heartbreak is inevitable, that the loss is sooner in our future than we would like, why do we do it? Our hearts are smashed to pieces by the passing of this four-legged creature, but what do we do?

Shortly thereafter (or maybe even immediately after) we seek to ease the sadness, to fill the void, so we find another four-legged love-bug to give ourselves to. We sign up for the process all over again. Get a new best friend, go through all the ups and downs that come with having the perfect partner in crime, and then experience the same sadness all over again. We open our hearts to these pawed angels only to almost destroy ourselves with their love and their leaving.

Why?  Because that bond, that unconditional love (that goes both ways), is worth it.  It is sooo worth it. If it wasn’t worth it, if it wasn’t love, well then it wouldn’t hurt so badly, would it?

Mushroom Musing

I’m sure I had you all fooled, but believe it or not I might not have been the smartest kid in the world. Shocking, right? I wasn’t exactly getting invited to join MENSA on my fifth birthday or beating Deep Blue at chess matches in my free time, and that’s okay. I wasn’t a child prodigy but I was still smarter than my brother and during those precious years of childhood that was all that mattered. In hindsight it wasn’t even a fair fight. He was gullible as anything (which in most cases is an endearing trait but when you have siblings it’s a death sentence) and it didn’t help matters that when I was young, I looked like a sweet angel with nary a devilish thought in her precious little head. It didn’t take me long to realize that the way I was being judged on the outside could certainly be a benefit in successfully getting away with whatever mischievous acts my prank-filled head came up with.

A perfect example of my brother’s credulity comes in the form of a story that’s often told around my mother’s table as a cautionary tale about me. I’m not sure I think that’s fair. But you can judge for yourselves.

One night way back when, we were all out at a restaurant called White Coffee Pot Jr. having a nice family dinner. My brother ordered Salisbury Steak complete with gravy and mushrooms. I, on the other hand, did not order Salisbury Steak complete with gravy and mushrooms.  It didn’t take long though for me to wish very much that I had.

Now, it was quite obvious that my brother was enjoying the hell out of his mushrooms.  So naturally my first thought was to find some way to spoil it so that he would end up giving me his mushrooms. I desperately wanted those mushrooms and had to make him so disgusted at the thought of them that he’d just give them up. Yeah, well, don’t cry too hard for him. Remember, he’s the older brother so you can be sure he messed with me on a daily basis. This was just karma rearing its ugly head. No matter that I was only six years old at the time. By then I was already a well-honed grifter. For those of you with siblings, I’m sure you understand.

I started out playing it coy by planting just a little seed of doubt in his head which quickly escalated to a full on sequoia of uncertainty (after all, I had to get to him before he ate them all or they got cold). A few of the well-timed and expertly calculated phrases included the following:

“Hey, are you suuuure those are mushrooms?”

“You know, I think maybe the cook made a mistake. I’m not sure I’d eat them if I were you.”

“They kinda look a little like toadstools to me.”

“Do they taste funny?”

“You know, you’re looking a little peaked…”

I tossed out all of these questions in a nice, easy-going conversational tone with very subtle yet significant pauses in-between. As the inquiries mounted so did his scrutiny over the dish. I watched his hesitance blossom as the inquisition went on, each question hammering away at his defenses. And voila! The mushrooms were mine.

Big Brother: 0 Little Sister: 1.

It was a very convincing performance if I do say so myself. I’m no Meryl Streep but I really do think I should have an Oscar on my mantle.  The good side to this social experiment, besides my victory with a reward of mushrooms to celebrate, is that my brother lost just a tad bit of his gullibility. I gave him a life lesson free of charge and do you know that to this day he’s never even thanked me? So ungrateful.

ME in blue dress

never judge a book by its cover

Where can I get a Wife? Seriously. (Redux)

After a day like I had yesterday, I thought I would re-run an article that I originally posted February 19, 2014.  Trust me, it’s just as relevant today as it was then.

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Like everyone else out there, my life is filled with plenty of stress. I never seem to have the time to work through everything on my plate. With a family and work and my own life all vying for attention I routinely find it difficult not just in getting ahead but staying in place. Sound familiar? Well, lucky me, I’ve finally figured out the key to how I can finally juggle all these challenges. I offer this suggestion up to you as well – take heed as it may be the perfect solution to all of your woes as well.

I need a wife. I really, really need a wife.

Imagine how great it would be to have a wife helping out. Oh my god, wives are the best! Instead of just being one I’m giddy about how much easier my life would be if I had one. In the morning I would be able to wake up and actually enjoy a cup of coffee. Perhaps even while sitting down (the thought alone makes me a little woozy). My current way of drinking coffee is a bit convoluted.  You see, first I wake the kids up and get them ready for school (anyone with kids will know how that endeavor usually works), then I make the bed, take the dog out, start a load of laundry, clean cat litter, drive the kids to school, run errands, and then upon my return home, I finally have coffee as I sit down to start my work day. So the idea of simply waking up, stumbling to the kitchen and having a cup of coffee while sitting and enjoying the nothing that would be the start of my day could very well be Nirvana.

vintage housewife

In the evenings, with Wife streamlining activities, I’d be able to sit down and eat dinner. NOT a dinner I slaved over, mind you, which has cooled on my plate by the time I’m able to sit down. Oh no.  Instead I’d be able to waltz into the dining room right as it’s being plated up, able to savor the aromas, and have that sense of wonderful surprise when I find out what’s been prepared. “Veggie casserole? My favorite! Wife…you’re amazing.”  Of course I’d also have the privilege of turning my nose up at the meal if I happen to not be in the mood for it. “Eggplant parmesan? Meh, not really feeling it today. We had to have this?” I could also nitpick and complain about a missing spice or how the noodles aren’t truly al dente. Oh yes, this would be nice.

Another fantasy of mine that Wife could make a reality is the hot shower. I could take a hot shower.  As in, jump right in when the water’s hot and take a shower. I’m grinning ear to ear like a fool right now just pondering the joy inherent in such an event. There’d be no sorting of the laundry left lying on the bathroom floor. Or picking up stray towels. Or wiping down the sink (I mean, really, does no one else see that!?).  Just a beeline right to a piping hot shower with a towel that someone else had washed and stacked neatly for my use.  I could get used to this!

vintage housewife 2

To end the night I’d be able to collapse directly into bed. I would announce to all and sundry “I’m going to bed,” and simply go to bed. I wouldn’t have to do the nightly inspection of every room to clean up errant cups and re-organize scattered papers. I wouldn’t have to check to make sure the kids have done their homework (homework? what’s homework?). The pets would already be fed and the litter—which seems to always require attention—would be taken care of. I wouldn’t have to stress over what tomorrow’s dinner will be or make a mental grocery list or get anxious about whether or not I’m going to remember the kid’s doctor appointment or try to figure out the best time to drop off the overdue library books or remind myself for the 3rd time to call the insurance company to question that charge in the morning or spend the last minutes of my full day figuring out how to rob Peter to pay Paul to get the bills paid. No.  None of that.  I would just drift off into a dreamless sleep and actually rest, mind unfettered with the myriad of mundane details in running a household.

vintage housewife3

And best of all.  Best. Of. All.  Wife would nurse me back to health when I’m sick. How great would that be?  No doing chores with a head cold and fever. Instead I’d have soup brought to me (without my having to explain where the soup is or how to make it).  Tissues would be placed at my bedside with the old nasty ones being carted off and thrown away.  I could stay in bed wrapped in the covers recovering from whatever illness has taken hold drinking tea that Wife would have made for me (much like with the soup, Wife would already know the location of the tea and what to do with it to turn into a delicious thirst quencher). And it’s not like the chores would just be left, undone, waiting for my return to health.  Wife would have taken care of everything.  I have goose-bumps just thinking of it!

These Wives are pretty nifty inventions.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this before.  But I think we all need to jump on the Wife bandwagon and snag one as quickly as we can.

housewife

To clean or not to clean

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with her work but Phyllis Diller once said, “Trying to clean a house with small children in it is like trying to shovel the walk while it’s still snowing.” To that I say, TOO TRUE. While my children are no longer remorseless litterbugs disguised in Osh Kosh B’Gosh, it’s still a saying that rings true to me to this very day.

Let me just go right ahead and cop to being an attention deficit freak. My attention span flits around quicker than a hummingbird at a honeysuckle festival. Equally strong is my desire…no, it’s more of an obsessive need…for organization and order. The problem that I constantly war with myself over is that while I have an impressively low ability to stay focused on things I know I really should care about but don’t (like cleaning), I love having a neat, organized, and clean house. I think you can see why this is a problem. Maintaining a household is flat out work. Constant work. And it’s boring….oh so incredibly boring! In my ideal world my house is always a spotless sanctuary. I can see it when I close my eyes. I know what it would look like if it reached that utopic level, but trudging through the tedium to get there is a damn near impossibility.

Please tell me I’m not alone in this. I feel this is a problem many of us share. We’re standing at the base of this mountain and can see the summit. We visualize how great it would be to be on the peak (oh, what a great Facebook profile pic that would make!) and we know the utter sense of success that would wash over us, but the one thing getting in our way is actually climbing it. My house is my mountain. While it definitely has a comfy “lived in” feel and while there may be little messes lying around here and there, the ultimate cleanliness is a far cry.

Maybe this is okay. Maybe the comfort that comes from knowing the house is not just a house but a home is better than having it ready for any unexpected visits from Better Homes & Gardens. Proof of a family living and loving and going through their lives as a unit can contain much more beauty than a streak-less mirror or sparkling counter top. This is what I tell myself when I see an unfolded blanket half on the sofa and half on the floor (and most likely with a cat hiding underneath). It only got that way because someone that I care for intensely was there using it the night before while playing video games. You can have your solo mountain top photo, I think maybe I’ll be okay here at the bottom drinking and occasionally spilling hot chocolate with the lovable mess I call family.