Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Monogrammed, Non-Scary Bunny . . . and Other Flights of Fancy

My love of personalization is, apparently, legion. Also well-known: my love of whimsy in general. It was because of my love for whimsy that I was tapped to reintroduce the Easter tea to Junior Woman's Club a couple of years ago. And, as a direct outgrowth of my service as Easter tea chair:

1) I first became aware of the importance of securing a "non-scary bunny" costume for one's Easter tea; and

2) After said tea, I remained involved as a JWC "big board" member, which involvement culminated in my service as president, which service entitled me to an honorarium.

Re: 1), when I called the costume company to reserve a bunny, they actually asked if I wanted the "scary" or "non-scary" version.

"Um, I'm not looking for a Halloween costume. This is for a children's event."

"Understood, but we have two variations of Easter bunny. One is sort of evil-looking. The other one is MUCH cuter, but it will cost you $15 extra."

Begging the question - does anyone actually OPT for a sort of evil-looking bunny? Answer: Well, yes, if they are cheapskates. Or secretly hate kids. Or fail to timely reserve the non-scary version.

I never have witnessed the scary rabbit, but in my active imagination he has giant, blood-dripping fangs, a la the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, and he may, just possibly, have an axe protruding from his bunny skull . . . or a ski mask . . . or metal talons for claws.

When I turned over my officer notebook at the end of that club year, I concluded my report with the warning, "Make sure that you reserve - and budget for - the NON-SCARY BUNNY."

Re: 2), the honorarium is supposed to be an item that is related to the president's theme and that is of permanent benefit to the club. Hence, the president whose theme was "A Tradition of Southern Grace and Charm" was honored with a bench for the front yard of the club building. In keeping with the theme, "JWC - The Art of Fun and Friendship," my immediate predecessor got to meet with a local artist and select the subject matter of an original painting that now hangs in the club's informal room.

Again, my executive committee knew that I'm all about the whimsy (hence my theme - "JWC - Young at Heart") but am also, somewhat paradoxically, all about the practicality. I was on record that we needed to invest in our own non-scary bunny costume. And so it was that I came to have a giant rabbit endowed in my honor:

You aren't supposed to get your honorarium until the end of the year, but - again, because of my need to be practical - the decision was made to buy a non-scary bunny costume prior to this year's Easter tea and present it to me at our March board of directors meeting. Needless to say, I was taken completely by surprise. Honestly, who expects to learn on the odd Thursday that an oversized, sort-of-rodent has been endowed in their name? And I do mean "in my name," because . . . THEY MONOGRAMMED THE BUNNY FOR ME. To be more precise, they had a label embroidered inside the costume, with my name, the club year and the club's crest:

See? Exactly like one would label the inside of a wedding dress.

The only thing that would have made it more perfect is if they had opted for a large "K" for the bunny's chest - like Laverne's "L" sweater on Laverne & Shirley. It is not outside the realm of possibility that I may one day kidnap the non-scary bunny and take him on a field trip to the monogram shop.

In the meantime, the club has its own proprietary bunny, and it has my name all over it - literally. Mr. Non-Scary Bunny made his debut at this year's Mad Hatter-themed Easter tea. I helped with the decor, but the real credit goes to Ashley and Jennifer, this year's tea co-chairs, who really brought the fun with their whimsical table settings.

A good time was had by all . . . and more than one parent was heard to comment, "Wow, my [son/daughter] REALLY took to that bunny." Of course they did, given that he is the NON-SCARY variant.

Monogramming Mommy

I blame my monogramming addiction on Mignon McGraw.

Mignon was, if memory serves, a grade below me in elementary and middle school. Not only was Mignon blessed with a cute and distinctive name, but she further was blessed with double initials ("MM" - you can't GET any cuter than that) and a mother with a penchant for monogramming (who probably would have pronounced "penchant" all French-like, given the fact that she named her child "Mignon"?).

This was the Eighties, people, and the preppy look ruled, so crewneck sweaters were the uniform of the day, and Mignon's sweaters always had a monogram front and center.

I wanted those sweaters. And those initials.

My parents had gifted me with "Kathryn Elizabeth Durham" - a perfectly fine name for a proper British lass, but a bit stuffy when you're seven, or twelve. I never was a Kathy - that nickname belonged to my mother's younger sister - and one of my best school friends was a Katie. Kate never stuck, either, which proved to be a good thing years later, when I pledged a sorority, and later roomed, with a Kate Durham. (Yeah, what are the odds?) So Kathryn I remained. How I longed to be a Jennifer or have one of the other popular names - the kind that were so popular that you went your entire school career as "Jennifer J." or "Jennifer S." So pathetic was my desire to have a "cute" name that I insisted on signing my papers in elementary school, "Kathryn D." - notwithstanding the fact that I was the ONLY Kathryn in the building.

My initials weren't the greatest, either. "KED." Cute for a shoe, but not ideal otherwise (but certainly preferable to the initials of my classmate, Amy Suzanne, whose last name started with S).

So the initial/monogram thing remained dormant until I had children - male children, to be specific. Boy clothes often leave much to be desired in the distinctiveness department, so I started monogramming their shortalls and shirts in the interest of upping the cute factor. But then I started embroidering other items. Some of my efforts were useful - it's harder for a young and scatterbrained boy to become separated from his beach towel or backpack if it has his initials on it, right? And I maintain that the "His" and "Hers" pillowcases make it a lot easier to keep up with which bed pillows belong to whom. But other projects were entirely, purposefully whimsical. Example: The "His Side" and "Her Side" throw pillows that go on our bed, out in front of the labeled pillowcases. Why, exactly, do we need these? Answer: We don't, but they are freakin' cute, and they help me satisfy my need to label things.

Also helping me satisfy that need: my co-worker Elizabeth, who recently became a 31 Gifts representative. Thanks to Elizabeth, I am now the proud owner of a cleaning product caddy that says "Mrs. Clean":

And a tote for "Homeless Laundry" (hey, if it's a given that a basket of laundry will remain somewhere in my room, in perma-limbo between being folded and being put up, then, darn it, that basket should be pretty to look at, and make me laugh ironically at my plight):

I also have a similarly sized tote that serves as the kids' "Toy Jail":

And a smaller tote for random junk, labeled "Neat Clutter" (yeah, I like oxymorons), to coordinate with the "Snail Mail" envelope that corrals the paper clutter that collects on the dining room table:

My husband does not understand my embroidery obsession. At. All. But he has learned to tolerate it, because the clutter really is somehow cuter, from my perspective, when it is in its little tote. And, because it is cuter, I tolerate it more, and whine about it less. Thus improving HIS quality of life.

I'm thinking about labeling him as well: "Long-suffering but consistently indulgent spouse."

Kid Art

One of the things on my post-prez, mental to-do list: sort through kid art. We have a ton of it underfoot, as both of our kids are visually creative. (Hmmmm, wonder where they got THAT?) My ten year-old future engineer is as likely to draw maps or schematics as he is to actually create something just for the sake of creating (a trait that I appreciate, being a reader and writer of non-fiction who doesn't always see the point of "made-up" stuff). One of my favorites from among his earliest works - a map of his baby pool, shown from above, with a diagram of where his friends would sit in said pool during a planned summer playdate. (Apparently, they were to be assigned a fixed location and then be expected to stay there.)

When he does draw "just to draw," he still retains some sense of purpose. A recent piece, displayed in a place of honor in our home (AKA, the refrigerator door), is a study in perspective, depicting a desert highway. Another favorite - created when he was seven or so - was his attempt to emulate Georgia O'Keeffe:

My current favorite, though, was created when Connor was in third grade and represented his entry into a district-wide art competition titled, "Imagine a World Without Violence":

Here is how he described his composition to me: "It's your basic mixed-use real estate project. There are condos, and a mall, and a luxury hotel, and a parking garage, and a Compass Bank - because Compass Bank is EVERYWHERE, Mom."

I have to say that I was impressed - apparently, when his commercial real estate attorney mom talks shop, he listens. But I was also a wee bit perplexed.

"Connor, how does your picture show a world without violence?"

"Well, the developer hired security."


Little brother is proving to be an artist in his own right, but - in keeping with his personality - his compositions tend toward the fanciful. And the graphic. See, he has a morbid fascination with sharks, and he has not 100% accepted the premise that sharks only live in the ocean and the occasional aquarium or zoo exhibit. He is convinced that a shark COULD reside in the Ridglea Country Club pool, which was converted to a saltwater filtration system a couple of years ago. Until quite recently, he also was of the impression that a shark MIGHT attack him in his home. Not in the bathtub, but while he was sleeping. Because, apparently, land sharks are not just the product of the collective imagination of a certain group of Saturday Night Live script writers. They also exist in the very vivid imagination of the five year-old boy. Dad finally convinced him that the shorter of our two dogs was uniquely suited to, quote, "bite a shark on the leg if it ever tried to walk into our house." Again, the non-terrestrial nature of the shark was completely lost on the boy, who accepted the premise that his dog would prove an effective weapon against a shark ground attack.

Although . . . his artwork indicates that perhaps the shark thing still weighs heavily on his mind.

It's hard to tell who's winning in the first picture: are the people sneaking up on the shark? Or are those corpses? The second picture seems to involve a good bit more carnage - and also what I believe may be a boatload of Somali pirates, bottom right.

This last one (created with a stencil) could represent a budding interest in directing or producing for the 'tween market:

"If you liked 'High School Musical,' you'll love 'H. S. BOAT . . . FISH.' "

This would be consistent with his stated career goal of one day playing "the dead guy on CSI and then eating lunch at the craft services table." (Like his brother, he plays attention.)

A New Chapter

In approximately one hour, my term as president of the Junior Woman's Club of Fort Worth officially will draw to a close. If you had told me, one year ago, that I would mourn the passing of this milestone, I would have told you that you were bat-crap crazy. At the risk of sounding like Mr. Spock (or my Spock-like older child), logic dictates that a job requiring one to interact with three hundred and fifty females, pretty much 24/7, will be a thoroughly unpleasant experience, right up there with root canals and proctology exams. My tenure as PTA president, two years prior to my JWC year, was fraught with mean girl drama, so I expected much of the same in my new gig.

Surprise, surprise . . . . I had a HECK of a good time (and, if I may say so myself, accomplished a lot of good things in the process), and as I transition back into civilian life and commence with "2010: The Apology Tour" (the name I have assigned to my post-presidential year, as I have a LOT of making-up to do vis-a-vis my long-neglected spouse, children, parents, neighbors, and other non-JWC friends), I do so more than a bit wistfully. To help myself adjust, I am focusing on the fact that, starting tomorrow, I will get to spend time with my JWC friends wearing my friend hat - just my friend hat, no other hats involved. I am also buoyed by the assurances of my executive board (the most amazing group of women that I ever could have imagined having in my corner!) that we will collectively make the effort to continue our monthly "committee meetings" - only there won't be any business to discuss, expect our personal business, and the only votes to be taken will relate to plans for get-togethers to follow. We have even named our little group - we are the "YAH-YAHs," standing for "Young at Heart," my theme for the 2009-2010 club year. At our closing dinner on Thursday, they gifted me with three gorgeous photo albums, the first titled, "The YAH-YAHs - Founded 2009," the second, "The YAH-YAHs, Volume 2 - The Fifties" and the third, "The YAH-YAHs, Volume 3 - Becoming Maxine." I take this as their solemn pledge that we'll still be hanging out when we are nearing retirement age - and I plan on holding them to that pledge, to be sure.

Another thing that is helping me to adjust: I can finally get around to tackling all of those projects that I have put on the back burner over the past 12 months. I can't say that our lives have been completely on hold - we managed to repaint and redecorate two rooms; we redid my closet (okay, that wasn't planned, but it happened); I designed and planted new flower beds, front and back; and I am mostly current with scrapbooking for the boys (thanks, Shutterfly!). Nevertheless, I now find myself sifting through a metric ton of mental notes, all filed under the heading, "Things to do when I get my life back." One of the items on my to-do list: get caught up on blogging. And what better way to mark the passing of my prez year than to jump on Blogger?

So, forewarned is fair-warned - the next few posts will be random and largely out-of-order, as I am playing catch-up!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Turtle Porn

We accompanied friends from elsewhere in the Metroplex to the Fort Worth Zoo this afternoon, and of course we took them to MOLA, which, for the uninitiated, stands for "Museum of Living Art." MOLA is a herpetarium on steroids. Interesting factoid that I learned during my first tour through MOLA - the term "herpetarium" actually was coined at the Fort Wort Zoo. Learn something new every day, huh?

Today turned out to be pretty big in the annals of "learn something new" history, Zoo Edition. First thing we noticed when we got to MOLA: the giant tortoises had returned! The tortoises at our zoo have a bit of a rep, as years ago one of the bigger specimens managed to push his way through the fence of his old enclosure and led his keepers on a pretty spirited chase and game of hide-and-seek. (By the way, this is one of the "new somethings" that I learned while attending Zoo School with Connor when he was just a tot. The story stuck with me, because the idea of people chasing a tortoise through a zoological park - and the tortoise WINNING - struck me as incredibly funny.) You think of tortoises as being slow, but apparently when the mood comes upon them they can really book it.

That last sentence, ladies and germs, is foreshadowing.

So, FIRST thing we noticed was the presence of the tortoises, which were off-exhibit for awhile during MOLA's construction and had not been reintroduced as of our last visit. SECOND thing we noticed was that the biggest of the five specimens in the enclosure was moving pretty rapidly toward one of the smaller tortoises - and, while the smaller tortoise seemed aware of Big Papa's advance (or advances? More foreshadowing) and had herself picked up speed, the gap was closing.

Making conversation with my own two kids and the three daughters of our friends, I said, in my sing-song-y mom voice, "Uh, oh, if she doesn't watch out, he's going to run right over her and . . . OH. MY."

Big Papa did, in fact, run right over her - and then started giving her the business. Repeatedly. With each turtle thrust, he would lean over and bite her on the head, then someone would make a rather distinctive grunt, and then the two of them would be propelled forward. They ended up doing a complete donut around a tree. Most of the time, Big Papa was supporting himself on his hind legs, but at various points he was balanced entirely on her shell, with all four of his legs off of the ground.

The whole thing took a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time.

Meanwhile, the kids are working themselves into a frenzy: "Look, she's giving him a piggyback ride. HE'S ON TOP OF HER, MOM! Wheeeeeeeee! This is SO cool. Go, tortoises, go. Faster. Faster! RIDE that tortoise! PIGGYBACK!"

Yes, kids, piggyback is right - "piggyback," as in "pork, "pork" as in "porking," and - hey, look, they're feeding the gharials. Direct your attention over there.

Just anywhere but here:

Of course, the parents are falling out laughing throughout. And shooting video. And cracking jokes: "Anyone got two cigarettes to spare?"

The "during" photos are above. This was my first attempt at shooting turtle porn, but all in all I am pleased with the results. The "after" photo (sorry, no cigarettes) is below. Notice the body language - the awkwardness is almost palpable. Not pictured: the subsequent turtle "walk of shame."

I also shot two video clips, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to pull them off of my new camera with audio intact. The audio really makes them: in the first clip, you can hear the grunting, and in the second, you can hear my five year-old cheering them on.

Digging for the camera manual now. Stay tuned for the next installment: "Turtle Porn - The Video."

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Frazzled Mama, Some Dinner Drama . . . .

Early evening call from spouse:

“I had to go to Target, so I bought some brownie mix and some soft drinks, and I also got you two green peppers on sale.” Sooooooooo many questions. Why, exactly, green peppers? And were just the two peppers “on sale”? Was it a scratch-and-dent? Did they have little red markdown labels on them? I was finally able to confirm that:

1) Green peppers (all of them, not just the ones that followed my spouse home) were on special at Target.

2) He bought them because, the other day, I mentioned that I preferred fresh vegetable side dishes.

Ummmm . . . not sure that I would call green peppers side dish vegetables, but points for trying. Spouse apparently clued in on the fact that peppers, in isolation, did not a side dish make, and in an unsure voice asked what we could do with them. I knew that we had some tilapia filets on hand, so I proposed fish tacos and offered to stop at the store on the way home for tortillas. Spouse replied that he hated to make me take a detour, so it was agreed that I would make some Mexican-y fish dish, sans tortillas.

Several hours later (and about an hour later than I’d planned on departing from the office), I walked in, already a bit frazzled, to a typical scene of quasi-destruction – multiple pairs of shoes and an odd number of socks (always an odd number – why, oh, why?) scattered across the living room floor, mail strewn all over the dining room table. Had I been less frazzled, I might have taken note of the fact that I didn’t trip over a backpack or a dog on my way in the front door, so, in retrospect, I made a surprisingly clean entry – but all I managed to focus on were the abandoned shoes, dirty unmatched socks, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Made it to the kitchen and hit the ground running – started slicing green peppers, and was on my third pepper strip when the dinner show began. Act 1: “Mom-Can.” Featured performer: Son #1. “Mom-can-I-pick-the-movie-for-tonight? Can-we-watch-Sherlock-Holmes? Please? PLEASE? I-don’t-care-if-it’s-PG-13,- I-can-handle-it. Can-I-try-one-of-the-pranks-in-my-new-prank-book? Please? Dad-said-I-could,-if-you-said-yes. I-want-to-put-army-men-on-the-blades-of-my-ceiling-fan,-so-when-someone-flips-the-light-switch,-they-will-fly-off-of-the-fan.” (Great – mini humanoid shrapnel wielding plastic bayonets. And, yes, you read that correctly: his new PRANK BOOK. Two guesses which parent authorized that little purchase.) “Please? PLEASE? We-have-time-before-dinner.”

By now, fish filets are in one skillet, green pepper slices are in another. Fish has been seasoned with chile rub. Precooked quinoa and brown rice has been selected as a side dish and is warming in the micro. So far, so good. I am having trouble finding non-flavored cooking oil in the pantry – a couple of cans take swan dives off of the crowded shelves and nearly miss my feet – so I decide to cut my losses (and save my toes) and settle on some basil olive oil, being the least non-Mexican oil in my repertoire. Skirting around Son #1, who has planted himself firmly between pantry and stove, I mumble that he can try the Great Army Man Experiment if and when his dad is available to help.

“But-I-don’t-need-Dad,-I-can-totally-do-it-myself. I-can-use-a-stepladder.”

Distracted by the “Mom-Can” monologue, I dump the remnants of a bottle of Salt Lick mesquite BBQ sauce in with the fish – and discover that the Salt Lick mesquite BBQ sauce bottle does not contain Salt Lick mesquite BBQ sauce. Fish is now covered with something . . . honey-mustard-y. Drat. I beg Son #1 to put “Mom-Can” to bed, at least until dinner is over. He wanders off, and I set to scraping the decidedly non-Mexican sauce off of the fish. However . . . in the time it takes me to run off Son #1, the now moistened fish begins to flake – into said sauce. Making it dad-blamed difficult to siphon off the honey-mustard without losing the fish in the process.

Considering dumping the fish mixture into a pasta strainer when Act 2 commences: “Mom-Watch.” Featured performer: Son #2, who has positioned himself just outside of the kitchen door. “Mom. Mom. MOM. Mom, watch. Mom, watch the Shrek toy that I got at McDonald’s. Mom, are you watching? You have to WATCH. WATCH, MOM. Are you still watching?” I really do try to watch, and as I am watching (“Mom, MOM, keep watching”), I dump some actual, factual mesquite BBQ sauce into the chile-rubbed, basil-oiled, honey-mustard-drenched fish gloop, in an attempt to tip the flavor balance in my favor. I succeed . . . but now the fish gloop is REALLY gloopy. Not an inappropriate consistency for fish tacos, though . . . but, oh, yeah [forehead slap], no tortillas. Double drat. Remembering the side dish in the micro, I make the executive decision: Mexican rice bowls, it is. I dump the quinoa/rice mixture in with the fish, achieving the proper sauce-to-other-stuff ratio, and then remember the damned green pepper strips. Which made sense in the context of tacos, but – due to lack of tortillas – um, yeah. So I dice the now appropriately blistered green peppers into the rice mixture, and head to the fridge for toppings.

No sour cream. Cottage cheese, whipped cream cheese, cherry cobbler yogurt – you name a gelatinous dairy product in a tub, we have it. Except for sour cream.

Weird rice bowls with a sprinkling of grated cheese it is.

Now, there’s no way the kids are eating this mess – although the dogs and one of the cats (the one who thinks he’s a dog) are circling, which may or may not be a good sign. Gourmet eaters, they are not, as evidenced by the fact that, when the Sheltie was having some intestinal distress, she eagerly gobbled up every last morsel of the Pepto-Bismol/Immodium/Alpo/Fiber One cereal mixture that my spouse made for her. (The vet actually prescribed the Pepto, Immodium and Fiber One; whether he intended that they be served together, bound with Alpo – way different story. But the relish with which she attacked this “tasty” treat did help to explain how she found herself with intestinal issues in the first place.)

So I go into short-order cook mode, making, roughly simultaneously (with an assist from Dad): chicken for Son #2 (the self-proclaimed “King of Chicken”); an alternative protein source for Son #1, who “had-chicken-for-lunch-and-Mom-are-you-really-going-to-make-me-eat-chicken-twice-in-one-DAY?” (Son #1: not any kind of chicken royalty, not even a low-level bureaucratic chicken official); vegetables for the both of them; and Easy Mac for Son #1. Son #1 could be the “King of Mac and Cheese,” and generally asks for, and gets, the good stuff, but truth be told, he likes the instant kind just as much, and since I’m in a tizzy, Easy Mac it is. I fill the cup to the fill line with water, I nuke it precisely per package directions – and it comes out on the watery side. Act 3: “Mom, You’re So Incompetent.” “Mom, that’s too watery. Did you fill it EXACTLY to the fill line? You have to fill it EXACTLY to the fill line.”

Act 3 is interrupted by the start of Act 4: “Mom, Dad, I’M BLEEDING!” (Like his father and older brother before him, Son #2 gets nosebleeds. Always at highly inopportune times. How come kids never get nosebleeds in the bathtub? Or when they are wearing grubby clothes? I’m just sayin’.) Five year-old runs into the kitchen, blood dripping down his (cute, boutique) t-shirt. Dad whips the shirt over the child’s head (let me tell you, Dad is blazingly FAST in the nosebleed response department) and lunges for the paper towels while reminding child to hold his head back. Armed with a paper towel, child pinches his nose for a split second, then removes the paper towel, looks down to observe fresh flow of blood now dripping onto the kitchen floor: “Mom, Dad, I’m STILL bleeding!” Mom is not as blazingly fast as the canines, one of which opts to lick up a drip of blood, the other of which makes a concerted effort to walk THROUGH the blood and track it all over the house.

Dogs dispatched to another room . . . . Bloody Nose Boy dispatched to lie down on the easily cleaned leather sofa . . . . Kitchen floor cleaned, and Mom starts to put dinner on the table – then hears Bloody Nose Boy BLOW HIS NOSE WITH A LOUD HONK in the other room. You have a bloody nose, and – seriously? Dinner gets delayed a bit longer. (Laundry-obsessed) Dad is obsessed with getting blood out of (cute, boutique) t-shirt RIGHT NOW. The family finally sits down to eat, and I guess all’s well that ends well, because the nosebleed did not return, Tragic Rice Bowls were not half bad, the Easy Mac was pronounced surprisingly edible, and the dinner table conversation was stimulating as always. The highlight – a monologue by Boy with the Formerly Bloody Nose (Act 5?), that went roughly like this: “Do you know what I would do if I got stuck inside a baby? I would crawl into the baby’s head and put a grenade on top of the baby’s brain, and I would light the grenade, and when the grenade went off, it would blow a hole in the top of the baby’s head, and I would walk RIGHT. OUT. OF. THE. HOLE. And then I would have to take a shower, because I would be covered in baby brains and blood and stuff from the grenade.”

I’m telling ya – it’s always dinner and a show around here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blogger Tutorial

To all of you who responded to my "follow me, dammit!" rant and told me that you would follow if you could, I have added a "Followers" box in the top right corner. If you click on "Follow with Google Friend Connect," you will be taken to a box that allows you to sign in with Blogger via an existing Gmail, Twitter or other account. You can then sign up to follow my blog (and any other Blogger site you happen to like).

If you don't have one of the account types listed, get yourself a Gmail account. You don't have to use it for anything other than blog-related activities if you don't want to . . . but you should consider using Gmail, because (1) ZERO SPAM, PEOPLE! and (2) e-mails are organized into conversations that are like mini file folders. Gmail is the bomb diggity. Initially I created a Gmail account just for blogging purposes, but when I ascended to the presidency of Junior Woman's Club (and took note of how many JWC-related e-mails were flowing into my work inbox), I created a JWC-specific e-mail account via Gmail, and I have not regretted it. Great search feature, and . . . I could go on and on. If, like me, your life has many compartments, consider giving one of those compartments a Gmail account.

To comment, you click on the "X comments" line at the bottom of each post (the X being the number of comments - just like Facebook). You should get a pop-up window. Comments make me happy and will encourage me to write more (and more often)!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Another Day, Another Wardrobe Malfunction

In the midst of my "black pant freakout" yesterday, I found myself unable to come up with a Plan B wardrobe choice - so I groped through skirts and pretty much pulled one out at random. Cute skirt - black cotton, tiered, with clusters of Mexican-y flowers embroidered here and there (like a Mexican dress or blouse, if a Mexican dress or blouse had reassignment surgery and became a skirt). I've never 100% liked it, though, because the top tier pooches a little bit - not unlike the top of a strapless dress. Thus, the brainstorm - why not wear the skirt as a dress? Hike it up under the arms and, boom, a flirty cotton number, with boobs occupying the poochy part. I've heard of convertible dress/skirt combos, but does the manufacturer really have to label it as such for the concept to work?

So I tried it and generally liked the effect - but it was a little too A-line for my taste, so I threw on a belt with a funky silver-and-carnelian buckle to pull the red out of the embroidery. Then it occurs to me that I'm actually on the way to work . . . and I'm basically in a tube top. So I throw a jacket over it and put on a necklace to coordinate with the buckle and some heeled sandals. (In retrospect, I totally should have gone with cowboy boots . . . perhaps the Dixie Chicks are in need of extras for a video? Do they even record anymore? But I digress - as usual.)

I leave the house feeling pretty pleased with myself - particularly as I am en route to the dentist before going to the office, and the dress is totally comfy and dentist-chair appropriate. Yeah, a couple of problems with that:

(1) It was a very windy day in Fort Worth, Texas, and Flirty Skirt Dress was feeling particularly flirty and kept trying to expose my naughty bits.

(2) The dentist's office was closed due to an electrical issue (and they couldn't call people, due to their computers requiring electricity, and everyone's data being, evidently, electronic), so I walked to and from the dentist's office - fighting Flirty Skirt Dress the whole way - for no particularly good reason. And, because I had no other place to go, I got into work painfully early, result being that I would be running around the office in a borderline work-inappropriate skirt/dress for several more hours than originally contemplated.

I began to feel very self-conscious about Flirty Skirt Dress, so I sent out an e-mail to all:

"RE: Yes, I realize that I am dressed like a Joe T. Garcia's waitress

I have a thing right after work, and I was supposed to be in the dentist’s chair for a couple of hours this morning (but they cancelled), so I dressed for comfort as well as theme. Please do not ask me to top off your margarita.

Of course, this compelled everyone to come to my office to check out my get-up. My more astute colleagues pointed out that Joe T. Garcia's waitresses actually wear polo shirts and khakis. One inquired as to the location of my apron and ticket pad. Another ignored my request and asked for a fresh margarita. (Honey, if I had one on me, do you think I would share?)

So, it's lunch, and I'm eating in the breakroom, and one of my law partners comes in to get something out of the fridge and just . . . looks . . . at me and says, "It's not . . . that . . . waitress-y. I was expecting something . . . else . . . something more." His overall attitude is defeated. Apparently my e-mail created some unrealistic expectations.

Now it's Wednesday, and I'm eating in the breakroom again (two days in a row, woo hoo! I'll have the national debt retired by November with all of the money that I'm saving). I brown-bagged gazpacho, in honor of "Take Your Cold, Vegetable-Based Soup to Work Day," which is not actually a holiday, but, darn it, it ought to be. (And technically I did not brown-bag the gazpacho, as that would be quite messy. I put it in Tupperware - well, not Tupperware with a capital "T," but the functional equivalent, as manufactured by our friends at IKEA.) It occurs to me that I am wearing a brand new, bright yellow sweater jacket-thingy, and the chances of me spilling gazpacho on the sweater are 100%. I do not particularly want a mottled yellow-and-orange sweater. So I remove it.

The thing about our office is, it's cold. We're talking Arctic Circle cold - to the point that people are forced to wear Polar Fleece, 365 days a year. (Occasionally they forget and wear it out into the July or August heat, which is pretty dang funny.) Another thing about our office - one of my other law partners started giving us branded items for Christmas a few years back, after he discovered that if you doodle the firm's "monogram" a certain way and turn it on its side, it creates a little caricature that could represent a couple of different people in our office. So a client who has a marketing and specialties business embroiders this unofficial logo on a different item for us every year. Having been here since the inception, I have two jackets, a ski hat, an ear gaiter, a scarf, fleece gloves (yeah, can you tell this guy likes skiing?) and a blanket with our "logo" on them. Long story short, most people have chosen to keep their logo-ed jackets and blankets at the office, so - while people wearing Polar Fleece in the summer is pretty ridiculous - people wearing identical Polar Fleece with goofy doodles on them is "amps on eleven."

Back to the breakroom. The breakroom is the coldest part of our office, and today it is somehow colder than usual. I am sitting between two coworkers in their firm-requisitioned doodle jackets, and I am eating very cold soup in a very cold room, wearing a black Lycra-ish tank top.

You're expecting to see "headlights" in the next sentence, aren't you? No, we're not talking about that kind of wardrobe malfunction. This is a family blog, people, and I wear good-quality foundation garments.

But I do look like an idiot. I'm covered in goosebumps, my teeth are chattering, and I'm flanked by people bundled up like Inuits, making me look that much more underdressed (and stupid) by comparison.

Same partner comes in . . . stops . . . and just looks at me with this bemused expression that I took to mean, "Explain . . . again."

"Um, I'm eating gazpacho. And I'm wearing a yellow sweater. Actually, right now I'm not wearing a yellow sweater, on account of the gazpacho. Because I'm afraid of spillage. But as soon as I finish my soup, I'll get re-dressed."

Still looking bemused, he shakes his head, laughs and walks out. I don't think he even got what he came into the breakroom for.

Hmm . . . what to wear tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blonde Moment

Once upon a time, a girl fell in love with a pair of black pants. We're not talking love at first sight here - in fact, the girl almost left the pants at the store, but the nice Ann Taylor lady informed her that they were marked half-off, so she thought, "Why not?" Why not, indeed. The pants were absolutely perfect - flat front, zipper on the side, wide (but not too wide) waistband, and just the right flare to the leg. The girl wore them until the lining started to disintegrate and the zipper lost a couple of teeth. She went back to Ann Taylor and was dismayed to discover a store full of front-fly, straight leg pants. A different, but equally nice, Ann Taylor lady asked the girl if she was "finding everything alright," and the girl replied, "No, I'm looking for a pair of pants that I purchased here with a flat front, a side zipper, a wide (but not too wide) waistband, and just the right flare to the leg. They are the best pants in the world."

"Oh, I know exactly which pants you are talking about," said the Ann Taylor lady. The girl's heart soared.

"Those are the best pants in the world, and I can't for the life of me understand why we stopped making them."

[Forehead slap]

Yes, I'm the girl in the story, and after looking far and wide for similar pants I ended up having the zipper in the original pair fixed and the lining replaced. Yes, I could have bought a couple of pairs of pants with what I spent on the repairs, but they wouldn't have been the pants. I learned my lesson: if you find a pair of black pants that you really, really like, don't stop at one pair. Buy multiples - particularly if they are half-off.

Fast forward to this morning. I took my own advice awhile back and bought two pair of black pants, the hem of one of which has fallen out. Because I don't "do" hems (okay, okay - I'm lazy, but I have a full-time job, thank you very much, and time is money, and also the way I see it my laziness keeps a couple of different tailors in business - although, quite often, they will only charge me a dollar or two, or refuse to charge me at all, advising me that they can't in good conscience charge me for what is so simple a job - okay, I get it, I'm staffing out sewing projects that a trained monkey could do, probably with one hand tied behind its back), I added the pair with the pulled-out hem to a stack of clothes in my closet that, for various reasons, require a tailor's attention. That left the other pair of perfect pants on the hanger.

So, I'm getting ready for work, I pull the perfect pants off of the hanger - and they aren't just a little bit tight, they are alarmingly, "no way I can wear these" tight. I begin to freak out - surely, it must be the Mexican brunch on Saturday and the eggplant rollatini on Mother's Day catching up to me, but I have multiple (try seven!) Junior Woman's Club closing dinners to attend this week, and I need to look nice at all of them . . . but I will be expected to eat at all of them, too. MAJOR pity party commences: I need to lose weight, but how will I possibly find the time? I hastily throw together an outfit, and between work and my first JWC engagement of the week I head to the mall and manage to find a few items of clothing that fit, including a pair of black pants, but they aren't perfect pants - they are merely okay. The entire process of trying on clothing is maddening, because - notwithstanding the fact that I have clearly put on a ton of weight in a short time frame - I don't seem to have changed sizes. In fact, when I try on the next size up, the clothes just swim on me. This frustrates me to no end - either I'm bigger or I'm not.

[Wait for it . . . .]

I go home, and I'm trying on clothes, and I go into my closet (which is sort of a hot mess, thanks to my frenzied search for things that fit) in search of a particular black tank top. I start sorting through a pile of black clothing that didn't make it back on hangers, and I run across the too-tight pants . . . and then I run across them again. Wait, whaaaaa? I check the pile of "clothing to be mended," and there are the unhemmed pants, right where I left them. Something doesn't add up - figuratively and literally. So I take a closer look at the other pants - and realize that the ones on top are not my current favorite black pants, but rather they are a historical favorite, in a size that I haven't worn for awhile. A good, long while. I take a closer look at the other "other pants" . . . pull them on, and not only do they fit, but they are a little bit loose.

Yup, you guessed it - the reason that my current favorite black pants didn't fit this morning was that they weren't my current favorite black pants at all. I grabbed the wrong pair off of the hanger, and the pair that I grabbed haven't fit me for eons. In other words, I gave myself a flippin' heart attack, completely unnecessarily. I had to start laughing - it was either that or cry. And I had to share my amusement (and sense of relief) with someone, so I told my spouse, who shook his head, chuckled a little and started to say something, but I cut him off thusly:

"Yeah, yeah, I know. The blonde really does go all of the way down to the roots."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

May Frimily Brunch - "Ocho de Mayo"

Frimily brunch went on hiatus in April, as there wasn't room on the calendar for a brunch, what with Elizabeth and my birthday party, JWC golf tournament, Race for the Cure and after-brunch at Blue Mesa, etc. And it wasn't like we lacked for opportunities to get together; see the immediately preceding sentence.

May frimily brunch was a Mexican-themed potluck, and it was FAB. I made margaritas (yeah, I kind of phoned in the signature cocktail this month!) and gazpacho shooters. Robyn made a potato, chorizo and egg casserole and a chicken chilaquiles casserole. Ruth brought refried beans and attempted (very successfully) her first flan - a yummy chocolate number. The Pittmans brought a fruit salad, and Austin made "tableside guacamole" (we are thinking of renting him out for parties - it's breakfast and a show!). Elizabeth and Haleigh made an early AM Esperanzas run and showed up with pan de huevo and pineapple and pumpkin empanadas.

We then spent the next several hours feeding our faces - repeatedly. The leftovers ended up in our refrigerator, and more of Robyn's delish casseroles made it into our stomachs come dinner time. Anticipating another nosh (and finishing the pastries) Sunday morning - and then I may have to make arrangements to have myself rolled out of the house come Monday morning. Ay, chihuahua - but I mean that in a really good way.

There is nothing better than starting the weekend with good friends. Wish every Saturday was frimily brunch day! Photos added to the Frimily Brunch slide show (go to "older posts" to access). Yes, the Mexican blouse/dress concept was totally planned. We're all huge dorks.

My Unconscious Brain Attempts to Write Fiction

Was feeling “sinus-y” after dinner tonight and took a decongestant/Benadryl combo and then a catnap. This dream was the result. For those of you who want me to try my hand at fiction, be afraid – be very afraid.

In the dream, I drive out to visit my friend – um, we’ll call her Imogene (names are being changed to protect the innocent). Imogene lives in the sticks – in the dream, that is. In real life, Imogene would never move out to the sticks, because she knows that I have a West Side Bubble Complex thing going on and whine and complain mercilessly if I have to drive outside of a five-mile radius of my home. But in the dream, she lives waaaaaay out in the sticks – in a primeval pine forest, like something out of “The Fugitive.” So I drive out to visit her, and our other friend – we’ll call her Melba – arrives at the same time, and we walk in together. In the dream, Imogene has a creepy boyfriend. He’s like every abusive hick boyfriend you ever see in the movies – slumped in an easy chair, beer in hand, face illuminated by the glow of the television, which is the only light source in the room. We walk past him and into the bedroom, where we sit on the bed and talk with Imogene, which is kind of weird, but, whatever. At some point, abusive hick boyfriend (hereinafter, “AHB”) comes into the bedroom and announces, “Imogene, I’m home.” Not, “I’m ready to go to bed, so your friends needs to leave,” which would be rude, but not weird, and not that rude, because we are sitting on the bed. Instead, he says, “I’m home,” which is weird, because, well, duh – we just walked past you. So I announce that I’m going to leave, and AHB mumbles something about needing to drive down to the road as well. Instantly, the hairs on the back of my neck prick up. His manner is creepy and his motives are suspicious.

So, of course, I run from the room and through the house, and I jump into my car and drive off into the dark, with him in hot pursuit. Wait, what? Okay, a little tidbit about me (the real me, evidently not the “dream me”): I have a highly developed sense of self-preservation. Highly developed in the sense of, “once I thought someone was following me, so I drove to the police sub-station that was blocks and blocks out of my way and parked in front of it until the person drove away.” I have been known to go back into a store or set off my own car alarm if something makes me uncomfortable in the parking lot. And, one memorable day in my early twenties, when a domestic dispute from the parking lot outside of a Marshalls spilled into the store, I ran into the next section and dove under a clothing rack immediately upon hearing a man shouting and a woman screaming – with nary a thought of my mother shopping a few racks away from me. Hey, every man (or woman) for themselves, right? (That was the day that I came to the cold realization that, if the stuff ever goes down, you most likely will not see my name and the phrase “selfless act of heroism” in print together – but it is entirely likely that you will see my name and the phrase “appropriated a stranger as a human shield.”)

Nice anecdote to be sharing at a minute past midnight on Mother’s Day, huh? But I digress.

Clearly, “dream me” is not “real me,” because the dream me drives off into the primeval forest in what one immediately recognizes as the set-up for – well, just about every horror movie ever made. I don’t wait for Melba to walk out with me; I just go, and AHB is in hot pursuit. I can’t tell you what happened next, because my brain yada-yada’ed over the car chase itself (so, on second thought, maybe I do retain my highly developed sense of self-preservation when asleep, because clearly my unconscious mind did not want to upset me with scary details?). Next thing I know, the car chase is over, AHB is in police custody and – oh, I failed to mention an important detail. In the dream, my friend Imogene has a half African-American child, who looks exactly like the kid on the cover of Little Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” album – well, minus the tiny suit and the bling, but he has the big eyes and the nonplussed expression. And, somehow, this child ended up in the back seat of my car – or perhaps in the back seat of AHB’s car. Although AHB didn’t really strike me as a car guy – I’m guessing pick-up truck – but I can’t confirm, on account of the brain yada-yada. Anyway, the authorities are there, someone is holding scared Little Wayne Child, wrapped in a blanket, and I am standing there, shaken up, and talking to someone official as well as a guy who, apparently, is a close friend of AHB and is in the dream purely for the purpose of giving me insight into AHB’s mind. Close friend of AHB looks like Josh Todd, lead singer of Buckcherry – tattoos, longish hair, vaguely inmate-y, but sort of hot. I ask Josh Todd Dude if he thinks AHB intended to molest or otherwise harm me, and he says, “Oh yeah, totally.” I then ask Josh Todd Dude if he thinks AHB will come after me after he gets out of prison. “Yup.” Someone Official assures me that, given the myriad of charges (child endangerment, attempted vehicular homicide) against AHB, AHB won’t be eligible for parole for ten years or more.

But what happens after ten years? Dream Me is starting to panic. Is the witness protection program in my future? Can’t imagine cutting all ties, so I briefly consider suicide (because, um, yeah, that doesn’t involve cutting ties, right?). I also consider just showing up at prison and offering the guy a conjugal – why wait around for the other shoe to drop?

At this point, my brain processes that (1) this is getting pretty twisted and (2) Betty White is hosting SNL in an hour. So, I wake up, and then one of my other self-preservation tactics comes into play: I briefly go back to sleep, and I edit the dream. I have been doing this since I was a kid – I wake up from a scary dream (and I ought to point out that I’m not one of those people who has a lot of scary dreams; in fact, I rarely remember my dreams, period, and nightmares are a couple-of-times-per-year occurrence), catch a breath, my now conscious mind rationalizes through the problems in the dream, and I end up re-dreaming a more palatable ending. So, tonight, the editor in my brain came up with the following: AHB goes to prison, and using an assumed name I become his prison pen-pal. In that capacity, I send him care packages. LOTS of care packages, containing lots of sweets.

AHB dies from diabetes complications in the prison infirmary in year six of his sentence.

I blame the medication and the metric ton of Mexican food that I consumed at brunch which, clearly, had a hallucinogenic effect. But that’s for another post . . . .

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things That Bug - Part 1 in a Series

This post addresses two comments that I have received lately, paraphrased as follows:

1) "You need to put more slice-of-life humor on your blog. We love your slice-of-life humor!"

2) "Wow, you're an upbeat lady!"

Okay, that last one was Bill Murray's character addressing Andie MacDowell's character in Groundhog Day. But, seriously, I am occasionally accused of being too happy and/or well-adjusted. Admittedly, my typical response to ridiculous behavior is to laugh at it, and - occasionally - hold it up on a skewer and encourage others to ha-ha with me. Is that such a bad thing? But, to answer the million-dollar question, yes, I do let things bug me. I may process and react to them differently, but, trust me, I do get bugged. Rankled, even. Generally by little things. But then I end up being amused by them.

So . . . with no further ado, the first installment of "Things That Bug."

Item 1: People who tell me that they love my blog but don't actually "follow" it. You know who you are. It's not rocket surgery, people! Put your money where your mouth is and click the button. Tutorials available on request. Also - comment! Officially, for the record! Don't wait until we're at happy hour and sidle up, all drunk and borderline-disorderly, and slur, "You so crazy! I love the way you write! You should write for a living." Again, you know who you are.

Technically, I do write for a living. I write contracts, but it's writing. Musing via blog is what I do to clear my head. And I promise to do more of it if you will show me the "follow" and "comment" love.

Item 2: People who drop useless details about their travel itineraries as an indirect form of bragging. Hey, if you're going someplace cool, tell me straight out, and if you're going someplace really cool, feel free to kick it old-school, five year-old style: "I'm going to BAAAAAAAAAAAAA-LI and YOUUUUUUU are NOOOOOOOT - NYAH, NYAH, NYAH, NYAH, NYAH!" Hey, if I get the opportunity to go to Bali, I may drop a nyah-bomb or two of my own. So, totally willing to be happy for you, if you agree to be happy for me (theoretically - no trips to Bali on the horizon). Just don't be coy. Here's the Cosmo "do":

"I won't be at the meeting, because Fred got an all-expenses paid trip to St. Barths through work, and I'll be passed out on a beach with an umbrella drink clutched in my fingers come Tuesday afternoon!"

The Cosmo "don't":

"I won't be at the meeting, because I will be out of the country."

Relevant piece of information is that you won't be at the meeting, as you physically will be in another location. Details are fine if you want to share them, and if they are actual details. "Out of the country" doesn't tell me any more than "out of town," but what it does tell me is that you want to brag about your plans but are too socially inept or passive aggressive to brag straight-out. Spare me. Please.

Item #3: People who include too much detail in Evite responses. Same issue as above, sort of. Relevant piece of information is that you cannot attend. You do not need to prove to the people of Evite (most of whom don't know you from Adam) that you actually, factually are unavailable. No lie detector tests will be conducted. It's a freakin' Evite. And - as noted above - most of us don't know you. If Thelma invites you to a potluck, and it occurs to you that Thelma doesn't know about your upcoming bunion surgery, shoot her an e-mail - but incorporating that nugget into your Evite response is like sending a blast e-mail to a bunch of strangers about your gnarly toes. Trust me - we don't care about your gnarly toes. Unless your Evite response is unintentionally, off-the-hook hilarious, and then we will care about your gnarly toes, but by "we will care" I mean "we will forward your response to a myriad of people, rip it down to the studs and make fun of it mercilessly."

Unintentionally, off-the-hook Evite overdisclosures take several different forms:

1) The "Oh, I didn't realize that this wasn't a personal e-mail/verbal diarrhea" Evite response: "Dear Elsie, we can't make the chili cook-off, because there's a peewee football game that night. Our kids aren't playing in the game - actually, we don't have any kids - but you know how we like peewee football. GO, MUDHENS! Which reminds me that I still owe you money for that thing. How is your dad? Does he still have the gout? Tell him hello from Stan, who just got out of prison."

Tap . . . tap. Is this thing on?

You laugh, but this is an only slightly altered version of an actual Evite response that I saw a couple of years back.

2) The "unintentional slam" Evite response: "Dear Elsie, we can't make the chili cook-off, because there's a peewee football game that night. We don't particularly like peewee football, and you'll recall that Elmer's dog was killed in a riot at a peewee football game, causing Elmer to develop a serious case of PTSD, but we're going to the game anyway." Okay, that one is not an actual example, but you are familiar with the concept. Subtext is, we're REAAAALLY stretching for something to do OTHER than attend your event.

3) The "intentional slam" Evite response: "Dear Elsie, I won't be attending the chili cook-off. I hate chili." Um, thanks. "I won't be attending" would do.

4) The "I really can't attend your function" Evite response: "Dear Elsie, I can't make the chili cook-off, because I have friends coming into town Friday evening. If for some reason they don't show, I also received an invitation to a bridal shower Friday evening, which invitation I turned down because of the aforementioned 'friend visit,' but that invitation arrived before yours, and, also, it was on paper instead of via Evite, so if my friends don't show, I feel like I need to prioritize the bridal shower. Also, the bride donated a kidney to my grandmother, so I really do owe her. But only if my friends don't come into town."

This one usually devolves into an "unintentional slam."

I forgot to mention one other form of unintentionally hilarious Evite response, which goes something like this:

"Sorry we can't make it!"

Not funny, you say? Well, it is funny if . . . wait for it . . . it's entered under the "Yes" column.

That is all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fish or Cut (Faux) Bait

Had to share pics from the JWC Legacy reception. Funds donated to Legacy are used to preserve and beautify JWC's home, historic Margaret Meacham Hall. Sarah, our fearless Legacy chair, jokingly suggested "Say Sayonara to the Doors" as a reception theme, as the next item on the redo agenda is replacing the God-awful glass doors on the ground floor (accurately described by one member as "sixties department store doors") with beautiful historically accurate wooden ones. She may have been joking, but some of us took the concept literally, and then we all decided to run with it. Our only dilemma - the obvious menu choice (sushi) doesn't sit well with all. Hence the great faux sushi rolling party of 2010 . . . . Carrots took the place of salmon on top of the chicken salad "sandwich sushi":

Lesson learned - chives are not as pliable as you might think. You basically get one bite at the apple: either the darned thing lets you knot it, or it breaks in half. Robyn did most of the tying. And sighing. She sighed a lot. By the end, I think she was convinced that the chives were actually sentient beings and were conspiring against her.

Pimiento cheese "rolls" were much easier to make (and, apparently, pretty realistic, as we had to repeatedly reassure people that they were just garden variety tea sandwiches, funkily executed):

The "Hostess Sushi" came out super-cute and was super-easy to boot. We used slices of fruit roll-ups to secure Swedish fish candy to Rice Krispie treats, and more fruit leather was used to turn Twinkie slices into sushi rolls. (The "fish" in the middle? Gummi worm segments!) The Swiss cake roll slices are - well, Swiss cake roll slices. We didn't really do anything to those. (To paraphrase Helen Hunt in her role as a gingerbread house baker in the Saturday Night Live "Delicious Dish" skit about a food-themed NPR radio show - we made the Matchbox cars out of Matchbox cars. Hey - why mess with perfection?)

Another lesson learned - fruit roll-ups and humidity don't mix. The Twinkie sushi tried really, really hard to stick together when we were serving it (yeah, yeah - again with the anthropomorphizing of the food - but at times doesn't it feel like our food truly is plotting against us?) and felt - well, sort of clammy to me. But people enjoyed it, and I guess "clammy" equals "authentic" when you're talking about raw fish?

Sarah made her killer frushi (fruit sushi) with coconut sticky rice, pictured here:

"Young at heart" table decor-on-a-budget included: some of my collection of kokeshi dolls (carried home from Asia by my Army officer dad); paper lanterns decorated with this weird but really cool patterned tape that I found next to the colored duct tape at JoAnn (bought it for another use, had some left over); small quantity of chrysanthemum-patterned fabric; vase filled with water and those squishy neon tentacle balls that they sell at the dollar store (which I thought looked sort of puffer fish-ish); a wine bag and a silver gift bag turned upside down and decorated to look like office buildings (I labeled one for Woman's Club and one for JWC); Godzilla and a killer robot menacing said buildings (okay, we couldn't find Godzilla - we have one somewhere, but it's lost in my oldest child's room, so a remote-controlled dragon, missing most of his tail, had to substitute, and Bumblebee from Transformers is playing the part of killer robot); and a giant (to the scale of the buildings) scorpion. Because, you know, you'd expect to see a giant scorpion in a Japanese monster flick. And the Dollar Spot at Target did not have anything remotely close to Mothra - but they had scorpions. So . . . .

Not shown - a garland of Hello Kitty paper dolls and a bunch of origami shrimp that my origami-obsessed oldest child made for me. The reason they are not shown: I forgot them at home. I was doing good to get most of the stuff in the car that morning, and even then I managed to wedge Bumblebee on top of the dragon's remote control and something else on top of Bumblebee. Result: the entire drive from home to work and from work to JWC, the dragon was roaring and Bumblebee was telling the dragon, apropos of nothing, "I'm one bad 'bot." Funny for the first five seconds.