blog hop

Seemed like a good idea at the time

Need I say more?

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My friends and I are all riffing on the same theme today... Go visit their blogs and see what kind of brilliance and hilarity they found in hindsight.

Two Cannoli

Genie in a Blog

Smacksy

Good Day Regular People

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

The Mama Bird Diaries

Midlife Mixtape

When Did I Get Like This?

Arnebya

Up Popped A Fox

The Flying Chalupa

Suburban Scrawl

Music that made me

FullSizeRenderInspired by a recent piece in Rolling Stone magazine, my good friend Nancy from Midlife Mixtape gathered up a group of friends and asked us to share a mixtape of “the songs that made me.” A dozen of us have chimed in. Bless her for giving us a 10-song maximum or we could go on forever. Here goes mine...

1. Put Another Log on the Fire by Tomball Glaser and the Outlaws If you grew up in Texas in the '70s, your family probably owned a vinyl copy of Wanted: The Outlaws, featuring Waylon and Willie and the boys. Sure, one of the boys was female Jessi Colter, but that always seemed natural to me considering I was raised in a decidedly male-centric household. My favorite song on the album was not the popular My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys but instead a tribute to an obnoxious husband and a wife who has been putting up with crap for too long. My brothers and I memorized every last word: “Now don’t I let you wash the car on Sunday? Don’t I warn you when you’re getting fat? Ain’t I gonna take you fishing with me someday? Well I man can’t love a woman more than that....” This song put old-school country music in my blood and established an affection for honky tonks and rowdy singalongs, which would later come in handy during my college years.

2. Brass Monkey by The Beastie Boys Ahh, that funky monkey. Brass Monkey was the first song that I knew my parents would dislike, and I remember feeling thrilled and liberated at this prospect. (If this is out there, just think what else is!) The song played at our 8th grade cotillion dance, where I was sporting my first-ever strapless dress. I'm pretty sure that dress was glued on to make up for my lack of curves. I did not let this precarious ensemble stop me from following The Beastie Boys’ instructions to “Put your left leg down, your right leg up, tilt your head back, let’s finish the cup.” It still takes more than an uncomfortable outfit to get me off a dance floor.



3. Fall on Me by R.E.M. I’ll try not to get too emotional about this one, but Fall on Me was the beginning of a long and devoted relationship with R.E.M. It’s a relationship that has continued even after their breakup a few years ago. I’ve played this song countless times, but I still get woozy when I hear Stipe’s voice cracking when he sings, “Buy the sky and sell the sky / And bleed the sky and tell the sky...” This song (and many other cryptic R.E.M. classics that followed) taught me that I don’t need to know what the lyrics mean to love a song. Sometimes poetry is meant to be felt more than translated.



4. Supernova by Liz Phair Liz is such a badass. That’s my assessment of Ms. Phair...and at one point in my life was also my personal mantra whenever I felt vulnerable. Supernova was a vital part of my soundtrack during the unencumbered, action-packed years that were post-college and pre-mortgage. That time was all about dancing in various apartments or bars, climbing mountain peaks, skiing through trees, and taking spontaneous road trips. For a few brilliant years, my only goal was to build up my invincibility. Thank God nobody told me that supernovas shine brightest when they eventually explode.

5. Misunderstood by Wilco The start of another long, intense band crush began with this song and I can hardly believe it, but I was only 25 years old at the time. I was trying to become an adult and was having all kinds of (laughable, but totally real!) quarter-life crises. Was I really misunderstood or just uninspired by my desk job? Who can say, but wow, this 6-minute-long riff gave me plenty of time to reflect on it. Over and over again.


6. Mary by Patty Griffin A few years before I became a mom, I was at a Ben Harper concert under a canopy of lighted oak trees. During his encore he invited Patty Griffin on stage and the two sang what I consider the most gorgeous tribute to motherhood ever. Perhaps they sat on stools. It was likely acoustic. I don’t recall exactly. What I remember for certain were the goosebumps and the surprising tears and the definite knowing I felt in my gut. Knowing that at some point in my life I wanted to feel what she was singing. My own mother was battling a decades-long illness and it had complicated and hurt our relationship in so many ways. In spite of that, motherhood never scared me. I was determined to someday join that raw and beautiful tribe of women.

7. Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons Sigh No More arrived in my life during a year of heavy loss and deep reflection. My mom was in hospice care and I spent months shuttling back and forth from Austin to Dallas to be with her, leaving behind my three young kids and husband. Depending on the day or the moment or the way the wind was blowing, the lyrics brought either comfort or angry tears. Both responses seemed necessary and acceptable at the time. I was trying to take care of so many hearts, so many loved ones. Just trying to hang on...not to hope so much as peace. Four years later, I still find myself working on the peace part.

8. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles How many times did I hear this song before it made me? It has always been a favorite Beatles song, but it took decades of listening before it really sank its claws into me. Decades, because that’s how long it took for me to have three kids buckled into the backseat of my car singing “Little darling, the smile’s returning to the faces....” Before I knew it, one child picked the song to study for his 4th grade poetry project. And then another sat at a grand piano and played it in front of a large crowd, singing every lovely note with confidence. George Harrison did it pretty well, but he never quite sounded this sweet. May life always feel as simple as "sun, sun, sun...here it comes."

9. Salvation Song by The Avett Brothers This song reminds me that we’re all just doing the best we can. This world is not for sissies. Sometimes just building a life, raising a family, and keeping your chin up and your spirit buoyant--sometimes that can be the hardest part. But there’s grace in this steady work and beauty in the dedication it requires. All I know how to do is try to find something to smile about every single day. To look for small joys and keep my eye on the prize:  “We came for salvation / We came for family / We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ftt5KH6TnhE

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But wait, there's more! Check out the songs that my friends shared...

Elleroy Was Here Midlife Mixtape Up Popped a Fox When Did I Get Like This? I Miss You When I Blink My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog Butterfly Confessions Good Day, Regular People Smacksy Arnebya The Flying Chalupa

I spent 3 solid days obsessing over grout color so you don't have to...

When you tackle a complicated project like, say, tearing the roof and walls off your house, you want a large team of experts on your side. As seems to happen in many life-altering adventures (parenting comes to mind), you start with a few hand-picked experts. And then your team grows. Slowly and organically at first and then suddenly reaching cartoon proportions.

That’s exactly where we are now. My team of invested experts now includes, but is not limited to: architect, builder, husband, vendors, subcontractors, friends with great taste, friends with strong opinions, family members, children, neighbors who I adore, neighbors who I don’t even know, designers on Houzz, strangers who comment on designers on Houzz, the lady in the checkout line at Home Depot, the guy at the veterinary clinic who overheard my phone conversation....

For better or worse, as we near the end of the remodel, this team is still right beside me, weighing in on every last little decision.

 

Me: So I’m doing all white subway tiles in the kitchen and the new baths. Same size everywhere. You know...clean, crisp and affordable. Classic and modern all at once. I’m looking for a sense of continuity. I love it...decision is done!

Expert 1: Actually the grout color will make all the difference. It can radically change the look of the whole room. Radically! Don’t believe me? Let me show you 5,000 photos as proof.

Expert 2: White on white is really the only way to go.

Expert 3: Only boring people do white. You aren’t boring.

Expert 4: I tell all my clients to go one step darker than the color they most like.

Expert 5: I tell all my clients to go one step lighter than the color they most like.

Expert 6: I tell all my clients to go with their gut.

Expert 7: Dark grout doesn’t show dirt.

Expert 8: White grout can be bleached.

Expert 7: Dark grout is more modern.

Expert 9: Dark grout is too modern.

Expert 7: Light grout is too traditional.

Expert 8: Light grout is more versatile.

Expert 10: This brand of grout doesn’t stain.

Expert 11: Don’t believe them--all grouts stain!

Expert 12: Black grout will look like the '80s threw up in your kitchen.

Expert 13: Look at this photo of black grout! It’s perfect!

Expert 3: It really boils down to what you want the tile to say about you.

Expert 14: It really boils down to resale value.

Expert 15: Did you decide how thick your grout lines will be?

Expert 4: You don’t decide how thick your grout lines will be. Expert 17 will decide how think the lines are.

Expert 8: You should DEMAND to know the thickness of your grout lines before you go any further!

Expert 3: Silver grout? Yesss! That color is so you!

Expert 2: Silver? It’s really the only way to go.

Expert 12: Silver? This was my favorite all along, I just didn’t want to sway your opinion.

Expert 8: Silver? It’s all over Houzz, but don’t worry you are still original.

Expert 16: Silver? Do you mean Silver or Titanium or Platinum or Pewter?

Expert 6: I know you want Expert 16 to make this final call, but Expert 16 is not going to live in your house with this grout color. You are going to live here and see it every day. I cannot stress the importance of this decision. You need to dig deep and rally. Cancel today’s plans, get back in the car, go to the showroom, and pick a color. You will not regret it.

Expert 16: Ok great. Silver it is! Now let’s talk about floor colors...

Expert 3: Why are you crying?

 

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It's a blog hop! My friends have also done something wildly awesome or awful so you don't have to. Read about them here...

I Wrote Another Godforsaken Blogiversary Post So You Don't Have To - Ann Imig

I Toured Washington DC in a Night Bus So You Don’t Have To - Wendi Aarons

I Listened to KidzBop So You Don’t Have To – Midlife Mixtape

I Had Food Poisoning While Sitting On A Diaper Genie So You Don't Have To - Smacksy

I'm Surviving October So You Don't Have To - The Flying Chalupa

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Silver it is.

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Turkey with a side of fiasco

Here comes another blog hop! This time my chicas and I were inspired by our friend Alexandra from Good Day, Regular People, who recently wrote about the subject of fiascoes. We’ve all got a fiasco story to tell. Here’s mine...

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When I was growing up our family insisted on serving the exact same meal for every major feasting holiday. In fact, the tradition was nearly as important as having enough chairs around the table. Nobody ever expected to sit on the floor and nobody ever expected anything but our menu of beige delights with a sprinkling of green and orange.

The fact that it had been decades since anyone touched the sweet-and-sour green beans did not deter our dedicated tradition police. The beans were a given. As were the mashed potatoes, the spiced peaches, the brown-and-serve rolls, the turkey, and the stuffing that, by God, better come out of a box or the men in the house would come undone.

So we liked our traditions. Some might say we clung to them with an enthusiastic death grip. In retrospect it makes perfect sense to me that we held on so tightly to these rituals because during the same time, most of our basic family dynamics were in constant upheaval.

My mom had been sick most of my life. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was 10 and confined to a wheelchair a year later. Over the course of her 30-year-long disease, she would lose her ability to walk, to use her arms, to feed herself, to leave her bed, and for the last 10 years of her life, to breathe without the support of a ventilator. This summary sounds very tidy and compact when written in one sentence, but those 30 years were messy, uncertain ones and included a long series of unraveling dreams for our family. Many holidays were spent in a hospital, or leaving a hospital, or worrying that we would be in a hospital. Many holidays at home, despite our bravest faces and sunniest outlooks, were heartbreaking and tense simply because when a loved one hurts, everyone else hurts as well.

The traditions seemed to help, though. Or at least they gave us something to banter about during meals.

It was with this familiar baggage that one year, I proposed a new menu item. I was fresh out of college and perhaps feeling worldy because I had recently left Texas and headed west, in search of a not-too-lame job and weekends in the mountains. I ran it by my mom and opted for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with everyone else.

Let’s mix things up, Mom! OK! How about another vegetable? OK! Let’s go crazy and make it green! OK! Even crazier, let’s not soak it in butter beforehand! Wait, what?

We decided on steamed broccoli served with a side of cheese sauce. I was no master chef, mind you. I was 22 and genuinely believed that the good china would make even Velveeta look classy.

The broccoli, I predicted, would be bright and glorious, and the cheese (cheese product) pure ooey-gooey goodness. Serving a new dish seemed like an optimistic and bold endeavor in the face of our family’s long-standing security blanket. Like perhaps things were almost normal and it was no big deal to try something new because it’s not like the weight of “making every holiday count” was important or anything. Just another family gathering, not a metaphor for all our hopes and dreams, right?

Thanksgiving afternoon, the dining table was set with my parents’ all-white wedding china and linens. My mother sat in her wheelchair at the table with her parents, who visited us once or twice a year on big holidays. My father, two brothers and I ferried food from the kitchen to table like seasoned caterers.

As all the usual suspects found their spots on the table, I went to retrieve our newest dish. I cradled the broccoli bowl and my younger brother, a towering but gentle giant who moves deliberately through the world, ushered in the cheese in its gleaming white gravy boat.

Before a single person could mutter “Broccoli??” I heard china crash to the floor and saw a spray of orange liquid make a spectacularly acrobatic hurl toward the far reaches of the room. The white walls, the white carpet, the white tablecloths...all splattered like the first draft of a Jackson Pollock. My brother stood speechless, his shoes surrounded by a pool of cheese sauce, still holding between his fingers the curved handle of the china gravy boat.

My mother shrieked. My father exploded. My brother stammered something like, “It just...it just broke.” My grandmother helpfully pointed out that “Wow, look how it reached all the way over yonder.”

What followed was a chaotic and noisy mix of blaming, shouting, stomping and heavy sighing. We spent much of the holiday cleaning up the mess, taking turns sponging carpet cleaner into the hundreds of orange spots all over the room. After every scrubbing, we wondered aloud how a gallon of cheese could have fit in a 3-cup container. Months later we would still find flecks of hardened cheese clinging to some distant surface. It would take years before we could laugh about The Cheese Incident and even then it was less of a laugh and more of an uncomfortable, knowing chuckle.

This week, nearly 20 years after that day, is our second Thanksgiving without my mom. The traditions have shifted over time. The food is still very much the same traditional fare. There is sometimes fine china, sometimes a new vegetable, but there is never ever broccoli.

There is, however, always gratitude. I realize how far we’ve come from the family we were then. We’ve added in-laws and kids and gained enough joy to balance out the losses. We know we aren’t immune to future stress or sadness, but the old specter of uncertainty has passed.

This year, I will count my many blessings and be thankful that the cheese can spill and it won’t be a metaphor for anything. It will just be a mess. And we will clean it up without fanfare and move on.

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Read more fiasco stories from my talented friends...

Ann’s Rants The Flying Chalupa Midlife Mixtape Smacksy

And if you can't get enough of us, check out our past blog hops about The Worst Meal I Ever Served & 10 Reasons You Should Be Glad I Didn't Blog in my 20s.

Mealtime

IMG_5086 (1)So, my pals and I are doing another blog hop. Yay! You might remember the last one, where I bravely shared a photo of myself from 1992 wearing, as someone pointed out, "Mom jeans before I was even a Mom." This time we're discussing The worst meal I ever cooked and served to loved ones. I feel sure my funny friends will come up with compelling and hilarious stories, but I gotta be honest with you...this is a tough topic for me. Certainly not because I do or don't cook terrible meals. But because it's Thursday and hello I have hardly any remaining brain capacity to think about mealtime topics. I'm simply maxed out for the week. My weekly allotted Think About Food time was spent on panicked meal planning, high-speed grocery shopping, pre-dinner interrogations, dinnertime whining, and morning cajoling. There's precious little energy remaining to wonder how the meal ranked on my family's Yum Scale.

I am quite confident everyone has stirred around eaten what was on their plates and that what they avoided ate was as healthy as possible. But beyond that, I couldn't possibly tell you how it falls on their radar.

Call me callous or lazy, but this is where things stand right now in our house. We are all about simplicity nowadays. In fact, I adopted a Family Mealtime Mantra just to keep us all on the same page. Thanks to inspiration from Michael Pollan's famous quote I've come up with these words to live by:

"Cook food. Not too much. Mostly edible."

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Read more about worst meals from my talented writer friends...

Ann’s Rants Midlife Mixtape The Flying Chalupa Earth Mother just means I’m dusty

10 Reasons You Should Be Glad I Didn't Blog in My Twenties

1993ItalyFlorence, Italy 1992

Ready for a fun trip down Fuzzy-Memory Lane? Some friends and I are all answering the same prompt today and explaining why you should be glad we didn’t blog in our 20s. Here goes..

1. Because I’m so much cuter now without the Freshman 15. (Can you call it that when it lasts all four years?)

2. Every Monday night my blog readers would need to do the secret sorority handshake before logging on.

3. My fashion advice would have been heavily influenced by the stage where I transitioned, rather abruptly, from oh-so-preppy Molly Ringwald to the not-so-preppy Kurt Cobain.

4. That one summer I studied in Italy and learned what existential meant. (FYI, it means existing on wine, white bread and all-night discotequeing.)

5. My travel reviews would have been iffy at best. Sleeping on the floor of friends-of-friends? Adventurous! Sharing a hotel room that accommodates 3 king-size beds? Efficient! A hostel room with a bathroom door that actually closes? Luxury!

6. You would have to hear me gush over how much I looove R.E.M. Oh wait, I still do that.

7. The page you are are now reading would take 20 minutes to load via MY VERY OWN 14.4 modem and free AOL cd.

8. Remember how I got that great job writing for HealthyPet.com and all my friends thought I had found Jesus and was working for HealThyPet.com? That.

9. You would have hated me at 24. I had no college debt, a decent 9-5 job, fun co-workers, and I spent every weekend skiing or hiking in the Colorado Rockies...I’m nauseated and jealous of my former self even now!

10. My Pinterest boards would have been carefully designed with photos of our first married apartment, decorated in “Early American Wedding” style: two dozen versions of engagement poses over the mantle, a flowery Picasso poster above the sofa, and oversized silver Arthur Court bowls adorning every wobbly, wood-veneer surface you could fit into 500 square feet.

Don't worry, there’s more! Visit my funny friends and read about their non-blogging 20s...

Wait in the Van Tales of (Married) Mikkimoto Ann's Rants Wendi Aarons Midlife Mixtape The Flying Chalupa I'm Gonna Kill Him Smacksy Earth Mother just means I'm dusty Motherhood in NYC The Mama Bird Diaries Baby on Bored