Thursday, December 12, 2013

You Know it's Christmas in South Florida When...

 

1. All of a sudden you start seeing girls wearing Uggs and scarves with mini-skirts and tank tops as if that makes sense.

2. We go ice-skating on large sheets of wax. While wearing shorts. And don't forget the sunscreen.

3. Someone you know is going diving for lobsters for Christmas dinner. They're in season.

4. So are stone crabs, so someone better bring a tray to the holiday cocktail party.

5. If it's cloudy, everyone gets excited and pretends it's cold outside and pulls out the sweaters they've been dying to wear since last December.

6. At least once, you will take your kids to a local park where a big truck will come and dump a ton of shaved ice so they can play in the "snow."

7. It doesn't feel like the holidays until you make that three hour schlep up to Disney to fight the crowds and pay a fortune to stand in line, but it's all worth it when you see the Osborne lights.

8. Forget Johnny Mathis, you're jammin' to Jimmy Buffet's Christmas album.

9. You're really excited for the Starbucks holiday drinks, but, umm, you'll take your eggnog latte iced, thanks.

10. The gingerbread houses have screened-in pools and central air.

11. Every single person you know had their family Christmas photos taken on the beach and they're most likely all wearing white button-ups and either rolled up jeans or khakis.

12. You think it's ridiculous when you see houses decorated with a snowman theme.

13. Yet, it's totally normal to see flamingos with wreaths around their necks, Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt and you don't think a Christmas octopus is even slightly weird.

14. Your children believe that Santa arrives on a boat and not on a sleigh and that boat may or may not be pulled by marlins instead of reindeer.

15. Your friends have all pulled out their Caja Chinas and you've definitely ordered your whole suckling pig for Christmas Eve.

16. The strippers start wearing Santa hats and sucking suggestively on candy canes. "Ho ho ho" takes on an entirely different meaning down here.

17. After opening presents, we all go jump in the pool.

18. You start getting really friendly with people who live on the water so you can go to their Boat Parade parties.

19. Mrs. Claus? Who's that? Down here, Santa has a twenty-year old trophy wife with fake boobs and her name is Destynee.

20. You know how to say "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" in English, Spanish and Creole and you're happy to do so.

21. It's time to take a ride to look at all the beautiful Christmas lights. By boat!

22. On Christmas day, instead of chimney smoke, all you can smell is charcoal because in South Florida, we BBQ instead of bake our holiday dinners.

23. Northerners can keep that nasty fruit cake. South Florida's got key lime pie.

24. You have to go into a mall to remember it's Christmas because it feels like the Fourth of July out.

25. Christmas trees are palms and their trunks are probably decorated in alternating bands of red and white lights so they look like candy canes.

26. Red and green? What are you talking about? Aren't hot pink and turquoise Christmas colors?

27. Everyone, including you, is desperately hoping the temperature drops below 70, you know, so it's "cold" out and really "feels like Christmas," except of course all the Canadians and Germans, who will jump in the ocean when it's, oh my God brrrr, 68 degrees out.

Happy Holidays, everyone! 

** If you enjoy my writing, please support my work by sharing it on Facebook or Twitter and please consider checking out my memoir Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle, on Nook and iBooks. It makes a great gift!**

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Wide Lawns Official Toddler Gift-Giving Guide

Ok, it's Christmas. You've survived Thanksgiving and Black Friday and now it's Cyber Monday or some nonsense and you have a ton of coupons in your email and on your phone and you have a bunch of kids to shop for. Some might be your own, some might be relatives or the kids of friends and you have no freaking clue what to get any of them. Fear not. I've got your shopping list right here.

Take it from me. I'm a mom to an active three year old. I've made a ton of mistakes but I think I finally have a very good idea of what kids like.

The good news is that you don't have to spend a lot of money, travel to some fancy boutique or order a bunch of expensive shit from Scandinavia. Here's what to get them:

1. Band-Aids - Children are obsessed with band-aids. Get any child a few boxes and you will be revered. Band-Aids with characters on them? You are a saint.

2. Chapstick - Basically the only thing that kids love more than Band-Aids is Chapstick. They like to eat it, smear it all over their faces, your face, the dog's face, their stuffed animals' faces and also your nice clean windows. If you give a child some Chapstick they will think you are a god. Their parents may not agree.

3. A Cardboard Box - It's almost a cliche this one, but it's true. I can't tell you how many times people have gotten my daughter all kinds of fancy toys only to have her spend hours playing with the box the toys came in. One day I watched my daughter and my niece play with a box for two hours straight without taking a break.

4. Gum - This is up there with Band-Aids and Chapstick and should never be given to your own children for obvious reasons. Save this for other people's children. Preferably the children of people you don't like. Don't forget to give them a jar of peanut butter to get the gum out of their kid's hair. It works miracles.

4. Solo Cups - Yes, the red plastic, frat party staple. Children love them. My daughter and my niece (a different one, not the cardboard box niece) entertained themselves quietly for the duration of an entire family BBQ with a stack of solo cups. I kid you not.

5. A Box of Kleenex - Yup. The whole thing. Just for them. Hours of fun. Hours of clean up for the parents.

6. A Water Bottle - Go to the nearest convenient store and buy any bottle of water. Heck, you can even drink half or all of the water if you want. Give it to the kid. They don't even care if it's not Fiji. Any used, plastic water bottle will suffice.

7. A Bucket of Ice Cubes - Every parent knows that children universally possess an inhuman tolerance for cold. It's like their cold-sensing nerve endings aren't yet developed or something and thus, sticking their hands repeatedly in ice isn't the painful experience it is for us adults. Kids love ice. It's messy and melty, it breaks but won't cut you like glass and it's sparkly. Plus, it has just the right amount of danger as a choking hazard to make it thrilling.

8. Laundry Baskets - Give your kid his own laundry basket, which won't be used for laundry of course, and watch him go to town. Kids don't long for ponies. They just want laundry baskets.

9. Tupperware - Kids love containers. I have no idea why because frankly, I just don't see the excitement, but they do. Throw in a wooden spoon for extra amusement.

10. A Soap Dispenser - Ahh, the unparalleled thrill of pushing down a pump and having soap miraculously come out of it onto your hand, or the counter top, or in the sink, or the floor or pretty much anywhere else except your hand. I'm not kidding people, you've never seen anything like it. Soap. It comes out of it. Wow. Can we push it again? And again? How about again? How about 27 more times?

11. Straws - Not necessarily to drink with. Kids can find a million other uses for straws. My daughter is fascinated with everything having to do with straws. Except actually drinking out of them, because if I put one in her cup, she usually takes it out to play with. If I go to Starbucks the first words out of her mouth are "Mommy! Did you bring me a straw??"

12. Scotch Tape - Give a kid a roll of scotch tape and get out the video camera. Enough said. Thank me when you win the $25,000 prize on America's Funniest Home Videos (is that even on anymore?). Post-its are a close second.

13. Bubble Wrap - Just admit it, you like it too.

14.  Costco Sized Box of Goldfish Crackers - Because that's usually all they want to eat anyway.

15. Lotion - Ever wonder why kids have such soft skin? I have your answer. It's because they're all obsessed with lotion. Want to make a kid happy? Give them their own bottle of lotion, preferably one with a pump dispenser (see above) and let them slather themselves to their heart's content. It may take a while, so you might want to put in a movie or something.

See, your kids don't need an expensive tablet filled with apps. They don't need an Elmo that hugs them, a big, pink castle that seven princesses can live in or a Disney laptop. They just need the contents of your junk drawer and a few personal care products for endless joy. You're welcome. Now take all the money I've saved you and take a nice vacation this winter.

*If you like my writing here, you'll love my memoir. It's about what happens when the ultimate good girl, suffering the worst breakup of all time, decides to go to work in a strip club to make over her life. Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat is available on Amazon, Nook and iBooks. Makes a great holiday gift for your favorite reader too!**
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be taking a little blog vacation until Monday when the little one goes back to preschool. In the meantime, we've been busy recovering from a hell of a stomach virus, celebrating our wedding anniversary and prepping for the holidays. Little Lawns has been on break from school since last Friday, so we are having a nice little staycation and doing a lot of fun things at home like watching Christmas shows and baking and having play dates with her friends. It's been really nice, except for the part where I had a stomach virus for five days.

While I'm gone, how about checking out some of my latest articles on elephantjournal.com? If you enjoy them, I'd appreciate you sharing them on facebook and on Twitter for me.

This one's about being grateful.

This one's about how to have an awesome, plant-based Thanksgiving.

This one's about yoga moms. (It's funny!)

This one's about some things to do if you're sick and need to feel better and yes, I did all of them this week.

Hey! I bet you also need a good read for the holiday weekend. How about my memoir Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat? Available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon, on the Nook and at iBooks! It also makes the perfect Christmas gift!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!! Lots of love to everyone.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Former Wallflower/ Smiths Fan Gives Birth to Future Homecoming Queen! HELP!

So I seem to have reached a stage of parenting that I've been dreading. My daughter, just turned three, has suddenly noticed that not everyone is the same and she is very interested in people's differences and often very vocal about them, which becomes very awkward for me.

I'd hoped, rather naively I guess, that since my child has grown up in a very diverse area, in a very diverse family, around a very diverse group of friends that maybe she would be blind to differences. But nope, and maybe it's a natural part of her development to want to categorize everything, but it causes me some anxiety.

She points out people in wheelchairs. She asks me about skin color. The other say she said something about "black people" which I have been ruthless about not ever saying around her because I want her to just see everyone as "people" and not black or white or anything else. She asks me about her friends who have two daddies. She wants to know why a little boy in her class wears Cinderella shoes. And oh my God, I'm so scared I won't have the right answers.

I was horrified when she said something about her "brown friends" recently. I have friends who are African-American and Indian and she plays with all their kids, so they are whom she was referring to, but I don't want her pointing out stuff like that! I handled it by trying to be nonchalant about it and telling her that yeah, everybody just looks different and that she is brown too because she has brown hair and eyes. I told her that people come in all kinds of different ways and that we all look different and no big deal. I hoped this would satisfy her but she still keeps pointing it out.

So far I've handled everything this way. Yeah, everybody's different. Some people have two daddies, some two mommies, whatever. Some people can walk and some can't so they go in wheelchairs. No biggie.

I hope it's no big deal.

For the past couple weeks, she's developed a fascination with an adorable little boy in her class, E. E is, I guess what they're now calling non-gender conforming, because he paints his nails pink and likes to play dolls and princesses with the girls. My daughter calls him a "Princess Boy" and I'm not sure how she means that. I don't think that E is transgendered necessarily. I think he will probably just grow up to decorate houses, style hair or work in theater, but whatever the case, I don't want my daughter to bully E or to make him feel weird or like an outcast. So far, she says she likes playing with him but she has a lot of questions and a few times she has expressed frustration because she says boys shouldn't wear dresses or like pink or play princess. I always tell her that anyone can play or wear whatever they like and there are no rules about that, but she is a bit stubborn about this and I'm concerned. I want E to feel normal and I want E to BE normal in my daughter's eyes.

I'm scared that Little Lawns is going to be a bully and I want to nip it in the bud right now and I want to make sure that she grows up to be compassionate and a defender of underdogs and kids who are bullied.

Little Lawns was born lucky. She's typical in every way, she's pretty, smart, privileged and extremely strong-willed and opinionated. Her confidence amazes me and she's clearly very much a leader.

In short, she's not much like me. As a kid, I was shy, scared and I got picked on badly. I wasn't a leader and I just wanted to fit in. I couldn't relate to girls like my daughter. What irony, I know.

But now I've given birth to a future cheerleader and because our personalities are so different, I'm not sure that I know how to parent her in the best way that she needs to be parented in order to make the most of her personality. How can I channel her bossiness, her bravado and sauciness and her amazing confidence into a force for good? How can I prevent her from going down the wrong path and turning into a mean girl?

I need some advice on this. Help me, readers!
Monday, November 11, 2013

A Thanksgiving Shopping List for Families in Need



This time of year, food banks across the country are gearing up to feed thousands upon thousands of hungry Americans on Thanksgiving Day and they desperately need your help. Many people don’t have the time during the busy holiday season to actually volunteer at a food pantry. We may not all be able to cook or serve hot meals at a shelter, and thank you dearly if you are, but we can all help out simply by grocery shopping. Imagine how many families could be blessed with a delicious Thanksgiving dinner if everyone chipped in and bought a few items each time they went food shopping.

Most food banks organize non-perishable food drives during the holidays. They then put together bags or boxes containing all the traditional Thanksgiving trimmings, which are then delivered to or picked up by families in need to take home and prepare.

The next time you go grocery shopping, take along this simple list and pick up as many of the following items as you can. Then, take them to your nearest food bank. Don’t know where to go? Churches and schools almost always have food drives this month. Many years ago, I discovered my local food bank by googling “food bank for the needy” plus the name of my city.

Thanksgiving Food Drive Shopping List
Basics:

Boxed Stuffing Mix (like Stovetop)
Instant Mashed Potatoes in boxes or packets
Jars of Turkey Gravy or Dried Gravy Mix Packets
Canned Yams
Cranberry Sauce
Canned Veggies (green beans, corn, peas)
Cornbread Mix
Canned Pumpkin or Fruit Pie Filling
Pie Crust Mix
Salt and Pepper

Extras:
Boxed Macaroni and Cheese
Fixings for Green Bean Casserole – Cream of Mushroom Soup, Canned Green Beans, French Fried Onions
Cake Mix or Brownie Mix and Can of Frosting
Vegetable Oil
Powdered Drink Mixes
Can of Instant Coffee (Some families may not be able to afford coffee makers)
Box of Tea Bags
Can of Dried Coffee Creamer
Bag of Sugar
Rice
Bags of Dried Beans
Jar of Peanut Butter
Jar of Jam
Jar of Mayo
Boxes of Jell-O or Pudding Mix
Box of Cereal
Box of Crackers with Can of Spray Cheese
Box of Graham Crackers
Foil Baking Pans
Paper Plates
Napkins
Plastic Utensils
Paper Towels

Money Saving Tips
When shopping for charity, you want to be able to give as much as you can, so you need to get your money’s worth. Here’s what works for me:

Cut coupons.

Take advantage of grocery store “Buy One Get One Free” sales.

Buy only store-brand items.

Shop at the dollar stores. You wouldn’t believe the deal on non-perishable foods and household supplies and families in need aren’t going to be picky about brand names or fancy stores.

Find inexpensive grocery stores that will honor sales, specials and coupons from other stores and load up. Many stores will even take double coupons. In my town Wal-Mart usually has the lowest prices and they accept competitor’s deals and coupons, so I save a ton by shopping there armed with the weekly flyers from other grocery stores.

Look for discontinued products and dented cans. Usually stores have a designated area for these items and sell them at deep discounts.

Speak with the store manager and explain what you’re doing. You may just receive some generous donations!

Other Tips
If you have children, bring them shopping with you and teach them about helping the less fortunate members of their communities. Print out the shopping list and let them make a scavenger hunt out of finding the items.

Pin this article on Pinterest so you don’t lose the list.

Recruit other friends and family members to shop for the needy too. Spread the love.

Organize your own mini food drive at school, work, family get-togethers, parties, etc. Tell everyone to bring something and make it fun.

If at all possible, make the time to volunteer. Try to find ways to connect with the people who are receiving the donations. Talk to them. Get to know them and their stories. Interacting with individuals in need and experiencing their humanity will give a face to the problems of poverty and hunger facing our nation. Once you experience this, you will only want to help more. On the other side, when people in need meet and get to know those who donate and volunteer, they find a sense of hope and belonging in a world that may often seem harsh and unforgiving. Hope changes lives.

Most importantly, remember that people are hungry all year round, not just during the holidays. Donate whenever you can throughout the year and remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money or get every single item on the list. Do what you can. Every little bit counts.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Princessed Out

I'm sure you're all familiar with these ladies - the Disney Princesses? Welcome to my life. It's like seven, gorgeous, effortlessly thin, constantly singing super-models who don't like to change their clothes have moved in to my house and aren't leaving any time soon. I have seven new room-mates: Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, Belle, Ariel, Tiana and Rapunzel. Unfortunately Cinderella and Snow White have long since left their scullery maid days behind and are totally useless when it comes to housework. Belle reads all the time. Aurora sleeps, naturally, and Ariel hangs out in our bathtub. Tiana, at least, is a great cook except she only seems to make plastic food and unfortunately our Tiana is an amputee, having sustained a mysterious injury that left her with only one leg, so I have to cut her some slack. She does drive her own car though, which is purple and green, so you have to give her credit.

But seriously, princesses have taken over. My daughter is obsessed. I have one of those little girls who goes around wearing nothing but princess dresses, tiaras and waving magic wands and I've decided not to stop her because as a child I was the exact same way. Worse probably and I was highly imaginative and these tales and the films based on them, I believe, helped spark my ultimate love of stories.

But as an adult I view the princesses a little differently. The Disney versions, while very pretty, send some bad messages that the original fairy tales don't. As a kid, long before Ariel existed, my favorite story was the Little Mermaid. As a child who'd been through some rough stuff, the themes of loss, personal sacrifice, disappointment and a love unrecognized resonated very deeply with me on a level that as a child I couldn't articulate, but which I understand very well now. The Little Mermaid story helped me identify and work through my emotions, but Disney came along and completely sanitized the whole story and removed all the unpleasant parts and whipped up a new, happy ending, when the original story has a sad ending and you know what? Sometimes kids need sad endings to help them understand that life doesn't always end with a wedding and a big Broadway style finale.

The original Cinderella and Snow White were tales about girls who were abused, kids who got knocked around by life, kids who'd lost their moms and had awful unfair stuff happen to them, but who didn't let those things make them mean and bitter and in the end, they were rewarded for their kindness. Those stories made me, as a child in very similar circumstances, want to be a better person. They gave me hope when times were tough that if I could be strong and stick it out that I'd be able to have a happily ever after too. I still feel that way.

But the new versions of the princesses focus so much on appearance and materialism. It really disappoints me. Disney, as much as I love you, especially your music, you really kind of suck sometimes, although Tiana and Merida have somewhat redeemed you. Somewhat. I'm pretty big on Tiana because she works hard and her goal is to own her own restaurant, which I think is pretty ass kicking.

I like warrior princesses instead.

I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey. I watched Star Wars. There was no greater princess in the galaxy than Princess Leia, who started an entire revolution against her own father and lost not just her family, but her whole freaking planet and still remained strong. That's a hell of a role model there.

I like princesses who take up arms to save their kingdoms and princesses who aren't concerned solely with getting married. I want my daughter to be as princessy as she wants but to learn to be a warrior too.

Maybe in life I haven't been enough of a warrior myself. Maybe I too bought into the notion that a handsome prince would come and save me and that everything would be perfect happily ever after. Maybe I believed marriage was the be all and end all.

I grew up seeing my dad do everything for my mom and my grandfather do everything for my grandmother. My grandmother, to this day, cannot balance a checkbook, pay her own bills or even put gas in her car because my grandfather did all that for her.

My mom is much better. She manages a little more, but lately I've noticed that I'm not doing my best either. I let my husband do all the things that I consider "hard" or "what men do" and I don't want my daughter to view me as weak or dependent. I want her to grow up seeing me as a confident role model, not someone who can't pick up a tool, fix the wireless or take out the trash or figure out what to do about the car making a funny noise.

I'm working on this. I really am and I'm starting small.

I'm conquering the grill.

Recently I've had a craving for grilled food. We haven't grilled anything on our grill in over a year. My husband is the grill master and whenever I wanted something grilled I'd ask him, but his schedule doesn't always allow him to be home in time for dinner, plus he is often exhausted and doesn't want to go slave over a hot grill so I can have some fish when he gets home from work.

So why can't I just learn to use the grill myself? Silly, isn't it? But I'm petrified of the stupid grill. It's big and scary and intimidating sitting out on the back patio. I don't know how to turn it on or get the gas tank hooked up to it. Everything about the grill completely freaks me out.

Yet I imagine all the yummy things I could make on it if I could conquer my fear and learn how to use the damned thing, and so my current goal is to go get a new propane tank, learn to hook it up, learn to turn on the grill and because a grill master myself.

Snow White could totally grill some veggies out there, right? 

***
To meet my (self-determined) sales goal this month I really need to sell just 9 more books! Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat is a great, quick, fun read and for Halloween, there's even a scary scene! Would you please help me out by sharing my link and telling all your friends that they absolutely HAVE to read this book? Or else Zombies will bite them? And of course, if you haven't bought it yourself, what are you waiting for?? You'll love it!
Monday, October 28, 2013

Bake Sale

This weekend, my worst character flaw took over. I can't say no. I had said no a month ago when asked to chair the bake sale at Little Lawns' school because it was the day after her birthday and because my in-laws were in town. It would be too much to handle all at once. After a kid's birthday party, I need a week's vacation. That shit is exhausting. Instead, I found myself in a frenzy of flour and sugar and Pam cooking spray.

No one volunteered except the mother of my favorite child in Little Lawns' class. She also happens to be my favorite mom (not that I don't like them all, but I know this mom better and well, she gives me soup all the time and who doesn't love someone who gives them soup all the time?). I couldn't let the school down. I couldn't leave my poor friend hanging all by herself out there after church on Sunday trying to sell a meager pan of peanut butter cookies! I had to come through. And so, this is how I ended up on a mission to SAVE THE BAKE SALE!!

In the midst of preparing for my daughter's third birthday party, I somehow managed to bake a pan of gingerbread, a pan of truffle brownies and a pan of chocolate chip blondie bars, which are my current obsession. You're welcome in advance for that recipe, by the way. Oh, and also pumpkin chocolate chip squares because it was Halloween and because they are insanely good. After all this and all the party prep at the same time, I came to think of myself as super-human. I'm pretty sure I am.

After surviving the birthday party, I got up early Sunday morning and went to SAVE THE BAKE SALE. I was like a soldier on a mission and when I arrived, my heart warmed to see that so many people had come through for us. We had plenty of baked goods to sell. People had made cupcakes, spice cakes, Halloween themed candy, brownies, cookies, rice krispy treats, you name it. We had two tables loaded with delights - all homemade. I almost cried.

Little Lawns goes to a church preschool and this bake sale was to raise money for playground repairs for the children. We set the bake sale up outside the church so that when people came in and out of the three morning services they would pass our table. There was a big sign that said treats were by donation. That made it a lot easier than having to price everything and make change.

Most people are decent and reasonable and would overpay.  Our goal was to make $150.00 and the church-goers were kind and generous in supporting our cause. It was a lot of fun. Readers, I have found my true calling in life and it is bake sales.

My friend and I had so much fun that we started planning a big Christmas bake sale blow-out extravaganza. I'm pretty sure that by the end of the conversation about it we'd decided to set off fireworks and sell elephant rides. We are seriously enthusiastic bake sale moms.

And you know, the bake sale made me happy. I love volunteering. I love being out doing things around people. I love being in close proximity to cake. I love that I could stand there and drink free, weak, church coffee all morning with friends who love this stuff as much as I do. I love that I can do things to help my daughter's school. I'm really grateful.

But then, the crazy folk showed up. Don't they always?

First, from God knows where, a woman in a prairie skirt and about 20 necklaces and a sack of quartz crystals appeared and she was your requisite 50-something, old hippie nutcase who will not leave and will not shut up. And she decided to stand in front of our table and holler at the top of her lungs in an attempt to draw in the customers, when in fact she was scaring them away. Then she decided to talk to everyone who passed and I swear she switched topic every half a second and we could not get rid of this woman. It was awful and I have PMS and was tired so it's a miracle I didn't drop kick this woman clean to the Atlantic Ocean.

But that's not all.

I learned a long time ago that in every large group of people that you can expect at least one total fucking asshole. Even at church. Even at a bake sale. It's probability. 

So this nasty old bitch comes up and everything about her was pinched and she looked like a villain out of a Roald Dahl book. She was very Aunt Spiker. The chip on this woman's shoulder must have weighed 75 pounds.

Aunt Spiker proceeded to take a paper plate and load it. I mean LOAD that shit up. She had a tower of baked goods on her plate. Which is fine if you give an appropriate amount in return, which everyone else did. Shoot, take as much as you want as long as you give to help out our kids, you know?

This woman's nerve was like nothing I have ever seen. She took her heavily laden plate, filled with items that people had lovingly baked and donated and then looked at us like we were trying to rob her blind and said:

"My donation is that I sing in the choir."

I shit you not. She actually said that. Stunned, it took us a second to recover.

"Singing in the choir doesn't help our children at the preschool," I said, "We're raising money to repair the playground, not for the church."

She looked at us and gave an arrogant shrug.

"You're not singing in the choir for the kids," my friend said.

The woman literally sniffed at us in disdain and walked away with her plate of what I consider to be stolen baked goods.

I shook with rage. Can you imagine?? And since when is singing in the choir any kind of donation? What kind of Christian behavior is that? Singing in the church choir is a choice and a privilege and something to be done in the spirit of joy and praise, not like you're making some hideous personal sacrifice and putting yourself out SOO much so that you feel entitled to take things that don't belong to you!

Just wait 'til December, lady. It's on. Next time I'm ready for you.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The World's Strongest Librarian

Last night I finished reading Josh Hanagarne's memoir
The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family. LOVED it.

I'd been in a slight reading rut again, having been disappointed by a few recent attempts at fiction reading and not finding any particularly redeeming memoirs. I read one memoir that was totally depressing so I decided not to review that one on here and then, needing something a bit more positive, I happened upon this one - the story of a man with a severe case of Tourette's who is also a devout Mormon, a husband, a dad, an extreme body builder (by my standards anyway) and a librarian at the Salt Lake City main library. Oh yeah, and he's a blogger and a writer. The least you can say about Josh Hanagarne is that he's well rounded.

Now here's why I liked this book so much. It was uplifting and you know, once in a while it's really nice to read a memoir about a bunch of nice people doing the right things instead of a dysfunctional pack of assholes, which is what most memoirs involve, including mine. Hanagarne is consistently funny and although he is very Mormon, he has a sense of humor about it and can throw in a few cuss words, so I appreciate that, plus you recall, I love those Mormons. I swear, if the theology wasn't so wackadoodle (sorry Mormons) I could definitely get with their program. I like their way of life, just not necessarily the beliefs behind it, but I can respect the faith of others and I like how Hanagarne describes his relationship with his religion and how he is unapologetic about what he believes. Although he is pretty darned devout, he doesn't jam it down a reader's throat and he doesn't come off as some nutcase religious fanatic at all. He seems like a cool guy and a really nice person who occasionally whoops and smacks himself in the face.

And that is the issue at the center of this memoir. Hanagarne has Tourette's and a very bad case of it and throughout the course of the book he learns to accept it, deal with it, control it and not let it define his entire life. I love that. I love the message that a condition or a disability shouldn't stop you from living a complete life and seeking the things you love. Reading this book put me in a better mood each night before bed and it made me happy. Read it.

If you're interested in checking out his blog, here it is. I'm about to head on over there and argue the merits of the book Night Film, which I decided against reviewing for various reasons that I'm going to tell him about, since his latest post is a review of it.
Friday, October 18, 2013

Things I Wish I Could Say to the Other Woman


*The following piece was inspired by several recent articles that I've read by women who have proudly had affairs with married men. Although I am lucky enough to have a faithful husband, I've been cheated on in the past (wrote a whole book about it) and infidelity has touched the lives of several women very dear to me. I wrote this to give those women, the ones who did nothing wrong, a voice.*


I’m not slut-shaming you. We women should revel in our sexuality. We should love sex and live passionately, sensually. We should celebrate our bodies and all the miraculous things they can do and feel and we should be proud, but what you did isn’t a celebration of your sexual freedom and it’s nothing to be proud of. You aren’t liberated. You are degraded. I say this not of the wild abandon with which you enjoyed my husband, doing all the things I’m sure he told you I refused to, but because of the selfishness with which you did them. 


I know that you suffer. If you were healthy and happy, you wouldn’t pursue relationships with unavailable men. This comes from a place of pain. I have compassion for that sorrow and I know your emptiness and longing. How do you think I felt when he wasn’t home and when I knew he was lying to me about where he was going?


Look, sleeping with a married man isn’t going to fix you. Your time with him, his compliments, those things are a temporary balm to make you forget how badly you feel about yourself. You think you are special because he chose you over me and over his family, and this gives you proof for a little while that you are lovable and worthy, but what about when he leaves and you’re waiting for him to call or text you again? How do you feel then waiting for your next fix?


What you’re feeling with him is an illusion. It’s a trick. It’s a high. His affections are a drug and you’re a junkie mainlining male attention. Lust is a powerful liar. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun while it lasts. Trust me, I know. I remember how it felt when I first met him too.


Real love though? That’s a whole different story. It’s not based on deceit. It can’t be because love can’t thrive where negativity festers so a relationship built on lies and hiding can never blossom. When you act like that, you’re living in darkness. Love needs light. Love is honest, it’s vulnerable, it’s out in the open.


Building a life with someone over time, overcoming hardship, reaching goals together – that’s what real love is. You just can’t come in and steal what you think is my ready-made perfect life. It doesn’t work that way. You have to build your own and put in all the same hard work and effort that I did.

You think you want my life? You say you want what I have? Oh really? You want a man who cheats? Because that’s what you’d be getting.


But you’re special, you think. He wouldn’t do that to you. Possibly, but unlikely and even so, what you’d be getting with him is a man who lacks character. I’m sure you like to imagine that you are so irresistible that he was powerless to keep his hands off of you and that your charms, your beauty, your wit or whatever is what led him astray. No. He led himself astray. This had nothing to do with your otherworldly sexiness. It happened because he has no integrity, no self-control, no regard for the consequences of his actions and it happened because he is selfish. We, yes, both of us, deserve better than that. 


You might say, “If it wasn’t me, he would’ve done it with someone else,” and you know, you’re right, but that doesn’t excuse you from your actions and your choices. You are better than that. We women need to stand up for our sisters and when he hits on you, don’t give in. Refuse and say “I’m not going to do that to another woman.” What if we all did that? If we all had the courage and the strength to say no and to wait for the kind of man who’d truly respect us and love us faithfully, like, really love us? It would be so hard to do. I understand that because it feels so good in that moment when he wants you, but the high is fleeting and then you’ll inevitably crash. Doing the right thing is always more difficult and so is delaying the immediate rush of gratification that comes with your clandestine encounters, but I swear to you, it’s worth it, and once you do it, you will understand what real, lasting empowerment truly is. And that’s a million times better than some guy telling you how hot you make him.


Crying about how much you love him doesn’t mean you really did. You didn’t really love him. True love means wanting the other person to live their greatest life and to fulfill their greatest potential whether or not you get to be with them. If you loved him, you wouldn’t want him to live a life of lies. You’d want him to be healthy and your dysfunctional relationship is anything but.


Maybe you didn’t think of this and maybe you didn’t want to, but the times you were with him were times stolen from his family. The money he spent on you was money robbed from his children. Men don’t just cheat on their wives. They betray their entire families. So once again, when you say you love him, if you really did, you’d love his children as if they were your own. So why then would you want to hurt them?

I bet he told you he was unhappy with me. Perhaps he listed all my faults and transgressions, made himself a martyr saying he couldn’t leave me because of the children or because of finances. First of all, all cheaters say that. Don’t fall for it. And second? There are two sides to every story. How about you live with him as long as I have and then maybe you’ll understand why I’m such a bitch. In fact, I bet you have a lot more in common with me than you do with him.


What you did is like a disease. It’s a sickness and your symptoms are contagious. The worthlessness, the blaming, the feelings of being unloved and ugly, the loneliness? You’ve passed it on to me now, but I know how to heal and I can help you, so that together, as women, we can rise above this. The cure is standing tall, succeeding, ripping back those curtains of pain and negativity and letting the light flood in to our lives. It’s living with confidence and integrity, making choices for ourselves that are in the best interest of others too. It’s doing the right thing when faced with temptation.


It’s everything that he isn’t.

If you enjoy my writing, please check out my book Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat, available in paperback and kindle on Amazon, on Nook and iBooks or visit my facebook author page and give me a like!

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