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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WTH Wednesday: there should be a universal form for ... everything

I just returned from the pediatrician's office, where I paid $15 to have them fill out a medical form for me: you know - the one that says, "yes, my child is healthy and has had all her shots."  Similar to the one you need, say, to kennel your chihuahua.

Anyway, aside from the irritation of having to PAY for such a form (ok, I know, I'm paying for the physician's time in filling out the form, or signing it, or at least having the office staff make some unintelligible squiggles and STAMP the doctor's signature and office information at the bottom.  Whatever.),  I was thinking:  Every place that needs a form has a different form.  Daycare, camps, school, multiple sports and clubs... and EACH FORM IS DIFFERENT.

They want the same info.  From the same professionals/persons and/or parents.  And yet the forms are all different: Columns. Check boxes. Y/N.  Places for dates (or not).  Fronts and backs.  Fronts only.   Squished-up spaces.  Lots of room for notations.  30-yr-old fuzzy Xeroxed type.  Colored paper.  Crappy paper.  Neatly printed and updated-each-year.  Archaic fonts.  Crisp, new fonts .... etc.

So why isn't there a standard form?  If I want to donate my grandmother's full-length mink coat*, I might need to fill out IRS Form 8283 for my tax return next year**.  Why aren't there standardized, generic, regular forms for most, if not all, things?  With large, boldface titles and numbers at the top?

Think of it!  Need to have your family's contact info on file?  Just download and print Universal Form 348 and hand it in.  (Or better yet, fill it out online and email it to the party who desires it, who STILL might print it for ease of access).

Saved -- Time:  Picking up specific forms to be filled out (or having them mailed or emailed by someone), taking certain forms to be filled out by professionals (email them the form, they can fill out at any time, in any format) and returned to the interested parties.

Saved: (potentially) paper, stamps, the mailman's posture.

Saved: Office staffs' spit-laden fingers from leafing through stacks of mystery forms

Saved: Secretaries' dry, fluorescent-lighting-tired, squinting eyes from searching for a form's identifying feature before dealing with it appropriately.

Ok, I think I'm being Pollyanna about all this.  What happens when Business A doesn't need most of the information on Form 227?  (this is why you get a stack of forms in the clipboard, but only have to fill out the "highlighted sections" ... which, come to think of it, could also be done digitally, but I digress.)  What about Big Brother, watching over the intrawebs, waiting to snag your personal info as it goes hurtling through cyberspace?

Still, it seems like a workable idea to me.  Am I alone here?

* I do not have a full-length mink coat.  To my knowledge, none of my grandmothers ever did, either.
** If I DID have a full-length mink coat, I would not be donating it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WTH Wednesday: Which part of TOXIN sounds good to you?

Ok, I get it. I am reading a women's magazine, therefore, there MAY be an inordinate concern with improving one's personal appearance. And aside from glancing at the fashion trends (really? sweater dresses are BACK??), I tend to avoid the section altogether. But this caught my eye: (Good Housekeeping August 2010)

Skin plumping injections can hurt, so many doctors pre-anesthetize skin or add a numbing agent to the filler. But that means extra shots and wait time -- and a watering-down of the filler. Hence the new plumpers with lidocaine. One example: Juvederm XC (around $600 per syringe), a hyaluronic acid filler recently FDA approved for the treatment of moderate to severe facial wrinkles and folds. [...] (emphasis mine)

Ok, I get it. It's your face; if you want to poke it and fill it and tattoo it and pierce it, you are SOOO allowed. You're a grown up, right? and you EARNED that money, right? (maybe).

But I'm sad. You earned those laugh lines. Those lines around your nose? Your great-grandma had those, too.

What about "botulism" and "neurotoxin" makes one say, "ooh, sign me up!"?

Why do you want to look like Nancy Pelosi? Steve Martin? (who caused me to actually STARTLE when I last saw him on screen).

I know we are an appearance-obsessed culture. I know that is not going to change. I know technology soldiers on, and we make use of what suits us. I know that "sex sells." I also know you can't make the logical leap I'm about to make.... how much cancer research could have been done in place of the strides in botulism? How many mouths could that $600-a-shot treatment feed?

I just sit and wonder, and really, feel sorry for, the person who says, yes, my $600 is well spent smoothing out this wrinkle (temporarily) as opposed to having the porch redone or heading to Maui or painting the church library or having new swings put in at the park or having food show up anonymously on someone's doorstep or having seat warmers installed in my car or having a life-sized canvas made of my dog ...

I just don't get it. Am I alone here?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Works For Me: Microfiber Cloths

Truly, if you do not have these in your home, you need to step away from the computer, get into your car, and find some.

I thought my mom was crazy. She RAVED about RAGS. When I picked them up, they made my hands feel icky; dried out (especially in the winter) and every hangnail and callous snagged the material. EEW!

I think that might have been college. Or early married life, anyway. Mea culpa, Mama. Microfiber ROCKS.

Other than wash cloths and unpaper towels, I have no other cleaning-up fabric items in my house. And bestill my burgeoning ecofriendly heart, for most every job the only thing you need is a spritz of water. No harsh chemical cleaners, no scratchy sponge full of bacteria. If it's not "clean" to you without some kind of solution, make yourself a spray bottle of equal parts vinegar and water. Add a splash of essential oils if you aren't keen on eau de salad dressing, and you're a cleaning MACHINE. I use a VERY mild solution of dish detergent for the outside grime on my windows ... and that's about it.

Wash, do not use fabric softner. I think it might be recommended that you not toss these in the dryer? but I do anyway. They WILL stick to ... everything, coming out :) but even though I loathe static (cling, electricity, etc) as well, I make an exception for these babies.

These are safe for just about every surface I can think of - computer screens to car tires. But be careful! the little grabbers will NOT let the grit go, and you can easily scratch something else with it if you're not careful. Also note: tiny bits of sawdust/wood will render your cloth unusable for anything but outside scratchy work. Unless you have tweezers and a LOT of time on your hands.

Tip: if you are about to hop into your car to track some down, bypass the "home" section of your chosen superstore. March straight back to automotive. They are cheaper back there, and usually come in larger packs. Plus you can also get the double-thickness type, which are great for soaking up spills. (ShamWow be darned!)  (According to Good Housekeeping, one microfiber cloth takes the place of SIXTY ROLLS of paper towels.  Awesome!)

My favorites:
Shiny (for glass, mainly, but all types can be used for glass as well)
No Frills Plain Jane Standard (in blue, here)
Moppedy Mop Mop
Super Thick (scroll down to second set)

OH, and a bonus a-ha! use: It might seem weird to dust a carpet, but hear me out. Go along the seam between carpet and baseboard to pick up all the dust and hair and crud your vacuum will never touch!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good Reads: The Book of Awesome

(subtitle: Snowy Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things)

Stumbled into this book via the blogosphere. Neil Pasricha is the author of, and I will let you explore over there for his reasons/motivation for writing the book.

What I love about it (besides the title) is not even within the book's pages; it's the very idea of a book of awesome ... the inspiration to create your own, to form a giant, personal list of "Best Stuffs Ever." It takes the concept of a Gratitude Journal and turns it on its ear just a bit; these are things you might feel silly thanking God for in your evening prayers ("Thank you God, that I got the cereal-to-milk ratio just right this morning" (pg 20) or "Praise the Lord for bubble wrap" (29) or "that I got the Nintendo to work by smacking it" (42)).

Don't get me wrong: some of the observations contained are just plain BRILLIANT: "The sound of scissors cutting construction paper," and the writing hilarious: "The smell of crayons: Crack open a fresh box and get ready for a neuron-splattering head rush. AWESOME!"

It's just when you sit The Book Of Awesome down (hopefully taking a few days to read, rather than trying to ingest it all in one sitting), you start to see things differently (and really, isn't that one of the AWESOME things about books??): you start to see episodes in your life as entries in your own mental (or if you're a nerd, like me, physical) Book of Awesome. The night after reading a few pages, witnessing my husband get out clothes for the following morning, I added this:

Going for the superfluous bum-bump drawer close, even when you were just facing it with both hands outstretched. AWESOME!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Love This: Hint Water

Ok, so buying water is not the most ecologically nor fiscally sound thing to do. BUT. If you're out and about, say, at Starbucks, or you're like me and it's sometimes to down plain ol' H2O, give this stuff a try.

I was THRILLED (and ask my peeps; this is NOT an understatement) to find a flavored water with NO ADDED SWEETENER. The company's slogan is "Drink water, not sugar." AMEN! Available in these flavors so far:


The only one I don't dig is Pear ... seems to have a funny aftertaste. But all the others I've tried have been FAB.

Be warned: your tongue will desperately dart about in your sugar-addicted mouth, trying to nab a sugar molecule. It will be disappointed. But hopefully your taste buds will be pleasantly surprised with the subtle, genuine flavor therein. Hear, hear, Hint. Hear, hear.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Car: My Sanctuary, My Chariot, My Office ...

I have this thing with a friend of mine; both of us would rather drive-thru and park than go into a fast food restaurant. Our husbands abhor this practice and the drive-thru in general. My Hero says eating and driving just accentuates his inability to keep his food off his shirt in the first place.

I really like my car. It's the perfect size for us as a family, it meets all my car needs (radio controls on the steering wheel, a large trunk, a bench front seat and decent cup holders). It even has the bonus of leather interior and automatic start (no heated seats or one of those limo privacy screens ... hey, a girl can dream, right?). It's a completely nondescript brown/tan color, it's relatively quiet. Right now we are having issues with fan controls 2 and 3, but otherwise it has served us well these many years. It may smell of fries, but not of milk (anymore, thank goodness).

By Friday I have quite an impressive archeological survey of the week. Wrappers, mugs, books, magazines, travel Bingo, a Leaspter, something to return to someone, the paper recycling container, school papers, some sort of project involving pipe cleaners and glitter... and always something sticky, somewhere.

I love getting into a hot car. Especially when coming out of an over-air conditioned building. Even when it's hot outside, and in about 3 minutes I will need the AC blowing full tilt ... I love that "baked car" feeling. Ok, I'm weird. I'm ok with that.

All this aside: I don't just love my car. I love BEING in my car. Upon some reflection, I suppose it comes down to control: a small, contained environment where I command the speed, the temperature and the destination. I can sit there and do nothing (which I have been known to do, when we arrive home ... stay in the parked car, recline my seat and CHILL; this, too, I believe slightly irritates my husband), I can crank up the tunes and boogie. I can "put on the banjo song" for the kids. I can change my mind at the last minute and head somewhere else, and I can "turn this car around."

What's the point? maybe I don't have one. But if you see me sitting in my car

"... please don't give a thought to me, I'm really doing fine.
You can always find me here, having quite a time."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WTH Wednesday: Rude or Not? Respond or Not?

So I was reading in Good Housekeeping, August 2010:

"The woman in front of you in the express lane has way more than 10 items. Do you point it out?" (There's a sampling of answers from readers, then the "official" answer from the advice columnist. The title of the page is "Good Advice: Everyday Manners".)

Answer One: "Yes. I would kindly say, 'You know what? Counting counts!'"
Answer Two: "No. There are more important things to worry about."
Answer Three: "Yes. I'd ask if she knew other registers take large orders."

Peggy, the "expert" says: "Yes. If you sense she might be receptive, say in a friendly tone, 'Excuse me; you probably don't realize this is an express line.' She'll either move or ignore you. If her items are already on the belt, say nothing. Or, if you have only one or two things, you could pleasantly ask to go ahead of her before her order is started."
So I'm reading this, and I'm thinking ... When was the express lane invented? Could it be that its inception was based on a basic lack of civility? because we stopped noticing that someone behind us only had 3 things and we had a family-of-six-stocking-up-for-the-month cart? because we aren't friendly enough to ask, politely, if we might hop the line since we only have a few items? Did express lines come with the "super" market? I doubt they existed at the Five and Dime.

And honestly. "Counting counts!" Who SAYS that? How does one RESPOND to that? I am also wondering ... the two "yes's" came from a 66 and 54-year-old, successively. The "No" was from a 26-yr-old. Can I make any generational assumptions?

Look, I'm not saying it's not flat-out rude to take your cart full of stuffs to the "only 10 items" line. What I'm pondering is, truly: WHO GETS THIS BENT ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THIS? And who, in the case of a near emergency ("I'm double-parked and my daughter is screaming because her mosquito bite is bleeding she's ripped it off and I need to get this cold pack and Benadryl out there, can I hop in front of you?") can't manage to ask, politely, to be shown priority? And isn't this something you go home and fume to your friends about ("this idiot woman in front of me with the coupons flying all over and writing a check and she had at LEAST 20 items in the EXPRESS LANE") instead of making a big deal about in the store?

I'm a big fan of the rules. Truly. I try to obey them. I just don't see getting so upset when someone ELSE doesn't follow them. Am I alone here?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Button, Button, Who Has Enough Buttons?

The Great Button Experiment has begun.

This is a reward system wherein A and Z do things around the house: chores, showing kindness, having a good attitude, etc. Exercise counts, too. [Mommy is going to get in on the good attitude and exercise bit].

It's a fluid system, but there are a few guidelines.

There are mini buttons, which are worth "5". In the abstract, that's 5 minutes of screen time. We don't watch much teevee in this house, but despite this Mom-imposed virtuousness, the mere existence of the Big Black Box produces a CONSTANT barrage of viewing requests throughout the day. I am tired, quite frankly, of being the TV Nazi, and truly I don't have a problem with occasional viewing. Unfortunately I vacillate between a) saying "no" because I'm tired of being asked or b) being tempted to keep it on all day so they stay entertained and STOP FIGHTING.

Large buttons are worth "15". This is, naturally, half of a half-hour television program. I am hoping that it will catch on ... cash in these 2 buttons and watch Super Why, or do a few more things around the house and get to watch a MOVIE. Lessons in choice, consequence, work and time value. At least, I HOPE some of that gets imparted, subtly.

My challenge is going to be a) having age-appropriate tasks available for a semi-fair opportunity of button earning. Obviously I can expect more of A, but that means she will end up with more buttons ... and so I have to break larger jobs into small, very doable parts for Z to tackle. No, this is not about "everyone being the same" but rather having realistic expectations for a 3 year old and not wanting to banish him to his room when A cashes in her reward.

The future of the system: buttons can always be cashed in for REAL MONEY. This concept is of NO interest to them yet (which reveals their values at 6 and 3), but I have the feeling that will change soon enough.

We have not yet unleashed the family Christmas present: the Wii. I anticipate the button-earning to turn to frenzy. I might also need to adjust things, although I'm not sure how that will look.

Bonus GOLD buttons can be exchanged for special dates with Mommy or Daddy: dinner out, trip to the park, a bike ride, whatever. Those will be completely unearned - a lesson in grace!

Stay tuned for periodic updates on our new family experiment!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Steel Together

We got married today, eleven years ago on a BEAUtiful, clear and sunny day at Westminster College. We embarked on an adventure neither of us could have possibly imagined.

State College: August, no AC. New bed, the size of bedroom. Weird landlord, 3rd floor apt. Buy new car.

Florida: First Christmas away from folks. Drudgery of waiting for flight school. Lonliness. Cat. New couch. First plane! Dream becoming real. Chosen: E-2s. Census work! Law and Order! Cribbage in bed. Floribama, flying shrimp. Flight pattern around coffee table. Emergency Checklist review.

Texas: separated. Contested election! Ballet. Turtle slippers. Plane two.

Mississippi: Magnolias. Dut-hess. Goat cheese medallions. Walker Wedding. Turtle Crossing. Hickory Court: Hernandi Base, Maloux wine, Helmet Fire. Plane 3. Hudson's. Falling turtle shelf. Mississippi State Games. September 11. Winging. Carrier Qualifying. Basketball. Rollerblades.

Virginia: Slumlord. Barrista. New bed. Grief. SERE school. Renewal. McCrilli Base. Plane 4. EGP. Deployment. Birth. Colic. Back pain. COnfusion. Mentors. Mommy Group. Grace. Solidity. First house. Nanny. Scrapbooking. Hurricane Isabel. First Squadron. DMB, Greg Brown, James Taylor. Drywall. Cancer. Shock. Birth. Joy. Seizure. Send-off.

Pennsylvania: Home. Retire. Last New House. Life's work. Old place, new peeps. Fresh start, still carrying on.

So, yeah. We're Steel Together. You're Steel the One. Happy 11th (Traditional: Steel) anniversary. I love you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Good Afternoon, Mommy

If you haven't read yesterday's post, read that first. Go ahead. I'll wait.

*tap tap tap tap*

Ok, done? Good. Here is the REST of the story.

So yesterday afternoon, I attempt to vacuum the living room. The vacuum worked just fine last night, when Audrey vacuumed the parlor to earn some buttons (see subsequent posts on The Button Experiment). But today, alas... no workies.

I walk around to try a different outlet (we have an old house. Some of the outlets have been rewired, but not all). I realize in doing so that the television is also not working. Hmm. Has to be a blown fuse.

Go down to the basement. Fuse box: only one switch out of place.

"Thonk. Buzzzzz.... THONK." Immediately tripped again. Hmm.

Go back upstairs. Call Ian at work. No idea. It will have to wait till he gets home. Okay.

Fast forward, after six. My Hero walks in. Z says, "Daddy, can you fix the television?"

"Yes. I don't know." And down to the basement he walks. I follow.

He follows the wires around the ceiling... shiny, new ones he and my dad diligently installed during the rewiring process. He tries the switch. Receives the same thonk and buzz. Only THIS time, I am standing right beside my upright freezer, and I hear the buzz, very loudly.

On top of the freezer sits a power strip, which feeds the freezer, the dehumidifier, and the extra fridge. A large, clear bin also sits atop the freezer. Why?

To collect the laundry. The laundry which comes down onto the freezer VIA THE LAUNDRY CHUTE.

Yes, dear reader, my son blew a fuse and denied himself his own television viewing this afternoon because he PEED ONTO THE POWER STRIP IN THE BASEMENT, VIA THE LAUNDRY CHUTE, FROM HIS SECOND-FLOOR BEDROOM.

Some day, his wife is really going to enjoy this story.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Good Morning, Mommy

This is how I awoke this morning:

"Mom? Could you come in my room because there's pee in my room."

Stretch. Roll. Blink. Squint. "Uh, what?"

"There's pee in my room."

I will pause here to say that this is not a particularly strange scenario. I am the mother of a three-and-a-half year old, fully potty trained boy. But accidents do happen, and I am not shocked by them.

"Ok, just a minute. Did you pee in your pjs?"

(and here is where we diverge to ... bizarre-land)

"No, I tried to pee in the laundry chute."

Confused, stunned silence.

"You ... PEED in the LAUNDRY CHUTE?"

"Yes. I just tried to pee in the laundry chute but there's pee in my room."

(Let me interject again, dear reader, to say that the laundry chute opening is located INSIDE a closet, under a hinged lid which is, er, much taller than a toilet seat; and consequently quite a BIT higher than Mister Peepers.)

My brain has, as of yet, not been able to register the crime scene that was my son's room (the locale of said closeted laundry chute). Suffice it to say that although he is working on his aim ... I have quite a bit of clean up work ahead of me this lovely morning.

Say it with me now: "The Joys of Motherhood"


I had intended on making my inaugural blog post something of weight, substance, import. But no, it turns out, this is how I roll, and I shall embrace it. Welcome to No Sugar.