Wednesday, August 31, 2011


First, I just want to apologize for not responding to comments this week. I'm struggling. Monday I found out that my company needed to cut my hours in half. It wasn't a complete surprise. It could have been worse; another colleague was laid off. I was feeling pretty ok about it at first. "It will be rough, but we can get through this." And then support I thought I could count on wasn't there. And then I had to tell our part-time daycare provider that we had to stop going. Which made me realize how sad the girls would be. Ironic since I've been feeling guilty about sending them to daycare! But they have friends there, and I know they will miss them.

The decrease in hours is temporary (hopefully only three months). But too long for me to wait. We have slowly depleted our reserves since last November. And every month the cost of gas and groceries goes up. The Etsy shop will help - I hope! - but I will be getting a part-time job and updating my resume tonight.

I'm sad to the point of exhaustion. I could use prayers - and leads if you've got them. :) I know it will all work out for the best. Actually I really hope we can figure out a way to make it work so I'm part-time all the time - that would be my dream. But as long as the economy continues this way, it's not going to happen.

In the meantime, I need to take a break from blogging and tweeting as often. I will have a wonderful guest post tomorrow, so be sure to stop by for that. And I'll try to at least update you once a week. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


It started out as a joke:

And then turned into a full-blown project. First, Alison @MamaWantsThis got dolled up for a dinner date with her hubs. Wowza! Hot stuff. My DH was out of town over the weekend, so going out wasn't an option. But I knew I had to keep up with the challenge. So Saturday morning, when I took the girls to Lowe's to do their Build and Grow Clinic, I threw on a t-shirt and shorts. And lipstick:

That is my favorite shade. But clearly, it's too pale for this project. So during nap time that day, as I was sitting at the computer in our office/playroom working on my Etsy shop, I thought to myself, "Self, something is missing..." 

It took a few minutes and then I realized - of course! I needed some hot pink lipstick. For this Kodak moment, threw my hair in a quick, messy up-do and snapped away in Photo Booth. Prom 1987, here I come!

Join us! You know you want to...

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Can Do This

I imagine my announcement, swelling with hope, expectation, joy. Then I picture everyone's reactions. They are kind, but lukewarm. "Bless her heart"s are murmured. No one "likes" me on Facebook. No one follows me on Twitter. No one comments on my new blog. I falter. I look at all the other products that are available. So cute! Such talented artists. Why would anyone want my stuff? It's not the best. Maybe I should scrap this whole idea...

But then, a little voice buried in my heart behind old rejections and insecurities speaks up. "You can do this."

Can I?

"You're good enough."

Am I?

There's only one way to find out.

I wrote this in anticipation of opening my Etsy shop today. Please stop by if you get a chance:

Have you shared your story of being enough with Just.Be.Enough. yet? This is the 2nd of a 4 week campaign with Bellflower Books, who will donate one $75 gift certificate per every 20 links on the site, up to 120 links total.  These gift certificates will go to families of women who are fighting breast cancer and will be used to create memory books on their behalf.  Help us spread the word of this remarkable campaign so we can send even more love their way.

Exciting News!

No, I'm not pregnant - sorry to disappoint! But I will have a new baby in my life - I just opened an Etsy shop! It's going to require a lot of care and some sleepless nights, but I'm hoping it will be worth it. Jaborandi Grove offers customizable letter wall decor like in the samples below. Please stop by and check it out! Also, you can find me on Facebook as well as Twitter, so if you have a minute and could "like" and "follow" I would really appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Without It

Today's remembeRED prompt from Write On Edge (previously The Red Dress Club):
We all have them.
Memories that we wish we could forget…things that we wish we could banish from our minds.
Imagine that writing down your worst memory will free you of it.
What is it?
Why does it haunt you?
What could you have done differently?
Write it down and let it go.
Let’s keep it to 600 words or less.

Would I take it away? My first reaction is always yes, yes, please make it so it never happened. It's painful, it's embarrassing, it ruined relationships. There are still mornings when I wake up in a panic after dreaming about it.

It's fading, though. Slowly. Writing is definitely cathartic for me, so I have started to write about it several times.  I can't seem to put it into the right words yet. The day will come.

For now, I will just say that though it was awful for me, so many people experience much, MUCH worse things. I'm thankful that in the scope of life, it was something relatively painless. And thankful for my husband who loves me, flaws and all.

I still wish it hadn't happened. But in retrospect, if it hadn't happened, my life would probably be completely different right now.

Without it, I wouldn't have seen the love that was in front of me.

Without it, I wouldn't have a hilarious, beautiful, toddler with an incredible appetite for learning.

Without it, I wouldn't have a brilliant, gorgeous, red-headed preschooler whose tender heart makes me smile every day.

Without it, I wouldn't have married my best friend.

So, no. As much as I wish it hadn't happened, I would never take it away.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Patience and Princess Paranoia

And this is where I ask my readers for a little patience. I'm working on a new project, and once I get it up and running (hopefully this week), I will be back to my regularly scheduled programming.  In the meantime, here are some posts for you to look forward to:

• Chapter 3 of our Love Story
• More Baby Bullets
• A synopsis of my trip to Joplin
• Memories of 9.11
• A guest post

And an oldie, but goodie for you to enjoy in the meantime:

Princess Paranoia

•  •  •  •  •  • 

I was a tomboy as a kid. I liked my Hot Wheels and Legos, and cringed when I had to play Barbies with my sister. As an adult, I was afraid I would grow up, get married, have a baby girl and have no idea how to play with her.

I didn't just have a little girl; I had two. YIKES.

Initially I was determined they would not have anything princess related, because all that teaches them is that women can't be happy on their own, and they need a knight in shining armor to rescue them. What a load of crap. Not to mention it just contributes to the Barbie ideal of beauty. I was convinced that a lot of the reason girls have that type of personality is a reflection of the kinds of toys/games/media kids are exposed to, so I decided shielding her from that for as long as possible would keep her from being sucked into that mindset.

The first couple of years with S went fine. She got a lot of hand-me-downs with princesses on them, and a dress-up gown, but it didn't really seem to be something that caught her attention. She has very well-rounded interests - Legos, books, babies, trains, singing, Hot Wheels, playing on her swing set, painting, dancing, playing with her mower and her wagon. She loves Hello Kitty and playing with her purse and jewelry, but also Curious George, Sid the Science Kid and Shrek. She has sports paraphernalia for soccer, baseball and golf.

Then she started daycare with a sweet little girl who is very girly. You know, the kind who always shows up in adorable outfits with her hair in braids and bows. (I'm lucky if I can get S out the door with clothes on at all, much less matching ones since I let her choose what she wants to wear. And I had to cut her hair into a bob because she won't let me brush it.) Her little friend is all about princess stuff. She had a princess-themed bday party in the spring. I thought my fears of S being corrupted were being confirmed when I asked her what kind of party she wanted to have this summer, and she said "Princesses!" My heart sank. But when I asked her who she wanted to have on her cake, she said, "Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover...." Whew!

Of course I want her to be friends with kids who have other interests, and her friend is such a sweet girl. She is very blessed to have met her. And after having read other blogs about this type of thing, I've decided that if DD goes through an obsession with princesses, it will be ok. Because I will do what a lot of the other posters have suggested - focus on the positive aspects of their characters and let her know that a real princess doesn't need to be rescued by a knight - she can be successful on her own.

Fiona in Shrek is a good example. Though she is initially rescued, her fairy-tale idea of being kissed by her savior when he arrives is shattered by the reality of Shrek shaking her awake and telling her to get up. Then when she's abducted by Robin Hood and his thieves, she does some Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Matrix/Charlie's Angels moves to save herself. And of course the big moral of the story is not to judge a book by its cover. I love how at the end her true self is an ogre which shows that you don't have to have a certain look to be a princess.

I have learned a lot through this experience, faced some previously unknown prejudices and grown as a person. It still amazes me how much trying to teach my own kids teaches me!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Clothes

My stomach ached. I was perspiring. My breath came in shorter, faster bursts. I thought about leaving. My chest was tight. What put me in this physically distraught circumstance?

Clothes shopping.

I have not bought new clothes in about two years. I am at the heaviest I have ever been in my life, and I didn't want to buy anything new until I lost weight. So I've been wearing old clothes that are too tight or maternity clothes. But I'm going on a girls trip this weekend, and I needed something cute and comfortable to wear.

I've never been a fan of clothes shopping, but it's never bothered me before, either. I met a friend over lunch last week to get a new outfit for our trip. I got to the mall before she did, and had a mild anxiety attack in the department store. I've never had one before. Certainly not about clothes.

When she arrived, I chattered nervously to her, trying to hide my paranoia. (Who gets freaked out about shopping?) All I could think about was that nothing was going to fit, and nothing would look nice on me, because I'm not a very good version of myself right now. It made me so sad, I didn't want to shop.

As we wandered through the sale racks and grabbed tops and pants, I forced myself to take deep breaths, to calm down. At one point, I literally thought to myself, "Just. Be. Enough." I felt a little silly about it at first. Then, empowered. "This is exactly what Elena is talking about," I thought. "This is what I'll write my post about."

No, I'm not the size I was five years ago. I need to continue to strive to be better - eat better, exercise more, take better care of myself - but I also need to recognize the worth of who I am now, too. I am a woman. And I am enough. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not Right

Today's guest post is from a bloggy friend who has words to share that need to be said, but can't be said on her blog. My heart hurts for her. Please show her some love!

•   •   •   •   •   •

A few weeks ago Child 2 had a birthday party; in attendance were his best friend and his friend’s older brother, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and sensory issues. He had spent a good deal of time at the party off to the side, away from the other kids, doing his own thing.

Earlier today I was talking to my mom on the phone and we were talking about these kids. “What’s going on with the older one?” She asked. “I watched him for a while and I could tell there was something not right about him.”

I don’t remember my reaction, but I instantly felt defensive. She was saying she thought he might be autistic, which may be true although he has no diagnosis; but that doesn’t mean that he’s “not right.”

I thought about it for a while and decided to email her. I asked her to be mindful of her choice of language when talking about autism, particularly around my kids. Saying he’s “not right” because he has autistic tendencies is the same as saying “there’s something wrong with him” because he has autistic tendencies. This is not a message I want either of my kids to learn.

My child has autism, but there’s nothing wrong with him. This is how he is; who he is. I don’t want him growing up thinking that he’s defective because of the way his brain works. I think our generation has an opportunity to change the way the entire world thinks about autism; like I told my mom: “being autistic isn’t a negative thing, it’s just a different way of thinking.”

Choice of language when talking about these things is a lot more important than people realize and I think it’s my duty, as a parent of an autistic child, to educate people about this. After all, if I don’t, who will? But most importantly I don’t want my child to think that there’s something wrong with him. Because there isn’t.

jillsmo blogs at and is the mother of 2 boys: Child 1 is 9 and has autism; Child 2 is 6 and does not.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chapter 2 of A Love Story: The Beginning of... Something

*If you missed Chapter 1 and would like to catch up, you can read it here.
Chapter 2: The Beginning of... Something

A month or so went by. Remington and I were lazing in his room in his parents' basement looking through the summer course catalog. He, too, was planning to enroll in the junior college, though his path to get there was different than mine.

When Remington had been in high school, he had been, for lack of a better word, a punk. He was kicked out of two parochial schools before finally ending up at my rival public school. He turned 18 in April his senior year and moved out of his parents' house that day. He was living in an apartment with his friend, Brad, when he graduated.

He stayed out on his own for two years, working, partying, getting into trouble. Finally, he realized his life was going nowhere fast. Even though he dreaded the idea of going to school, he knew he would need to get a college degree to ever have a chance to make something of himself. So he swallowed his pride, made amends with his parents and moved back home.

A month before I met him.

As we debated whether he should take Comp I that summer or not, the phone rang.

"Hey, Brad. How's it goin'?"

Remington's end of the conversation was riveting.





"Huh. So what are you up to?"

Remington paced the 8-foot-width of his bed while he talked. (Some things never change.)

"Just hanging out with Jenn."

Brad said something that caused Remington to look over at me with a sheepish grin.

"I don't know if she would let me call her my girlfriend."

I smiled and teased, "Well, maybe you should ask." Secretly, I was surprised there was even a question. To be his girlfriend would mean we were dating exclusively. Which made it seem as though I could have been dating other guys while he and I had been seeing each other thus far. Me? With multiple suitors at once? It was so preposterous, I almost laughed at the thought.

But with him, at least the possibility existed. It hadn't with David. Remington and I were interdependent instead of co-dependent. He encouraged me to spend time with my girlfriends. I didn't have to justify where I was when I wasn't with him. This was different than my previous experience. Everything about our relationship was different.

With David, even though I knew it was silly to think it, I had been convinced he and I were truly in love, and his promise ring to me meant we would be together forever. Whether he followed me to Colorado for college or we dated long-distance, nothing could keep us apart. We were a pop love song.

I had no such immature notions with Remington. I knew I would be moving 600 miles away for school in year and a half. I was happy with my life as it was and decided to just take things one day at a time and not worry about it. It's not like I was ready to get married. My best friend and I had a Five Year Plan: Go to college. Meet Mr. Right. Graduate. Live on our own for a year. Get married. I wasn't about to start thinking of Remington as my future husband while I was still at junior college.

Not only that, but David and I had had instant chemistry. Our whole relationship was so... intense. Lust and envy, love and hate, drama, drama, drama. While I didn't miss the histrionics, I expected my feelings about my soul mate to be as extreme as they had been with him. I thought I would be overwhelmed with emotions.

I was definitely attracted to Remington, don't get me wrong. I got butterflies when he looked at me. I couldn't wait for him to call me every night. His kisses - well, I need to stop there before the keyboard melts. But the hormones of teen angst were my only reference point, and though they had resulted in real emotions, they were nothing like the true love I labeled them as. And from that viewpoint, my new relationship did not appear to be love.

And so, as I mulled it over in my head, I decided I didn't want to encourage him if I wasn't sure yet. So after he hung up the phone with Brad and asked me to be his girlfriend, I told him no.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Baby Bullets: 3rd Edition

I love our kids. They crack me up. Every. Day. The first three bullets from today's update are fairly old - I thought I'd posted them a couple of months ago, but I don't see them here.

  • Baby R started saying "No, no, nooo" in the sing-song voice my mom uses. Ha!

  • She also started saying "I bee bu" which is toddler code for "I love you." Heart... melting....

  • She bit a chunk out of a bouncy ball. I try to keep them away from her since, clearly, it's a choking hazard. S is terrible about leaving them out and about. She's a little better about it now that one has been ruined.

  • S got a new backpack from my MIL last weekend when my SIL was here. She was playing with it last night and Baby R wanted it, so I asked her if she could give her old Pooh backpack to Baby R. She did, so they were off to school. S dropped Baby R off at preschool and said, "This is your teacher Miss B; she will teach you A LOT of stuff!"

  • Then S shouted out, "Going to high school! Bye!"

  • S: I need my keys. I know they're around here somewhere. (Wonder where she's heard that before.)

  • On our walk Tuesday night, S said "I have to fly to Canada to work on my exercise." Then as we were headed back to the house she yelled, "I'm going to miss my plane! (running) Wait! Wait!"
  • Baby R loves Farkle in Shrek 4 (Yes, I know - lovely movie choice for the little ones). Farkle has no lines. He's in it for probably 5 minutes total. Felicia and Fargus are both discussed more. But she's got a soft spot for him.

Friday, August 12, 2011


"You're hands are so small," Jeremy said, as he threaded his masculine fingers between my dainty ones.

"Maybe yours are just big," I teased back, glancing up at him shyly.

It's harmless, I told myself. We're just talking. Friends hold hands all the time.

•  •  •  •  •

It was Friday night after finals, and I was at a house party. Everyone was in the basement playing pool and Wii "Just Dance." I had channeled my inner MC Hammer and gotten the high score for "U Can't Touch This" before going upstairs for another beer. I was on my way out of the kitchen when I ran into Jeremy leaving the bathroom. We had stood in the hallway chatting for about 15 minutes before he suggested sitting on the couch.

I had thought he was cute from a distance all semester, even though he was a jock. I tended to prefer someone my size, someone I knew I could take if I had to. It didn't matter anyway; my roommate, Sarah, had called dibs on him the first day we saw him. Like most college guys I knew, he seemed to want to keep his options open, dating girls a few times, but never getting serious. We were friends through a group, so I knew him, but not very well. This was the first time I'd had a chance to talk to him alone.

As we chatted, I felt an instant chemistry with him. I watched his soft, full lips form the words to a story, his chocolate-brown eyes giving away that it was a joke. I laughed and touched his arm, tucking my foot under my knee so I could face him more easily. Just some light flirting. He got up to get us fresh drinks, and when he sat back down, he had closed the distance between us by half. No big deal.

"To the end of finals," he said with a lopsided grin, clinking my bottle with his.

"Amen," I agreed, leaning back into the sofa. I took a long swig and felt the alcohol tingle down my throat before I set it on the coffee table next to his.

"Those are cool earrings." He reached over and delicately held my earlobe. I inhaled his crisp, musky scent, as my breath caught in my throat.

"Thanks." I reached up to feel them. Our hands brushed against each other, and mine lingered for a moment before settling on the pearl stud. "Oh, these were a present from my sister on my 21st birthday."

He let out a low whistle. "Nice sister."

I smiled. "Sometimes being the youngest has its perks. She's been in the real world long enough to actually have money." 

As my hand fell back to the couch, I let it land beside his. He slid his pinky on top of mine sending a shiver through me.

"You're hands are so small," Jeremy said, as he threaded his masculine fingers between my dainty ones.

"Maybe yours are just big," I teased back, glancing up at him shyly.

It's harmless, I told myself. We're just talking. Friends hold hands all the time.

As he manipulated my fingers, we shifted closer to each other so that only a space of electricity was left between us.

I fought to control my breathing, my chest tight with desire. His breath was warm on my fingertips. I closed my eyes and let my head tilt until it was scarcely touching his shoulder. His lips skimmed across my knuckle, and I was glad we were already sitting as my knees went weak.


I knew he wanted me to look up at him. I wanted to look up at him, but I knew what would happen if I did.

"Yes?" My skin was tingling and the butterflies in my stomach made it difficult to speak.


I took a slow, trembling breath, and opened my eyes before tilting my face toward his.

"Yes?" The word was whispered so quietly, it was simply a puff of air in the inch between us.

Stop. You have to tell him you can't. 

He leaned down toward me, seemingly in slow motion, yet too quickly for me to say the words I knew I needed to say.

His lips were warm and gentle, and suddenly the world fell away, and there was no couch, no party, no Sarah, just Jeremy. His arm around my back, his other hand squeezing my thigh, his curly brown hair enmeshed in my fingers. His fingers, spanning my shoulder blades as easily as he could palm a basketball. Our kisses became deeper and more urgent until I found myself wanting nothing more than to feel the weight of his body on top of mine.

Reluctantly, we came back to reality, and slowly, achingly, disentangled ourselves from each other. I slid my legs that had found their way onto his lap back down on the couch. My hand plaintively shifted from his six-pack abs under his sweater to my own lap. He angled back to look in my eyes and swept the hair from my cheek. Gently he kissed my nose, then my forehead, before pulling me to him. I leaned my head on his chest as he enveloped me with brawny arms. The euphoria faded as I realized I would have to go back downstairs and see Sarah.

This week's prompt was: 
Let's get all steamy up in here and write about sex. But you know us. There's a twist. You can't write about the act. I don't want to read about any heaving bosoms or girded manhood (please tell me someone else giggled besides me). There are so many other possibilities. And I hope you have fun finding them.Limit is 600 words. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Come back here and link up Friday!!
I decided to write about the intensity that leads up to sex and the post-coital snuggling, skipping the act itself. I suppose there was a bit of heaving bosom involved, so I'm not sure I completed the assignment entirely within the parameters. As always, concrit is welcome!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shell's Summer Link Up

Shell has another fab link-up all about recapping our summer in photos. Here are a few that sum ours up for me:

Broccoli from the garden

Baby R enjoying watermelon

Baby R at The Magic House in St. Louis
Our first train ride to St. Louis
Bubbles in the July 4th parade

Sprinkler time
Family get together
Sidewalk chalk face (sideways)
Birthday presents

I'm having a terrible time getting my pics to line up, but I think it looks fun this way. Right? Right?

Link up your Summer Fun for a chance to win prizes from Ubisoft!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Aerial photo of Joplin, MO, circa 2009

Joplin after the tornado hit in May, 2011

I'm a suburban Kansas City native, meaning I grew up in Tornado Alley. I've never been in a tornado myself, but I have been blocks away a few times - don't believe the old wives' tale that it won't hit a city! Many towns close by, though, have been greatly damaged, such as Lawrence and North KC, or even experienced complete destruction like Greensburg and Joplin.

Tornadoes are a powerful enigma to me. A flood, an earthquake, a tsunami, a blizzard, a volcanic eruption, a hurricane, an avalanche, a drought - pretty much all natural disasters I can think of have a ground zero from which everything is equally damaged for the most part. But a tornado can seemingly pick and choose what it wants to destroy.

A story that illustrates this is one my dad shared with me many times growing up. He had a friend who got ready for bed one night and left his wallet lying open on the dresser. There were two $20 bills partially sticking out. In the middle of the night, there was a tornado, so he and his family took shelter. (I can't remember where - in their neighbor's cellar maybe?) After the storm, they emerged to find that their house was completely gone. All that was left was the slab it had been built on. Everything else had disappeared.

Except for the dresser.

And the wallet.

And the cash which hadn't been disturbed at all.

Can you imagine?

Sunday, Dan Mitchell, a pastor from Joplin and head of their outreach program, The Bridge, was a guest speaker at the church I attend. He walked us through the first few days of life after the tornado in Joplin. It was an amazing service. I've included the link to it here. If you get a chance to listen to it, you really should.

(I'm also including the link to his CNN interview. Please don't watch it until after you've listened to the service; the background story is what makes this so incredible.)

As we all know, there is a constant supply of happenings in the news, and an event from a few months ago is quickly forgotten. Unfortunately, for those who live through a catastrophe, day to day existence is difficult for much longer than that time. The town of Greensburg is still rebuilding after a tornado literally wiped it off the map in 2007. It's a long road to recovery for those in Joplin. But what can the rest of us do?

1. Pray. In general for the city and the government and the people and the rebuilding process.

2. Pray for the spiritual leaders of Joplin. Before Dan spoke Sunday, our staff gave us a startling statistic - 75% of clergy give up on being church leaders within two years of a calamity of this magnitude. The intense need of their flock plus their own dire circumstances can be too much to bear. Pray for strength for the pastors of Joplin to be able to minister to the needs of their parishioners as well as to remember to keep focusing on God. It's easy to get sucked into the immediacy of a disaster and try to take care of it as a human and forget to seek God's will first.

3. Volunteer. Though they are thankful for those who want to help, random everyday people showing up at this point is not very helpful. The needs they have now are very specific. If you are a skilled tradesman, they can really use your help.

4. Donate money. Our church collected clothes, toys, food, etc. the first week after the tornado, and our pastor and a couple of others headed down to drop it off the following week. When they got there, the distribution centers were overflowing with the outpouring of donations they had received. They didn't have room for any more. How amazing is that!?! So now what they need is actual money to fund the rebuilding. If you can make a donation, make sure to use a reputable organization such as The Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

Also, there's a Facebook page that has updates on specific needs as well.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Joke's On Us: A Love Story

This post has been in the works for awhile. On April 1st, Alex from Late Enough asked us for our best Fool's Day pranks. Which prompted a discussion on Twitter where Kris from Pretty All True encouraged me to write about how I've been married only six years but known my husband for 17. And of course, Ali at My Suitcase Full of Tricks joined Life with Baby Donut Rach's link up "So How'd You Meet?" and shared how she and her husband started out going to Homecoming "just as friends."

The story of DH and me and our winding path to marriage is kind of complicated, and I want to do it justice. While I could shorten it enough to fit it into one post, if I'm going to tell it, I may as well tell all of it. So I decided to post it in segments. My first novella, if you will. Enjoy.

(Note: To ease the burden of anonymity on this one, I'm going to alter the names from first initials to pseudonyms. R will be Remington, because I had a huge crush on Pierce Brosnan back in the day. Plus it sounds all soap-opera-y.)

Chapter 1: Timing Is Everything

When I was 17, I was convinced I would die a virgin. I was skinny - no boobs, no butt, knobby knees, shaped like a boy. My crazy, frizzy, big hair had yet to meet a Chi and never stayed soft or styled, no matter how much VO5 or hair spray I used. In the decade when people couldn't get enough sun, my lily white skin was embarrassing. My outgoing personality was overshadowed by my nerdiness - rules were made to be followed, and good grades must be achieved. I had never had a boyfriend. I had never been kissed. If only Drew Barrymore's movie had come out back then, it would have given me hope.

But then I met a boy, we'll call him David, and he was cute and funny and charming, and I fell for him. Like a rock. And the short version of this part of the story is that he fell for me, too. We dated for a year - which in high school, is the equivalent to being married for five and having two kids. Then he broke up with me. I was devastated. It took me forever to get over him. Read - another year. Quid pro quo, what felt like five more in teen-land.

By then I was a freshman at junior college, or as I like to think of it, post-secondary education purgatory: a holding pattern between high school and real college. I couldn't afford to go to the out-of-state university I had set my sights on yet, and I wasn't quite ready to let go and move out of my parents' house anyway. It was just the middle ground I needed at that point in my life.

By the beginning of the second semester, I felt like I had found my rhythm again. I had gotten used to the friends who had left being gone, a new schedule of school and work, and being single. I had finally started to feel content just being me, on my own, spending time with old and new girlfriends, without a desperate need to find another boyfriend. Comfortable with the idea that I would someday find love again, and in no rush to search for it.

One Friday night that February, a friend I'll call Andrea invited me to sleep over. We were lounging on her couch, decked out in sweats, hair in ponytails, wearing our glasses instead of contacts, no makeup on. While flipping through magazines and chatting, the phone rang. It was her friend, Remington.

Andrea had mentioned Remington to me several times in the two years I'd known her. They worked together, and one day when I picked her up after her shift, she gave a hasty introduction in which I tossed out a perfunctory "Hi," and he responded with a nod, and a "How's it goin'." We ran in occasionally overlapping social circles. At a house party when David and I were still dating, David and I had a knock-down, drag-out screaming match in the kitchen, and oddly enough, I remember Remington being there, caught in the corner, only able to sip his drink and pretend not to notice us. Another time, a group including Remington had gone to the Steve Miller Band concert, and I was planning to attend, but got sick and had to miss it.

So that night when Remington called Andrea, I thought nothing of it when he asked us over to his parents' house to watch a movie with him and another of their co-workers, Brad. I even remember a fleeting thought along the lines of, "I look like crap, but who cares? It's just that Remington guy." I expected to spend the majority of my time vegging out watching the movie, and chatting a little with Andrea.

Thinking back, I have no idea what movie was playing that night. Or speaking much to Andrea. I just remember that once Remington and I started chatting, we never stopped. My mom says I came home the next day and told her I thought we could talk to each other forever.

After that night, Remington and I started to spend a lot of time together, though I didn't consider us dating quite yet. I enjoyed his company and could sense he was wanting more than friendship, but I didn't know what I wanted. Part of me wanted to keep it casual; I wasn't ready for romance. But I really liked him.

One evening, we went to Pizza Hut and played a motorcycle video game before going to a movie. Maybe it was the pepperoni talking. Maybe it was the competitor in me. But that night seemed different. I count it as our first date.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blogging Personality

With the BlogHer conference this week, the Twitterverse was all, well, atwitter. Some people were excited to go. Some were apprehensive. Some said they didn't do conferences and liked to keep their online lives separate from their "real" ones. It seemed that a lot of what it came down to (aside from being able to finagle travel/kids/work/finances) was personality. So after tossing the idea around a bit with @jillsmo, I thought I'd do a little poll to find out how people view themselves. 

Here are some of the responses I got:

@Fourplusangel I'm WAY more extroverted when I write. I wouldn't say half this stuff out loud.; If we could all just tweet each other from across the room I would be fine.

@HouseUnseen I'm not a conferencer either! Just thinking about being in a room full of people I don't know...;  I am definitely more extroverted in writing because I can delete and think and wait and not accidentally spit on anyone...

@varunner7 I'm an INFP myself. Idealist through and through ;-)

@TwinsMa I'm less reserved online. I talk about & say things that I don't necessarily share with others in person.

@MamaoftheFisch I am an introvert...which is weird b/c I am a teacher. Just pretty private irl.

@TLanceB ENTP, same same same- extroverted, anxietied, engaged

@TruthfulMommy Im a social butterfly big mouth talkaholic..pretty much everywhere :)LOL

@MothersHideaway it really depends on the situation. People say extroverted, but depends on the crowd. Same mix online?

@SuitcaseTricks Totally an extrovert. I know, shocking. I'm exactly the same online, but I curse less because I can edit.

@SurferWife Extrovert. Both. Surprising?

@ErinMargolin honestly? i am easier to get to know online. more open. in person? i can be really shy at first.

@HonestConvoGal Introvert via testing. However, I like people. I just have to have time to re-charge my batteries after hanging out

@elainea I'm a totally extrovert. Will talk to anyone who will listen. Much like on my blog. :)

@vic39first I'd like to think I'm the same in my blog as I am in person... only taller and with better grammar.

I thought the results were pretty interesting. So much so that I decided to make a chart. And @SurferWife and I decided it should be a pie chart. Chocolate. With whipped cream.

On the one hand I thought people who are extroverts IRL probably make up a large part of the blogosphere because we're already so outspoken. But then I thought, blogging really allows introverts to express themselves. And my horrifically unscientific experiment ended up with fairly split results that mimicked my impressive grasp of sociology.

As for me, I'm pretty outgoing in real life. And online. Though, I do say things differently in both realms. In some respects I'm more cautious with my blog than in person because it's documentation of the crazy. In others, it allows me a more open and honest venue because I'm not as nervous about a person's face-to-face reaction.

How about you? Are you the same online as you are in person?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Helped Me Grow My Blog?

Advice for Others, Prompt 5:
What activities, practices, features or events have helped you most in terms of blog or social media growth?

I feel a little silly doing a prompt under this category; I'm no expert. But I will just share my tale, which is kind of the point of this blog, and you can take it as advice or simply as a story.

So many things have helped Midwest "Mom"ments grow. It started as an online journal. Then I slowly did each of the following steps and found myself getting a few more comments, another follower or two, a request for a piece here and there. My blog still is not huge. And that's ok with me. I had a fleeting dream of bloggy stardom once, but realized that wasn't my destiny. Because as much as I love this space I've carved out for me here, it's not my top priority right now. And I would need for it to be in order to do all that was necessary to get famous.

That said, I don't want to disappear into oblivion either. There are little things that can be done to nurture it along. Here are the ones that worked for me. (I imagine they aren't very original, but that's also probably why they work.)

1. Submit posts for publication. Mamapedia, BlogHer, Studio30Plus - find a group in your niche, who you can speak to, and submit, submit, submit! Even if your pieces aren't selected for publication, going to those sites can help you find your tribe. Which brings me to #2:

2. Read other blogs. Comment on them. Let them know how you found them. Include your email address and site. Many of them will come back to visit you.

3. Engage. When those new visitors comment? Respond. Let them know you appreciate their attention. They'll be more likely to remember you. There are gazillions of blogs out there. Set yourself apart by developing a direct relationship.

Also, when you have an opportunity to post on something that legitimately allows for you to link back to someone, do. (Note the links in this post.) Don't force it, but be aware so you don't miss out on chances, either. This helps foster community.

4. Join a meme or link-up. The first one I found was Kludgy Mom's Back to School/Back to Blogging workshop. That not only introduced me to a bunch of bloggers who were on relatively the same level as I was, it gave me lots of tips to improve my blog so people would want to come back.

A few months later, I found The Red Dress Club, a fiction and memoir writing group, and that was a huge gateway for my blog to grow in a different direction. As was Bloggy Moms.

And thanks to Liz from A Belle, A Bean and A Chicago Dog and Jessica from Four Plus An Angel who set up this #SummerBlogSocial link-up, I will find more people to connect with.

5. Have your blog reviewed by professionals. I was lucky enough for Eli Rose Social Media to take a peek at this humble abode, and they cleaned house! I have yet to institute some of the changes, but I've gotten a few done. Hoping to complete the bulk of them by the end of the summer.

6. If you don't know much about blogging, find someone who does. Whether it's Gigi's B2S/B2B or Eli Rose or any number of sources, get schooled! The Internet is your oyster. It's covered in pearls for you to find. And if you don't know where to go for the answers, just ask. Which brings me to #6:

7. Join Twitter. Twitter is the da bomb. It's fun, it's informative, it's real, it's fluid, it's supportive. Granted, when you first join, it's also weird. You have stilted conversations as if at a cocktail party where you don't know anyone. But once you find quality people to follow (avoid egg avatars!), and you witness how it works, you'll find it's more like long chats at a slumber party with old friends. And a few perverted peeping Toms on occasion. (Yes, @moooooog35, I'm looking at you.)

8. Advertise. The free kind. Set up a Facebook fan page. Tweet your posts. Guest post on other blogs and invite them to guest post on yours. Set up an RSS feed and email subscription, and post links to those and your Twitter and FB accounts at the top of your blog.

9. Then write, re-write and re-write some more. My first posts were just typed out and posted without a second thought. Most of my family updates are still that way, very little editing. But anything that has real content should be proofread. Multiple times. You want your visitors to become fans. And they will - if you give them your best. But if you offer mediocrity, they're less likely to consider you worthy of their undivided attention.

To be fair, I don't do that as well as I should. There are times when I've felt I was too busy. But as a great John Wooden quote I saw from @Sports_Greats on Twitter today said,  “If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?” (And now I'm paranoid that I've missed a typo in my 17th round of editing this post.)

There you have it. As I said, I'm far from an expert, but I hope this list is helpful to someone out there. And now I'm off to check out everyone else's suggestions!

Monday, August 1, 2011

S's 4th Birthday Party: Cars

Saturday was the big day for the bday party. It was supposed to rain Friday night, so I decided that I (and by "I," I mean DH since I hurt my back the day before) would set up the chairs and tents in the morning. About 7:45am, I headed outside to start hanging things up. Within a few minutes, it started pouring. So I grabbed everything and threw it back into the garage.

• • • Aside • • •

For those of you not living in the Midwest, it's been in the 100's for the last few weeks. So the idea of rain was not wholly unwelcome. Everything is really dry - ironic, considering the rivers are flooding - so we needed it. And I hoped it would cool everything off. But I was also afraid it would just make it more humid. And afraid that the "spotty shower" the meteorologists incorrectly predicted for Friday night would turn out to be an all-day thunderstorm of ark-like proportions on Saturday.

Thankfully it turned out to be short-lived, and we ended up with beautiful weather! The tents gave us shade, and there was a breeze. The kids were actually cold at times playing in the water - crazy!

I didn't do a lot for decor since we were outside. I had planned to draw a road on the driveway in sidewalk chalk, but it was still wet, and time was limited, so I skipped it. I bought a racing pennant/banner at US Toy, and used it in conjunction with some poster board orange cones to guide guests around to the back of the house. I made a sign that looked like the Cars logo with S's name on it and attached some balloons.

The welcoming committee: Grandma D and Baby R.

The party went well! We had about 35-40 people I think. The older kids played on the slip 'n slide while the younger ones took a dip in the kiddie pool. Everyone enjoyed the swingset. I was going to play Red Light, Green Light with the older ones, but decided to leave them to their own devices since they seemed to be content with unstructured play.

I feel like I work as an editor on "Cops" blurring out everyone's faces...
And S appears to be a zombie from "Thriller" in this pic. ??

As the guests trickled in, I had intended to hand out their Pit Passes, but since they were getting wet right away, I waited until later to give them out. For those I included the Cars logo with S's name and then just wrote Pit Crew, followed by Event: S's 4th Bday Party, Date: July 30, 2011, Crew Member: (Guest's Name). Most of the kids can't read yet, but they recognize their names, so they thought it was cool. I just used 3M laminating sheets for 4x6 photos and cut them in half, then used red lanyards (also from US Toy) to hang them from for the older kids.

The favor bags were just plain red bags and I printed out a checkerboard print that I cut into triangles and then attached personalized names with a pop-dot. They turned out really cute, I think. Inside the bags I just put a mini crayon set with two coloring pages, a toy car and some stickers.

The party was early - 9:30am-11:30am - because of the expected heat. So I waited til about 10:30am to have cake and ice cream. (It's never too early for cake, right?) Let me preface this by saying that I have zero skillz in the cake decorating department. None. I had gone round and round about what to do for S's cake, and finally decided to make a 1/2 sheet cake of Funfetti for the bottom layer and a chocolate 8" round for the top. I frosted it green for grass and with a fudge frosting circle on top for the racetrack. Hy-vee had these sugar Cars shapes of Lightning and Mater, so, with the help of my sister, I threw those on top. I had made a Piston Cup cupcake topper that read "Happy Birthday" on the top with S's name at the bottom.

No, it's not a ring of poo, it's a racetrack.

I certainly didn't love how it looked, but it tasted good so I guess that's the important part! Will definitely do cupcakes for Baby R's bday in November. I rock at cupcakes.

S actually opened her presents this year, and was very good about being appreciative and patient with her little friends who all wanted to help, of course. Though, my brother-in-law apparently heard her mumble under her breath to one of the boys that he already had his party, and these were her presents. Thankfully, I don't think anyone else heard. :) Overall, I think everyone had a great time. And then it was time for a nap for everyone...
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