Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm just a girl who cain't say no

It's true. I have trouble turning anyone down. (Dave says he's the only one I can say no to.)

If you knock on my door to sell me a $100 bottle of all-purpose cleaner... well, then, you came to the right place!!

And without caller I.D. I probably would have bought at least 6 timeshares by now. 

So you can imagine how hard it would be for me to turn down a telemarketer's request to send money to a cancer charity, right before Christmas. I usually don't answer the phone if it's obviously someone I don't know. But this number called and called and called. When I did finally answer they would ask for Dave, and when I told them he wasn't home, they would say "Just tell him ____ called, and I'll call back." Mmmmmkay. Finally I just wanted them off my back and I told them that this was his wife and asked if I could handle whatever they were calling about (I'm a genius for finally asking that after only a million phone calls!).

Turns out, the caller was trying to raise money for a children's cancer fund, that we have actually donated to in the past. Of course, my attitude softened at that, and even though I was SO frustrated with their tactics, I still agreed to send money. And when I told Dave about that, his head almost exploded. (He is very charitable, but he was equally as frustrated with the never-ending mystery phone calls, and would have preferred to give in another way.)

They wanted me to pay them right over the phone with a credit card. I told them I was not comfortable with that, and that I would send a check. So she stressed at least twice that I needed to send the payment as soon as I got the pledge envelope and asked me if I was really committing to it. I didn't like the high pressure, but I agreed.

Anyway, I did a little research on this fundraiser, and found reports stating that less than 1% of donations to this group actually go to cancer patients. Another article said 17%, which is better, but still not impressive.

So my point in writing this is simply to suggest that everyone look into the "charities" they are approached by before sending money. I am all for sharing with organizations that are honest and where the higher-ups have their hearts in the right place. But when so much of what you give goes to administrative costs and founders' salaries, it seems to me like they are making a business and a profit out of others' suffering, and playing on the givers' emotions and desires to really help. There are lots of organizations out there that are really doing good, so just be choosy! I know I will from now on!

If you know of any worthy charities, let me (us... anyone reading this) know in the comments.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm growing up

In my crazy, stressful dreams when I realize I've been skipping class all semester and I'm not going to pass my class, and therefore will not graduate with my peers...

I'm finally out of high school!

I now dream about skipping college classes. This is progress. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thank a Soldier cards

You know how I always want to thank soldiers when I see them, but I don't have the guts? I have a solution.

I made "Thank a Soldier" cards. They're like pass-along cards, made to give a little thank you to service men and women when you come across them.

There's a little space in the bottom to sign your name or your family's name, or to write a very small note.

I will keep one or two in my wallet with me, so I can pass them along when the opportunity arises. (Or have my son do it.)  :)

I made a sheet of 10 cards, saved as a PDF, that I would be glad to send to anyone who wants it. E-mail me at if you'd like the file.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What did he give me?

A couple months ago I was at the post office with my 3-year-old. Behind us in line was a soldier in uniform, and my son was very interested in him.

We were leaving the post office at the same time as this man, and he could see that my son was interested in him and his uniform. He stopped to say hi and "give me five!"

For some reason I am always too shy to thank a soldier in uniform, even though I think I should every time I see one (which happens a lot, because we live near a military base). But I didn't want to let the opportunity pass, so I asked my son to "Tell him thank you." It was my passive way to get the message to this man without having to say it directly to him myself (which I know is silly, but it's true).

When I asked my son to "tell him thank you," he looked up at me confused and said, "What did he give me?"

I almost started crying right there in the post office, as I considered the question and how I would answer it. I told him I would explain in the car (so I wouldn't cry in front of all the other post office patrons).

In my life, I have been fairly disconnected from the reality of the military and the sacrifices that people make. My father was in the Army before I was born, and I've always been proud of that. Many of my uncles have served in the military, some fighting in wars. I know those stories, but they happened a long time before I was born. So I can honestly say that my son's question, "What did he give me?" made me feel feelings of gratitude for those men and women in a way I hadn't before.

When we got to the car I told him something along the lines of, "We want to thank that man because he keeps us safe, and sometimes he's not safe while he's keeping us safe."

I thought about the courage it would take to know that someday you might have to go to a dangerous place where you might have your life on the line. I thought about wives and children, mothers and fathers who say goodbye, hoping and praying for their loved one's safe return. I've never been a part of that group, and I am so thankful for all of those people.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In defense of the Ice Cream Man

One of my good friends posted on Facebook yesterday that the Ice Cream Man came through the neighborhood around 9 p.m., and wondered if other people thought that was strange.

Not me. I grew up in the town she lives in now, and I remember waiting on the curb until sundown with my neighbor friends, wishing and hoping that the ice cream man would come by so I could buy an orange push-up with the money I'd saved going door to door, selling stickers or a tap dance performance.

To me, 9 p.m. seems like a perfectly acceptable time for the Ice Cream Man to make his final round.

Of course, my son has a couple good hours left in him at 9 p.m., although I know many kids are in bed by then. But I say, if the sun is still shining, the Ice Cream Man is welcome on my street.

But my friend's friends were all quick to post that they thought it was creepy for him to be there at 9, and that being an Ice Cream Man is creepy in general.

Say what?!

My husband and I are advocates for our son's safety, to the point that some people think we are overprotective. But I'm not the least bit leery of the Ice Cream Man.

First of all, he is not sneaking up on anyone, and he is making everyone fully aware of his presence as he plays his happy tunes through the neighborhood. Secondly, he would have to be incredibly stupid to do anything bad while he's driving a giant music box with ice cream cones painted on the side.

I guess it just makes me sad that something that is meant to be fun and bring joy and fun memories is written off as "creepy." I know there are bad people in the world, and I know we have to be careful and teach our kids to be careful. But I don't want my child to internalize that people he doesn't know are suspicious or scary, and I especially don't want him to think that things that seem joyful are inherently suspicious.

So what's the balance? I'm not sure. Of course I want to keep my child safe always and teach him what he needs to know to be smart about these kinds of things. But I don't think that means that we run and hide from things and people that are unfamiliar. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The most expensive vacation we've ever taken

We took advantage of the long weekend by taking a trip to Yellowstone. We had already considered it when my sister-in-law called and invited us to spend the weekend at their aunt and uncle's cabin in Island Park. We were excited because that meant we could take our little vacation and we had free lodging.

We drove up Friday after Dave got home from work. The car got great gas mileage all weekend as we drove all around the park, stopping to see bears (10 total), a moose, lots of elk and bison and a coyote.

We only paid for one meal the entire time we were there because Dave's aunt Teresa kept us full on home-cooking.

Sounds like a pretty cheap vacation so far, right?

But on the way out of the park for the last time, I glanced down and saw that the main diamond from my wedding set was gone. All gone.

So if you ever find a princess-cut diamond in Yellowstone (maybe near Old Faithful?), CALL ME.

ETA: I forgot to mention that Dave went back into the park and searched every place we had stopped that day. He knew it was a long shot, but he couldn't leave without trying. Sweet, huh?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Patience, young grasshopper

I just saw the funniest conversation on Facebook, and I need to share. The originator is my second cousin, and I'm not sure how old she is, but apparently she hasn't graduated from the sixth grade yet.

(Cousin): wants a phone soooooooo bad!!!!!!! MOM PLEASSSSSSSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEE CAN I HAVE A PHONE??!!!!

(Friend 1) girl, i didnt get mine til the day after I graduated from 6th grade..patience, young grasshopper(:

(Friend 2) I didn't get mine until the day before 8th grade. I win. Btw, the longer the wait, possibly the better phone! :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

A great cat massage tutorial!

I found this (via the Glamour Shots carnival) on Keeping Up With Mom.

This is for all you cat lovers out there. Don't forget to use your right hand or your left hand or both hands.

Thursday, April 15, 2010



If you don't already know Kristina, it's about time you check out her blog. Right now she's hosting a Glamour Shots carnival, and I thought that would be a fun thing to participate in.

I don't have an official "Glamour" shot, but I do have this!

This was one of my senior pictures that all the grownups in my life loved, and I hated. It just didn't look like me to me. I would have never made that "come hither" face or posed like that, and certainly not in a hooded sweatshirt. But it was my parents' favorite, so it has been prominently displayed ever since.

However, now that I am 11 years removed from this photo shoot, I actually like this picture! Isn't that backwards? Aren't you supposed to love these when you first get them, and then be completely embarrassed by them in the years to come?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Expert advice

I was thinking this morning about my blog post about chicken coops, and especially the part where I touted a belief in following my own instincts when it comes to parenting and running a household in general. I wrote about how I rarely consult the experts.

I realized that I had given myself a little (or maybe a lot) too much credit. There is one expert that I consult quite frequently.

This is my mom.

You may also call her Nurse Jacque or TechnoMom.

I rely on her a lot. She is always my first call when my son is running a fever and I need some guidance or just a little comfort.

She recognizes when I'm being silly about something and helps me be smart, without making me feel like I was being silly in the first place. 

She's my official Weight Watchers buddy. (She's lost more than 35 pounds, and she's still going strong.)

She's really smart with computers and her Farkle score is unbeatable.

She's an expert seamstress and a wonderful cook.

She's genuine, and brave enough to reach out to people. She's a wonderful example of friendship and caring.

She has molded the way I feel about being a mother. She has always been a very tender mother and grandmother. She is very nurturing and empathetic.

And maybe that's the reason I don't feel the need to consult the other experts. If I can raise my children to know that they are loved and capable, the way that she and my dad did, I will be happy.

But I'm sure I'll have some more questions along the way.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Take me to your leader

I bet this dog's home planet is really stinky.

"Greetings, Earthlings!" from our Boston terrier, Panda Bear
aka Snorty McSnorkleson
aka Stink Bomb
aka Alien Being

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Chicken Coop

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to a New York Times article about the recent trend of regular households keeping backyard chickens.

I found the article fascinating enough to read the whole thing aloud to my husband. I was particularly intrigued by the idea that backyard farming hearkens back to the industriousness that brought women into the workforce so many years ago. The writer also suggests that this is not necessarily old-fashioned, but actually a progressive, modern way to live that could become more common.

Apparently it is more common in some areas than others, such as the writer's home of Berkeley, Calif. And a friend of mine in Lawrence, Kan., where I spent a few lovely years of my life, says backyard farming is the newest way to "keep up with the Joneses." A couple months ago I read an article out of Provo, Utah, where the issue of "urban chickens" was brought to the city council, who eventually decided that Provo residents were permitted to keep up to 6 chickens.

In  my own neighborhood, there are at least two families keeping chickens. One is the farm that used to own all the land our houses are built on, so they have probably had chickens for years. But just yesterday, when this topic was already on my mind, I looked out my back window and discovered a yard full of chickens in my neighbor's backyard.

I'm not compelled to go out and buy chicken wire, but it definitely makes me think about running a household in general. These families have assessed their own values and situations and they have decided to keep chickens, which is still fairly unusual, at least in my neck of the woods.

But do we allow ourselves to have our own "chicken coops" in our families, in other forms? Do you run your household the same way as all your friends and neighbors, or do you assess your own individual values and give yourself permission to do things your way?

Here's my example. My little secret that's not so secret. My 3-year-old son goes to bed late and sleeps in late. This allows my husband lots of time after work to spend time with his son, and we enjoy that time as a family. I know some people think we are crazy, and when bedtime starts to creep later and later sometimes we think we are crazy. But at our house, a perfect night would be for Charlie to be asleep by 9:30 or 10:00. That leaves  enough time for these night owl parents to play a board game or catch up on "The Office" on Hulu. We know some people would disagree with the way we do it, but it's what works for our family. We enjoy that we can take Charlie out to dinner with us and not have to worry about a 7:30 bedtime. And because he's our only child, we can do that because we don't have a school schedule to adhere to (yet).

Perhaps some experts would look down on that, but I wouldn't know because I don't consult them. There is definitely room for improvement in our household, but we don't seek to fit anyone else's notion of the right way to do things. I believe strongly in following your instincts as a parent, and the experts all disagree anyway. I generally don't bother consulting the experts unless my own instincts come up empty on a certain subject*.

Chicken coops and late bedtimes don't seem to have anything to do with each other. But the rise of the chicken coop has made an impression on me. Like I said, I'm not about to raise chickens myself, but it's nice to see families doing things their way, even though it might be a little counterculture.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I have read one parenting book cover to cover. The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart . It was a little extreme at times (for instance, she suggests that cribs should be banned), but I generally agreed with the author, and it has given me more confidence in the way I do things.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Service Soapbox and a Baby Shower

Several bloggers that I read have posted about a new service organization they have created. The first event will be a baby shower to supply baby items for those who need a little help.

Go here for more information. For me it will be a fun way to meet some of the gals I have been getting to know online, and obviously a good opportunity to provide some needed assistance.

I'm feeling shy, but I think I'll go.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Forever giveaway

Follow Good Frau Personalized Paper Products to enter to win a free custom invitation or announcement. Each time I get 20 new followers, I will randomly choose one person to receive a free personalized design. You can choose from those posted to the site, or tell me what you have in mind, and I'll make you something fresh and brand new!

If you're chosen and you don't have anything to use it for, you can either save it for when you do, or pass it on to a friend.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good Frau Personalized Paper Products

Ever since I worked for a couple newspapers a few years ago and learned Photoshop, I have loved to create invitations and announcements for my friends. So I decided to try my hand at selling some.

I just got this shop up and running today (it's not an Etsy shop). So go take a look, and spread the word!

Good Frau Personalized Paper Products

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Little Locksmith

This book was amazing. It's a memoir written by Katharine Butler Hathaway who was born in 1890 and lived in Salem, Massachusetts. She contracted spinal tuberculosis when she was 5 years old and had to be strapped to a board 24 hours a day until she was 15 to keep her spine straight so she wouldn't become what we would know as a hunchback, which is a word that is actually never used in the book, but referred to. The treatment worked and she could walk around normally, but she was still "deformed."

It's about her coming of age and her amazing acceptance of her situation and joy in life. It's very interesting because you can see her forming and changing her own opinions as she writes, and even including the thoughts and opinions that she recognizes later as being naive.

The setting for a lot of the book is Castine, Maine, where she buys a big house that no one would expect her to buy and fixes it up. But it's not much about home improvement. It's mostly about the people in her life during that time and a whole lot about the beauty she finds all around her in the world. It also has to do with her belief that because she didn't have a normal body she would never get to experience romantic love, and giving herself to her writing as a kind of substitute.

What I loved most about it was her uncrushable joy and love for life, though her circumstances were not ideal. She was intent on making her life a good one, even though her path wasn't ordinary.

I seriously could not recommend this book enough. And I found the epilogue especially amazing, so read all the way to the end if you get this one!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

When I was a kid, there was a neighborhood near my house where everyone would decorate their houses to the nines for Christmas. I remember driving through there oohing and ahhing every year.

This year we visited my hometown for New Year's, and on our way back home I thought it would be fun to drive through that neighborhood to see if we could catch any Christmas lights still hanging.

We turned the corner at the home of my old ballroom dance partner. He also played the violin, so occasionally I joined him on the cello for a local performance. We also enjoyed singing together, so I had happy memories in that home.

A few houses down was the house with 12 kids, 4 who were close enough to my age that I was friends with them. I didn't spend a whole lot of time at that house, but the few memories I have were good ones. I remember gathering with a big group of friends, mostly from our Madrigals group, to play night games in the big backyard.

Back to 2010, while my husband and son were scoping out the remaining Christmas decor, I was reliving little pieces of my adolescence.

A few more houses down was Dorothy's house. Dorothy was one of my favorite, formative friends. Sadly for me, I seem to have lost touch with her. I still have such happy, warm feelings for her and when I was telling Dave all about her I felt like I still saw her all the time. But somehow we haven't connected in the last few years.

So I wasn't expecting what I saw as we got closer. Where I expected to see familiar cars and glowing windows, I saw emptiness and darkness. There was a for sale sign in the yard and it looked like no one was living there.

I don't know the story. I think her dad is still working in my hometown, so they must have moved somewhere close by. They probably built their dream house in the country or something.

It's not that I would have knocked on the door if they would have been there. I just wanted to know that they were still there.

I remember sitting around the kitchen drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. I remember laying out late at night on the trampoline. I remember teasing her little brother. I remember her giant walk-in closet filled with a wardrobe fit for an outdoorsy princess. I remember Marge (Dorothy's Mom), who was goofy and so inviting, ratting our hair and then sculpting it into beehives for a church dance. I remember talking about boys and whatever else high school girls like to talk about while her dad sat in his chair in the family room, acting as though he wasn't listening. Maybe he wasn't. I remember sitting around the piano with her family as one of them played.

In my family, no one moves. If you raise a family in a house, you stay there. My grandparents are still living in the house that my dad grew up in from the time he was born. And all of my dad's living siblings still live close by, some right in the same neighborhood, in the homes where they raised their families.

So even though I know it has no real effect on the rest of my life, I hate learning that my good friends' families have moved from the homes where my happy memories were formed. Did they even think about preserving my happy childhood?!

This goes for you too, Missy. (I think Missy reads this.) I'll forever remember "Make-out parties" where no one actually made out. And sharing one bed with Missy and Danielle during a sleepover, and waking up to a surprise that I'm not sure I can share here. We were all sworn to secrecy, but it's been at least 12 years, so maybe the embargo has been lifted. I can't contain my bursts of laughter right now as I remember that morning.

It took a lot of nerve for your parents to go and sell the place.

I'm the kind of person who doesn't let go of friendships. Once someone has meant something to me, I want to be friends forever and ever and ever and ever. And maybe I feel the same way, to a degree, about important places. Sometimes it's hard for me to accept that not everyone feels that way, especially when it means that they don't need my friendship the same way I still want theirs.

But you know what they say. Life goes on. Even mine. I still think of old friends and old places with fondness, but right now is what really matters. My old friends might not think of me every day, but I have new friends who become dearer to me every day, who enrich my life and make me feel happy. I have a wonderful, kind husband who I grow more in love with every day and who amazes me with his desire to do good in this world and be a good person. I have a miracle little boy who I thank God for every day, who makes me smile every single day and wants me to snuggle him to sleep every single night. And I have parents who I have always been close with, who still let me know every day that they love me.

So go on. Sell your houses if you must. I've got a good thing going right here, right now.