Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seriously ...



(can i really go an entire year without macy's? we'll see ...)


I started thinking about it a couple of weeks ago.

Our church had a short Sunday service, and then the pastor sent all of us out to the grocery store with a list of suggested items for the local food pantry. We were going to "be Jesus" to the community by stocking the pantry. Very cool.

Fifteen churches in the area did the same thing. Keep in mind, down here in Dallas if you have 1,000 members you're a small church. A large church could be 20,000 people or more.

As you can imagine, the nearby grocery stores were packed with people. Everybody stocked up on canned goods, toiletries and other essentials. We filled many, many semi trucks with stuff.

The next week, the pastor congratulated all of us on a job well done. The food pantries were stocked. They estimated that all the food would last them....

Three weeks.

That's right. Fifteen churches, umpteen thousand people, tens of thousands of dollars worth of essentials, and it would last 3 weeks.

I was stunned.

The next thing that made me think, was Black Friday. My blog post about it was pretty accurate. People were everywhere, rushing to buy TVs and Blu-Rays and YouNameIt.

And then ... I read a story by plaineolbob on the Bloggers Coffee Shop, who has a heart of gold. He asked the boy next door if he was excited about Thanksgiving, and the boy answered that they barely had enough food to last until the end of the month. Bob headed for the grocery store, and cooked a turkey dinner for the family.

That was it. I was ready to do something. But what?

Then ... I came across an article on Broowaha.com entitled Buy Nothing Day. It was about buying nothing on Black Friday. I decided to take it a step further.

Hubby and I have pledged to buy nothing new in 2010.

We'll buy used. We'll shop on Craigslist and eBay and at local consignment stores. We'll make exceptions for a few things, like underwear and food. And we'll keep track of how much we're saving.

At the end of the year, we will donate the savings to a worthy cause.

I'm going to post about our progress on Fridays. Should be interesting!

Stay tuned ...

~~~

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday


(isn't this FUN?)


3:45 a.m. - Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! The lines are forming already!!


4:15 a.m. - (Screech out of the driveway, run over a suspicious bump, and knock over the neighbor's garbage can) Leave it!! You can pick it up later! And the cat will be fine!


4:40 a.m. - Park anywhere!! Here is fine! I can see the line, it's wrapping all the way around the building! Oh wait, this is a handicapped space! Get out so I can break your leg!! It will be SO worth it, trust me!


4:59 a.m. - Ok, it's almost time. Quick. Memorize this map. I'll run to the automotive department and grab the $12.50 laptop and the Texas Edition Secede Or Die iPod. You head straight for the deli department for the 3-Million-Piece-Baby-Einstein-Build-Your-Own-Miniature-Manhattan-Lego Kit, then run to the left and search the freezer case for the 75-inch TV. And they're all out of carts, so DON'T DROP IT!


5:00 a.m. - THE DOOR IS OPENING!! GOOOOOOO!


6:00 a.m. - What are you doing out here in the car??!! Do you KNOW how long I've been looking for you??!! Where's the TV? And what is this wimpy 1-Million-Piece-Build-Eau-Claire-Wisconsin-Lego Kit? Who the heck wants that?

Oh well. I didn't do much better. The laptops were gone by 5:01. And they only had one iPod. I was first in line for it, but this little kid lit my hair on fire and his sister grabbed the iPod and ran. I guess I deserved it for pushing their mom into that bin of discount movies.

Hey, I did find a copy of Elf for $3.99. Let's go home and watch it. I just love the holidays!

~~~


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

This year I am thankful for ...

Good food ...



Good health ...



Good times ...




And good friends ...




Happy Thanksgiving!

~~~

Seriously Terrible Holiday Gifts


(i found this "toddler computer desk" online for around $200. but i'm sure your toddler already has one of these!)

Today's kids are SO hard to buy for! By the time they are 3 years old, they already have their own computers, fully operational miniature kitchens, and battery-driven Hummers with leather seats and "Secede Or Die" bumper stickers. At least here in Frisco they do.

So ... you are probably wondering what to buy your favorite boy or girl this year. Lucky you! I have some excellent suggestions. The descriptions in italics are, no kidding, straight from the manufacturers:


1. A Reel Roaster

("crank the reel's handle and the stainless steel skewer slowly rotates for even grilling")

Would you REALLY make your child go into the woods, find a stick, put a marshmallow on it, and rotate it over an open flame BY HAND?? Come now. Get serious. There are no woods within 20 miles of Frisco. Order this Reel Roaster instead.


2. The ZING Catapult Spoon

("zing! launch your lunch")

What better way to bring your family together than a rousing food fight?? Be sure to order enough ZING's for everyone at the table!


3. Bacon Bandages


("treat your minor cuts, scrapes and scratches with the incredible healing power of meat")

I never even knew that meat had incredible healing power! If nothing else, your minor cuts, scrapes and scratches will smell really yummy. The perfect stocking stuffer.

And last but not least ...

4. Glutton Baby


("el primer muneco lactante")
(and hopefully el LAST-o muneco lactante)

Ok, the original Spanish name sounds a little better. Bebe Gloton. This truly disturbing baby doll lets little girls (or, I suppose, disturbed little boys) ... um ... well, here are the three steps on the box: 1) strap on the special nursing bra, 2) "chup chup chup" and 3) "bluuuuuurp"

Ewwww.

Skip the Black Friday sales. Just go online to order these sure-to-please gifts. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!!!

~~~

Monday, November 23, 2009

Problem child




Her name was Sarah. She was six years old, with dark brown hair and big brown eyes and rosy cheeks. She was the terror of the Sunday School class.

When the other children lined up for a game, she pushed her way to the front of the line and ran through the obstacle course all by herself, laughing at the top of her lungs.

When the other children sang songs, she jumped and twirled and hid under her chair.

When the other children listened to the Bible story for the day, she told long stories of her own to whoever happened to be sitting next to her.

What on earth was wrong with this child? We grown-ups didn't quite know what to do with her. For lack of a better idea, I decided to make it my job to sit by her every week.

For a while I'm afraid I only made things worse. Sarah now had an audience for her jumping and twirling and hiding. And she knew it. I shushed her and stroked her hair when she started telling her stories, but of course it didn't stop her. I started getting disapproving stares from the other helpers.

I felt like quite a Sunday School Supervisory Loser.

I thought maybe I should scold her. Or give her a time-out. Or take her to a quiet corner to pray. But instead I just kept sitting there. Watching her twirling. Listening to her stories.

One morning, the entire class was quietly watching a puppet show. Sarah stood on one foot, wobbled back and forth, and started hopping sideways.

Suddenly she stopped and whispered in my ear.

"I wish I could live with my mommy and daddy," she said with a little sigh. "My Grandma is nice, but I really miss my mommy."

She looked into my eyes for a minute. I just smiled and stroked her hair.

Then she jumped up

and twirled

and hid under her chair.

~~~

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving recipes - Part 4


(when it comes to holiday decorations, the more the merrier!!)


Dear Southern Living:

I'm so excited! Our friends will be here in a few days, and my plans are nearly complete.

My little turkey farm is coming along well. The neighbors have apparently gotten used to the gobbling. They haven't called the police in several days.

My organic pumpkin patch is the envy of the neighborhood! I had to plant it in the front yard, since the turkeys are quite territorial. But with a little luck, the homeowner's association will reconsider their fine for Unapproved Unsightly And Untrimmed Vegetation. I think $250 is a little excessive, don't you?

I have hired a local artist to paint miniature murals on my Southern Living Sugar Cookies. After all, our friends are traveling a long way. The least I can do is to show them some Southern Living Hospitality. I have also sent my pearls out for cleaning.

I love, love, love the home decorating section of your Annual Best Of The Best Even Better Than Last Year And Definitely Better Than Anything You've Ever Done You Pathetic Loser Holiday Issue. I'm trying to make my home look exactly like your pictures!

I just have a few questions. I hope you won't mind.

First, is it absolutely necessary to grow my own Christmas tree from an acorn? I'm not sure I have room in the back yard, for obvious gobble-y reasons. And the pumpkin patch is quickly overtaking the front yard. Plus I really don't have much of a green thumb. As you may recall, I wrote you last summer about my cilantro plant which lasted for only 6 hours before dying a tragic and premature death.

I really don't want to go through that kind of emotional trauma again.

Second, on page 547 you have a lovely picture of a wreath. I've been trying to duplicate it, but the spun glass angel wings just won't adhere to the Waterford Crystal pine needles. What am I doing wrong?

I did manage to hang 1000 strands of twinkle lights, coordinated with the cheerful and extremely loud holiday music simultaneously piped through the speakers on my front porch and local radio station 106.1, with animated reindeer doing the Macarena on the roof, plus a nativity set on the front lawn that tells the entire Gospel story from Baby Jesus all the way through the Ascension Into The Sky, which drives the turkeys absolutely crazy.

I can't wait for my friends to see it!!

Thanks for all your help, Southern Living. I'll be in touch next week, when I start to plan my Christmas menu.

I will probably have a few questions.

~~~

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving recipes - Part 3


(your days are numbered, my goofy looking friend)


Dear Southern Living Magazine,

Golly gee, I hate to be a pest! But I know you care deeply about the culinary success of Southern women like myself. So I need your expert advice on my dessert selections for Thanksgiving dinner.

My house guests have told me repeatedly not to go to any trouble this year. In fact, each time they say it their voices get louder and more emphatic. I keep telling them, it is no trouble at all to assemble a George Washington Turkey with a Mayflower made entirely of green beans! No trouble at all.

I want to be sure that I prepare the perfect desserts for my friends. Your annual Put Your Neighbors To Shame Holiday Whoop De Doo Look What We Can Do With Pumpkins Edition has been a tremendous help.

I just have a few questions.

First, your apple pie recipe has me completely baffled. Do you mean to tell me it is actually possible to make a pie crust FROM SCRATCH?? Unbelievable. I might as well try to create gravity. Though, again, the lady in your picture looks like she is really enjoying the process. Maybe she's been sampling the egg nog.

Second, I need some help with your Ultimate Pumpkin Pie recipe. What should I do if I can't find a pesticide-free 10-pound no-growth-hormone organic pumpkin at my local Kroger? Would my friends really know the difference if I use a can of Libby's? You won't tell them, will you?

I really love the pictures of your sugar cookies. The Andrew Wyeth landscapes are stunning. I'm not even gonna attempt those.

Thanks a bunch! This will be a Thanksgiving to remember.

~~~

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving recipes - Part 2


(woo hoo! now we're cooking)


Dear Southern Living Magazine,

Thank you for the helpful information on How To Cook The Perfect Turkey. My house guests are so excited to try it! They have never seen a boneless, skinless turkey shaped like George Washington before. Can you imagine?

In fact, they looked rather alarmed when I said I was going to cook Thanksgiving dinner from scratch. I told them that they really should be more open-minded. It's been several years since the big fire. I'm ready to try again!

I have been studying the side dish recipes in your Gigantic Colossal Completely Over The Top Holiday Issue, and I have a few more questions for you:

First, I love they way your Green Bean Bundles are assembled in the exact configuration of The Mayflower. Sails and all. Very impressive. If I can't find authentic 16th Century bailing twine at my local Home Depot, is it ok to use some very old string?

Next, I am planning on making your Unbelievable Totally Homemade Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet Cranberry Sauce. I'm just not sure I can stir for 24 hours straight. The lady in your picture looks like she is having fun stirring with her platinum-coated diamond-studded whisk. But I think her pupils are a little dilated.

And finally, of course, no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without mashed potatoes. Which recipe do you really recommend?

~ Buttery Butter-Flavored Butter-Than-Ever Mashed Potatoes With Butter And Sour Cream

or

~ Creamy Sour-Cream Cream-A-Licious Mashed Potatoes With Sour Cream And Butter

They both look delicious.

Thanks so much for your help! I'm super excited to impress my friends.

~~~

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving recipes



(this is nothing. wait till you see MY turkey!)


Dear Southern Living Magazine:

I am so excited! We have some friends coming to visit for Thanksgiving. So this year, I'm going all out. No thin-sliced deli turkey from Kroger. No applesauce spooned into those little graham cracker crust things. No indeedy. This year I'm going to cook!

I bought your Southern Living Holiday Extravaganza Impress Your Friends And Neighbors Edition yesterday. It's not too often that I spend $24 on a single magazine. But I figured it's worth that much just for the Do-It-Yourself Back Yard Turkey Farm blueprints alone.

And the diagram for Decorating A 12-Foot Christmas Tree Using Your Grandmother's Antique Jewelry! Stunning!

I just have a few questions:

First, the turkey. Should I prepare the Homegrown Herb Dry Rub before or after I skin the turkey, disassemble it, remove the bones, and then put it back together in the shape of George Washington?

If I don't have time to get my Back Yard Turkey Farm up and running, can you tell me where to find a 50-pound turkey in my local area? I am in Zone 8 of your Southern Living Turkey Zone color-coded map.

Are you sure it's a good idea to stuff the turkey with deep-fried butter? According to your Nutritional Estimates, we will all congeal into solid masses of clogged arteries by 6:00 p.m. The Bacon And Eggs Benedict Gravy sure sounds yummy, I must admit.

I'm a little skeptical about using the giblets to polish my furniture. But you are the experts.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

~~~

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to write a cover letter


(writing a cover letter is a big job)


As I mention whenever I have nothing else to blog about, I often half-heartedly look for jobs when I have nothing else to do. Plus I am, whenever I do actually work, a professional writer.

Therefore, as something of an expert in the broadest possible sense of the term, I thought I would share some tips on writing cover letters.

The cover letter is without a doubt the hardest part of applying for a job. After all, writing a resume is pretty straightforward. Filling out an online application is more a matter of patience than skill. But your cover letter is your chance to shine! Or sink. One or the other.

First, let me share an actual cover letter that got me an actual job:

To Whom It May Concern: Please read my resume. I really need a job. I have been working as a church choir director for many years. A church is a wonderful place to spend a Sunday morning, but if I have to work here one more day I will shoot myself in the head. You wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you?

... then I went on to describe my total lack of experience, since at that point I had none, and ended with a reminder that I would be happy to consider any salary that has five figures in it, which apparently made up for my total lack of experience because, as I said, I miraculously got the job. Thank you God.

Once I got that particular job, which ended up being a freelance gig, I started sending out emails looking for more freelance gigs. These query emails are similar to cover letters, so I'll share one of them as well:

To Whom It May Concern: I am a freelance copywriter. Over the past 10 years I have written a wide variety of financial marketing pieces from my cozy home office here in Michigan. My goal is to write marketing materials from a cozy home office in a tropical location, so I thought I would see if I can drum up a little more work. Please let me know if you would be interested in seeing some writing samples.

I had quite a bit of success with this little email. Amazing, I know.

Here are the lessons that you might take away from my quirky but successful cover letter/query emails:

1. Be yourself. Let your personality come through.

2. Don't be afraid to use a little humor. I wouldn't recommend my all-out quirky approach for, say, a computer programmer. But you could add just a small touch of tasteful levity. The H.R. department will appreciate it. Really.

3. It's ok to say "To Whom It May Concern." The real experts will tell you this is a no-no. But it worked for me. So there.

4. Get some professional help if necessary. With your writing, that is. I would be happy to craft a personalized cover letter for you for, say, $250. Plus I'll polish up your resume for $500 and fill out online applications for $1,000 each. Hey, tropical home offices don't come cheap.

~~~

Monday, November 9, 2009

When I grow up ...


(work: what i really should be doing right now)


I'm at it again. Searching for jobs.

Not that I really want a job. It's kind of my hobby.

One of these days somebody is going to offer me a job and I'll say "Oh, heh heh, no thanks, I was just looking" like I always say to the sales people at the mall, who have one of the worst jobs in the world, cleaning up after people like me who try on 27 outfits and don't buy any of them.

Anyway. Here is my fool-proof method for job searching:

Step one: I go to www.indeed.com, where I have stored three searches. (writer, copywriter, editor)

Step two: I pull up recent listings that might meet my stringent criteria, which include a generous salary, absolutely no need for heels or pantyhose at any time, and summers off.

Step three: I find one or more reasons why I am not qualified for any of the recent listings.

Step four: I turn on the television and watch the latest episode of The Colbert Report, hoping all the while that Stephen Colbert will announce a new nationwide search for comedy writers yet knowing that if he did, I would find a reason not to apply.

Surely, one of these days, I will discover my true calling in life. My passion. My what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up.

Here are some jobs that just might fit the bill:

~ Circus Clown: Comfortable shoes. Baggy pants. No need to style my hair.

~ Snow Plow Operator In Dallas: Summers off. Plus Springs, Winters and Falls.

~ Bank Robber: Set your own hours. Unlimited earning potential.

Of course, I could just continue doing what I do, which is writing marketing projects for a couple of wonderful marketing companies that could not care less if I wear heels, pantyhose, or my raggedy sweat pants. Or even a red rubber nose.

Though they do make me work in the summer.

Life is tough.

~~~

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why Frisco Texas is exactly the same as Colorado

(this is not my friend barb. it's not me either. i never smile if there is snow on the ground.)


When I lived in Michigan, I had a wonderful friend named Barb. (everybody wave to Barb!) She helped me survive the church job I will tell you about one of these days, which is included on my resume with a note: QBIWCI. Quit Before I Went Completely Insane.

Anyway.

Barb moved to Colorado, where she lives happily with her wonderful family. She loves Colorado, but really she could have just moved to Texas with me!

Frisco is EXACTLY the same as Colorado. Here's why:

Colorado has four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer.




Frisco has four seasons too! Kind of Hot, Really Hot, Hotter Than You Ever Thought Possible, and Hot Enough To Melt Your Eyeballs.



Colorado has mountains.



Yeah, yeah. Big deal, Barb. Frisco has mountains too.

Ok, hills.

Oh fine. Roads that slope.


(try hiking up that slope in the middle of Hot Enough To Melt Your Eyeballs - it's not so easy, let me tell ya)


And last but not least ...

Colorado has wildlife. Moose, bears, ducks, you name it.


(he looks friendly, doesn't he?)


And, you guessed it, Frisco has wildlife too. Why, just the other day they were having a clearance sale at Neiman Marcus, or "Neiman's" as everybody down here casually calls it, with $300 t-shirts marked down to only $299! They ran out of size Triple-Zero within the first 5 minutes, as teeny little women wearing huge sunglasses and driving gigantic SUV's stormed the store.



Pretty wild.

Miss you, Barb!

~~~

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ads that make you go "hmmm"


(you just never know what you'll find in the morning paper)


The Dallas Morning News had some very interesting ads today. Thought you might like to see them.

First, there was this ad for an At Home Steroid Test:



Now, why exactly would anyone WANT an at-home steroid test? Do people wake up and say, "Oh my gosh honey, look at the size of my muscles! I think someone might be slipping me some steroids! I'd better go buy an At-Home Steroid Test from Walgreens!"

Hmm ...

Then, a few pages later, there were 3 consecutive HUGE full-color ads for Merck, the big pharmaceutical company.

The first 2 were warm fuzzy ads telling me to visit their website to learn how much they care about me. The third was an ad for Zostavax, a shingles medication, with a huge disgusting picture of a patch of shingles on someone's arm.

Eww.

If Merck really cared about me, first of all they would not spend bazillions of dollars on advertising. They would lower their drug prices instead. Plus they would not make me look at disgusting shingles pictures while I eat my toast and honey.

Anyway. The disclaimers for Zostavax, their shingles medication, were a little puzzling to me:




After all, how many 60 + year old women do YOU know who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant?

Hmm ...

But the last ad I want to show you is my favorite! Read it carefully, and think about the part I underlined. What, exactly, goes on in this office?




So, I just wanna know ... is that a picture of a patient and nurse, 10 to 12 minutes into the appointment?

Hmm ...

~~~

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blink


(grandbaby # 2. we can't wait to meet her)


Thirty-two years ago today, I was hugely, uncomfortably, 2-weeks-overdue pregnant. I looked like a broomstick that had swallowed a watermelon, as my father-in-law loved to remind me. I could sprawl on the couch, rest a plate on my belly, and eat dinner in a semi-reclining position.

In fact, that's about all I could do.

My daughter was born at 6:30 p.m. She was beautiful. So tiny. So perfect. I was terrified.

Then I blinked.

She walked onto the school bus like it was nothing, proudly wearing her kindergarten name tag. I could just see the top of her head as her little hand waved from the window.

I blinked again.

She stood in her dorm room, her eyes welling up with tears. "Don't leave yet," she said. "Let's go out for lunch."

I blinked again.

She walked down the aisle, looking like a princess and whispering to her dad to stop crying and secretly hoping for the best, as all brides do.

I blinked again.

She smiled up at me from the hospital bed, pulling back a corner of the little blanket so I could see her perfect baby daughter.

I blinked again.

She walked in with her husband yesterday, holding the ultrasound pictures for baby number two and trying to keep the happy secret as long as she could. "Look," she said. "You can't tell from the pictures if it's a boy or a girl. But these are her hands, and her little feet. And this is her heart."

Ah yes. Her heart. It's such a miracle, that little heart. It's inside you right now, my darling daughter. But even after she's born, it will still be a part of you.

Always.

Even if you blink.

Happy birthday.

~~~

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Little Tragic-Homeless-Yet-Adorable Princess


Call me strange (you won't be the first). I can't recall ever wanting to be a princess.

I did watch The Little Princess with Shirley Temple when I was little. But I didn't want to be Princess Shirley who is happily reunited with her amnesiac father at the end of the movie. I identified with the raggedy little orphan Shirley who lived in the dark, cold attic with the Indian servant girl bringing her tea and crumpets to make sure she stays alive.

Poor wretched little thing. I loved her somber black cape and her shiny tap shoes.

Before you get the wrong idea, I was not an orphan. Or poor. Or raggedy. I mean, I grew up in Connecticut for crying out loud. There are no raggedy people in Connecticut.

I guess I just had a dark side, right from the start.

~ I love made-for-TV Lifetime Movies starring Mare Winningham as a homeless abused terminally ill mother of four during the final Christmas season of her poor wretched life.

~ I love The Hours, one of the all-time-most-depressing movies in the world.

~ And my shelves are full of books with jacket descriptions that include the words Tragic, Somber, Heart-Breaking and Bleak.

It's a good thing I'm so funny.

Otherwise I'd be downright depressing.

~~~

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