Sunday, July 31, 2011

Super Ima Sunday Check-In: "West Coast Represent" Edition

So, I made it to California. 

The hours before the departure were anxiety-ridden.  I was nervous on the way to the airport.  I got through the goodbyes with Bill and Nathan.  (My dad says in our family we never say "goodbye," we always say "so long," but you know what I mean.)  I cried a little in the airport and scarfed down an entire Chicken McNuggets Extra Value meal without even tasting it, I was so nervous. 

But did you know that air travel is ridiculously easy without any children (or husbands)?  Going through security, I felt like I must have forgotten something, it was so simple. (It is a lot easier to travel in the summertime, too, because you can slip on flip-flops and you don't have a coat.)  On the flight itself, I seriously experienced the sensation of not knowing what to do with myself.  I did have my Kindle with me, but I haven't really had four hours straight to read in so long that I kind of didn't have the stamina. 

Also, I'm a pretty bad airplane sleeper (or car sleeper or anywhere-else-besides-a bed-sleeper), but I did doze a little in the middle there.  All of the sudden the exhaustion of the pre-trip anxiety just washed over me.  (That and a giant McDonald's meal tends to knock you out.)  And I had this feeling like, when I finally had a chance to sit down and think about it, the last month or so has just been tiring with all the juggling of activities. 

The flight landed 15 minutes early.  And again, everything at the airport just seemed so easy.  What, I can just pop in and out of the bathroom?  And then baggage claim was fine, and I caught the rental car shuttle right away.  And then ... it took like an hour to get the rental car.  Why are rental car places such a bitch? 

Here is the other thing: I am nervous about driving unfamiliar cars.  So an hour standing in line gave me a lot of opportunity to freak out about driving the rental car.  Finally I got the car, loaded my stuff in it, mounted my GPS with the Command adhesive strips I smartly brought in my purse, adjusted the seat and mirrors ... and then drove the thing to the gate, only to be told I had the wrong car.  Turns out the rental car people had parked the wrong car in the spot I was assigned to, and I got a car with a similar license plate, and the same type of car, but the wrong color.  So I had to get that adjusted, and finally I was on the road. 

I got to stop and eat at my beloved Del Taco on the way to my in-laws' house.  The whole drive went smoothly, except my in-laws' street was not in the GPS, and it took a couple of phone calls to direct me up the middle-of-nowhere, bumpy dirt road leading to their house.  It maybe wasn't a good road for a Chevy Aveo.  (I should note that the in-laws have only lived in this particular location for a little over a year, and the other times we've visited Bill has driven.) 

It took four hours from the time the plane landed to the time I got to my in-laws' house.  But when I got there they had wine and shrimp, and all was well.  I went to bed shortly thereafter, and I had this feeling like my hands felt strangely empty.  Surely there was at least a small pet I could take to bed with me.  But no ... nothing.  It felt weird.

But in the morning, being alone felt awesome.  I woke up and then just decided to go back to sleep.  That never happens.  At home Nathan and/or Leia are dragging me out of bed, and I feel like I have to get up and get all kinds of laundry done.  This morning, when I finally got up, my only responsibility was making myself some coffee.

So, this week I don't have anything to say about letting things slide or giving myself a break.  The whole damn week is a break.  As nervous as I was about leaving Nathan, this does feel very leisurely. 

And SuperIma Leigh Ann is also off on some solo travel for her Hillel conference this week!  Click over and wish her bon voyage

Saturday, July 30, 2011

And Antics Ensue

We're leaving for the airport in a few minutes, and my anxiety level is at Threat Level Midnight. 

I've decided I'm finish doing pre-trip chores.  Initially when I envisioned leaving Bill and Nathan home while I left town, I imagined having every possible household chore and errand up to date before my departure.  Every room would be sparkling and disinfected.  I'd have procured all kinds of groceries so Bill would have ingredients to make simple meals.  The dry cleaning would be picked up and I would have recently taken the car to the car wash. 

Instead, I just got most of the clutter picked up, and I've been providing Bill with verbal instructions about what needs to be done.  Like, "We're down to the last carton of Nathan's purple [soy] milk.  You'll need to go to the store to avoid a crisis."

I'm incredibly proud of the fact that I didn't leave a single Post-it note anywhere with written directions for Bill.  I really had to fight my control freak tendencies on that one, but I think my husband and I have finally gotten to a point where we're sharing enough of the childcare and household duties that he has some clue as to how to run things in my absence. 

Though yesterday Nathan did ask, concerned, "Who's gonna wash the dishes and set the table while you're gone?"

I feel bad that we've modeled such traditional gender roles for him. 

Anyway, I'd like to think that by the end of the week, Bill will have cultivated a new appreciation for what I do around the house.  Lately I've been thinking we're sort of like the chocolate factory episode of I Love Lucy, what with my recent return to employment and Bill's upcoming stint at domesticity.  I don't know what it says that a 1950s sitcom is still so highly relatable.  Either Lucy was way ahead of her time, or else we have not come very far as a society in terms of gender roles. 

In trying to find the time for paid employment from home lately, I have realized my husband often seems so grumpy and stressed out.  And maybe in spending a week caring for the house and child, Bill will come to understand why I often seem so grumpy and stressed out. 

Unfortunately the antics of math textbook editing are nowhere near as hilarious as those of a chocolate factory assembly line.  I very seldom find myself having to cram things in my mouth when the work starts backing up.  Or maybe I do, but the cramming is more metaphorical than literal. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

All Over the Place

First of all, if you're reading this before 11:59 p.m. CST on Friday, go and enter my contest to win some free organizational products from Blue Sky!  Seriously, it's a real giveaway where you will get the products directly from the company, not mailed by me at the local rinky-dink post office!  The mailing label will probably be typed and have a barcode!  (On the other hand, it won't have any cat stickers on it.) 

Also, if you look to your immediate right, you will see that I have an ad in my sidebar from Illinois Farm Families.  They paid me to run this ad, because they're looking for people to apply to be Field Moms.  Field Moms are moms who are interested in how our food is grown, and are willing to attend various field trips to learn about food production.  They will have to record videos of the trips and blog about their experiences.  If you're interested in applying, click here or on the ad to the right.  The application deadline is August 21. 

As for news from my own personal life, I leave tomorrow for a weeklong trip to California to visit family and attend the BlogHer conference.  And seriously, you guys, I am freaking out about leaving Nathan.  The freakout isn't because I fear for his safety with Bill or anything like that, it's because I will miss Nathan so much.  I never expected to be that mom who freaks out about leaving her kid.  I mean, I'm happy to take him to school or camp, or hire a babysitter for him.  I love me some alone time.  I have been dreaming about sleeping alone in a hotel since he was born. 

But ... a whole week?!  I just hope I'm less emotional during the actual trip than I am as I anticipate it. 

Oh, and you know what else contributed to my pointless anxiety today?  I discovered that my cell phone no longer became charged when I plugged the charger in.  I was hoping I could just buy a new charger, but, as predicted, the problem was with the port on the actual phone.  I could have gotten a replacement phone using the insurance, but then I wouldn't have my phone for at least the first two days of the trip, and am I the only one who becomes absolutely terrified at the prospect of taking a giant cross-country trip alone without a cell phone? 

Fortunately I was eligible for the upgrade, which meant I could get a new phone for $50 above the price I would have had to pay for the insurance deductible on a replacement of my own phone.  Still, I felt like a sucker saying I needed to pay more money and get a whole new phone because I couldn't wait two days for the insurance replacement.  

Similarly, I wanted another phone with the pullout keypad, but that had to be special ordered, and, again, I can't go on a trip without my cell phone.  So, I ended up with a phone that wasn't as good as the one I had before, keypad-wise, and it cost more. 

But I can't really go on a trip without a phone, right? 

Anyway, I have to get to packing.  And freaking out some more about leaving muh bay-bee

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Estate Sales Turn Ugly

I know I'm probably alone in this, but I don't like awkward interpersonal situations. 

Yesterday I went to an estate sale that had an irritating element of interpersonal awkwardness, coupled with a disappointing missed opportunity. 

Let me warn you in advance that this is a stupid story about a minor misfortune at an estate sale.  I am not implying that this is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone.  It's meant as one of those light-hearted, silly posts. 

So, the estate sale started yesterday at 11.  I rushed from the gym to get there right on the stroke of 11, but apparently I should have aimed for 10:45.  A man made a beeline for the only Fiestaware they had.  It was an adorable little collection of the pastel colors.  It would have been perfect for Easter meals.  And, again, if the inability to get (more) plates for one dumb holiday meal of the year is the worst problem you have, you need to stop whining and shut your trap. 

But, what I hated was, all the plates were kept in this tiny closet-like pantry, so this one man was basically blocking entry to the entire area.  I am not implying that he had any kind of evil intent to form a human barricade or anything like that.  But what was very awkward was, I had to stand there, watching him fumble through the small collection of Fiestaware for a good 5 minutes, while he complained that he didn't know how he was going to be able to carry it all.

I seriously didn't realize that collecting could be this emotional and dramatic.  I left in a bit of a pout, not even interested in looking at the rest of the sale. 

You hear collectors talk about "the thrill of the hunt," but I guess I just never really thought about the ridiculous highs and lows that can come from attempting a big score.  

Like seriously, have you ever watched these shows where people collect cookie jars or salt shakers or whatever?  They are always on such a high when they go to the flea market at 4 a.m. and score that one rare piece.  Conversely, you have to assume there is a major letdown when they fail to make that score, although those disappointments aren't often shown on TV.  (Also I think that any disappointment is multiplied exponentially when it involves going somewhere at 4 a.m.)

The whole collecting thing is sort of a strange psychological phenomenon.  I'm not talking about extreme hoarding here (for a change), I'm talking about the whole range of emotions people can experience in conjunction with something completely pointless.  I mean, it's not like the man at the estate sale snatched the last loaf of bread right in front of me and my starving family.  I have enough of every life necessity like food, and, truth be told, enough plates to serve that food on.  But still, I went home and pouted for about half an hour about that stupid Fiestaware situation, rendered completely unable to move on and perform any other tasks.  I should empty the dishwasher, I thought.  But noooo, because then I'd have to face all my old dishes, and think about how pretty those estate sale dishes would have looked among my collection.  

I maybe need to get out more.

But my point wasn't to talk all about my horrible misfortune at the estate sale.   My point was to say that I'm not cut out for the world of collectors, which is a problem because for the first time in my life I've become interested in collecting all kinds of things.

(This is how the hoarders got started, too.)

The thing is, I've never been much of a collector of anything.  As a kid I had the requisite sticker collection and shell collection, but it's not like I was always on the hunt for that one coveted holy grail item.  And I've always had a bit of a collection of cat-related items, but I've always seen those as decor (don't worry, I keep it minimal and tasteful), or else I try to limit my cat possessions to practical items like note pads. 

And sure I have the collection of dishes, but, again, practical. 

But now, all of the sudden I have this urge to start collecting stuff.  Is this what happens as you get older?  Oh my gosh, am I starting menopause? 

Actually, though, I know the source of my new-found interest in collecting, and she's the source for a lot of my out-of-character domestic endeavors:

Martha Stewart.

See, every month, Martha Stewart Living magazine features an article about somebody's collection of something.  Egg cups!  Antique potholders!  And this month: sour cream jars. 

Apparently in the 1950s, sour cream companies began selling their products in decorative collectible jars.  They have flowers and other pretty patterns.  I want them. 

Oh, and this month's Living was a double-whammy, because there was also this super interesting article on antique baking pamphlets.  I want some of them too. 

Dammit, Martha.  Forget the whole insider trading thing, your real crime was getting me hooked on collecting unnecessary stuff. 

With the sour cream jars, and the egg cups, and the pamphlets, dishes, and glassware, I'm well on my way to becoming that crazy old lady with a bunch of clutter that her relatives are going to have to dispose of after she dies. 

And here I thought my biggest fear for old age was the possibility of becoming the Crazy Cat Lady.  Now I'm also going to have to worry about having a bunch of pointless knick-knacks.  Oh, and there's the fear of having a crop of chin hair that nobody will pluck.  

Old Lady Shannon will achieve the trifecta. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Final Niece and (Sort of) Nephew of the Summer!

No, nobody had twins.  But, in a stunning twofer, my extended family got two new members yesterday.

My husband's brother Ritch and sister-in-law Venessa welcomed their sixth child (second girl):

Dorothy Sue Ford
Born 7/26/11 at 8:06 p.m.
8 pounds, 10 oz. 
21 1/2 inches long

(Oh, and at 8 pounds, 10 oz., she is the smallest baby of the sixth they've had.) 

Also, Kimberly and Brian, who are actually my brother's brother-in-law and sister-in-law (but we are Facebook friends and Kimberly reads this blog) welcomed their second child (and second boy):

Benton Joseph Crossley
Born 7/26/11 (time not indicated on Facebook)
8 pound,  9 oz.
19.5 inches long

(Wow, both of these babies were 8-pounders!)

This concludes my series Babies Who Were Born in My Family This Summer.  

Congratulations to all parents and siblings! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Virtual Coffee

Time for another session of Virtual Coffee with Amy at Lucky Number 13!

Before I get started, I want to remind everyone that you have until Friday to enter my awesomely awesome Blue Sky home organization products giveaway!  GO HERE TO ENTER!  And my friend Farrah is giving away another set, so go here for another chance to win

Enough blog-pimpin' and exclamation points.

I'm having a weird week.  Saturday I leave for a trip to Southern California, the first leg of which is a mad dash to see family members old and new (the babies!), and the second leg of which is going to BlogHer San Diego.  Is anybody else going?  If so:

Come Talk to
 Me at BlogHer '11!

Because I'm totally nervous that nobody else will.  I don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to go to BlogHer.  But I also don't know why I'm getting nervous about it, because it's just a blog conference.

Nonetheless, I'm going to blame my nervousness on the total food binge I went on last night.  All day long I was a perfect Weight Watcher: planning, measuring, and tracking.  Then after dinner I decided to eat an entire box of Wheat Thins.  An entire box.  And then I had some ice cream, and string cheese, and Cheerios.  I ate more after 8 p.m. than I ate the rest of the day combined.  As I stewed about the whole thing later, I thought, Okay, I will learn from my mistakes.  Live and learn.  Except, I've been living a long time, and I don't know when I'm going to learn. 

In work news, there's a lull.  For those who don't know, I'm in the middle of a freelance project, and some of the stuff hasn't come in.  That's making me nervous.  I've learned in my brief freelance career that you really need to seize a "no time like the present" mentality for responsibilities in your work and personal lives.  Like, for example, yesterday I knew I had to do some housecleaning.  I kept telling myself that I had better do it now, while there's a work lull, because later this week I'll be busy with work and won't have time to clean the house.  I was all, This freelance work is really going to be good for combating my natural tendencies toward procrastination!  And then I took a nap. 

I've started to realize that a lot of my current anxiety is related to the unknowns of life.  Now, first of all, everybody is anxious about the unknowns of life.  But also, while of course unknowns like death, disease, accidents, and natural disasters are always very anxiety-producing, I'm actually talking here about much more minor unknowns.  Like, for example, all the unknowns of my work schedule.  And the unknowns of how my trip is going to work out (will the flight be delayed? will my first rental car experience go okay?), and how BlogHer is going to go.

And, looking a little farther out, there are a lot of question marks about the fall right now, too.  Nathan is signed up for Tuesday/Thursday at his preschool, but he's number 3 on the waiting list for Monday/Wednesday/Friday.  I don't know which days he'll be going.  There's also maybe going to be an afternoon class option on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but thus far it looks like they don't have a lot of sign-ups and that class might get canceled.  I'm hoping to have more work to do in the fall, but I don't know yet, so I don't know what kind of childcare arrangement I'll need.  I kind of want to put Nathan back in the home daycare that he used to go to (this lady is AWESOME and she only charges $3/hour), but I don't know what days we'll need and besides I haven't called her.  And I know those are all really boring minor details you didn't need to know, but I'm just trying to give you a snapshot of what's going on in my mind right now. 

A few other things, because time is running short:
  • I have to get Nathan to camp.  I love camp.
  • Yesterday I did the elliptical at the gym.  I have never been an elliptical devotee, because I'm uncoordinated and I feel like I should stick with activities that use locomotor skills I have already mastered (walking, running, riding a bike).  But I love the elliptical because I can read a book while I'm on there (can't really do that on a treadmill because it's too bouncy).  
  • I'm reading Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.  I love her ability to create three-dimensional characters, although I really liked her first book, Commencement, better. 
  • I'm striking out on my shopping for a desk.  Today we're going into Indiana to an Amish furniture place.  Husband's reasoning is that he'd rather pay more for a quality product.  I definitely take that approach toward electronic items, but in this case I'd rather go on the cheap because it's a desk, for crying out loud.  
  •  I'm considering hosting a party for National Can It Forward Day.  I've always wanted to get into canning, and now would be my chance.  Who will come to my canning party?  
  • I'd better get more work in, because I just got some awesome new Pilot Hi-Tec C pens from Tokyo Pen Shop.  As I've mentioned before, I have very strong opinions about pens, and office supplies in general.  This is actually my favorite time of year to go to Target, because they have all the office supplies on sale for back-to-school time.  Anyway, Tokyo Pen Shop is a great online retailer of cute office supplies, especially the Pilot Hi-Tec C pens, which are not sold in U.S. stores.  They are super fine-point pens.  I like Tokyo Pen Shop's tagline: "For pens as precise as your thoughts!"  I think if I had to come up with a pen equivalent for the precision of my thoughts right now, it would be the big fat Sharpie, because my thoughts are pretty far from clear and precise.  But anyway, I promise Tokyo Pen Shop didn't compensate me in any way to endorse them.  They don't even know I exist, except as a customer.  But I love them a lot, and if you are a pen connoisseur like I am, give them a try.  They have super fast shipping!
I had two cups of coffee during the writing of this.  One I made at home, and one from Starbucks.  

Thanks for visiting me. 

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    GIVEAWAY! Blue Sky Home Organization Products

    Last week, in my recap of the Brands & Bloggers Summit, I mentioned that while the whole idea of the perfect brand/blogger relationship is interesting and important for other bloggers, I really didn't think it applied to me all that much.  Sure, I like it when brands give me free stuff, but I just don't see myself being business-minded enough to ever get that lucrative endorsement deal.

    But, upon further thought, I realized that I still do want to play the brand/blogger game, just on a much smaller scale.  I'm never going to compete in the Brand/Blogger Olympics, but I'm happy to play on an intramural level.

    Which means the rules of brand/blogger relations still apply to me.  I still need to find the right relationships and rule out the wrong ones.  I still need to limit my endorsements to products I legitimately like.  I still need to find brand/blogger relationships that work.  

    This is the story of a brand/blogger relationship that worked.  

    The story began a few weeks ago when I wrote this post about redecorating my home office.  You may recall that I specifically mentioned my plans to make the home office a pretty, feminine place.

    Enter Caitlin and Sara, two women I know in real life but met through blogging.  Caitlin and Sara, in one of those awesome "how mama got her groove back" stories, joined forces to create their own PR company, 2 Moms Media.  Their company represents Blue Sky, a trusted maker of planners and organizers, which has recently launched a new line of pretty home organization products.

    What better fit for a mom like me who is trying to juggle a personal and professional life at home, and who specifically mentioned wanting something pretty?

    So, Caitlin wrote me a personal email (as opposed to a cheesy form letter) and asked if I'd like to try a sample of the Blue Sky Home Series, along with the option to give another set out to a lucky reader.  It was one of those perfect, authentic, real brand/blogger connections that I think would make the panelists at the Brands & Bloggers Summit proud.

    Now, I realize that was a really long introduction for a giveaway post, but I just wanted to make it perfectly clear that I legitimately endorse these products, and that there is a real, human connection behind my relationship with the brand. 

    Okay, so let's take a look at the goods, shall we?

    These are two nice-looking, professional, well-lit photos that Caitlin sent me of the product line:

    Cute, right?  Now here are several pictures I took of the products, placed atop one of my bath towels on my kitchen table.

    This first product is the Multi-Task Notebook.  It's divided into three sections: Do, Buy, and Call.  Each section has several lined pages arranged in a to-do list style with check-off boxes.  The notebook also includes 6 storage pockets for small papers, business, cards, etc.

    This is a close-up of the notebook's Do section and one of the storage pockets:

    Next, there's the Weekly/Monthly Planner:

    The planner includes monthly calendars:

    The planner also has a Do/Call/Buy checklist adjacent to each monthly calendar:

    And the planner includes more detailed weekly calendars:

    These next two items are my personal favorites.  There's the Grocery Checklist pad, which is arranged by section of the store (produce, dairy, etc.), and the Door Pad, which is a notepad that hangs on the door so you can write down reminders for yourself:

    And finally, there's the Mousepad, which is also a to-do list notepad:

    Posted by Picasa

    One lucky winner will get the whole line of Blue Sky home products! 

    Here's how you win:

    In the comments section, leave me a comment with the answer to the following question:

    What dream activity would you love to put on your calendar for the next year? 

    And if you want an extra chance to win, go and like Blue Sky on Facebook, then come back here and leave a separate comment saying "I liked Blue Sky on Facebook."  

    So, you can have two comments total.  Please make sure the comment includes your name somewhere.  

    This contest ends Friday, July 29 at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time.  After that time I will assign each comment a number, and have choose a comment number to win.  I will announce the winner next Monday, August 1, and tell that person to send me his/her address via email.  I will then pass the address on to Caitlin and Sara, who will send out the products.  

    And if you aren't the winner, you can still pick up Blue Sky products at a little neighborhood boutique called Target.  They're also available online at Blue Sky's website.

    Good luck, everyone!

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    SuperIma Sunday Check-In: Thunderstorm Edition

    The craziest, loudest, house-shakingest thunderstorm has been raging for over an hour now.  I thought these things were supposed to just come and go quickly. 

    Oh well, enough about the weather. 

    Let's first go over and visit SuperIma Leigh Ann, who is having a tough time and could use our love and support, and possibly a copy of YA novel Crossed.  

    As for me personally, I had a crazy week.  I wouldn't say it was my best motherhood week, but I was a productive employee.  Naturally, the whole mother vs. employee issue has plunged me into several bouts of over-analysis.  Is it better or worse for my child if I work?  Am I doing him a disservice by trying to work from home without a babysitter?  A paid babysitter would at least engage him in moderately wholesome, constructive activities, as opposed to my current babysitters, Nick Jr. and PBS Kids. 

    [Unfortunately babysitter Nick exposed Nathan to some inappropriate content this week, when the last few seconds of Family Matters concluded the Nick at Nite portion, right before the kids' programming began with Dora or something.  Anyway, Nathan immediately took a liking to Urkel.  I was kind of hoping he would go his whole life without exposure to Urkel.  Babysitter Nick is fired.  He costs a little more than babysitter PBS anyway.  He also doesn't provide the opportunities for parental smugness that PBS does.] 

    But anyway, we made it through the week.  The house was a hideous disaster.  I tried to clean a little each day, but the amount of cleaning I did paled in comparison to the amount of mess being made.  (Apparently there were some non-TV, mess-making activities going on, things like making cornstarch-and-water slime, but then adding other fun ingredients like olive oil and cake sprinkles.)  And the Clothing Command Center grew and grew, with other clothing queuing up to get in as well.

    Somehow, though, I managed the rare freelance occurrence of getting all work done and turned in before the weekend, so I have the weekend free to get my life in order.  I dismantled the Clothing Command Center, putting all laundry away in the appropriate closets and dressers.  I dealt with a huge pile of mail.  I picked up clutter in every room of my house, so now I can actually do things like vacuum and dust (yay?). 

    I'm leaving for California next Saturday, and I want the house to be clean before I leave. 

    Oh wait, I forgot to talk about my goals from last week's check-in.

    Finish a book: FAIL.  I didn't get to enter the library raffle this week.  Whatever.  I have totally gotten over that minor disappointment. 

    Do three things to further my freelance career: WIN.  I don't want to talk about my work too much online, but hopefully my three efforts will pay off. 

    Home office setup: MIXED BAG.  The good news is, the painters came and painted the room purple.  The disappointing news is, my rolltop desk-shopping has not been successful thus far.  A couple of stores didn't have any rolltop desks.  Another store had one I loved, but my husband felt was poorly-constructed and overpriced.  I saw one on Amazon I liked, but my husband found a couple of negative comments (among several other glowing positive ones) on the feedback site for the seller.  My husband and I ... might not have the same purchasing style when it comes to researching options.
    Anyway, this week is totally up in the air as to what work will come in, so I don't feel like I'm in the position to set any goals.  It's one of those crazy pre-trip weeks.  But on the plus side, Nathan is going to camp. 

    I guess my only goal this week is to work out more than I did last week.  Working out has taken a backseat to my freelance work, which is a situation I totally HATE.  Also with the extreme heat this past week, I didn't feel like I had the option of riding my bike or walking outdoors, which are always good backup options when I don't feel like dealing with the hassles of the gym.  Plus, the damn gym daycare isn't open on Sundays in the summer, so there goes another potential workout day.  I find myself in a big ball of lethargic snit when I don't work out very much. Must do better this week. 

    So, that's my update.  And it looks like the thunder has stopped. 

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    I Have a Confession to Make

    I'm ashamed to admit this, so I'm not going to say it too loudly.  I'll just whisper it.  Come closer so you can hear me:

    I don't understand Twitter.  

    This is like the most embarrassing thing you could ever confess in a social media-obsessed circle.  These people worship at the altar of Twitter.  All day long they're Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, tweet, tweet, tweet. 

    It's like a party that I never got invited to.  Except, actually I get invited to Twitter parties all the time.

    I don't even know what a Twitter party is.  Or a tweet-up, or a retweet.

    I get emails that say "We're having a party!" and I get a little excited.  Parties are fun.  There's food and drink and conversation.  Oh wait ... it's a Twitter party.  Do I put that in my Google calendar?  Am I clearing my schedule so I can sit at my computer and tweet all afternoon?  Do I make myself a fun blue cocktail and some Chex mix for my own little Twitter party of one?

    Now, of course, the hosts of the party figure you're free to tweet at the given hour of the Twitter party, because in this day and age people of the social media world are just assumed to be on Twitter 24/7. 

    I know about the constant Twittering because last week at the Brands & Bloggers summit, there was a never-ending din of click-click-click throughout the room.  Everyone was on Tweetdeck, rapid-fire tweeting messages to eat other back and forth.  Even the speakers on the panel were tweeting while other people spoke.  My assumption is that missing two hours on the Twitterverse to speak on a panel would be like the Twitter equivalent of waking up from a coma after 20 years.  So much can change in two hours.

    The thing is, my beef with Twitter has nothing to do with criticizing others for being addicted to technology.  I'm addicted to plenty of forms of technology.  And I don't hate Twitter and its paltry 140-character limit because of some Luddite "we're all so connected but we're not really connecting" argument either.

    I just legitimately don't see the point of Twitter.

    I kind of get the original purpose of Twitter.  It is a "micro-blogging" service, so you can give everyone quick updates about where you are and what you're doing.  Now, many people argue that the world doesn't really need to be kept apprised every detail of your life.  But as a person who peppers Facebook with updates about my cat all day long, I don't feel like I'm in a position to judge anybody for over-sharing.

    So, if Twitter had stayed at the level of people's constant updates, I'd understand it.  But like everything, it has been corrupted for boring business and promotional purposes. 

    Everybody's following brands, with their continual tweets about promotions and contests and giveaways.  With all the advertising on there, Twitter feels like a magazine where you have to sift through copious ads just to find a legitimate article.

    Oh, and the hashtags.  For those who don't know, a hashtag is a specified code for a particular event, topic, or brand, preceded by the # sign.  So, for example, if there were an election going on, you might tweet something of a political nature, and then end your tweet with #election.  The # sign signals the Twitter software to collect data as to how many other people are using that hashtag and talking about that particular topic.  Topics that get a lot of discussion on Twitter are said to be "trending" at that time.

    I remember the first party I attended where I overheard somebody, smartphone in hand, asking another partygoer, "Is there a hashtag for this party?"

    What, is that a thing? I wondered.  But that was two years ago, and now, yes, hashtags for parties are a thing.

    And I feel like I totally missed the Twitter bandwagon.  And saying you're not on Twitter isn't like admitting you haven't checked out Google+ yet.  Google+ is just a few weeks old, and it's not too late for you to jump on.  Twitter is a fully-established thing, and at this point I'm so behind in the Twitter world that it might be too late for me to catch up.  Not only does the rest of the world know and love Twitter, but they're fully established with various Twitter-based side services, like Instagram, Foursquare, and Get Glue. 

    But, I legitimately do not get what the big deal about Twitter is.  The way other people talk about Twitter, I wonder if maybe they have been granted access to a super-awesome special version of Twitter, whereas I'm stuck with the boring peppered-with-indecipherable-symbols version. 

    Why would I sign up for ads to be shot in my face?  Why do I want to sort through page after page of messages that include just one person's side of a conversation?  I find it exhausting to keep up with the volume of information that gets spit out every minute on Twitter.

    To me, Twitter feels like being in a very large, loud room where you can only hear snippets of several people's conversations:

    [What book?  I want to know the name of this life-changing book you're recommending.  So then I click over to @susieq's Twitter feed to find out, but she stopped talking about the book 15 tweets ago, and now she's moved on to tweeting her side of a conversation with another person about frozen yogurt chains.]

    Check out our awesome BOGO sale! #BobsSuperShoes 
    [I do not care. I am bombarded with enough advertising out in the real world.  You already sent me this information via email and put it on Facebook.]

    @Yourfriend is the greatest!  Besties for life! 
    [This is an example of a stranger's tweet that shows up in your feed simply because it mentions somebody that you are following.  What is the purpose of these tweets?  Is it to make you aware that, hey, somebody you follow knows other people and does things with those people?]

    RT @ABC tinyurl.12459083%$.com #symbols
    [You need help, because that thing you just said doesn't make sense to anybody but you and the voices you hear in your head.]

    I'm a super movie star and I'm hanging out with @Othermoviestar at #Starbucks!
    [I admit that the idea of following a mega-celebrity on Twitter does seem a little bit exciting, because it initially feels like that person is sending messages directly to you.  Until you realize that a celebrity's Twitter feed is no more directed specifically at you than a TV interview would be.]

    @Tiffanyrocks I'll meet you by the fountain at 2.
    [Why am I being subjected to your private plan-making?  Why can't you just communicate with your friends via text message?]

    @Wendywoo oh I so KNOW.
    [Really?  Cuz I don't.]

    And seriously, that is like 90% of the stuff on my Twitter feed. 

    But I know other people like Twitter a lot, so I continually try to get on there and figure out what all the fuss is about.  Except, each time I send out a tweet, it feels like when your grandmother tries to send an email.  Every step feels so scary and momentous.  Did I say the right thing?  Push the right buttons? 

    And now, somewhat ironically, I am going to go pimp this post on Twitter.  Do you think anybody on there will want to read a post about how I hate Twitter? 

    P.S. Not that you'll want to, but you can follow me at @sameoldshannon. 

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Rainy Days and Chin Hairs Always Get Me Down

    That's my tribute to The Carpenters.  Bill made a mix CD that includes "Top of the World" and left it in the car, and I like to drive around town playing it, getting all high on life like Ned Flanders.  I looked for a Carpenters CD at the library, but they didn't have one on the shelves, and I didn't care enough to order it. 

    The Carpenters are so cheesy.  But I like them.  They remind me of my childhood. 

    Check out the dress Karen Carpenter is wearing in this "Rainy Days and Mondays" video.  I'm pretty sure my mom's wedding dress was exactly like that, but in white.  Also is Karen wearing the world's first Bump-It? 

    It's sad she died from an eating disorder. 

    Speaking of the 70s, a couple of nights ago I had a dream in which I owned multiple macrame wall hangings.  I mentioned this on Facebook, and a discussion started about good old seventies tackiness.  The director of the community theater plays mentioned that the theater has a macrame wall decoration in their props department, which was from her mom's living room. 

    Now, you might recall that I have been charged with writing an interactive murder mystery play for the community theater.  Originally Bill suggested the play take place in the 1930s, I guess because the thirties are all noir and ... murderous?  Anyway, I now think the play should be set in the 1970s, just so we can incorporate that macrame wall hanging.  Could it be "Who stole the macrame wall hanging?" because then anybody who thought it was ugly (which would be, you know, everybody with the sense of sight) would have a motive to rip it down and destroy it.  But since it's supposed to be a murder mystery, could the plot center around the expert knot-typing skills of an experienced macrame artist who skillfully strangles her victims? 

    Dammit, I just gave the ending away. 

    The whole chin hair thing is because ... really?!  Why do I have hair on my chin?  And I saw an Oprah once that said that chin hairs were supposed to start sprouting in your forties.  I effing started finding hairs on my chin when I was sixteen. 

    I blame it on my Italian heritage.  The Italians are a very hairy people.  And the thing is, if my Italian heritage had also come with a lot of delicious family recipes for pasta sauce and cannoli, I might be willing to put up with the whole chin hair thing as a fair trade.  But it seems that my grandmother used canned sauce like everybody else, so the only Italian thing I got was a tendency toward unwanted facial hair.

    And it's like, it gets worse all the time.  First I only had a few chin hairs, but now I feel like I have to be hyper-vigilant with the tweezers all the time. 

    And also it did actually rain today.

    This craptacular post is like a placeholder for a giveaway post that I'm too lazy to write right now because it involves pictures.  And plus I decided that I'd just wait to start the giveaway Monday because people don't read blogs as much over the weekend.

    But stay tuned, because it's my very first giveaway from an actual sponsor-type brand, and not just "let's see what kind of unwanted crap I can hand out on my blog" like my last giveaway.

    Have a great weekend, everybody!

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Right Now

    I'm thinking that at the end of this year, when I get to my 365 blog posts, I will use one of those services that advertises that they can bind your blog into a book.  I've never been successful at keeping a journal, and a year of blog posts is the closest I'm ever going to come to giving my grandchildren documentation of what my life was like.  Now (1) my grandchildren probably won't care, and (2) in the future it will probably be easier to preserve content on the Internet than to keep track of a book. 

    Anyway, in the spirit of preserving memories for posterity, I will tell you how I feel exactly at this time, on this day in July 2011, when I am trying to juggle my new freelance gig with my home life.

    This. Is. Hard. 

    It's like I had this old basic framework for all the days of my life:

    Get up.  Feed cat.  Clean kitchen.  Feed self and child.  Go to gym.  Perform various chores and errands.  Write blog post.  Eat lunch.  Fun afternoon activity with child.  Make dinner.  Bedtime routine for child.  Leisure time for self.  (With mundane activities like going to the bathroom and copious Internet surfing peppered throughout.) 

    While of course that is over-simplifying my day-to-day life by a lot, because obviously there are many, many variations on the activities of a typical day, my point is that I felt busy enough just keeping up with the rhythms of basic life maintenance activities. 

    Now it's like I have that same framework, but I'm trying to cram in working among all those existing responsibilities:

    Get up.  Feed cat.  Dammit I should be working.  Write blog post.  Feed self and child.  Decide to skip gym because dammit I should be working.  Plop child in front of television while I work.  Shoot, it's already lunchtime and I haven't accomplished enough.  After lunch try to get child engaged in some activity more wholesome than television, but which makes a giant mess that I have to clean up.  Work and stuff, possible errands and chores.  Oh no, I maybe should think about making dinner for us.  Eat dinner.  Clean up after dinner.  Cram in more work while Nathan runs around with Bill.  Crap, why is Nathan still up?  I need to get him to bed.  I suck as a parent and an employee.  Get Nathan ready for bed, read books, get him to sleep.  Possibly force self up to do more work if I have any brain cells left.  Oh shoot I never folded the laundry and every room of my house is mes--CONK OUT. 

    I was talking about my concerns with a friend of mine who I really admire for her ability to work a full-time job from home with two young kids.  She said her secret is having really low standards for everything: cleanliness, laundry, meals, whatever.  I feel like if you looked around my house right now you'd think my standards were pretty low.  Most of the rooms are messy and there's a big wad of clean laundry waiting to be folded.  I'm failing at the gym, and it's a rare day that all three meals are prepared at home.  I use the TV as a babysitter. 

    I realize that in saying all this I come across as a whiner, and that is because I am a whiner.  I wanted to work, and now I have work, and it's pretty awesome, but it's not without its challenging transition period. 

    But I could sit around and whine, or I could do something about it. 

    I choose whining.

    Just kidding, but I'm actually not going to make any dramatic changes right now because this influx of work is only temporary.  However, my goal for the future is to get a steady enough stream of work that I can justify making some serious changes around here. 

    The thing is, that goal is actually not new.  My goal when I was pregnant with Nathan was to quit my full-time job and cobble together enough freelance work that I could afford a part-time babysitter and a cleaning lady.  Well, plans changed and I worked out a part-time deal with my employer instead, and then I went full-time, and then I quit altogether and was a schlub for 2 1/2 years, and then ... now.  I don't regret the path I took at all.  I'm not usually one for inspirational quotes, but:

    I don't know who Asha Tyson is.  And those aren't my nails.  Oh, a Google search tells me Asha Tyson is a dumb motivational speaker.  My name is Matt Foley, and I live in a van down by the river!

    Anyway, I am happy, but I have challenges.  And I have goals.  And I have a lot of work to do, so I should not be writing this blog post.  So bye.  

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Late-Night Thoughts

    Well, I don't know if 10:15 p.m. qualifies as "late-night," but it feels like the middle of the night to me.

    I'm a little bit swamped with work.  Which is pretty awesome.  And, fingers crossed, it looks like there's another small freelance project coming up behind this one. 

    The office is officially purple.  I love it.  I hope to go and order my rolltop desk sometime this week. 

    I am in love with Pilot Hi-Tec C pens from Tokyo Pen Shop.  If you want a really reliable, non-skipping gel pen with a really fine point (0.3, 0.4, or 0.5 mm), these are the pens for you. 

    A woman in my general circle of friends had a baby, so I signed up to bring her a dinner tonight.  It is so fun to cook non-Weight Watchers things for a change.  I made her macaroni and cheese (not the Kraft kind), a fruit salad, bread, salad (okay that was the bag kind), and a strawberry pie. 

    I had three ridiculous breakdowns today: (1) When Nathan tried to blockade the door while I was in the shower by taking about approximately 1/3 of our belongings and piling them in front of the door, (2) Holding Nathan while he went to sleep and thinking about the time he passed out at the children's museum and we had to go to the hospital in an ambulance, and (3) freaking out about having to rent a car and drive all around Southern California by myself in a couple of weeks (even though I used to effing live in Southern California and drive around there by myself).  Oh, and (3a) Worrying that I'll have to fly back from SoCal early because I will miss Nathan so much, which would mean missing BlogHer. 

    My house is so messy.  I can't get a single room under control.  It's so hot.  I wish Nathan had gone to camp this week. 

    Thursday we're going to the beach. 

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Brands & Bloggers Summit 2011 Recap

    As you'll recall from my previous posts, my friend Farrah gave me her free ticket for Saturday's Brands & Bloggers Summit in downtown Chicago.  As you'll also recall, if you have a really long attention span and got through this post, I was having a really hard time finding the right outfit to wear to accommodate the weather, the train commute, and the conference's business casual dress code. I worked tirelessly (slight exaggeration) to put together an acceptable outfit, down to purse and water bottle. 

    And the first thing my husband says to me Saturday morning is, "That's business casual?!"

    In his defense, we were standing in a darkened room, so he was probably confusing my brand-new frilly purple tank top made of rayon and my slightly-dressier-cut black capris with my old casual cotton frilly purple tank top and more-casually-cut black capris.  Like there isn't a world of difference. 

    Anyway, yadda yadda yadda husband woes, blah blah blah train commute, something something blog conference. 

    No seriously, the conference began with a really interesting panel.  Half the panelists were fairly successful heavy hitters in the Chicago mom blogosphere, and the other half were brand reps charged with doing blogger relations for their respective companies.  The topic: how to find common ground and bridge the gap between bloggers who are so passionate about their work and PR reps who are so focused on the cold, hard, bottom line spreadsheet results. 

    The panel was two hours long and a lot was said, but the gist of it was that bloggers need to be picky and only form partnerships with companies who are a good fit for them.  An analogy was made to a dance; sometimes you find the right partner right off the bat, and sometimes you have to look around a little to find the perfect match.  You should not just go and be a shill for any company willing to hand you free stuff.  That will make you come across as inauthentic, and nobody will listen to you.  Not to mention you're sort of compromising your integrity. 

    The panel also discussed more practical issues like whether bloggers or brands should take the first step (answer: it depends).  Many of the panelists stressed the importance of finding your blogging niche, so that there are logical brand connections with your blog.  (For example, if you write a cat blog, a natural brand partnership might be with Purina.) 

    The brand reps specifically pointed out that brands aren't necessarily looking for the blog with the most hits or the person with the most Twitter followers when they look for blog partners.  They'd rather partner with somebody who has a very loyal following and a lot of influence on his/her readers.  Unfortunately, loyalty and influence are difficult to quantify, and since brands are so focused on numbers and results, many companies find blogger relations to be a confusing nightmare.  It kind of remains to be seen whether more and more companies will jump on the blogger relations bandwagon, or move on to another form of advertising that's a little easier to measure. 

    So, that was the first panel.  Next we had networking time, where you were supposed to go around to the different sponsor tables and get a sticker on your badge from each one.  (You could only enter the raffle at the end if you had all the stickers.)  I got some cool free swag, like some Flat-Out Flatbread, a Nintendo DS game from Ubisoft, and a bluetooth. 

    After the networking time we had lunch, which was a sandwich bar with the Flat-Out Flatbreads.  And then Sara Evans, a PR expert, talked about FTC regulations for disclosure when you get free stuff or money from a company you're writing about on your blog.  Then local news personality Nancy Loo talked about how you could get yourself and your blog featured in traditional media, you know like if you are an expert on something and the news could interview you.  (One of her tips was to have a professional-looking profile picture on Twitter, and she specifically said not to use a cat picture.  Shit.)  Finally children's singer Miss Lori talked about how to make yourself look good on camera when you're interviewed. 

    I went out for tapas with some of the other bloggers after the conference, because we had to (a) eat and (b) kill time before the after-party at the John Hancock Observatory. 

    The afterparty had a great view and some fun blue drinks, but I only stayed for a short while because I had to catch the train home.  I was absolutely exhausted. 

    Part of my exhaustion was due to the fact that it had been a long day and I was walking around in uncomfortable shoes.  And part of it was the overstimulation of conversing with eight bazillion networky people, which is not my strong suit.  But mostly I think I was tired because the talks at the conference really got me (over)thinking about where I am in life and where I want to be. 

    Now, the conference was called the Brands & Bloggers Summit, and so naturally the panels and talks were going to be about building brand-blogger relationships.  It would be really disappointing if the panels and talks weren't about building brand-blogger relationships.  And I am fascinated by the evolving technology and the way that various sociological phenomena evolve with it.  I'm curious about how the whole brand-blogger relations thing will play out in the future. 

    BUT ... I guess I'm just not sure how much the issue of brand-blogger relations applies to me.  And when I say "I'm not sure," I really mean I'm not sure.  What are my goals for this blog?  Do I want to put in the effort to hustle and network my way into possibly getting money or free stuff?  Or am I just creating this blog for the love of writing? 

    And I want to say that I'm just doing this for the love of writing, because mostly I am.  Except, obviously if I were just writing for the sake of writing, I could write in a journal and not put my thoughts on the Internet.  I obviously put my thoughts on the Internet because I want people to read my writing.  And if I want as many people as possible to read my writing, I have to put in the effort and go out and schmooze and make connections. 

    Now, that doesn't mean I necessarily need to form an alliance with a brand in exchange for compensation.  But, let's face it, it would be nice to make a little money or at least get some free products in exchange for the hours I spend writing this blog every week.  There isn't a blogger in the world who wouldn't want to be approached by some PR rep and be told, "Hey, we'd like to pay you for all that drivel you pull out of your ass on your blog every day."

    But, unless that PR rep just flat-out came to me and made me an offer I couldn't refuse, I don't know if I'm willing to work to generate ad revenue or promote my brand.  Some of the people at the conference just seemed so desperate to get that big blogging break, and they were throwing out their names and rapid-fire tweeting the whole time.  @this. #that.  At one point the click-click-click of everybody's keyboards became unnerving. 

    Obnoxious keyboarding issues aside, I don't knock anybody for hustling to make a living or promote their business (and in a lot of cases, these blogs are people's businesses).  I just don't know if I care that I personally won't make a fortune off of blogging.  I know this sounds naive and hippyish, but I kind of feel like I'm more interested in the human connections than the business connections.  I've met some interesting friends through blogging, people who really seem genuine and authentic.  And I know I'm not the first to say this, but I miss the days when mom blogs were raw, emotional confessions about motherhood, and not just contests for who can out-perfect each other's lives, alternated with advertisements for products. 

    The funny thing is, I think the people on the panel and I are sort of on the same page here.  They agree with me that bloggers really need to safeguard against coming across as inauthentic corporate shills with no integrity.  However, although the big-time bloggers and I have the same viewpoint, we've arrived at it from different angles.  Those people can put the integrity of their blogs before the almighty dollar because they've already made it and can afford to be choosy about their brand alliances.  I also don't place a high priority on brand alliances, but it's because I'm at the bottom and don't care if I stay there.  It's the people in the middle who are hustling to form any alliance, and are in the most danger of compromising their integrity.  It's also these people in the middle who are probably the least happy about where their blogs are right now. 

    Well, I want to be happy.  The last thing I need bringing me down is a dumb old blog.  I recognize that with blogs, like in Hollywood, there is only room for a few A-listers, and the rest of us are left to toil somewhere along the continuum between anonymous and famous.  And since I have such a small chance of ever being huge, I'd rather relax and enjoy my time at the bottom.  To continue with my Hollywood analogy: Since I'll never win an Oscar, I'd rather just act in community theater for the fun of it.  I'd rather make my money editing textbooks.  Don't quit your day job and all that. 

    Overall, I thought the conference was interesting and thought-provoking.  I enjoyed meeting new people and getting some fun swag.  And, as I said, it will be interesting to see how this whole brand-blogger trend plays out.  I could end up eating my words. 

    I'm also a little nervous about the fact that if this one day conference led me to question myself to my very core, I might drop dead by the end of BlogHer.  But at least at BlogHer I have my own fancy hotel room and a beach to retreat to. 

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    SuperIma Sunday Check-In: I Thought I Sucked Last Week But Maybe I Kinda Didn't Edition

    Phew, what a week!  This week had it all ... the crazy ups and downs of adjusting to a new work/life situation, an energy-draining blog conference, fun valuable antique finds ... you name it. 

    When I sat down to write this post, my first thought was that I didn't do a very good job on my SuperIma goals/plans/whatever this week. 

    But when I looked back and really thought about, I kind of didn't suck as badly as I thought I did.  I said I was going to make a list of chores I wanted done by the end of the week, rather than make a daily to-do list.  Well, I kind of made the list, although the week ended and I didn't really get everything done.  But, in my defense, when I wrote that list I didn't know I was going to be spending the entire day downtown at a conference Saturday (a.k.a. the last day of the week and the last day to get my weekly list done). 

    But, as is often the case, I'm finding that I embraced the spirit of that goal even if I didn't exactly fully achieve it.  The spirit of the weekly to-do list was If I don't get everything done at the end of the day, that's okay.  And I'm definitely adopting that spirit.

    Take, for example, the whole laundry situation.  Last week I said that I was just going to pile all my folded laundry up on the dining room table.  I called it my Clothing Command Center, because all the clothing is centrally-located, in piles organized according to type of garment and owner, so that I can just grab outfits whenever I need them.  Off to the gym?  Let me just grab some workout pants, a t-shirt, and a sports bra.  Nathan's bathtime?  I'll just get tonight's pajamas off the dining room table! 

    I love the Clothing Command Center.

    Bill hates the Clothing Command Center.  All week, he has been ragging on my piles of clothing in the dining room.  He says he wants to have the kind of house where people could just drop in unexpectedly, and having our (clean) underwear on the table prevents us from having a drop-in-guest-friendly house.  I say we are not living in a 1950s sitcom, and nobody ever drops in anyway.  Wouldn't potential drop-in guests call you on their cell phones before coming over? 

    Also there's the not-too-minor point that Bill is free to step in and put away the clothing anytime. 

    Note that it's still there. 

    Anyway, "put away laundry" was an item on my weekly to-do list, and I didn't get to it.  But then again, as I said, I kind of like the Clothing Command Center.

    I also talked last week about getting serious on my home office plans.  And, as I said in my previous post, the wheels are in motion on the office remodel!  And since writing that post, the painter called and I got a definite commitment of Tuesday for the painting.  I'll be ordering my roll-top desk by the end of the week!  Oh and I guess I need to go and get that poster framed. 

    Other than the poster framing, my goals for this week are as follows:

    So, I'm kind of on a high of juggling work and life, and I want to ride that high as long as possible.  Which means my goal this week is to take three minor steps toward securing more freelance work for the future. 

    And also there's the poster-framing thing.  And the rolltop desk-buying thing.  And maybe the Clothing Command Center thing, as in I'm not putting away laundry again this week, okay? 

    Plus, I really hope to finish reading a book this week.  I talked awhile back about how, on principle, I was refusing to put my weekly ticket in the library raffle if I didn't actually read a book that week.  Well, I have managed to read books and enter the raffle all five weeks, and now this week is the last week and I might have to skip it.  There's just something so disappointing about achieving something every single week except one, especially the last one.  (Did I ever tell you about the time in elementary school when I was supposed to go to McDonald's for lunch in the teacher's car because I got 100% on my spelling test 30 times in a row, but then I misspelled the word wore on the 30th spelling test?  The whole "failure on the last library raffle" situation is kind of like that.  In that it's totally disappointing but also totally pointless and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.) 

    Anyway, I have until Friday to finish a book and submit this week's ticket.  Also I may have forgotten to mention this, but I did win a raffle a couple of weeks ago (unfortunately it was a $10 gift card to a restaurant I don't really like, but it came with a candy bar).  So I might not be eligible to win another raffle anyway. 

    Now go visit SuperIma Leigh Ann, and give her your condolences about the end of the Harry Potter movie franchise. 

    The Post I Should Have Written Friday

    Friday kind of rocked. 

    I woke up before Nathan and worked on my freelance project for about an hour. 

    Later, after I took Nathan to camp, I went to an estate sale.   See, awhile back I became interested in Depression Glass.  Essentially, Depression Glass is glassware that was mass-produced and sold very inexpensively around the time of the Great Depression.  What I find interesting about Depression Glass is that it is one of those situations where an everyday object has such interesting historical forces behind it.  (Bill Bryson's At Home is an entire book about the historical factors behind everyday household objects.)  See, around the time of the Great Depression, techniques in mass-production of glassware had just been discovered.  The new techniques allowed companies to produce and sell pretty glass objects to people at lower prices, which of course was all most people could afford during the Great Depression. 

    More interestingly, to me at least, was that pieces of this glassware were given out for free in some of the most unlikely places.  Like, the movie theater would have "dish night," and you would get a free dish for buying a movie ticket.  This giveaway was, of course, designed to entice people to come into the movie theater, which seems sort of absurd by today's standards because these days people wouldn't go to the movies just to get a free dish.  We all have enough dishes now.  Also, I can't help but think that the free giveaway plate at today's movie theaters would be some hideous plastic thing with a licensed character on it. 

    But the dishes given away at movie theaters during the Depression were really pretty, and seemingly totally incongruous with the entertainment industry.  You could also get free dishes inside of oatmeal boxes, which also seems really bizarre because wouldn't the dish take up a lot of room in there?  Apparently boxes of soap flakes also sometimes contained dishes.  Obviously oatmeal and soap are both products that serve as useful cushioning to protect fragile glassware, although I have to imagine that there was still the occasional breakage, leaving the consumer with a box of oatmeal mixed with broken glass.  And as an extra added bonus, the glass likely contained lead. 

    Anyway, I find Depression Glass very interesting.  Also I just really like to collect items that remind me of mental health conditions I suffer from.  You know, Depression glass?  Next up I hope to start collecting Anxiety Rugs. 

    So ... I signed up awhile back to get email alerts from whenever there's an estate sale near me.  Now, I don't really go out of my way to go to estate sales, because most of the time they are filled with unwanted crap, and they are a little bit sad.  It's just kind of disconcerting to look over the sum-total of a person's earthly belongings, imagining that, like yourself, that person spent a huge percentage of her time procuring all these needed items, only to have a bunch of strangers go through her house after she died and buy all that stuff for fifty cents.  And it's not the sale of collectibles or large items like furniture that make me sad.  You could imagine the person wanting to sell the furniture while she was still alive, because people sell furniture all the time.  And you could imagine the person taking great pride in finding an interested owner for her precious collectibles.  But what makes me sad is people pouring through all the deceased person's kitchen items or bed linens, items that have no real monetary value, and are no longer useful to the original owner.  It's just too much of a reminder that a person has ceased to exist on earth.

    My point is, I have mixed feelings about estate sales, which means I will not go more than ten minutes out of my way to get to one.  But Friday's sale was only a block from my house, so I went to it.  I did end up buying two sweaters, which was hard because if there's anything in the world that underscores the pointlessness of acquiring earthly belongings, it's a dead person's clothing.  But as I am still on earth, and I'd like to do my part to preserve this earth for future generations, buying secondhand seems like the green thing to do. 

    But the real excitement was the Depression Glass haul I got at the sale:

    Now, I happen to have a Depression Glass identification guidebook, which was thoughtfully given to me by my brother Brian and sister-in-law Laurin (parents of recently-born Samuel).  Using the guidebook, I was quickly able to identify the oval plate and two glasses in the foreground as the Poinsettia pattern produced by the Jeannette Glass Co. from 1931 to 1935.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that the sherbet glasses, as they are called (apparently sherbet was very popular during the 1930s, judging from the number of companies that made sherbet glasses in that era) have a market value of $14 each, and that the platter is valued at $20.  That means the set is worth $48, whereas I bought it for $5.  Score!  Except, as my husband reminds me, something is only worth a certain amount if you want to sell it and you have a buyer willing to pay you that amount.  I have no intention of selling the items right now, but it's just kind of fun to think that you got something that's worth more than you paid for it. 

    Did I ever tell you that I once thought that Leia was such an item?  I adopted Leia from the animal shelter, figuring she was just your standard garden-variety cat.  In fact, I sort of thought her markings were a little bit weird, and were possibly the type of irregular markings not prized by cat show people.  Of course, I'm not a cat show person, and I love my little furry girl to death.  Anyway, on our drive from California to Chicago in 2004, during which Leia was a surprisingly well-behaved car passenger, we at one point stumbled upon a cat-themed gift shop in Colorado.  The owner of the shop had a couple of live cats in the store, so we figured we'd give Leia a change of scenery (like she cared) and bring her into the store, too.  The owner of the shop asked us if Leia was a Turkish Van, a type of cat that typically has Leia's pattern of markings and also has webbed feet.  I was like, Wow, Leia is some kind of fancy cat!  It's like buying something at a garage sale for a quarter and finding out it's worth hundreds of dollars! 

    So, when we finally got to Chicago and had access to an Internet connection (this being before the days when I had an Internet connection on my phone), I looked up Turkish Vans.  The first thing I found on some kind of Turkish Van appreciation website was, "Your cat from the animal shelter is not a Turkish Van."  Like, seriously, that was almost the exact verbage.  It turns out that Leia has what's called a "van pattern," named after the Turkish Van, but she is not a Turkish Van.  The discovery of this fact did nothing to diminish my undying love for her.  And, as I said, value only becomes a consideration in a buying/selling situation, and I wasn't going to sell Leia.

    "Go ahead and try to sell me on ebay!  Please specify that the buyer needs to be willing to serve me unlimited cat food and have vomit-resistant flooring."

    So, going back to my original topic, which was the identification and valuing of Depression Glass, I could not identify these ten little glasses I also bought:

    For all I know, they could have been purchased at Target five years ago.  (Oh, when will the Antiques Roadshow come to town and clarify this issue for me?)  I'm thinking they might actually be antiques, though, because they aren't really the size and shape of glasses that are useful for the consumption of anything we eat or drink today.  Well, actually, there are several similar ones in the book called cocktail glasses, and we do drink cocktails today, but not out of glasses like that.  And I hope they are antiques, because the set of 10 glasses was $20.  But there was something about them that made me just have to have them, and I reasoned that it was better to reward myself with pretty glassware than with ice cream.  

    Which brings me to my Weight Watchers weigh-in, which was next on my agenda for Friday.  I lost 4 pounds!  Now, I had registered gains the previous two weeks, and according to the online weight tracker my three-week net loss was only 0.8 pounds.  But I'm going in a downward direction, so that's good, right?  

    The other exciting development on Friday was that the painter came and I committed to paint colors for the office.  I knew I wanted purple, but you know how it is with paint chips: there are like 8,000 varieties of purple.  Eventually I decided the color Wisteria was meant to be, because I used to live in a town whose claim to fame was having the world's largest wisteria vine.  After choosing Wisteria I picked the next shade up, Brave Purple, as the color for one accent wall.  The room in this picture is not an actual room in my house, but I picked it from the Sherwin-Williams online color simulator because its layout is similar to that of my home office: 

    I'm tempted to say it's too purple, but I also hate it when I wuss out and go for the lighter shade that basically ends up looking like white. 

    So, my new office might be painted as soon as Tuesday!  And then I can get a rolltop desk!  And also hopefully get more work to do to justify the money and effort that has gone into creating a home office!

    Another fun thing we did Friday was go to the park district's annual watermelon-eating contest.  Here are some pictures of Nathan in the contest:

    The boy stuck with it, I'll give him that.  But then he didn't win and he was kind of a sore loser:

    Not pictured: the following hour where Nathan pouted while sitting on a piece of playground equipment and refused to play at the park or the adjoining splash pad.  I guess when it comes to pouting, my kid can stick with that, too. 

    Following that whole watermelon debacle, I took Nathan home to hang out with Bill.  I had some serious shopping to do.  As I mentioned in my last post, my friend Farrah gave me her ticket to go to the Brands & Bloggers Summit.  The site for the conference said that business casual attire was recommended.  Turns out that after 2.5 years out of the cubicle, I no longer have anything in my wardrobe that qualifies as business casual.  Or at least, I don't have anything that qualifies as business casual that can be worn in the summer, to a blogging conference with an after-party, and can accommodate a train commute in an uncharacteristically warm heat wave as well as the sub-zero temperatures of hotel air-conditioning.  

    (I should probably note that I do have items in my closet that probably would have worked, but they're all too small and/or worn out.  Wearing poorly-fitting, faded clothing tends to undermine my self-confidence, and in a situation like a blogger conference you need all the confidence you can get.) 

    So, I went out shopping.  I don't really have natural fashion sense, which made the selection of an outfit a little bit tricky.  You know how it is.  You find something that's cute, but there's just some little thing about the fabric or the cut that makes it too casual or too dressy or too sexy or something.   And then there's the whole "I really like how that loose-fitting shirt conceals my muffin top, but I don't want anybody thinking I'm pregnant" issue.  

    Oh, it's hard.

    I finally settled on a pair of black capris, which was a bit frustrating because, like everyone, I already own approximately 50 pairs of black capris.  But again, sometimes you just need that exact right fabric and cut to make something a little bit dressier.  I reasoned that capris in general are not terribly professional-looking, but I figured that a pair of capris on the nicer side would be sufficiently business-like when it comes to a blog conference.  I mean, it's not like I'm a lawyer going to court or something.  

    I bought a purple sleeveless top and a black cardigan, the latter being another item I probably own 50 of in variations that just don't quite work for every given occasion.  

    Now, the capris were that tight-fitting kind that can show a bit of a panty line if the wrong underwear is worn (and I'm not gonna wear a thong, because that also reveals some unsightly features when worn with thinner fabrics), so I had to go to Kohl's and get some new underwear.  Then I figured I didn't have the right purse to accommodate all the crap I had to haul with me for a 12-hour conference and a train commute.  So I bought a new purse.  Plus I needed new shoes, and jewelry, and at one point I decided I didn't even have the right water bottle to go to this conference (umm, yeah), because a disposable one says the wrong thing about my environmental priorities, but all the reusable ones I had were either too big and/or leaky.   

    (Now, I don't want to imply that I think I'm so important that the outside world has nothing better to do than make assumptions about me based on the kind of water bottle I carry.  Like I said, it's all about self-confidence.  And in the case of the water bottle, it's also about not ruining my cell phone and getting everything else in my purse wet.) 

    With all the shopping, and the nail maintenance, I think I put more effort into my appearance for this blogging conference than I did for my very own wedding.  (But when it came to my raw appearance and general body type, I had more to work with back in my bridal days.) 

    The only other development on Friday was that I decided to stop reading A Discovery of Witches.  I got it from the library, and it's becoming clear that I'm not going to finish it before it's due.  (It's a "Hot Copy," and you only get it for two weeks max.)  I've been plugging away at it for over a week, and I'm barely coming up on page 100, which is like 1/6 of the book.  Now, part of my slowness is that I've just been busy with other activities, but I also think it's maybe that witches and wizards aren't really my thing.  I've never really been into the whole Harry Potter thing, and I know that admission is going to alienate some readers (Leigh Ann), but let me assure you that my real-life friend Katie is the biggest Potter-head (not pothead) I know, and she's still willing to be my friend. 

    Failed reading attempts aside, I went to bed giddy about the happenings of the day and the excitement that awaited me in the morning.   

    The Post I Should Have Written Thursday

    I haven't posted in four days.  That's the longest I've been away from my blog all year.  If this blog were a child, I'd probably be arrested for neglect.  But this blog isn't a child, which means I can catch up on my responsibilities whenever it's convenient for me, without legal repercussions.  Anyway, I'm attempting to go back in time and do a post for each of the three days I missed, so that I can get back on track with my goal of 365 posts this year.  Because, new paying work be damned, I will write 365 posts this year.  If only I were that disciplined about weight-loss.  Anyway, here goes ...

    It turns out the unexpected hiatus from my freelance project was short-lived, because Wednesday night I received a big chunk of pages to edit.  Let me make this clear: I am not complaining.  As I said on Wednesday, I kind of didn't like the feeling of not knowing what to do with myself.  So work is good.  Work is very, very good. 

    So, Thursday I dug into the project.  And it was the more interesting, less tedious part of the project, so that was good.  And you guys, I know this is a weird thing to say about editing math textbooks, but it was kind of awesome.  All this stuff was coming back to me that I hadn't thought about since quitting my job 2.5 years ago.  Like WOLs!  OMG I had forgotten about WOLs!  WOLs!

    [A WOL is a write-on line.  You know, like a line in a student workbook where a kid writes the answer to a problem?  I'm not mentioning this because you needed to know an obscure fact about educational publishing.  I'm mentioning it because the whole WOL thing is an example of the larger fact that it's nice to remember the lingo.  One of the biggest worries women have when leaving the workforce for a period of time is that when they go back, everything will be too different for them to adapt.  And while there have obviously been changes in the industry since I left, at least good old WOLs are still alive and well.]

    So Thursday, I edited.  And I lifted some really heavy objects with my trainer at the gym.  Then also somewhere in there I was on g-chat with Farrah, who mentioned that she was unable to use her free ticket to the upcoming Brand Blogger Summit, and asked if I'd like to have that ticket.  And since I always welcome the opportunity to get free stuff and drink cocktails network with other bloggers, I said yes.  More on that later.  Like in another post. 

    Also on Thursday the dishwasher repair guy came.  For those curious about dishwasher repair, which is, you know, nobody, the problem was that the float valve was stuck shut and no water was getting into the dishwasher.  Plus when I was loading up the dishwasher for a test run, the guy told me I was sort of abusive toward my dishwasher because I was putting the dishes in so quickly and forcefully.  Now, (a) I abuse all electronics.  I am not gentle with them.  But (b) With the quantity of dishes going in and out of that thing in a given day, am I really supposed to place everything gingerly like it's all fine china?  Do you know how many Fiesta dishes I have broken in my life?  Two.  (As you'll recall, a piece of one got lodged in my husband's foot recently, necessitating medical care.)  So I'm not that worried about breaking my dishes.  Apparently, though, I should be worried about breaking my dishwasher. 

    Anyway, Thursday ... blah, blah, blah editing ... yadda, yadda, yadda mildly-heated conversation with husband about how I didn't ask follow-up questions to clarify the cost of the dishwasher repair ... oh, and we went to Oodles of Noodles night at the pool.