Monday, August 25, 2003

I'm becoming one of those people who, when given lots and lots of challenging, high-profile work with an unreasonable deadline, just says "eff it!" and goes home in the middle of the day, sits in front of the TV with a big bowl of butterscotch pudding, and re-watches the extended DVD of Fellowship of the Ring.

I was disappointed this morning to find all of the work still waiting for me, not even slightly more finished than when I'd left it.

There's a reason for my uncharacteristic slacking, and that reason may shock and offend many readers. But I'm prepared to present that reason right here, in this public blogging forum, so that the truth may be told.

You see… I'm an inch and a half shorter than I initially thought.

I don't know how or when I determined my height years ago. After a certain point at the doctor's office (around the time they stop giving you stickers and Arrowroot cookies when you behave yourself) they stop measuring you at every appointment. They don't stop weighing you, though. Ironically. I suppose at some point I got it into my head that I was five feet and eight inches tall.

This is not the truth. I am only five feet and seven inches tall. And that "seven" is a generous seven. But I will call it seven in the same way that all numbers on the scale below fives are rounded down.

So while I'm sitting here figuring out how to relate to myself as short, fat, and lazy, you can ponder the most logical conclusions to be drawn from this sad epiphany: butterscotch pudding tastes best with a little dollop of Cool Whip stirred in, and blogging makes you short.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

This past weekend, the kids and I were playing out in the yard. The littlest one was scooting with difficulty through the grass on a little Radio Flyer trike, absorbing a few lessons about the physics of surface drag. The oldest was wandering around looking sullen.

"We need a swing set out here," I observed.

Oldest gave me a "thank-you-Captain-Obvious" look. "Swings, slide, sandbox, and trapeze."

"Clubhouse," I one-upped.

"Treehouse," she countered.

We do have the perfect, kid-friendly tree in our yard that's been begging for some interaction. "We could hang a rope ladder from that tree, build a platform around the lowest branches, and put a trap-door down to a tire swing…"

I was suddenly caught up in memories of the slapped-together playgrounds of my youth. My dad, who went through disposable cars quicker than a pack of matches (as a form of recreation), would periodically go out into the yard and slap something together for us. He'd hang an old tire from a rope, sling it over a branch, and call it fun. He'd nail some spare lumber to a tree and viola! Fort.

I'm surprised any of us kids survived.

But thinking back made me realize that you didn't necessarily have to buy a swing in order to have one. We just needed some rope.

So we went out and bought rope. Don't judge me. Honestly, if we'd had rope just lying around, we would have used the lying-around rope.

* * *

Step two was to somehow flip one end of the rope over the sturdiest branch. The most favorable branch happened to be 12 feet above us. I looked at Oldest.

"You climb the tree," I told her. "I'll throw this rope up to you, and you'll drop it down over the other side.

"I'll fall," she replied, as if logic were clearly on her side and I should be hauled off to parenting prison for even suggesting it.

"I'll catch you."

"Make the baby do it," she suggested.

The baby looked up hopefully from her struggle with the trike, her eyes alight with the promise of danger. "Ab TEE!" she squealed, which meant: "Give me the rope. I shall hold it thusly between my six teeth whilst I scurry to the top of the tree with the alacrity of a young squirrel. Now move out of my way!"

I looked back at Oldest. "Ascend the tree."

* * *

Rope secured, we had only to invent a seat for our swing. Initially, I entertained the idea of just tying a large knot at seat-level. Mom tested it. Do you have any idea how many muscles it takes to support a grown person's weight dangling from a rope? I will tell you: All of them. One becomes acutely aware of the fact that one is no longer a 52-pound 8-year-old in such a situation.

We scoured the garage and shed for seating materials, all the while I was asserting, "I will NOT purchase a prefab plastic swing seat. I will NOT." Running to the store at this point would have cheapened the whole endeavor. We were engrossed in a real-life learning activity. This was innovation in action. I was teaching my kids to be clever, creative, persistent, and resourceful.

"Look for something we can use for a seat," I told Oldest, all the while thinking that the perfect seat was sitting in a package on a Toys R Us shelf, constructed of molded plastic. In lieu of it, we tried a piece of lumber (the corners were too sharp), a stick (too flimsy), PVC (too slippery), a knotted towel (too droopy), and countless other failed materials.

In the end, resourcefulness paid off. Oldest shouted, "HEY!" from the corner of the garage and I looked up to see her waving a foam "noodle" that we used for swimming. This noodle was firm enough to serve as a support while still providing squishy, butt-hugging comfort.

Now my children can look back fondly on this adventure and tell their children about the swing Mom built.

Noodle-on-a-rope, they'll call it. And their children will cringe.

Monday, August 11, 2003

We are rapidly approaching a level of sophisticated e-living. By this I mean that I may never have to shop for clothing outside of an online catalog again.

I haven't lived 27 years of life without uncovering certain truths about my wardrobe choices. Let's look at these facts:

  • I know what size I wear.

  • I never pay more than $15 for a pair of pants.

  • Mixing earth tones with jewel tones is wardrobe suicide.

  • Although this would seem to peg me as the ideal online shopper, I recently made my very first major online clothing purchase. A catalog came in the mail, addressed to the house's former mistress. (I should add that we're also still getting the previous mister's Victoria's Secret catalogs, so I've since confronted and dealt with any oogy feelings about catalog contents and their intended recipients.) This particular catalog contained an extensive clearance section with many pairs of pants under $15. Many were in fact under $10. And a few were under $5!

    This was clearly an avenue of purchase worth exploring. So, in true anal-retentive fashion, I armed myself with a stack of post-it notes and proceeded to flag every item I would consider wearing. I believe I flagged at least 500 items. I then made lists. Many, many lists. I listed by price and by season, by color and body region. Every item was justified, rationalized, and closely scrutinized.

    I ordered close to 20 pieces of clothing and spent $81.40, shipping included, after mining the various coupon codes and promos.

    Now when my new $5 blouse is stained with Koolaid-laced baby kisses, I'll consider it $5 well spent.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2003

    I've apparently reached a point in my life where right now at work looks a lot like this time last year. I came across this, which I wrote about a year ago...

    < July 22, 2002 >
    And without warning, work has ground to a screeching halt.

    I'm still in panic mode. I'm still in "write this 12-page brochure in 5 minutes" mode. So I had one project left on my desk that was supposed to last me all week. It's done. I'm bored. And the week is stretching out ahead like a few hundred miles of dead Kansas flatlands.

    I want to be busy. It's not that I have any unusually strong work ethic, or that I'm opposed to killing time on the clock. But I can't look like I'm bored, and I can't ask for more work. If I did, my boss would either a) give me busywork, or b) downsize me. Neither sounds like more fun than I could devise on my own. So here's my list of scheduled activities for a typical day this week:

    8:30-9:45 Log in, check email, check web email, check alternate web email, respond to emails, check hits counter on site, check hits on alternate site.

    9:45-10:00 Attempt to doctor the office coffee with varying amounts of Folgers Cafe Latte mix so it reaches acceptable drinkability levels.

    10:00-10:15 Scavenger-like, wander around the building looking for departments who have brought in bagels, donuts, leftover birthday cake, etc.

    10:15-10:17 Duck into a bathroom stall and consume findings before anyone wonders who I am and why I'm eating their department's food... or judges me for eating cake with my fingers.

    10:17-11:00 Head back to office and open various Word documents, arranging them on my screen so they look important. Lay out several printed drafts on my desk and mark them up with arrows and margin edits. Stick cryptic post-it to computer that says, "Mtg JB 11am - br. WBS htst!"

    11:00-1:00 Lunch.

    1:00-3:30 Blog, blog-hop, toss a few emails, surf sites of interest, post on message boards.

    3:30-4:30 Rifle through scheduled jobs to double check that nothing is due before October. Yep, still caught up. Ah. Contemplate leaving early.
    < / July 22, 2002 >

    Let the eggshell-finish latex begin.

    Tuesday, August 05, 2003

    Surprise.... it's green. Or brown, or orange. Whatever.

    I was thinking of painting a few rooms in my house but can't get over the initial fear of botching it. So I've made a mess of my blog to prove to myself that mistakes are fixable.

    I'll fix it tomorrow. Right now I'm going to leave work and embark upon the peril that is driving. Please, please, if you see me on the road... just don't hit me.

    Monday, August 04, 2003

    In the spirit of our current "top 5" format, I'd like to offer the five most annoying occurrences of recent days.

    1. Driving home, minding my own business, and rather enjoying a piece on NPR's All Things Considered about the history of home economics, when suddenly my progress is rudely impeded by two crackheads in a "borrowed" car.
    2. Missing the conclusion of All Things Considered.
    3. Hearing my newly repaired $2000 air conditioning system, not even a month old, hissing its dying, smoking breath through the shattered vents.
    4. Having your well-intentioned family poking at your most impressive bruise every five seconds to see if the swelling has gone down.
    5. Learning that the crackheads were driving a "borrowed" car without insurance.

    But just so as not to begin the week on a down note, here are the corresponding five highlights of the event.

    1. Having a very thoughtful (and attractive) young man offer me the use of his cell phone, and accepting his offer to dial the number for me.
    2. Seeing one of the crackheads arrested at the scene.
    3. Pretending that the large, spidering crack in my windshield that I've been meaning to fix for nearly a year must have been caused by the other car.
    4. Not feeling required to use my nasally "sick" voice when I called my boss to tell her why I wasn't coming in to work the next day.
    5. Glancing down at my copy of the police report and learning that I'd just been assisted by – none other than! – Officer Money.