Monday, January 23, 2012

I Don't Know Enough Stuff

These days I am intimidated by the huge number of blogs written by smart people.  For the homemaker, there is Pinterest, with its fancy pictures, luring us to click on a link to a better life,  and leading us inevitably to someone's blog.  Someone who knows how to clean burner pans without scrubbing, who knows how to make a skirt out of a man's shirt, who has used paint and dishtowels and her new baby's footprints to make a one-of-a-kind quilt, who can whip up the perfect chocolate mousse with two ingredients and 15 minutes, who knows how to paint a masterpiece using only rubber bands and coffee grounds.  Someone who is the MacGyver of homemaking.  And I read these blogs, amazed that someone not only took the time to come up with this recipe or craft, but that they tirelessly photographed every single step and explained their every move in great detail.  Then I think to myself "I am not that bored smart".  I don't know enough stuff.

Next there are the opinion blogs.  People that have opinions about everything.  Now don't get me wrong, I have opinions (lots of them, in fact), but not so much about politics or current events or anything that requires knowing too much about a particularly uninteresting topic.  These people blog about ministry, presidential candidates, finance, and they quote startling statistics to accompany their opinions.  My problem is, even if I did find something to be opinionated about, I don't necessarily want to have to defend it if someone comes along and disagrees with me.  A younger me would have.  Younger me was always ready for a debate, even if it meant that I was proven wrong halfway through.  I would never accept defeat.  But now, not so much.  Nothing is as black and white as I used to think.

Then there are the "I Have a Million Things Going on in My Life But I Still Find Time to Blog Almost Every Day" people.  Almost always women.  I have several friends like this.  They are clever and well-read and funny.  They are moms, and they still manage to find time to crank out the stories and reviews and favorite links with stunning consistency.  In my head, I imagine that these women don't get up from the computer.  Ever.  But it can't be true because their children survive, and they actually have pictures and stories and they have something to say.  Kind of always.

But me, I have a blog of stories.  I tell them because they are what I know, maybe all I know.  I can't give you my sales pitch for the best presidential candidate, but I can tell you about this one time that I came out of the bathroom with the back of my dress tucked up into my panties*.  I won't wow you with my knowledge about ministry and new ways to reach people that no one else could have ever thought of, but I can tell you about the time I went to Chicago and got stuck in the airport because of the snow and had to take a train downtown and roll my luggage for an entire day down a snow-covered Michigan Avenue, in and out of stores.  I can't (or maybe I just won't) tell you how to make my super famous homemade salsa, a recipe handed down to us O'Dell girls by our mother (who might have gotten from a pastor's wife who got it from a restaurant), but I will tell you about how when you store that salsa in a plastic container, that container must forever be dubbed "the salsa container" or you run the risk of your leftover roast tasting just like salsa.  And I can't tell you how to make your own wedding dress without using a sewing machine, but I can tell you about our wedding day and how everything went wrong and it was so hot the cake melted and no one was on time, including the groom, and except for the fact that I got to marry Jake and I got to eat Mexican food that night, it was kind of a bad day.

And while I do know some things, like...

  • how your 12-year-old** should not have a boyfriend or a girlfriend no matter how innocent or cute you think it is 
  • and how you should never ever attempt to bake cookies without parchment paper and I don't know why no one told me this earlier in life because it would have salvaged a lot of cookie dough
  • and that credit cards are evil
  • and Splenda is always a bad idea in baking, no matter how good the picture looks
I will probably not tell you about these things.  Except for the 12-year-old thing.  I am still considering this blog, which should upset quite a few people (which, of course, is never my intention, but sometimes does and so I weigh it carefully beforehand).  And yes, I know I don't have children of my own, but I have a brain and so that qualifies me to speak out on this subject.  I will leave other parenting topics to the actual parents of the world.  


My job is technically part-time.  My house, at least my bedroom, is always at least a slight mess.  I am not particularly dedicated to the gym.  My calendar is not incredibly busy, and I try to keep it that way.  So really, my lazy once-a-week-if-I-think-of-something blog writing habits are not really excusable. But for those of you who come back once every week or so to read my stories that are lacking in real knowledge and usefulness, I thank you.  And for those who add to the stories by telling me of their own problems and experiences, I love it.  Let's keep the stories coming.

*If you laughed because I said panties, we are bosom friends (and if you laughed because I said bosom, then we will be best friends forever)

** I would extend this to 13 and 14-year-olds, too, but then I would just be asking for trouble, really.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Reason We Ate in the Bathroom


I have a good explanation.  I promise I do.  First of all, it was Ten Dollar Date Night.  And as the name suggests, we couldn't spend more than ten dollars.  So, I decided to be creative, and I scoured the internet for tickets for free movie screenings.  I have done this once before, and I believe Jake and I ended up at a movie theater a week too early for the free screening of 50/50 (I really need to get a calendar).  We ended up paying to go see it a month later.  But I eventually came across tickets for a free screening of Joyful Noise, the new Dolly Parton & Queen Latifah movie (I say this as if they make movies together all the time).  I knew this movie was not going to win any Oscar nominations.  I knew there would be no film festival awards.  I basically knew what I was getting into.  It was a movie starring Dolly and Queen Latifah.  I couldn't expect too much.  

We arrived at 6:05 p.m.  The movie started at 7.  The line was relatively long and wrapped around to the point where I was standing right next to the people at the front of the line.  I casually leaned over and asked what time they had arrived to secure their spot.  3 p.m.  No free movie is worth standing in line for 4 hours to see, but, my goodness, I bet those people were mad after they figured out how dumb the movie was.  Anyway, onto the bathroom dinner.  Jake and I had to stay around our $10 budget, and we hadn't eaten dinner yet.  With a drink and popcorn being $13.50, there was no way we could afford dinner at the theater, and of course, no outside food or drink was permitted.  But I had a purse.  A big one.

Thankfully, the movie theater is in the mall.  And right across from this theater is a food court.  And in the food court is a Chick-fil-A.  You see where this is going.  Jake held our place in line, and I ran to Chick-fil-A to grab a sandwich for him, a kids meal for me, and bottled water and chocolate milk to drink.  

I need that to go.  

My pleasure.

Only not in a bag.  I will just put it in my purse.

Stunned silence.

We are going to the movies.

Ohhhhhhh! (shakes his head slowly like he gets it and I am totally normal)

Thank you.

My pleasure.

He suggested that I cover my waffle fries with a napkin so they wouldn't spill out in my purse, and I did.  I ran back up the escalator and met Jake with our dinner, planning to eat it all once we were safely in the darkness of the theater.  It was the perfect plan.  Until...

We passed through the line, and we got an arm band as a ticket into the free screening.  And then I saw them right outside the theater door... the purse checkers.  Now, they were checking for cameras and recording equipment, and I knew this, but I am kind of a rule follower and I freaked out a little.  I pulled Jake out of the line heading for the purse checkers and frantically whispered my concern.  

They are checking purses!  Here, take this.  

And with that, I shoved his contraband spicy chicken sandwich into his coat pocket and pointed toward the mens' restroom to our left.  I turned to the right to go to the ladies restroom.  I had a choice, throw away my 6 piece chicken nuggets and fries or eat them right there in the ladies room.  And so I did what any frugal, Truett-Cathy-loving American would do.  I locked myself into the cleanest stall I could find, and I ate my food, laughing quietly to myself the whole time about how we beat the system.  When I walked out of the restrooms, hands freshly washed and feeling perfectly full, I felt fine about it.  In fact, I thought it was kind of hilarious.  I laughed all the way into the theater, half from embarrassment at what I had just done and half because I was so happy to have broken the rules and gotten away with it.  I managed to get into the theater with Jake's bottle of water in my purse, and I felt like we had done something good.

The movie was terrible.  Apparently, the entire theater disagreed because they laughed hysterically at every bad joke, and we laughed at them for being so easily amused.  The music was fine, but dialogue was just dumb.  I don't know any other word for it.  But at the end of the evening, we had spent around $10 on dinner and a movie.  Ten Dollar Date Night #1 was a success... if you count sneaking past movie theater guards and eating deep fried poultry and waffle fries in a movie theater bathroom a success.  And I do.  

Tonight was Ten Dollar Date Night #2.  We skipped the eating dinner out, and I made homemade chicken noodle soup (and I specified "homemade" lest you think we eat such things out of cans).  We drove down to Plano to the dollar theater and we saw Moneyball for $1.50 each.  I signed up this afternoon for movie theater coupons, and so we spent $4 on a drink and got a free popcorn with the coupon.  No one searched my purse, and I could have sneaked in all manner of snacks if I had a mind to.  But after that last scare, I decided to obey the rules this week.  

After we left the theater last week, though, I realized one thing about my purse.  It's a Miche bag, a super fabulous two-part bag the size of the Grand Canyon.  There is a base purse that holds all of my junk and it has a removable outer shell so that I can change purses super speedy quick.  And the magic of this is that there is storage between those two parts, secret storage that can't be seen by movie theater purse inspectors.  So realistically, we could have taken our food inside the theater and eaten in a relatively normal setting.  But then we wouldn't have a fun story.  Still.  Next time, I'm using the purse.  
  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Healer

You know those moments when the weight of a thousand different things pile up on you and you feel completely overwhelmed?  On their own, the situations might be manageable.  Easy, even.  But put together, they leave you feeling like the whole world has gone wrong, and there is nothing that will ever make it right again.  I had one of those moments last night.  I am still having one of those moments, to be honest.  But last night, I had a meltdown.  Like a "somebody died" crying spell, even though no one actually did.  I went into our spare bedroom, sat down on the bed, and I cried.  And I prayed.  For kind of a long time.  And when I would try to stop, something else to pray for would come to mind, and I would start crying all over again.  But when I would think about each person, each situation, each need, the word that came to my mind over and over is the word healing.  Each situation needs healing.  And so, as my friends and family passed through my mind, I prayed for healing.

Today the word healing has been going through my head.  It showed itself in my Bible reading this morning (and don't think for one second that is a coincidence), and it has come to my mind in song.  And I made it a point to talk to a few of the people that came up in my thoughts and prayers last night and I let them know... I am asking and expecting God to heal their situation.  As my day progressed, you know what I discovered?  More situations that need healing.  They just keep coming.  And while I am thankful that those kinds of situations aren't on my doorstep right now, I know they could be tomorrow.  And so I pray.

For my single friends that are lonely and tired of feeling like they are doing life on their own, I pray for healing.  I pray for you by name.  For the one that fell in love again (even though you thought it was impossible!), only to lose him to someone else, I pray for healing for your heart, too.   For the one struggling with drug addiction, and you don't even see it clearly yet, I pray for God's healing in your body and your life and your family.  For the one whose husband is awaiting tests and is hoping that the word cancer does not come up, I pray for healing in this waiting period.  For the ones who lost trust in your marriage and you are working furiously to regain it and rebuild your life, I pray for healing in your relationship.  The work will be worth it, and I am proud of how far you've come.  For the friend that still grieves over the death of a sister, I pray for healing for you... I always will.  For my brave friend that has sacrificed everything to courageously fight her battle against bulimia, I pray for complete healing for your mind, body, and spirit.  For the one who lost her best friend to cancer, I know you still feel it, and I pray for healing for your spirit.  For the one who worries about her children, about carrying the parenting burden alone, I pray for healing for your little family.  God will fill in the gaps... just wait, you'll see.  For the friend who is struggling financially, even though you are one of the hardest workers I know, I pray for healing in your finances.  For the one who found out today that the things you need cost far more than what you have, I pray for healing.  And provision.  Our God has endless resources, and I know you know it better than even I do.  For the ones who married crazy people, you know I am always praying for healing... for the crazy and for you.  For the children who are caught in the mix of so many of these situations, I pray for healing in those little lives.  

And so tonight as I think and I pray, this song is going through my head.  There is a story behind the song and the songwriter (shown in the video), and some people have written off the song and the singer because of the story.  It involves lies and betrayal and is not worth repeating.  Because just as God heals our sickness and our heartache and our families and our financial situations, he also heals our sinful selves.  And that's our only hope.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Weekend I Got to be Ariel


Children are exhausting.  I clearly do not have my own children, but my sweet niece Reagan was here all weekend and she made me tired.  Reagan is funny and clever and creative and two.  She is very, very two.  She is not one of those kids who dumps out the trash, unrolls entire rolls of toilet paper, or plays in toilet water.  She is not mischievous in any way.  But she is still two.  She whines when she doesn't get her own way.  She cries "But I'm not sleepy!" when she is tired and someone suggests bedtime.  But she is easily amused, and she plays by herself nicely.  She loves bathtime, and she makes a hilarious "cheese" face (that does not resemble a smile at all) when she is preparing to have her picture taken.  She helped me bake a cake, and she cried when the cake wasn't done as soon as we put it into the oven.  She is still learning delay of gratification.  She knows every character from every cartoon on television, and she knows exactly two songs- Jingle Bell Rock and the theme song from Barney- and she sings the parts that she knows to the top of her lungs.  She loves listening to music, and she giggles when she hears the Chipmunks or Dora come on the Toddler radio station on Slacker Radio.

She loves my iPhone, and she always has.  She learned at an early age that you have to turn the phone around to take a picture (using Hipstamatic, anyway), and she knows that on Aunt Julie's phone there are games.  And she knows that I can almost always be persuaded to let her play them.  Her favorite is Tozzle, or the "puzzle game", as she calls it.  It has little scenes with little silhouettes, and one by one the pictures pop up and you have to decide which picture goes with which silhouette.  She is excellent at this game.  And there are fun, kid-like sounds that accompany each picture, and when the scene is complete, there is cheering and confetti and a John Phillip Sousa-like song that she loves.  She also loves the cupcake-maker game, although she insists on clicking on the premium cupcake toppings that you have to purchase, sending her to another screen and inevitably frustrating her (and sometimes me) to the point of tears.  But she still chooses them.  And while I would like to yell "then stop choosing the rainbow frosting!", I realize that sometimes even I make decisions based solely on what I want to do, even though I already know how it will turn out.  So I just get her back to the cupcake decorating screen and tell her for the thirty-fourth time which toppings she can use for free and hope that she remembers (and pray to God for someone to create a cupcake app that doesn't include things that little people can accidentally purchase).

She is a fan of all things Disney, including Mickey and Minnie.  I am glad she knows more of Disney than the dumb princesses.  She was Flounder and she let me be Ariel in her imaginary game, for which I am thankful.  I was just happy to not have to be Ursula.  She loves books, and she loves to be read to.  She makes a reasonably authentic monkey sound, but when you ask her what the elephant says, she yells "Roll Tide!".  And this is one more reason why we love her.  I don't think the actual sound an elephant makes is all that impressive anyway.     

So after a weekend spent with Reagan and my fun sister-in-law Stephanie, I can tell you that I am looking forward to motherhood just as much as I was before (one of these days... I am not making any kind of announcement with this statement).  But honestly, in the meantime, I can patiently wait.  And I will enjoy my easy lifestyle that doesn't include car seats and diaper bags.  Where I can sleep in.  Where I can go to the gym and not worry about childcare.  Where I can literally run into Target and be back out in ten minutes.  Oh, who am I kidding?  No one can do that in Target (I blame the clearance clothing racks and all of the little orange stickers).  But Wal-Mart, I can do that in Wal-Mart.  And I will take a shower and be thankful that no one is banging on the door, trying to get in.  And I will enjoy not having to watch Caillou or Dora or Yo Gabba Gabba, which might be part of an international plot to drive all parents to the insane asylum.  I seriously hate that show.  

So Reagan, because you let me be Ariel are so cute and fun, you are welcome to return anytime*.  And by anytime, I mean in a few weeks when Aunt Julie has had a chance to detox from the children's shows we watched.  And you can come back and drink your bathwater (which I think is disgusting but you clearly love), and eat grits and/or cheesy popcorn for every meal (because those seem to be the only foods you like).  I will be happy to see you again.

*Reagan is super smart, but she can't actually read yet.  So Stephanie, feel free to read this to her.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No More Surprises


For the past month or so, I have been thinking about a Carol Burnett sketch about which I can't exactly remember the details.  My brain has filled in the gray spots, and so in my memory, Carol is on a game show.  She keeps having to choose between one prize or the surprise behind the door.  She always chooses the surprise, and the surprises are always bad.  In the end of a series of calamities, she has been smacked and watered and floured and she yells out "NO MORE SURPRISES!  NO MORE SURPRISES"*  And as a kid, my brother Craig used to go around quoting this skit.  I have very clear memories of him quoting this for my grandma, and grandma laughing hysterically.  Craig has always been the entertainer of the O'Dell clan.  But whatever the real details of the sketch, in my head, I keep encountering things that make me hear the voice of Carol Burnett saying "NO MORE SURPRISES!".

Several weeks before my wedding, I was feeling the pressure of wedding planning.  Everything had been done in such a hurry, and I was running out of time to do the things that actually take time.  The things I could not check off my to do list by staying up till midnight.  Like dress alteration.  I had one final payment to make on my dress, and I needed to go pay it off and take it to be altered.  Jake and I were in the neighborhood of the dress store, and I asked if we could go by really quickly to pick up the dress.  Jake was hesitant.

Jake: Can we do that another day?

Me:  Maybe.  But I need to get it altered, and I will have to pay more if I have to rush it.

Jake: Yeah, but can't we just come back in a few days?

Me: I guess we could, but I really need to get it today.

Jake: I think we should just wait.

What Jake wasn't telling me is that he was planning on paying off the rest of the dress for me.  What I wasn't telling Jake is that I thought he was being inconsiderate and just didn't want to have to wait with me while I went through the whole dress purchase process.  I insisted on knowing why he didn't want to wait.  He insisted that I ruined his surprise.  And so our bad history with surprises began, and Rule #1 was formed: No surprises if you have to come across like a jerk to pull it off.

Then came the birthday surprise.  Jake's birthday was in September.  And it just so happened that during this time, my sister Ashlae was in Germany getting married, and Jake and I were staying in her house in Frisco, playing mom and dad to her kids Aedan (7) and Caitlin (5).  On Jake's actual birthday, we celebrated in a kid-friendly environment.  We went to Rainforest Cafe and got balloon animals and sang Happy Birthday amidst the bellowing elephants and the screeching monkeys.  It was grand.  The next night, I had arranged for a babysitter (my brother and sister-in-law) so that I could take Jake on a grown-up date.  And as I was planning, I discovered that Mindy Smith, one of my favorite singer-songwriters, was going to be playing a show at a restaurant in Dallas.  I thought this was a way better date than just dinner out.  I bought tickets, and I was so excited to introduce Jake to her music, which I was sure he would love.  When we arrived at the venue, I spilled the good news of what we would be doing.  Jake was silent.

Me: Are you excited?

Jake: Is this really what we are doing?  (he later apologized for this comment)

And so I cried.  Kind of a lot.  And he was frustrated.  I thought he would love it.  He thought that I had planned something that specifically catered to his tastes.  And Rule #2 was born: No surprises that involve buying something that I love for the other person (even if I think he will like it... because he might not).

Then came the Christmas season.  I am always wanting to plan date nights.  I love date nights.  So I suggested a Sunday night date to Urban Taco, my favorite restaurant.  He said he had an idea for something we could possibly add to the night, and he told me he would look into it.  After a little bit of investigation, Jake came back and said we could do his idea on Saturday night and still keep our Sunday night plans.  We both had plans during the day on Saturday (a brother-in-laws shopping trip for him and a girlfriends shopping trip for me), and I was a little afraid we (I) would be exhausted but I agreed.  We would go out both nights.

So Saturday came and I asked what we would be doing.  He gave no clues, but just said "wear short sleeves".  I did not handle the lack of information well.  I wanted to know where we were going so that I could be appropriately dressed.  And so he told me.  We would be taking a painting class.  Anyone who knows me knows that this kind of thing is totally me.  I used to go on pottery painting dates when I was dating in Nashville, and I have taken a painting class locally with some girlfriends because we found some cheap Groupons.  But for whatever reason, this night, I wasn't feeling it.  I was tired.  I didn't want to spend $35 each to paint a picture (that turned out to be a version of Van Gogh's Starry Night with a Christmas tree in the front) that we would never hang in our home.  I wanted to stay home and watch 30 Rock on Netflix in my pajamas.  But it was a surprise. And he had thought of it himself.  And so I went.

The whole way there I tried not to show my frustration, to no avail.  We fought most of the way there and for the first few minutes of the class.  I was being a brat, and I just had to be mad for a while until I got over it.  And then I did.  And then we painted and had fun.  But Rule #3 was birthed: No surprises that mean we spend money two nights in a row.  And in my head, the last Rule: No surprises that send us home with weird paintings that we will never hang.

But we have come to an agreement on a Rule to end all Rules: No More Surprises.  We don't handle them well.  I have heard countless stories about birthday surprises and engagement surprises that ended in tears and frustration.  If you have to lie incessantly and confuse the person you are trying to surprise in order to pull off the surprise, you probably shouldn't do it.  It seems like bad form to make someone upset in the process of doing something nice for them.  

Don't get me wrong, you are allowed to do as you please.  If you love surprises and are surrounded by people who love them, good for you.  Surprise away.  But me?  I would like to know where I am going and what I am doing and I know when I am being lied to.  So other than the flawless execution of a surprise birthday party (flawless meaning no lies are told and I have no idea it's going on beforehand), I am out.  No surprises for me.  And my birthday is March 13, in case you were wondering.  I do accept presents, even surprise ones.

*I actually contacted a Carol Burnett fan club to try to get information about this episode, but they completely ignored my request.

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