Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reposted: Brutal Beauty

This is for you Betty Duffy. This is my original post about how the spray tanner got on my toenails. In the time that has elapsed since when I first wrote this, I saw on TLC that parents make little girls do this for pageants. The whole notion makes me want to cry, vomit and call CPS.

Brutal Beauty

I have always found golf courses to be strange and perplexing places. There is some sort of irreconcilable irony in taking a parcel of earth, tearing out all things indigenous, and replacing them with sod that stays green year-round regardless of the harshest of weather conditions, trees that have been imported from other parts of the world, and ponds stocked with fish from foreign bodies of water. Stranger still, most golfers will tell you that they like golf because they enjoy the time to commune with nature. That notion always makes me wince because I have some idea that nature must contain something natural. Bear this idea in mind as I will now tell you the story of my day.

So, this weekend I will be attending a holiday party at a swanky hotel in Washington. I bought a pretty dress and polished my pretty black heels. I intend to blow dry my hair and spray myself with my favorite perfume. All of these things speak softly to a piece of myself that loves all things pretty. They make me happy and giddy with anticipation of the coming festivities. But as I did a trial run of my outfit in front of my trusty full-length mirror, something was missing. I just looked pale. I looked tired. I pinched my cheeks to give myself the look of a flush. Nope, that wasn't it. It is the middle of December in Virginia. What I need is a tan.

This is where beauty takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque. It descends from something that is soft and luminous, to something that is dark and cold. It rips away from the person everything that is natural and replaces it with something that is synthetic and dishonest. But in my pursuit of beauty, I stayed on the road, even though I knew where it would lead.

My road led to the Mystic Tan in Springfield, Virginia. This is a small shop in the middle of a brand new strip mall. The stores that surround it include Starbucks Coffee, a Borders Bookstore, and a fruit-smoothee shop. The Mystic Tan stands boldly among all of these facades boasting a trendy ocean-blue and sunshine-yellow color scheme. There are large pictures of semi-naked, orange-skinned people with Santa hats beckoning you in. I opened the door and behind the counter a pretty, blonde girl bid me welcome. I told her I came seeking a spray-on tan and she prepared my way. Everything in me was telling me to run away. I was too old for this, I didn't need a tan to be pretty or interesting. "What awaits you is torture!" My mind was screaming at me and my feet just kept on walking.

What struck me first when I walked into room number 5 was the bitter, biting cold. Despite the chill, I closed the door and proceeded to disrobe. Now, I am not one of those who feels self-conscious about being naked. If I go tanning, I do it nude. If I get a massage, I don't want my underwear to get in the way of the experience. Beauty is accomplished in the buff - and so it was. I took off my clothes and walked into the tanning machine. It looked like a cross between a shower and a space ship. I popped my bottle of clear Mystic-tanner into the specified location - and then - it happened.

A freezing cold, super-fine mist started spraying at me with the force of a fire hose. It seemed to permeate every part of my shivering body with it's arctic velocity. The intensity caused me to gasp to catch my breath, the sensation of jumping into a cold swimming pool, and the microscopic particles blew their way into my lungs leaving me without precious breath. Standing there, naked and alone, paralyzed in some awful place between flight and fight, my heart cried out to the dear Lord, "I am about to asphyxiate on self-tanner!"

Needless to say, I made it out of the beauty-torture chamber alive. I am aglow with the sunkissed bronze of one who has spent a spring day on the links. Why did I do it? I cannot say. There is a self-awareness that grips me so tightly sometimes that I feel compelled to perform acts that can only be described as barbaric. Will anyone notice? Will anyone like me even a little bit more. Perhaps. Golfers enjoy the overly fertilized, chlorinated, manicured "perfection" of the golf course. I can only hope that someone at the party will pay me the same mind.

Notes from the Couch

I write to you, dear reader, from under a blanket on my couch. I have been in this spot for the better part of 4 days now and I am ready to be done with this sickness. Let me just say that I could not have been any sicker this cold and flu season if I had licked the door handle at the Potomac Hospital Emergency Room. Last year, we all made it through like champs - this year we've gotten everything that has come through town. I even tried this morning to make myself feel better by fixing my hair and putting on makeup - only to have a total meltdown and cry all of my mascara off. It has been a bad week friends.

But before I go down a road that I DO NOT want to be on, I have decided that since the hair and makeup routine didn't work, I would present to you 10 things that I am thankful for. Because really, we are some of the most fortunate people in the whole wide world. I give to you 10 examples:

1) I am thankful for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is just so cool to put your sins out there - out loud - and hear back - out loud - that you are forgiven. I am especially thankful that my oldest son was able to experience the awesome power of the Sacrament last night. May the Holy Spirit strengthen and keep him.

2) I am thankful that I heard birds chirping outside my window this morning. You don't know what that does to my spirit. It makes me feel like the spring may indeed come one day.

3) I am thankful that my kids love school and that they are able to go to a school that we love. We are immensely blessed to be able to send the kids to a place that has been so, so, so good to them. I feel like their minds AND their souls are being nurtured.

4) I am thankful that they last little bits of stain from my Christmas spray-tan fiasco are finally growing out on my toenails. I have looked like I was either a diabetic, a chain-smoker, or had some strange fungus on my toenails for the past 2 months.

5) I am thankful for my husband. He is just an all around great person. I am lucky to share my life with him.

6) I am thankful for everyone who keeps a public blog. Really, blogs have been my lifeline the past few days I have spent on the couch. I felt like emailing all the bloggers I stalk check-in on and begging them to add an extra post or two. I have been that desperate.

7) I am thankful that tomorrow is Sunday. How do I love Sundays, let me count the ways. I love starting the week with Mass. I love seeing all of our friends after mass. I love preparing for the impending week. There is a lovely sense of potential in a Sunday. Makes me happy.

8) I am thankful for my sweet little daughter sleeping next to me on this couch. She is sick, too. She just looks so precious with her hands tucked under her sleepy little head. So comfy. So sweet.

9) I am thankful for the leftovers I found in the fridge that made for an easy lunch. Hooray for not having to cook!

10) I am thankful that viruses end and that love endures.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Husband Wants to Move to Alaska....

I haven't been much fun lately. Now I realize that I have been fighting off a terrible cold, because I finally came down with it today. My mind has been lethargic and I haven't had the energy to even have a meaningful conversation. So, last night as I was ambling around the house in my pre-cold fog my husband springs on me, "I want to move to Alaska."

Putting aside the fact that I would literally die of cold in Alaska, something about it seemed appealing. Now, I am not a highly political person, and I certainly am a more hopeful than fearful person - but some of the headlines lately have made me want to run. Run away from a system where our tax dollars may be used to fund the taking of human life at it's most vulnerable. Run away from "Representatives" who unapologetically indicate that children pose a challenge to repairing our precious economy and therefore must be controlled.

My husband's sentiment reminds me of how the early pioneers of this country must have felt. How they were so compelled to leave the tyranny of a government that spoke for them that they gave up everything that was comfortable, everything that they had previously known... to be free.

So knowing that we cannot give in to the flight response - our only other option is to fight. To fight physically with our bodies (in the way of letter writing and protests) and to fight with our words. To use whatever public outlets are available to us to vocalize our opposition to these tragic policies. It has always been my feeling that we could eliminate abortion on a grass roots level by changing minds - usurping the government processes completely. So let's start the dialogue. There has to be common ground. If not, perhaps we would be happier in Alaska.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Life on a Diet - Week 2

I started out this week feeling very stressed about this diet. I felt like I had to analyze everything I put into my mouth and discern whether it was Core or not. I felt like I was sacrificing some of the things that are very distinct about my particular palette. For instance: I hate diet soda. But in an effort to "Be On A Diet" I was drinking diet soda. It made me mad - anxious - ready to quit.

I liken it to the times when I decide to give up the word "Like." My speech is very halting, abbreviated, punctuated. I have to consciously examine each word that I speak. You have to understand, "Like" is so ingrained in my vernacular that without it I speak few words at all. I mean, I am from The Valley. (Okay, not THE Valley, but the one right next to it.) We invented the common usage of the word Like. They taught it in Grammar. My parents were like, "That's not proper English," and we were all like, "You are like hella old, don't you know that grammar is like organic?" I digress.

So, I have decided to modify my diet routine a bit. I have given up the nasty, chemically diet soda and I am sticking to water. I never want to taste the Miracle-Whippy tang of reduced fat mayo again. I am sticking with lemon juice and salt and pepper for my tuna sandwich. I feel comfortable again. (Even though I am pretty sure my skin smells like garlic from all the seasoning I have to do to make the food enjoyable.) And I am starting to lose a bit of weight. Not a lot, but I feel healthier, and I am enjoying what I am eating. If you would have asked me last Monday if I was going to hang in there, I probably would have said no. But today, I am pretty sure that this will stick.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Iron Will

I was going to pick a piece of pizza crust with a tiny bit of baked on cheese that the kids had thrown away out of the trash and eat it...
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but I didn't.

Inspired by Nie

A couple of weeks ago, Christi, of Poczatek Post fame sent me a link that I think will forever change my perspective. Perhaps you may have heard of her. She goes by Nie Nie, but her name is Stephanie Nielsen. Her blog is The Nie Nie Dialogues and it has moved me to tears each and every time I have clicked on it.

Stephanie is a mom of 4 like me. She loves her life as a wife and mother like I do. She likes photography like I do. She loves crafts - me, too. Several months ago, she and her husband were in a catastrophic plane crash. They both survived but suffered burns to much of their bodies. You can read her story on her blog. It is a tale of faith, determination, fidelity, of trying to move on in the face of tragedy. It is a tale of hope and not taking your every day for granted. Nie Nie makes me want to take my precious children in my arms and whisper my thankfulness and gratitude to them for their very existence. It makes me want to lift my arms to the Lord and give praise and thanksgiving for His very creation. See, now I am crying again. It is that powerful.

So, if indeed you do peruse her blog, you will find that she is very partial to silhouettes. (I don't know if I spelled that right, and I am too lazy right now to check. Forgive me if that is a misspell. I detest misspelled words.) Inspired by her and her love of crafts, I decided to make silhouettes of my own family. Husband is missing right now - I need to grab his when he gets home from work - but aren't these FABULOUS?? Thank you Nie Nie.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Life on a Diet - Week 1

I have just successfully completed the first whole week of my life on a full-fledged diet. Not just the give-up-coke-and-call-it-a-diet diet, but the real deal, all the way, make no mistake about it diet. My dear husband (he prefers that I not use his name in my musings - weirdo) dropped about 25 lbs last year on Weight Watchers Core so in my pursuit of a sure fire weight management program I just followed his lead.

At the beginning of the week I went to the store and stocked up on veggies and whole grains. I consulted the Weight Watcher cookbook and planned healthy recipes and snacks to last us the week. And I have to say, we did sooooo good! Our plates have looked like something out of an advertisment for healthy living. Leafy greens cascading softly to the edges of our plates with a fist-sized portion of lean protein artfully diplayed on the side. I chopped, and tossed, and seasoned all week long in the pursuit of girlish thinness. There were a handful of weak moments where I longed to wrap my lean pork up in a tortilla filled with whole-fat sour cream, some sharp cheddar cheese, rice and refried beans and indulge in a good old fashioned burrito - but I held strong. I am resolute.

So, you would think that all of this effort would pay off, right? You would think that I would see the fruits of the first real diet I have stuck to for more than a few hours in my whole life, right? Well, not so much. This morning we had the weekly weigh in: Husband lost 6 pounds - me - NOTHING. Yes. You read that right. NOTHING. Am I going to give up? I don't know. If I can be 10 pounds up and eat the stinking burrito - and 10 pounds up if I don't - then I ask you, why not just eat the burrito? I am going to have to think about this. Over a bowl of 0-points vegetable soup.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

There Once was a Little Boy Named Stevie...

So, I told you that if I kept writing that I would be compelled to include the occasional piece about my family. They will just make for such great material. I could tell you about the time that we all came home to find that my dad had spray painted the words "Reptilian Brain" on the wall of the garage in cherry red. Or I could do a sentimental piece about how my mother befriended a lonely old man and was truly his only happiness in the 5 or so years before his death. I could.... but today I have another story to tell. Today, I will tell you about my brother.

My brother is often left out in the details of my family because he appears to be so normal. I mean really. This is a guy who would get embarrassed if we raised our voices to anything above a whisper in front of our house. He just doesn't like to draw attention to himself. Never has. But the mask of normalcy belies a depth of wit and humor that I have not seen in anyone else. He is without a doubt the funniest person I have ever met - and I daresay that I will ever meet again.

Family gatherings with Stevie (and oh, how he will hate that I am referring to him in the diminutive - once again - it calls attention.) were probably the best. I would always choose a seat next to him and just listen to the observational humor that he uttered under his breath. Rumblings about how the food everyone raved about was actually not edible, about who was drunk and thought they were playing it off, about how certain members of the family always spit when they talk... It was all stuff that I just took for granted, but he was able to put it in a different lens. And so, I would listen and start to giggle. The giggles would increase to audible laughter, and the laughter would turn to hysterics. I spent many a Thanksgiving trying to figure out how to not let anyone see that I had literally peed my pants. But he was so quiet. Everyone thought he was just this sweet little boy - and that I was the nut. My grandmother would always look across the table at us - me purple-faced and half out of my wits, and him dead-pan and cherubic - and say "I've never heard him say a funny thing in my life! If you're so funny, then say something funny Stevie!" To which I'd laugh harder - and he'd shrug making me look like an idiot.

Flash forward many, many years. (I can say that now that we are both getting so OLD!) He will call me and tell me stories that are fantastic. He sends me pictures and odds and ends that he finds on the internet that are genius in their ability to evoke laughter. I have encouraged him to put some of his best stuff down in writing (like how I take credit for it?) and he has started to do so on There Must Be Nothing on TV and I have great hopes that it will gain a large and thankful readership. You might stumble on the occasional F-Bomb... proceed with caution if you aren't up for R-rated material. But if that is ok, then visit and enjoy. It is my sincere hope that others will fall in love with him the way I am.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Movie of My Life....


I had a funny thing happen to me this weekend. It has happened before - but for some reason this time it was more profound. I introduced myself and my children to a couple who we had never met before. After exchanging names and handshakes, amid the usual stream of pleasantries, the male half of the couple reached out and sweetly petted my daughter's pretty little head and said, "Where did she get all that blonde hair?" I caught myself before I could reply "Well, from me, of course!"

It was then that it hit me, not only am I not blonde, people see me as a (*gasp*) brunette anymore. Not that I have anything against brunettes - in fact, some of my favorite people are brunette (you know who you are, AMY KIEFFER!) - but me?! Apparently yes. In my transition to adulthood, nature in it's wisdom decided to make me look older, more serious, less... blonde.

So, on the heels of this realization this weekend, I found it downright fabulous that some Anonymous commenter on http://http//bettyduffy.blogspot.com/2009/01/golden-globes-2009.html cast me as Reese Witherspoon in the movie of her life. Apparently, she sees through this mask of adulthood to the me of yesteryear. I take this opportunity as SKS played by Reese Witherspoon to cast as my husband Andy Garcia. (Perhaps with a little dash of Martin Scorcese thrown in there!) Do you see it?








Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Flippin' New Year!

Why do I do this to myself? So, one of my New Years Resolutions was to exercise more. Once the kids were back to school I dug out my old hand weights and did one of my old exercise videos. Well, now I have been hobbling around this house in sheer pain for the past two days. And for what? I am not going to be in any better shape when the pain wears off. My LIFE is a marathon! I am running around this house like a crazy person from 6:30 am until 8 at night. Video Schmideo. Resolution broken.

And I got to thinking, who needs New Years anyway??! Every time I walk out of that confessional I get a big fat do-over. New Years can be every day.

Ha. I feel better already. I think I am going to go sit on the couch and eat a piece of bread. Yummm.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vignette - I think I got it!!


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Vignette First Try


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A Bonanza!


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First Edits!!!!!

Ok. So I have had this little space on the internet for quite some time now. The intention was to post pictures and watch myself progress. Well, I got to a point a few months ago where I was bored with the photos because I had no way to edit them. WELL, I got photoshop for Christmas - and now it is going to be a photo bonanza!! This is my first attempt at an edit. (It is a LOT harder than I ever expected it to be!!) I already see something in it that I did wrong - but you get the picture. (get it? get it?) I am posting the before and after. He is adorable no matter what I do to him, though.






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