Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Central Command

No, this picture is not from an episode of "Hoarders."

Behold the Nerve Center of the Taylor family.

While I try to keep the rest of the house and my car tidy and spotless, my office often looks like a bomb went off in it. All the “stuff” involved with two kids and their schoolwork, a Brownie Troop, church activities, artwork, tennis, bills, and amateur photography literally piles up sometimes. Add Christmas gifts, ornament exchanges, Christmas cards, decorations, and Christmas activities onto that, and this is what I get. I am also in the middle of retiring from my job in real estate, so somewhere in all of this crap very important paperwork are the forms needed to affect that retirement. Also, there are some Coldwell Banker signs that I need to return to the office. It’s like “Where’s Waldo?” in here. If you can see them in the picture, give me a call, because I can’t find them anywhere.

You might be saying to yourself, “Vaiden, you idiot, why don’t you just clean it up?” That would be a good question. I usually have only a few minutes to find the photo, form, check, ticket, document, schedule, phone, parking pass or camera I need and then race out the door. Each day for the past two weeks, I have started the morning off by saying, “Today is the day that I clean out my office.” However, life inevitably gets in the way and before I know it, I am falling into bed late at night, office untouched. The mess lives on, safe for another day.

My office is the opposite of the calm eye of a hurricane. While everything outwardly seems to be running smoothly, it’s the room at the center of the house where the lists are made, the presents wrapped, the phone calls happen, the days planned out. People might be surprised that I can be a slob, but sometimes this office is my woman-cave, so to speak, with notes and pictures and books and coffee mugs and DVDs of “The Tudors” that I watch far away from tiny ears and eyes. I can come in here and be imperfect. It’s colorful and surprising in both unpleasant (wasn’t this permission slip due a week ago?) and very pleasant ways (Who left $20 on the floor? Who cares!) Obviously, the room must be cleaned and organized regularly to prevent utter chaos, but I like it like this. Like life, it’s messy and complicated. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Never Look a Gift Earring in the...Ear?

Have you ever found yourself wishing that you had a nice, neutral squirrel earring? That glows in the dark?

Or perhaps you are dressed for a party, but you feel as if your outfit is not complete without a tie-dyed birthday cake earring?

Until now, these problems have been borne by modern women in shame, behind closed doors, hidden away from an unfeeling, cruel world. UNTIL NOW, friends.

Behold the pair of earrings Katie created for me in her jewelry-making class this week. Drink them in. Revel in their fabulousness. You may borrow them only if you ask nicely and leave a large security deposit.

As you may know, Katie is a little more of a free spirit than I am when it comes to fashion and accessories. If Katie can make it out of the house with *some* of her clothes matching and no glitter, I call it a win. I once had another mother tell me, in all seriousness, that she admired the way I didn’t fight with Katie over her couture choices and let her dress as crazy as she wanted. (I feel like life is too short to waste time arguing about clothes.)  I am not so much a free spirit in the jewelry department, so the earrings are a little bit of a stretch for me. I do love that Katie made them and gave them to me in all sincerity. So if you see me sporting the custom earrings, now you know “the rest of the story”. Also, if it’s dark, just follow the squirrel.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where the Sidewalk Gets Scary

I love Shel Silverstein.  I have loved his poems and books for as long as I can remember.  Even in college, I would be known to have a couple of, ahem, "sodas" too many and recite Shel.  Yeah, I didn't date much.

When my kids came along, I had two more Shel-lovers.  Katie, especially.  When I catch her reading late at night, she often is giggling over one of his poems.  As she gets older, she understands his humor and it's fun to watch her "get" the point of a poem.  She has three books of his, and she knows them all very well.  Last night, she wanted me to read to her for a change.  We play-fought over which poems we would read first and which ones were the best.  We started at the front of Where the Sidewalk Ends and read our way through to the middle.

As the pages turned and we got closer to the end of the book, Katie was getting restless and nervous.  She began flinching as I would turn each page.  Finally, as we neared page 154, she started, jumped out of bed, and went to Davis's room on an errand.  When she sheepishly returned to her room she asked, "can we just skip to 'Merry'?"  Hmmm. "Merry" is on page 164, the end of the book.  Slowly, realization washed over me and the hairs on my arms and on the back of my neck began to stand up.  No, I thought, that would be just too freaky.  But I had to know, despite the fact that my questions would terrify her even more.

"Katie, which picture is it that scares you?"  I asked.  Tears came to her eyes, but she seemed relieved that I knew what was going on, even if she hadn't told me.

"I don't want to talk about it," she said, shaking her head.

"Katie, please, I really have to know.  What picture?"

"Mom, no.  I really can't."  Her terror seemed to be building as she tried to block out the picture that was coming into her head. 

I couldn't let her think I was simply being cruel, so I told her the story.  I have had one copy or another of Where the Sidewalk Ends for almost all of my life.  There is one poem, one picture rather, that scares the fool out of me.  Even as an adult.  When Katie was tiny and even in recent memory, I have always known where that picture is and I carefully flip past it as quickly and quietly as I can.  We never read each and every poem, so it's never a big deal that we skip a few.  Katie also doesn't depend on my preferences;  she knows by heart some of the poems that I don't, since she reads her books independently of me.

The poem, and the chilling illustration, is "Melinda Mae" and it's the story of a little girl who decides to eat a whale and spends her entire life doing exactly that.  The poem itself is cute.  It takes up four pages and as you turn the page from young Melinda, you are met with old Melinda on the second two pages.  Old Melinda is the most terrifying drawing I have ever seen, to this day.  I have goose-bumps and the jitters just typing this sentence.  For thirty years now, I have been skipping that page.

I have never talked about this to anyone, ever.  While I am known for having a little bit of an over-active imagination, I have never wanted to confess that an illustration in a book of children's poems could scare me wide-awake at night.

Katie is deathly afraid of the same drawing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why I Maybe Perhaps Need to Stop Throwing Baby Parties

2010 has been the year of the baby party.  My friend Amy and I have thrown three baby parties this year.  Our church has been unofficially renamed "Our Lady of Perpetual Conception" for good reason.  Luckily, I have been drinking bottled water around there, so Scott and I are safe. 

The first baby party, a shower for a little boy, went off without a hitch.  The parents-to-be are very sensitive to environmental issues, so we had a "green" shower, complete with no plastic utensils or paper plates and we recycled the wrapping paper, bags, etc.  It was really fun event and it had a nice message, too. 

The second baby party was at my house.  We were having the house painted and it was a close call to have it finished before the shower date, but it was done.  Some of the paint might have been wet, but nobody noticed.  The only problem with that party was that the honoree went into labor the day of the shower, and her doctor called us as we were finishing cake and champagne to tell us the baby's name, weight, and amount of hair.  So we showered her in absentia, cranked up the stereo, and celebrated her birth.

The third baby party is tomorrow at my house.  Earlier this week, Davis ripped a curtain rod out of the wall, leaving a huge hole above the back door in the family room.  It has been repaired, but only after two days of work by my favorite painter.  More tragic, Amy (the aforementioned partner in baby-shower-hosting duties) had a horrific knife accident the night before Halloween and nearly took off her finger, requiring surgery today.  She will be at home tomorrow, recovering.

Left to my own devices, I have burned two menu items for tomorrow, my kitchen is a nightmare, and I was out in front of my house ripping dead flowers out of my flower beds at 8pm tonight.  (Blank mulch is better than over-the-hill marigolds, right?)  Mandy, my other co-host for tomorrow, has had to endure numerous phone calls from me because if I can't cook on a normal day, when I'm stressed it's just that much worse.  If I make it through tomorrow with no major crisis, I plan to take a bottle of champagne and drink a toast to me, Amy's poor finger, Mandy's ham and swiss biscuits, and Mike the Painter.  And to all my other pregnant friends, if I offer to host a party for you, run far, far away.  I'm the Calamity Jane of baby parties!