Saturday, May 23, 2015


A couple of months ago I started feeling really restless.  Discombobulated.  (one of the most fun words EVER by the way).  Anxious.  I couldn't figure out what the problem was, really.  I mean, after a season of upheaval and change things have been relatively calm for us this past year. We are settled into our new home, we have wonderful friends, the kids did great on their achievement testing so I can rest assured they don't need to go back to preschool and start over, our health is good, I've had three great haircuts in a row, and my mint is bountiful - ensuring a successful mojito season.  In other words, life is pretty good right now.

But I couldn't shake this feeling and I realized it was most intense in my home.  It hit me one morning when I was in my overwhelming, overflowing closet trying to find something to wear.  Because as I pulled on shirts and ripped them back off, throwing them in a pile on top of the pants I'd already ripped off and thrown down, wiping sweat from my forehead, and feeling disgusted that out of probably hundreds of pieces of hanging clothes, I ended up putting on the same shirt and pants I'd worn days before because (a) they fit and (b) I actually like them.  I stepped over that giant pile in the floor and walked through my bedroom where I saw several laundry baskets full of clothes that needed to be folded and put away.  I made my way into my son's room where the drawers of his chest were literally all hanging open with clothes spilling out of them like he'd just been robbed.  There were toys all over the floor and a gaggle of chargers and electronics scattered everywhere amidst Wii remotes and video game cases opened and scattered.   It was a mess.  And I was disgusted.

At myself. At all of us.  At all the stuff.  

I could have put all the clothes away, had my kids clean up from the Wii fest the night before, closed all the drawers and the closet door and all the mess would have been out of sight.  Temporarily.  But something in me snapped and I realized that even if I closed the closet door I still knew what was behind it.  It all signified much more than just a messy house.  Our lives, much like our closets, had become overcrowded and full of stuff that doesn't fit (what we want for our family), doesn't make us feel good, and creates chaos.

So I started with my own closet.  I pared down hundreds of hanging pieces to thirty-eight.  Two entire racks of clothes with hangers jammed in tightly to one rack with only thirty-eight hangers.   But as happy as my newly cleaned out closet makes me, the pile of clothes sitting in bags to be donated made me want to throw up.   I may never buy anything again.  Unless someone gives me an Anthropologie gift certificate in which case, I will.  But I'll get rid of something to make room for it because thirty-eight just feels right.  

We're slowly going through the entire house clearing out and cleaning out and getting rid of things that aren't useful or that we don't just love.  This is the smallest house we've lived in since before we had children and you know what?  As we're cleaning out, it's getting bigger.  So we obviously don't need a bigger house, we just need less stuff.

We had a garage sale a couple of weekends ago and that helped me move some of this STUFF out.  What was left over I piled in my van (had to put all the seats down, y'all!) and it was FILLED TO CAPACITY.  My van.  That seats seven.  Filled to capacity with stuff.  So guess what we do NOT need in this house anymore?  Stuff.

What is stuff?  Well to start with...more clothes.  Shoes.  Purses.  My oldest son has about ten pairs of shoes in his closet and do you know how many he regularly wears?  THREE!  A pair of flip flops, tennis shoes, and his baseball cleats.  Which he won't be wearing again in about two more weeks.   He has about fifteen polo shirts hanging in his closet and do you know how many he wears?  ONE.  The same one, over and over.   Which is significantly less than the total number crammed in his closet.

What else is stuff?  Video games, video game consoles, video game characters, and DVDs.   This past Christmas my son asked for Disney Infinity characters from everyone.  He got four or five.  In February he filled a bin up with all of his Disney Infinity stuff and wanted to take it to Game Stop and "trade it in" on the new Nintendo 3ds because apparently his own 3ds and regular ds just weren't cutting the butter anymore.  I stopped him on his way out the door, picked up a little plastic villain, held it in front of his nose and said "Is this the doodad I just gave you for Christmas?  The one you just HAD TO HAVE and were going to die a million deaths if you didn't get it?  The one you kept adding to my amazon cart and I kept removing?  Huh? Huh? Huh???!"  I asked him how much he thought he would get for everything at Game Stop and he said "oh...about $200, maybe $250!  Enough to get the cool new ds!"  I informed him that he MIGHT get $50....for everything....and he thought I was lying.  Until we got there and Gamerchick told him she could give him a whopping (wait for it) fifty dollars for everything.  (just remember, Mama's always right).  All the way home he got a lesson and lecture on how everything is designed to make you spend more and spend often.  Every single company comes out with a better, sleeker, fancier, quicker, cooler gadget so that the cool one you just bought is now outdated and obsolete.   And worth nothing.  It's a big, fat, racket. And we're the suckers.  He really appreciated this lecture.

So we're not buying, receiving, saving or asking for ANY MORE of that sort of stuff.  My kids will be the pitiful technology ragamuffins with the antiquated consoles and games circa 2013.  But it really doesn't matter anyway because WE AREN'T PLAYING them anymore!  It's not on our list. Remember this?

We're dumb AND antiquated now.  Boo.  Hoo.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Chanel Suits

I just finished reading one of my favorite books in a long time....Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle.  It's about friendship and I just know Melanie would be one of my best good friends if we only lived closer.  It's the only thing keeping us apart.    I loved everything about this book though....from reminiscing about growing up in the 70's (the best time to grow up I'm totally convinced) to paying tribute to the friendships that define us and sustain us as we move through this life.   Coincidentally, I've been waxing poetic about the years of my youth and I've worn my kids out lately with tales of traveling backwards in my parent's Oldsmobile Cruiser station wagon (sans seatbelts of course), listening to 8-tracks of the Carpenters, Bee Gees, and Englebert Humperdinck while we snacked on Funyons, Pop Rocks and Yoo-hoo.  I mean, come on. There's also a great 70's station on Pandora and as I've been singing all the lyrics out loud I've realized how completely inappropriate they were.  Am pretty sure I must have thought an Afternoon Delight was a treat from the ice cream truck.

But about friends....

I never had a sister but I don't know what I'd do without my girlfriends and it amazes me how every one of them truly completes me.   Friends are like sisters you get to choose.   On Mother's Day there were texts flying back and forth between us with the recurrent message of "you help me be a better Mom."   There are many days when I'm ready to throw in the towel and run away in a fur coat and end up in a hotel room at the beach.  (girlfriends know what this means)  They tell me they understand and don't go without them.  They brighten my day with a funny text that makes me laugh out loud or a phone call "just to hear my voice."  They show up during a hurricane with some ice, medicine for my sick child, and a carafe full of Bloody Mary for me.  They give perfect gifts because they know me so well.  They tell me to take the swimsuit I've been wearing for years and throw it out of the window as far as I can and go buy something that's flattering.  And they mean it in the nicest way.  They remind me not to wear my sensible shoes when I'm headed out for a fabulous evening, and they take my kids for a few hours when they can tell someone might get hurt if they don't.  They know everything about me....sometimes even before I tell them....and love me in spite of it.   If they say they're praying for me, I know they mean it.  Sometimes they do it in a call or text if they can't get to me.  You never forget the first time you met because you knew it was going to be the start of a beautiful friendship....and you start to go into withdrawals if you haven't seen them in a while.  Sometimes a while is just a few days but it's still a day or two too long.

My best friend Kim, who I met on my very first day of law school orientation, and with whom I've been through just about everything, told me something once when I was lamenting over another friendship that had fallen to the wayside. She said "Poodle, sometimes you just have to clean out your friend closet.  Sometimes you hang on to an old dress or outfit just because it's been there for so long but one day you realize you've outgrown it, or you just don't feel right in it anymore, and it's ok to let it go.  Sometimes you realize that you bought something on a whim and it's just not your style, and you need to chunk it.  Sometimes you wonder what the heck you were ever thinking with those wedge shoes or sparkly bag or pleather pants, and you send it on to someone who actually likes it.  And that's ok.  But that Chanel never get rid of that.  Because it never goes out of style.  And it will always make you happy, just knowing it's there."  She should know because she's my Chanel suit.  And I know I'm hers.  I'm really lucky because I have a few "Chanel suits" in my friend closet.

But all you really need is one.

And if you know what I'm talking need to read Melanie's book.  And if you ever rode backwards in a station wagon listening to 8-tracks (with the rear window open for Pete's sake....), you'll love it even more.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Dumbing Down (and loving it)

Like probably every other Mom with kids still in the house, most nights I collapse into bed exhausted and wonder where the day went.  I wish I had more hours in the day....more time.  Because there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.  Wait, that might be a song.  But I couldn't figure out WHY it seemed I never ever, EVER had time to get things done.  Not only the things I don't really love to do (cleaning toilets and folding clothes) but especially the things I WANT to do (read a book, have coffee with a friend, play a game with my kids, go for a run).  And I realized one day when I tried to sit on the porch with a book, my iPhone (or Precious as we call it) went with me.  I sat down, saw that I had a message or a comment from someone, and an hour later it was time to cook dinner and all I had done on the porch was scroll through Facebook for a solid hour.  The book never got opened.   You know how a year to a dog is seven years?  Well five minutes on Facebook is an hour to me.   And an hour on the Wii/iPad/Xbox to my kids is three.  Or more.  

Truth, y'all.  

Believe me I've tried the whole "earn technology time by doing something creative/active/productive" schtick but guess what?  YOU HAVE TO KEEP UP WITH THAT CRAP!!!   Give tickets for tech time?  Keep up with a chart?  Whatever.  I have three kids and it nearly sucks the life out of me just to make sure they've bathed once every couple of days.  One time I put a notebook next to all the tech gadgets and remotes in a basket and they had to come "check them out".  The idea was that I'd write down who took what and what time and I'd tell them to bring it back in 30 minutes.  I think there was one entry on there and I didn't notice until three days later that particular offender never returned anything.  

And don't even get me started on the limits I've tried to put on myself.  I've removed apps, only to reinstall them when I went into withdrawals.  I've tried charging my phone across the room at night only to pick it up on my way to the bathroom for my nightly pit stop just to see what was going on in Facebookland.  And don't EVEN try to act like you don't carry your phone to the bathroom.  Don't.  Even.  I've sat in restaurants with my family, at the ball park, in the car (but not driving!), at church, at the library...staring at my phone, afraid I'm missing a comment, message, or text.  If my children and husband had to give a description to the cops if/when I run away from home, they'd only be able to describe the top of my head because THAT IS ALL THEY SEE!!!!

I became utterly disgusted at myself - at what I was allowing in my children and what our home had become.  It wasn't a place filled with laughter and joy and conversation anymore!  It was filled with impatience, avoidance, and solidarity.  Ugh.

So in an effort to reclaim my family, just like my recent closet re-do (next post), I knew that the only answer was to get rid of everything.   Not literally throwing it all away (even though I totally could).  But sort of.   The way we explained it to the kids was that this was NOT punishment.  It's just a lifestyle change.  Video games, (obnoxious tweeny bopper) shows on Netflix, anything that involves a gadget or a screen, is going to be the very rare exception, not the rule.  Don't even ask us if you can play/watch something.  We'll let you know when you can.   And if you need a list of things to do instead, here's a go-to list to get you started:

Read a book
Practice piano/guitar
Go for a bike ride
Climb a tree
Throw the baseball/softball to each other
Throw a tennis ball against the house and catch it
Play basketball
Ride scooters
Roller skate
Draw on the driveway with sidewalk chalk
Take a nap
Go for a nature walk and take pictures
Sit in the tree fort and journal
Build an indoor fort
Play a board game
Build Lego
Play with dolls
Write a letter to an out of town friend or grandparents
Walk the dogs

This is just a start.....and this is the fun stuff.  There's a whole list of not so fun stuff (cleaning rooms, washing windows, cleaning out the car) that we can move on to next if this list doesn't give them some ideas.

Now don't think for one moment that we're making our kids eat brussel sprouts while we eat cake.  Did you know that you can turn your smart phone into a good old dumb phone very easily?  Now I admit I have NOT taken away texting because it really is a necessary method of communication these days, but guess what isn't?  Facebook.  Instagram.  Twitter.  Know what else isn't really necessary on your phone?  A browser.  For me, I decided to remove everything except my texting, maps, and weather app and a few shopping apps.  I use my phone to listen to podcasts and music when I run, and what I'm left with is a way to communicate via voice or text and that's it.  There's nothing on it that sucks me in anymore.  And it's been an amazing. liberating experience.  So liberating that I'm contemplating getting a super old timey flip phone.  I still have my tiny iPod that I can clip to the side of my running shirt to listen to....and if I can't live without GPS in the car (which we all know I can't because I have no sense of direction) I bet I could get a cheap one rightaboutnow.

I've read two books just this past week.  I've experimented with some new recipes.  I've played board games with my kids.  And I haven't missed a moment of their ball games because I was on my phone.  My youngest son came in the other day and I could tell he was about to ask if he could play the iPad but before he got the words out he shook his head and said "nevermind....I'm going to take a nap."

Sweet success.