I was off to Little Caesar’s (I know, I know . . . but you just can’t beat the price) on a mission. I’d ordered 4 pizzas and some breadsticks, but somehow came home with only 3 pizzas. An hour later, I realized the error and went back to try to get my missing pizza.

As I entered, there was a customer in front of me who turned to me with a smile on her way out the door. I smiled back, suddenly realizing that perhaps I knew her. In the days when I pretended that I was comfortable attending church, this woman was very friendly with me during church social events years ago. She was married with a few children, and there was a sense that perhaps her family had experienced homelessness or at least transiency. In some awkward twist, my husband and I were asked (even though I don’t think she knew our names), along with another couple, to be her child’s Godparents. While we were present at the actual ceremony, it was the last time we were involved in the lives of the family, and never extended ourselves to them in any way.

Silently reassuring myself that I wasn’t a scammer, I explained that I was missing a pizza to the man at the counter, clutching my receipt as proof. He went back to speak to a manager, and I heard her ask if I had a receipt. Whew! Verified as not a scammer. I was given my pizza and headed on my way.

As I walked toward the car, I heard the woman– yes, it was the woman from church. She was swearing at one of her children, who was sitting in the front seat of her van. She wanted the keys and he wouldn’t give them to her.

I didn’t stop.

I drove out of the parking lot, and spotted an elderly woman on the other side of the “busy” street. (I use the word “busy” here loosely, given that this is a suburb.) She was very slowly making her way, pushing her grocery cart in front of her. Every step looked like a concerted effort to steady herself. It was getting dark. How long would it take her to get where she was going? I couldn’t leave her. I drove around to get to her side of the street, thinking I’d missed her, but at her pace . . . where would she have gone?

I spotted her in a parking lot, stopping in front of a smoke shop. I hesitated. Would I help her if she were smoking? Wouldn’t that be enabling? If she smoked, I felt less sorry for her.

With a sigh of relief, I realized the smoke shop was closed, and she was headed into a pizza place. Pizza? Wait– didn’t I have a brand new pizza in the back of my car? She shouldn’t be spending her social security money on a pizza when I had one to offer (admittedly, likely not as good).

THIS WAS FATE. It was all some master plan so that I might Do a Good Deed. Not realizing my order was incomplete to begin with, then miraculously having the receipt as proof (usually the Little Caesar’s people offer to throw it away, and I always accept), now coming upon this woman in need? It all made sense.

Without believing what I was doing, I found myself parking the car and walking into the pizza place. It was joint, really. I found the woman and saw her grocery cart– it had some empty shopping bags. Was she homeless? What was I getting myself into? But no, she didn’t look homeless, so I carried on.

“Would you like me to take you to your home somewhere?”

She looked at me with beautiful blue eyes, closing them as she told me, “No, I’m all right.”

Silently reassuring myself that I wasn’t a scammer, I proceeded, “I have a pizza you can have. Would you like it?”

Again, she responded in the same way, closing her eyes as she repeated, “”No, I’m all right.”

And with that, I left. What else could I do? My eyes teared up as a drove home, thinking of her walking slowly down the dark streets of my not-always-so-safe suburb.

I told some of my children what happened, and we laughed thinking about how I really DID sound like a scammer–offering an elderly woman a ride home out of the blue? Just “happened” to have a pizza in my car?

But it hit me. I am a scammer. I am a scammer because the woman from church may have needed me at some point, just to listen, to not box her in with stereotypes, and I did none of those things. I didn’t invite her over, I didn’t make an effort to connect with my Goddaughter, even if she didn’t know my name, and I never opened up my mind to her completely. I saw her life unfolding as though it were fixed and scripted. When she spoke with me and gave me advice, I never gave it as much thought or value as I would if it had come from someone else. I was too busy, I had my own problems, and I just didn’t want to get too close.  It’s possible that she would not have wanted or needed my help, either– whose to say who would have helped whom?

When I saw her with her child and the swearing between them, I thought– I have parenting struggles, too. I felt helpless. I did nothing.

The elderly woman–  I would only help her conditionally. If she smoked? No. If she were homeless? No. I would only Do a Good Deed if it were easy, if it were comfortable, if it meant that I could do a quick errand and then be on my way, feeling good about my Good Deed.

The elderly woman didn’t accept my help. Maybe she looks forward to her summer night walks, maybe each step she takes independently reminds her that yes, she is all right. Maybe she wondered why I thought she needed help, because maybe she didn’t need it at all.  Maybe it offended her, for me to have assumed anything. Maybe she thought I was a scammer.  And I guess she’d be right.

Image Source: “Scam Means Fraud Scheme To Rip-off Or Deceive” by Stuart Miles on


Long time no write.  As my fans (you know who you are, the both of ya!) have been begging me to hit the ol’ keyboard again, here I am.

We are getting a dog.  And, like everything else in my life, I have decided to make the process as overwhelmingly complicated as possible.

Let’s backtrack a little.

We had a dog.  That’s right– had.  For three weeks in November, a 6 month old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was ours.  Here she is:

I did everything wrong. I:

(1) found her from Craigslist.

(2) spent about 20 minutes researching the breed, glossing over aspects I didn’t like.

(3) emailed my husband her information and titled the email, PLEASE DON’T DIVORCE ME.

(4) bought her with zero approval from said husband (who to his credit or foolishness– you choose– did not divorce me).

(5) had my children be on their best behavior around the dog when deciding whether or not she would work with our family.

(6) chose a terrier even though I had vowed never, ever, ever, ever to own a terrier again.

You probably think those are many mistakes.  Oh, so many mistakes.  BUT WAIT!  There are more.

I let my toddler give the dog a hug, albeit a quick one, while the dog was chewing on a toy.

I stood and watched with that “hmm . . .” feeling, the one you’re not supposed to ignore.  But I hushed it away to watch what the dog was going to do.*

And then?

The dog bit her on the face.

We were lucky . . .oh so lucky . . .the dog had excellent bite inhibition, and not even a little tooth mark was left.

So, I panicked.  I rationalized, but she’s just a puppy . . .she’s new to our home, she was chewing on a toy, etc. But then panicked again.

I think it’s pretty clear by now that I am no dog expert, so I posted on a dog forum and got mixed responses.  Some people said that I just needed to make sure my children had better dog manners and that they should always be supervised, some  thought she was a great pup for not leaving a mark, and others told me to contact a professional.

I couldn’t ignore that “hmm” feeling again, so I contacted my vet.  She said she would not keep the dog with young children.  I contacted a behaviorist.  The behaviorist said she would rehome the dog immediately, and would not do an in-person evaluation because this was aggressive behavior.  I contacted breed rescues.  They said I should rehome.  My friend who is a vet said we were lucky once, but she would absolutely rehome the dog.

In the meantime, everyone fell in love with the dog, including my husband.  I quickly “schooled” myself on basic dog calming signals— signs that dogs show us they are stressed.  I watched (and seemed to be the only one who noticed) as the dog snapped at the air near my toddler on several occasions, even when my toddler was ignoring her. . .but always toward her face.  Her beautiful, perfect little face. With my family angry at me for doing it, I contacted the previous owner who wanted her back (and gave me no money back, by the way).  We said goodbye.

Now, you can imagine the tears and horribly conflicted feelings that followed.  While my husband started saying it was too soon to even think about another dog, the children and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  And then when I was about to give up on the idea, my husband said I should keep going.

This time, we were going to do everything “right.”  But what is right when it comes to bringing a dog into the family?  I still haven’t figured that out.

We started by looking at breeds.  Everything always pointed back to Golden Retrievers, so I looked into a Golden Retriever breed rescue group.  Turns out, the group will not adopt to people with children under the age of 6.

I thought about getting a mixed breed adult.  That way we would know the personality of the dog and likely have a calmer, more settled dog right away.

But my husband said, no.  This time we needed a puppy.  (And, I’ve learned, a 6 month old dog is an adolescent– the true puppy stage is done.)  A mixed breed puppy seemed too iffy to me now.  What if it was part terrier?  What if it was a herding breed and would nip the kids while running?  Or part hound, and would never leave our cats alone?  With a puppy and no real information about its breeds, the dog’s personality and characteristics would be largely unknown.

We decided (well, truth be told, I ultimately decided) that a Golden Retriever puppy would be the best bet for us. My husband just said, “Are you sure you want such a big dog?”

After a very exhaustive search of trying to find a reputable breeder who would have puppies within the relatively near future (some people wait a year or even years for certain litters), we are bringing home our puppy on Saturday, if all goes as planned.

I’ve been spending most of my free time educating myself on how to be the Best Possible Dog Owner, but as with parenting, I’m pretty sure I’ll be finding how much I don’t know.

*Why I thought it was a good idea to essentially experiment with an unknown dog with my small child, I’ll never know, and I am horrified that I did.  But, when I told this to the behaviorist, she said that when she was a mom with young children and dogs, she knew nothing about dogs– she just got lucky.  So did we.

Sherwin-Williams 40% Off Sale

Much to say, but for now– a quick note to let you know that Sherwin-Williams is having a 40% off sale.*  This will be the last 40% off sale until April, so stock up now while you can.

Undecided about paint colors?  Just buy the paint now, untinted.  Save your receipt if possible (I always lose mine!), or make sure the Sherwin-Williams store clerk enters in your information in your account.  Sometimes they will need to switch the base coat, depending on the color you’ve chosen, so you will need to exchange the paint.  I’ve never had a problem, even without a receipt or without information stored in my account, but then I always have to make sure they see me walking into the store WITH the paint . . . I want to say, “Hey!  I’m not shoplifting!  I brought in this paint!”  Of course, it helps that my garage-stored paint has a few cobwebs on it, so they believe me.  Click image below for details.

If you use Sherwin-Williams paint, what’s your favorite type?  We’ve used Duration, Emerald, and Super Paint, but my painter says most people chose Cashmere.

Happy painting!


*30% off supplies and 15% off HGTV Home wallpaper.


When I was in college, I began experiencing debilitating pains in my abdominal area.  They were so bad I couldn’t walk.  I went to a few doctors, but they sent me away with a vague, generic diagnosis and a dismissal of my pain.  Finally, one doctor said, “You’re too young for this, but maybe it’s your gallbladder.”

An ultrasound showed that my gallbladder was indeed the problem.  I am gallbladder-less now and have never suffered from those pains again.*

Have you ever been in that situation, where you’ve told someone, or maybe many someones, about a problem, and you weren’t believed?  And then, felt sweet relief when you finally were?

Well, here is a nice and trivial situation where that very drama played out.  It is called,

“I Hate My Fireplace.”

We bought our house two years ago, and I think I hated the fireplace from the very beginning.  I tried not to, since I love the rest of the house and that made me seem like a disloyal, ungrateful person with nothing but firstworldproblems on her mind.  But the fireplace.  MAN.  THE FIREPLACE.

I am not going to include a photo of it here, or at least not yet, so I’ll describe it instead.

Imagine a castle.  A stunning, breathtaking, grand, sweeping, castle.  Now imagine the basement of the castle.  Go a little deeper into it, to a place that you’d rather not venture, but are doing me a favor by visiting.  Deeper into the basement . . . what was that noise?  You come upon a dungeon.  A dark, decrepit, horror-movie-set dungeon.  If one were to put a fireplace into said dungeon (which they may not, as who cares about the comfort levels of the prisoners???), one would build a fireplace exactly like mine.  Orange-tone bricks with black mortar.  Black, black mortar.  Floor to ceiling.  In my living room.

When we visit this local pizza place (which I highly recommend, FYI):


I’m all, yeah, this is pretty much like the bricks of my fireplace:


For two years, I’ve talked about it to anyone who would listen (which, in actuality, is not that many people, because few people care to listen to me, but I did talk to the same people over and over again about it, to their great dismay).  Halloween is the only time I embrace it, with the whole dungeon thing; it can handle the black, goth look with ease.  Holidays like Easter, however, with its frilly pastels, look silly, as though the fireplace wants to eat said decor.

Nobody in real life cared.  They said, so what.  SO WHAT.  Or even, “I like the brick.” (???!!!!????)

When we had someone come to clean the fireplace, I felt as though my savior had walked through the door.  A masonry expert right in my own living room. The cleaning took 10 minutes (so, like $10/minute– where can I get a job like that?) and then I had my questions . . . how hard would it be to remove the bricks supporting the mantel so that I could drywall the sucker?  Could I just add mortar on top of the existing black, or would we have to remove the mortar to repoint the joints?  I was PREPARED.

These were the two responses I got from this surly, unhelpful man:

(1) You are asking me a lot of questions.  I’m going to start charging you for these.

(2) Why don’t you want to keep the brick?  Keep the brick.

And that was it.  He gave no other help except to say the brick and mortar were likely original to this 1920s house.

Speaking of the 1920s, what a period of lovely architecture, so what the heck happened to my fireplace?  I’m guessing, because it is loosely Tudor-Revival/suburban Storybook-ish on the outside, they went for overly rustic on the inside.

The previous owners had better taste than I, but even they didn’t know what to do with the living room, and I think we know what’s to blame.  It looked like a dentist’s office waiting room, while the rest of the rooms had personality.

I tried.  I painted the room a horrible, brown-with-orange color that makes me feel like I am in a clay pot.  Why?  Well, to make the bricks blend in.  And, they do, but now the whole room is the same ugly color of the bricks.

My next move was to embrace it.  I was inspired by a local museum’s European Village, which I took photos of to share with you later.  I was going to go for a weathered, handmade, European flair in the room, but it just wasn’t working.

My plan was to get an old, period fireplace surround and mantel, drywall the top portion, and repoint the mortar in the area of bricks that would still show through the firebox.  But there was that issue of cash, which I just don’t have lying around.  And, no one else seemed to care, or at least not when I’d mentioned it for the 8,000th time, so I’d starting quietly dreaming about “someday,” with “quiet” being the operative word.

Well, wouldn’t you know, my mother was visiting this week, and I handed her House Beautiful’s 1000 Sensational Makeovers book to peruse while I made (AKA used a Keurig because I don’t actually know how to “make”) coffee.  Just a note on that book– there are only “after” pictures, and I’m pretty sure those homes were always beautiful, and the “before” is just a ruse.  Also unhelpful are the suggestions to just hang handpainted ($$$$) wallpaper, position seating to take advantage of the ocean view, or slipcover that Louis the VVVV XXXIII settee one has lying around.  Doesnotapply, doesnotapply, doesnotapply.

Imagine my stunned surprise when my mother came into the kitchen and said that I needed to fix the fireplace, and she’d help me do it.  The reason?  The book.  As she looked through it and noticed the fireplaces, none of them looked like mine.  None of them dominated the room as mine does, in a room that is long yet only 8 ft wide in some places.  None of them had Barnaby’s brick in them, surprisingly.

Will I actually get The Beast fixed?  Likely not.  My vision is thousands of dollars away from reality, and the kids need shoes, so it’s not gonna happen.  But the acknowledgement from my mother, the fact that someone finally believed me, made me sigh with sweet relief.

And now, I’m off to enjoy the creepy mantel decorations and my favorite time of year!

How about you?  When was there a time when someone finally listened to you?

*The experience gave me the confidence to birth all five of my children without the assistance of medication; if I could undergo gallbladder attacks without drugs, I could handle labor.  (And, my labors were really short, which is probably the real reason I never got an epidural.  And, I am also scared to have a shot in my back.)

Food Fight

This evening, making my way home from the zoo with a van full of my children, I noticed a fellow driver.  An older gentleman in an expensive car, sunroof open.  Where was he going, I wondered?  (And how did he make all his money???,  I also wondered.)  I saw him pull into an elite (because there is no other kind) country club, and felt a pang of pity for him.  Poor guy.  All alone at dinnertime, paying people to be his friend.  No money, no more friends.  So sad.  And me?  Why I was going home to dinner, surrounded by my loved ones,  or at least people who were stuck with me, for better or for worse.

Of course, I didn’t exactly go grocery shopping this weekend, so my husband had to stop by the store for dinner items on his way home from work.  The sink was full of dishes, since we’d been out most of the day.  I’d squeezed in the zoo trip to take advantage of the last gasps of beautiful weather, but this meant we were getting home late.  The natives were getting restless, and coming to me with their technology “problems” (What’s Daddy’s password?  Can you set up this game for me?) as I tried to simultaneously cook and clean.  I pulled the plug on technology at that point, which I can only compare to the eruption of multiple volcanoes.  Lava pooled around the house in the form of whining, tantrums, and other horrible noises that no one should have to endure.  Oh, yeah.  This is what mealtime sounds like.  Did the gentleman I pitied have a spot at his table for me?

Oh, Food.  Food.  Let me tell you about food.  Food is like a marriage.  When you are old enough to make your own food decisions and prepare meals, it’s like a whole new romance.   Wow!  I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want.  You think of how you can spend time together.  Restaurants, new cuisine, and cooking!  Yes, cooking.  Making food of your own choosing gives you new-found power.  Maybe a little bit of ego: “My lasagna is better than any restaurant’s.  And I made it myself.”  It’s sort of fun, when it’s just the two of you.  No pressure; it’s all for kicks, and there is so much freedom you don’t even think about how much freedom you have.

But then.  The Children.  The Children enter in.  Maybe a partner or spouse, too.  You can’t decide who is pickier.  Now it’s not quite as much fun.  The Food is always there.  ALWAYS.  Wake up in the morning?  BREAKFAST.  And then?  SNACKS.  Hey, Food!  I need a break.  NOPE, ‘CAUSE NOW IT’S LUNCHTIME.  More SNACKS.  And get ready, because this show isn’t over.  In fact, the main attraction is appearing last in the lineup, which is DINNER.  Yes, when everyone is tired and cranky and would like nothing more than to lie on the couch together, it’s back to work on Food.

Now you have to think a lot more about Food, because Food won’t leave you alone.  Now Food becomes very, very Needy and Demanding.  Nutrition (sugar is bad, gluten is bad, meat is bad, everything is bad).  Quality of Food (GMOs, chemicals, organic vs. not).   Balancing pickiness with taste preferences.   Meal planning.  Shopping.  Cooking.  Serving.  Cleaning.  Over, and over, and over again.  All day after day after day after day after day after day. . .

The time.  The money.  Sucked away by Food.

You think you can escape it, right?  You leave your house.  It won’t leave you alone.  Food.  People demand it.  “But I’m HUNGRY!”  School, work, errands, and fun all have to pause for Food. Repeatedly.  Got a long drive to make?  Sorry, you’ll have to make a stop for Food, at least once, but more like 500 times.  Planning a vacation?  Money spent on a beachfront hotel view will, instead, go for more Food, and you can stare at the ice machine in the lobby instead.  Or maybe you can’t even go on vacation because the Food costs so much.  Stay home and cook and clean.

So you try to rekindle the romance again.  Stay positive!  Maybe hang out on Pinterest to oooh and ahhh over pictures of Food That Will Delight Your Family.  You buy a new cookbook or two.  Bring a little bit of experimentation into the relationship and visit new grocery stores.  The grocery stores know this.  They know how you are struggling with Food, which is why some of them have live piano music while you shop.  They know that the relationship is weakening, and that you are starting to check out.  CHECK OUT.  So they set up a juice bar, perhaps, to entice you back into being excited about the drudgery of Food, and make the checkout line easy as pie to get through.  Or you’ll check out.

People sometimes ask themselves, “If I didn’t have this obstacle, where would I be?”  I’ll tell you this: if I could have access to a pill that would provide all of the nutrients needed and was inexpensive, my life would change.  Suddenly, the tyranny of the dishes would come screeching to a halt.  Planning and shopping?   Unnecessary.   That guilty feeling of seeing wasted Food in the refrigerator?  GONE.  Money?  Lining my pockets.  Peace would reign in my Queendom.

Let’s expand that to the rest of the world.  Imagine if no one had to contend with Food.  No more starving people.  No more fighting for resources.  No more hours of time spent on Food.  Of course, the economy in many areas may collapse, given that Food is a bazillion dollar industry, but that’s a small price to pay.

I think I need a copy of Brave New World.  See, there’s this pill I want to invent . . .

How about you?  Is Food your Friend or Foe?

photo credit: KROCKY MESHKIN via photopin cc