Monday, May 30, 2011

A Quick Thank You Note

I just wanted to write a quick little post today to say thanks to all of the men and women (both past and present) who serve in our military.

It's Memorial Day. Today is not about hot dogs and hamburgers. It's not about trips to the beach. It's not about taking a day off of work. It's not about baseball, racing, playing in the sprinklers, or hosting guests and standing over the grill in the backyard. It's not about any of that, but we have the freedoms that we have, including those which allow us to spend this day however we see fit, thanks to the dedication of our military.

So thank you. Thank you past and present Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army, National Guard, Reservists, and your families. Please know that you are appreciated.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pretty + Awesome = Pretty Awesome

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write this post. I was not compensated for this post. I wrote it because I felt like it. I like Tiny Owl Studios. That's really all there is to it.

So I don't know if you have had the pleasure of discovering Tiny Owl Studios yet, but if you haven't, you are totally missing out. I love this stuff. And it's not just because I happen to know the mastermind behind it all. It is stylish, it's contemporary, and if it's customized it is whatever you want it to be. It's also graphic design with a sense of humor.

I see the puzzled look and the quizzical brow. Let me show you what I mean. Other people have "Thinking of You" cards, or "Get Well" cards, but not Tiny Owl Studios. TOS has "Suck It Up Cupcake" cards. I love it.

Suck It Up Cupcake Note Card Set

Genius. Absolute Genius. How many times have you wanted to be able to send something like this to someone? Be Honest. I don't just want to send this card, I want to frame it and put it on a wall somewhere. Or maybe you have other ideas? Like making a sign for your desk at work or something. I don't know. All I know is that I love it.

Of course, there are other gems to be found at TOS. I personally also love the line of state posters.


Or the simple, but so true "You vs. Me" artwork that features the tag line of "No matter the topic, on the internet, I'm always right." You need to check it out. There seems to be no limit to the amazing awesomeness.

Are you hooked yet? Want to see more? If the answer is yes, you can view her website, Tiny Owl Studios, or like Tiny Owl Studios on Facebook. I strongly suggest the Facebook thing, because she is always posting pictures of new creations, letting you know about new promotions and sales and it's just all around amazing. If the answer is no, well, I know the answer isn't no, so why even bother coming up with some contingency?

TOS is awesome. I heart it. You should, too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Recap of Recent Events

Most of which really only matter to me.

First, I have been itching to talk all about the surprise party (with a Mexican fiesta theme) that we planned for my mom recently. I wanted to tell you about the giant margarita glass we got her, or the kick-butt margarita mixer that was her gift from everyone, or how much glitter has invaded my house since I put so much of it on her sombrero. The only problem has been that I couldn't say anything until after it was over because she does read my little online rants on occasion and I couldn't risk it.

Well, the party was over the weekend and I think it was a hit. She seemed truly surprised and the margarita mixer seemed to be a big hit with everyone! I am glad it worked out because I can't really describe how nervous I was that she was going to catch on to all our antics. All our scheming would have been for naught. Luckily though, she seemed pretty shocked, so if she knew she is not letting it on and her acting skills are pretty decent.

Second, for any of you checking the score, the outcome (thus far) of me vs. the Maytag is me- 1 and Maytag - 0 (knock on wood). There is always the possibility that something else will go terribly wrong, but as of right now, I can run a load of clothes through the machine and absolutely nothing leaks. So take that you white box devil with a poorly written and even more poorly illustrated manual! I am victorious.

Well, it's more like I got lucky in the situation, but that is entirely beside the point. A win is a win.

We also managed to get that weird window/roof leak fixed. And just in the nick of time, too, since we are (once again) preparing for possible severe weather this afternoon.

And our couch problems? The new one will be delivered on Friday.

So everything is fine for now and mostly under control. And instead of worrying about the next inconvenience/minor disaster that lurks around the corner, I'm going to enjoy the peace while it lasts, because that's all we really can do.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bring It On, Maytag

Lately, I have been stressing over some things. It's nothing super huge, but enough little things that they add up to big stress. So, it's really no wonder that when my washing machine, which the warranty expired on last month, started leaking I went a little ape.

And by "a little ape" what I really mean is that expletives may have been voiced, tools may have been thrown, and I may have even physically assaulted the washing machine. Maybe. Kinda. Just a little.

The good news is that I'm not ENTIRELY useless when it comes to this sort of thing. I didn't just stare at the water on the floor like a helpless damsel in distress. No. I had a plan. A course of action. A foolproof go-to in a time of crisis...I called my husband at work and unloaded my stressed out frustration on him. He was a good sport about it, though, and let me rant. He knew where I was coming from.

Which was where exactly? Well, let me tell you.

We have a leaky window. Well, the window itself is really just the ruse. Really, we think it is a roof problem that manifests itself as a leaky window. The only problem is that it is kinda hard to get a pro to come get up on your roof to fix things when it won't stop raining for more than 20 minutes at a time. I'm seriously starting to wonder if we missed the memo about building Ark 2.0 in the backyard. So, there's that.

And then, as I have mentioned previously, our couch, may it rest in peace (or pieces, it this case, I guess) left us and we have had to do one of my least favorite activities and go furniture shopping. You would think I would love the idea of getting new furniture, and truth be told, I do, but it is the actual act of furniture shopping that I dislike. I hate going to every furniture store in our area to decide what color, what material, and what style will end up being the best fit for us. It's really not my thing at all. So there's that.

And then the washer. I was doing laundry yesterday and I got down the last couple of things that needed to be washed, and as I was swapping loads from the washer to the dryer to put those last things into the washer I had to ask myself why my socks were wet. I looked down to find just a little bit of water creeping out from under the machine. I breathed a heavy sigh in the "you've got to be kidding me" style and began to inspect the situation. There was a little more water behind the machine, so I cleaned it up with a towel and made my frustrated phone call.

Once I had my wits about me and someone else on this planet was sharing my misery with me (thanks, sweetheart!) I proceeded to the next item on my list of things to do when stuff goes wrong. I got the manual out (novel idea, I know). I read through the "troubleshooting" section and I must say it was absolutely, positively NO HELP WHATSOEVER. You want to know why? The first suggestion is that the hoses are leaking. Nope, already checked those. Dry as a bone. Second Suggestion? Maybe your drain isn't working properly. Nope, not the drain (I started to get the same agitated feeling I get when talking to any technology related customer service rep ever when they undoubtedly ask you, "Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on?" No, I never thought of such a simple, quick and easy test because my IQ is that of pigeon. YES, I TRIED THAT ALREADY. IF THAT HAD WORKED I WOULDN'T BE TALKING TO YOU, JERK!). The third suggestion was to check household plumbing for leaks. So basically the manual says if the machine doesn't work, it's not because the machine has a problem it's because YOU have a problem. Don't make me punch you in the face, Maytag. I've seen those commercials. Turns out, the reason your repairman never gets a call is because people are so offended by the suggestion that it must be their fault that the washer YOU built doesn't work, that they refuse to have anything more to do with you.

So, what does one do when the manual is basically a worthless record of someone pointing the finger of blame back at you? Well, I did what anyone else with access to the internet does these days when we are unsure of the answer: I googled. You would be surprised at the number of "how-to" and "do-it-yourself" type websites there are out there. Not all of them are at all helpful, mind you, but thousands upon thousands exist. And yes, I did check the Maytag website. It was even less helpful than the manual. Customer service fail.

So, I had a schedule to keep yesterday, but today I am going to see what I can find out without breaking anything. I have the assembly manual handy, so I will know what I'm looking at, and I have the internet handy, so I will know what I am looking for. I have a box full of tools. And if all else fails, I have a pretty decent right hook for that big white box of a thing that continues to mock me. You want to go toe to toe, Maytag? I'll go toe to toe. Bring it on. I will take you down, or apart, whatever the case may be. I may not look like much, as far as fearsome opponents go, but I'm scrappy.

Let the battle begin.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To Be A Little Kid Again...

For the last few months, on Wednesday nights, I have had the privilege of being the teacher of a children's bible study group. We get together and have dinner at the church, after which the adults go upstairs to the main part of the church and the kids come with me to the craft room. We color, cut, paste, and fold our way through crafts of all kinds. We recite bible verses from the previous week's lesson. Then we go into the bible story for the evening, and often, the kids act out the story as I read it, so they stay involved. Afterwards, we get a new bible verse for the week, and maybe play a few games before joining the adults upstairs for worship time. I have so much fun with those kids. And I think the reason I have so much fun, is because, even though I am the adult in charge, for that short period of time each week, I get to be a kid again.

The lessons are outlined in a teacher's book, but the crafts are sometimes designed for older kids, or different class sizes, or even classes that spend more time on the crafts. So, often, I play around with different ideas, and search through internet resources, in order to plan a craft that will better fit these kids and our time constraints. It's fun. Sometimes when I am unsure whether or not a craft will be right for us, I will do it ahead of time to get an idea of just how everything will go. Then, if the kids need help, I can help them get through it a little better.

It's fun. Because all of this means that I get to go back to Children's Church again. I get to color, cut, paste, fold, and study bible stories with a little extra fun built in. And the best part? I learn so much from the kids. To see things through their eyes for just a few minutes each week is really eye-opening for me. It's great.

Today is the last Wednesday I will be teaching them for a while. The summer is approaching and the schedule changes for the summer. And I have to say, I will miss it. And I won't just be missing it because it lets me big a kid with them, I will miss it for all the things they teach me.

But to get to pretend to be a kid again is fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Manic Monday

I have a lot going on today. I had planned to write a post all about how the DH and pinch runners ruin baseball, but honestly, I have too much going on to sit down and write the kind of post I want to write about that. So I'm saving it for another day. Today, I will share some of the random thoughts that are swirling around my head as I scratch things off of my to-do list.

1. Glitter is like fleas. It multiplies and it multiplies fast. If you bring one thing into your house that has glitter on it, glitter will suddenly be on everything in your whole house. I don't know how this happens, but I know it does.

2. When you try to be nice to someone and they are rude in return, and then talk bad about you behind your back, it makes you want to slap them. I know you are supposed to forgive them and be the bigger person, but sometimes you just want them to know what you really think.

3. I hate it when the return envelopes that they send with your bills aren't security envelopes. I don't want everyone to be able to hold the envelope up to the light and read the account number on my check. And don't pretend like security envelopes are so much more expensive that you can't afford it.

4. If you want me to pay my bill online, don't make the only online billing option automatic draft. I want to look at my bill (the whole thing, not just the total) before I pay it. Sometimes mistakes are made and I don't feel like paying extra for yours. And we both know that if the bill is already paid the odds of me getting that money back (as opposed to not paying what I don't owe in the first place) without some serious quality time with your customer service rep, time that I really need to be doing other things.

5. Manners matter. They do. I used to roll my eyes and mutter under my breath when I got grilled about keeping my elbows off the table, or not interrupting while others were speaking, or even the importance of timely thank you notes. But now I realize that manners really do make a difference and I pity those who don't know any better. And it is not pity, but an entirely different emotion, that I feel for those who know they are, as they say, acting a fool, and know better, but just don't care. Manners matter.

6. Dear Construction Crew Across the Street from my home,
Do you think tomorrow we can maybe postpone the jackhammer (or similarly noisy piece of equipment) until after 7 AM? Thanks.
Sincerely,
Me.

7. Those of you who have spent time in my home, or those who have read my post last year about my couch, will be glad to know that soon, I will have a new sofa. The old one, well, it passed on to the next life. I took the cushion covers off to wash them and the cushions themselves began to fall apart. The couch had a nice, full, LONG life. It was time. There are those who would point out to me that by being the one to take the cushions covers off, I might have hastened said passing. If that's true, then consider it a mercy killing. It is almost sad, though. That couch has been in my family my entire life. Not my entire adult life, not just what I can remember, no, my ENTIRE life. On the other hand, I am looking forward to having a couch that doesn't try to maul you with its springs.

8. Recently, I got low enough on gas that my gas light in my car came on. Don't worry, I was pulling into the station when it came on. The funny thing is that until that happened, I didn't even know I had a low fuel light. I ran out of gas once in high school and my dad was quite upset with me. He drilled it into my head that I should be more mindful. Since that day, years ago, I have been quite mindful. I (knock on wood) have not run out of gas since and, usually, when I hit about a quarter of a tank, I make a note to swing into the service station while I am out running errands. I have driven that car for almost three years now, and JUST found out it had a low fuel light. See Daddy? I was too listening!

9. Yesterday my stepmother had a birthday, and so did her brother (they aren't twins, it just worked out that way). For their birthday they chose to run the Warrior Dash, which is sort of an obstacle course 5k. I love them both, but this is just proof that we don't share DNA. The odds of me choosing to run a race on my birthday, instead of lounging and being pampered are slim to none. But congrats to both of them for being so adventurous.

10. I think my to-do list has actually gotten longer since I started writing this post.

Gotta run!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Use the First Amendment Responsibly

OR Think Before You Speak

OR (my personal favorite) Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

These are words to live by, people. Take note. These are gems. Trite gems, but still gems nonetheless. So why am I spouting off these parent-esque one-liners today? I'm starting a movement. Join me, if you dare. Although, since I'm against anybody joining a movement they don't actually know anything about, let me explain myself before you jump on board (or start expressing your outrage, y'know, whatever).

Allow me to share with you the wonder and awesomeness of the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I appreciate what this allows me to do, pray, say, or otherwise freely express. I do. Really. What I don't appreciate is the people who abuse its power. You know who you are.

You see, the First Amendment allows me to say whatever I want, so long as it doesn't fall in the category of slander. For those of you not in the know, the word slander is taken from the Middle English word "slaundre", which comes from the Anglo-French word "escandle", which comes from the Latin word "scandalum". See, this is why you should read all of my posts, you never know when you are going to learn something. Anyway, slander is a false charge that causes defamation. Translation? A lie that ruins somebody's reputation. Get it? If you lie about somebody in order to cause a scandal (note the Latin origin of slander) it's considered slander. Don't you just love when things come full circle like that?

Back to my point, just because you can say whatever you want, doesn't mean you should. For example, there is a certain group of protesters out there who like to picket funerals and other events. They hold up signs, they march around, they steal attention from what is actually going on. Do they have the right to (somewhat) peaceably assemble? Yes. Do they have the right to say what they believe, and even print it on signs? Yes. Should they reconsider their tactics because they are hurting their own cause by taking this approach? Abso-freakin'-lutely. I'll say it again: JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD.

There are, of course, a thousand and one other examples to choose from. People say stupid things out loud, on Twitter, on Facebook, and pretty much anywhere else it will help them garner attention. The latest round of this is evidenced by the people who have expressed that either the destruction in the South is not as bad as people claim, or worse, that it is some sort of deserved punishment. Shame on anyone who would say such a thing. You don't know those people. You don't know what beliefs they espouse. You don't know what they have been through. How could you be so heartless? So horrible? So thoughtless? One more time (say it with me now): JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD.

Now, I've seen Bambi. I remember when Thumper had to recite the lesson his parents taught him, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." It's a good lesson. Take it to heart. However, I also know there are times that you want to express your opinion and you really have nothing nice to say on the subject. In those situations, at least consider your audience. For instance, if you are in a group of people and one of them is likely to punch you in the face because of what you are about the say, think before you speak. Is it worth it? Do you really want to say it that badly? Or would it be better if, just this once, you kept it to yourself.

Don't get me wrong, we have all said things that we later realized probably wasn't the smartest or kindest thing we could have said. We may have been misunderstood. We may have been understood all too well. It doesn't matter. A mistake is different than a deliberate statement of hurtfulness, aggression, prejudice, or any other number of things that should be kept in check. But regardless of the situation, just think about what you are saying. Preferably before you actually say it. If you realize only later that what you said may have been hurtful or misconstrued, it's okay to apologize, that's allowed under the First Amendment, too, y'know. It's also okay to admit that you were temporarily and/or unintentionally being a jerk. After all, admitting you have a problem is really the first step, right?

So this is the movement, you can create buttons, or posters, or whatever. I won't, but you can. And whenever you see somebody making, or about to make, a huge butthead out of themselves, remind them to think before they speak. Use the First Amendment responsibly.

In other words, try not to be jerk. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.