Category Archives: Confessions

The Card Lady

valentine's day cards

I dated my husband for 10 years before marrying him. I like to be really sure of my decisions before acting upon them. When we finally did marry, I realized that I would need to carve out a role for myself in my new family. Being an only child, I never had to do this before. But now, I had 2 brothers-in-law, a sister-in-law, and a second mom and dad. That’s a lot of personalities in the mix, and I wanted to stand out.

When I was younger, I pictured myself becoming Wonder Woman. At five, this was a literal interpretation. My cousin even custom-made me a costume complete with bullet deflecting wrist bands and a Lasso of Truth. As I got older my interpretation of what becoming Wonder Woman would mean changed significantly. I pictured an amazing career in advertising, a husband who adored me, a charming, neatly kept house, and the time to craft, bake, garden, and throw decadent parties to rival the ones seen on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (sans all the crazy drama).

But then I met “Leslie” (name changed to protect the guilty). Leslie is my sister-in-law, a.k.a. the second coming of Martha Stewart. She is the ultimate household superheroine. She bakes bread from scratch, grows a vegetable garden in the backyard, wins “yard of the month” for the beautifully landscaped front yard, collects antique furniture, and cooks entrées like Duck Confit Cassoulet that requires two weeks to prepare. Oh yes, and she also sells high-end real estate and is raising the perfect, gorgeous blonde-haired child who prefers caviar to hamburgers and the viola to the violin. She’s 11.

How I would love to wrangle Leslie with the Lasso of Truth to find out how she does it all! By comparison, my house is rarely neat—matter-of-fact there are several doggie fur tumbleweeds rolling by on the hardwoods at the moment. I don’t bake or garden even though the Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter has been collecting dust in my garage for the past two years. I have never baked anything “from scratch” and the edible mainstay of the parties I throw include appetizers from Costco and dinners from the Honey Baked Ham Company. I just don’t have the time or energy for much more. And since I don’t have kids, it doesn’t seem I deserve a free pass for my mediocre existence. (At least, that’s my impression.)

So since the role of Domestic Goddess was so clearly already taken by my sister-in-law, I needed to develop a new persona for myself. Hence, The Card Lady was born. Actually, she wasn’t just born as I had been sending cards to family and friends for years. More accurately, she was rediscovered and newly impassioned.

My card giving surpassed the handwritten thank you note (a sadly dying art) and the traditional birthday card by leaps and bounds. I was a woman on a mission, to send cards for every holiday. And not just ANY card, but the absolute perfect card for each recipient. One that would resonate with them, make them laugh or cry—a card for them to keep and treasure forever. Or so I would like to think.

I scour every card rack that I see. I seek out high-end card boutiques. The magnetic stripe on my plastic Hallmark Gold Crown card is well-worn and I always use the gold seals provided on my envelopes to show that “I cared enough to send the very best.”

And for all my efforts, I have received more than I have given. My family has begun sending cards too—for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. My in-laws even sent our dog a Christmas card containing money for visits to his favorite doggie daycare. (He’s really spoiled.) But by far the very best outcome has been that my husband, for each year since we’ve been married, has given me a custom-designed Valentine’s Day card featuring our anniversary year on the cover. This year marks our 9th Valentine’s Day together as a married couple and he continues to make me feel adored every day.

It turns out that I’m not the perfect homemaker that I thought I would be, but hey, that’s okay. I’ve evolved into someone who I think is pretty wonderful all the same. And it turns out that I had my own unique super power all along—the ability to make people feel loved and appreciated with a simple hand selected card and personal note. Take that Martha Stewart. XOXOXO

Eating My Centerpiece

As a pre-Valentine’s Day surprise for my husband, I planned a wonderfully romantic dinner for two. The highlight of the meal was the stuffed pasta shells which he adores but that I rarely fix because it makes a mess of the kitchen. In addition to the candlelit ambience, I had devised a beautiful centerpiece ironically inspired by the 2006 movie “The Break-Up” starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. In the movie, Jennifer’s character asks her boyfriend (played by Vince Vaughn) to bring home 12 lemons for their dinner party centerpiece. Unfortunately, we never get to see the citrussy main attraction because he only brings home 3 lemons. (Apparently, he never listens, which is one of the factors leading to the break-up.)

So, I was left to my own imagination to figure out what a lemon centerpiece might look like. My only clue was that it would require 12 lemons. (Not 3, but 12.) I put 12 lemons in a bowl and it looked like—well, 12 lemons in a bowl. So I added some yellow flowers that I bought on my third trip to the grocery that day and voila!—a bright, cheerful centerpiece was born.

And it was a good thing that the centerpiece was so cheerful, because what happened next did NOT make me happy. With T-minus 45 minutes, I raced to take a bath and get dressed. In the 10 minutes that I was in the tub my dog managed to steal a purple pen from my purse and eat it on the orange wool entrance-way rug. Then, with ink-covered paws, he walked on the hardwood floors to the living room rug, then popped up onto the sofa and later trekked to his water bowl. It didn’t take advanced sleuthing skills to determine the sequence of events. The track of purple doggie prints, ink splattered everywhere, the remains of half a pen and the fact that my once yellow-looking lab mutt was now sporting purple paws and lips told the whole story.

T-35 minutes: Panic ensues. Dripping wet, and naked except for a towel, I dash across the living room praying that the blinds are closed and cursing my dog who looks utterly un-phased. I quickly wipe the ink off the hardwoods. “Thank God, it comes off!”

T-33 minutes: I frantically grab my phone and Google “How to remove ink stains from carpet”. First suggestion is rubbing alcohol. I looked in the medicine cabinet and we don’t have any. “Crap!”

T-31 minutes: Second recommendation on the list is to dab a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar on the offending stain. In my panic, instead of dabbing, I dump. Now there are mounds of white baking soda scattered from the front door to the living room, and when the vinegar is added they bubble over like little volcanoes spewing purple-tinted lava. I begin scrubbing furiously. (Which is exactly what Google said not to do.) The stains remain and the damn dog is smiling (laughing, actually), “Bugger off, Hooper!”

T-10 minutes: I’m freezing. I’m still naked and wet! Shit! “Please God let my husband be running late.” After insisting my husband be home promptly at 8pm I was now wishing for a small traffic jam or an interstate construction hold up. I spend my few precious remaining minutes recovering all the stains with baking soda. I prefer the “Pompeii ash-covered look” to the “my dog slaughtered Barney the purple dinosaur” crime scene.

T-5 minutes: Fastest getting dressed and made-up in the history of womankind. “Maybe he’ll assume my heavy breathing is in anticipation of our romantic evening?” Not a chance. My tear-stained face will give me away not to mention the powdery mounds throughout the house.

The dog is barking like a banshee. My husband is home.

After a quick explanation of the day’s crazy events, several more ineffective scoldings to our dog, and a few very large glasses of wine, we did finally sit down to a great meal and a relaxing rest of the evening. It’s just ink-stained stuff, and in the grand scheme of things, not that big of a deal.

By now you are probably thinking that this is a “making lemonade out of lemons” story, and you are right. Literally. My centerpiece flowers finally died several days ago and now I am left with a bowl full of 12 lemons and nothing planned for dinner tonight.

T-3 hours: Time to Google, “Recipes using lemons.”

Mocked by Nike

My mother used to say that I spent all the time in the world getting organized to study for my exams and left little time for actual studying. And, she’s right. I would spend hours making flash cards, recopying my notes and cleaning up my work space before I would actually “get down to business”. Whereas in school my mom called this “procrastination”, as a business professional I dubbed it, “my process”.

It has taken me my whole life to establish my creative process, and it is absolutely necessary for me to accomplish anything. It is a four-phased process with the first being, “Outer Reflects Inner”. This is where I have to get everything clean and organized before I begin, so I can think clearly. I enter this initial phase with the same sense of enthusiasm and possibility that I had buying new school supplies as a child. New notebook and sketch pad? Check. Desk cleaned? Check. Full stock of favorite pens, highlighters, and Sharpies? Check. Check. And check.

The second phase, I’ve come to know as “Productive Procrastination”. This is the point where I am just starting to think about ideas surrounding the creative challenge at hand. It usually begins with a giant list of all the words associated with whatever topic I’m focussing on. In this stage there is no editing, just a complete brain dump. The goal is to be productive and fill up the blank pages before me, which gives my little OCD brain something to chug on while waiting for inspiration to hit.

These first two phases don’t take a lot of brainpower. It’s fun and a form of creative meditation. Phase 3 however requires coffee. Lots and lots of caffeinated coffee. It’s here that the “real work” begins. It’s also my favorite part of any creative project. This is where ideas start rapid fire popping up, one after another usually preceded by exclamations of, “Ooh! Quick, write this down!” and “Why didn’t I think of this before?” It’s at this point that I think I am a screaming genius.

This is immediately followed by Phase 4 where I think I am a complete poser.

This is the “Getting Down to Business” phase of actually producing something. And this is where my insecurities get the best of me. There are over 7 billion people in the world. I’m sure at least a fourth of them are creatives—writers, designers, illustrators, inventors and the like. How can I possibly create something that is uniquely mine, put it out in the world and have it be a success with that kind of competition? And even if I overcame my fears of failure and rejection, what are the chances that I could actually make a living doing it?

It is at this point that the voice in my head always utters the famous Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”

I ignore the voice and go get a burger.

I straighten up my workspace more and pour another cup of liquid caffeine. I watch trash tv followed by a bubble bath and a glass of wine and all the while I keep hearing a recorded loop in my head saying over and over again, “Just Do It.” “Just Do It.” It’s like Poe’s tell-tale heart and it won’t leave me alone until I actually do it. It’s the only way I’ve found to put an end to the incessant worry, the creative insecurities, and the mental nagging.

I guess my creative process actually has 5 phases: Prepare, Procrastinate, Create, Worry and Just Do it.

Oops, I did it again.

The Curse of Competence

When I was working in the corporate world, I posted the following quote on my office door for all to see:

“Lack of preparation on your part does NOT constitute an emergency on my part.”

It was (because I hate conflict) a passive aggressive attempt to dissuade my less than buttoned up colleagues from badgering me about helping them meet a looming deadline that they had days if not weeks to finish.

Because of my natural OCD tendencies, I always had my work finished, polished and ready to go prior to the deadline. If you asked for 3 great branding concepts, I gave you 6. If you wanted rough doodles, I’d bring in tight sketches and a mood board ready to send to the illustrator for production. Unlike grammar school P.E. class where I was always the last one to get chosen for the team, I was now in my element and I was excelling. Life was good. Until it wasn’t.

One day (after working at the same firm for 12 years) I got called into my manager’s office for a closed-door meeting. (Never a good sign.) I was told that I needed to not excel so much because my abilities were upsetting my colleagues because I was outshining them. I was dumbfounded. I repeated what was being told to me out loud because I simply couldn’t comprehend it. “You mean to tell me that you want me to do less than what I am capable of so that the under achievers can feel better about themselves?”  Silence. “So, instead of encouraging my coworkers to up their game you want me to throw mine?” Crickets.

Then just a simple, “Yes.”

That’s when I learned that I was cursed. My colleagues wanted my help to bail them out of their last-minute jams (because they were socializing when they should have been working) and my managers wanted me to downplay my skills to make the rest of the team “feel better”.

Today, I read an article about an economics professor teaching his students about the downfall of Socialism. He stated, “When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they worked for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.”

I think the same applies to the work place, or at least advertising.

My Korean Waitress Speaks Little Spanish

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Yesterday, I met my husband at the Korean restaurant that we frequent because the food is delicious and the location is midway between his office and our home. When we walked in we were greeted like Norm from Cheers which gives us the false sense of importance that we enjoy so much. They sat us at one of “our” tables and practically brought us our iced teas before we ordered them. We ordered our typical fare—Eel Bibbity Bobbety Boo Bowl for me (I can never remember the real name) and the BBQ Ribs Bento Box for my husband. The food was superb as usual but something was missing. Something…atmospheric, but what? The normal lunch hour chatter was humming, Korean techno music was thumping in the background and the smells of yummy goodness being grilled was all there, so what was missing? And then it hit me—we had a different waitress and she was—really good.

Our usual waitress, to my husband’s great amusement, kind of annoys me. She is an overly bubbly, talkative person that thinks she has a personal relationship with us. She also thinks it’s part of her job to entertain us while we are sitting in her section. She tells jokes and laughs at her own banter while we politely sit there smiling and nodding because we can only understand every fifth word. Our lack of comprehension isn’t solely because of her very heavy Korean accent and the speed with which she speaks, but because she flip flops from speaking broken English to speaking broken Spanish. As someone that took remedial French in school over 20 years ago, this definitely presents a very big communication barrier.

But yesterday, (dare I say it) I was missing our happy, chirpy, quasi-bilingual waitress. How strange.  I guess we all find comfort in things that we can count on staying the same. The same childhood stories being told over and over again when we’re home for the holidays, the perfect cup of coffee made just the way you like it from your local barista, and now, the Korean waitress that for whatever reason has taken a shine to us and is doing all she can to make our experience pleasant and memorable.

I guess this is a sign that it’s time to dust off that Rosetta Stone Spanish language course that my husband gave me several Christmases ago and finally give it a whirl. Maybe I can become her token Cajun Customer that Speaks Little Spanish. Bon appetit! I mean, Buen provecho!

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