Monday, June 30, 2008

Ah, Well. Maybe Not Every One Has to Have An Actual Point, Right?

As I type this, Al's givin' Bean her first lesson in The Viewing of (Vintage) Looney Tunes on a Sunday Afternoon.

"And that's Pepe Le Pew." (Said this in his best French accent, too. Leaves nothin' out, this man.)

"Is he a cat?"

"A skunk."

"A SKU-UNK? Eeeeeeeeew! P.U."


"What's the dog's name, Daddy?"

"What dog?"

"That bad dog - he spins around."

"Oh! That's the Tasmanian Devil."

"Damamian Debil. Got it."

Lots of laughter.

And I should probably end this post there, because as you can see, I don't have much for you today. Oh, it isn't that my head's empty, or that we haven't had a fun, eventful weekend here at FriedOkra Manor. The weekend flew by like a shot as usual, packed full of neighborhood barbecues, diner breakfasts, and sunny afternoons outside. The summer fun quotient's been high, people -- we've been busier than ever, and if I put my mind to it, I'd know be able to conjure up plenty of anecdotes for y'all, but the truth is, I just don't feel anecdotal tonight.

For whatever reason, it's become increasingly difficult to bring this mind and body into a relaxed, reflective place - the very place from which I most frequently blog you. Instead, there's this pounding mental and physical urgency to get everything on my to-do list done, and get it done NOW. I'm simultaneously planning two upcoming vacations for the family, building the entire process and writing up the collateral for the writing coaching I mentioned Friday (for which y'all have completely blown me away with your enthusiasm, by the way! OHMYGRANNY!), reorganizing the baby's room, sorting, washing, drying and folding his entire newborn wardrobe, researching and trying to decide on and order a diaper changing table, finishing up an odd assortment of decorating details in the guest and master bedrooms and doing the family laundry while mapping out the events of the upcoming week and weekend and planning meals/writing a grocery list in my head.

I can't focus, people. On anything. As soon as I sink my mental teeth into one project or idea, another pops into my head and I'm off and running in a completely new direction. I'm like a slow, lumbering, outta breath pinball with ripe, swollen ankles and a mean case of heartburn.

I do believe, y'all, that we have entered The Nesting Phase.

Where we go from here is anybody's guess. Well, I mean. I guess we all KNOW where we go from here. We have us a baby. Soonish. Not too soonish, but soonish enough.

And you know what? I've wondered for the last 8 months if I'd ever be able to say this, but here goes:

I think I might be kinda -- ready.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Best of FriedOkra: How I Met Your Father, Part II

Part Two in a series about how Al and I met, got to know one another, and eventually dated and ended up married. (It still sometimes surprises even us! Originally published in August 2007.)

In spite of my own misgivings about our first meeting, my professional relationship with Al began and progressed easily and successfully. We worked very well together, and to this day, although he was my boss in various capacities for nearly 7 years, I never once felt like his employee. He always worked alongside his teams (he still does), engendering teamwork and creating in his work environments a sense of family and comraderie of which, by and large (though there are always exceptions), corporate America seems nearly totally devoid these days. Upon his arrival, he challenged the staff in my office to try new things, learn new skills, to grow and improve and better ourselves. And most importantly, he truly cared about each of us individually, and wanted us to find and capitalize on our own potential.

I can't put into words how refreshing this was professionally or personally. At this awkward and vulnerable point in my life, having someone who believed in my abilities and trusted and encouraged me was absolutely soul-saving. And Al did those things so naturally and dependably and with such kindness and humility that to disappoint him in any way would have been unthinkable. I worked hard and learned everything I could, pushing myself to reach the potential Al saw in me. There was just no other choice.

And we had so much fun together, all of us. After particularly grueling days in the financial services world (which were frequent), we'd all close the office together and head over to our favorite tavern to relax, complain a little and laugh a lot. We could let our hair down with Al, and we all became such great friends. Al was always with us, and always right in there telling us hilarious stories about his days as a broker, and whining and snickering with us about our less-than-favorite clients and co-workers. We all bonded during those after-work "meetings," and they gave us more reasons to love coming to work.

After my ex-husband and I were finished, I began dating again. Never having dated outside the shooting monkeys in a barrel atmosphere of college, I was in for a rude awakening and loads of confusion in the "real world" dating scene. Luckily for me, I had my friend, big brother and sometimes-father-figure, Al, to coach and console, advise and admonish me through my first forays into the world of singlehood. And he was good at it too! I managed to catch, date, and subsequently dump several boys. But something kept me from committing to these men. There were sad times at the end of these relationships, but Al was always there to help me pick myself up and move on with hope and a sense of humor.

At the time we met, Al was married as well, and I imagined him to be blissfully happy in his marriage... he was such a positive, upbeat, loving, loyal, caring man. How could he not have an amazing partnership with his wife?

Time went by and within 2 years, both Al and I were promoted to new positions within the firm, which meant leaving our little "family," and one another. We both remained in the same city, but moved to different offices and rarely saw or spoke to one another. Time passed and life went on, but I missed my friend, my mentor, my big brother.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Or We Could Pretend I Never Said Anything About This and All Walk Away Completely Unscathed

Happy Friday, y'all!

I'm over at Chic Critique this morning talkin' about your fun new monthly opportunity to participate in all the glamour and glitz that is beauty product reviewage. Clickity click click, people -- go check it out -- I've got a hunch some of you will really dig this idea, and if you want to get in on the ground floor, the sooner you've got all the details, the better!

Which reminds me, if YOU want to guest post at Chic Critique, we would LURV to have you, so let me know and I'll give you the particulars, okay?

Now, here's an idea I'm kicking around, for which I need maybe three beta-testers. And about two pages worth of caveats.

And a hugely over-inflated view of myself and my own abilities, apparently.

Now y'all (caveat caveat, hedge hedge) I truly don't fancy myself an expert on Matters of Blogginess, and I even consider myself quite the student, still, when it comes to writing. I'm here almost every day, sweatin' it out in the Big White Blogger Box, just tryin' to get better at this craft of ours, develop my skills, lose my bad habits, and otherwise make myself read-worthy.

So I'm not suggesting that I have talents above any of your own, or that any of you ARE BADLY IN NEED OF MY EXPERT OPINION at all. Of the blogs I read, I consider many of you consistently better writers than me, and all of you utterly unique and entertaining in the stories and insights you choose to share. I'm delighted to be part of the blogging community not just because of the friendships, the intelligent ideas, the support and the FUN y'all inject into my life, but also because in reading your words, I am constantly learning new things about writing. It's all a huge give and take, isn't it? You know, It takes a village and all that.

But here hangs this degree in English I earned about a million years ago, and since then I've had a few jobs and a few hobbies that've afforded me the luxury of practicing the art of written communication in various settings, and I'd love the opportunity to pass along some of what I've learned to bloggers who might find a bit of writing coaching helpful. Just for fun. Very informally. Between friends. To see if it's something I could do "professionally" (insert laughter) someday and actually be of service to someone, you know?

So. Would two or three of you (probably just newish bloggers at this point) be interested in working with me one-on-one, for a couple of short sessions over a few days, on-line, during which we'd take a look together at some posts you've written or want to write, and I'd lend you a few pointers to help guide you in your quest to further develop your own style or voice, capture the attention of your readers, and maybe find new ways to convey your stories and ideas on your own blogs? For free, of course. Just to test me out. You'd also need to be willing give me honest feedback on how the process worked for you and if you found it at all helpful or valuable.

This would be exclusively writing coaching, nothing technical or graphic. We'll leave all that to someone who doesn't need instructions on how to plug in a power cord, m'kay?

If you're interested in a little writing coaching, you may leave a note in the comments below, including a way that I can get in touch with you, OR you may email me at friedokra4me at gmail dot com.

Thank you and have a lovely day, my people.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Knight in Shining Wingtips

Bean has her second tee-ball lesson tonight, which reminds me I never gave y'all the low-down on the first one.

Which reminds me that I have great news!

I didn't sprain, fracture or otherwise maim m'self, people!

(Insert wild applause here.)

I DID get that same look from Bean's coach that I got from the golf pro the first day of my golf lessons. The "you have GOT to be kidding me, lady" look. I was summarily dismissed from the action, in his mind, before we even lined up behind our orange cones. I take these things as a challenge, y'all.

And the mama? Y'all would be so proud. The Mama hung right on in there with the other Mommies and Daddies until that lesson was SLAP DONE WITH. And there was actual running! And scuttling. Wait -- shuttling? Scuffling? Hustling? I can't remember the word for it, but essentially running sideways. And we also ran backwards. And at one point, we ran straight until Coach Rick blew the whistle and we had to zig or zag where he pointed, all the way across the soccer field.

Oh, there were ALL SORTS of opportunities for me to earn myself AT LEAST an Ace Bandage and an ice pack, people. But no! Canyoubelieveit?

So about 40 minutes into the hour-long lesson I began to panic.

WHAT THE HECK AM I GONNA SAY ABOUT THIS ON THE BLOG? It's been hot, sweaty, sticky and there's been some grunting and all, but it's been essentially -- non-eventful.

BUT THEN CAME THE MOMENT. Not the kinda moment you'd expect on the soccer field, playin' Roll-the-ball-to-me-Bean- No-to-ME-Bean-not-way-over-crawl-crawl-crawl-THERE-pant-crawl-crawl-crawl-TO-ME-MEEEEEEEEE-Hello BEAN?-I'm-right-here-SEE-ME?, in the waning hours of a hot day, sun beatin' down, whistles blowin', Coach coachin', armpits sweatin', kids losin' it. Not at all. An incongruous moment - which made it all the more, um, momentous.

Are y'all sick of hearing how much I LURV my sweet husband? If you are, close your eyes for a minute, okay?

Because there I was, on that field, with Bean, at the t-ball lesson into which I'd enrolled her with my own hand and pen, of my own volition, stubbornly telling myself and anyone who raised an eyebrow at me that OH I CAN DO IT. ALLBYMYSELF. Eight months pregnant, plus. No sweat.

And I was makin' it just fine. And Bean was too. The FriedOkra gals were holdin' their own out there.


Well we WERE.

But at one point, mid-crawl, I took a minute to look up from my ball-retrieval mission and peer down toward the soccer goal where many other mothers stood placidly looking on as their husbands shepherded their own kids through these drills, and I spied him.

The man I love. Quickly striding across that soccer field in a dark suit and tie and a pair of sunglasses. OH. MY. GOSH. My heart did flip-flops and somersaults and tried to crawl up my throat, out my mouth and across the turf to gobble him up.

And I said, BEAN! Look who's here! I pointed. And her heart near 'bout exploded, just like mine.


I'll tell you people right now. I could have made it through that lesson without Al, and I'll make it through many without him, no doubt, because he won't be able to leave his office a full two hours or so early every Thursday for two months. But last Thursday, I had one of Those Moments. When seeing my husband happily approaching me, having (probably) moved pretty much heaven and earth to be there, literally about knocked me over with gratitude and sheer delight at having him for my partner, my friend, my mate.

He just does it for me, y'all.

And together, we finished up that lesson with Bean. Oh Al tried to shoo me away to the bleachers to rest, but there was no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I was leaving his side. We were a team, the three of us, and I just wanted that moment of re-realization and amazement at the blessings constantly showered upon my little humble self to last a little bit longer. I wanted to be there in the moment with my sweet family, crawling around in the grass and looking at their beautiful faces in the setting sun - two of the three faces I know I'll love best until the day I die.

We finished up the class and headed back to the parking lot together, Bean between us, holding her big, strong Daddy's hand in one of hers, mine in the other, deciding where we should go eat dinner. I thanked Al for his wonderful surprise.

"Well, I couldn't miss Bean's first tee-ball lesson, could I? A-a-a-nd - I have another surprise for you. I'm taking the day off tomorrow to spend with My Girls."


Be still my heart.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yikes! Has It Gotten That Bad?

Overheard in the car on the way home from the swimming lesson yesterday:

"Goodness Bean, you did such a GREAT job with your kick board today. I saw you listening to your teachers and doing just as they showed you. Then when you got into the water to swim, you kicked so BIG on your front AND on your back. I am really proud of you! Do YOU feel proud of you, too?"

"Yes, I do feel proud of me!"

"You really do?"

"Yes, I do. And Mama? Know who EWSE I'm proud of?"

"Who else?"


"You're proud of me? Why?"

"I'm proud of you because you're smilin' and bein' sweet, and not grumping at me."

"Oh? Have I been grumping at you a lot lately?"

"Yes. You've been sooooo grumpy, Mama. Because you have that great big little baby in your tummy."


Monday, June 23, 2008

And We Both Love Spam®. What Else Really Matters?

I'm still diggin' around in the Reader Mailbag, y'all.

Corey of Living and Loving Every Minute of It gets the prize for the deepest and most thought-provoking question:

Being the ever inquisitive and ever thirsting for a deeper understanding of people, their emotions, and their spirit, I just wondered if you have suffered much negativity, bias, or plain old dirty discrimination due to your bi-racial family? I wondered if you came from an open, loving and diverse extended family or if your relationship with Al caused any sort of ruckus in your life? Do you get ignorant comments or questions regarding Bean's race, or if she is actually YOURS? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

This topic - life as an inter-racial, bi-racial, multi-racial family? I'd say it was actually one I feel very passionate about except for one tiny little detail: It just doesn't come up all that often.

And at my age, it's hard to work up a lot of passion about a thing if it's just gonna go to waste.

Which I suppose is an answer in and of itself, isn't it?

For Al and me, having different colored skin has been a complete non-issue. And that's all it is, to us. Al and I are so much alike, really, in the ways that really matter. We're not a cross-cultural couple - which would be perhaps harder to navigate. The two of us are mostly of one mind in our values and approaches to life. We were both raised in relatively rural settings - small Southern towns - by conservative parents who valued education, self-reliance and (though slightly later in my life than in Al's) the Christian faith.

Both of our parents insisted on honesty, respectful behavior and decorum and as is the case with most Southerners, we've each had a little bit of redneck and a lot of dignity built into us over the years. Ours has been an easy relationship from the start, with little friction along cultural lines. Heck, since we've known one another, even our somewhat strongly opposing political views have begun to gel somewhere in the middle, and we may even both vote for the same candidate in the upcoming presidential election. We strongly disagree with one another in two areas: football and which utensil is the RIGHT one for eatin' watermelon.

But I won't lie to you, those two areas of conflict do make for some heated debates at times.

Although we have HEARD that interracial couples often suffer discrimination or even hatred, the two of us have never experienced anything more than what seems a genuine curiosity from the occasional stranger. Our marriage was and is absolutely celebrated among our friends, but not because of or in spite of our physical differences, as I think those differences fade quickly in the eyes of those who know us well, and what stands in the forefront of our life as a couple is our alikeness, and the joy and gratitude we feel just being together.

I hope so, anyway.

As for our families, not one word was ever said by our parents or siblings about the fact that he is black and I am white. It's a non-issue to them, as well, as far as the two of us can tell by their words or actions. But I won't candy coat it -- older generations of my very Southern family have and do express sentiments that I would say qualify as racism. Thankfully none of them have ever been directed at my husband, and they didn't express any opposition to our relationship directly to me. If they said anything to my parents (which I doubt) my parents prudently chalked it up to ignorance and let it go.

We do seem to get attention from people that I don't recall getting in relationships with other boys or men. In Atlanta, where we dated and married, and here in the Chicago suburbs, interracial marriage isn't particularly common yet, but it isn't unheard of, either. I think, if anything at all, our outward differences make us more memorable as a family, and therefore we seem to be more readily recognized and remembered (in a positive sense, it appears) as we run across people more than once.

Honestly? I think we are treated better socially than I've been treated in my same-race relationships, although I am not 100% sure that's because of our different skin.

The key ingredient, I think, is that both Al and I firmly believe that what you put out into this world is what you get back. And we try to ACT on that belief no matter where we are, what we're doing, or with whom we're doing it.

Do I think we might see more hatred or discrimination if we were on the look-out for it? Or if we felt defensive about our own choices? Possibly, yes. The thing is, we just don't entertain those thoughts or positions. Just like any other two spouses, we each married people in whom we saw values similar to our own, people whom we trusted and enjoyed, and by whom we were inspired in many ways.

See, I don't look at Al and see "my black husband," nor does he see me as "his white wife." And we don't walk side by side conscious of any huge, glaring juxtaposition. Our hearts are generally as together as if they beat in the same chest (unless it's a football Saturday). So why, in today's society where who we are as a couple is perfectly legal and growing more common every day, and where racism is, at least in mainstream society, considered backwards and archaic (I know it's still out there though. I'm not totally blind to it), should our contrasting skin-tones get more of our attention or anyone else's than the different eye-colors of our samish-skinned married neighbors?

They shouldn't. And they don't.

I know! Preach it, sister.

On to the questions about Bean.

You know what? Bean looks like Shirley Temple. We get a TON of interested (but not ignorant, by my standards, anyway) questions about her hair. And about her eyes, which combine my green with Al's brown into a very unusual shade of bronzy-gold. Beyond the questions, we get a lot of very enthusiastic declarations about her appearance, all of them positive. The kid is cute, ya'll, and she looks exactly like both of us, in different ways. No one has ever asked either of us any questions as to her biological origins - she's pretty obviously genetically us, combined. Because her skin is fair and her hair blond, Al used to joke that I shouldn't leave him alone with her at the grocery store for fear that someone would think he was kidnapping her. But in all honesty, no one has ever even cast a sidelong glace at either of us alone in public with her.

We had one interesting encounter with a young girl at our church in Atlanta. But she had her own reasons for approaching us and her intent wasn't to attack or do harm, only to vent her own fears and insecurities and to have her curiosity satisfied. We were neither startled nor offended by her questions, just maybe somewhat amused by her intensity.

The bottom line? It seems to me that where real love, acceptance and contentedness are obvious and transparent, hatred, divisiveness and judgment just don't bother to come knocking.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And Nothin' Says "Happy Saturday" Like Cheese!

Hey! Big news! My first cooking post is up at Blissfully Domestic. Mmmmmm. Good old Southern cheesestraws. Y'all go check it out and show 'em they hired the right gal by leaving a little comment lurv.

Also, The Best of Fried Okra (ahem) continues this Saturday. I'm re-posting the series on how Al and I met and married, one cliff-hangin' installment at a time. Go get in on the ground floor -- how I completely humiliated myself the first time we met (you know by now it couldn't have gone any other way, right?)

Happy Saturday, y'all!

The Best of FriedOkra: How I Met Your Father, Part I

Originally posted in August 2007, as part of a series that culminated in our wedding story. Y'all don't read ahead in the series though because I'll be running all of the consecutive installments over the next few Saturdays.

The first time I met Al, he had on a blue button-down Oxford cloth shirt and the requisite red 1990s power tie. His hair was shorn flat in the style called a high and tight, just like Arsenio Hall and Bobby Brown wore back then. And he was a little chubby, although I'd never have described him that way at the time. For some reason, his driver's license, these 11 years later, still bears a picture of him from those good old days. We get it out and snicker at it from time to time. Most striking, though, were Al's HUGE teeth. I mean, not huge in a bad, horse-teethy kind of way... Because all those huge teeth translated into this amazingly warm, engaging, bright smile.

This was the day Al had come to my office to assume the role of Manager (eek!). He was going to be my new boss. And only two short and sheltered years into my career in financial services, I still reeled at any alteration to my work environment. At that point in my life, getting a new boss was as cataclysmic as getting a new set of major organs. I was petrified to the point of quaking.

Along with this major upheaval in my worklife, back at the homestead, I'd just that same week reached a decision with my then-husband, Paul, that we would likely divorce. Racked with guilt and feeling extremely vulnerable and inadequate on a personal level, the last thing I felt ready for was having to put on my professional, got-it-all-together image and present myself to the person who would be calling all the shots for 40+ hours of each week.

But the day arrived, and the hour rolled around, and into my office walked New Boss Man. He took the visitor's chair and left me in my command-central seat on the "working" side of the desk. I immediately sensed his warmth and authenticity.

But, thanks to my diminished confidence in myself and my complete rookie status in this situation, what should have been a light-hearted and casual get-to-know-you chat still proved, for me, unbelievably threatening, and I immediately felt myself click into defensive mode. All of his innocent questions about how I viewed my job, what my career goals were, what I liked in a manager, sent me warbling on stiltedly with the answers I thought a man in his position would want to hear.

Well, I don't think I was even remotely honest, and as I recall, I ended up having one of those out of body experiences where your mouth keeps grinding out words but you have no control over the output, and what's coming out sounds like an 8th grade Latin student's translation of The Iliad.

At last, the meeting drew to a close and I reflected I may have gotten out of it unscathed, but alas, Al posed a final question. "Is there anything else about you that I need to know?"

Being completely paranoid about Corporate Management in general, I saw this question as an attempt to get me to "fess up" about something personal in my life.

I assumed that my old manager had already shared the sordid details of my divorce (which in retrospect was about a .08 on the sordidometer, but what does a 26 year old know?), and if I didn't share those same sordid details with this new guy, I'd immediately be labeled dishonest and put on the "fire ASAP" list. (Knowing Al as I do now, probably what he really wanted to know was did I love college football and did I cook my boiled peanuts with a ham-hock or not. He did get those answers much later and I must've passed his test because, hey, we're all married up now!)

So, with nary a pause for breath, I rattled out through racking, face-contorting, snot-trough wiping, hiccuping sobs the 18 month plus saga of the failure of my marriage and my fears about being -- sob -- alone -- sob -- for -- sniff, sob, ever.

So professional of me, and such a great first impression, don't you think?

Well, at the close of the meeting, Al seemed perfectly comfortable and happy to have met me. He remembers that meeting fondly and says he thought I was "the cutest little girl [he'd] ever met."


He even remembers exactly what I was wearing that day, right down to my swinging blonde ponytail and my loverly faux pearl jewelry.

But I wouldn't know what sort of impression I'd made on him until years later.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What a Difference an M Makes.

Man. I have soooooo many exciting things goin' on blogwise and it's KILLING ME, havin' to keep it all secret. I am SO lousy at keeping secrets! And I don't enjoy keeping them, either. But I must.

But there's ONE thing I CAN tell you, and it's that my one-year bloggiversary is coming up early next month and I'm getting a total blog make-over to celebrate.

And y'all. I'm not telling you anything about it yet. And I'm not telling you who's doin' for me.

But I got a sneak peak at what's been done on it so far and OH. MY. GRANNY.

I wanted to crawl through my computer screen and establish residency among the first images that have been painstakingly crafted for us. For y'all. Because I am so totally trying to keep this place cozy and inviting and homey for y'all. The kind of place you'll always want to go when you just want to get comfy and relax and have a laugh or two.

And oh, my designer gets that. And it shows in what's been created so far.

I can't wait for you to see it! Can't wait can't wait can't WAIT. Come ON, July.


Today I'm over at Chic Critique writin' about bein' all of Advanced Maternal Age and stuff. Did I ever tell y'all about the first time I heard that phrase? It was at the second sonogram during my pregnancy with Bean. We were all done and the technician handed me a couple of screen shots. I looked at them. I saw my name first, then a comma, and then "AMA."

"Isn't that sweet? You've got MAMA out there instead of MOTHER. I love that. Only there's a M missing, see?"

"Oh no ma'am, that's not MAMA. That's A-M-A. It stands for Advanced Maternal Age."



Thursday, June 19, 2008

In Which Ethel Merman Meets Punky Brewster: A Poolside Pictorial

Swapping now-customary morning salutations with best pal Bubba.

Coveting Bubba's turn on the froggy slide.

Muggin' it up with Mama.

Gettin' Mama in trouble for distracting the chiddren as she trots around on the pool deck snappity snap snappin' away. (Oops!)

Swimmin' with the teacher, who's now one of her favorite people in the world.


Well Stick a Fruitbowl on My Head and Call Me Carmen Miranda, People


This week is kickin' my bummy, people. What with the early morning swimming lessons and the late-night golf-n-gabs and the t-ball for tots and the husband working late and the beautiful, you-can't-stay-inside-and-work weather and the but-you-still-have-responsibilities-so-you-stay-up-later-to-make-up-for-lolly-gaggin'-the-afternoons-away-on-somebody's-back-porch-drinkin'-Gatorade,-exclaiming-about-heartburn-and-telling-the-child-fifty-leven-times-to-stop-beggin'-the-neighbor-kids'-mothers-for-some-yogret-because-contrary-to-how-it-may-appear-you-DO-actually-feed-her-on-a-semi-regular-basis and the then waking up at the crack of ridiculousness to start all over again.

Summer's heap big fun, y'all, but it's wearin' me flat out.

Yet I am all up for another Top Recipe Thursday, and I'm here with my somewhat diminished rank of summer fruit recipes, but they're nonetheless all yummy and worth a try.

Blueberry Buckle

5 cups ripe fresh blueberries, washed
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 375°. Place blueberries in a 13x9 baking dish and set aside.
Stir remaining ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Sprinkle mixture over berries. Bake until golden brown about 30-40 minutes.

Strawberry Shortcake Cocktail

2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 ounce creme de noyaux
1/2 ounce Creme de Cacao
6 strawberries, stems removed
whipped cream
1 teaspoon strawberry liqueur

Combine vanilla ice cream, crème de noyaux, crème de cacao and 5 of the 6 strawberries in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a large goblet. Top with whipped cream, drizzle strawberry liqueur on top and garnish with the 6th strawberry.

Picante Three-Melon Salad

Do not freak out on me, here. It sounds odd, maybe, but really, if you substituted cucumber for the melon, you'd have a perfectly normal pico goin' on. And the only difference between cukes and melons is the sweetness, and when you consider that some of the yummiest things in the world, like, say terriyaki or barbecue sauce, combine heat, sweetness and smokiness, you will find yourself a little bit less inclined to overlook this one just because at first glance, it's a little ... different. (Which, OH, that reminds me of a funny story and OH, Corey, I'm still working on the answer to your question still sittin' in the Reader Mail Bag and this story will fit in so perfectly!)

3 cups cubed seeded watermelon
3 cups cubed seeded yellow watermelon (or canteloupe)
3 cups cubed honeydew melon
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 1/2 tsp. finely chopped seeded jalapeno pepper
1 tsp. grated lime rind
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine rind and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour juice mixture over melon mixture; toss well. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Now I don't suppose I have to remind y'all I'm from the South, more specifically from Georgia, The Peach State and South Carolina, which SHOULD be called "The Other Peach State" but chose instead to go with "The Palmetto State" because it made for a really cool state flag. (Okay I mebbe took a liberty or two there.)

I actually mostly grew up in a town not far from GAFFNEY, SC, where they grow the most delicious peaches I've ever eaten and they do so proudly. Proudly to the degree that they have sculpted and painted their most prominent roadside water tower into a GINORMOUS peach. No kiddin', y'all. And the funniest thing about the GAFFNEY peach is that the view of this peach from one direction has earned itself the whimsical nickname, "The GAF-FANNY." That is right. From the side where you can't see the pretty green leaf atop the blushing fruit, this water tower looks like a humongous naked B-U-T-T.

And they just LEAVE it that way, year in and year out.

Go figure!

We love our peaches, though, cracks and all. And we love to turn them into sinful desserts, nearly as much as we just like to peel 'em and slice 'em over our cereal every morning for a couple months, or just eat 'em out on the back porch as the juice slides down our wrists, drips off our elbows and makes sticky, sweet-smelling puddles on our thighs. Here's a pie and a cobbler. I regret I didn't get my mom's recipe for homemade, handchurned fresh peach icecream, but maybe I'll post it later. She will likely tell me she doesn't HAVE a recipe, she just makes it up out of her head, really, but I will have her piece one together for you.

Fresh Peach Pie

6 cups sliced fresh peaches
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
1/8 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. corn starch
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 9 inch pie crusts

Cook peaches with 1/4 cup sugar until mixture comes to a boil. Then add remaining sugar, cornstarch and butter. Fill pie crust with peach mixture. Dot with more butter. Place second crust on top, vent, seal and flute edges. (They make that sound so simple, don't they?) Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes. Serve with vanilla icecream or whipped cream.

Easy Peach Cobbler

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Fresh peaches (if the peaches are not REALLY ripe and sweet, add 1/2 cup sugar to them and stir before putting them in with the butter. Also, my mom usually adds about 1/4 tsp. almond extract to peach dishes. The extract brings out the peach flavor beautifully.)

Melt butter in an 8x8 baking dish. Mix dry ingredients and milk well. Place sliced peaches on top of melted butter; our batter on top of peaches. Do not stir. Bake 1 hour at 325°.

Key Lime Bars

Very similar to traditional Lemon Bars but heavy on the fresh, delicious lime flavor. I served these at Bunco last year and the girls are still talking about them. Nummy.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup key lime juice
4 large eggs
lime zest (, no white please)
confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Mix together 1 1/4 cups flour, graham cracker crumbs, butter and confectioners sugar to form a soft dough. Press the dough into an ungreased 13x9x2 inch baking pan and bake until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.

While the crust is baking, beat together the sugar, lime juice, remaining 1/4 cup flour, eggs, and lime peel until well mixed. Pour over the hot crust and return the pan to the oven. Bake until set, around 20 minutes or so. Cool on a wire rack and then cut into bars. Dust with confectioners sugar. Optional: You can also make a little drizzly sauce out of an additional 3/4 cup confectioners sugar and about a tsp. of lime juice and then squirt out of the cut tip of a plastic bag or a pastry decorating bag over the individual bars to finish them and add some extra lime flavor.

Fruit Kebabs

I served these at Bunco this year. Nobody would eat them for the longest time. Said, "They're too PRETTY to eat."


1 smallish whole seedless watermelon
1 fresh pineapple, peeled and cored
2 cups washed fresh seedless green grapes
18 fresh, washed blemish-free strawberries, with hulls intact
18 wooden skewers for kebabs

Cut watermelon in half so you have on relatively pretty, blemish and yellow spot free half. Set pretty half of melon aside. Use melon baller to make 36+ watermelon balls. Cut pineapple into bite-sized (but still biggish) chunks.

Onto each skewer, leaving about 3-4 inches at the bottom, thread a pineapple chunk, a watermelon ball, a green seedless grape, followed by another pineapple chunk, watermelon ball, and grape. Top each skewer with one fresh, ripe strawberry. Cut about 1/2 to 1 inch of rind off the bottom of the pretty melon half to create a steady, flat base and place melon on a decorative plate or platter. Carefully insert bottom end of skewers into melon, starting with a tallish skewer and a large strawberry in the center. Work around cut side of melon, fanning skewers slightly to create a pretty arrangement. Serve immediately.


The green grapes at my grocery store were AWFUL looking, so I used red instead in this picture. But you can see how green would lend itself to a better color balance, can't you?

Now it's your turn. Link your Summer Fruit Recipes post to Mr. Linky below and let's get to eatin' some delicious, vitamin-packed, sun-ripened summer fruity goodness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And As WonderMom's Alter Ego, I Feel It Behooves Me to Use My Limited and Delayed Wit for Good, Not Evil.

First things first: Another successful day at the old swimmin' hole, y'all. I sat riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight on the edge of the concession area (I don't know if it even still qualified as the concession area, to be honest) where I was as close to Bean as I could possibly be withOUT actually being on the pool deck. I could see that little curly head and those yummy brown shoulders bobbin' away the whole time and I'd staked out my position before Bean got in the water and showed her exactly where I'd be and made sure she was comfortable with that distance. She looked over once after her lesson started and that was that. The one issue I have with that location is just that if I REALLY needed to get to her on the double, I'd be forced to hurdle a rather wide and bee-ridden hedge. In my little kitten heeled sandals. Wearing my gigantic belly. Which would be entertaining for everyone around me, to say the least. But we'll jump that hedge when we come to it.

The crying children in Bean's class are MULTIPLYIN'. Whereas the first day it was only B and another boy who were upset, now there are a total of FOUR cryers, out of 8 or 9 kids. Another one starts in every day and so far none of them have gotten better over consecutive days and they don't stop crying - they cry the WHOLE lesson. One of the cryer's mothers stopped me today and I chatted with her for a bit. She was DIS-TRAWT, y'all. And I don't blame her. I listened to her for a bit - she said her daughter'd never really had any similar issues before (yay for her!) so she really didn't know what to do. Was leaving her the right thing? I told her she knew her daughter better than anyone and I wouldn't dare tell her what to do, and then explained briefly how Bean and I had handled OUR own little sitchee-ation and what had come of it. And do you know she marched herself right back to that pool and got her little girl out of that water and they sat together poolside for awhile. At the end of the lesson, the daughter left Mom's lap and headed out to help the teachers "hide" the buried treasure for the other kids.

Gloat gloat. I've been singin' the Wonderpets theme song to myself the whole rest of the morning:

WonderMom WonderMom
I'm on my way,
To help the cryin' babies
And save the daaaaaaaay.
My parenting approach is totally outta style
But we can work to-gether to make your kid smile
Goooooo WonderMom, YAY!

I am totally Tuck the Turtle, by the way.


And now! I'm back to the Reader Mailbag, answering my sweet pal Megan's (SortaCrunchy) questions. (She asked me another one too but I'm saving it for later.)

I've been enjoying reading your thoughts here for a long time, and it's hard to believe it hasn't even been a year yet since we "met." What got me addicted to FriedOkra from the start is your charming blend of humor and insight. Do you think you are funny in "real life" (offline)? Do people comment on your sense of humor?

OHMYGRANNY. In a word: Er... NOPE.

Isn't THAT disappointing? I hope y'all can still like me, knowing that.

You know, I HAVE been called insightful before, although admittedly mostly by my own mother. (She's my mom, you know, she's required to find SOMETHING about me to like, right?) She thinks I'm funny, too, but usually when I'm not even tryin' to be funny. And she'll say, "Oh Megan, you are so funny." And I'll say, "Wha-a-a-t? What's funny about that?"

I think in person I tend to come across as earnest and passionate. Probably because as a naturally shy person, I'm inclined to pour my limited vocal energies into imparting information: Get in, make your point, get out. When I write, I have time to think about nuance and timing and delivery. In conversation, I just want to get said what I need to say and clam up again before I make a dork of myself.

(I am certain that last statement in particular will cause both of Al's eyebrows to make full contact with his hairline. And that's no small distance for them to travel, either. I don't mean to YOU, honey. With you I am so comfortable that I can just amble along conversationally for hours on end with no clear direction and see where I wind up. Yes, yes, I know. You are so LUCKY!)

Oh, there are RARE occasions, I suppose, when I get in JUST the right mood, that I can be funny in person. But mostly I am just too slow a thinker for the LIVE ACTION WIT. When I'm hanging out with my girls I'm generally at least 5 minutes behind everybody else. We'll be gabbing along and the whole tableful of women will erupt in great whooping laughter. And about time they're all hiccuping and wiping away tears and sighing post-giggle sighs, I'll chime in with my famous, "Wha-a-a-at?! Whaddid I miss?" And somebody has to break it down for the dumb old broad.

See? Not only am I not funny myself, I can't even keep up with other people's funny. Pathetic.

Even Al doesn't find me all that funny, even though with him as a partner, I think I come up with some good material. I bet I could count the number of times I've REALLY made him laugh on one handful of fingers, y'all. He only rarely laughs out loud at my blog, though he SAYS it's funny, mostly in response to my lamenting, dejectedly, after he's read a post with a completely straight face, "You diddn laugh!"

Frankly I think he enjoys his position in our family as the RFP - the Resident Funny Person. Which he is. I don't even bother to covet that spot, because I get to laugh allatime, until I can't breathe, think or control my bladder. And I think anyone who knows me at all will tell you that I LURV LURV LURV TO LAUGH. I will laugh at anything, I will. Loud and long and hyena-like. Because WHEEEEEEE DOGGIES. Nothing makes me giddy like a good long laugh.

Y'all wanna know my deepest, darkest secret about my own sense of humor?

Move in close now. I'll only say this once.

In my natural state, I'm ... snarky.

And I don't like that about myself. Snarkiness (sarcastic, often malicious humor at the expense of other people) isn't a great trait -- it's not in line with my values, nor is it an example I want to set for Bean and Peanut.

(Ohmyland I have allasudden grown so uncomfortable with this legume theme I have going with my kids' nicknames!)

Snarky, no matter how tempting and easy it is for me to employ, is just MEAN in FUNNY'S clothing.

So I reckon I'll just have to keep bloggin', won't I?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Wading is the Hardest Part

Today's swimming lesson went - well - swimmingly, to steal someone's lovely pun from yesterday.

We awoke at our usual pre-rooster hour and had our morning snuggles. Bean played dress-up for awhile while I worked on peeling my eyeballs open. I made our morning brews (hot cocoa for her, coffee for me) and we sipped them together.

"Where we goin' tday Mama?"

"Well, we're going to your swimming lesson first, then to the grocery store."

"My swimming lesson?! Are dere gonna be teachers again?"

"Yes, the teachers will be there again today, but I will NOT let them pull you away from me today, I promise. If you decide to get into the water today, you will go in by yourself because you want to. Okay?"

"Are you goin' in wif me?"

"No baby, I can't go in with you. It's a class for big girls and boys to swim without their Mamas and Daddies. I will sit right where I sat yesterday though so if you do go in, I'll be right where you can see me and get to me if you need me. Okay?"

"Well, I'm not goin'."

"Yes, we're going to go to the lesson. But you don't have to get into the water unless you want to. We can just sit and watch the teachers and the other children together and if you want to get in and join them, you may. No one's going to make you get in. And remember, you're taking Rainbow Dash today, so if Rainbow Dash wants to splash at the water's edge, you may take her and show her how to do that. Does that sound good to you?"

"Okay Mama."


(I came up with the Rainbow Dash idea late yesterday afternoon while I was in the shower. It occured to me that she'd been more comfortable in some other classes when I encouraged her to take Teddy with her. So maybe taking Rainbow Dash, her favorite water-proof My Little Pony, might help her with the anxiety over these lessons. I presented the idea to her then, and she smiled a tiny smile and said, "That sounds like a good idea, Mama.")

So we got dressed and ate our breakfasts and made sure Rainbow Dash was tucked away safely in the pool bag. We got into the car and prayed briefly for courage and FUN. And then we drove off to the pool, full of hope and trepidation.

And when we got there, Bean charged up the sidewalk and through the locker room and out into the breezy but sun-warmed pool deck with purpose. We'd planned to arrive early so Bean could watch her friend Bubba wrapping up his lesson (he takes the same class with the same teachers, but he's in the earlier session). She waved to him, saying, "HI BUBBA!" And he waved back. Waving along with him were the teachers, with great big smiles on their faces, and they all said, "Hi (Bean's real name)!" Oh, I could have KISSED THOSE SWEET GIRLS' CHEEKS!

By the time Bubba's class was finished and the kids were taking their turns on the froggy slide, Bean had her shoes and cover-up off and made a dash to get in line with her friend so they could both slide. At the bottom of the slide waited the teacher who'd taken Bean into the water yesterday. And Bean hestitated. And then she slid down, shrieking happily, and landed in the arms of that instructor, who smiled right into her face. Not a word was spoken of yesterday's incident.

It was then that the lump in my throat started to form.

Bean returned to my side after a second trip down the slide, and I bundled her up in her warm towel and loved on her a little, telling her how happy I was she'd gotten to slide. Did she have fun? YES!

Another teacher stopped by to say Hi to Bean, and asked, "Hey! Are you gonna SWIM with us today?"

And my girl stuck her chin out in a determined, solemn expression and nodded a GIANT affirmative.

And my lump became a goiter.

And minutes later, the teachers announced it was time to get started. Can you guess which tiny, bee-boppin' little mermaid in her red two-piece with her curly blond updo was into that water first, carrying a little blue pony in one hand and waving back to me with the other? And ran back briefly to give me a kiss before trotting out into the water up to her chest?

Y'all know who it was. Yes YOU DO!

My lump exploded into tears. My lips quivered and my eyes pooled up as I waved back, blew kisses and desperately tried to keep myself from SOBBING OUT the biggest


And you know what? She looked back to see me a total of two more times. I caught both checks and waved like a crazy woman. And her gaze never turned my way again for 28 minutes. She knew I was there, she knew she was safe, and she swam and played and hopped and blew bubbles and splashed and laughed, clutching Rainbow Dash by the hair the whole time.

My little girl.

She did it, y'all.

And every one of the teachers came to us afterwards and said, "Bean, you did a GREAT job today! You did everything so well - you're going to be a great swimmer!"

My girl. My little water bug. My Bean.


Lump's back.

Editorial Note:


Incidentally, I am very very torn over whether or not we'll be taking anymore lessons after this session at this particular pool. The pool manager sternly attempted to shoo me off the pool deck and over to the concession area 50 yards away and out of Bean's sight line three times during the thirty minute class, explaining that when parents sit on deck, the kids keep looking at them.

Which, HELLO! YES THEY DO. AND THAT'S WHY I'M STAYING RIGHT WHERE I AM, DEAR. My child is 3 years old. This may be your pool to manage, but THAT'S MY DAUGHTER and I will not be leaving her when I know good and well that she may need me. We have a bond of trust that I do not intend to break for some fleeting "summer pool policy."

(Of course I'm a wimp and didn't say it like that, but hopefully she saw it in my eyes. I remained planted where I told Bean I would be and am thinking a letter requesting a review of the "no parents on deck" policy may be in order. Perhaps it's okay for the parents of older children to leave, but most three-year-olds are still quite attached to their parents - and they should be. They're still practically babies!)

I'll leave it at that for now. I don't get fired up about much, but I got a little steamed about this one. I'm curious as to what y'all think.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Chink in My Maternal Armor: Why One or Both of Us Is Gonna Need A Little Therapy Sooner or Later

Now people, I know. I KNOW. That I am making too much of this. But what we are dealin' with here is my Achilles heel when it comes to The Bean.

You see, she may can play sports. She may can be funny and talkative and have a winning personality in public (got those traits from dear old Daddy), but when it comes to facin' the unknown/dealin' with new situations, this child? OHMYGRANNY she's ME all over again.

And it pains me deeply.

And although that sounds dead-pannish, I mean it very seriously. I drove home from the ding-dang swim lesson from h-e-double-hockey-sticks (that was not to be, by the way) literally swallowing and blinking back tears, wondering WHAT? What next? How do I help this beautiful, amazing, wonderful little person let go of her fears, trust herself, hold her head high and DO what I know she can do? What I know she WANTS to do? What I want her to believe SHE CAN DO.

She had her swimsuit on HOURS before it was time for us to leave for the lesson. She couldn't eat her breakfast for the excitement. She was out the door ahead of me, her little pool bag over her shoulder, saying, "C'mon Mama! Time fer my swimmin' lesson!" She dragged me through the locker room by the hand, "Hurry, Mama, hurry!"

And then it was time to leave me sitting 8 feet away and go with her (adorable, young, sweet, smiling and unsuspecting) three teachers and get into the water with the other kids, and SHE LOST IT. Which is her thing. Losing it at the last minute, clinging to me, and denying herself the JOY of this thing, whatever it is, to which she's been looking forward for days on end.

And inside, I lost it too. Outside, I held her tight, I talked into her ear, "Oh, honey, I underSTAND how you feel. This is all so new and different. You don't know what to expect and you're a little nervous because of that. See all those toys though? You get to step out into the water and grab those toys - they're like buried treasure! And the girls who are going to teach you - they're so pretty and sweet, just like Deanna (our babysitter, whom she adores). B, you CAN DO THIS. I believe in you, honey, and YOU CAN BELIEVE IN YOU, TOO. (Hug hug hug.)

And one of the girls came and got her and dragged her, SCREAMING, to the water's edge. And I watched. I smiled, even though inside I WAS WAILING. And she continued to get more and more upset. Her nose and eyes were dripping, and her chest was heaving with gigantic sobs.

"Leave. LEAVE." I heard conventional wisdom scream at me. "Walk away somewhere so she can't see you. She'll be fine. Just go."



I know my little girl. Leaving her is the exact wrong thing to do. Sticking it out with her, until she can get comfortable and warm up to the new environment. Just being WITH her, and FOR her, non-judgmentally, understandingly, patiently, not-giving-up-on-you-ly, you-can-do-this-ly - that's the right thing to do. But that's not what I did. I sat there with her for a bit. Then the inner conflict started. The "I have to win this one" conflict. Why do I always feel like I've got to save the day? Win the battle? Be the hero?

So I pulled the old, "Okay, honey, since you aren't going to have your swimming lesson, I guess we'll just go home. Get your flip-flops" And I got out my keys. And we walked out. And she was clearly torn, but when I stopped again and sat down with her and said, "Your choice, Beanie. Stay for the lesson, or go home?" she thought about it long and hard. And she finally pointed to the door that led to the parking lot, that would lead us home. So we continued out to the car.

And when we got there, I said, "I think we should ask God to help us with this. Let's pray." So we did. I held her and I told God we were a little bit afraid of the swimming lesson and asked God to give us courage. And then we walked back to the pool and sat down. And the lesson wrapped up as we looked on, and the kids got to slide down the froggy slide a few times, then they got out of the water, and Bean and I sat there as the other kids ran to their Mommies and got hugs and kisses and GREAT JOBS.

And I think I heard two hearts - a little Bean one and a big Mama one, break right in two.

"Tomorrow, I hope we get to do that too, Bean. I know we can do it. Do you think we can?"


And we walked out to the parking lot again. And she stopped and picked a dandelion and handed it up to me.

I love my daughter. It hurts so badly sometimes to love someone this much.

And later, once we were home again, she came to me and hugged my arm tightly, looked up at me and said, "I love you Mama. I know you're disappointed."

What she doesn't know, though, is that I'm only disappointed in myself.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Best of FriedOkra: It's Okay to be Thankful in June, Too, Right?

The husband recommended that I make Saturdays "The Best of FriedOkra" days for the summer. (He maybe watches a little too much Frasier?) I don't think it's a terrible idea, I'm just not sure I have many posts that'd qualify for such a category. Between you and me, let's just call it, "The What-I-Could-Scrape-Up-That-Didn't-Make-Me-Shake-My-Head-in-Embarrassed-Wonderment-That-I-Ever-Published-It-The-First-Time of FriedOkra."

Thanksgiving, at Dawn

Bean woke up and shuffled into our dark bedroom an hour ago, at four in the morning.
I'm thankful my daughter's getting so grown up and fearless.

We went back to her room, snuggled under her covers and read a story together.
I'm thankful for all the books we could ever want, right around the corner, FREE, at our beautiful little barn-shaped public library.

After the story, I lay with her for just a minute, pressing my cheek against hers, kissing her forehead, holding her close.
I'm thankful for her smell, her softness, the remnants of babyhood that still stubbornly cling to her big girl self.

Then I went back to bed and curled up into my sweet, warm husband who slept through all that but still immediately wound an arm around my waist and tucked his face into my neck.
I'm thankful for my best friend, the way we fit together, the way he's always kept me warm and safe in one way or another since the day we first met.

I lay beside him, willing myself back to sleep, but with my head full of excitement and plans for the day ahead. The week ahead. The month ahead. Sleep wouldn't come.
I'm thankful for these moments of quiet thinking without interruption, pretty much whenever I can get them.

I got up and lifted a few slats in the blinds, and looked out the windows to admire the season's first snow, having fallen silently overnight, frosting everything I saw: the homes of my neighbors and friends, the sidewalk and street, the trees.
I'm thankful for this, our prairie life, so different from what I've known, yet so much a home to me now.

I thought of my parents' waking soon down South, probably for their last Thanksgiving morning in my childhood home.
I'm thankful for my parents. Plain and simple.

I reflected on Thanksgivings past. Where I was, who I was. What I have learned and how God has shaped me in my lifetime. The simple miracle of growing up and becoming that accompanies aging.
I am thankful for every part of my history, even the painful parts.

I await the sunrise now and the start of a new, busy, happy day. I anticipate an afternoon of delicious food and family time with my sweet friends and their children.
I'm thankful for the blessing of having a deep, valued old friendship made new again, and the chance to spend this day celebrating together with our families. How the past and the present meet comfortably, and our children's laughter now mingles with our own.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody.

Originally posted November 22, 2007.

Friday, June 13, 2008

To Me, Baseball Means a Hotdog in One Hand and a Cold Beer in the Other. What Exactly Am I Supposed to Do with This Glove-Thingy Again?

Yeah, we didn't have a Top Ten Recipes yesterday. I know. I'm sorry, but it's been One of THOSE Weeks - jam-packed with Stuff of Enormous Importance and Time Suckage. Yes, indeedy. Let's do Top Ten Summer Fruits Recipes next week, okay? Your favorite fruit salads, pies, cakes, cobblers and what-have-you that utilize the ripe berries and melons and so-ons of the summer season. Sound good?

And speaking of Stuff of Enormous Importance, I will have you to know that I went to my first-ever organized-ish sports meeting tonight - as a parent.

My daughter is going to learn how to play baseball, y'all.

I know. It makes me clutch at my chest a little, too. And it will no doubt provide you hours of endless hootin' and howlin' because, get this: the class requires full-time interactive parent participation. From, like, me.

You know, I think y'all need a minute to mull that over in your heads.

Are you visualizing?

Got the image up yet?

(Here, lemme give you a little help in the way of sound effects: Waddle waddle waddle, zzzzzzzzzzzzzhip, WHONK. Ow! Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow...)

Yes, come next Friday, I feel quite confident that you will be reading something plenty humiliatin' about yours truly and a Nerf® baseball and grass stains and perhaps even a few lacerations and contusions and if we're lucky, thankfully only a mild sprain. Mark my words, people.

But my kid, she's not like me, a fact for which I am eternally grateful. She has balance, and poise and aim and grace. Compared to her bumbling clod of a mother, this child is an ambidexterous gazelle with a wicked fast ball.

And speaking of horned, hooved animals, I'm reviewing MOOSE I mean MOUSSE over at Chic Critique today. Trot on over and have a few more laughs at my expense. I'm not proud.

Y'all have a good Friday. And watch out for errant baseballs outta nowhere - I'ma be practicin' m'skillz over the weekend.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

And I'm Just Thankin' My Lucky Stars She Knows Nothing of the Leftover Ice Cream Cake in the Freezer.

Last night was Bunco night at my house, y'all. It was a great time as usual, but we were up late cleaning up guacamole glops, carting recycleables to the outside bin and returning furniture, scattered to the four winds to accomodate the gaming tables, to its rightful places. Despite her own late retirement last night, B was up at her usual crack o' dawn, even-the-roosters-hate-her hour.

First words out of her mouth, as she peeled my eyelids open and beamed a sweetly manipulative smile into my foggy gaze?

Mama, WHERE did you put all those JELLY BELLIES from las' night?

(And that, my friends, is a line straight outta the You Know It's Gonna be a Long Day When ... Handbook. You recognize this, do you not?)

I've remained in a sleepy stupor despite her cheery attempts to jangle me out of it employing every cruel method her three-year-old mind can conjure up, short of dumping buckets of ice cold water over my head, so she's eating her breakfast in shifts: a cup of hot cocoa at 6:15, a handful of cashews at 7:30 and then the bunch of grapes in a bowl she recently finished up.

Mama, I finished up all my grapes. Can I have the whole bag of Jelly Bellies now? PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE?

I laughed.

You may have a FEW Jelly Bellies, but first you need to eat either a peanut butter spoon or a cheese stick. Which do you want?

Ummmmm... a peanut butter spoon! You know why Mama?


A peanut butter spoon is quicker!

Really? Okay.

I scoop SunButter, a nice big wad of it, onto a spoon and proffer it for her sticky consumption.

And I blink.

And she hands the spoon back to me, empty. Glistening. She's scraped the whole sticky wad of goo off the spoon in one big toothy gulp.

MMmmm mmmeady mmmr my mmmlly mmmllies mow mmmlease, Mama.

Yep. Long day, people.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Okay, Okay, I Like It. There. I Said It. Are You Happy?

Hey y'all. I'm hosting Bunco here tonight, so things are a little busy around The Manor today. (Anybody wanna come help?) So anyway, here's a little sump'm sump'm from the archives, orginally posted September 19, 2007. Enjoy and don't forget to share your thoughts on the apparently somewhat controversial bedroom TV in the comments.

I'm at my kitchen counter right now, where I always sit to blog. Behind me, in the family room, shoved behind the post between two archways, sits Al's birthday present. My nemesis. The New Bedroom TV. I shoved it behind that archway because I am loathe to even gaze upon it. I waited until today to buy it, even, and kept hoping something would happen to prevent my having to Do the Deed, pull the trigger on a big-ticket item we've lived without for this long, me very very blissfully, but him somewhat grudgingly, I'll admit.

We've gone round and round, in a friendly, loving, joking manner, of course, ahem, about having a television in the bedroom since we were married. And my stance has always been anti-bedroom TV from the git-go, even though when pressed I've never been 100% sure where my strong opposition found its genesis. And Al has always been pro-bedroom television, because he finds the sleepy bedtime climb up the stairs to our bedchamber to be nearly fatal and is tired of facing a near-death experience on a nightly basis. He envisions us putting the Bean to bed, spending an hour or so in the kitchen side by side at our computers, him studying and writing another stinkin' term paper and me bloggin' and menu-plannin' and family-calendarin' and bill payin' and what have you (shopping on e-Bay, but don't tell him that, okay?) and then retiring to our room to suit up, brush up, and hop in the sack for an hour or so of mind-numbing, pillow-snugging, snooze-inducing viewage of the boob tube.

Which, in theory, would work for me, as the trek up the stairs around tennish is, for me, a stark interruption of the night's deep sleep which begins involuntarily, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, which has proven dangerous and embarrassing at times, yes!, promptly at 8:59 PM on the dot.


There is the little matter of Mama's peaceful and absolutely requisite slumber being interrupted throughout the evening by said television, which will inevitably be of comfort and entertainment to my bedmate for many long hours beyond which I find it so, and which will evenutally lull him to sleep mid-History Channel® expose, Napoleon: The Real Reason He Always Looked So Cranky and Uncomfortable, (though I can't imagine why!) and continue to drone on and on deep into the night, showering both of our sleeping, receptive minds with heaven-only-knows-what subliminal messages until it finally wakes me, at which time I will be forced to rouse myself fully and either stump over to the TV, or prod and otherwise perpetrate fearful retaliation against disturb Al for the remote so I can turn the infernal thing OFF.

And there's the matter of the few paltry weekend mornings we have two or three cozy minutes in bed together before Hurricane Bean alights from her boudoir to scurry into our room and demand that we duly alight alongside her and commence with the parenting and such, which have heretofore been spent in perfect, blissful, refreshing silence but will now, no doubt, give way to the scores on SportsCenter® and what have you. In my BEDROOM. On Saturday mornings.

Oh.. what have I done?

I bought the television because I love Al. And I appreciate him. And this is something he really, REALLY wants. And he works hard, he's completely selfless and adorably eager to give ME what I really want, so I want to do something special that's just for him, regardless of my own preferences, wishes, or paranoid projections of the certain doom we face if we break MY rule and try it his way this time. But it ain't gonna be easy. I'll try not to grimace when he does his Happy Dance, boosting the big, fancy Look--It's-A-New-Fancy-Expensive-Electronic-Man-Gadget above his head, all the way up the stairs to the bedroom. I'll try not to sigh when, as the clock rolls over to 10:03, the new television's still on, and my husband is lying by my side watching it, tears of joy and thanksgiving rolling down his grateful, victorious, albeit drowsy little cheeks.

Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you. Now hand me that stinkin' remote.


What about y'all? Do you have a TV in your bedroom? And why/why not?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Zen Meets Feng-Shui on the Golf Course. And I'm Apparently Grandma's Monster Antique Sideboard

A few of the neighborhood ladies started our four-session golf clinic with the pro at our local course last night, yours truly included.

(I bet said pro is still shaking his head in disbelief, by the way.)

(You should have been there to catch the look on his face when I half-waddled, half-galumphed into the pro-shop with my clubs, huffing and puffing, stuffed into my neon green polo shirt like a sweaty little sausage, and he realized - This is one of my STUDENTS!)

Have you ever tried to swing a golf club with a watermelon strapped to your belly and the girls all up under your armpits?

Awkward, to say the least.

I was practically lyin' flat on my face out there on the soggy turf, y'all, tryin' to get myself far enough back from the ball that my arms didn't come to a shuddering full stop mid-swing, hung up on the protuberance of my mid-section. No doubt I was a sight to behold -- bump stuck out front, bummy stuck out back, bouncing around in my knees like my Grandaddy Clover always did, and taught me to do, back when I was fourteen and found myself under his jovial but exacting tutelage in my first few forays onto a golf course. Gotta bounce til you just FEEL right in your stance.

Or until your adjusted and precarious center of gravity causes you to slump over face-first into your mud-caked, splintering tee.

You know, whichever comes first.

Zen and the Art of the Five Iron.

But OHMYGRANNY, did we have the fun. And the laughs. And! We actually made contact with a few golf balls, too. With our CLUBS.

And then we all went out for greasy fried food and fruity drinks with umbrellas.

A perfectly blissful evening, in my book.

Y'all play golf?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Flyin' Away on a Wing and a Prayer, Believe It or Not, It's Just Me.

Meg, at Spicy Magnolia is curious about my bold profile statement.

In your profile, you say you're "living your dream"...what specifically is your dream?

I'll admit to y'all I have no idea what dream I was referring to specifically, if any, when I penned tapped in those words. I know they apply to my current circumstances though, and I think to my overall view of this little life I've got goin' on, out on the prairie and in here in my heart and soul.

I don't want get too deep on y'all on a Monday, but I think it's important to share a piece of my past in order to explain this present tense happiness I feel.

I'm gonna preface the walk down memory lane by saying this: I know. I KNOW. That both of my parents LOVE me, and they always have. And they've been GOOD parents, both of them. They were mere kids themselves (by MY definition, anyway) when they were married and had my sister and me, and despite being young and human and fallible, they did well by us, providing us with the things we REALLY needed along with strong and wholesome values, excellent educations and deep relationships with our extended family. In the grand scheme of life, and compared to probably 98% of the rest of my generation of children, I had a nearly perfect upbringing and I consider myself very fortunate. And I am thankful, so thankful, for everything both of my parents did to make sure I had the foundation I had when I stepped out into the world on my own. I'd say "I've forgiven my parents their mistakes and moved on." But there's nothing to forgive. I'm a parent now, and I see the fine line they walked, and how intense and difficult their roles were, and how conflicted they must have felt every day, just as I feel those same things myself in raising my daughter. It's a tough business, parenting, and they handled the business beautifully. I ache for the pain I've ever caused them by intimating anything else.

That said, you know, circumstances in a person's life are never perfect and aren't even meant to be so. (It's directly into the chasms created by human error that people grow, I believe.) And my circumstances, in combination with my own natural (I guess?) personality worked together to create in the young Megan an uneasy feeling of insecurity and isolation. Looking back on who I was as a little girl, an adolescent, a teenager and a young adult, it's clear to me I carried around a palpable sense of melancholy - an emotional burden far greater than a child in my situation should have been able to fathom, much less adopt as the lens through which she viewed her world and her place in life. Yet I did. Go figure.

But not hopelessly so. I had friends, and had normal-kid fun and interactions with those friends. And I had a few very influencial, supportive, insightful teachers and other adult influences who were able to bring me out of my little shell, give me confidence in myself and help me see beyond my somewhat myopic perspective to catch glimpses of what might be to come for me. And through all the normal channels of learning and growth to which a marginally privileged kid gets exposed, I developed a dream of what my life could be like.

A non-specific dream, without any very distinctive tangible details. More like a dream of a feeling - a dream in which the heavy weight of pain and loneliness and unworthiness lifted, and a sense of security and connection and love rushed in to permeate me as fully as the absence of them had done.

And that's the dream I'm living, Meg. The aches and emptiness of my youth HAVE yielded to love and healing and the beauty of a (limited, I will grant you) sense of wholeness that comes with Christ's redemption (which I accepted for the first time as a budding adult while I was in college), first and foremost. But also with maturity, with experience and with the undeniable power of that little thing called love.

I look at my life now, at 40, and nothing much substantial about me, really, has changed, on the surface. But then again EVERYTHING has changed. On the inside, I've been reborn in every way imaginable. Some of the transformation happened in my years as a single, independent person, learning what I was capable of handling on my own (not without God, though), time I spent fending for myself and doing a fairly good job of it. Some of it came from meeting Al, who challenged me to always strive for more, always take the high road, always ask more questions and never say "I can't do it," long before he became my husband.

And now I have my own family. A husband who sees who I am and wants me to be just HER, whoever she is. Who still encourages me to reach as far out or up as I want to reach, but also provides me with a safe place to stand and hangs onto me tightly as I reach, so I don't fall. I have a child of my own, already so vulnerable and sensitive that I am forced to confront the core of age-old fears and doubts in myself in order to learn combat them in her own little psyche.

And I have this peace. This security. As much as any human being can have security, that is, on earth. And I don't feel alone. I feel connected, vital and specifically meant to be. I feel loved and needed, valued and valuable. Just because I'm little old me. Goofy, clumsy, inelegant and a little slow on the uptake most days, but beautifully perfect for the life she's been given.

And yep.

That there's a dream come true, in my book, y'all.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Jed Bartlet, Johnny Nash and Jell-O® Salad - It Really IS Gonna Be a Bright, Bright Sunshiney Day!

Susan, who is my heroine this morning for providing me some light-hearted blog fodder I can work on while I'm still giddy from the paint fumes, asked me some fun stuff!

Boxers or briefs?

Seriously, y'all. One of my work friends who was pregnant about (I can't believe it's been this long) SIX years ago let me in on a little secret.

Men's underpants?


Wha? Are you KIDDING ME?

Yeah, no -- seriously. In fact (have you looked at men's underwear? They certainly aren't made to be aesthetically pleasing), I would say comfort may very well be NUMBER ONE on the list of design elements for men's underpants. Durability, it would appear, falls way down low on that same list, judging by how quickly they go from new to shabby, but I won't embarrass my husband by providing an in-depth report on how I came to that particular conclusion.

What I WILL tell you's that this particular friend of mine shared with me at the time that during the latter stages of pregnancy she frequently ditched her own undies and wore her husband's all-cotton boxer briefs, and that their construction and softness made them perfect for the shape of a woman reaching the pinnacle of late-stage gestation. Oh yes. And she was right. And there's been wrastlin' betwixt Al and me on the carpet in front of his underpants drawer lately, and I've won every time, such is my determination to at-the-very-least SLEEP in the luxury of expanded bump-and-bum capacity and the absence of elastic anything.

Do you follow politics?

Oh yes, very closely. And in my opinion, the best president this country ever had, by a vast, wide margin, was President Josiah Edward Bartlet.

What's your biggest regret?

Waitaminute! How'd THAT get into this lighthearted mix?

I'm not much of a regretter, frankly. At this stage in my life, I can see pretty clearly that the mistakes I've made and their subsequent painful, or merely inconvenient, fall-out have served as valuable lessons for me and also for the other poor saps who suffer the benefit of my wise-and-not-always-solicited counsel. I pity my kids already for the hours they're gonna spend listening to the meandering tales of failure and redemption I'll be layin' on 'em in the interest of helping them not make the mistakes I made. Which inevitably they'll do anyway. I'm in touch with that.

When I goof up, (which I do often and have a long track record of doing my whole life long), I try to seek forgiveness, from God, from others I've hurt, and from myself. And then it's time to move on and not make that particular mistake again. Hopefully. Because I'm a creative person, I'll come up with a WHOLE NEW WAY to screw up next time.

Also, even my darkest moments have served in some way to bring me to where and who I am now, and I kinda like where and who I am now, so in a way I can even embrace those parts of my past as blessings.

But here's one thing: I do regret the pain and worry that I've caused other people when I've made poor choices. Deeply.

What's your favorite cuss word or do you use them?

OHMYGRANNY. I suppose I have used them all, in the past, in all sorts of vivid and colorful combinations. I worked in a male-dominated industry, full of crass but hilarious menfolk who expressed things in ways that my heretofore naive little mind had never-ever imagined possible. I picked up some phrases and tweaked them to suit my own personal preferences and beliefs (leaving out religious references as well as woman-hating language) and made them my own. They helped me deal with stress in a way that was comedic enough that just saying 'em I'd begin to see the lighter side of the situation. I'm not telling you any of those, and Mom, if you are reading this, I wrote it merely to seem human and fallible (because my fallibility isn't transparent enough here on the blog, you know?), but you and I both know I've never uttered a cuss-word in my life, right? Right Mom? And you haven't either, dammit!

Now that I live with Polly-the-Parrot, I rarely let loose an expletive that wasn't made famous by Mork from Ork (SHAZBOT!) or Richie Cunningham (Golly Gee Whiz, Fonzie!) although on occasion I slip up and let out a milder version of an all-time favorite worty dird. The other day, Bean dropped a ball or something outside and I heard her opine vehemently as it rolled down the street into the road.

"Oh, CRACK."

Crapped me right up, y'all.

What are some of your pet peeves?

Oh that's an EASY ONE. Mouth noises. I can't stand chewing, mouth-breathing, spitty sounds, clicking, gum-popping, anything like that. Mouth noises drive me absolutely out of my TREE. Always have. And it's so inconvenient, because people? They will MAKE the mouth noises. And this causes me a great deal of consternation at social functions that involve eating, drinking or, you know BREATHING. I'm always trying to find a location at the table or in the room away from the mouth noises. And sometimes I just can't. (Airplanes come to mind. Trapped in a sea of mouths, all crunching and chewing away on gum, tiny little bags of pretzels, and/or their attendant fingernails.) Which means I have to find a way to excuse myself until I am feeling less insane. (As you might imagine, that can take awhile.)

I have a LONG list of pet peeves. I'm excruciatingly peeve-able. Maybe I'll write a post about 'em all one day.

Is there a food that you absolutely hate?

That is VERY TOUGH. I've been pondering this question for weeks now. IS there a food I hate? There are foods I haven't TRIED because the though of eating them is revolting to me, like chitterlings (chittlin's) or calf brains or tripe or most other organ meats, but is it fair for me to say I HATE those, when I haven't even tasted them? My sensibilities say no.

Y'all know I LOVE food. They comprise a pretty lengthy and diverse roster - the things I'll eat. I'm definitely not finicky.

I don't much care for eggs, although I eat them anyway. It's a texture thing. And the fact that they get cold SO FAST. Why do eggs get cold so much quicker than everything else on my plate? Why is that? I can't figure it out. Bacon? Sizzlin'! Grits? Steamin' away! Toast? Warm enough to melt butter! Eggs? Stone cold.


Al points out I don't really love bratwurst. Oh, and I don't love knockwurst, either.

Liver. UGH.

Never a huge fan of salmon croquettes. Or hot tuna casserole, although I could eat cold tuna salad all day long.

Oh, and I don't like congealed, molded Jell-O® salads. Those are pretty much a scourge on humanity, in my opinion.

But that, my friends, is another post altogether, because there's way more hilarity in the subject of Jell-O® Brand Congealed Molded Salads than can be tacked on to the bottom of this one.

And you know it, people.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Oooo, ooo, oooooooo, What A Little Color Can Do For You!

Go see the final updates on The Paintin' Project, complete with AFTER pictures, HERE, y'all. I think you'll agree it's quite a transformation.

Mama is happy, happy, HAPPY!

Live, Hard-Hittin' HGTV Action, On Your Computer Screen. Sponsored by FriedOkra.


See below each before shot (from earlier) (down THERE, I mean) for the AFTER SHOTS of each room, except the kids' bathroom, because Dingbat Mama doesn't want to risk re-installation of shower curtain rod. Fears she will mess up pretty new paint, which is the same color as Peanut's room. Besides, Overprotective Daddy would have small coronary were Dingbat Mama to attempt re-installation. Overprotective Daddy thinks Dingbat Mama will be killed one day in a falling-off-side-of-tub accident while she does something to shower curtain. Overprotective Daddy knows Dingbat Mama pretty well, doesn't he?

Will show you that room later, after Overprotective Daddy re-installs shower curtain rod himself as Dingbat Mama stands by with hands folded and feet planted firmly on floor.

Update 3:00 PM

Kid in bed exactly at 2:00 PM - I even had time to put her room "back together" before I tucked her in. Love Tom the Painter's willingness to work with a Mama to get the kid her nap.

Lots of inning and outing and to-ing and fro-ing from front door to truck. Think we are wrapping up now. Have written check. Ready for them to SCRAM so I can reorganize my STUFF and take y'all some after shots.

Keep refreshing. Wouldn't it be cool if I could have this whole project signed, sealed, delivahed before kid is up from her nap?

Crosses fingers again.


Told Tom the Painter I'm live bloggin' the painting. Blank stare. (Tom apparently not a blogger. No tip for him!)


Looks to be nearly done already. Amazing!

All rooms thumbs up except guest bedroom. That one growing on me. Bold color. Really rilly bold.

Holding breath/crossing fingers.

Kid will be in her "new" room for nap at 2 PM. That is a GOOD, GOOD thing.

UPDATE: 10:24 AM

Color in master bedroom - GREAT!
Bean's room - CHECK!
Guest bedroom - OHMYGRANNY! (Hyperventilates.) It was a risky move.

I'm askeert y'all.

Tom-the-painter (that's what he calls himself when we talk on the phone; I didn't name him myself) and his crew arrived 30 minutes ago and nobody's throwin' up yet. We'll consider that a victory. They've now officially seen the two FriedOkra occupants in residence today healthy, bright-eyed and cheerful, so if we go downhill over time, at least they've got their early-morning memories to cherish, right? And! If we can just make it through today without catching the bug, we'll get to barf in colorful bathrooms, instead of builder-grade white ones!

I'm just tryin' to look on the bright side, here, people.

Since it's Friday and it's summer and y'all are all out havin' fun in the sun and probably won't be relyin' on me to provide you with ACTUAL entertainment, I've decided to LIVE! BLOG! The Upstairs Paintin' Project! The beauty of hiring somebody else to do the painting is that, you know, it'll get done in a reasonable amount of time. No, let me be completely honest here. The actual beauty is that it will get DONE. Period. Mama don't paint unless Nana is here to badger her constantly about it.

(And do most of the work, including washing out the brushes and rollers, who's kiddin' who?)

((Because that part is almost as awful and endless as cleaning up purple vomit in the middle of the night.))

Nana's busy doin' her own house right now, so Mama is on her own. So Mama got out her checkbook. BING, BANG, BOOM. Done.

Nana, though, will enjoy the LIVE! BLOGGIN'! of the painting, I know. She's all up in a painting/redo project, that one is. And I must say, if this were YOUR blog, and YOU were documenting the painting of your entire upstairs in one little day, I'd probably sittin' here at my computer hittin' refresh every sixteen seconds, because this apple? Did not fall too far from the painting/redo project-lovin' tree, no she did not. HGTV much? Um, yeah. (Hangs head.)

Hope y'all can find a little joy in this as well.

On to The Before Pictures!

Here's the guest bedroom, at the top of the stairs:


AFTER, wearing Sherwin Williams' "Raindrop"


And Bean's room, across the hall:


After, wearing Sherwin Williams' "Sandtrap"


This wall of B's room will be a SPECIAL, BEAN-APPROVED ACCENT COLOR:


AFTER, wearing Sherwin Williams' "Childlike"


Gratuitous third picture of Bean's room, because it's Just! So! How I Wanted It!


And this will be Peanut's room. I might wait and reveal this one after it's all done. Aunt Joy, do you recognize that furniture? That furniture belonged to my Grandmama and Grandaddy FriedOkra, y'all. I inherited it when I was 23 years old. It's older than I am, and it looks darn good. (Gets plenty of sleep, drinks lots of water and stays out of the sun, I guess.) Never even been refinished, although it could use it. Anybody up to that task? No? Aw, c'mon!


AFTER, wearing Sherwin Williams' "Respite"


Here's the master bedroom. You can see part of our new table, the one that required doorframe-removal, over there on the right against the window. See it? Good thing I like it in this room, 'cause it ain't goin' anywhere else anytime soon, you know?


After, wearing Sherwin Williams' "Dromedary Camel" (Nope, not kidding!) (Chews cud.) CAMEL, I said.


And here, friends, are the bathrooms. I know this is the part you've been waitin' for!

Kids' bathroom:



And the master bath:


AFTER, once again featured in a lovely shade of Sherwin Williams' "Dromedary Camel":


You understand that usually we have STUFF in our rooms, besides all piled up on the beds, right? I took all these shots this morning after I finished clearing everything out. When I do the after shots, I hope to have it all put back in place so you can see the rooms nearly complete, except for wall-stuff, which is another project for another time. I really want to do a lot of it myself, and it may well be two years or more before I'm in the right place time-and-energy wise for that. We'll see. Mebbe turn out I make one or two trips to good old Homegoods and call it a day.

I'll be back with updates.

Keep hittin' that refresh button - I know you're all up on 'em pins and needles, people.

WHAT THINK Y'ALL? The guest bedroom (top photos) -- is it too over-the-top?