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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Personally, I Think the Whole Thing's a Scam to Drive Even More People to the Municipal Swimmin' Pool

The thought occurred to me last night that includin' today, if I don't go into labor before my due date, I only have to get through THREE MORE DAYS of wearin' my big girl pants before my own Mama gets here and I can finally pull out a bureau drawer, shred some newspaper and curl up and await my time in relative peace.

It's a good thing, too, because I'm not-so-gradually losin' my faculties at such a rate that I think by next Monday afternoon I'll have come to a point of utter uselessness, perhaps even posing danger to myself and those around me. This morning Bean innocently handed me the remote control to the bedroom TV and asked me to change the bedroom TV to PBS Kids for her. Well, I tried and tried and TRIED to accommodate this simple request, getting more and more frustrated by the minute, thinking I was gonna have to GET UP OUT M'BED and go change the channel MANUALLY, when it finally dawned on me I was holdin' the remote backwards.

I had the business end of the thing pointed at my own midsection.

I don't know exactly when Peanut's gonna be born, but I can tell y'all this much, when he does come out, he's gonna be set on Channel 11.

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It's hot up here. I sweat a full mustache and a pair of liquid sideburns in about 3 seconds flat if I so much as look out a window. I'd get Al to set up our kiddie pool on the back porch so Bean and I could soak lazily in it like a Mama hippo and her offspring, but somebody blew the whistle and the village constable showed up on the doorstep of several of our neighbors' homes to point out that kiddie pools large enough to accommodate actual life-sized human children are against the law in these parts unless you have a fence around your property.

As my neighbor Tracei aptly pointed out, "So what you're saying is, in order for me to legally utilize my $40 kiddie pool, I'll need to install a $6000 fence?"

(I've always appreciated Tracei's lightening-quick grasp and summations of life's bitter little ironies.)

So the next morning, the neighborhood resounded with the - F-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-t! - deflation of fortyleven kiddie pools (and the children who loved 'em, too.)

Which caused my mind to harken back to one particularly hot, humid afternoon in the FriedOkra's backyard last summer...

(Insert swirly flashback music-and-video sequence here.)


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"... and while we're on the subject of disgusting and pools, allow me to relate to you yesterday's aqueous adventure.

We have a kiddie pool on the back porch. Now, when I was a kid, a kiddie pool held 8 gallons max and got dumped out at the end of the day and leaned against the side of the house beside the air conditioner compressor. Keeping it clean was as simple as turning on the hose-pipe and giving it a good rinse. Badda bing badda bam badda boom, done.

Nowadays a kiddie pool's a whole 'nother ball of wax. The one we have is 10, count 'em, 10 feet in diameter, and fills to 28 inches deep. With the hose on so high that the pressure threatened to suck the washing machine, the refrigerator, the dishwasher and all the plumbing on our home's ground floor out into the backyard through the pipes, it still took three full hours to fill that badboy up. It's one of those softsided pools made of vinyl-ish type stuff, and the water itself holds the sides up and out. It's a feat of engineering, I'll tell ya. A feat of engineering.

This kiddie pool has its own pump, and it requires pool chemicals just like a regular big people pool. And I kept up with the chemicals as best I could for a busy preoccupied lazybones woman like myself. But here lately we've been getting a wee mite o' rain (constant torrential downpours), and rain, I humbly submit, appears to be Pool Enemy #3. When I sallied forth to the back porch yesterday afternoon with Bean already decked out in her swimsuit, I was shocked to find that the kiddie pool had been replaced at some point over the course of the past three days and nights with a mammoth bowl of guacamole.

Which was not a problem for Bean, apparently, because when I intimated (after close scrutiny, of course) that this particular shade of green did in fact not appear anywhere on my trusty Pool Chemical Balance charts, much less in the Acceptable Level range, and therefore she would NOT be swimming in it this afternoon, she begged quite vehemently to differ with my conclusion. After several moments' negotiation, we established that to wun fwoo da spwinkler would provide sufficient alternative diversion, and arrangements for such were hastily brought about.

Which left me alone in my reverie, up guacamole creek, and without a corn chip at that.

This being our first year as proud kiddie-pooligans, we at FriedOkra Manor have not absorbed the full depth and breadth of above-ground poolology. Among the portions of said science left altogether unconsidered by us up to this point was the eventual un-filling of the pool. To say that contemplating the dispersal of 8 million gallons of pungently neglected, infected water left me a little baffled would be a gross understatement. Nevertheless I knew the deed needed doing and was not about to inflict it upon the dear, sweet HoneyBunny, who in one recent gesture of thoughtfulness and generosity absolved himself of several months' worth of responsibility for Household Atrocity Resolution, so I rolled up my sleeves and began to drain the pool in the best way I could figure, which was to push down hard on the side of it and allow gallon after gallon of slimy, buggy, scummy sludge-water to drain out, over my hands and my feet and legs up to my knees.

This went on well past the point at which the sprinkler could hold Bean's attention. Soon she was at my side and up to her chest in the toxic flow, shreiking with joy and abandon that IT'S WIKE DA OSHIN, MAMA! WOOK AT DESE WAVES! IT'S A-MAAAAAAZING! And yes, I concurred, it was in fact amazing. Now geddouddahere!

Soon enough, the hastily exiting water and the water still in the pool reached a point of stasis or equilibrium, and the remaining water held the sides of the pool up to just such a level that pushing them down no longer created enough of an opening for any decent quantity to escape, so it fell upon me to provide the leverage necessary to bring the water UP enough to go OVER. And this is where the whole thing nearly fell apart.

Because providing leverage for the remaining 2 million gallons of slimy stagnant water encapsulated in a gigantic algae-covered blue plastic bag can best be summed up as Jello wrestling, only with STANK.

Are you with me, visually? I am slogging around in the backyard as the daylight wanes, mosquitoes draining the life out of me, managing the pedal-to-the-metal activity of a toddler while simultaneously attempting to flip a 10-foot jellyfish named Fat Albert onto its back.

In the end, I was triumphant. Wet, stanky and furious, but triumphant nonetheless. I dragged the pool's empty carcass into the garage and draped it over Al's car, then collected all the tubing, valves and wires and put them away for storage, while Bean carted all of the pool toys inside and put them away heaven only knows where."

(Originally published in August 2007.)

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Have a great day, people, and stay cool however you can.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If You Can Watch This Without Crackin' a Smile, You're Havin' a Seriously BAD DAY.

Hee hee hee! I believe it's safe to say Bean's recital went purty well yesterday. Y'all enjoy this little taste of the fun.



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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Maybe It'd be Easier to Just Do the Whole Thing With the Lights Off?

I have to make this quick because today's Bean's last dance class of this first session, and the final class constitutes the "recital," which means we proud parents will once again be allowed to come into the classroom and watch our darling little ballerinas PRE-FORM some of the things they've learned over the past 5 weeks or so. Which means both of us have to eat sump'm decent and then get all purtied up and I have to figure out a way to make sure I don't forget the camera because if I forget the camera my husband and my mother will join together in outrage to bring me to an early and untimely demise. Neither of them have seen a single photo of our tiny little flower in her dance apparel, and people, hell hath no fury like a proud Nana or Daddy denied the visual gratification of seein' his/her own special 30-pound princess decked out in her saggy-bottomed black leotard and ittybitty ballet slippers.

Yes, you can just imagine, can't you?

But I did have to run by here and tell you before we're swept up in our morning whirlwind of lilac-scented soap and satin ribbons that I have a bit of a punchline to my observation (and your wholehearted concurrance) about the ludicrosity (oh, how I love to make up words, people) of stashing your underpants out of sight at the OB's office.

I went in yesterday for my umpteenth non-stress test, for which I was generously allowed to lie on my side this time because I politely made it quite clear last week that lying on my back on the plywood and Nawgerhide examining table for an hour, strapped and encircled by cables and wires and about 400 yard of Velcro was um, MILDLY RIDICULOUSLY UNCOMFORTABLE for a 38 weeks plus pregnant lady of 40 and that I wouldn't be subjecting myself to that particular brand of torture again, ahem ... Dear. Pat pat pat, smile.

Because of the thoughtful layout of the exam rooms, just like the exam rooms in every. single. OB's. office. everywhere, which is to say the layout wherein one has one's nether-regions aimed squarely in the face of anyone/everyone who opens or passes the door, no matter how impossibly far to either side one le-e-e-eans one's knees in effort to realign one's delicate self with the orange CAUTION: SHARPS box on one wall or the Galligan's Guide to Dilation and Effacement for Birth Depicted in Beautiful 100% Pink and Blue Cotton-Fibre Origami poster on the other, I choose, against the nurse's instructions, to wear my underpants during the non-stress test part of my visits because frankly, an hour of airing my bits and buns doorward as I cower under my 2x2 paper towel is about 60 minutes too long, even though I know that in choosing to disobey I'm going to have to have an awkward moment with the doctor, who, in the end, will come to unstrap me from the table and move on to the poking and prodding phase of the investigation, at which time she will look puzzledly at the waistband of my underwear and say, with no small amount of consternation, You're still DRESSED!

(Yes ma'am. If my underwear, shirt and this puzzle-piece of paper "fabric" constitute being "dressed" then, well, I confess to being Guilty as Charged!)

And then I'll have to think up sump'm witty to say to break the tension caused by my rebellion, while simultaneously hopping down from the table and delicately dropping my drawers and tossing them as imperceptibly as possible AROUND the doctor and onto the chair with my other clothing while she stands there waiting.

So yesterday, I said to her as I stripped and flung and hopped back on the table, "I mentioned last week on my blog how funny it is to me that I come into your office each week knowing you're doing to do a pelvic exam, but I still find it completely humiliating for you to see my underwear."

She laughed. Quite a bit. And said, "Really?"

"Yes! And about 20 or so other women agreed with me. Wholeheartedly!"

Silence.

"You know..." it dawns on her, "I DO THAT TOO! I guess to me, underwear is much more personal than body parts."

"Well, underpants do say a lot about a person."

"THEY DO, DON'T THEY?"

Keep hidin' your drawers, y'all.

I'm just sayin'.


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Monday, July 28, 2008

There Are Benefits to Both

I discovered late in the day Friday that a large portion of the one-year-old landscaping in our back yard had been devoured by a nasty thundering herd of Japanese beetles, literally overnight. In fact the roadsides of our entire little village have been ravaged by these despicable creatures since Bean and I were out and about last Thursday, the scenic, pastoral views bluntly interrupted at random intervals by the sad brown , lacy skeletons of that which was lush and green 5 days ago - the vast prairie pocked now with dry, dead reminders of the human vulnerability we can so easily forget these days. Al spent his Saturday on a ladder with a 2 gallon grey sprayer tank over one shoulder and his iPod wire creeping up and over the other, into his ears. I watched him, feeling helpless, duped and dumb as he painstakingly swathed trees and shrubs in a fine, deadly mist to fend off these tiny vermin who'd crept in the back door while I'd kept careful vigil over the front.

Al says his father prevented such gruesome infestations in their yard down South by carefully hosing down each tree or shrub and then dusting them all with pesticide he'd tied into an old sock, slowly walking among them banging the Sock of Death in one hand against the palm of the other. His father's still alive at 92, and his mother too.

I imagine in their new married life, forgetting their human vulnerability didn't come so easily to either of them.

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I watched Al prepare for the spraying. Watched his careful, calm approach -- the way he measures once, twice, sometimes three times to get things right. Al's approach to projects has both dazzled me and driven me to distraction since I've known him. He's a cautious planner-ahead, deliberating over each step and moving slowly, gracefully, (agonizingly), through a task to its perfect end. He took a metal measuring cup, a disposable plastic cup and a pen, and using the measuring cup filled with water, he measured and marked from 1 to 9 ounces up the side of the plastic cup, so he'd have a cup he could use to mix the right amount of pesticide into the water in the sprayer. He'd stood for a moment in the kitchen, thinking, before he started.

I'm the opposite - I start in the middle, without reading directions, without measuring. I'm impatient and easily frustrated - done with a task in my mind and long gone, off to the next one often before I've started the first. I imagine my approach looks crazy and reckless to him, and perhaps makes him a little crazy, as well. But I told him Saturday, as I watched his step-by-cautious-step work to kill those lousy beetles, "I love the way you do things." (Because I do, when I think about it.) He looked up from his measuring and marking with a puzzled smile, "What do you mean?"

"I mean how carefully and thoughtfully you go through your process, so you get it right. You know how I am - I'm more of a badda bing, badda bang, badda boom and we're done kinda person. The planning and tedious details make me nuts. I learn a lot by watching you."

"Yeah. But there are benefits to your way, too. You get a lot of stuff done."

He went quietly about his work.

Next morning we drove out dusty country roads to breakfast, remarking on the bug-eaten landscape as we passed, Bean behind us in her seat, listening.

"My dad wasn't a patient project guy," Al said, seemingly out of the blue.

"No? But he was a tradesman - he couldn't afford to do a bad job, could he?"

"He did a good job. He did things almost innately, though, he'd done it all so many times it was second nature to him. But if you worked with him, he was impatient and annoyed if you had to think about things."

"Oh. What about your Mom?"

"She was more like me. Slow, patient, laid-back."

"That's where you got it."

"Yeah."

"There are benefits to both ways, as you've said."

"Definitely."



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Still Packin' the Peanut

Yep, still pregnant! Feels like I made some progress over the weekend, though. In the back of my mind I've had TODAY set as Peanut's birthday, but as of now, it doesn't look likely I'll be right about that. I'll keep y'all posted and will update The Peanut Blog after my OB (I typed BO the first time I tried that, hee hee. I'm so mature!) appointment late this afternoon.

Actually I hope to be back HERE before then with a post, probably long about naptime-ish. For now though, my regular Monday post is up at 5 Minutes for Parenting, so feel free to hop on over there.

Now. What's for breakfast?



Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

And If That Ain't Enough to Make You Flip Your Lid, There's One More Thing: I Got the Pink Slip, Daddy!

Hey Y'all! I'm excited to show off the FriedOkrari at this weekend's Blog-to Show, hosted by Liz at Successful & Outstanding Blog(gers).

I've cleaned the plugs, flushed the engine, rotated the tires and Son-of-Gunned the dash -- all that good stuff. I'm ready to show 'er off to blog buffs from all over.

Take a look below and you'll see I'm spotlightin' a few of my favorite posts from recent days, so blog enthusiasts get a taste of what this Bloggy Hotrod can do.

Just click the highlighted post titles and take yourselves a spin, y'all!

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Kick the Tires (Down and Dirty, Quick and Quippy)

What NOT to Say

Behold That Fine Co-rin-thian Leather (Smells as Good as It Looks)

My Grandmama FriedOkra Could Flat Out COOK, People.

Take A Look Under the Hood (And See What Really Makes This Little Machine Purr)

Moon Over Charlotte
Why I Love Weekends
My Knight in Shining Wingtips

Check Out the Body (Now THOSE are Some Curves, Baby)

Buck Naked in the Maternity Store

(Need even more road-testing? Check out my sidebar for The Leftovers: A Little Ploob of My Past Favorites.)

Drive It Home Today!

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed right here.

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


For my birthday in September 2004, Al treated me to a full day of elegant pampering at my favorite spa. The gift truly delighted me, and I reveled in every single second of luxury.

Later, Al returned to gather me up and take me home, where I relaxed and savored the day until the time arrived for me to dress for a special birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant.

I carefully selected a pair black flowing pants, a violet silk sleeveless top, and my sexiest strappy black sandals, all the better to display my freshly pedicured toesies. Al was particularly insistent on our being prompt for our reservation at the restaurant, one known for its sumptuous atmosphere, food and wine list. At a quiet corner table there, we'd had some of our deepest and most honest conversations about our feelings for one another, so it held (and still holds) a very special and romantic place in our hearts.

Thanks to a bit of extra primping on my part, we arrived about ten minutes late for our reservations, and Al seemed markedly anxious to get inside and be seated. The host greeted us by name and asked us to follow him to our table. I floated along behind him feeling just right... relaxed, special, loved, sexy, on-top-of-the-world. Everything was perfect and I just knew I would forever remember this magical night.


The scene I beheld as we approached our special table still brings happy tears to my eyes just from the memory of it. A large table replaced our tiny one and around it sat a group of my dearest friends who immediately jumped to their feet to shout, "Surprise!"

So this was why Al had been acting so mysterious (and nervous)! A surprise birthday party for little old me! The table was already heaped with delicious appetizers of crisp fried calamari with bright fresh lemon juice, crusty fresh pizzas piled high with prociutto and melty mozzarella, salads of pungent marinated olives and smokey grilled vegetables slathered in fragrant olive oil and garlic, fresh baked focaccia with crisp baked tomatoes and parmesan, and bottles and bottles of our favorite merlot and cabernet. As I took a seat near the center of the table, I marveled at the fact that each menu bore the message Happy Birthday Megan in a banner across its top. My wonderful friends chatted and ate and drank and laughed as Al and I made our way around to visit with them individually. Delighted in my role as belle of the ball, I could hardly catch my breath for the excitement I felt over such an amazing evening planned by such a charming man.


As the appetizers quickly disappeared and our servers took entree orders, my sweet prince again seemed momentarily anxious and restless. Then, clearing his throat, he stood boldly and raised his glass in a toast. Placing a hand on my shoulder, he wished me Happy Birthday and thanked our friends for joining us on such a special night. He went on to share that we viewed the people around the table as part of our family and so much a part of our lives that it was natural to have them with us on such an important night. At this point, my sweet Al reached into his pocket and knelt on the floor beside my chair.

He opened a box that revealed the most beautiful ring I have ever seen, and he asked me to marry him and spend my life with him.


Needless to say, Al's proposal rendered me speechless with emotion. Crying happy tears, I grabbed that sweet, beautiful face, looked into his smiling brown eyes and whispered Yes! The briefly silent table erupted in an outpouring of toasts and crying and hugs and kisses, and this intimate moment most couples share alone became even more beautifully meaningful and memorable to me for having so many of the people we love most in the world right there with us as the rest of our lives unfolded before us.

As the celebration reached its crescendo, the servers delivered to our table the most rich, gooey, decadent chocolate birthday cake I'd ever seen, with Will You Marry Me? ringing the plate in chocolate sauce. Velvety champagne filled sparkling flutes and I floated away on a cloud of love and joy and hope for a future with my beautiful, amazing best friend.

The sheer magic of that night still takes my breath away. My heart knew in that moment, for sure, with no doubt, that this man was the one. This was the night that I fully understood how well Al understood me. I finally realized that he wasn't just kidding around when he told me he loved me. He'd created a night that was perfect in every way for me, down to the tiniest detail.

A night I will remember forever.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Want Nostalgia with That, Hon?

Happy Friday! I'm 38 weeks preggo today and I feel pretty good, actually. I'll update the Peanut blog later today with the particulars, so as not to bore you with details here, but I thought I'd give you this little progress report. I went to the OB Monday and among other news, she reports that Peanut already weighs (well, weighed, 4 days ago) 7 lbs. 7 oz. OY. That's already way bigger'n Bean ever was, and I do feel that bigness. See? I've been tellin' people this child is HEE-YUGE. A mama knows things.

I'm over at Chic Critique today, talkin' about big hair mistakes of my past and a clever, simple little rinse for tired out, stressed out hair. I was supposed to write more about heart health, but I've got a little something I'm working on for that topic that needs a bit more finessing before I can reveal it, so you've got another week to eat bacon and drink milk-shakes before I lower the boom on all of our fatty fun.

Speaking of which, B and I ventured out to a local farm market yesterday to make our first annual purchase of fresh, locally-grown sweet corn, and a couple of the biggest, reddest, most delicious tomatoes I've tasted in a long time. So I boiled up the corn and fried some bacon and we had BLTs and fresh corn and sliced strawberries with honey for dinner last night and man, I'll tell you WHAT, people, that there was sheer summertime heaven on a plate. I'd say that was EASILY one of the top 5 BLTs I've ever had in my life. And I've had some good ones.

Back in South Carolina, in the larger city next to my little home town, we had a stubborn hold-out Eckerd Drugstore, cramped and dusty and quiet like a library, complete with an old-fashioned lunch counter that fought progress and stayed open well into the 1990s. I used to go eat lunch there once a week as a 20-something year-old. I'd always have a BLT because I SWEAR they put like a POUND of bacon on that thing. It'd be piled so high I'd have to squish the sandwich waaaaaay down between my hands before I could bite into it, and out would run this pink soupy concoction - a perfect blend of fresh tomato juice and real Hellman's mayonnaise flecked with black pepper. And I'd have a fountain Coke with it. And a side of those thick diner fries globbed up with Heinz ketchup spanked out of a glass bottle with a white metal cap.

That Eckerd's long gone now, but the memories I have of those BLTs in that tired drugstore diner, consumed with youthful gusto among the quiet old people who'd probably been eatin' at that counter for most of their adult lives? They are always there, just beneath the surface. And one crisp, salty-sweet bite into a BLT still takes me right back.

Ah, why do things have to change?

Why, people?

Tomorrow brings the sixth chapter in The Best of FriedOkra: How I Met Your Father, the story of my 36th birthday -- one that changed my life forever.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oh, Forget It. Just Pass Me the Black Trash Bags and A Roll of Duct Tape.

Yesterday, I forced myself to address an item on on my to-do list that I've been puttin' off because this particular task involved at least one REALLY INTENSELY IRRITATING component, and I am in touch enough with myself to know that even though I really, really do want the pictures and mirror hung in the guest bedroom before Nana gets here to help out when the Peanut's born, I had better be in a near perfect place emotionally before I start that project.

(Which I was NOT, by the way.)

Why?

Because I bought the pictures at HomeGoods.

Which is a fine establishment! I frequent it, um, well, frequently. Prolly about once a quarter I go in there and load up a cart with Goods. For my Home. Because you can NEVER have too much stuff to dust, can you? (Eyeroll.) Nor can you ever have enough bed linens. Bed linens are my Achilles heel. Well, bed linens and throw pillows.

SIGH. OHMYGRANNY, I do love me a throw pillow.

Wait. I'm counting in my head.

I have FORTY SEVEN throw pillows currently in use in my home.

(And they continue to multiply like rabbits, people. By the end of next week, there'll be at least sixty-two. Mark my words. One of those red ones on the sofa's gettin' bigger by the day and looks like she could deliver any minute. I try to keep them separated, but do YOU know the proper way to determine the sex of a throw pillow? Harder than it sounds.)

But back to my story, which constitutes a bit of a warning. Or a public service announcement.

Have you bought a picture or a mirror at HomeGoods lately?

If you have, you're keenly aware that there is a plot to drive middle-class American housewives right over the edge.

And our children, planted firmly at the helm of that plot? Have wised-up and enlisted HomeGoods to help them get the job done.

Oh, it all seems innocent enough on the surface, but look closer. The evidence cannot be refuted:

Those heavy, dense protective cardboard triangles machine-stapled not once but MULTIPLE TIMES into all four corners of every piece.

Those sticky, gunky, once-there, forever-there price tags stuck NOT ON ANY OF THE FOUR HOPELESSLY UN-DETACHABLE PROTECTIVE CARDBOARD CORNERS. Not on the back of the piece. BUT ON THE GLASS. OF THE PICTURE. IN THE FRONT!

So that in order to hang a picture she's bought at HomeGoods, a woman must have the following items on hand and at the ready:

- The picture
- A fancy picture hangin' gizmo or at the very least a rusty old nail she has dug out of the bottom of the toolbox and decided will (have to) do
- A hammer (for hammering in the gizmo)
- A tape measure (For measuring the picture, the wall, the piece of furniture the picture's supposed to be centered over, and the circumference of the belly, just for fun)
- A calculator. (I don't do picture-centerin' math in my head. Actually, I just don't do picture centerin' math, which is why my whole house appears to be leaning just a liiiiiiiiiittle bit to the left at all times.)
- A pencil (For careful marking at first, before the process becomes too laborious and time-consuming and the kids are circling and marking goes by the wayside to make room for good old eyeballin' it and guesstimation, which are, let's be honest, the way about 99/100ths of a housewife's work gets done, in the end. OH, YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE!)
- A screwdriver (To pry the many staples out of every corner of the picture)
- A pair of pliers (To grip the mangled staples that bent and broke off in the picture frame when you tried to pry them out with the screwdriver)
- The hammer, again (To bang the little razor-sharp shards o' staple that the pliers left behind back into the frame.)

Hold on. I feel the need cuss, just rememberin'.

--

Okay I'm back.


- Adhesive bandages and peroxide (For First Aid, grrrrrrrrr...)
- A plastic bag with no holes, please. (Good luck finding one) (for discarding the fortyleven stupid shredded staple parts and ALL. THAT. DURN. CARDBOARD.)
- A razor-blade window scraper (To scrape the price-tag off the glass on the front of the picture.)
- More adhesive bandages and peroxide (Ahem.) A tourniquet.
- Cotton balls and fingernail polish remover or straight acetone (The scraper won't work on these labels. Should have known any plot dreamed up and run by kids would involve at least one sticker that has managed to adhere itself molecularly to a non-sticker-approved surface.)
-Soap and water, nail clippers, more acetone (Careful of those wounds!) (To remove sticky, gooey adhesive from under the nails of both hands and one foot. Don't ask.)
- More soap and water (To clean the gunky, grey cloudy sticker-and-acetone residue off the glass.)
- Windex and paper towels. (To remove the soap and water residue from the glass.)
- One of those wood stain touch-up pens (To re-stain the picture frame where the acetone ate through the finish and left a weird orange mark in the shape of Delaware.) (I think, but I am not geographically-inclined so it could be Oregon, I don't know for sure.)
- An atlas (It was Rhode Island. The coastal edge is a little off, but the resemblance still quite remarkable.)
- Valium (Self-explanatory.)
- Compresses (Hot and cold, for alternating.) (For the brow.) (Also used to wipe black marks off freshly-painted walls from all the measuring, nailing and centering/balancing.)

(Leave all supplies out and available for later use. When hubby gets home, he's going to point out that if you plan to put drapes up in this room, two of the new pictures are too close to the window.)

Hmmm. On second thought, who needs drapes?

(Scratches off another item on her to-do list with a mighty flourish.)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Slap Yo' Mama Good, But I Do NOT Suggest Actually Slappin' Mama. Ever. Seriously!

We, the residents of FriedOkra Manor try our best not to consume too many sugary, carby, empty-caloric foods devoid of nutrients and all that other good and necessary stuff, but dang, y'all, summer sure makes keeping Bean away from the sweet and sticky goodies difficult. Every time I turn around she's got a frozen treat or a hunk of candy in her hand or mouth, seems like.

Last week, it'd gotten so bad she had an actual, real live sugar Jones goin', and I'll be daggummed if I didn't catch that child climbing my pantry shelves to the tippy-top (and we have 9 foot ceilings in there, so she had a major haul gettin' herself up that far) to dig out the old bags of Easter and Halloween and leftover gingerbread-house makin'-candy! The kid wanted her some SUGAH.

I took this as a warning sign and so after the Hello, Bean, allow me to escort you to your room for a little think-time, hon, because we here at FriedOkra Manor do not sneak around and climb larder shelves behind our mothers' backs moment that immediately ensued, I instituted a three-day candy ban lickety-split.

Which for some reason, when prompted over dinner to tell her Daddy about what'd happened that day, she voluntarily upped to FIVE WEEKS. And I did not correct her.

Because I'm mean like that.

So today we stopped into our diner for a little post-OB-appointment lunchy and she proudly announced to one of our favorite servers who normally bestows upon Bean a little post-meal treat, "No lollipop for me! I can't have any canny for NINE WEEKS!"

Well, okay then, girlie! Rock on with your sugar-free self!

I honestly think she's about through her withdrawal period and I'm happy to see her back to asking for the healthier snacks she's always eaten quite merrily up until recently, like cashews, bananas, apples and raisins. Those requests do a mother's panicked soul good. Maybe we WILL keep the canny ban on for nine weeks!

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But even though we earnestly try to be as close to sugar-free as possible, there's one treat --just one little goodie -- we seem to capitulate to as a group every week, without fail, and that's the banana bread French toast at Burnt Toast, where we have breakfast of a Sundy mornin'.

Now, comin' from the South, and directly out of a long line of cooks and bakers and women-who-will-make-up-a-loaf-of-sump'm-for-you-if-you-so-much-as-complain-of-a-little-hangnail-or-a-mild tooth-ache, I know a thing or two about banana bread. And I know a thing or two about French toast. And I'm one of those people who can't be happy to just go somewhere and eat something scrumptious, I have to figure out how to make it at home so it's every bit as good as the original or better, or I feel like I've been bested.

Mama does not like bein' bested, people.

So I've been tryin' to make banana bread French toast like they make at Burnt Toast. And I b'lieve I've got it. And I'm going to share it with y'all, because, say it with me, people, just like my sister once said, You need this recipe.

First, I created my own special recipe for banana bread, because in order for the toast to be right, well, the banana bread has to first be right. And by right, in this case, I mean heavenly, of course.

FriedOkra's Very Own Special Banana Bread Recipe

1 cup granulated sugar Photobucket
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup mashed very ripe banana
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. butter extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325°.

Whisk together the eggs, oil, water, bananas, extracts and sugar. Sift flour into wet ingredients and add cinnamon and cloves. Whisk until blended but don't get too crazy with it. It wants gentle treatment.

Pour into a prepared (with butter or oil and flour or a nice coating of non-stick spray) loaf pan.

Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. Allow to cool slightly then remove from pan and cool on rack.

To make the French toast:

For each two slices of toast you want to make, you'll need

1 egg
2 Tbsp. milk or cream
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Whisk all ingredients together well. Dip 1" slices of banana bread into this egg mixture and allow it to soak in for a few seconds. Fry dipped bread over medium-low heat in a little butter in a skillet until golden brown on each side. You want to do this slowly so you don't get a done lookin' piece of French toast that's still gooey on the inside. If you're just a fast-cooker like that, you might want to preheat your oven to 350° before you start fryin' and throw your toast in there for 5-10 minutes after they've done their stove-top tour. Just to be sure.

Serve hot with warm maple syrple syrup.

NUM.


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Hey, look upstairs at my fancy tabbed menu bar! I've added sump'm new! It's a Cooking & Recipe FORUM, y'all. Where we can all go and rave or retch over recipes we've tried, share meal ideas, and otherwise convene to chat about food (one of my favorite subjects, as you well know.) If you've got a great recipe for French toast or any other nifty breakfast treat like homemade donuts or pancakes or whatever, well then just hop on into the forum and show it off! Once you've clicked into the Forum, then look right at the top of the page for a button entitled, "My Topics." Click there and you'll see where you can start talking. Right now there's a FriedOkra area for random chats, a Freezer Meals section (because I am trying to fill up my freezer for days to come) and a Yummy Breakfast Treats section. I'll add more as we need 'em.

Now I ask you - is that not some fancy and new-fangled fun?

Yes, I thought you'd be pleased.

Go check it out and come on back and hang out in the Forum whenever you like. Right now the pickin's are a bit slim, but it'll take all of us to fatten that bad boy up.

Have a great Tuesday, y'all, and stay off those pantry shelves or you're gonna be in trouble with Mama.



Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed right here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Now That'll Really Take You Down a Peg

Saturday I made my customary trip into the Walgreen's while the family waited in the car. I'd artfully arranged to go in by myself 'cause I knew that due to the nature of the purchases I sought to perpetrate, I did NOT need The Town Crier in tow.

Thanks to Heather's sweet and ever-so-logical comment on my post Friday, I was goin' in that store to make the single most mortifyin' purchase of my adult life, to date, (and y'all KNOW I'm prone to mortifyin' myself, so that's really sayin' sump'm.):


I learned something the other day that I wish I had known when my three babes were born. When you are packing your hospital bag, throw in a package of adult "diapers" like D-p-nds. They will be much more comfortable than the monster pads they give you after delivery at the hospital and your jammies will stay nice and clean and dry!! They are also fantastic if your water happens to break at home so you stay dry on the drive there! Many blessings to you and your family!
Well, I did SAY mortifyin', didn't I?

After I had turned, red, then purple, then several shades of plaid with embarrassment at the notion, I recollected the twenty-four to forty-eight hours immediately followin' Bean's birth, and you know what? Heather's advice makes tee-total sense. So much sense that as much as I wanted to turn a deaf ear and go on like the words'd never even been written, I just could not.

Also mortifyin' is the fact that, as I wrote over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today (hint, hint),

"...certain parts of my anatomy previously happy to reside in their rightful and respective places on the inside of me have recently made for the nearest exits and taken up residence on the outside of me, where they seem as awkward and uncomfortable as Opie Cunningham at a Hell's Angels rally."


I didn't go into further detail there, but I will allow here to y'all, my reg'lar readers, that in addition to the D-p-nds, my shopping list included a little alphabetical wonder from the 'H' family.

That's right. Your old pal FriedOkra marched herself into Walgreen's two days ago and purchased, for all the world and her across-the-street neighbor to see (because you cannot make such a purchase covertly. If I'd been buyin' a gallon of two-percent and a package of lightbulbs I wouldna seen anybody I knew, but because of the humiliation potential, y'all know I had to run into someone I'ma see every day until eternity right here in the 'hood, you know?):

One 18-pack of size S/M store brand UltraThin Disposable Adult Underpants

- AND -

One giant econo-sized box of generic hemorrhoidal suppositories


Ahem.

You can only IMAGINE how sexy Al found this particular combination of purchases, and how difficult a time he has had keepin' his hands off me for the rest of this weekend.

OHMYGRANNY! He's like a TEENAGER again!

And how many curious and astounded questions I've heard from Bean, who even today is still reminding me, Mama, diapers are for BABIES!

Do not let me run across a single one of you sayin' FriedOkra doesn't keep it rilly-rilly real on her blog.

Hee hee hee hee. BUUUUUUUUUUT seriously, folks.

It got me to thinkin'.

I bet y'all all have good advice to share. Stuff about labor, birth, hospital stays, ittybitty babies and such. Even if you're not Mom, or even a woman! (Oh, I have just opened myself up for some interesting stuff, have I not?) You prob'ly STILL have a little nugget of wisdom to share about this whole deal.

Don't you?

And I am CLEARLY open to just about any advice, as you have witnessed here today.

(Heather, you KNOW I am just playin' around here, right? I will likely be singing your praises come post-birth hour three. You'll be a folk hero in these parts!)

So let's start out the week with a little give and take. You give me advice in the comments, and I'll take it.

Well, probably.

Maybe?

As long it doesn't mean I have to make another trip to Walgreen's anytime soon.

Because I just don't think I can face 'em again right now.


One, two, three GO!

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed right here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

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

This post is part of a series I wrote back in August 2007 about meeting and marrying my husband, Al. Other posts in this series include And That's How I Got My Husband, Comin' In And Out of Your Life, Oh No He DITTENT! and She Leaps.

I'd lived for years facing a dark fear that something inside me had broken or died during the turbulent, wrenching, surreal months surrounding the end of my first marriage. Convinced that I simply wasn't capable of mature love, and was too foolish and selfish to sustain a committed relationship, I'd set aside hope of true connection with another man. In the early days of dating Al, I prayed God would protect both of our hearts from me. That He would heal the brokenness and give me strength to step out of myself and give this amazing man what he needed, no matter what. I wanted to transcend my own limitations and fears and let God's love lead me to Al's heart. I remember the moment I realized my prayers had been answered - a time of pain and challenge for both of us.

As we enjoyed a year of dating, getting to know one another even better and having, seriously, more fun than humans should be allowed, Al continued his training for triathlons, swimming laps for hours before the sun rose each morning, running nearly 30 miles every weekend, and riding his bike over trails that spanned the city. He began mentioning here and there a pain in his hip, leg and foot, which we both chalked up to overexertion during his strenuous workouts. But as time wore on, the pain grew worse for him and he grudgingly agreed to see a doctor. An MRI revealed a bulging disk in his lower back and the doctor recommended strengthening exercises to realign the spine and relieve pressure on the disk, with prescription painkillers ease Al's suffering in the meantime. Al dutifully followed instructions and did the exercises, trying to limit his use of the pills to only those times when he truly needed them to function. The pain, though, kept coming. And coming. And eventually we sought another doctor for a second opinion. Al endured three epidural blocks before the new doctor determined that the disk had begun to rupture and would require surgery. A surgery very similar to mine, and one that would require as long and as difficult a recovery, as well.

I sat alone in the waiting room as the surgeon worked on Al. Hours went by with no word, and I was so afraid something had gone wrong. After more than five hours total surgery and recovery time, I finaly met Al in his post-op room and saw him as I've never seen him, weakened and vulnerable. He looked at me, and I could immediately feel his utter dependence on me. That first night after the surgery, Al vomited for hours as he reacted to the anesthetic used during the procedure. Unable to move, he needed me to handle it entirely, from holding his head to cleaning him up afterwards. I have never seen anyone so sick in my life, and it was terrifying for me. I still can't even imagine how scared he must have been. All I wanted to do was make it stop, give him relief, hold him still and give him comfort, even for a moment or two. The hospital staff seemed to forget about us except for infrequent checks of Al's vital signs, so we managed through the night, him vomiting and falling back to sleep exhausted, me holding and cleaning and praying and trying to be strong for him.

After daybreak the following day, the nausea finally eased up, and a vague glimmer of my Al shone in those glorious brown eyes again. But we both were transformed now, for good. Those eighteen grueling hours together in the hospital room had deeply expanded our love for and trust in one another, and I realized that God had given me the gift I'd been asking for - proof that I wasn't broken anymore. That I was able to love and give and hurt for Al. And that Al could trust me. We both could.

Al recuperated at my house, in my guest bedroom. He lay flat on his back for the first two weeks and I loved every moment of caring for him. As he gradually regained mobility, we laughed and enjoyed one another as before, but there was a new certainty about our togetherness. I could tell Al boldly that I loved him and know I meant it the way I'd always wanted to mean it.

As Al recovered and returned to the office, our work lives grew more and more stressful and complicated. Our firm, struggling to generate sufficient revenues for its survival in a post-9/11 economy, made deep reductions in staff, and we looked on sadly and angrily as many of our long-time friends and capable colleagues lost their jobs. The atmosphere around the company was grey and oppressive, and scattered the close-knit work family we'd known for years on the winds of suspicion and fear. We did our best to sustain peace and confidence by focusing on doing our jobs and not taking life too seriously. I'd pack a picnic lunch some days and we'd leave the office behind and sit together outside in the warm spring sunshine, just talking about anything other than layoffs and budget cuts and job performance evaluations. Outside of work, we continued to travel and have fun together. Al was feeling much better and we were in love, afterall.

One hot summer day though, everything in our lives changed. Al's position was eliminated, and in the space of a few minutes, our world flipped upside down. He walked away from the firm he'd helped build and shape for nearly twenty years with nothing more than small brown box of his personal belongings. Just like that, he was gone. It is still hard to think and write about that day. Still so painful to picture him leaving the career he'd loved, the people he'd supported and developed and changed forever, the place we'd begun and where we'd done so much of our growing together, never to return.

With the layoff came immense pain, distance, resentment and loneliness. We struggled to maintain our togetherness as forces both inside and outside ourselves pulled and tugged at the seams of who we were as us. The betrayal and devastation Al felt in the wake of the layoff left him angry, cynical, and shaken. Trying to carry on without him, in the same office we'd shared for years, I trudged through each day feeling more and more frustrated, alone, and depressed. In the absence of a real foe to battle, we often unleashed our anger and anxiety on one another. We fought bitterly for the first time since we'd met. We worried about money, about security, about the future.

But these new challenges, like those already behind us, would only prove to strengthen our bond in time. We learned to hold tight to one another as change and uncertainty stormed around us. And in the revelation of Al's vulnerable, breakable side, God taught me how to love this man more selflessly, more confidently, and more completely. Gradually the Nos in my life would turn to Yeses.

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra by clicking right here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh, H-E-Double Hockey Sticks NO, It Ain't Rainin' On MY Prom Night

Seems my pal Robin (The Pensieve One) has a you-don't-wanna-miss-it funfest up her sleeve for all of us StuckatHomeHers (i.e. those of us who aren't out in beautiful San Francisco hobnobbin' with our bloggin' heroines at Blogher '08).

She's puttin' together a carnival for us to link up our own Party Posts and then go visit some fun sister blogs, new and um... familiar, and she's even hosting a chatroom so we can all hang out together'n chew the proverbial fat this evening.

(Cocktails optional. BYOB. And check that self-pity at the DOOR, girls, 'cause we gon' outFUN those Bay Area beauties for sure!)

Grab this adorable button for your own blog and link back to Robin's post, the one that has ALL THE PARTY 411, like I've done here, so your readers can participate, too.



Here's the code you can copy/paste to grab the button and display it on your blog:

<center><a href = "http://pensieve.typepad.com/pensieve/2008/07/bloghop-08-your.html"><img src = "http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b381/mamabean/bloghop08.jpg"></a></center>

Now no more sittin' around mopin', gals, let's get out and spread the word -- we're havin' us a party tonight!

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Guess what?

Peanut's full term today!

Yepper, I'm 37 weeks pregnant. As soon as I hit publish on this here little epistle, I'm typin' up his eviction notice. Where should I stick it?

(Waitaminute, on second thought, don't answer that.)

Time to make room for m'spleen again, Boy o' Mine!

I packed a little bag of Peanut's teeny-tiny little clothes and diapers and a soft, light blanket for the hospital last night, and Al insists that he and I must both pack our own bags this weekend. And a bag for Bean, in case she has to be unceremoniously dragged to the home of a neighbor in the middle of the night at some point.

Here we go, people! It's (almost) on.

I'm feeling reasonably okay for an ancient water buffalo in late July. A little sweaty for my own tastes, and still cranky, because the world-at-large and even the people closest to me refuse to just siddown and shaddup and be respectful of all the mental and physical strain this late-stage gestational suspense-and-rotund-fest heaps on a Mama.

Yeah, I know. Pity-Party-R-Us.

Jis don't pay me no neh'mind, y'all.

(I'll keep y'all posted on all the gestatin' as new information becomes available.)

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I'm over at Chic Critique today, talkin' about a little impromptu chat I had with my OB this week regarding what we womenfolk oughtta be concernin' ourselves with, healthwise, in our 30s and 40s. Very enlightening, it was. Not a product review, because Mama likes to shake things up from time to time, but still great info for a woman who wants to remain FABULOUS well into decades 5 - 10.

Tomorrow we'll have the fifth weekly installment of The Best of FriedOkra: How I Met Your Father, so don't party too hard tonight. You'll need to be fresh and well-rested for this dramatic chapter! (And maybe you still have time to catch up by reading the first four chapters tonight - they're on consecutive Saturdays starting here.

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra by clicking right here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More'n You Ever Wanted to Know about How I Got to Be So Purty

Last week I mentioned I'd be posting an interview with Karen, the designer of FriedOkra's new look. It took a little longer'n I thought it would to get it ready, because Karen's been busy with a rush of new design clients and her new on-line radio show, Behind the Blog (if you haven't listened yet to the first show featuring Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer, put it on your agenda for, like, YESTERDAY) and I've been busy whining, waddling and sweating.

But we both took a time out from our respective busy schedules early this week so we could bring you a little bit of background from me and insight from Karen on the design process in general and some of the specifics of creating the lovely scenery around us.

A little while back I answered a question from the Reader Mail Bag about how I started blogging and how I titled FriedOkra. The mental process of answering that question kinda started me thinkin' about how I'd like the 2008-2009 version of the blog to look and feel to me, and to y'all. I'd promised myself that if I reached some of my bloggy little goals by July, I'd treat myself and everybody who reads FriedOkra to an all new look.

I've blogged here since July 2007, so not even a year yet, but I love this place and I see myself sticking around for many, many bloggiversaries to come. This current FriedOkra feels like a big old wrap-around porch to me, with an old swing painted coat after coat of shiny white, a lazy brigade of rocking chairs, a rag rug or two and cold, sweet tea served in Mason jars with lemon and a sprig of mint.


Yeah, that mental image planted a pretty sturdy little seed in this addled brain of mine. Then I had the daunting task of deciding which of the talented blog designers I know and love I should ask to help me coax that seed into a lovely blossom. It was this header design from Karen's own blog (last summer's header, I think) that kept calling me back for a second, and third and fourth, and hundredth look. I loved its clean, fresh, open feel and creativity. She seemed to have captured in that header the exact characteristics I hoped for in FriedOkra's new look.

Photobucket


And I may be blonde, and even a little bit slow, but most of the time you don't have to hit Mama over the head with a sledgehammer. I placed my order through Karen's design site. The rest, as they say, is history.

I hope y'all enjoy this little conversation:

I'm curious. I came to you with a lot of very strong ideas of what I wanted in the new design. STRONG. Did you find that to be a help or a hindrance to your design process? What about your "perfect client?" What would that client already know before she begins working with you, and for what elements of design would you prefer to have full control and creative license?

I find it extremely helpful when the client has ideas about their design, as in your case. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of designing and makes the actual process flow more smoothly than someone who says, “I’m really open – do whatever you want,” because without knowing someone, it’s sometimes difficult to capture their style or personality without spending a lot of time revision. I try to make sure that I ask very specific open-ended questions so people will describe things they’d like to see. As for the “perfect client” – it would be someone who has an idea about the colors they’d like to see, has already looked at other website to get their ideas about likes/dislikes, and is open to giving up control and letting me design for them. And of course, I prefer to have full control and creative license over everything! But knowing that is not always going to be possible, I always appreciate it when the client is just open to my suggestions when they’ve given too much direction and I think the design isn’t going to look good if I do it their way. Ultimately, I want a happy client, and that’s the goal – but my name is going on it too and it’s important to have set standards.

I know the photo we selected (ahem) for FriedOkra presented a few challenges for you in terms of making it work as a header. Why were you willing to move forward with that photo and what steps did you take to transform it into the masterpiece it is today?

Ah yes, the photo. I take full responsibility for that one. I chose that photo because at 800 px wide by 1200 px high, it was more than big enough for your header. I was simply thinking I would just crop out the windows and use the swing, but when you made such a fuss over the arched windows and I had already scoured the internet’s royalty-free sites and discovered there weren’t too many empty porch swings out there, I decided to do whatever it too to make it happen. In all actuality, I felt guilty for showing you the “perfect” photo and then not being able to deliver on it. That’s why I went ahead with it.

To transform it, I basically edited it in Photoshop® – lots of cloning and stamping and copying and pasting. The rest are ancient Chinese secrets and I can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you.


You took my meandering thoughts about the background pattern and turned them into sheer perfection. I believe I said, Cornflower blue, purty, but not too busy. and looky what you did! What was your process and can you tell my readers who've perhaps overlooked a few nifty subtleties about the pattern, and how you customized it so it's just right for FriedOkra?

The background was born out of sheer desperation, to be honest. I had tried several purchased backgrounds, but none looked right. So I created it in Photoshop™ and tried to emulate the arch in the window as well as pull in the okra element. It’s not quite an okra, but it’s close. I was hesitant to for you to see it, because it was nothing like what you described you wanted. But I just took a deep breath and once I put it on, I thought to myself, “there’s nothing else that will even come close.”

What's your favorite part of the design process for Mommy blogs?

The reaction and thanks I get once they see their finished blog. It’s a rush for me and makes me feel as though I’ve actually done something worthwhile. I also love interacting with and meeting new bloggers. I’ve discovered quite a few new blogging friends since I started designing and I’ve got way too many blogs in my reader now because of it.

What's YOUR favorite part of the new look here and why?

You’re going to laugh, but I’m most pleased with the tabbed navigational menu up at the top. I was tickled that I could do something for you that wasn’t like everyone else’s. I love how light and airy the new look is. It fits your personality (not saying you’re not a person of substance, because we all know that’s not the case) and it makes me want to come over and sit in the swing with you and share a glass of lemonade. You were exactly the right kind of client, because you had a vision and were able to communicate it to me so that I could get it on the page, but you were still open to letting me experiment.

Bonus question: Why does my phone never ring except during naptime?

That is the 6 million dollar question, my dear. We may not ever know until Jesus comes back.

Indeed we may not.

Thanks, Karen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You'd Better Stop Making That Face or It's Gonna Get Stuck Like That

It's hot and I'm cranky.

You know what's the worst thing about being cranky when you have kids? You can't just tune out and turn off and go be by yourself until you stop hatin' the world again. You're forced to DEAL with a small person(or more) who OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SANE IN THE WORLD picks up easily on your bad mood, but instead of wisely just doing what she's told to do and/or slinking off quietly to play by herself, decides that SHE MUST NOW ALSO BE IN A BAD MOOD.

Double your pleasure, double your fun, y'all.

So we had ourselves just a lovely morning, the two of us, running errands hither thither and yon in the already sweltering, infernally hot sunshine, gettin' IN and OUT of the car OVER and OVER again, wrastlin' with the new carseat/booster thingy we just installed for the Big Girl which, hey, wasn't this supposed to make my life EASIER since now we'll just be using the car safety belt instead of that ornery old octopus of a five-point safety harness and heck, she'll be able to handle that on her own?

Only it's not easier, because the seatbelt? Well, wouldn't you just KNOW it's in a bad mood too, and will only dain to be pulled out and fastened at one specific-to-within-a-half-a-degree angle and if you have the nerve to deviate from that particular angle then it will firmly cross its little seatbelt arms across its chest and affix upon its face a nasty, obstinate scowl and refuse to either go back into its little seatbelt burrow so you can pull it out in the exact way Its Majesty prefers or just come the heck on out and be fastened already. And so did two hot, cross women and one uncompromising, bull-headed @&%!# of a seatbelt spend a morning together gallavanting around town, spittin' nails for all we were worth.

As we were finally, OH DEAR LORD FINALLY, driving home after my clenched-teethed delivery of the inevitable gutteral, end-of-my-rope, "WHEN WE GET HOME, YOU ARE TO MARCH YOURSELF STRAIGHT UP TO YOUR ROOM AND SIT ON YOUR BED AND DO NOT MOVE AND I WILL BE UP TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT YOUR BEHAVIOR AS SOON AS I GET THE GROCERIES PUT AWAY, YOUNG LADY" warning in the Walgreen's parking lot, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror and do you know who I saw looking back at me?

My own mother. And people, she was FIT TO BE TIED.

Which scared me right back into a good mood again.

Amen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

And Now the Kid is Awake and I Must Hie to Her and Humbly Serve Her Every Need. Because That is What Mothers Are For, Right?

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That's our new desk. You remember, the one the Backstreet Boys delivered back in May and were kind enough to teach me which end of the power cord goes into the wall while they were here? Yeah, that desk. I'm sitting at that desk right now, typing away on the trusty year-old laptop Al surprised me with after the Great HP Implosion of 1997. But I took the picture in the evening yesterday as the sun set to the west, and this morning of course it's gettin' up way too early, just like I am, on the other side of the bed from where it lay down, while the world sleeps around the two of us and the clock on the desk ticks loudly and resolutely toward the start of another summer day on the prairie.

Mornin' world!

I'll be headed out this mornin' for a routine OB appointment that, because of my Advanced Maternal Age (which my doctor pointed out gets charted as "elderly" - OHMYGRANNY I'VE BECOME MY GRANNY)(I laughed at the time but dang, y'all, really? Elderly, at 40? Haven't the chart-code maker-uppers heard 40's the New 30 etc., etc.?) includes a non-stress test and a sonogram in addition to the good old 36-week internal exam.

You know what always makes me laugh when I go to the OB for an internal exam? Always, because it never fails? That I'm going in with the full knowledge that the doctor's going to make herself quite familiar with all of my South-of-the-waistband anatomy, making full use of stirrups and bright lights and instruments and what have you. There'll be no stone un-turned down there when she gets done, yet Mama always very carefully folds her unmentionables and tucks them surreptitiously under her little pile of outer clothing.

BECAUSE WE WOULD NOT WANT THAT SAME DOCTOR, THE ONE WHO'S ABOUT TO GO SPELUNKING IN OUR HINTERLANDS, TO SEE OUR UNDERPANTS.

Blink.

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Got a few more pictures for you, just for fun.

Another favorite spot to blog.

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(The new bedroom chairs and infamous table that required the emergency door-frame-ectomy to get it in the room.)

And Peanut's little room, almost finished except WHAT TO PUT ON THOSE WALLS, PEOPLE?

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Today's the day my first official Monday post, Here Stands A Mother on the Edge. Of Everything. appears on 5 Minutes for Parenting.

I wrote it Saturday, sitting at this desk, as Al sat in the chair over there in the corner reading a textbook. When I got to about the fifth paragraph and began sniffily-snorting and wiping away tears, he looked up.

Are you -- CRYING?

Uh-huh. (Wipe-wipe, eye-fan eye-fan.)

I thought you were blogging!

I aaa-aaa-aaa-aaaaaam.

Well, are you OKAY?

Ye-eee-eees. (Sniffle)

And he shook his head and went back to reading. He read the post later and kept pointing and asking me, Is THAT the part that made you cry? Oh, wait, no, THIS PART?

I still can't even READ one sentence in the post because it sends me right over the edge. And I WROTE it.

I don't know why I do these things to myself, people. I'm a glutton for punishment, is what I am.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How I Met Your Father, Part IV

Well, who knew?

I had heretofore entertained zero romantic feelings for Al. He was my friend, my brother, my hero. That kiss of his held me in a state of frenetic mystification for weeks thereafter. Of course, I immediately wanted to know, "What was that for?" Gently, Al explained that that was for me. For us. That he loved me and was in love with me.

Flummoxed, dazed, thunderstruck and slightly embarrassed, I began to try to comprehend these words of his. I listened. I heard what he was saying, but my brain (heart?) simply could not clutch the concept and drag it into my own practical perspective. Weeks hence, I wandered in a haze of Wha?, repeating his proclamation to myself like a mantra, struggling to comprehend its origination. I clamored around in my own head grappling with this notion that Al. AL! is in love with me. In love with ME. In LOVE with me? Until finally, I cornered it and wrestled it far enough into reality to sit down on it and ponder, chin in hand, what I was going to do with it.


This man, whom I came dangerously close to worshipping, who had guided and mentored, coached and cajoled me through my career and my life for 5+ years, was asking for a new spot in my life. To be honest, as I reflected over my past dating relationships, it seemed like he was actually asking for a demotion. In many ways, dating and getting involved romantically seemed like they would cheapen our relationship. I wasn't sure I would even be able to seriously BE romantic with Al. We had so much history, had laughed together about so many details of my dating life. In short, he knew me too well, and I felt I had moved PAST the emotional point in our friendship where a romantic relationship could begin, much less survive.


But how COULD I pass up the chance to explore what might be the love of my lifetime? I was 34 and terrified that the crumbling relationship with my current boyfriend was my last hope for love and family. I was growing lonely and restless and falling into habits that felt pathetic and mid-lifish to me.


Gradually, as he'd done a hundred, no, a thousand times before, Al helped me visualize a new set of possibilities. He spoke of laughter and fun, trust and security, closeness and partnership. He drew on my heart a picture of the life I'd dreamed about since childhood. A man who adored me, a partner I trusted and respected, a cozy life of peace and contentment. Health, growth, joy and comfort. Gradually, I put the two of us into the picture together, like the pink peg and the blue peg in the little plastic car on the gameboard of LIFE. We seemed to fit.

One night after a workout, we sat eating salads and rotisserie chicken and drinking wine, and I asked him, "But Al. What if we date and then get married and have a daughter? I won't know what to do with her hair!"

He laughed. And said, "Is that all there is standing in the way? We'll take her to the hairdresser once a week."

His laughter sealed our destiny. We began dating and otherwise pursuing an intimate, loving, relationship. And as amazing a friend as Al had been to me, he was absolutely brilliant at dating! He insisted on the best restaurants and the symphony, nights on the town and romantic weekend getaways to beautiful mountain retreats and seaside resorts, Hawaii, London, San Francisco. He swept me away!

I didn't need all that though. The shapes and colors and sounds that fill my mind when I think of our courtship are the crackle of the fall leaves underfoot along our favorite hiking trail, the smell and feel of our new hiking boots, the crunch of barbecue potato chips over the sounds of a Clemson-Georgia Tech football game viewed snuggled on my couch, sipping wine on my veranda as we spit muscadine skins over the railings into the woods, eating cheeseburgers in the office cafe on Fridays, planning our weekends together, playing poker and drinking champagne on New Years Eve because we just wanted to relax and stay in, curling up by the fire after a hike, drinking hot apple cider with a little rum, and being told over and over again how much he loved me (and reciprocating shyly), preparing elaborate dinners that took hours in my tiny little apartment kitchen while Al sat perched on the dryer behind me, proffering a kiss or a sip of wine when there was a break in the culinary action, waking up to a knock on my door and being greeted with flowers, hot coffee and a lumpy-throat-inducing I love you card, just because; answering another knock on the door one Halloween night to find a very affectionate and adorable black and white spotted cow grinning from ear to ear, asking sweetly, Got Milk?

Yes, the whirl-wind, hot spot dating was fun, but the real falling-in-love was done right where we'd built our deep friendship: in the easy, funny, simple corners of our lives, wearing jeans, sweaters and hiking boots.

Love came quickly and cozily to us. A new passion sparked and burned as if it had been smoldering for a hundred years and finally got a breath of air.

But health issues arose again, the atmosphere at work intensified and threatened, and we were in for some turbulent times ahead.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Woman Behind the Curtain

There's no place like home, there's no place like home, click click click, there's no place like home.

Sigh.

It feels good to be here. The other places I go will start to feel like homes away from homes to me too, I'm sure, all in good time, my pretty. But I've felt oddly off kilter all week having spent so much time away from FriedOkra. I'm so excited, (and thank y'all for being so excited with me, by the way, really, really thank you), about the new gig at 5 Minutes for Parenting and I can't wait to get some a few posts up and meet some new people and start to get a groove going.

(Oh and by the way, my first post there should be up first thing this morning. If you're interested.)

(Teeth chattering.)

It's just that I realize when I go there to write and I open up that stiff new white Wordpress box how much Y'ALL mean to me - how much who YOU are has shaped who I've become, how I've - what - evolved? As a blogger and a person and even a Mama and wife since the first few weeks and months I opened up this now-familiar white Blogger box and struggled to fill it with my thoughts and stories and ideas, not knowing how or even if it'd be received. And I know I said this already but it bears repeating: Thank you. I am just grateful for your support and love and willingness to stick around and laugh and cry with me day after day and help me become a better me.

And if you've also read the Peanut blog and stuck around through the sickness and the depression and the doubts and fears, too, well then you get an extra serving of my gratitude, because WOW, that can not have been fun reading at all, people.

I have no real point here. I'm just kinda weary, but in a good way, and so glad to be home with my familiar gang, where I already know who I am and can just relax and be ME. Kinda like I used to feel after a business trip - fired up by the newness and excitement of the meeting or the event, but also just tickled to snuggle down into my own sofa and de.com.press. Pfffffffffffft.

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Bean's had a great week this week - I feel like she's grown up about a year's worth over this first half of the summer. She had her second dance class Tuesday morning, which I'd been sorta dreading because the first one, while it didn't go horribly, did stress her out enough that by halfway through she was yankin' on her earlobe with one hand and sucking away like a Midwestern mosquito at dusk on the two little middle fingers of the other - a sure sign she's just had enough and needs some down time with Mama to feel safe and secure again.

Oh, she hung in there in her tiny leotard, tights and tap shoes, cuter'n I can even begin to describe here (but I will take a picture for you next time), and she tried to focus and do everything the teachers wanted her to do, but she was wiped out. I encouraged her a little from the sidelines, but I'm finally getting to know her well enough to recognize when encouragement just starts looking and feeling like pushing, and backed off to see what she'd do on her own. Sometimes it's nice to just give both of us permission to retreat.

Um. Where was I going with this?

Oh, yes! But this week's lesson saw a totally new Bean, perky and tuned-in and ready for action. She chose a spot right up front, right by the instructor, and she spoke up and raised her little hand and volunteered lots of information, I know not what information because I was on the outside of the studio looking in through a glass window, but the teacher nodded and smiled at Bean whenever she opened her little mouth, so it must've been good stuff.

And she danced and strutted around the whole 45-minute class, hanging right in there until the lesson ended and even scooting back into the studio one more time to say goodbye to Ms. Debbie before we made our departure. And you know that watching her just open up and embrace the experience with such gaiety and enthusiasm made Mama well up with tears and have to dummy-up some frantic diggin' in her bag for something so nobody would see her cry.

That's me, people. My own heart just rides around on that child's shoulder, for good or for bad, and breaks or soars in rolling peaks and valleys as she grows and changes and struggles and learns and becomes herself.

Motherhood ain't for the faint of heart, is it? Jiminy Cricket, people!

And we hit the pool this week for the first time since she graduated from her swimming lessons. We trotted into the club house and lo and behold there sat one of Bean's teachers. Well, you'd have thought that child was looking straight into the eyes of Santa Claus himself, such was the delighted and awestruck glow on her face.

She marched her little self right up to the counter, behind which sat said teacher, and she stood up on her tippytoes and reached her hand out as far as it could go toward her and crooned out "Hi-i-i-i-i! You're my teacher!" and that sweet girl responded with a huge beaming smile and called my baby by name and grabbed her hand and asked her "Did you come to swim? Are you ready to get out and play in the water?" and Bean said, "YES! I am! You wanna come wif me?" And my heart about leapt up and flew somewhere over the rainbow.

Gosh.

These are just really tiny things, I suppose, in the grand scheme of a child's life, but y'all, she just amazes me. This process - this blooming of another human being right before my eyes?

It's a miracle. It's THE miracle. Don't you think?

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Give Me 5 Minutes and I'll Give You My Girls



Alrighty people, sorry for the hold-up this morning. Here we go with the big news!

The wonderful ladies of 5MinutesforMom.com have developed a new sister site called 5MinutesforParenting.com -- a spin-off of a smash-hit blog, if you will. And one that'll hopefully go the way of Frasier and not, say, Joey. Because Matt LeBlanc's cuter than a duck on a junebug, but cry mercy with me -- that show was a cuh-rushin' dee-zaster.

And guess what, y'all? Guess who they asked to write a weekly post for them, every Monday?

(For whatever reason, although clearly when you see the list of the other writers for this blog you're going to recognize as quickly as I did that I'm truly not fit to take out the garbage for any of the amazing ladies I'll be posting alongside, and you'll laugh and think to yourselves, again just as I did, Well now hmmmmmmm... mebbe they meant to ask some other Megan? Surely this is a mistake. And scratch your head in puzzlement.)

(Which may explain the stops-just-short-of-paralyzing fear and doubt I've been enveloped in this week as I've tried to write my first post for the site. OHMYGRANNY.)

(But now I've given away the answer to the original riddle, darn it.)

Yeah, good guess! Your own little old FriedOkra girl. YEEKS!

Me.

Writin' about parenting.

Which should make for some funny bloggin' times seein' as how I'm going to have quite a bit of parenting goin' on here shortly, perhaps more than a woman of my particklar skill level should be allowed to perpetrate on her own, and I think we can all review past Meganish history and recognize that things at FriedOkra Manor will be heatin' up with heapin' helpings of humor and the chaos and sighing and lamenting and wiping up all sorts of infant-excreted bodily fluids off all sorts of not-previously-exposed-to-infant-excreted-bodily-fluid surfaces.

And we certainly wouldn't want to just keep all that stuff to ourselves, now would we? No ma'am, I didn't think so.

The more I think about it, the more I'm startin to think maybe they'll have me in my own special category on the new blog, like the Don't Let This Happen to You category, or the How NOT to Parent category.

It stands to reason.

Anyway I guess we'll all just have to subscribe to 5MinutesforParenting.com and hop over daily to find out, now won't we? Oh, yes! Let's do!

I'll see y'all there.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I'm Also Thinkin' We'll Need Us A Watermelon That's Been Coolin' in Shady Crick All Afternoon

Oh, I'm so glad y'all like the new look! The fun I had reading your comments, people! Like Christmas morning, I tell you. Thanks for all the kind words and the Happy Bloggiversary wishes.

And thanks for being so generous with the praise for Karen. I know after all of her painstaking labor gettin' that photo just right (which she'll tell y'all about later this week when I interview her), hearing you describe the exact things we'd HOPED you'd feel (that the new look is inviting and cozy and makes you want to sit out on that porch and drink sweet tea all afternoon) about the design were a balm to her weary soul, eyes and fingers.

I still have one more big, fun, new project left, and on this Thursday when it debuts on the world wide web, I'll finally get to SHOW it to you. I'm really excited (and a little nervous. Okay a lot nervous!) and hope y'all will be, too. So plan to be back here in the morning for yet another big unveiling! Then we can all sit back, put our feet up and laze around ponderin' life as we sweat peacefully, like you're s'posed to do of a summer afternoon.

I'm also ready to get started on that writing coaching project I mentioned a while back. Y'all be patient with me -- I want to start off slowly and learn the best way to do this as we go so I don't end up wasting your time telling you the wrong stuff, or telling you the right stuff in the wrong format, or just havin' the whole thing blow up in our faces. I don't handle complete failure well atall, people.

But I plan to choose a couple of you to work with next week and then I'll gather feedback the following week, make revisions to the process (or give up all together, if the feedback is REALLY frightening!) and depending on when this little guy of ours decides to make his appearance, maybe I can work with one or two more people before shutting down Operation Writing Coach and firing up Operation Newborn for a couple months or so.

I hope y'all haven't lost interest in the whole deal while I've dilly-dallied around the past week.

Lastly, I wanted to give my fellow bloggers and lovers of bloggin' a quick nudge to go read this post, about a new online talk show called Behind the Blog. It's a show just for us, developed, produced and hosted by a couple of the most talented and knowledgeable people I know in our "industry" -- Melanie of Blogging Basics 101 and Karen of Simply Amusing Designs. They've quickly and efficiently taken an incredibly smart idea from a tiny, hopeful seed to full bloom and they'll go live with their very first show next week. Now this isn't a podcast - it's a real call-in talk show that'll include meaty interviews with your favorite bloggers, up-to-the-minute-and-beyond tips and tools for bloggers, a live chat you can join to further the live discussion, and plenty of opportunities to ask the hosts and guests your own ponderous blogging questions via live call-in. Go read Karen's post - she explains it much more clearly than I have, and if you subscribe to her blog's feed while you're there you'll be set to get all the information and digits you need to participate in the first official show next week. I hope to hear and read you there. Mama won't be missing it!

That's all for now, y'all. After tomorrow morning's big revelation, I oughtta be back out on the porch with the ice cold sweet tea and lemonade, swingin' and chattin' every day like I like to be.

Hope to see you here, too!

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Monday, July 7, 2008

And Many Happy Returns.

Happy Monday Morning, Y'all! How was your weekend?

Oh boy! I've been waiting for this day forEVER. I know I've probably mentioned it to y'all about a dozen times in the past month or so, but try bein' somebody I know in real life who's heard about it every day, EVERY DAY, people, "I'M GETTIN' A NEW BLOG DESIGN IN --- WEEKS, ---- DAYS, ---- HOURS AND ---- MINUTES AND IT'S SO PRETTY! IT'S THE PRETTIEST THING EVER IN THE WHOLE WORLD, EVER!"

I imagine those people may even be happier than I am to see this day finally arrive, if that's possible, because it means I'll perhaps be able to focus on something, ANYTHING else now besides HOW PRETTY! SO PRETTY! Is my new blog design! I hope everybody loves it as much as I do!

And you know who else I'll bet's doin' a happy dance this morning? My bloggy designer, Karen, at Simply Amusing Designs. Because along with all of my excited gushing over how GORGEOUS it all is, she's also had to deal with my neurotic scrutinization of every minor detail, my hourly HERRO? We need to talk. Again. messages on Yahoo! Messenger, my constant requests to "try it THIS WAY?" and subsequent "Oh, NOS, that didn't work. You were rights. Put it back how it was!"

And when I say Neurotic, what I mean is, in retrospect it's possible I may have slightly um -- over thought -- a few things as we moved through the design process. At one point, I asked Karen, in all seriousness, "Karen? What do you think might be the psychological impact to readers of a total font change in the text of the posts themselves?"

Blink.

Blink blink.


To her credit, as far as I could tell by her hasty and reassuring reply on Messenger, she didn't laugh until she fell down on the floor weeping. It's important to select a designer who can work around your specific set of personality quirks, people.

(But if y'all start to feel your psyches ARE bein' negatively impacted by the bold change in fonts, please do let me know immediately.)

(Your psychological adjustment to the new look is of the utmost importance to me.)

(I just wanted you to know that.)

(Maybe we need a focus group?)

Anyway, I've held off on making any other major changes to FriedOkra at this point, besides just the header, background and fonts, so y'all have time to adjust to the new look. In a few days I'll be moving some sidebar items around, seein' as I have TWO SIDEBARS NOW! TWO! And therefore TONS OF EXTRA STORAGE SPACE, which means that I will now start aggregatin' junk to store in that extra space at two or three times my previous junk accrual rate, if what's happened in the basement of my home is any indication of how extra storage space works around here. Where does it all come from, people?

Later in the week I'm going to tell y'all a little bit about the design process for the new FriedOkra, share some more design-related anecdotes and interview Karen about her work here, her blog design business and who knows what else. She's a talented, funny, and very sweet lady, and I want those of you who haven't met her yourselves to get a little dose of her all-around goodness.

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As I've mentioned before, this new look is my way of marking and celebrating the first anniversary of FriedOkra! I've blathered away about nothin' here for a full year now, and what a full year it's been, too!

I'm hoping to get to write a post reflecting on that first year later today, but before all that, I just want to tell all of y'all THANK YOU for making this year of blogging so amazing and wonderful and fun. Thank you for every funny, clever, sweet, reassuring, supportive and helpful comment you've left. Thank you for sharing your own stories, your own recipes, your own memories and your own spirit. Thank you for every email, link, bloggy award, question or correction you've gently bestowed on my humble little personage.

I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that writing for y'all this year has changed and blessed me in ways I never imagined possible. Knowing I can come here and tell ya'll about about the funny, humiliating, sweet or surprising thing that happened today, or yesterday, or 30 years ago, and that you'll read and understand and laugh or cry along with me? And keep comin' back for more? And sometimes bring your friends or family along to meet me, too? Well, it's nothing short of a miracle to me, and I am grateful to you, and to God, for the gift of each of you.

Happy Bloggiversary, FriedOkra!