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Saturday, January 31, 2009

And Bonus #26 - I'm content to accept there are just some things I'll never understand in life. Like why anyone'd write a song about muskrat love.

I was tagged on Facebook a couple or forty times to do this one (and I may have just tagged some of y'all on YOUR Facebooks to do it too, so get to randomizin'!) Thought I'd throw these up here, too, since my Dad has now made it clear to me that he's poised to Unsubscribe my arse if I don't knock it off with all the BORING FASHION POSTS.

(I'm not certain this is gonna be that drastic an improvement, though, just so y'all know.)

1 - I'm fairly surprised at how wide-eyed I still feel at 41. I'm full of dreams and have even more that I want to see, do and learn about than I did at 21. I think at 21 I thought I'd be old and boring at 41. Oh, wait.

2 - I hope this body can hold on for at least another 41 years so I can get it all accomplished.

3 - I wonder, sometimes several times daily, what I ever did before there was email. I guess I must have used ... ugh... THE DREADED PHONE!

4 - And how'd I live without the internet? I probably Google at least 15 random things a day because I MUST HAVE AN ANSWER TO THIS BURNING QUESTION! STAT!

5 - All the things I wanted to be when I was a child have come true, even though I kinda abandoned hope they ever would while I was in my 20s and 30s - a mom, a writer, a Midwesterner who wears goose-down and various types of fur and trudges around in knee deep snow for months out of the year. Yep, that's me, now!

6 - And I might whine about the struggles and the heartaches and perils of any and all of the above, but make no mistake, I love this life. I really AM livin' my dream.

7 - My favorite place to kiss my babies is right between their noses and their cheeks. That little dent's the perfect size and shape to fit my lips into and smooch away! Although I love their lips, too. Heck, I just like kissin' em.

8 - Al proposed to me at a birthday party he planned for my 36th birthday, among twenty-something of our closest friends. I will never ever forget that amazing night. Although in the fact that I said twenty-something, I recognize I may be losin' full command of the finer details.

9 - I will also never take that wonderful man's love for me for granted, nor will I stop reminding him how lucky I feel to have him for mine.

10 - I am LOUSY at sending cards and presents to people on their birthdays. I love birthdays, and I love people, but I guess I don't love calendars. Or the post office.

11 - The older I get, the more I recognize there's more'n one right answer to almost every question, more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, and plenty of love to go around.

12 - Which makes life a lot better, but a little more complicated for poor little decision-challenged me.

13 - My favorite food is buffalo chicken salad, hold the salad, with extra bleu cheese and plenty of celery. But I don't much care for actual buffalo wings because they're too much work and I hate gettin' all that goo under my fingernails.

14 - I love to travel. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I hope my kids will be the travelin' kind because I really want to get out and see more of this world with them. I think traveling and living all over expands people's perspective and open their minds and hearts to people and things different than themselves and their own experiences. And that's just GOOD.

15 - Shoes. Me likey the shoes.

16 - Bean and I love to fire up the 80s tunes on YouTube or the ipod and dance our little hearts out. You know, 80s tunes are even more fun without all that teenage angst.

17 - I love to cook. From Southern classics to rustic Italian dishes to fabulous holiday meals. I'll try my hand at just about anything, if I can find the ingredients locally. But I think my favorite thing to make is still my Mom's recipe for home made mac and cheese. Because it, my friends, is culinary perfection, every time.

18 - In blogging, I seem to have found an outlet for all the random conversations I used to have in my head.

19 - But I still tend to get lost in my own thoughts unless I really, really make myself focus on the here and now.

20 - I work better alongside another person. Not necessarily WITH someone else on the same project, just in close proximity to another person who is also working. Or appears to be working.

21 - I guess I don't really believe in karma, but I do kinda see that what goes around comes around, more times than not. In knowing this, and in genuinely liking people, I try to be, you know, nice.

22 - But don't mess with my kids. Seriously. Don't.

23 - I love to laugh. And to make someone else laugh? Oh, that is what I live for! For what I live! Whatever!

24 - I once climbed a 50 foot alpine tower and rappeled down with a raw egg wrapped in a bandana tied to the belt loop of my shorts. I made it, but the egg didn't. I am still working through my grief.

25 - I'm startin' to see what they mean by "You get what you pay for" and thinking I'll learn to live with less, if I can just have good, quality less that will last.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

What I'm NOT Wearin' at Blissdom: Saturday

I'm havin' fun y'all! I think I could do this for a livin'. Who knew?

So after the fun of Friday night's cocktail and pajama parties, I'm thinkin' we'll all be good enough friends for me to let my hair down a little. So I'm just gonna throw caution to the wind and take a risk or two with my Saturday duds.

My Dad emailed me after I showed you what I'm not wearin' Friday and said he was theoretically concerned I'm gonna freeze my transcendental buns off in Nashville, in early February, in a pair of $225 khakis and short sleeve shirt, so Dad, I'm thinkin' today's outfit's gonna smooth out those worry lines for you.

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Here's a cute gap.com tailored blue shirt with tiny white polka dots. It's a classic piece, but I like that it's fitted and has a touch of the whimsy to make it feel a bit less samey.

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Over the blue shirt, I'm throwin' on this pretty pale yellow v-neck sweater, also from gap.com. I wanted a yellow cashmere sweater, but apparently all the yellow cashmeres made a break for it at sheering time this season. I couldn't find a single yellow cashmere v-neck to save my life, people. But this cotton v-neck's a good piece to take me from late winter to early spring and even, in Chicago, into summer, where the nights stay chilly into July, sometimes.

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I WISH y'all could see the front of this classic trouser jean. If you click through (on the picture above), you CAN check out another view and see the small, trendy patch pockets with nickle-link detailing. Oh, they are sweet, people. These are from Nordstrom.com, but they're on sale, so the price didn't make me gasp and splutter in shock as if I'd just been drenched in icy, dirty gutter water by a city bus takin' a tight corner.

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etsy.com people. Handmade stuff by people like you and me. Real, creative, talented people. This long strand of green glass beads is part of a full set that includes a slightly more intricate bracelet and earrings. Go look. So simple, but so pretty.

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Check the shoe. Hadda go for a red bowed shoe a la Dorothy, because it's Saturday and I'm havin' a blast with y'all and learning a lot at the conference, but by four in the afternoon, I'ma be missing my sweet family and starting to feel a little no-place-like-homegirlish. Zappos.com does it again. Gals, they have every shoe my little brain can think up. Go try it. Picture a shoe, any shoe, the PERFECT SHOE, and then go see if you can find it on Zappos.com. Betcha can.

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Quit it with the beautiful bags, Janine King Designs at etsy.com! OHMYGRANNY, this one makes me wanna GENUFLECT, doesn't it y'all? What else can I say? This whole outfit is about takin' some wardrobe staples and popping them up with fab accessories, and this bag? DAWG, this bag could make my 15-year-old dingy-white waffle-weave bathrobe look like Rodeo Drive. (Granted, I'd need a good leg wax, a pair of sling-backs and some new knees to pull it off, but we're bein' THEORETICAL here.)

And I found a coat. This gorgeous coat. Sortof a rusty/persimmon wool hip-length trench with a self-belt. That's the coat I wanted to wear with this outfit, Dad. You said WOOL, right? So I dutifully looked up a wool coat and found -- perfection. And then, sadly, I lost it. Can't find it anywhere. So y'all just have to imagine that one. RATS.

Hey, are y'all enjoying these clothes posts? Because this is HUGE fun for me, and I'm loving your comments. Should I do more of them in the future or have you had enough? Would y'all, even those who rarely or never comment, mind lettin' me know your thoughts on these FriedOkra fashion posts?


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

What I'm NOT Wearin' to Blissdom: Friday Night Cocktails

Wheeeeeeeeeeee! I'm havin' fun y'all. But it's almost a relief I'm NOT goin' to Blissdom09 because I'll tell you a little secret. The outfit I'm NOT wearin' the cocktail party Friday night? Would look DREADFUL on me. Well, the top would.

Let me remind you: I live in the suburbs of Chicago. My skin, ALL of my skin, is white, pasty and chalky-dry. Also, I haven't exercised since LAST February. So I'm a little. Um. Molten-lookin'. As in, my skin/flab/loosey-goosey muscle-like substances all form a ripply little puddle where ever my clothes try to even impose the very slightest of restriction against its downward flow. I lop over my lop-overs. And it ain't purty. All that taken into consideration, I wouldn't be caught dead in a sleeveless top right now. And y'all should all breathe a sigh of relief that you won't be forced to view me in one.

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All the same, I am loving the color and styling of this lovely silken top from J.Jill.com. It comes in several colors, but this one really struck my fancy. It reminds me of the Daiquiri Ice ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Man, I loved that stuff. Do they still make it? Anyone?


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Now a top like that has to have an anchor, so light and airy and ethereal it is. So I'd pair it with this gorgeous ruffled pencil skirt from Anthropologie.com. It's navy. Yes, I said navy. I refuse to wear a black skirt to a cocktail party. Or black pants. It's just too ... standard. HO. HUM. (If you are wearing a black skirt or pants to the cocktail party, YOURS, of course, is not ho-hum. IT'S ALL KINDS OF FABULOUS! ARE YOU KIDDIN' ME, GIRL?)

Now let's say during the day Friday it's revealed to me that the Friday night cocktail party is more of a casual soiree? Well then I'll just ditch my frou-frou pencil skirt and throw on this pair of dark-wash trouser jeans with crystal rivets. Yes, crystal, which I found on sale at AnnTaylorLoft.com. That's clever, with the crystals, don't you think? Just the right touch on a dark wash jean to take them from dressed-up to dressed-to-kill.

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More honesty here. I love the idea of a wrap. I do. But I think it's possible I lack the poise and the grace it takes to carry-off a wrap. Me? I'd end up with one end of this beautiful satiny piece of luxury wrapped around a wrist and the other wrapped around an ankle, and in two steps I'd go from elegance to ambulance. Bing, bang, boom, and I'm Blissdom's requisite weekend contribution to the local urgent care facility.

It would have to be me y'all. You can't even deny it.

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And you also can't wear a wrap if you don't have a stunning, fabulous clutch. Because when you wear a wrap, you've gotta keep your elbows bent gracefully or you just look like you've got on one of those durn plastic salon poncho/cape/thingies and are about to get you some foils in your hair. And what better reason to bend those elbows than to display, to the great amazement of all who will surely surround you, your smart, sassy Fossil clutch from Macys.com?

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Jumped by etsy.com again because I'm all about me some handmade beaded jewelry, and this one adds a pop of sparkle and contrast to my outfit. (Other colors available too, and they are all gorgeous!)

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OH GIRL! If I weren't a stinkin' suburbanite, livin' out here in the sticks, raising two little kids and never goin' anywhere fancier than the local sushi bar, where a pair of "nice" flip flops'll make people eye you like YOU THINK YOU SUMPM!? Then I would have these shoes. They're Steve Maddens, and I know y'all think you know everything about me by now but I bet you'll still be shocked to know that I LOVE me some Steve Madden shoes. I'm generally into a more classic look, but when it comes to a shoe? OHMYGRANNY give me some ADORNMENT. And some FLAIR. And a pop of unexpected COLOR. Oh yes. Found these at Zappos.com. I could pretty much LIVE on Zappos.com. Give me a tub of Nutella and a browser-windowful of Zappos and I'll leave you in peace the rest of the day.

There you go, neck to toe, Friday night's cocktail party.

I'll have a Jack Daniel's Manhattan, up, two cherries, please.

Cheers, y'all!

(If you haven't seen what I'm NOT wearing during the day Friday at Blissdom09, you don't wanna miss my Jolly Green Okra coat.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What I'm NOT Wearin' to Blissdom '09

For a brief minute back the first or second week of January, I came *thisclose* to gettin' myself all registered up to jet off to Nashville for Blissdom '09 next weekend. And OH, how excited I was, and just like I do for ANY EVENT, EVER, that will require me to leave the walls of FriedOkra Manor, up to and including takin' Bean to preschool two mornings a week, for which I never even have to get out of my CAR, I began to obsess about what I was gonna wear.

I love me some clothes.

Al abbreviated my plans for attending The Big Do with some, you know, LOGIC, and I hastily and bummeredly abandoned them. Oddly, though, I've not stopped obsessing over what to wear. In fact, since I'm NOT going to Blissdom, and I can theoretically shop anywhere I like, spend as much as I want, and throw together as many beautiful, classically-styled outfits as my little heart desires, I've spent (so far) about half a day, all tallied, online cuttin', pastin', URL-in' and arranging my way to my absolute DREAM bloggy conference wardrobe.


If you're going to Blissdom, I hope you have a fantastic time. Hug your own and each other's necks for me and imagine the Okra, on Friday, strolling up to you wearin' the following ensemble.

(You can click on any of the photos below to see more details about or even purchase the item pictured, by the way.)

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The classic white cap sleeve turtleneck from Ann Taylor won't require ironing to stay lookin' fresh, and since Day One will involve some airport hoppin', I'm thinkin' that's a good thing.

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A nice, crisp pair of wideleg trousers. Who can argue with a crisp and classic stone pant in a universally flattering silhouette? Nobody, that's who. Found these at Nordstrom.com. Too expensive, but since I'm spendin' Theoretical Bucks, the sky's the limit, man!

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Found this pretty silk scarf through Overstock.com. Did you know turquoise compliments ANY complexion/coloring? Get you sumpm turquoise and try it on and let's compare notes.

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Also from Nordstrom, a pair of almost wedgie-like heels with a cute button feature. I like that they're not too high for the miles I'll walk on Day One, but not too low to mess up the long leg-line I'm sportin' in my widelegs.

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I like this watch. I need a new silver watch. Hello Al? Valentine's Day approacheth. Ahem. Love you!

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And this? The piece de resistAWNCE, in my fashion-challenged opinion. I thought this coat up in my head and then had to hunt it down online. Found it at Nordstrom.com and it's not EXACTLY what I dreamt up, but it's close.

Me though? I think I'll wear a size that, you know, FITS MY BODY. I am not keen on the orphan-in-the-too-small-clothes-with-her-4-inch-long-wrists-stickin'-out look, much. Y'all?

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I hadda stop by etsy.com for a handbag, because every outfit has to have a conversation-startin' piece and a handmade bag like this generally does the trick. It's maybe a bit too matchy-matchy with the rest of the outfit, but I am digging my green/turquoise theme on Day One so much I can live with matchy-matchy this time.

What do y'all think of Day One's threads? Am I All Up In It, or will I be standin' in a corner alone, rethinkin' my Jolly Green Okra coat by noon-ish?




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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

L-O-L.

We've been talking about and playing with the sounds of letters lately around FriedOkra Manor. I'm SO EXCITED Bean's showing interest in reading. Feels like I've been waitin' for this stage forever. She's initiated a neat little game we play off and on throughout the day, and yesterday's session made me laugh.

Bean: D for dance! (Shaking her booty.)

Mama: M for music!

Bean: G for guitar!

Mama: T for TICKLE!

Bean: K for KISS! (Smack. She kisses me.)

Mama: H for HU-U-UG! (Squeeeeeeeeeeze. I hug her.)

Bean: (Muffled.) Um. M for Mama?

Mama: Yes, B for Bean?

Bean: Mmmmf. (Squirm.) T.

Mama: T?

Bean: Mmmm-hmm. For Too Tight.




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Monday, January 26, 2009

OHMYGRANNY! She's a Teenybopper!

My beautiful, adorable, sweet, smart, talented elder niece Olivia turns the big ONE-THREE today.

Happy Birthday Olivia! I remember, as if it were yesterday, the day shortly after you were born that your Mom handed you over to me for the first time and I held you and looked into your dark, lovely eyes and sniffled and sobbed my way through our first meeting. You were so incredibly beautiful to me then, and such a wonder, just as you are today.

I suspect you always will be.

We love you so much!

(And I hope this doesn't embarrass Your Teenageriness too much.)

Aunt Megan, Uncle Al, Bean and Peabody






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The First of Many, I'll Wager

I'm over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today with a love letter to Peabody.

Ah, puppy love, isn't it sweet?


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“It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.” - Harry S. Truman

Oh, yeah, I love me some presidential wisdom of a Monday mornin', don't y'all?

My friend and esteemed colleague Jo-Lynne at Musings of a Housewife wants to hear about what YOU learned this week. She's starting a neat new Tuesday carnival for everyone to share their weekly hard-won lessons, be they funny, serious, or somewhere in between.

Me? I learned about a little thing called Toy Migration. As in, the toys Al and I worked so hard to get down into the basement and organized last November keep findin' their way back upstairs into and around my designated In-Order-to- Preserve-a-Shred-of-Your-Sanity-Toy-Free-Zone. So now Bean's learning sumpm. She's learning about DE-MIGRATION. I've set a basket in one corner of the family room and explained to her that at the end of each day, right before bed, she's to collect all the toys she's brought upstairs and put them in that basket and cart them back down to the basement where they belong.

What'd y'all learn? Get to bloggin', throw up your What I Learned post and then run over link up your What I Learned This Week post at Jo-Lynne's by clickin' the button below.




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Friday, January 23, 2009

What Is No Longer

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The second part of this week was almost exclusively Peabody-centered, thanks to a little cold his Daddy passed along and the imminent arrival (I hope!) of his TWO bottom front teeth. He's been grumpy and clingy and unable to eat or sleep or play with his customary wild abandon, my poor boy.

Keeping him close and comfortable and reasonably happy required heap big Mama-ness, and I constantly snuggled and paced with him all day long except in the few little minutes he'd sleep before he'd wake again, inconsolable. As always, Bean stayed near, watching, waiting, helping where she could, and accepting way less of me than she deserved.

Last night after putting a much-improved Peabody into his crib, I tiptoed into Bean's room and lay down beside her as she rested, waiting for sleep to come. We read books together until she began to yawn, then I pulled her close for a minute and whispered in her ear and kissed her squooshy cheeks and listened to her sigh. Finally I pulled myself away and arose to arrange her covers. Reaching for one last book, Bean sat up again just as I pulled her pink comforter up over her, and my hard knuckle collided with the outside corner of my baby girl's eye.

She cried from the shock of it, and the pain, and for a long time I held her again and rocked her, speaking my profound apologies into the top of her soft, curly head. She tilted her face back and looked into my eyes, and I choked out, "I'm so sorry, lovey, please forgive me. Is it starting to feel better?"

"No," she said, "But it's okay. You're still my best friend anyway, Mama."

And I cried. Much longer than for that tiny bump, and much longer than either of us felt the physical sting of that accidental impact.

I cried because the guilt of the week, the guilt of the past five and a half months of dividing myself unevenly between a tiny new baby and my FIRST baby overwhelmed me. And I realized how much I MISS my own sweet best friend and the special relationship we shared before Peabody came along. I miss being only for her and only with her each day, and I miss the simplicity of just the two of us girls, together.

I'd never, ever, ever change a single thing about my family. Peabody completes us. He's a source of joy to all of us, and as vital a piece of me as my own heart. But someone once asked me, What's the toughest thing about becoming mother to two children after having four years with just one? and while I gratefully celebrate the many wonderful, amazing changes this year and this precious boy have ushered in, the hard part comes not in what life is now, but in what it is no longer.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Also, I Asked Her, "Wow, What Do You Think of Aretha's Hat?" and She Said, "Well. It Has a Big Bow on It."

So yesterday was a Big Day, huh?

Bean and I watched the televised coverage of the inauguration completely enraptured. It took her awhile to understand that nobody was gettin' married, though, and disappointment shrouded the remainder of the day after I explained there wasn't going to be any Big White Cake.

Let's see. Thanks to me ONE TIME, in sheer desperation to find some sort of common ground upon which to build, likening the President to a, um, king (as all the founding fathers took one big collective whirl in their graves, sorry guys!) Bean now refers to the White House as "the castle" and the Obama girls as "the princesses."

Oh well. We'll get 'er there eventually, right?

The video'd interview with Bean? FAIL. She wasn't in her on-camera mood, so I ended up with 3 minutes worth of footage of me askin' 'er questions and tellin' her to sit up and look at me and her rolling her eyes and growling and sayin' "You're makin' me angry!"

Apparently I'm no Barbara Walters, but then again, I'm guessin' Barbara's never had to juggle her own camera in one hand AND a fussy, sweet potato-covered baby in the other while interviewin' her subjects.

That failure aside, I still think overall we accomplished the mission. Bean and I watched, she and I discussed, and she told Daddy about what she'd seen happen when he got home. My daughter, for whatever reason, only speaks the name of our new president as all one word, and it's always in all-caps with multiple exclamation points, like BARACKOBAMA!!!!

So the dinner conversation went like this:

Me: Bean, tell Daddy what we watched on TV today.

Bean: BARACKOBAMA!!!!

Al: Really? What was he doing on TV?

Bean: Oh (casually), you know, he jus' got born as the President of the world.

(Yep, hadn't even stepped foot in the Oval Office yet and already he's gotten himself a big promotion!)

Al: Really? What else?

Bean: Um. His wife brought a present to Mrs. Butch. It was a pen and a book, wif pages so she can write a story tomorrow.

Megan: What's President Obama's wife's name? Do you remember?

Bean: Um. The Lady?

Megan: Yes, the FIRST Lady.

Bean: The First Lady! And Daddy?

Al: Yes baby?

Bean: They have TWO PRINCESSES too. And one is a big girl and the other is even a BIGGER girl.

Today I asked her what happened yesterday and she got all cross and rolled her eyes and said, (And her tone was all, Gee whiz, lady, can't you REMEMBER these things? We watched it like, ALL DAY, for cryin' outloud.) "Mamaaaaaaa, BARACKOBAMA!!! rode in that big black car with the green glass and then he was the President. What's for breakfast?"

Made a huge impression on that one, it did.




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Regrettably...

Hi people -

It's me. You know, peace-lovin', goofball, let's-all-laugh-and-eat-some-biscuits-together-on-the-porch me? And all this conflict is givin' me hives, so I'm closing the comments to this post.

To anyone who's been hurt or offended by the contents of the original post or any of what was said in the comments, sorry about that. It happens, I suppose, although it hasn't ever happened HERE and I'm bummed it did this time. Please know that I write every rambling post with a heart full of desire to bring Moms and women (and man, Dad) together, not drive us apart.

If you have additional thoughts you'd like to share about this post, by all means, please email me directly at friedokra4me at gmail dot com. I'll welcome them with gratitude as long as they're meant in the spirit of respect and friendship. But if you're looking for a heated argument, I'm not your girl, and FriedOkra is just not that kinda blog.

MMMMMWAH! Love y'all.

M


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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm Tryin' to Be Realistic. She's Four. We Watched MLK's Famous Speech Today and She Blurted Out, "Did He Say He Has Ice Cream?!"

Hi people -

It's me. You know, peace-lovin', goofball, let's-all-laugh-and-eat-some-biscuits-together-on-the-porch me? And all this conflict is givin' me hives, so I'm closing the comments to this post.

To anyone who's been hurt or offended by the contents of this original post or any of what was said in the comments, sorry about that. It happens, I suppose, although it hasn't ever happened HERE and I'm bummed it did this time. Please know that I write every rambling post with a heart full of desire to bring Moms and women (and man, Dad) together, not drive us apart.

If you have additional thoughts you'd like to share about this post, by all means, please email me directly at friedokra4me at gmail dot com. I'll welcome them with gratitude as long as they're meant in the spirit of respect and friendship. But if you're looking for a heated argument, I'm not your girl, and FriedOkra is just not that kinda blog.

MMMMMWAH! Love y'all.

M


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The FriedOkra children and I will be parked in front of the TV today watchin' all the inaugural coverage we can get our six little eyes upon.

I'm tryin' to think up ways to help some portion of the day and its meaning stay with Bean (who's four, remember). Ideally I'd love her to have SOME recollection of Obama's inauguration, for obvious reasons. Peabody's just too young. I'm sorry he won't remember it for himself, but I'll do some things tomorrow to document events so that even though he won't be able to conjure up his own memories or mental images, he'll have something to look at later in life that'll prove to him he was here. He saw the first (half) African American President of the United States being sworn into office.

Here's what I'm thinkin'.

1) I'll use my digital camera and do a quick introduction and conduct an "interview" Bean about what we're watching (she loves to pretend she's a reporter right now, which works to my advantage). I'll also shoot some footage of her talking about what she sees and involve her in conversation (not hard to do these days) about what's going on as I explain things in answer to her (eleventy-million) questions. I'll point out the Obama girls as I see them. She's captivated by Big Girls, so my guess is she'll be thrilled to watch them whenever they're on camera.

2) Then tonight at dinner, Al can ask Bean what she did today (he always does) and hopefully (HOPEFULLY!) she'll remember enough to talk to him about what she's seen and heard. I'm always on the edge of my seat each day to hear what part of her day she'll want to discuss with Daddy.

3) We'll mention the President Obama in our bedtime prayers at least for the next week or so - praying for God's wisdom and guidance as he leads our country.

4) Sometime Wednesday, Bean and I'll get out her markers and some paper and each draw something she remembers from the Inauguration - something specific she saw that really interested her - and I'll get Bean to tell me about her drawing that so I can write her thoughts on the picture(s) creating a story book or a journal entry.

5) As the topic of President Obama naturally arises in conversation going forward, I'll remind Bean of today and what we saw and encourage her to think and talk about it with me again.

As for Peabody, he'll be in the videos I take and I'll try to write down a few words while I'm drawing with Bean about what he was doing on this auspicious day.

Now. Do any of you educators or early child development specialists out there have any other suggestions on how I can make the day memorable for kids? Am I covering all the bases? They're young, I know, yet I want to give Bean the best chance possible of retaining something of this very special day.

Anybody planning any special Inauguration-centered activities with your own small children? I'd really love to hear about them.



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Monday, January 19, 2009

FriedOkra's Simple Tips for Blog Writing, Numbers 4 & 5

OHMYGRANNY! It's a TWO-FER!

I'm back with count 'em, not one but TWO blog-writin' tips today, because these two go together like biscuits and gravy. Or biscuits and honey.

Or biscuits and more biscuits.

Sigh.

Gosh I love biscuits.

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Now where was I?

Oh yes. The blog-writing tips.

They're a nice pair, these two. You really can't much have one without the other, which explains why I fell victim to the biscuits-n-gravy metaphor.

It was completely unavoidable.

4. Vary your sentence structures*.

Now look. If you're riding along on the flat, monotonous highway, tires bumping over crack after evenly-spaced crack, your eyelids eventually start to droop sleepily right?

Kathunk. Kathunk. Kathunk. ZZZZZZZZZZ.

But winding and twisting and joggling over varied terrain, curve, bump, peak, valley, gas, brake, gas, brake, gas, brake, you stay awake and alert, because you don't know what's around the next bend, right?

It's the same with writing. Construct your paragraphs so the meter doesn't go all kathunky on your reader.

Let's consider a paragraph of sentences all written in a plain old Subject-Verb construction:

New-fallen snow outside the window glistens brightly. It casts a clean fresh glow over the folds of a nubby blanket. My daughter sleeps beside me on the sofa. I drink in her sweet softness with my eyes and inhale her warm scent. She stirs quietly, smiles and brushes a hand lightly over her cheek. I watch and wonder what she's dreaming.

Here's that same paragraph, jazzed-up with a variety of constructions:

Outside the window, new-fallen snow glistens brightly, casting a clean, fresh glow over the folds of a nubby blanket that covers my daughter, asleep beside me on the sofa. Quietly she stirs, smiles and brushes a hand across her cheek and I watch, wondering what she's dreaming as I drink in her sweet softness and inhale her warm scent.

The same meaning's conveyed, right? But the first version plods, while the second version dances.

Tip Number Four is Vary your sentence structures. No kathunking.

You're better than that, people.


5. Choose good words*.

Grab the dictionary and thesaurus and find just the right words to convey your meanings.

Pack your writing with vivid, nuance-filled action verbs (VERB! THAT'S WHAT'S HAPPENIN'!) instead of the lazy ones like do, does, did, is, am, are, was, were etc.

Grab your readers’ attention by fueling your writing with evocative nouns of precise meaning.

(And please y'all. Don't EVEN get me started on adverbs and adjectives, because you KNOW how I feel about me some adverbs and adjectives: Yes, yes and MORE YES.)

Did you just throw a rock? Or did you {toss, chuck, hurl, fling, lob, cast, bean, hoist, flip or heave} a {boulder, stone, pebble, chard or chip?}

Did the baby walk across the room carrying a blanket, or did she teeter-totter unsteadily over the faded rag-rug, dragging her threadbare, tattered blue wooby behind her?

See? NUANCE, people. NUANCE makes your writing go from flat to fluffy.

I will even add that in certain types of writing, like my type, for example, I'M NOT AGAINST MAKIN' UP A WORD OR TWO HERE OR THERE WHEN NECESSITY DEMANDS IT OF ME.

Case in point: How the heck would I have conveyed my meaning in Tip Number Four above without the word kathunk?

Tip Number Five is Choose Good Words. Don't settle for just A Word. Look for The Word. It's out there (even if it's just in your own head) and when you find it, it'll make you, and your reader, very, very happy.

*I will add a teensy-tinsy little caveat here and say that if you're writing an article, how-to guide or other just-convey-the-facts piece, you'll probably want to leave out the funkiest of sentence constructions and stick to using actual dictionary-writer-approved words.






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Friday, January 16, 2009

Peabody and Me



You know what they didn't tell me about being the Mama of a little boy?

They didn't tell me that almost as soon as he was born, I'd sense in him this quiet, simple, masculinity, and I'd cherish it in the deepest part of me. I'm as yet unable to define it, or put my finger on its origin, but I hold him against me, this solid hunk of boyishness, and somehow his closeness to me, his connection with me, explains the mystery of maleness that has eluded me my whole life long.

I feel in some ways that God has blessed me with a son so that I can experience and understand manhood in a way I never could have without my Matthew.

And it is gentle. But strong. And powerful. And I connect with it and feel lifted by it.

My BOY. MY boy. Always. My sweet, sweet Matthew.




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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oh For the Freedom of Knowing I Am Right Where I Belong, Doing Exactly What I'm Supposed to Be Doing

I'm really enjoying your questions as they trickle into my inbox via the comments on this post. I hope y'all will keep 'em coming because we are really excited about answering them for you and making you smile in the process.

I wanted to point y'all to an encouraging post by Lisa at Take90West.

I'm sharing it with you because after having read it yesterday, I've turned up the gas on some long-overdue soul-searching and re-evaluating of my time on-line and how I spend it. Even how I think about FriedOkra and what I've let happen to my original purpose for writing here. I've become obsessed with numbers - how many readers, comments, Twitter followers, page views, emails can I garner in a day? I've started letting these numbers become a measure of my worth as a "writer" and even as a person.

It seems much of what I truly wished for when I opened up this white box four hundred and ninety four posts ago has fallen by the wayside, and a new ambition has taken over. And I'm not saying there's no room for ambition, or even that I can't someday chase my ambitions as far as I like, with wild abandon, as long as it's healthy and helpful to me as I focus on my family's care and upbringing.

But I don't really think it has been, lately.

I will confess right here that I'd love to have thousands upon thousands of readers and receive forty-leven comments on each of my daily clever, insightful and perfectly-written posts. I'd love to be a bloody bloggin' rockstar. I would. If I'm honest with myself, that's the truth, good or bad. My ego loves the idea of being the favorite, the sought-after, the bloggy starlet. Loves the idea of raking in more significant advertising and sponsorship checks to buy Al's pride and respect.

But for what? For whom? Would being a queen of blogging bless the souls of my children? Make me a better, more present, more involved and loving mother? Would showing Al that I can bring in money by having my face and mind planted in a computer all day make me a better wife to him? Show him how much I believe in him as our family's provider and how deeply and earnestly I share his own dreams and ambitions?

SURVEY SAYS? Oh heck to the naw.

Loving my own ambitions so much that I frequently view my children's and husband's daily care, needs and desire for my attention as distractions and interruptions? That's not healthy. I've failed, in the past months, to fully respect and appreciate my God-given role here as wife and mother (of some truly wonderful people).

I've taken the past two days off so to speak, limiting my on-line time to the moments (and there were very few of them!) when my kids didn't need or want me. And you know what? I'm their mommin' rockstar. I'm their favorite. I'm the most sought-after person in their lives!

It's time for me to take a step or two away from my laptop and stop using Feedburner to measure my worth. I'm a Mama. I'm a wife who loves her husband deeply. These three people? They define my success or failure. Period.

Does this change anything here at FriedOkra? No. Not so you'll probably ever notice.

But something inside me has changed.

And I'm so thankful it has.


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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Get Me Now, Holy Cow, Could Someone Pinch Me Please?*

This is my four-hundred ninety-sump'm-eth post!

Which means in a few days I'll be posting here for the FIVE HUNDREDTH TIME, people.

OH. MY. GRANNY!

Nearly five hundred times I've opened up this white Blogger box and typed out something of myself to share with first one person, then seven, then 20, then 100, and now 350+ sweet, loyal, forgiving souls who, for some reason've seen fit to indulge my ramblings day after day.

And I'm touched. Touched that 18 months ago I nervously fried up my first serving of Okra and hoped somebody out there would sniff it out and enjoy it, and since then y'all have just kept comin' back to the table, so to speak, for more.

It baffles me, really. (But in a good way.)

Thank you.

So much.

I'm feeling like we need to do something special to mark the occasion of FriedOkra's five hundredth post. Something all new. Something monumental.

Which of course means I've been completely stressed out and my mind has gone totally blank and I've spent the past several days hiding behind the big ol' Aigner boot box in the back of my closet nervously humming the score to Broadway's Annie and eating ranch-flavored croutons straight out of the package.

Fortunately for y'all, though, there's Al. And he has come up with a fabulous idea for post #500, and he's even offered to be actively involved in the project, bless his husbandly, take-matters-into-my-own-hands-so-my-wife-will-stop-muttering-and-shivering-and-perpetually-smelling-like-Hidden-Valley heart.

(And get out of the closet.)

(No, not THAT closet.)

But we need your help to bring Al's Fabulous Five Hundredth Post Spectacular to life. And I know I've asked you this before, but I'ma ask you it again, and this time I want to you to REALLY (all of you, because Monday was De-lurking Day and I didn't EVEN take y'all to task on that!) and I mean REALLY think about this. Not that you haven't in the past, really thought about it, that is, but yeah.

This time it's for all the money, people. The whole enchilada.

I need y'all to ask more questions. Only this time, Al's gonna help me answer them. And we're going to answer your questions in a way that'll (hopefully) surprise and delight y'all.

So ask away. We'll answer the best of the questions, best meaning probably the ones that make us laugh the hardest, maybe? Who knows.

And remember, this whole thing was Al's idea, so make sure you take this man to task, okay? Work him over good. He needs it!

All-righty! Fire away, people. Make sure you include which one of us you want to answer along with your question.


*Lyrics from "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" by Martin Charnin. From Broadway's Hit Musical, Annie.







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Monday, January 12, 2009

FriedOkra's Simple Tips for Blog Writing, Number 3

Happy Monday!

It's time for the third tip in my series Simple Tips for Blog Writing. If you've missed the first two tips, Know Your Purpose and Be Yourself, take a look at those, too, because they form a foundation for the remainder of these mini-lessons. I've also added links to these posts down there on my right sidebar so they'll be easy to find if you'd like to refer to them later.

My third Tip for Blog Writing will bring your posts to life and grab your readers' attention and imagination. This is my VERY FAVORITE part of the writing process. This is the part where I can literally kick back and spend hours reliving moments of my life and wringing and squeezing and extracting every single tiny bit of detail out of them and into my posts.

Because if it's worth tellin', it's worth tellin' until I'm blue in the face and everybody else has given up and gone home.

You know, when you get right down to it, I guess that's really my CORE writing philosophy.

3. Be specific. Until their ears bleed.

As you edit your first, free-style draft, work to include vivid details and/or examples that will bring your post to life in the mind of your readers.

Avoid saying things like this:

My son’s coach loves the game so much sometimes he is a little crazy.

Instead, bring your reader along for an up-close glimpse of the crazy coach himself in his natural habitat:

My son’s baseball coach has so much passion for winning that he practically loses his MIND at every game. At last week’s game against the Whippets, we were tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, two outs with a man on first. Coach Buzz stood riveted in his customary craned-forward-on-tiptoes position as the Whippets’ best hitter blasted a line drive to our second baseman, who snapped it up perfectly, the ball smacking into his glove with a mighty whump, tagged out the runner to second and fired the ball to first in time for the first baseman to tag out the batter. Coach shot straight up in the air and before his feet even touched the ground again, he'd caught the second baseman, the first baseman and a couple of random Dads off the sidelines in an enormous, swaying bear hug.

(And you have no idea how much MORE detail I cut OUT of that paragraph so y'all would be able to read the whole thing without mentally hyperventilating.)

IT NEVER EVEN HAPPENED, PEOPLE!

(It's a sickness with me, is what it is.)

By the same token, if you're arguing a point, describing a process, or even reviewing a product or service, make sure you've provided plenty of specific details to support your opinion, lead your reader mentally through the steps, or fully explain the basis for your recommendation. In many cases, you may also consider including visual cues like bullet points, enumeration or photographs/videos to organize and further clarify your message.

Oh, people do love them some bullet points, don't they?

Tip Three is Be specific. Paint a picture with your words. Make your concept, story or argument come alive in your readers' minds with your own clear, vivid details and examples.



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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Because In Oh So Many Ways It's Losing Relevance As I Type

Y'all will forgive a) the baby talk b) the neophyte-ish (it's my first time, literally, EVER) editing of something that MOVES (ack!) and c) the fact that I desperately needed to clear my throat, but apparently the depth and breadth of my laziness have extended even into the realm of phlegm-removal (sorry Mom, I know you hate mucus talk).

I promise future videos will feature some semblance of plot and planning. This one is just to placate the growing ranks of the Peabody Fan Club.





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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Moment of Perfection #1 - An Unexpected Favor



I had an overdue appointment with my pal the snow blower yesterday afternoon, so I guiltily left the kids in the family room alone together, directing Bean to come to the garage door and flag me down if she or Peabody needed anything. I sat on the stoop outside that door, and being a realist, I figured I'd no sooner get both boots laced up before I heard her little footsteps approaching.

But I finished the whole job with nary a panicked cry to pull me into Major Crisis Resolution Mode.

I went back inside (prepared for the worst, because silence is never a good sign in a Mama's world) and found Bean calmly folding the laundry she'd voluntarily pulled out of the dryer, stuffed into a basket and dragged over to rest beside her brother, who was happily surveying the goings-on over the edge of his saucer.

As I sat warming up and watching my daughter "fold," she got up from her work and came to me, wrapping a little blanket around my shoulders, then vigorously rubbing my back and arms.

That's perfection.






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Thursday, January 8, 2009

FriedOkra's Simple Tips for Blog Writing, Number 2

Today I'm continuing the series I started yesterday with Tip Number One: Know Your Purpose. I'm encouraged that some of you are finding these tips helpful already and want to hear more. Coulda gone a whole 'nother way, and I've had nightmares about just that!

Today's tip will help you flesh-out your individual posts and further develop your overall blogging identity, tone or voice.

My second Simple Tip for Blog Writing?

2. Be yourself.

What's blogging (in our community at least) all about but developing a thriving, mutually beneficial relationship with your readers? And what's the first and best advice you'd give someone seeking a thriving, mutually beneficial relationship? Be yourself. Because if you've ever gone into a new relationship pretending you're someone else, you know it doesn't take long before the wheels start to fall off and the whole thing just gets awkward and disappointing. Authenticity's as important in blogging as in any healthy relationship. It guarantees a certain continuity of your message and voice, and can help you gather a loyal reader base. Plus, as your blog grows and you begin considering Big Blog concepts like branding and target demographic, your early dedication to authenticity will have lain a strong foundation upon which you can grow and build.

How to be the authentic you? Start each post by relaxing and writing your thoughts exactly as you would express them if you were talking to your best friend or, in the case of a more professional or technical blog, a trusted colleague. In this earliest pass or first draft, focus on capturing everything relevant to the reader's understanding of your message. Don’t worry about sentence construction, word choice or punctuation (you can use punctuation, just don’t spend tons of time weighing the pros and cons of every comma or period.)

Just get your thoughts down – get the story or the message on "paper." Include everything you believe to be important in conveying the point, telling the story or explaining the concept, always with an eye toward that purpose you defined using Simple Blog Writing Tip #1.

Keep typing until you’re all done. Writing this way – freely and without constraints of form, length or style – will free up your mind to details and bring your own voice and style to forefront of the post.

After you’ve written this free-style, detail-filled first draft, then go back and edit carefully, check your spelling, grammar and punctuation, reorganize and add or remove content to pare down and clean up the message to make it powerful without being overly verbose. Think of this process as reducing a flavor-packed broth to a rich, velvety consomme.

Or, you know, distilling corn mash into moonshine.

You'll also want to examine your initial word choices and punch those up a bit to breathe life into your language and capture the minds' eyes of your audience. I'll talk more about what I mean by that, and exactly how to do it, in additional tips I'll be sharing in the days to come.

Now don't go crazy! I'd advise, of course, because I'm ME -- long-winded, rambling, don't-leave-out-a-thing me -- after all, not to OVER-edit yourself. Because much of the beauty of your own perspective and passion finds its vitality in the nitty-gritty details, you should avoid trying to be too concise, particularly in writing that conveys a personal story, a sentiment or a just moment of life so special you want to share it with your readers. I'll tell you in another upcoming tip that less is more, but remember also that too much less can also be just plain not enough when you're trying to share a message in your own unique way. Don't edit out your voice.

Tip Two is Be yourself. Relax and let your true self shine through as you craft your posts, starting with EVERYTHING and carefully whittling that down to perfection.

-----

I'll publish the next post in the Simple Tips for Blog Writing series next Monday. Don't miss it, it's one of my all-time favorites, and the one I think I lean most heavily on when I write here at FriedOkra. We'll see if y'all agree.


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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

FriedOkra's Simple Tips for Blog Writing, Number 1

A month or so before Peabody arrived, I fancied myself a good enough writer to offer y'all some general blog-writing coaching. Several of you responded with surprising (to me) enthusiasm and then I just-as-enthusiastically dropped the ball, had a baby, and became completely useless to anyone but my children and occasionally Al, although he, and they, may argue even that point.

Ahem.

But your interest in what little ol' FriedOkra might have to say on the topic of writing both touched and inspired me, and I spent a few days back in June and July 2007 thinking about what makes the written word come alive for me. I'm not a blogging expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love writing, and I love reading well-written blogs, too. One of the most beautiful things about our community is the unique voice each of us adds to the conversation - our writing styles vary as widely as our hairstyles, and our passions and messages and meanings are joyfully distributed across such a vast array of subjects and perspectives.

Despite the variety of flavors each of us serves up at his or her own personal blog, I find commonalities of style that make writing pop off the screen and into my mind and soul, and I thought I'd share those with you over the next few weeks in a series of quick, easy to digest Simple Tips for Blog Writing to help you polish your own style, add punch to your messages or just give you some simple ideas to make writing faster and easier, since we're all busy and we're all always looking for ways to get things done better, faster.

Here's the first of my Simple Tips for Blog Writing.

1. Know your purpose. Understand why you blog and why you’re writing a post before you begin to write it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What drives you to write in general, and what has you stoked to write this particular post?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What will make the post most valuable to that audience? Is it a feeling to which you think they can relate? A lesson you want them to learn?
  • Do you want your audience to laugh? Cry? Get up and do something? Change an opinion?

You need to know the answers to these questions before you start writing, and write toward those answers. Having a clear purpose or objective for your blog and each post will not only help you write concise, targeted posts, but also help you develop your blogging voice, or your on-line personality - basically who you are on your blog and in the blogging community.

This first tip applies more broadly, too, to those who are considering starting a new blog. Asking yourself the questions above can help you build a smart, purposeful blog from the ground up, vs. what I've done - created a blog, named it, and then stumbled around for 18 months trying to figure out what to do with it.

But then again, I think stumbling around is an important component of my blogging voice, don't you?

Can you think of a post you've published lately that seemed to write itself? You sat down and the words flowed out of you faster than your fingers could type? And the post grabbed the attention of your readers and elicited more comments and conversation than many of your other posts? That's probably because you knew at the outset of the writing process WHY you were writing that post - you knew exactly what you wanted your readers to hear and why you wanted them to hear it.

In contrast, I know we've all had posts that seemed to loop around endlessly on the screen, took ages to write, and then appeared to fall flat with our readers. Right? Or is that just me? Those posts won't write themselves because your idea's not fully developed and your purpose isn't clear to even you yet. Take time with those "larval" ideas, to make them clearer in your own mind, to develop them more fully before you write and post them. Or table these ideas for further development by typing out the basics in draft posts or in a tickler file you revisit for ideas from time to time.

Tip One is Know your purpose. You don't have to have the post written and edited in your mind before you sit down at your computer (which I'll discuss in a later tip), but you do need to know where you're going before you get behind that blogging wheel.


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Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: Quite Possibly The Year I Will Be Committed.

I think this is the first time I've ever bummed a post from my gig at 5 Minutes for Parenting for FriedOkra.

It was bound to happen sometime, though, because there's only so much questionably decent material comin' outta this particular brain, especially considering the distinct lack of sleepin' going on 'cause both kids have so much mucus in their heads that their sinuses close up like baby-doll eyeballs every time they get anywhere close to horizontal, and the fact that the neighbors apparently won the Worst Day of the Year to Get Your New Roof Put On lottery, and we're the unwitting runners up for all the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise.

(I'm just glad I'm this old fuddy-duddy Mama-who-went-to-bed-at-10-and-lulled-herself-to-sleep-dreamin'-of-layered-bean-dip-and-bowl-games instead of some younger, hipper version of myself who'd have awakened this morning nursing a champagne hangover and wanted to sleep until 2:30 PM or whenever the room stopped spinning and I could clearly remember why I'd gone to bed wearing a purple backpack and hugging a loaf of French bread, whichever came first.)

(See, there ARE benefits to gettin' older. And not just that I was able to look in the mirror at the 80s hair I'm rockin' today thanks to my unskilled hand with the diffuser that came with the new hairdryer I bought the day after Christmas because mine died Christmas day, halfway through my elaborate blow-styling process and thus left me to spend my Yule looking like a walking before/after photo advertorial for Pert Plus, and immediately recognize the love-child of Cyndi Lauper and Martha Stewart. Or was it Rod Stewart? Hmmm.)

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR Y'ALL! Bad hair day or not, I didn't want this one to get away without tellin' you how much I loved sharin' 2008 with you and how much I'm lookin' forward to shambling, careening and bumbling through 2009 with you laughin' over my shoulder.

Amongst all the laughin' though, I AM going to be keeping an eye toward my high-n-mighty New Year's resolution:

Photobucket

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Photobucket

And I'm thinkin' I'll semi-sorta commit to tryin' to document the moments of perfection I find, as I find 'em, in pictures, and post them here as they become available and postable and worthy of your scrutiny.

That way, my eye will always be keen to find the good in life, vs. bein' keen to find something to belly-ache about.

And really, that's as good a reason to lug around a camera every where you go as I have ever heard, how 'bout you?

Y'all have a wonderful day today. I'm off to see how much layered bean dip it's possible to load on a Tostito at a time, and further, how much of that load can be subsequently horked into my mouth without gettin' any on the carpet.

GO TIGERS!




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