Wednesday, December 01, 2010


His name was Ed, and I suppose he was middle-aged. That means he was probably younger than I am now, but when you're in your 20s, anyone over 30 is middle-aged. I was assigned to do a newspaper story on him, to be featured on December 1,World AIDS Day. Ed had AIDS.

He lived alone in a little one-bedroom home in Florida, far from his Chicago family. He had medications lined up on his windowsill, a constant reminder of the illness he lived with. He was plain spoken and not afraid to talk about AIDS, or as he called it, "hiv disease." The "hiv" was lowercase, he said, because he didn't want to give it any more power. Ed had a picture on his wall, a drawing of the Biblical Daniel in the lion's den. That was his inspiration, he said. He was facing down a lion of disease without fear, even though he knew the odds were against him. He believed God had his back, just as God had Daniel's back.

I was young and gung ho. Look at me, writing about this disease that grabbed the headlines. Give the girl a star. Every year, more people were affected by AIDS, and more people died. The medications back then were just a Band-Aid, something that probably gave people like Ed a few extra months of life. He was a man living a death sentence, and I was the reporter who was going to tell his story. I gave myself so much credit in those days. It was Ed's story to tell. He told me what it was like to live with hiv disease. He told me about how he kept the disease a secret from his parents, even when they visited and saw the line of medications on the windowsill. A few weeks after they headed back north, his mother called him. "We're going to talk about your damned health," she said. The only thing he wouldn't talk about was how he contracted the disease. If Ed was gay, he didn't say so. I didn't press him. He didn't want the focus of the story to be on how he got the disease. He wanted the story to be about how he had the disease.

After the story ran, we stayed in touch. Again, life back then was all about me. I selfishly called Ed when I needed perspective on life. A rotten boyfriend had nothing on living with AIDS. I'm not sure why he let me ramble. Maybe he needed something to distract him from the row of medications on the windowsill. Maybe he needed someone who needed him. Somehow we became buddies. When he was hospitalized with an infection, I visited him. He was Ed.

I generally felt quite proud of myself for befriending the guy with AIDS. God, how I'd like to shake my 20something self. But Ed, I think he had my number. A few weeks after the story ran, he brought in some homemade cookies for me. Yup. Homemade. By a guy with AIDS. Put your money where your mouth is, Lori. Even back then, we knew you couldn't catch AIDS from cookies. But before I took the first bite, I had to swallow a bit of pride.

I did a follow-up story with him the next year. That year, I was braver. During our conversation, I asked him to tell me he contracted the disease. He tried to change the subject, but I was going to be a real reporter this time. Just tell me, I said. He laughed, shook his head and grabbed my tape recorder. "I was screwing around. I was partying and having sex and screwing around and I got AIDS." I pushed a bit more. Heterosexual or homosexual sex? I asked. He looked right at me. "I don't know." I wrote that in the story. I'm sure some people recoiled when they read it. I'm sorry, Ed.

I left Florida while Ed was still alive, and we kept in touch minimally, the way people kept in touch back when email was just in its infancy and "friend" was not yet a verb. My new job in the corporate world took over my life, and I was at that desk when I received a phone call from a mutual friend, telling me that Ed had died. Damn that hiv disease.

I think about Ed every year on December 1, as I read about World AIDS Day and think about the two stories I wrote that were going to change the world. I'm sorry I didn't change it, Ed. I'm sorry I didn't tell you how much you enriched my life by letting me into your home and sharing your world. I wish you had been stricken a decade later, as maybe your windowsill would have had a different and better combination of drugs. I wonder what you told God when you met Him. Did you tell Him about Daniel and the lion's den? Did you thank Him for having your back?

During the other 364 days of the year, I don't give much thought to AIDS. AIDS is much scarier when you're young and single and – Mom, don't read this next part – you occasionally do things you know you shouldn't do. AIDS isn't in the headlines as it used to be. Magic Johnson is still alive. Who would have thought it? But Ed is gone. Still, he's going to be with me forever. He let me tell his story, and for that, I am humbled and honored.

Here's to you, Ed. I know God still has your back.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

How do I love Facebook? Let me count the ways

I have a few people in my life who don't "get" Facebook. Their reasons may have some validity. One friend just doesn't need another time-sucking activity in her life. Point taken, said the woman with way too many time suckers. Another believes there is no reason to reconnect with people she lost touch with. I think she's missing out, but hey, her loss.

Like most people, I had to set some Facebook parameters. Facebook is my time killing playground. My playground, my rules. If you're using your news feed to spout annoying political opinions, you're hidden from my news feed. If you're using your status update to spout political opinions I respect (note I didn't say agree with; there's a difference), you may or may not be hidden. It depends on how much spouting you're doing. Occasional spouters are left alone. Chronic spouters can go hide. Your mileage may vary. You may use Facebook to have mind-changing political discourse with some friends. That's the beauty of Facebook. It's your playground, too.

You may be saying, "What? How could Lori, the former journalist and supporter of the First Amendment, advocate censorship?" Despite what some people like to cry, the First Amendment does not grant the right to say what you want without repercussions. It gives you the right to say most things without fear of being arrested and thrown into a dingy prison cell with no hope of ever seeing the sun again. I can promise that I will not have people arrested for spouting political discourse. I'll just hide them.

Who else might be hidden? People who tell me about their sex lives, whether they're being specific or posting the results of a quiz that describes them as "hotter than a burning ember." People who use lots of foul language. People who Vaguebook. Look it up. It's a very apt term for those status updates that say, "I am bitter" or some other alarming sentiment, causing friends to say, "Honey, what's wrong? How can I help?" A true Vaguebooker gives cryptic answers, like, "We'll have to get together later," or "I hoped you'd understand," or "I'm going to have to work through this alone." Hide, unless they provide adequate entertainment value.

Anyhow, after the above discourse, you're probably thinking, "What the heck is she doing on FB? She obviously hates it and wants to hunt down Mark Zuckerberg. No, I don't. Loved the movie, though. And I love Facebook. Here's why:

  1. I no longer forget people's birthdays. I am horrible about remembering birthdays. I typically turn over a calendar page when it's the 10th of the month, meaning I miss everyone who was born on the 1st – 9th. But, thanks to Facebook, I can actually wish someone a happy birthday on their actual birthday. Caveat – you must be on Facebook and list your birthday to enjoy this benefit.
  2. I can look up people I used to know. As a rule, I stay away from anyone I've dated. Until I met Matt, I had awful taste in men, so most of the guys I dated were idiots. Old school friends and coworkers, however, are a welcome find. Newspaper people have this strange fraternity. I guess when you've lived on Ramen Noodles as you work full-time, struggling to pay off student loans while the general public refers to you as vermin, you have a sort of camaraderie. Hence, I enjoy reconnecting with my fellow and former scribes, photographers and other talented folks.
  3. Family members start to make sense. When I was a teen-ager, I'd attend the family reunion and ask my mother to identify relatives. She thought I was interested in my heritage. Frankly, I had my eye on a cute 16-year-old, and I was hoping he was my second cousin's friend, rather than my second cousin. I know, apparently this is legal in some states, but I preferred to stay several family degrees of separation away from someone I wanted to date. Anyhow, thanks to Facebook, I'm finally starting to make sense of some of our large extended family. (Grandpa had two brothers and seven sisters. They all had kids. Need I say more?)
  4. Games. I have great memories of watching game shows in the '70s. I watched many of them at my grandmother's house. "Family Feud" was a favorite. Grandma used to always remark about how Richard Dawson sure did like to kiss the ladies. I'd sit there with my extended family, listening to my grandmother, mother or aunts shout the correct answer at the TV. I dreamed of participating. It would be better than the time my mother appeared on the local game show, "Bowling For Dollars," and won $9. Anyhow, with my family we could certainly plan on winning the $5,000. Plus, my grandmother would get to kiss Richard Dawson. We never made it to sunny California for the show, so I have to be content playing it online. Yes, I know Facebook apparently compromises my privacy with this application. Have at it, Facebook. You now know that I'm a bit addicted to "Family Feud" and I hide the Vaguebookers.
  5. Other reminders. See No. 1. I tend to forget things. But, if my group or organization is on Facebook, they send out timely reminders. Bring canned goods to church on Sunday. Don't forget the neighborhood party on Friday. Facebook even reminded me to vote. It's like having a wife. A wife who remembers things.
  6. Pictures. Seriously, if it weren't for Facebook, would you really have any idea what your second cousin's children looked like? Thanks to Facebook, not only have I seen pictures of my second cousins' kids, I was able to follow another second cousin's labor. All 30something hours of it. Fortunately, she was rewarded with a really cute baby, who gets my arms aching. Baby pictures tend to do that these days.
  7. Pictures, part II: Facebook is an exhibitionist's dream come true. Thanks to modern technology, you can see pictures that document every part of the day. You can see self-portraits. Formal portraits. Goofy pictures. You may not talk to these people, but you saw what they did last summer.
  8. Parental supervision. When the child wanted a Facebook account, we made a deal: She needed to friend us and give us her password. Now, tweens and teens tend to want voluminous friend lists. Consequently, you get a friend request from many of your child's friends. Friend them. How else can you see what they're saying to each other? Plus, you can call them on it when they're careless enough to drop a curse word or call someone a "retard."
  9. TV shows and other products. You really don't reap a lot of rewards when you "like" a TV show or a product. Maybe you get an occasional preview, or you can wade through comments that say "(TV show star) is so hot." But, anyone who knows me understands why I had to "like" Pop-tarts.
  10. Time's a wasting. When it comes down to doing the laundry or checking Facebook, Facebook wins. Cleaning floors or Facebook? Facebook. Writing a story due tomorrow or Facebook? Facebook. Homework or Facebook? Wait a second, are you done with your homework? Get off that computer RIGHT NOW and finish it. What can I say? I spent 30 minutes writing this. You just spent a few more reading it.

Long live the social media.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hey good-looking!


I have a theory that everyone gets to be good-looking at some point in their life.  I mean, attitude and inner beauty are definitely important, but I really do believe that everyone will have a point in life where they are physically attractive people.  Granted, that point could be when someone is 6 months old. And, some people stay attractive for many years.  We all know people who are just pretty, no matter how old or young they are.  (I'm talking about you, Tina.)


The flip side is that most people will have an unattractive period as well.  Granted, sometimes I want to shake the celebrities who say, "Oh, I was soooo ugly in seventh grade," and then they show a picture of a slightly awkward 13-year-old.  Really?  Because if you want to see ugly in seventh grade, I have much better photos.


Life and Facebook have proven my theory to be true, at least some of the time.  How many times have you looked at a photo of a high school friend and said, "Wow.  What a nice-looking guy. He sure didn't look like that 20 years ago."  Facial features that didn't work at 18 look just fine on a 44-year-old face.  Conversely, fresh-faced good looks don't always maintain their freshness after 20 years of sun exposure, frowning and a little too much junk food. 


The best part about my theory is that the older we get, the more attractive we are just by living well.  I know a guy in his 60s who is always smiling.  Even when he's not smiling, he's smiling.  I'll bet he smiles in his sleep.  When you see him, you smile, because he's smiling.  You can tell who's spent most of their adult life smiling and those who were frowning.  You can tell who's living life without regrets, because you can read it on their faces.


So smile. And live well. With no regrets. You're gorgeous.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Water woes

A few weeks ago, I griped online about our dishwasher. Our dishwasher was leaving white stuff on our dishes. The black utensils were a cloudy gray. The plates and cups had white film on them.

Of course, the dishwasher was just past its warranty period. What is up with appliances these days? I mentioned our dishwasher in a thread about, well, cruddy appliances that poop out much faster than our parents' appliances ever did. Heck, the dishwasher in our old house was harvest yellow, and it still worked fine when we moved. But our newer dishwasher was leaving white crud everywhere. And like most people, we didn't have a spare $700 or $800 lying around, just dying to be traded for a new dishwasher. Plus, the dishwasher was not even that old!

A couple days later, my phone rang. It was my neighbor Mandi. She cut to the chase. "Is your dishwasher leaving white stuff on your dishes?"

What, can Mandi read minds? No, wait, I posted that on Facebook. Mandi went on to say that they had the same problem. Their neighbors across the street had the same problem. Half of my neighborhood is pricing new dishwashers. But Mandi's husband had the presence of mind to make a few phone calls. Apparently, the water supply in our fair citiy is experiencing a glut of calcium. What causes a glut of calcium in the water? Is there a dinosaur molar in the aquifer? Heck if I know. But all that excess calcium was building up on our dishes, turning everything a cloudy gray.

Fortunately, Mandi said, there's a solution. Lemi Shine. I've never heard of Lemi Shine. Mandi hadn't, either. But for $3 and some change, you could buy a bottle at Wal-mart. Put it in your dishwasher detergent cup and run a full cycle in an empty dishwasher. Then load the dishwasher, put the Lemi Shine in the detergent cup, put your detergent in the pre-wash cup, and see what happens. Mandi happily reported that her dishes were sparkling again.

Well, a $3 bottle of Lemi Shine beats a trip to the appliance store for a new dishwasher. I ran up to Wal-mart, bought the purported miraculous powder, and gave it a try.

It worked. My gray utensils are black again. My dishes no longer look like someone threw a piece of chalk into the rinse cycle.

This news is too good to not share. I mentioned it to my neighbor last night, who fortunately has a water softener to get rid of the pesky calcium. But as he was walking back home, he saw another neighbor sporting a lovely pair of plastic gloves. "Don't say anything," she said. "I'm having to do dishes by hand because my dishwasher is broken."

He sent her our way. I sent her home with my bottle of Lemi Shine.

I almost don't want to share this, because I'm afraid that I'll go to Wal-mart and find the Lemi Shine shelf empty. But, as much as I'm sure the shareholders at Best Buy are lovely people, I don't want to contribute to the bottom line by allowing neighbors to buy new dishwashers they don't need. Lemi Shine. Try it. Enjoy the results. And use the money you'd spend on a new dishwasher to pay off those back-to-school expenses.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Time to dance

Around here, the local radio station often offers an all-'80s weekend. If I can get past the idea that my music is now considered retro, I can have a lot of fun listening to the old songs from high school and college. Remember "Come on Eileen"?

Anyhow, I'm driving along, humming to "Come on Eileen," and the theme song from "St. Elmo's Fire" came on. "St. Elmo's Fire," the movie that launched the Brat Pack. We were still in high school when we watched the likes of Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson and Demi Moore embark on their grown up lives. It seemed so glamorous. The possibilities of adulthood were endless. Soon we'd be out on our own, making undoubtedly large sums of money to support a high partying lifestyle. The best years were yet to come.

I wondered, as I hummed along, when we stopped looking forward and started looking backwards. When did we start longing for the optimism of our 20-something selves, or at least the waistline and skin tone? When were those best years? How did we let them go by so quickly? When did the fun optimism get replaced by the mundane chores of living, of paying bills, raising kids, making a marriage work?

Later on that evening, I hung out at our neighborhood block party, listening to an incredibly awesome band playing, literally, in my neighbor's garage. It was 10 p.m., the agreed upon curfew for the party and our community, but we asked them to play one more. Just one more song. The band fired up their instruments and gave us Prince's "Let's Go Crazy."

Those college memories came flooding back. I was 18 again, wearing cheap Kmart clothes, hoping to fit in with my college peers who probably never shopped at Kmart in their lives. I was on the dance floor at some snobby fraternity house – sorry Sigma Chi alums – dancing with my girlfriends, wondering if we were going to be noticed, whether our dancing was cool or clunky, how our hair looked, how our makeup was holding up, whether that cute guy in the corner was going to ask us to dance or find someone more beautiful. And if not, would we have to go back to the dorm and listen to the pretty and popular girls talk about their much more successful nights, as we pretended to be happy for them.

Contrast that to my 44-year-old self, who slipped off my Walmart $2 flip flops so I wouldn't trip when I danced. I was surrounded by friends and neighbors who didn't care if I could dance, didn't care what my hair looked like, didn't care where my clothes were from. I knew I'd see these people tomorrow, and we'd laugh about what a great time we had. I leaned against my husband, who's every bit as cute as those circa 1984 Sigma Chis. The band gave us the music from our youth, and we danced.

And I started to realize that those great years – which were a lot of fun – were also fraught with insecurities and limitations. With age, you come to realize how little certain things matter, and how lucky you are to have what you have. You dance because you want to dance, not because you want to attract attention, or look good, or fit in. Life gives us the freedom to dance, and there's no looking back.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is she strong enough to be a mom?

I have an incredibly talented and wise friend who writes a great blog. I'm going to shamelessly expound on something she wrote the other day, something that's been weighing heavily on my mind. First, the original blog. If you don't already follow her, I heartily recommend it. She manages to connect with so many of the little moments we all share as wives, mothers and women:

Now, onto Jillian Michaels. As Amy noted, Jillian doesn't want to have kids because she doesn't want to ruin her figure. Amy says plenty of good things about this attitude, which we agree is a
bit incredibly shallow, yet it plays into what we value as a society. "The Biggest Loser" is a big hit because we can all relate to wanting to lose weight and live up to society's standards. You don't seen reality shows called "The Real Mom" because nobody wants to watch some mother with gray roots and a few extra rolls around the waist trying to keep up with her kids' schedules.

Back to Jillian. I don't watch "The Biggest Loser," so I don't know a lot about Jillian. I did, however, stumble onto one of her workouts through my cable TV's exercise on demand. She immediately puts her viewers into a back breaking workout, and just as you're groaning, she says something like, "Come on, I work with 300-pound people every day. Don't be a wimp." At that point, I decided she was mean, and I turned her off.

Jillian thinks she doesn't want to have kids, because she doesn't want to lose her body. That's all well and good. But I wonder if she realizes that the increased waistline is just the first challenge of being a mother. When you become a mom, you don't realize that you're setting yourself up to some of biggest trials of your life. Yes, those middle-of-the-night wakeup calls can have you weeping in your rocking chair, as you hold a child who wants to eat for an hour straight while the other parental unit blissfully sleeps on. But as my kids grow older, I realize that those moments were nothing compared to what was waiting for me.

When you're a mom, your heart is going to break even as you're encouraging your child to continue the action that's killing you. When your 2-year-old walks into preschool for the first time, you understand what it's like to leave a part of your heart in someone else's body. A year later, you need to find the fortitude to convince a stubborn 3-year-old that it's OK to poop in the potty – in fact, you beg and bribe her to poop in the potty. Once they're in school, you find yourself living those years over again. When your child comes home crying because someone called her a name, you have to offer compassion while fighting the desire to go in and beat the ever-living heck out of the mean kid. Motherhood takes you on an unpredictable journey. For six months, your little angel only wants to wear bicycle shorts, so you stock up on those. A week later, she says bicycle shorts are stupid and wants you to buy regular shorts. You buy a bunch of purples and pinks, because those were her favorite colors, and you find them stuck in the back of the drawer, because her new favorite color is green. If you're going to be a mother, you have to have the patience to turn around during a road trip to drive back an hour to the rest stop where your baby left her special blanket, hoping and praying that it's still there. Then you blink, and that same child is leaving the special blanket behind when she goes to a sleepover, and you feel like chasing after her and asking one more time if she wants to bring it along.

Before you know it, your child thinks she's smarter than you. That's really fun. Your days are spent standing your ground against a 12-year-old who can't understand why she's not allowed to wander the streets without a curfew. When a boy breaks her heart, you are acutely reminded of that pain that defies rational thought. You have to bite your tongue and not say, "You're too good for him," because she doesn't want to hear that. You're always wrong. Always, always, always. Get used to it. You try to help her with their homework, but she only gets mad at you because you're trying to teach the math methods you know, and "that's not how the teacher did it today." You point out that her hair looks good, and she makes a face and tells you it looks awful. Yup, wrong again.

As they get older, you try to find that thin line between allowing too much and not allowing enough. Teen-aged tragedies hit every community, and you grapple with the desire to lock them in the basement, where you don't have to worry about one bad decision changing their lives forever. You launch into the "remember that decisions have consequences" discussion, and their eyes glaze over. You wonder if they heard you. You wonder what they're doing when you're not looking. Are they behaving themselves? Or are they one of "those kids," the ones you used to shake your head over when you saw them at the mall?

I don't even want to think about the day they come home and tell me they're going to college six states away. I don't want to imagine what it would be like to watch them go down a path I wouldn't choose for them, but I imagine it's going to happen. I hope I'm strong enough to support them without trying to live their lives for them.

Sometime between the newborn years and the teen years, you realize that being a parent is so much more than making lunches, kissing boo boos and giving them strong values. You realize that you can do everything right as a parent, and you still find a multitude of things out of your control. Part of being a parent is giving up that control, even though your brain is screaming, "Don't let go! Let me live her life for her so she never gets hurt!"

I guess I have to commend Jillian Michaels. In a strange way, she knows her limits. She may think she can't be a parent because she can't sacrifice her hard body. But really, being a parent goes well beyond the thicker waistline. If you can't handle a few extra pounds, you're not going to be able to take the "I hate you" moments and the times when parenting brings you to tears. If sagging boobs scare you, then you probably won't want to deal with the Target outfits you wear so you can afford to outfit your kid in designer clothes, because you remember what it's like to want to fit in. If stretch marks are your biggest nightmare, then maybe you're not up to figuring out how you're going to cover the sports carpool while making sure the other kid is picked up from her friend's house on time and dinner is something that doesn't come out of a fast food bag.

Jillian Michaels looks great. There's no doubt in my mind that she's a physically strong person. But I don't think she's nearly as strong as the parents I know. As far as I'm concerned, their strength goes beyond what you can measure in weight machines and hours on the treadmills. They may not be able to do 200 sit-ups or run a half marathon. They may never be "The Biggest Loser." But they're winners. They're the strongest winners I know.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hey baby

I got a cat call the other day. I was out walking the dog when a young guy in a passing car made an approving noise out the window at me.

I can remember when cat calls began. My girlfriends and I were maybe 13, walking down West 140th Street in Cleveland, and guys started yelling out the window to us. At first, there was confusion. Were they talking to us? Then there was a little thrill. They were talking to us! Of course, even at that age we knew that the proper response was to roll our eyes and look disgusted. Who did they think they were, talking to us? (But they were talking to us!)

When we grew a little older, the feminist instinct kicked in. How dare they objectify us? Didn't they know that women are not impressed by cat calls, despite the commercial for Mr. Microphone where the guy says, "Hey good looking, we'll be back for you later!" much to the chagrin of his female companion? Pigs.

But I'll be honest with you. Completely honest. This 44-year-old mother's initial response was "Thank you thank you thank you." I admit it. I was doing a little dance inside, even though I quickly remembered to roll my eyes. I couldn't quite conjure up the disgusted look, mostly because I felt sorry for the driver. I'm pretty sure that once I looked up and he saw my 44-year-old mom face, he drove straight to the stress center for psychiatric help.

I haven't thought about cat calls in a while, primarily because, well, I haven't heard them in a long time. Somewhere between the feminist and the mother, I segued from a walker to a driver to a soccer mom. Guys in cars typically have their windows closed to keep in the air conditioning, and their stereos would drown out any cat calls. And let's face it, I'm long gone from the typical cat call demographic. The feminist in me doesn't get too worked up about them, either. I get more worked up when women are objectified on TV or through the internet.

Then I realized something scary. My daughter is almost the age I was when the cat calls started. There's a very good chance that she and her buddies will be the recipients of a cat call this summer. Some 25-year-old will be driving by and see their gorgeous legs in their short shorts, and their cute little bodies that haven't had a chance to sag or wrinkle. They're not going to see the girls who aren't quite ready for that sort of attention. They're just going to see the women they're becoming.

And suddenly, cat calls are more than just something to roll my eyes at. A word of warning to the next guy who considers yelling out the window to my daughter: If I'm anywhere nearby, I'm going to jump through your window and wrap my hands around your throat. That's my baby girl you're cat calling. Don't even think of it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

If you give a 'tween a cell phone

Shamelessly stealing a classic concept here, now updated for parents of 'tweens.

(The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual 'tweens is merely a coincidence.)

If you give a ‘tween a cell phone

She’ll probably need texting, because you’ll have to pay for every text she sends AND receives.

Then she’ll need internet access so she can check her email while she’s out.
If she’s going to check her email, she might as well check Facebook.

If she’s going to check Facebook, she’ll need a Facebook account.
Once she’s on Facebook, she’ll see what all of her friends are up to.

She’ll see that they are allowed to go to movies without a parent, so she’ll ask to go to a movie as well.

She’ll point out that she now has a cell phone, so you can call her to check up on her.

Once she goes to a movie, she’ll want to hang out with these friends some more.

She’ll notice that all the friends wear Uggs, so she’ll tell you that she must have Uggs.

If she’s lucky enough to get a pair of Uggs for Christmas, she’ll wear them until spring. Then she’ll say it’s too hot for Uggs, and she needs a pair of Coach tennis shoes.

If she’s lucky enough to get a pair of Coach tennis shoes for the next Christmas, she’ll also want a Coach wristlet.

Her friends will want to sit around and talk about their name brand stuff.
She’ll decide that she doesn’t have as much stuff as her friends.

She’ll beg you for a trip to the mall so that she doesn’t have to wear nerd clothes.

She’ll lend her new jacket to a friend.

You’ll ask her where it is, and she’ll tell you not to worry.
Instead, she comes home in someone else’s brand name jacket.

You’ll wonder if the other jacket wearer’s parent is wondering where that jacket is.

With all this time spent on clothes, texting and Facebook, she’ll run out of time to do homework.
Then she’ll get the cell phone taken away.

You’ll argue, and she’ll call you mean and horrible.

But she’ll finally do enough work to get her grades back up.

You’ll give her back the cell phone.

And she’ll tell you that her cell phone is old and outdated and she needs a new one.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cash only

Does anyone remember the days before debit cards? Remember how you had to make sure you were carrying cash, or at least had your checkbook? When you went to the grocery store, you tried to keep a mental tally of how much you were buying, so you wouldn't go over in the checkout line? Then debit cards came along. How awesome. You just put the card in the machine and it took the money right out of your checkbook. Whoosh! Suddenly it was easier to make those impulse purchases. If you were shopping for produce and saw a really nice cake, you could get both the carrots and the cake. Then came the next level – debit cards were accepted at fast food restaurants. No need to carry cash for those impulse trips to the Golden Arches. The kids caught on quickly. If you claimed you didn't have the money for a Happy Meal, they'd point out that you could just put it on your card. And you thought, "You know, if I stop at McDonald's, they can eat their fries in the car and maybe we can get a few more errands done before the complaints start."

I don't know about you, but the debit card became my lifeline to instant gratification. I didn't have to plan anything. If I was out, I could swing by Target and grab that laundry detergent I needed, as well as about 13 more things I didn't realize I needed. Debit cards made it easy to spend money. Sure, there's that annoying task of actually recording your purchases when you came home. I always tended to underestimated how much I spent in a week, too.

Lately, the husband and I are wondering if we can live on a little less each week. We've decided to give our debit cards a break. Each week, we take out enough money to cover grocery runs, Target runs and an occasional meal out. We leave enough in the bank to cover an emergency debit purchase, but most of our purchases have to be in cash. If the cash runs out before the week is done, we stop buying. Crazy concept, I know.

I went to the grocery store and immediately noticed a spending difference. The M&Ms looked yummy, but did I want to add another $3 to the grocery bill? Could I live a few more days without Diet Coke, or should I take advantage of the $5 for 24 deal at Meijer? Even so, it's Wednesday now and I have about $24 to last until Friday. Matt was working last night, which sometimes translates to a trip to Steak N Shake for the girls and me. Instead, we stayed home and had pancakes for dinner.

I have to be honest. I'm not sure how long this will last. I miss my debit card freedom. But I do like the feeling of saving money, and I do like living without the guilt of extraneous purchases. I kind of like having cash in my pocket, too. When I'm at church and want to put an extra buck in the collection plate, I can. When my daughter remembers that she needs $3 for a field trip, I can give her $3 in singles, rather than write a check. Target trips may never be the same, but I do love the feeling of living within our means. I've missed it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why I’m a mean mom, Saturday edition

I refused to let my 12-year-old ride her bike to the drugstore unless she wore a helmet.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Team player

As we speak, the Colts are playing the New York Jets for the AFC championship. I am not watching.

Here’s the deal. I have this frightening power over sports teams. I can change the outcome of a game by moving. Or not moving. Or turning off the TV. Or getting on the treadmill. It comes down to me. That’s why I don’t wear a jersey on game day. If I wear a jersey, I jinx the team.

Anyhow, I started watching the game at the home of Matt’s sister and brother-in-law. I wound up leaving, because halfway into the second quarter it was obvious that my mojo was not working. Briefly I considered knocking on the door of the home where I watched last week’s game, but I was afraid that would think I was crazy. Yes, they’d be right. I came home and turned on the game. The Colts were down. I ate a bunch of Hershey’s Kisses with caramel. The Colts scored a touchdown. I went and found more chocolate.

Currently, we’re in the middle of the third quarter. The Colts are down 17-13. I had to turn off the TV when the Jets made a fantabulous pass during the previous drive, and turning off the TV helped ensure that the Jets missed their field goal. Currently, I’m playing on the computer while “watching” the game on MSNBC. Basically I’m periodically clicking “refresh” on the scoreboard page.

Why is this important? Surely we will all wake up tomorrow, regardless of the outcome. For me, it comes down to clothes. Four years ago, when the Colts won the AFC championship, I went out and bought AFC champion T-shirts for the whole family. Those shirts have become dingy over time. I need a reason to buy new shirts. Please, Colts, help me clothe my family.

I’m not sure if I can turn the TV back on anytime soon. I suppose I’ll miss some great plays, but you can’t accuse me of not taking one for the team. Now, where did I put the rest of those Hershey’s Kisses?