Sunday, September 30, 2012

My name is Lori and I am a Craft Addict ...

I'm a crafter wanna-be. I thought I'd kicked the habit by safely squirreling away my scrapbooking equipment and boycotting Michael's and Hobby Lobby; but alas, my recovery was short-lived. I discovered my good friend was quite the crafter. Filled once more with crafter's envy, I fell off the wagon. The lure of what might be once again drew me in like a Siren in a bad fantasy movie. With her encouragement (damn you Kurstin!) I decided to tackle the holiday wreath. Soon, I was high again on the sparkle and artistry of the wire mold. I was wrapping and tying netting in a blur. I don't even remember adding the pics. When I sobered up, I was forced to face the destruction I had left in my wake -- a pile of tattered ribbons and broken corn-cob. The dog was eating the other half. Unlike my friend's beautiful door-worthy creation, my wreath looked like something off the set of the Adam's Family. Perhaps in my craft-addled state, I had channeled the spirit of Morticia.

I have been down this road before. My last detour led me into the tawdry spectacle of scrapbook alley. The excited, sleep-deprived eyes of those who had gone before me should have served as a warning, but I was once again chasing the high of a possible completed project. Spurred on by the promise of social acceptance and an escape from the stress of everyday mom-hood, I was an easy target for the local supplier. "Come-on, Lori, everybody's doing it ..." was the popular refrain. I bought books, archival paper by the pound; and eventually, I had moved on to the hard-stuff -- stamps. I was drowning, often trying to work on three, four albums at a time and attending all-weekend binges under the cover of "scrapbook retreats." Then one day, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Sitting in a pile of incomplete albums, hair askew with glitter and glue mixed in, eyes bugged and red, I couldn't remember the theme for the album I was attacking -- was it Disney Cruise or Birthday Party??? I had hit bottom. The next day, I packed it all up.

Like many addicts, I started in early adolescence. My mother had bought me a looming kit when I was eleven -- not just some cheap plastic loomery, no, these were wooden looms -- the good stuff. At one point, I was a four-pot-holder-a-day loomer. As in so many addictions, my family suffered the most. No one needs a blanket made from rainbow potholders.

I quickly moved on to harder crafts. I paint-penned anything acrylic or glass. The eighties were an especially dark period as I moved on to paper-mache. Then there was the bedazzle period and the splatter-paint T-shirts. My life had become a spiraling tumult of Rhinestones and hot glue. My turning point was the picture my then 82 year-old grandmother sent me of her wearing my latest creation -- a bedazzled puff-paint T-shirt. It was enought to make anyone go cold turkey.

I was clean for several years until the scrapbooking craze of 2006. And now, once again, I hear the Siren call. Maybe I can fix this wreath -- I'll just pull out my hot glue gun.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Survivor -- Houston

As I watch my neighbor trekking down the street with a kayak on his head, I once again ask myself, "Why exactly do I choose to live in Houston?" Kayaks and canoes have become a popular mode of transportation in the neighborhood. "Do you live near a lake?" you ask. Good question. No, I do not. I live in Houston (or more specifically Cypress) -- home of the instaflood. I'm sure you saw us on the news being evacuated from the rising water.What a contrast to last year when we sat and watched the skies at night looking for the tell-tale signs of smoke and certain annihilation by fire. Next year I predict a locust invasion.

I think we should incorporate the tough nature of Houstonians into our Chamber of Commerce PR. Live here and you will learn to survive flood, famine, and the occasional wild hog attack. Hey! Maybe we can do a survivor Houston -- we have steamy swamps (AKA Bayous,) alligators, snakes, and a lot of really creepy looking bugs -- many of which my child has sampled. I say we suggest it to that Mark Probst guy.

I can see it now. We divide into tribes -- inner loopers vs suburbanites ... it could be awesome! We could have challenges in Buffalo Bayou or just see how long someone can tolerate outdoor nightlife downtown with no mosquito repellent. (I think it's just some uber-attractive pheromone to the Houston Mosquito anyway.) And I don't doubt we have quick sand somewhere. OOH! We could leave the contestants in Waller and see if they can make their way back into town with only $5.00! I predict unprecedented viewer numbers.

I stop my day dreaming long enough to continue my careful passage through our streets. My driving skills lacking, I visualize my appearance atop my sunken car on the evening news as a cheerful anchor narrates, "Jim, what do you think possessed her to drive into flood waters?" Quite possibly the same genius quality that commandeered my decision to cancel the flood insurance. Who thought a year after the Great Drought, we'd need paddle boats to get to the grocery? It's a little dicey, but I make it home with no damage to the car.

I am greeted by barking. I've left the dogs outside again. They are not happy. No one wants to be left too long in a sauna. I tell them the same thing Houstonians tell each other -- "Be happy, the humidity is good for your skin!" They are not amused. The two brush past me wet and moody. I accept that I have probably pushed the neurotic one back to hoarding mode as she hustles toward my closet.

I swat aside a mosquito the size of a dragon fly. I think happy thoughts. I recall the three days last fall when the air was dry and the temperature hovered around 75. It was beautiful then ...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Renovation Wars ...

My family decided that instead of moving, we would just add another 500 square feet to our home. It seemed like a good idea and despite warnings about marital rifts happening during renovations, I decided that wouldn’t happen to us. In fact, my husband had already proven to be a calm source of support when we faced a costly surprise on day one. We discovered that the ceiling wasn’t built quite right and all the wiring was running the wrong way. In short, it would all need to be redone – an unanticipated expense.  He didn't even flinch. He just told me to relax and it would all be fine. He didn’t even freak out when they thought we’d need to replace the a/c – the one we HADN’T budgeted for. I had high hopes for us.
Faced with the sudden need to vacate the master suite, the framers and I moved all the furniture on day one and I waited for my husband to move the clothes out of our walk-in. When I thought of how amazing he had been just twenty-four hours earlier, I assumed it would go smoothly. Clearly, I underestimated the evil power of the reno.
I had also conveniently forgotten that my husband and I have very different approaches to moving. I like to establish order and plan it all out first. Baron’s strategy is much less structured. As I was preparing alternative closets, my husband was pulling out clothes and shoes as fast as his hands could fly. And thus began …
Fight #1:

“What? I thought you wanted me to move stuff. I’m moving stuff.”
“Noooo! That’s not moving stuff! That’s just throwing stuff!”
“Uh, look around, it doesn’t really matter. We have a mattress and box springs in our kitchen.”
“I have a plan – if you’d just stop – seriously, STOP – why do you keep grabbing stuff? You don’t know where anything goes!”
“It doesn’t GO anywhere. Just move it and we’ll sort it out later …”

I opted for the silent treatment thinking he’d get the message. Instead, he saw it as a green light to throw his skivvies on the big leather chair. I then suggested he stick to moving his clothes and I would proceed to work on my own. After all, I couldn’t help him if he wasn’t going to follow my plan.

Adding to the problem was how the workers chose to cover the top of the closet. Having ripped out the ceiling, they had set a giant piece of plywood across the length of the walk-in as a make-shift roof. It rested precariously on the upper shelving hangers. To get those clothes out, one had to lift the plywood and quickly grab a handful of hangers before the weight of it forced you to drop it all. My husband quickly tired of this course of action and opted to rig the wood at a slight angle to get at the clothes more easily. Unfortunately, I am not so mechanically inclined and when I went to duplicate his move, the entire piece fell on my head while I was holding fistfuls of my best dresses precariously over the sawdust. This precipitated …


“What the $%#@ happened to the plywood?!”
“Just get it off of me!!”
“Let go of the clothes!”
“GET the #*%!  PLYWOOD OFF ME!!”

This went on for several minutes. With his reluctant help, I freed myself.

“I cannot BELIEVE you just left me like that! I could have DIED!”
 “I didn't LEAVE you like that and you were NOT going to die – It hit me on the head too and you don’t hear me complaining.”

At this point, I began to cry. And name call. That’s when my husband decided to try the silent treatment on me. This led us into...

Fight #3

“FINE! Don’t talk to me! You can just do this all by yourself!”
“HEY! Now you’re just throwing things again! Obviously, you CAN’T do it by yourself …”

And that’s when he brushed passed me holding two loads of clothes. Starting …

 Fight #4

“I CAN NOT believe you just did that!”
“What did I do NOW??”
“You pushed me!”
“I did NOT push you – I didn’t even SEE you!”
“You know what you did …”
“OK. I’m SORRY If I accidently BUMPED INTO YOU!”
“It was a push, but that’s not really why I’m mad.”
“You don’t even know why I’m mad!”
“You’re mad because you THINK I pushed you – which I DIDN"T but I said I was sorry anyway and now you won’t even accept my apology!”
“SEE! You do NOT know why I’m mad!”
“If you'd shut up and listen to me, I'll tell you why I'm mad.”
“You shut up.”
“No – You shut up!”
“No – You shut up!”
“Wait … isn’t our roof open?”
“Oh *%$!”

Someone told me the neighbors plan to line up lawn chairs along the property line in anticipation for tomorrow night’s show. This could be a long renovation.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't Miss The Boat ...

Spring break starts this week. I am hopeful it goes smoother this year than last. The last one started out normal enough. We arrived two hours early at the airport, got in line with all the other spring breakers, and waited our turn. The sky cap (AKA Satan) drew us out of line with golden promises of a quicker check-in. An hour later, the man acknowledged that the computer was completely stumped by my husband and my son’s similar names. He tried to pass us back to the woman at the counter.
Apparently, dealing with thousands of hyper spring breakers makes one crabby. She tersely informed us that we had missed the 45 minute window for boarding. My husband turned purple. I pointed to airport security and he calmed himself. The woman assured us we would be able to get on the next flight.
She was wrong. Nor were we able to make the next three. After six hours of arguing with the airline and the airport mediators, we were ready to admit defeat. We left frustrated but more knowledgeable. We learned that airlines take no responsibility for their skycaps even if they are proudly displaying their logo on their uniforms and claim to represent them. We learned that there is relatively little for a seven year old boy to do in an airport for six hours. We learned travelers do not appreciate seven year old boys that run willy-nilly through the airport. And they really don’t appreciate it when your 47 year old husband follows suit. We learned a last minute ticket to Belize to catch your ship will run you roughly 1500 dollars per person and that airport security will threaten to send you to federal prison if you yell at the people behind the counter. And ultimately, we learned that while we were unable to make the flight, our luggage had and was now sailing to Key West. I hoped it was having a good time.
In the silence of the ride home, genius struck me and I called the cruise line. Miraculously, they were able to book us a free flight to Belize the next day through a competitive airline. We quickly packed an overnight bag and spent the night at the hotel airport. Nobody slept. We were in line at 5:00 AM for our 8:00 flight and avoided the skycaps.
Three hours later we were in Belize City. I have to admit, it was somewhat less glamorous than I had anticipated. Not to be daunted, we donned the swimsuits we’d packed and headed out to do some beach stuff. There was no beach, only fishing piers. My enthusiasm dropped and I was on the verge of a bad attitude. My husband decided to make the best of it and we rented poles at the hotel with the concierge pointing us in the direction of the local fish market to buy bait.
As we walked down the street, I considered my attire. I had packed my only remaining suit – a suit no self-respecting mom would ever wear -- a leopard print bikini with a push-up bra. I surveyed the impoverished landscape and the ogling eyes of the maintenance men as I pulled my see-through cover up tighter around me and trudged forward.
My husband didn’t notice. He was on a mission now. I stood there horrified as he asked a Grizzly Adams look-alike for directions and followed him into the shanty town. I was certain old Grizzly was a serial killer leading us to our deaths – or at the very least into some kind of human trafficking ring.
Shanty homes turned into shanty boxes. My husband was undeterred; instead, he joked amicably with serial killer guy. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a young girl jumped out and offered to sell herself to us as a future bride for our son.  This was followed by awkward questions from the groom-to-be. I could see our pictures running alongside the trailer for Another 48 Hours Mystery … It would not be a pretty picture. Forty-something moms should not wear leopard string bikinis. I ran down my list of emergency contacts. I couldn’t think of one person who would admit to knowing me in this get-up. I was going to be buried in an unmarked grave in Belize wearing a questionable swimsuit. Not the way I thought I’d go out.
I was startled out of my reverie when we came to a stop at the fish market. About a hundred young men stopped swinging their machetes long enough to stare. I quit worrying about my wardrobe. No one was ever, ever going to find our bodies. I was somewhat comforted by this last thought. My husband bought a bag of fish heads and our guide led us back to the town center without incident. I decided that Grizzly was an angel in disguise. My husband was quick to observe that angels usually don’t accept tips.
We spent the remainder of the visit fishing for sharks off a crumbling pier and looking for bedbugs with a penlight. We were ready to be done with Belize and raced to the ferry in the morning like our hair was on fire. We stepped onto the gangway and gratefully gulped down the champagne.
Of course, all the celebration came to a screeching halt when they asked us for our passports … which we had left in the hotel safe. At this point, I was pretty certain my husband was going to have an aneurism. The staff aboard the ship refused to let us leave (clearly, we were mentally defective.) They sent a crew member in pursuit of our missing documents instead. Once the passports were successfully retrieved, we were finally able to board. I am pretty certain there is a file circulating on us in the Caribbean and legends are forming about the crazy bikini lady.
We opted to try the cruise thing again this year. I figure we should go back before they refuse to renew our passports on the grounds that we have no business traveling outside the continental United States. This time, I’m leaving the two-piece at home.

*A big thank you to Regency Cruise Lines who single-handedly saved our vacation. The offending airline will remain unnamed out of my fear of the inevitable slander/liable suit.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Some things are best left to the professionals ...

The dog smell can no longer be ignored. I either have to call the dog groomer and shell out some serious cash, or I have to bite the bullet and revisit doing it myself. I decide this is a manageable DIY project. I have a flash-back to mud flying and two wet dogs sprinting  throughout the house. I shudder and hesitate. But only for a moment. The memory of the last groomer's bill strengthens my resolve. I push aside the horrors of the last attempt. I can do this. I am a grown woman. I have given birth. I have climbed a mountain. I have watched Criminal Minds at midnight with no one home ... I reaffirm that I can do this.

The dogs look so innocent staring up at me with their matted hair and goofy grins. I chuckle at my weak moment. I grab my hose attachment, shed-free shampoo, five dog towels, two leashes, and a plan. They are following me around watching my every move. I sense that they too are devising a plan.  

I have learned to divide and conquer. I bathe them one at a time. It is going pretty smoothly. I feel confident. I’m soaked and cold but one is done. I put my monster male in the bathroom. So far, so good. My female tests my mettle a bit more as she writhes on her back trying to escape the water. Soap flies everywhere. I get a little in my eye. I now have a twitch. It’s OK. I can live with a twitchy eye. Overall, I feel empowered.

I discover all 5 towels are soaked from dog number one. I leave her wet and put her in the bathroom with the other one. I turn my attention to the drying issue.

The blow-dryer proved ill-conceived last time. No one got dry, and I burned out the machine. I look in the garage for inspiration. The leaf- blower looks promising. I haul it back to the bathroom and plug it in while the dogs wiggle on their backs and attempt to knock me down. I begin to think they devised a plan to defeat me while I was in the garage. I am not going down without a fight.

I turn on the blower and pandemonium breaks out. My male begins to scoot at breakneck speed on his back as my female runs panicked in and out of the extension cord. In seconds, the two are completely tangled in the cording, the floor is a skating rink and I am on the floor on my back struggling to keep the leaf-blower from knocking me in the head. I turn it off. 

That did not go as planned. We all calm down and the two are now staring at me. The dogs and I are all panting and a little sweaty. My female appears traumatized. I consider the knot on my head and the possibilty of head trauma.

I curse quietly under my breath and mop up the floor with my good towels. I gather up the wet mess, and place the lot in the washing machine. I leave the dogs in the bathroom and regain my composure. I am only slightly bruised. With a twitch. And a probable concussion. But, I'll live.

I decide to revisit the blow-dryer plan. It was only twenty dollars. I begin the tedious process of towel-drying and blow-drying when I hear the tell-tale sounds of the washer going off-balance. I choose to ignore it. It gets louder. I begin to have visions of it walking and crashing through sheet rock. This would dramatically cut into my savings on the project. I abandon the blow drying and the dogs to fix the washer. More cussing as I notice the washer on its way out of the laundry room. Three minutes later I return.

Disaster has struck. The two demon dogs have broken into the closet and shredded their dog beds. There are chunks of foam filler all over the closet -- top to bottom -- all over clothes, embedded in shoes. I scream. They look up momentarily distracted. I go to get the broom and dustpan. There is much louder cursing. I return and open the door. Both dogs shoot out knocking me off my feet again, a trail of foam pieces following them throughout the house. More bruising. Some crying. I slowly begin the clean-up process and acknowledge that I am no match for my two Golden Retrievers.

I take a photo of the demolition and post it on my fridge next to the number for the groomer.