Archive for January, 2007

Viva Zapata!

Monday, January 29th, 2007

I have discovered a piece of clothing that is absolutely transformational. No, it’s not the latest marvel of engineering from Victoria’s Secret. The item that takes me from mild-mannered mom to Superwoman is a pair of black high-heel, pointy-toe boots.

It doesn’t matter that I’m wearing them with $19.99 jeans from the Gap Outlet, a blazer I got at Costco, and a shirt from the clearance rack at Target. When take off the felt clogs with the hole in the toe that I wear around the house, and slip into my sleek zip up boots, I feel like a million bucks”¦like I could go toe-to-toe with Helen Reddy. I am woman hear me roar! And dare I say it, with these on, I am hot! Oh darn, that was just hormonal whiplash.

I didn’t just walk into a store one day and decide I had to have those boots. It was a long process really set in motion by one of our favorite TV shows, TLC’s “What Not to Wear.” It’s a make-over show, where two “style experts” teach women how to dress appropriately and in a way that flatters their figure, whether they’re built like a fire hydrant or a flag pole.

About the same time we started watching the show, Steve and I started our own business. Even though we work out of our dining room and on most days it wouldn’t matter if we did business in our pj’s, there are occasionally new business meetings with potential clients and we need to look the part of successful marketers.

My problem was that I had been out of the working world for more than two decades. Where I left off, women were buying power suits with shoulder pads the size of Frisbees. But now I was a partner in our company. I needed to expand my wardrobe beyond the mom uniform of jeans, Nikes, and t-shirts.

That’s where “What Not to Wear” came into the picture. Although I’m not like a lot of the women featured on the show ““ for instance, I’ve never worn tie-dye and leopard-print spandex in public, or ever ““ I am like the subjects of the show because I didn’t know some basic rules about how to dress to make the most of what God gave me. Stacy and Clinton, the style gurus on the show, teach women that jackets which accentuate an hourglass figure are a good thing, that pants with a lower rise actually hide a tummy, and that shoes with a pointed toe make your legs look longer.

The show raised my consciousness about what women wore. In particular, I started paying attention to what women wore on their feet. After church, when people are socializing in the courtyard area, gave me an opportune time to scan a lot of women at once ““ who all want to put their best foot forward ““ to see the “What Not to Wear” principles in action. It didn’t take long to notice that if a woman had on nice shoes, and especially if they had a pointed toe, she looked stylish, contemporary, and taller. And everything else she had on, even if it was just a pair of black pants or jeans, looked better because of the shoes.

That’s when I knew that I’d be stopping at the Nine West store on the way home from church.

In addition to the attitude and altitude boost that I get when I wear the boots, I really appreciate that they have helped me create a uniform for business meetings: blazer, good-fitting jeans, t-shirt, and of course, the boots. I can put that on and feel good whether we’re meeting with bankers or bikers. These boots were made for talkin'”¦


Orange Cat Attack

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

It’s amazing to me that a six pound ball of fur has become such a force in our household. Some days I wonder”¦ what did we talk about before we got Nigel, our orange tabby cat?

When we adopted him, we already had two cats and a German shepherd, all who have been part of our family for years. We loved them, but unless something happened that demanded my attention, such as a cat barfing up a hairball on our new couch or the dog biting the UPS guy, our interaction with the pets was routine and unremarkable.

When we decided to bring a kitten into our family, I knew that it would monopolize the attention of my daughters, at least for the week that the cat was still a kitten. However, I expected that once the cat became an adult, it would be like the other two cats ““ loved, fed, and cleaned up after ““ but really only commented on if one of them discovered a new place to get cozy for its requisite 22 hours of sleep.

What has surprised me is that even though Nigel is an adult cat now, he actually gets more attention ““ not just from the girls, but from all members of the family ““ than he did when he was a kitten. When our 18 year old son comes home from school, never mind saying hi to the rest of the family, it’s Nigel that he cheerily greets before he disappears into his room and computer for the next 12 hours. When Steve wants a break from fielding phone calls from clients, he plays fetch with Nigel. When our teenage daughter stumbled into the kitchen for breakfast this morning, her first words were, “Nigel did the cutest thing yesterday.” And throughout the day, our youngest daughter is giving us reports from the front, “Nigel just did the biggest kitty stretch.”

One reason we talk about him so much is because he is ubiquitous. Whenever there’s movement in the house, he’s right there. It’s a little startling to open the refrigerator door and find Nigel sitting vulture-like on top of it. Or when I’m brush my teeth and just as I lean down to spit, I realize that his orange face is about two inches from mine. And when Steve and Ethan use the bathroom, they tell me that avoiding Nigel requires really good aim.xena-and-nigel-web.jpg

Nigel’s stealthiness, athleticism, and fearlessness are because he is at heart a feral cat, unlike our other cats who are descended from a long line of “slug muffins” as our daughter calls them. But since he is an indoor cat who doesn’t have to face mental challenges just to survive, Nigel finds interesting ways to occupy his kitty brain, such as flipping the door stops. While we’re lying in bed at about 5:00 am, we start hearing “thwaang, thwaang.” And then there’s stealing and chewing iPod earphones and cell phone chargers. But probably his favorite game is “take down the German shepherd.” After Nigel has run the dog around the family room a few dozen times, she comes over to Steve with big puppy eyes, as if to say, “Make the bad kitty stop!”

And speaking of bad kitties, he loves spending time on the counter when I’m preparing dinner. We’ve tried squirting him, clapping our hands, pushing him off ““ all with very little change in his behavior. We need a “Cat Whisperer,” but I’m afraid we’ve given up on cat discipline. This will ensure that no one ever comes over to our house for dinner again, but I’ve looked over to find Nigel on the table licking his butt while Steve is eating.

Did adding that third cat put us over the edge and we’re now into crazy cat lady territory where all we talk about is our cats? Maybe, but only to each other”¦and in blogs.

Hand Me a Swiffer

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Yesterday, I did something really out of the ordinary”¦I cleaned the stove. During the process of trying to scrub away something (could that be gravy from Thanksgiving?) that was cemented to the enamel around the burner, I began to wax nostalgic about how I used to clean the kitchen every week.

A few years ago, I would move everything off the countertops so I could clean all the way into the corners, I’d get down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor, and I Windexed every surface ““ horizontal and vertical. Then as part of my weekly routine, I would move onto the other rooms in the house. Furniture and lamps in every room were dusted. Every floor was either mopped or vacuumed. I’m sure the cats really appreciated the lemony-fresh smell on the concrete under their litter boxes.

But as the family and number of pets has grown and we started a home-based business, the amount of time and energy required to keep up that level of housecleaning would mean sacrificing other aspects of my life”¦and I’m just not willing to give up sleeping.

Housework doesn’t seem like it should be a complicated issue, but it is for me. I’m the only one in the family who seems to notice, let alone be bothered, by the layers of fingerprints on the fridge and the tumbleweeds of dog hair rolling through the family room. Since maintaining a certain level of housekeeping is important to me I should be the one to take responsibility for it. But now I have the added demands of working in our marketing business. Yet I’m also very protective about how the chores are done. I guess as my husband says (in the nicest possible way), I’m a control freak.

When he has at times suggested that I could lighten my workload by hiring a housecleaning service, I tell him I appreciate the offer. But really I’m thinking that there is no way I could do that. It would represent that I identified with working more than with running the house. And at this point in my life, I’m still more a mom who works than a working mother.

I have tried to take a much more minimalist and spontaneous approach to cleaning. I don’t scrub the baseboards like my mother used to do. In fact, I don’t think my kids even know what a baseboard is. I only get out the dust cloth when I look at the office desk and see a maze of kitty paw prints. When the kitchen floor starts crunching, I grab a wet paper towel and make a quick sweep around the floor. And I’m considering attaching a Swiffer to our athletic orange cat, Nigel. Perhaps he could do something useful while he’s exploring the top of the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinets that have 13 years of accumulated dust on them.

However, cleaning the bathrooms is one chore that I have trouble letting go of. I know I should give the kids the Tilex and a scrub brush and let them deal with the hair and petrified toothpaste glops in their bathroom. And if they consider the job done when they’ve wiped away enough splatters on the mirror to see their face, then so be it. But I know what a scary place a neglected and overused bathroom can be. I’ve experienced it firsthand; I lived in a sorority house. Can’t a person catch something from mildew run amok?

So I go after the floor and toilet with a vengeance and I leave the sinks and countertops for them to clean. I want to know that scrubbing bubbles have covered every inch of the tile. The only thing that is missing when we’re done is a wrapper to put around the toilet: “Sanitized for your protection.”

Note to self: next time I launch into cleaning the kids’ bathroom and starting complaining about how yucky it is, remember, I volunteered for the job.

Costco Run

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Our family had been living off the remains of the holiday provisions that I had stockpiled before Christmas. But by two days after New Year’s, the only food left in the house was a quarter slab of smoked salmon that was so fragrant that the cats came running every time I opened the refrigerator, two and a half stale Christmas cookies, and one third of a carton of eggnog that expired last year.

(As a note, there are some powerful stabilizers in that eggnog; even though the container had been open for more than three weeks, when I poured it down the drain I was amazed that its consistency had not changed. I considered applying it to my face for wrinkle control.)

So a trip to Costco was on the agenda. And since this week was a quasi-holiday for our home-based business, my husband, Steve, volunteered to come with me. It would be nice to have his company but I was really happy that he would be there to lift the 50 pound bags of cat litter into the car.

I‘m stuck in a rut when it comes to what’s for dinner, yet I’m hesitant to buy something different at Costco for fear that I’ll end up with so many meatballs that even the dog gives me a look that says, “These for dinner again?” So I thought it would be useful to be there with Steve so I could ask him on the spot how he felt about having salmon cakes for dinner for the next three months.

I love shopping at Costco. The aisles are wide and clean. The shelves are always fully stocked all the way up to the 30 foot ceilings. It’s a great blend of quality and price. But it’s not a place that nurtures sentimentality. By January 2nd, everything having to do with the holiday is gone…it’s as if Christmas never happened. Which always makes me wonder, where do the gift baskets and inflatable lawn snowglobes go once December has passed?

Yet Costco is also a very optimistic place, always looking forward. The new merchandise shakes me out of my funk that the holidays are over and prods me to think about springtime and what activities will occupy our time. I’d certainly rather start the New Year browsing through aisles stocked with sports and gardening equipment than get depressed looking at shelves of picked-over rolls of wrapping paper marked down 75%.

Yes, I realize this is all a conspiracy to separate me from my money, but whether it’s at Costco or some other retailer, I’m going to be buying stuff. So I’d rather do it in a place where I can easily find what I need and get it in enough quantity that I don’t have to think about buying toilet paper for another six months.

We enter Costco and stop for a moment to pay homage to the 42″ LCD HDTV that someday we hope to make part of our family”¦room. Then Steve goes on to scan the DVDs for any movies that Santa may have overlooked and I grab the tub of ibuprofen that will get me through the hormonal headaches of 2007. We meet up and head to the food items at the back of the store.

Teriyaki chicken? Too plastic. Hot and spicy wings? Too neon orange. Four pounds of tequila lime wings? We both agree that sounds like the right combination of fat, artificial flavoring, and salt to make them really tasty. We finish out the shopping trip picking up usual staples of the household and head to the checkout. We’re just about done being rung up. Oh darn! Steve would you mind running back and grabbing those two 50 pound bags of cat litter?