Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Get A Grip has moved!

It's time to say goodbye to Blogger.  It's been a great platform for sharing my wit and wisdom with the world!


Come with me to my new digs:  getagriptoday.wordpress.com

Same brilliant tips, same fabulous prose.  Check it out!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Guest Post! Learning To Love Your Junk Drawer

My friend Rhiana, with whom I bonded years ago over the lethal combination of designer shoes and wedding planning.  When a friendship begins in such a manner, naturally it's going to thrive.

You can find more of Rhiana's musings over on http://kitetailsplaycenter.blogspot.com/where she is a frequent contributor of much acclaim.  I invited her to write a post because I know she's crafty (in more of the "makes craft-type things" way than the "she gets around" way, at least for purposes of my blog...) and she and I tend to be of the same mind when it comes to organizing.  As it turns out, she ran into a common organizing conundrum, which she of course turned into a victory.  Enjoy!

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When Kristie asked me to guest blog I was ecstatic.  What you may not know is that I love, love, love me some Kristie B.    I just adore this woman and I jump at in any opportunity to be part of her amazingness.  (Yes, I just made up that word).  


So Kristie initially asked me to blog about my craft/art area since I teach art.  So that is what I started doing.  And then I realized my craft area doesn't actually functioning the way I really need it to function.  So I tore it apart and put it together again.  Still no dice.  So I am going to work on that some more and hopefully Kristie will be gracious enough to invite me back when it is finished so I can reveal that   to you.  Oh, and the moral to that story- just because it is organized doesn't make it functional.



So instead of my craft room I am going to share something else.  Something dark and personal.  My "junk" drawer.  Now I think it goes without saying that if it was truly junk it would be in the garbage so "junk" for me is that miscellaneous stuff that doesn't really have a home but you need to keep somewhere.  I have for you exhibit A:


So I used a bamboo kitchen organizer from either Williams-Sonoma or Crate and Barrel (I can't remember which) to wrangle all of my crap.  In the way back I have my label maker.  Now I don't use it every day but I use it often enough that it needs to be handy.  And if you don't have one you should go get one.  Like now.  Or after you finish reading my very, very important post.

I keep all my charging stuff in there.  All the camera and phone cords are in their own compartment.  I always know where they are and I always know where to find them.  The front left is where I keep my pens and post it notes.  The middle back is where I keep my D batteries.  Why just the D batteries you ask...?  Well, the rest of the batteries belong in the "Man Room" (which is a post for another day).  The D batteries belong in the heavy duty Mag Light flashlight that we keep in the kitchen for power outages so it makes sense that in an emergency we aren't shlepping down the dark stairs to our basement and into the dark, dark Man Room looking for extra batteries.  We also have lighters, a stapler, the camera, tape, and extra wine cork in there.  The key here is the drawer organizer.  This prevents things from sliding around every time you open and close the drawer and also prevents search and destroy missions.  When things are compartmentalized you can see things so much better. (Close your eyes, can you see everything in your "junk" drawer?  If not, go and get your drawer organizer.  And your label maker.)  A place for everything and everything in it's place.  It becomes less of a "junk" drawer and more of a miscellaneous drawer.

To recap, the organizing tips are:

* Just because it is organized doesn't mean it is functional
* Drawer organizers are indeed the best thing since sliced bread
* Get a Label maker.  It will change your life in ways you never thought possible.

Thanks again to Kristie B for letting me guest blog- she is da Bomb!  For reals yo!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

An Embarrassment Of Movie Riches

Movies are our thing.  As a family and individually, if we're home, we're watching a flick.  On my first date with Mr. Incredible, we went out for lunch and then came back to my house and watched National Lampoon's Vacation (true story!).  My paradise is a trip to the Sundance Film Festival with a few friends and a backpack full of foldover sandwiches and six movies back to back (this has happened, and it raised the standard for movie awesomeness).

We cancelled our cable almost a year ago, and in the interest of filling that void, we upped our internet speed and loaded our Roku Box with Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime.  We also have a shelf full of the movies that we love and must own, as well as Boo's other shelf of all of the Disneys.  We are loaded to the gills with movies.  It's becoming a problem.

On any given Friday or Saturday afternoon, we'll say "Hey tonight let's watch a movie."  Fantastic.  We put Boo to bed by 8:30 with high hopes to start a movie by 9.  And then we start clicking through the Netflix queue (184 titles as of this morning, after a 10% purge).  Then we move on to Hulu in case there's something they've added that we don't know about.  Then we go to Amazon Prime, in case there's something they've added that we don't know about.  We've likely added a dozen or so movies that garner an "oh that's a good one but not for tonight" response along the way.

An hour later, we still haven't picked a movie, and now we're drowsy because we've spent an hour slackjawed doing basically nothing.  And we end up just turning the TV off.  There's just too much from which to choose.  We are paralyzed by the sheer size of the available selection (poor us!).

One of the reasons we cancelled cable was that we spent so much time surfing past crap (there's really too much to link to...) to end up on one of the dozen channels we always watched.  Truth be told, a year later, all I really miss is Food Network and Turner Classic Movies.  Mr Incredible misses the ESPN genre.  Boo doesn't really care because she still gets all her same stuff, to the point where she has skewed my Netflix recommendations firmly into Children & Family.

So what do we do?  I mean, it's totally a First World Problem, I know.  But it's everywhere.  We shop at Costco, and while I love what they have, I hate how much of it you have to get.  There's just so much.  It's like we've forgotten what it's like to have enough of something.  We were watching Mary Poppins (for the billionth time) (because it's a movie and that's what we do) and she says in her inimitable way, "Enough is as good as a feast".

Enough is as good as a feast.  Whoa.  Mary Poppins, you just blew my mind.

I've talked about my love of "galore".  In my world, galore is when you have enough to share.  A hundred thousand available movies is not galore.  A hundred thousand movies is overwhelming to the point where I just go get a book (or I download one to my just-acquired Kindle, which has opened up a whole new world of overwhelming...).  It never ends.  It's not a feast.  It's gluttony.

Even though everything that is available may not take up actual physical space in our home, it's still clutter.  It's a mess in my head, and that's just as bad as a mess in my house.  Worse, in fact, because it's not like you can just un-know something and get that brainspace back.

I'm not sure what my solution is for this one.  What's your solution?  What do you do when there are just too many options?  Are you like me and you just check out?  Or do you pick something just for the sake of picking something and settle and it's FINE.  This is probably not the last time I'll write about this topic.  It's ongoing for me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summertime, and the living is easy.

A couple of weeks ago, I was staring dolefully at the apricots we'd received in that week's farm share basket.  I'm not a big fan of apricots--when I was a kid, we had an apricot tree in the back yard that exploded into thousands of nasty bits of orange slime each pecked once or twice by a bird before it fell to the ground and rotted, and it was most often my job to pick them up.  GROSS.  Seriously disgusting.  I've lived a good life free of apricots for 25 years, no regrets.

But then they showed up in our basket, and Mr Incredible (rightly) insists on at least trying everything in the farm basket and not just waiting out the shelf life of whatever we don't like so we can just toss them.  So I had to deal with some rapidly ripening apricots tout de suite.  Fine.

I'd made strawberry preserves before, and it was kind of involving.  The simple act of locating Sure-Jell in a suburban desert grocery store almost killed the whole process.  Sterilizing jars in the Great Big Family Canner?  Crazy.  But it happened.  I knew I could do it, but I knew that there had to be an easier way.  I mean, Laura Ingalls didn't have to do that every freaking time, right?

No.  As it turns out, she did not.  She may have anyway, because that's how they roll By The Shores of Silver Lake.  But maybe she was just a glutton for punishment.  Or maybe she just didn't have The Google.  Because a quick search for "easy apricot jam" led me here and a whole new world of culinary wonder was revealed to me.  Twenty minutes after I thought "Maybe I could make jam...?" I had made jam, and it was cooling on the counter.

I made this!
I added some vanilla extract, and it became a marvelous dessert topping as well.  I was so full of myself that I also baked bread, because one simply does not put homemade jam on store bread.

When I was properly stuffed with bread and jam (omg so good), I came back to the Google and started sniffing around for similar recipes.  How many times have I tossed furry strawberries and blueberries and insert-name-of-berry-here-berries because I buy more than I can possibly eat?  I started with strawberries, and I found this great, simple, no-fail recipe that tells you how you can do the sterilizing and canning, but also how you don't have to.  Long story short, if you're going to eat the jam "immediately", which I assume to be within 7-10 days refrigerated, you just extended the life of your fruit.

I quickly found that there are two types of jam-makers: those who require pectin (Sure-Jell) and those who do not.  I do not.  Right then, things got easier.  Cindy Burke at Culinate.com blew my mind by putting it all on one site.  The riper your fruit is, the sweeter the end result and the less sugar you'll need.  Your fruit doesn't have to be perfect, but make sure it's clean and not fuzzy or similar.  You cook it down, stir in some sugar and lemon juice (lemon keeps it from turning brown) and if you know it's going to cook up tart or overly sweet or whatever, you season accordingly.  In my experience, you cannot go wrong with vanilla.  It makes just about anything better (amIright? yeah.).  When I get some strawberries, I'm going to go off the grid and toss in some fresh basil.  Doesn't that sound wonderful? YUM.

What I love about this is that it's super quick and doesn't require anything that you don't have in your kitchen already.   You don't need to break out Grandma's great big canner.  You can do this tonight for tomorrow's pancakes.  Really.

I would be remiss if I did not include some very clear information and finger-wagging about safety.  Food preparation is serious business.  Taking a dozen peaches and making jam for your family is great, as long as you're careful about your environment.  At eatright.org, we learn scary things about E.coli and wikihow.com tells us all about the dangers of botulism (scroll down).

So that's it.  Don't shy away from buying as much summer fruit as you possibly can.  Eat all you want fresh out of the bushel basket.  When you're turning into Violet Beauregarde, just make some jam.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Guest Post! Movin’ on up


My friend Christina offered to lend a new voice to Get A Grip.  Her background is in Interior Design, and her current status as a bona fide New Yorker give her serious space management cred.  

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Hi.  I’m Christina, and I’m a fan of the folks over at Get A Grip.  You know, there are days when I read the blog and see the Huddle Up and I say “Amen, sister!” and there are others when I learn something new.   I’m big on organization over here too, even though we’re kind of messy. Messy, but hey, I know where pretty much everything is.  To be honest, my organization happens mostly behind closed doors.  Our closets and drawers are freakishly neat. Most of the time.

So why am I here? A little bit of a different perspective, some of my own organization tips, and most of it in the context of moving.  You see, we over here are “movin’ on up”.  We, my little family of 3 and a dog, are living in New York City (East Coast, represent!) and while we aren’t moving to the East Side, we are moving “up” – 10 blocks north, to be precise, and we are doubling our space.  This move will happen in about 3 months, and in the meantime we are trying to sell our current home and I am obsessively planning everything ahead for the new place.  The Get A Grip folks and I thought that sharing the experience with you, the lovely readers, might be worthwhile.  They help you get your life organized, and maybe, just maybe, I can help with ideas to get your stuff organized.  So let’s humor each other a bit, why don’t we?

Binge & Purge. Clothing, that is.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new dress.  A really cute one too.  I needed to hang it up, and when I stepped into my closet I realized that not only were my dresses crammed into the dress section, but some were forced to share hangers.  Quel horror!  So the dress stayed folded in the shopping bag, which sat on the floor of my closet.  This is never good.  I mean, why would a new dress want to be hidden from view?  It should be out there, looking at me, saying “wear me!”, and not in seclusion waiting to be forgotten.

So then one fine rainy Saturday, I found it: my Motivation.  The voice inside my head was screaming at me to go clean out the closet.  And I listened.  And once I was done I had a big pile of stuff that I wasn’t going to keep.  And herein lies the problem: what to do with it all.  Sure, Goodwill comes to mind, but that’s too easy, and let’s be honest, not always the right place for everything.  Why don’t we discuss our options here, of where to send those old friends of yours who you are sending out into the world.

Resale/Consignment

I have some stuff that is on the ‘nicer’ end of the spectrum, clothes that maybe I can make some money back on.  It’s not like I’m running around in Chanel over here (I wish), but there are some “ready to wear” brands that you’d find in the fancier sections of your local department store.  One never knows – they might be worth something and don’t I owe it to myself to find out? 
One thing I have learned is that there are resale and consignment shops for every level and price range of clothes.  Even if you can make just one dollar on something, isn’t that better than nothing?  It might seem like a chore, hauling your stuff to the shop on the off chance they will want your stuff, but you know what? Just do it.  You may have a local shop where you can do this, or you can find a shop that is part of a larger chain, such as Plato’s Closet (for your clothes-horse teen) or Second Time Around (for your fancy department store stuff).

Charity shops

Goodwill and the Salvation Army are the biggies here, but you might also look at donating your non-resalable clothing to a local church or other charitable organization.  Here in NYC my preferred donation location of choice is Housing Works, which provides services, advocacy, and housing for those in the community suffering from AIDS.  The shops don’t just accept and sell clothing – they take books and some furnishings as well. (I bought our AMAZING Danish modern dining set there for a relative steal).   Bottom line, if your can’t get money back from your clothes at a resale shop, you may as well send it out into the world to do good for someone else.

Recycling

I read a shocking statistic that, at least here in New York, textiles make up almost 6% of landfill waste.  SIX PERCENT! And as much as we like to tell ourselves that the stuff we throw out is biodegradable (or whatever) the truth is that once something is part of the landfill and is buried under other Stuff and deprived of light and air, well, it’s just not going to break down and become on with the earth.  It’s just not.

Here in NYC we are lucky to have textile recycling available to us, and I can drop off stuff at any number of local farmer’s markets.  What would you recycle?  Anything you might not know what to do with that you might be sneaking into your Goodwill bag with the hopes that they will figure it out.  “Who me?”, you say. Yeah you, you know what I’m talking about.  The t-shirt with a hole in it, or the duvet cover that has ripped at the seams, or the favorite pyjama pants that you split the seat on thus rendering them unwearable, even in the privacy of your own home.  The damaged stuff that still has large areas of good useable fabric, that’s the stuff I’m talking about. 

If you can find local textile recycling, then this is an awesome option.  The sad truth is that I have seen torn-open garbage bags on the sidewalk outside of some charity shops filled with clothing that they didn’t deem acceptable.  You think you are asking them to deal with it so you don’t have to, and they’re just throwing it in the trash anyways. This bums me out.



Other things for the more ambitious

I can’t exactly throw up a sign and have a garage sale here on the island of Manhattan.  Sure, people have “Stoop Sales” or hold sales in their apartments, but I just don’t think that would fly in my co-op building.   But you suburbanites out there, this might be a great option for you.  From what I gather, yard sales can be a lot of work, but if you’re up for it, then go for it.    There’s ebay too, though I’m not sure how effective this is for grown-up clothes.  For kid stuff I hear it’s great – put your child’s outgrown clothes up for sale in groups, rather than as individual pieces.  Or host a clothing swap!  Among my friends we have little kids of all ages and will sometimes host a swap – set up tables by size, toss your used clothes in the pile, and pick up some new stuff in the sizes you need.  Combine this with brunch and a playdate and you’ve got a fun and productive Saturday morning!


It’s a lot of information, and maybe the thought of multiple piles of stuff going to different places overwhelms you, but it’s easier than it looks.  So go purge that closet and make room for some great new stuff!

You know, I’ve never figured out what is the best way to get rid of old undies.  If you figure that one out, please let me know.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

So you want to bake some bread.


I've been asked for my bread recipe.  Awesome.

Full disclosure:  I initially got the recipe from The Simple Dollar.  Hers has pictures, and for a baking noob like me, it was invaluable.  Now that I know what each step is supposed to look like, I don't need the pictures, so I typed it up.  I also made some variations with the ingredients, but not many.  It's a great recipe, and please go over to Simple Dollar and tell her so!  I did :).

Super Easy Homemade Bread

Get a big glass bowl.  Fill with hot water, and then dump it out.  Warm bowls make for good bread.

In warm bowl:

Dissolve 1 packet of yeast in 1 cup warm water
Soften 5 tsp of butter in the microwave, add to yeast/water
Add 1-1/2 tbsp cup sugar and
1 tsp salt

Stir that until it's a nice shade of beige.

Add a cup of flour, and stir.  The dough will be sticky.  Keep stirring.  Add another cup of flour.  Keep stirring, and pay attention to the consistency of the bread--it will become stretchy.  Keep stirring, have one more cup of flour on deck, and add it slowly.  You may or may not add that last whole cup.  Bread is fickle.

Generously sprinkle some flour on the counter. 

When the dough is in a nice ball, and doesn't stick to your hands or the spoon too much (you'll know), take it out of the bowl.  Put the bowl in the sink, fill with soap & water.  You'll need that bowl to be clean in a few minutes.

Check the clock, note the time.  Beat the crap out of the bread (classy people call this "kneading") for 10 minutes.  If it sticks to itself, the counter, or you, add more flour.  When 10 minutes are up, it should be a nice, pliable ball.

Wash and dry the bowl.  Spray the inside (duh…) with some cooking spray.  Plop the dough in it and cover with a nice clean cloth.  Let it rise for an hour.

After an hour has passed, the dough has possibly doubled or more, or not.  Don’t sweat it.  It’s fine.  Take it out of the bowl, and put it on your (still floured) counter.  Work it into a rectangle that’s as wide as your bread pan and about twice as long.  Roll it up, put it into your bread pan (did you spray that will Pam?  You should do that…), tucking the ends under.

Cover it with your cloth again for another hour.  Go clean up your kitchen and put stuff away. 

After the 2nd rise, put it in a 400* oven for 30 minutes.  When it’s done, take it out of the pan immediately, or it will keep cooking (trust me).

YUM. 

I use Sugar In The Raw, about a 2:1 ratio of Gold Medal Better for Bread Flour and whole wheat flour, and real sweet cream butter.  You can also add fresh herbs (dill! chives! rosemary!) to the flour as you stir it in.  If you're feeling fancy, sprinkle grated cheese over the rectangle of bread before you roll it up and put it in the pan.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not Everything Needs To Be Perfect

Let me say (write...) that again:

Not Everything Needs To Be Perfect.

Ideally, everything in your home will have a home of its own ("a place for everything, and everything in its place yadda yadda yadda"), but the goal of this whole thing is not to have your home look like OCD City.  Really.  The cans in your pantry do not all need to be facing the same direction (although it's lovely when they are, it's also kind of scary), and the towels don't all need to line up on the towel bar.  You don't live at Pottery Barn.  Your home is not a movie set.  You are not Gary and Elaine.

Your home should be your soft spot to land.  It should be your sanctuary from the rest of this prickly world.  You should be able to pull your car into the garage, walk into your kitchen (mudroom, whatever), put down your bag, sort your mail on an empty flat surface, feed whoever in your home is hungry, and then chill out for a little while before bed.

Think about it.  What would that be like?  Because it's possible.  That could be what many (not all, because I'm not a freaking magician) of your evenings are like.  Not perfect.  Just... easy.  Well, easiER, at least.

This is about being able to sit in any chair in your house.  It's about eating at a table, or at least being able to choose to eat standing up in the kitchen instead of it being the only reasonable place it can happen.  It's about having a clean towel next to your shower, and clean sheets on everybody's bed.  It's about having people over to watch the Oscars or the Super Bowl or just dinner (or the Tonys, which are next week!!!) and not spending two solid days clearing a trail from the couch to the TV to the bathroom.  It's about having a general idea of where just about anything in your house is.

It's not an impossible dream (♪♫to dreeeeeeeeeeeeam the impossible dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeam♪♫).  It's a reasonable expectation.  Really.  It is.  It's doable.  I promise (or as Boo says, "Pinky swear!").  It may take some time to get there, though.  You may not know where or how to start.  You're not alone.  A lot of people don't know where to start.  Hell, when I was first keeping my own house, it was a disaster.  I alphabetized my movies (it's always been lurking just below the surface...) but there was not a clean plate to be found.

The idea of hiring a Professional Organizer seems quite lofty, yes?  It does.  Hoi, polloi, aren't we fancy and helpless, not being able to clean our house?  Don't think about it like that.  One of my clients said it so perfectly:  "It's like you're a personal trainer for my house".  You know how you go to a gym (or, like me, you may have friends who go to a gym) and there's a person standing next to you, cheering or coaching or somehow encouraging you to continue?  She (or Hot Muscle-y He?) guides you through new routines, correcting your form, making sure you don't take on too much, pushing you to keep going?

That's me.  That's what I am able to do.  And to be crass and talk (if only briefly) about money, I'm likely within your budget.

So there it is.  When someone asks for an explanation of what I do (and they have a few minutes...) that's what I tell them.  I'm not going to swoop in and make your life perfect.  But I can help you Get A Grip (get it? makes sense now, doesn't it?) on it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Using my words

We spent most of Boo's second year of life encouraging her to use her words.  She would become frustrated about something and would get all stompy and arm-swingy.  "Use your words; tell me what's going on and I can help you fix it."

Of course now that she's got the vocabulary of a 45 year old truck driver, we spend a lot of time telling her to hush.  I digress.

Using your words is powerful, because it means that you're able to identify and articulate what's going on in your head.  I know that when I don't have a forum--like a blog, or even a group of real life people (fancy that!)--I tend to lose focus.  There's nothing being said, so there's nothing to be done.  I've always sought outlets for expressing what's on my mind.  In the immortal words of Hedley Lamarr, "My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives."  Ditto, Hedy ("That's Hedley").

The flip side to this coin is when I have something to say about something important, but nobody is listening.  It's a given that not everybody is going to care what someone thinks all the time, but there are instances in which it's necessary to pay attention to what the stakeholders are thinking.  That really bothers me about my job--nobody ever asked me what I thought about it, or gave me a say in the matter. It just happened.  It was just decided that henceforth, I would be over there, doing that other thing.  My skillset, my background, my plans, my goals, none of that mattered.  I've spent a lot of time in the past year devising responses to the questions and conversation that I feel should have included me.

Not having a say really pissed me off.  I spent a lot of time and energy being pissed off, too.  I cared a lot about them not caring.  I was like that crazy chick in Fatal Attraction (YIKES SCARY ALEX) and I was all "well I'm not going to be ignored!" and that's quite possibly the least productive approach I could have taken.

Turns out, I was going to be ignored.  I'm likely still going to be ignored for as long as I'm there.  It's probably to my benefit if they do, as they tend to manage like seagulls.  If they're ignoring me, at least they're not screwing my stuff up even more.

Which leads me back to my topic of using my words.  My voice is powerful.  I'm funny as hell (ask anyone).  When I am at my best, I have a way of bringing the people around me to their best as well.  I am one hell of a counselor because I know how to lead a conversation toward a solution without being all bossy and Lucy Van Pelt about it (five cents, please).

Why is this relevant to organizing?  Because organization is a solution.  It's not the singular end-all, be-all solution to every problem, but sometimes just clearing a path through the chaos helps.  And I can help with that.  Clearing that path is like finding your own voice amid all the static.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Out of the (very very organized) closet.

I have previously alluded to the day I would inform my father (with whom I have a solid, albeit occasionally tricky) relationship about this whole Get A Grip thing.  That day? was Friday.

It needed to happen, because the next day we were all going to a party, and people would be there who knew about Get A Grip, and I could not run the risk of him finding out from someone besides me.  People were going to talk about it.  Lots of people know about it, but it was time for my father to know the truth about my life and how I was spending my time.

It was time to come out of the closet to my folks.

It started as most of our visits do.  "So," my stepmom asked,  "What's new?"  I took a deep breath and I told them that we needed to have a conversation about work.  Dad asked if I was having problems with work again?

"No, not again.  It's ongoing.  It's not going to get better, I don't think."  I went on to describe the environment, which isn't a bad environment, necessarily, it's just not the right place for me.  I'm not my true self at work, and the stress of it is causing problems in other areas of my life.  I'm not happy, and I deserve to be.  So a few months ago, I started exploring my options.  Experimenting, if you will, with alternatives to the mainstream life I was leading.  And I have discovered a new path that really is putting some joy back into my life.

It was my father's worst-case scenario for my career choices.  One of his children wanting to leave the fold and be something else?  And leave a pension and benefits?  Our people don't work for ourselves.  We are hard workers, yes, but we work for somebody. Not "clients", and by the way, what sort of people will you be dealing with?  Who doesn't know how to clean a house?  Who will hire you?  Your friends?  What happens when you run out of friends?  You might as well be a goddamn insurance salesman.

Le sigh.

Trying to explain internet marketing to my father is like..... trying to explain internet marketing to my father.  He is of the generation that still writes a check at the grocery store, and prefers to do business in person, face to face.  The internet is for email and tracking down classic cars and evidently people also put dirty pictures on it (such a funny story, the day my father became aware of this phenomenon), but to depend on it for your livelihood?  Does not compute (HA! Compute. That's a joke, son.).

In the end, and as it stands now, he's supportive of this new alternative lifestyle I'm trying to put together.  I'm pretty sure he thinks it's just a phase, and I'll grow out of it, but he's on board.  He's got my back unconditionally, as ever. He knows that I'm not going to do anything that puts our ability to keep a roof over our heads at risk. He wants me to be happy, and he knows that when I stand my ground on a big decision that I know he doesn't like, I mean business.

This is me, out of my very organized closet, standing my ground.  I mean business.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I'll be your tour guide today...

I'm fairly certain that we all have a role to play during our time on earth.  Some are leaders.  Some are followers.  I?  I am The Directions Lady.  If there is a group of 50 people around me, I'm the one that a total stranger will approach and ask how to get somewhere.

Great moments in my history of giving directions include:
  • Once, while riding in the car with Mr. Incredible, an impossibly hot gentleman in a sports car I couldn't even identify in the lane next to me made the universal gesture for "please roll down your window".  I did, and he asked me "Do you know how to get to Paradise?"  Now, there is a street in town called Paradise Road, and we were headed in the opposite direction from there.  And the answer that I very nearly gave him ("Honey, you better believe I do know the way...." etc) could have changed the entire course of my life (um, sorry babe).  Wisdom prevailed and I pointed him in the appropriate direction. We'll never know if HotStuff McHorsepower reached Paradise, or what he found when he arrived.  Alas.
  • I have been to New York City for a total of 72 hours in my life.  On the third day, before I caught the train to DC (that sounds so very cosmopolitan, yes?) I was roaming the streets, soaking it all in.  Now, I'm not widely traveled, but being from where I'm from, I know what tourists look like, and I endeavor not to look like that.  I blend.  I decide to take a rest in Bryant Park (best public restrooms on the planet, btw) when a group of tourists (fanny packs, knee socks, maps and all) approached me.  I could hear the (likely self-appointed) leader say "She looks like she's from here, let's ask her."  I look like I'm from New York?  Really?  Made my day.  As a bonus, she was asking where something was and gave the intersection.  If you know your numbers, you can navigate Manhattan.  She's welcome.
I don't know what it is that make total strangers think I know what I'm talking about.  I just go with it.  If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find it (whipping out my phone to google something as they stand there with their phone in hand makes me feel smug beneath my altruism, truth be told).  I like it when I'm able to give legitimate help to someone who asks for it.  Professionally, I've been at my most successful when I'm in a role that includes sitting down with someone to work toward a solution.  Not every question has a black and white answer (although directions generally do...) and I've been told that I have a knack for finding the best path.

Evidently I'm approachable.  I've been told countless times that I remind people of someone they know--a relative or a roommate or some good friend from long ago.  So when people are lost (even little kids, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy) they come to the first familiar face they see, and that's me.  I'm cool with that.  Even though I'm not really a people person, it's important to me to be helpful when I can.

What's your hidden talent?  It may be so hidden that you don't even see it, but others might.  Are you a Directions Lady too?  Or can you accurately estimate how many people are in a crowd of thousands?  I have a friend who's a Bringer of Truth, and that's a valuable person to have in your circle.  Whatever it is, cultivate it.  Helping people find the right path is what led me to professional organizing, and since I started heading in this direction, things have just felt right.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Business and Miscellany

This has been a landmark week in Get A Grip World.  I officially exist as a limited liability corporation.  I spent some time pondering what the name of my empire will be (I sometimes think in terms of Oprah...).  I wanted it to have significance, and to evoke a sense of expectation and curiosity.

I am Galore LTD.  Isn't that fabulous?  What's better than galore?  There's never a galore quantity of something bad (unless it's being described sarcastically, and I get that, because I speak sarcasm).  Galore means there's more to come so you better keep your fork.  A synonym for "galore" is "a-go-go" and I don't think it gets more awesome than that.  Galore is abundance.  Galore is having enough to share.

Galore is also my favorite album by The Cure.  I mean, I know it's a greatest hits compilation, but it's SO great!  Just Like Heaven?  Possibly the best song ever written.  I remember being at a party in the early 90s, and they played this song and EVERYBODY sang along and it was just joyous.  That right there?  Total galore.

ANYWAY.  I've always loved the idea of galore, and when it occurred to me that Galore could be to me like Harpo is to Oprah (again, I think big), I knew it was right.  It felt right.  I didn't even have to ask if it was stupid (do you ever do that? have what you think is a great idea and then tell someone about it with the qualifier "is that stupid?" Me too.) because it fit.  So there we are.  Galore.

In other news, I have a newsletter that is getting rave reviews!  You can sign up for it over there---> in the sidebar, up at the very top.  It's weekly, so you don't have to worry about suddenly getting a million emails from me.  It's utterly spam-free.  It's readable in five minutes or less, and it has links to fabulous things that you won't find here.  It's the Friday Huddle-Up, and I'd love it if you gave it a spin.  No pressure.  Well, not much pressure.  You can always unsubscribe and I won't hold it against you (for long...).

Here's to Galore!  Cheers!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stuff I love and with which I cannot part.

I talk a pretty good game.  I make a pretty big deal about how I'm not a collector, and that if I don't use it, it's OUTTA here.  Right?  Yeah.  Well, I have my Achilles heels just like everyone else.  I'd like to share the Top Five Things I Will Keep Forever.

1.  Books.  Oh, the day I discovered amazon.com was the best day in the history of ever.  I looooooooooooove me some books.  I love good books and trashy books  and shameful books (that last one is the hottest three bucks you'll ever spend, and Gideon Cross makes Christian Grey look like an underachiever).  My current favorite genre is biography/memoir.  I love reading people's stories.  From Jack Benny to the delightfully sordid complete collection of Kitty Kelley tomes that I keep close at hand, there is nothing more fascinating to me than the lives of real people.  So the 7-foot bookshelf next to my side of the bed that is busting at the seams?  The three more just like it downstairs?   Let's just assume they will be all full for the rest of my life.  I'm resisting the siren call of the e-reader, but the space-saver in me sees its appeal.  I fear I've passed this trait on to Boo, and I'm not one bit sorry :).  She takes so many books to bed with her that she falls asleep on top of them.  Parenting victory, there.

2.  Boo's Artwork From School.  I never thought I'd be That Mom.  I don't keep stuff.  Bits of paper and non-specific artistic renderings of nothing in particular?  Good heavens, why would I keep that?  Well I'll tell ya.  If my daughter made it, it is precious.  And for this reason, I have a bin that contains every.single.piece. of art that she has made at school since she was 3 months old.  It's probably some subconscious working mom guilt manifesting itself because these were created when she was not in my care, or some such twaddle.  Whatever.  If she stuck a piece of glitter to a paper plate next to a googly eye, you better believe that it's in that bin.

3.  Shoes.  Oh good heavens.  I'm a shoe girl.  When I find a pair of shoes that makes me happy I must have them.  I must wear them down to nubs until they are mere shadows of their former fabulous selves.  I must have them resoled.  And then I wear them down to nubs again.  And then I keep them because I can't possibly get rid of something that has been with me through such joys and wonderful memories.  I have shoes that people remember more than they remember me.  And that's fine.

4.  Greeting Cards.  Shocking, I know.  You'd think this would be a no-brainer for me.  But the occasions on which we are given cards are so fleeting, and cards are so intentional.  In the age of email and texts and Skype where it's so easy to just reach out wherever you are whenever the whim hits you, the act of going to the card aisle (or a stationery store *swoon*)  to pick out a card that reminds you of the recipient has such weight for me.  I have a friend who sends me just the most amazing cards.  They're perfect.  They're SO funny or touching and just perfect for our friendship.  We've been friends since Fall 1991 Sorority Rush (go Gamma Phi!) and I have every card she's ever sent me.  They are the story of our friendship and I treasure them.

5.  Random Useless Artifacts That Strike Me As Ridiculous.  I have a copy of our local power company's safety guide from the 1950s when the Nevada Test Site was doing above-ground testing.  It talks about how nuclear energy is our friend, but hiding under a desk will protect us.  Last year, we had a required exorcism all-staff retreat, and 200 people were given a 75-page, single-sided handout, and no more than five pages of it applied to anybody.  Stuff like this?  Priceless.  It reminds me of who I don't want to be, what I don't want to do, and to keep perspective about who I DO want to be.  I don't want to take myself too seriously, because when you do that, the people around you wait until you leave and then they laugh at you.  Not with you.  AT you.

We've all heard the stories about people who can move across the country and everything they own fits in their cars.  That's never been my goal. I can't imagine having this as my living room.


There's not enough going on in there to stimulate even the most boring conversation. There's no sign of anyone ever having passed through that space.  When the stars align, our homes are a reflection of who we are.  Not who we want people to think we are, or who we hope we are, or even who we used to be.  When you walk into the house of someone who knows who they are, it just flows.  You know where to put your purse, you sit down in a chair that is in just the right spot. and it just feels right.  That's my decorating style, and I hope it can be yours as well.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Outsourcing

I saw this article in the New York Times today and it resonated.  This paragraph in particular really struck me as relevant to what I'm doing:

"WE’VE put a self-perpetuating cycle in motion. The more anxious, isolated and time-deprived we are, the more likely we are to turn to paid personal services. To finance these extra services, we work longer hours. This leaves less time to spend with family, friends and neighbors; we become less likely to call on them for help, and they on us. And, the more we rely on the market, the more hooked we become on its promises: Do you need a tidier closet? A nicer family picture album? Elderly parents who are truly well cared for? Children who have an edge in school, on tests, in college and beyond? If we can afford the services involved, many if not most of us are prone to say, sure, why not?"


I love me some New York Times, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Gray Lady is missing the freaking point.  We live in a society of more.  We want to have more, to do more, to know more, to be more.  Women are raised hearing some BS about "having it all" and we spend a whole lotta time and effort getting it all and then maintaining it all so we can continue to have it all because evidently we're supposed to do it all as well.


Man, I'm tired.  I can't maintain this mythical "all".  I can do "some" very well. I'm also very good at handling "none", truth be told. But I can only half-ass "all" until I'm blue in the face, and then I need help. And what Mr/Ms (hard to say, really) Arlie Russell Hochschild doesn't seem to realize as s/he writes this think piece is that right now when so many of us have obligations and expectations placed upon us by powers beyond our control, we still need to hold it together well enough to get through to the weekend where we can crack open a beer and collapse in front of whatever remains on the Netflix suggestions that hasn't been usurped by a pre-schooler's endless tolerance for Kipper and Phineas & Ferb.  And we want to collapse in a fairly clean house.


I have a lady who comes in twice a month to clean the house (I'm suddenly working about a job and a half, and dammit I still need to have a clean house).  This "outsourcing" is a splurge for us, because it's not like we have money shooting out of our asses growing on our trees.  And we pick up after ourselves and wipe off the counters and clean the toilets even though we have this help happening.  Having a cleaning lady (ohhhh so posh we are) is a choice we made because that is the sort of help we need right now.  


So this Mr/Ms Arlie Russell Hochschild to blast some judgement about people who realize that they are unable to do it all but still would like to have all of it done just grinds my gears.  How dare s/he!  I can't even comprehend how s/he thought it would be appropriate to put "caring for elderly parents" with having a tidy closet.  Really?  So his/her (good lord how annoying is this androgynous name...) aging mother (or father, because who can tell?) (yes I'm getting huffy about this person) didn't or won't get the best care s/he's able to provide, just out of some principle of "why pay for what you can do for yourself"?

Oh, OK.  It must be nice (HI I'M PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE NOW) to not need to ask for or pay for help.  Ever.  At all.  Rock on, Jeanne d'Arc, with your martyred self.  The rest of us out in the real world have learned that it's OK to seek assistance when it's just too much to deal with.  Even if that means we have to cut back somewhere to make the help accessible.  It's worth it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What's my motivation?

I think the hardest part about making a change is remaining positive about where you are while being excited about where you want to go.  This week has been a big one for Get A Grip, while I'm stoked to be taking big steps to make this happen, it's so easy to get negative about my actual, income-providing job.  I do realize that I'm fortunate to even have a job at all, and it's not a bad gig.  Not really.  I've been with the organization for over 10 years, and it has led me in some very surprising directions.  I'm grateful for all of the professional and personal opportunities that I've gotten from working there.  Hell, I was introduced to Mr. Incredible and some of our dearest friends because of a co-worker from my first assignment.  Working there has been an amazing foundation for the rest of my professional development.  Seriously.  Not even being a little sarcastic there.

But sometimes, it's just time to go.  Regardless of how the last year has played out, I've reached the point where I'm ready to move on.  I could go on and on about how the environment has changed, and how the people in charge are doing it wrong blah blah blah.  But it's no longer about them and their environment.  It's about me and my environment.  My primary motivator is based upon the environment in which I want to be.

I've touched on this a couple of months ago and a couple of months before that.  My dream job revolves around being in charge of my own time. That's where this began. I have always been more of a "work until the work is done and then figure out how you can go home" kinda girl.  And that's not a popular approach to work in the modern office.  In the bigger picture, the work is never done.  There is always one more batch of forms to process.  So I get why the expectation of  8:00-on-the-dot until 5:00-on-the-dot is in place.  I honestly feel like I'm in a place where that expectation no longer needs to apply to me.  So much more of my life could happen during those hours.

The scariest thing about all of this is the realization that if this happens, it will be up to me to fill those hours.  Full disclosure:  I've developed some rather, um, lackadaisical work habits in the past year.  It would be easy to point fingers and say "It's their fault!  Upheaval!  Half-assed training!  Scorn and disregard!" but I have to own this one.  I spent so much time being pissed off that I let it affect my own diligence.  I hate that.  I need to get back to how I was so long ago, when I didn't take "mental health" days at least once a week and I had a good deal of pride in my work.  I had control over how I reacted to things at work, and I reacted poorly.

One of my most significant anxieties about this whole thing stems from when I think about the day I tell my dad that I'm going to quit my job.  It's not going to happen anytime in the immediate future (unless we hit Megabucks and then SEE ya!) but when it does, I'll be giving up a pretty good benefits package, including a pension.  I'm already vested, but if I could stay for 30 years (omg kill me....) I'd get a decent retirement.  My dad is of the opinion that the only way to win, and winning is important, is to outlast the sonsabitches.  I can't do that.  I can't be the wife and mother and friend and person that I need to be if I spend all my energy outlasting the sonsabitches. I don't need his permission to proceed, but things are a lot easier when he doesn't make that Dad Face that means he's puckering up to give some advice (not telling me what to do just advice and suggestions so don't take it like he's being bossy he's just trying to help) every time I see him.

Dammit, I just want to enjoy my time.  I want to be able to incorporate new choices into my life, and it's hard to do that right now.  The environment I create for myself and my family needs to be one that works for all of us.  It's like any other system or process that I have (and I have so damn many...) in that it needs to flow in such a manner that it doesn't get in the way of what we want to do.

Does that make sense?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hit the road, Jack!

We went to Disneyland last week.  Boo is 3-1/2, and we always said that we would take her when she was old enough not to be carried all day (interestingly, "old enough" is not the same as "willing", but whatever).  I'm a notoriously anxious traveler/over-packer, but I tried really extra super hard not to make everyone else crazy.  I made it until about Thursday afternoon, I think.  More on this in a minute.

Now that we're home and unpacked and the laundry is done and put away (!!!), I think a wrap-up is in order.  Chances are, this isn't our last trip to the Magic Kingdom, and we learned quite a bit about how we are when we take our show on the road.

Here are my Top Five Questions to think about when you're planning a trip.

1.  What's your priority?  What's the purpose of the trip?

Mr Incredible and I were on board with making this about Boo--her first time to Disneyland was going to revolve around her schedule, her moods, her interests.  Not every trip is going to be a pure child-focused family vacation--most of our travel is to visit family or attend events.  Those trips have a different dynamic and we have specific expectations for them.  When we're in visiting mode, we want to be on our best behavior.  We don't see relatives as often as we'd like (unless it's WAY TOO FREAKING OFTEN, and stay tuned for some future musings about dealing with family...) so there's a lot of talking and not always a lot of action.

Last fall, we flew to Arkansas to attend my cousin's wedding, and we learned that it's important to scope out where the fun is when you get to somewhere new.  You're going to have down time, and you can't depend on good weather.  We spent a lot of time driving around in the rain on our way to sit down and chat and eat.  That can be tough on kids, and they get bored fast.  Most towns have indoor play facilities, and you can sign up for a free "introductory" tumbling or dance class if you have shorties who need to burn off some steam for an hour or two.  Don't be above Chuck E Cheese (OMG, seriously, it's its own level of hell, but it can be a lifesaver).

2.  Just how much do you actually need to do?

A family vacation can have such a sense of urgency.  You don't go away often, so when you do, you want to get a lot of bang for your bucks.  And you run yourself and your family into the ground trying to do and see ev.er.y.thing.  Don't do that.  Don't be Clark Griswold.   If you've never been to where you're going, do your homework.  Find out the must-sees and must-dos.  Ask your friends if they know anything about your destination.  Chances are, they do, and they can give you invaluable tips.

Another thing, don't over-schedule your days.  Carve one thing in stone per day, and other stuff can fall into place as it will.  Downtime is important, even for the most enthusiastic travelers.  Will the kids take naps?  Are there places to go during downtime that don't include locking yourself in the hotel bathroom for five minutes of privacy?

3.  Is all that stuff really necessary?

I'm a notorious over-packer.  Back in the glory days, I would pack a suitcase of just shoes because you just never know if you're going to need three pairs of black stilettos.  Now?  I'm pretty confident about my stiletto needs.  If I'm not home, I'm not going to want to stomp around in 4-inch heels for 12 hours.

Mr Incredible travels quite a bit for business, so he's an ace when it comes to packing.  He can fit five days of clothes in a duffel bag and a quarter of our big suitcase.  Love him.  And now that Boo is old enough to sleep in a bed and eat from regular plates and use a bathroom, her packing has gotten seriously lighter.

Check the weather before you go.  Pack for layering, use jackets with hoods instead of umbrellas, bring at least one nicer outfit every time, and extra socks and undies are never a bad idea.  Beyond that, less is more.  It's not like you're going to the moon.  If you forget something, or find that you didn't anticipate something, chances are, you're not far from Target.

4.  What are the dealbreakers?

Before you back out of the driveway, make sure that everyone, or at least the deciders, is on the same page about key elements of the trip.  For example, I have a pretty firm "No IHOP" rule.  Mr. Incredible knows that barring some unforeseen disaster, our family breakfasts are not going to happen at IHOP while we're on the road.  We have conversations about wake-up calls and how and where we're going to spend our time (Park Hopper tickets make this an essential discussion).  Everybody in the group, even the non-deciders, has expectations about what will and will not be a part of the trip, and communication about this is so important.

Which brings me to my previous point about The Crazy.  I tend to get hyperfocused (NO!  really?  Nuh-uh.) and I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture in my pursuit of whatever I think needs to happen.

I've gotten better.  Yes I have.

But it still happens.  A dealbreaker on every trip you take needs to be manners:  we are kind to each other.  Not just superficial and passive aggressive and "OK fine whatever you want to do."  KINDNESS.  As tired as you are, so is everybody else, and chances are at least one person in the car is about to go all stabbity if they hear someone say or do XYZ one. more. time.  Pay attention to the people you're with, not just to where you are.

5.  Can you take extra days off from work before and after the actual trip?

We left town on Monday, came back on Friday.  Our Disneyland adventure was bookended by weekends, and I think that's the way to go.  Ideally, we also have part of at least one business day when at our disposal, just in case.  Like, when we were coming home, we discovered that the brakes on our car needed work (no emergencies, just rough stopping).  We hit town, and there was (technically) time to take the car in before the end of the day.  Of course, it's important to keep the Dealbreakers in mind when you start piling errands on before and after the trip.  Does someone in the group prefer to stay close to home once we get there?  PERHAPS.

I think my point with all of this is, don't force perfection upon your vacation.  You're not going to Hawaii so you can tell people you went to Hawaii.  You're not dragging your family on a cruise so you can have the best family picture in the Christmas card out of everybody who puts pictures in cards.  You're not taking your 3 year old to Disneyland so you can jumpstart her love of Pirates in the Caribbean (true story).  This isn't a show you're putting on.  These are memories you're building, and when your kids are grown, they'll remember how they met ALL the princesses (even the elusive Princess Tiana).


They'll remember walking across the highway to the beach instead of jumping right back into the car after lunch and going to the next stop.


And so will you.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What's your uniform?

If you were to meet me in person for the first time, chances are I'd be wearing jeans or khakis and a button-down shirt.  It is my uniform.  My friends tell me that when they think of me, this or some variation thereof is what I'm wearing.  And it's true.  I'm not one to follow (or set...) trends.  I feel ridiculous when I venture too far away from this basic get-up.  I will accessorize it, dressing it up with jewelry and fabulous shoes or down with flipflops and a beachy hat.

When I shop for new clothes, I tend to buy pieces that can be rotated into this uniform.  A denim skirt?  Perfect!  French cuffs?  Love it.  Scarf?  Um, I don't know what to do with a scarf, and I would spend the entire day fiddling with it because in my head it would never look quite right (even if it looked fine).  Scarves have too many variables.  Cool necklace?  Much better.

Periodically, I do endeavor to mix it up a little.  I look in my closet (which is sorted by color, which should surprise nobody) and if I see too much of one thing, I know it's time to go in a new direction.  I recently rediscovered skirts, and I'm liking them.  I bought one that was COMPLETELY different from my usual palate, however, and when I wore it to work, I was actually uncomfortable by all of the (overwhelmingly positive) attention it received.  Lots of bright different colors, horizontal stripes (!!!), very cute, but I realized that I prefer to stick to my basics for the office.

When we change little things about our appearance, they can make a big difference.  Last year, I completely revolutionized my hair by changing the part.  My whole life, I'm fighting with a natural part that starts over my left eye and angles back kind of diagonally.  No amount of product was really effective--by the end of the day, it always kind of went back to this weird part.  So one day I just let it happen.  Suddenly, my hair takes half the time to do, and I'm able to envision doing other things with my hair.  Right now?  Growing out bangs.  I've had bangs of some sort for as long as I've had hair.  And they don't lie flat.  The part goes right through them and it just doesn't work.  Instead of fighting with it, I'm going to see what happens if I let it win.

Comfort doesn't have to equal boring.  You can be comfortable in couture, and that's fine (awesome, in fact, and I have a jealous of you if that's the case).  When we're comfortable (not ridiculous or sloppy {sorry Britney...} ) we walk taller.  We feel like we look good, so we feel good, and that shows.  My uniform may not be all zazzly and exciting, but if it's good enough for her...

Ohhh, she added a scarf.  Hmmm.  Maybe....
..then I think it can work for me too.

Of course, some rules are carved in stone.  Some lines should not be crossed.  Ever.

Don't get me started.
I think a big part of Getting A Grip is about knowing what your best path is.  In my case, that's often the path of least resistance.  I feel like when a decision is full of "no" then it's not the right decision for me.  It's important to be able to identify your comfort zone, even if only to be able to know when you're out of it.  A comfort zone isn't necessarily a rut.  Make your comfort zone a starting point.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting back to the center.

A week ago Sunday, Boo fell and hit her head on her bedrail (she's fine, after a run to the ER for some stitches that are already out and we've moved on to Mederma).   It was not our first trip to the ER, but it was our first encounter with a head injury and blood.  The injury itself and its aftermath knocked me off balance for the rest of the week.  I instantly became a helicopter, trying to catch her before she falls again, making that cringing intake of breath sound every time she got too close to anything that wasn't soft.  She's fearless, but evidently I felt it necessary to make up the difference.

Besides what was going on in my head, I didn't get stuff done around the house.  All I wanted to do was keep her from getting hurt again.  Don't run!  Slow down!  Be careful!  I didn't make dinner.  I didn't do laundry.  I just disconnected from the domesticity for a few days, and I'm only just now catching up.

When Something (note the intentional capital S...) happens, it's so easy to let it take over.  And that's OK for a while, I think.  We needed a few days to absorb what had happened.  It was a minor injury, yes, but there was a shocking amount of blood (YIKES) and my little girl had this awful (oh it looked TERRIBLE) wound right above her eyebrow and I was so worried about how it would heal.  There's so much to worry about, so many unknowns.  When we don't know how that Something is going to turn out, it's so tempting just to shut down.  How can we possibly think about keeping a house clean when we're so immersed in a really serious situation?

When the initial emergency is over, and you've done everything you can do to make it as OK you're able to and you've handed it over to the experts, don't drive yourself nuts reliving it.  Don't "what if" yourself to death.  You are not helping by becoming a lunatic.  Pacing a waiting room, nervously dwelling out loud about how it impacted YOU and YOUR situation is not productive, and when there is a crisis, your energy is best devoted to being productive.  Full disclosure?  Monday after Boo's accident, I think I actually made things worse by being so agitated.  I couldn't sit still, so neither could she.  At the end of the day, we were both utterly worn out.  We would have been better served by me not trying to protect her from the entire universe and just allowing her to establish her own pace (as long as she wasn't running STOP RUNNING OMG SLOW DOWN!!!).


It's hard to let go, to relinquish the care of a loved one.  I felt terrible guilt that the person who was able to make Boo all better wasn't me (although he was a very nice PA who has a 3 year old himself, and admitted to keeping a suture kit at home because these things happen).  I lost sight of the fact that making sure she was OK was the important part--we made sure she was OK.  We got her into the hands of the right people in an incredibly short amount of time.  Mr Incredible (who totally lived up to that moniker) and I were a team, and we each played our role to the best of our abilities.  And when we were calm (at least on the surface in the ER), she was calm.  There was such relief in that realization.

There is also comfort, at least for me, in routines.  I think I rediscovered my schedule on about Thursday, and it was so helpful to me to have an identifiable starting point.  "Today, I clean the bathrooms and I will do a load of laundry and I will deal with the pile in the kitchen (that was out.of.control) as my one extra thing."  And it worked.  I didn't spend time wondering how it would all get done.  It will all get done.  And we are OK.  And Boo is OK too.



All her eggs (and mine...) in one basket.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Being A Ninja Mom




ninja (忍者) or shinobi (忍び) was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan who specialized in unorthodox warfare. The functions of the ninja included espionage,sabotageinfiltration, and assassination, and open combat in certain situations. [source]

I don't know about you, but not a day goes by when I don't do most of those (assassination is rare, but I've been known to dispose of dead fish without a second glance).  There are mornings where simply getting Boo into her clothes counts is similar to open combat (and calf roping, but that's off topic).

About a month ago, I posted about the wonderful friends I have.  They're my Posse of Ninja Moms.

I realized these ladies were actually Ninjas when I was pregnant with Boo.  There was NOTHING I couldn't ask them.  They made me realize that no matter how invincible and independent and capable we are, we are never above asking for and receiving help and knowledge.

So what makes someone a Ninja Mom?

Ninja Moms rally around you when scary pregnancy things happen. They laugh when funny pregnancy things happen, and they share their own experiences and they make a point to help you feel like you'll be OK as a mom.  The first week you're home with a new baby, they bring meals and they stick around for a couple of hours so you can take a shower and a nap.  They pass along clothes and all sorts of good stuff that their own kids have outgrown.  They make HUGE fusses over the successes and gave realistic suggestions for the struggles.  They help so much in ways you never could have anticipated.

As your children get older, the Ninja Moms are the ones who tell you which emergency rooms have the best pediatric protocols because such information is valuable and luck favors the prepared.  They tell you which soccer league is a good one and which one to avoid.  They give you strategies for navigating theme parks.

Ninja Moms do not judge other moms on their parenting style or decision (as long as lives are not threatened).  They may not necessarily agree with this or that, but the core belief of the Ninja Mom is that we pick our battles, we ask for help when we need to, and we do not force our battle strategies onto other Ninja.

This lady?  Totally a Ninja Mom.  She gets it. I'm definitely going to buy her book.

While the original meaning of "Posse" refers to a group of citizens assembled by the authorities to deal with   an emergency (such as suppressing a riot or pursuing felons), the term posse is also used for any force or band ... often also figuratively or humorously. [source] 

When Ninja Moms gather, it's a Posse, because chances are there's an emergency going on (am I right or am I right?).  That emergency may involve a ladies spa weekend two states away, but that counts (IT DOES.).

These could totally be moms.  Just go with it.

The moment when you look around at your life, and you think "Yeah, I got this." you are a Ninja (whether you're a mom or not).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Top Five Things I'd Say To My Mom

My mother passed away 23 years ago today.  I was 16, and it was horrible for a long time, but it's OK now.  Really it is.  I will always miss her terribly, but I'm good.  Even after something really awful happens, things work out and the universe has a way of righting itself.  Trust me on this one.

Over the years, and especially since I've become a mom myself, I've had moments where I thought, JEEZ I wish I could tell her or ask her about blah blah blah.  It's usually nothing big or existential, but it's the stuff that you really can only talk about with your mom.  You know what I mean.  So today I'm going to break it down.  If I had One More Day, these are the topics that I'd be sure to bring up.

1.  When we had The Talk when I was 12 or 13, you said kind of in passing that you didn't ever have trouble getting pregnant.  That has stayed with me for all this time.  For a while, I thought you were just trying to scare me about sex, and maybe you were, but always in the back of my head, I remember you saying this.  I didn't entirely believe you until we decided to start our family and five seconds later I was pregnant myself.  Lesson learned.  We would probably spend a big chunk of our One Day talking about stuff like this.

2.  Dad hates Beef Stroganoff.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I laugh about it often.  You made it for us at least once a week, and he ate it without a word.  The first time I made it for him, he looked at me and said, "You know, I'll be OK if you don't ever fix this again. Ever."  He ate it probably 1000 times for you.  He picked his battles, and this one wasn't worth making a fuss over.  That's the kind of marriage that I strive to have, where the sacrifices are small but their impact is large.

3.  Dried fruit on road trips is a bad idea.  What on earth were you thinking?!  How did you not know this?  From one mom to another, if you must give your kids snacks that cause bathroom emergencies, make sure that whoever is driving the car doesn't insist on making it all the way to freaking Albuquerque before stopping (I'm looking at you, Dad).

4.  Thank you for teaching me about skin care early on.  You were right.  I wear sunscreen every day, and wash my makeup off and use good moisturizer every night. It was kind of a drag in college to be pale while everyone was tan, but the skin on my neck could belong to a 25-year-old.

5.  I cannot make a decent piecrust, and I know you could. Your grandmother made the best piecrust in the world, and she taught you.  Show me.  This would be useful information.  In return, I'll show you how to make bread.  You'll love it.

There's more, of course.  Stuff that just comes up randomly.  I think of how you let me use the crinoline from your wedding dress to use for a Halloween costume because my skirt just didn't look right.  I think of all the times you rolled your eyes when I asked what's for dinner because I get it now (OMG can I get in the door before hearing this?!).   I still polish the silver every year the night before Thanksgiving, whether we're going to use it or not, but I found some stuff that works way better than whatever you insisted on using.

It's funny the things that stay with us long after someone is gone.  After the initial shock of the loss wears off, you remember the weirdest stuff, the most insignificant conversations.  Replaying them over and over can make you nuts, but over time, there's always new information to be found in them.

I wish my mom had known me as an adult.  I wasn't an easy kid, but I think I've turned out well.  That's a reflection on her, I think.  She gave me a good foundation in spite of what a jackass I so often was.  Sometimes, I'll do or say something, or make a gesture that is SO my mom and I'll think, "damn, I get it now."  So much of what seems important turns out to not matter even a little, and the things we do in passing and the remarks we make offhand are the legacy we leave.

Monday, April 2, 2012

By request: Food: How to make it really good, really fast

A couple of weeks ago, I put a link to a survey up top, and after a couple of modifications (read: if you took it before last Wednesday, please feel free to take it again because it's different) I've started getting some feedback.  Yay!  One of the new questions is about what topics you'd like to see me address in terms of Getting A Grip.

Our first requested topic?  Food.  Amy in Texas would like some ideas for quick easy dinners.  I'm on it.

Let's back up a little and take a look at what the staples are in your pantry.  Cooking dinner for a family on a weeknight requires preparation--you can't just walk in the door after work and bibbidy-bobbidy-boo up a healthy tasty meal without a little forethought.  If the only thing you could make from scratch is D Batteries basted in Pickle Juice, you need to go to the store.

What do you always have on hand?  If you go to The Google and type "pantry staples", you come up with 2 million results for things you should keep in your cupboards at all times.  I like the list that How Stuff Works has--these are basics, and if you have them, you can come up with all kinds of good stuff.  Add in some family favorites (at our house, Rotel tomatoes are a party in a can, and we like the big bag of frozen vegetables from Costco...) and you'll have a good foundation for a week's worth of food, including leftovers.

On the bottom shelf of the rice/pasta aisle is where the bags of bulk beans live.  Buy one of those bags.  Yes, it's a lot of beans.  Pinto beans are the khaki pants of the kitchen--they're not fancy, but they go with everything else you own.  Trust me.  Fill your stockpot about 1/3 of the way with beans and the rest of the way with water, and soak for 24 hours.  Then, put them in quart freezer bags, and they're an easy addition to just about any dish.

In our freezer, we always have boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork chops, ground beef, tilapia, shrimp, and Italian sausage.  Ideally, I will put one of the above in the fridge the night before so it's ready to cook when I get home.  If I forget to do that, putting it in a sink full of lukewarm water gets the job done in about half an hour.

Pork chops and chicken breasts are super easy to cook, and it's not hard to make them interesting in the process.  Before you handle the meat (that's what she said), grab your seasonings and such.  Kosher salt, ground pepper, thyme, sage, cumin, garlic or onion powder are all in my regular rotation.

With chops (I like big thick boneless ones), set them on a piece of plastic wrap (because you don't want the trichinosis...).   Heat a skillet that's big enough to hold all of the chops without crowding them, drizzle olive oil and a pat of butter (YES I SAID BUTTER) and let that start to bubble over medium-high heat.  Season each side of the chops with whatever combination of flavors you like, then flip them over and repeat.  Put the meat in the pan and brown so it's got a nice crisp crust on top and bottom.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until it's done in the middle with a little bit of pink, about 20 minutes.  Maybe flip them once more while they're covered.

Chicken breasts can be cooked just like chops are, but I like to dredge in an egg wash with some Frank's Red Hot and some flour before I season them.  It makes me feel like I'm eating fried chicken, which is a guilty pleasure.

When you remove the meat (heh) there are these great drippings and stuff in the pan.  You want to dazzle your family?  Deglaze the pan and make a sauce.  Leave the pan on the flame, toss in some diced onions and saute for a minute or two.  Add some crushed tomatoes (too fancy?  ketchup or barbecue sauce work) and some chicken broth or wine, and voila!  Fancy main dish.  Serve with some steamed vegetables sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and your family won't know what hit them.

Cook more than you need, and you'll be able to take the leftovers for lunch a couple of times, and you can even incorporate the meat into a salad later in the week.  WINNING.

So there we go.  I like to cook for my family, for no other reason than it's something I'm good at and a kickass meal is one way I show my love.

Let me know if you try this, and how it turns out!