Monday, June 27, 2011

Marketing Genius

I am not a marketing genius, nor do I even remotely resemble one.  If I did, I would already be rich and famous, and you would be paying to read my pithy quips and view my slice-of-life art, not scarfing it up for free (though I hope you are - oh! how I hope you are!). 

No, the folks who are true marketing geniuses are the designers and editors of  home decorating magazines.

Who else could pass off second hand furniture and dinged up statuary as "distressed" and "antique"?  Who else could blatantly insult your tastes while you pay them for it?

I personally have long been acquainted with "finding" that perfect touch to make our house a home, albeit one on a strict budget.  From handcrafted, one-of-a-kind furniture (thanks to a talented Hubby) to re-purposed period and junktique pieces, our house has seen it all... in combination with a wide assortment of hand-me-down and salvaged chairs, tables, accent and functional furnishings.  We still use the dining room set I discovered (while still single) at a resale shop for the astounding sum of $275, which included a buffet and collection of stoneware for good measure.  In the last twenty years we have purchased exactly one brand new piece of furniture - other than mattresses - and for the most part, you would never know that it isn't all by design. 

Unless you were one of those marketing geniuses...

They would know. 

They would know because our house and it's decor smacks of rugged individualism, not picture perfect design. 

Most of the folks I know can't afford a single napkin ring, let alone a room full of furniture featured in those mags.  Of course, most of the folks I know have uncommon good sense, and don't bother trying to pass off someone else's decorating style as their own.

I surmise that the people who do buy decorating magazines do so for one of three reasons: 

A) They want to redecorate and have no clue how to go about it. 
B) They want people to think that they are thinking of redecorating, ergo are more affluent than they really are. 
C) They are sadomasochists who enjoy taunting themselves with the unattainable.

What I'd really love to see is a companion issue at least once a year along the lines of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition - you know, a "real life" Country Living entitled Real Rural Homes - with articles like "Decor by Roadside", Decorating on a Prayer & Shoestring" and "Dumpster Diving for the Uninitiated".  

How better to make being poor as church mice chic?

Given today's economy and unstable job market, I envision this supplemental issue becoming a sell-out the moment it hits the stands.  Who wouldn't justify spending three bucks (is that what a magazine costs these days?) to prove that not only do you not need that expensive new sofa, but that the neighbor's hollow-seated, horse hair chaise out on the curb would give the family room exactly the eclectically elegant touch it has been lacking?

Indeed, if the powers that be ever do decide to  publish such an issue, I would be a shoe-in for a consultant position.

This spring alone we acquired an oversize chair and ottoman (free along the road), goose-necked lamp (transfer station find), blueberry enameled kitchen sink (rummage sale left-over), and futon & frame for the game room (resale store going out of business). 

Come to think of it....

...Hubby made all of those finds...


I might not be a marketing genius, but I might just be married to one....

(B.T.W. - I know I've already used some of these pictures, but you are getting entirely too spoiled! 
 Do you realize how long it takes to make those things?!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fishing for Fathers - A Father's Day Tribute

There are many special Fathers in the world, and okay, probably a few not-so-special Fathers too.  (Being a practicing Catholic I am painfully aware of this fact.) 

I have been privileged to know quite a few of the former and thankfully very few of the latter - speaking both relatively and spiritually.  Being someone who likes to dwell on the positive, I think I'll stick with memorializing the good'uns, thank you very much!

I grew up with The Best Dad in the World, yet not only did I have to share him with eight siblings, but an entire church community.  You see, I wasn't always Roman Catholic - I was a small town preachers brat!

We belonged to a denomination that ordains, but doesn't pay their ministers, so Dad also held a full time job.  Needless to say, I didn't see as much of him as I would've liked.  When he was home and not engrossed in

writing his next sermon,

visiting the sick,

having a funeral

or wedding

or counseling someone

or any number of church related functions or activities -

- some of which happened right in the middle of our living room -

... then I followed him around like a lost puppy.  To his credit, he never seemed to mind.

I tried hard to please him, growing out my long, blond hair till I could sit on it, even though the weight of it gave me headaches - just because he liked to "see his girls looking like girls". 

I learned to love pea soup, liver & onions, bleu cheese, and even horse radish and mustard on fried eggs by imitating this man that I more than adored.  I liked to think that I was his favorite because of it.

As a young adult, I'm sure I disappointed him, but he loved me enough to let me make my own mistakes, and never gloated when I finally came to my senses.  And even though it must have been hard for him to see me convert from the faith of my childhood to one I could embrace as my own as an adult, he has never uttered a negative word.

Anywhooo... when Dad was home, he would often take us kids fishing, but more often than not, the one showing me how to bait a hook or reel in a line was my Eldest Brother.

 I worshiped that boy, nine years my senior, more a surrogate father than anything.  He spent countless hours teaching me to

clean a mess of fish,
tie flies,

ride horses,

flush a rabbit,

play pinochle, chess, carom and other board games,


ice skate,

drive a tractor (and car)

and sing in harmony.

I was crushed when he grew up, got married and moved away, but immensely proud watching the ease with which he parented his own children... 

Especially when he was left to parent them alone...

I mustn't forget GrandfathersMom's Pop taught me to love poetry, often reciting pages from memory, though I'm pretty sure he never had much of an education.  I didn't get to see him often, but when I did, the scent of cherry pipe tobacco and stories of ant lions held me enthralled.  I was never quite sure if his tall tales were true, but I was always happy to take the bait.

Dad's Dad raised sheep and kept bees, always carried BlackJack gum or anise candy in his pocket, and bounced dozens of grandchildren (and great-grands and even a few great-greats!) on his seemingly tireless"horse" foot.  He had the biggest hands I've ever seen on a man, rugged from hard outdoor work, yet he was as tender hearted and gentle as a newborn lamb. 

I would venture to guess he may have held the world record number of cribbage games played throughout a lifetime, considering he played more often than he ate in a day and lived nearly a century.  One thing about cribbage - its a tie that binds.  I have now played with five generations of  family... and think of my dear Grandfather with every game I play.

For nearly twenty years now the Father of my children has figured most prominently.  He is the New Best Dad in the World.  From the moment he loved them into being, he

prayed and provided for our Critters,

sang to them,

played with them,

disciplined and encouraged them,

taught them,

teased them,

and loved them better than I had ever dreamed possible. 

He recently took up fishing - not because he particularly enjoys the sport, but as another means of providing for his family.  He takes Fatherhood very seriously.  And, if occasionally the weight of responsibility saps a little joy from his day, looking into those five beautiful faces brings back both joy and perspective.

Fifty years ago, and this could have been a scene from Husband's childhood... if you more than double the number of kids and hours a day my Father-in-law had to work to support them.  Husband remembers the firm hand he was raised with more often than not, and strives to have a deeper relationship with our Critters.  But how can I do anything but admire the man who helped to mold him into the incredible man he is today?

For the last fourteen years Father-in-law has been widowed, and though I still miss my Mother-in-law dearly, I have loved seeing Father-in-law grow closer to his children in ways he never would have with her buffer. 

I would be remiss not to mention the ecclesiastical Fathers who have most impacted my life. 

Father J. was THE BIGGEST E-van-gelical, Ec-u-menical Charismatic Catholic Christian ever. 
Father  T. was erudite and witty, a contemplative homilist, fantastic musician and cook.
Father S. was a straight-laced, traditionalist who didn't sugarcoat anything for anybody.

Each of them was exactly what I needed at the time...

Father J.  reeled me in.

Father  T. hooked me.

Father S. not only preached, but showed what an angler the Devil is...

So where are each of these exceptional Fathers now?

Fathers J., T. and S. are respectively retired, relocated and removed (unjustly, I believe) from active ministry.

Father-in-law is 90 years old, and still works in his wood shop - when he's not reading the latest thriller with the Kindle ap on his IPad.

Husband is, of course, still in the throes of parenting our brood.  And I venture to say he will continue to hold the title of Best Dad forever - or at least until Only Son gets his feet wet...

...but let's not rush it!

Dad's Dad and Mom's Pop have both passed from this world.  I miss them every day.

Eldest Brother is helping to raise his step children, and as his oldest takes the plunge this summer, looking forward to grandchildren someday.

And my Dad?  Well... he's battling cancer.  Prayers and otherwise good health have helped him beat the odds so far.  He put in another huge garden, and hopefully this year he'll be able to enjoy the fruit of his labor since he's declined further chemo.

And... when I called recently to wish he and my Mom a Happy Anniversary, he was out fishing...

(Note* I hope all of the other Great Dads I know - Brother & Brother-in-laws, Uncles, Cousins, Nephews, Godfathers and Friends will understand that they are also included in this tribute.  Your children and the world at large are better because of your influence.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I'm constantly amazed that such different Critters came from the same gene pool. 

I suppose I shouldn't be... after all, the DNA of every living thing on the planet is made up of the same stuff, just in different proportions.  Every parent of more than one child has seen this scientific fact in action.  We're no exception.

Before Bonus Baby came along though, one of our Critters was "differenter than the rest" and that was, of course,Third ChildFirstborn, Only Son and Sweetie Petite-y shared among other things the same coloring, build and sense of humor.  They still do.  Third Child was often left wondering if she was adopted (she's not) or stolen by gypsies (also false) or other such fantasies of the maligned and misunderstood. 

I know where she's coming from - growing up I was (eh-hem... still am) a displaced Princess too. 

Third Child also has the unfortunate ability to push my buttons more than the rest...make that more than the rest put together.  Which means, of course, that she is actually the most like me...

Anyhow, when Bonus Baby came along, she was genetic proof that Third Child was indeed a flesh and bone relative.

"My mini-me!" was her elated cry when she realized that B.B. resembled her so closely - a very telling statement.  However, while B.B. does indeed exhibit many of the same character traits, she also shares plenty of common ground with her other siblings.  This has motivated Third Child to try and stack the deck in her favor.

One of the ways she does this is with repetition and positive/negative reinforcement....

"Who's your favorite?" I heard her coaching B.B. a while back.

The answer, when satisfactory, earned affectionate praise and lavish attention.  And when someone other than Third Child was B.B.'s response, a loud "NO!  They're mean!" could be heard.

Another time Bonus Baby came downstairs from their shared bedroom and boldly proclaimed "Me & (T.C.) are waiting outside the lines!"

(If you are not a fan of recent teen pop idol Greyson Chance, this will have no meaning for you, but "Waiting Oustide the Lines" is the title of his new hit single.  Third Child loves Greyson Chance - wants to be Mrs. Greyson Chance someday.  She was able to attend one of his concerts with a friend, had to miss another amid much drama, and fills the house with countless repititions of her favorite song, which she joins in full voice.) 

Bonus Baby, while she seems to enjoy his music, has obviously been trained to utter this catch phrase. 

She has also learned to say "No!  I don't love you!  (T.C.) is my favorite!" - again through repetition and reinforcement.

The funny thing is, Bonus Baby pushes Third Child's buttons (and vice-versa) the same way she pushes mine.  Note the similarities:

The above pose, or something similar, is very common  in our household, which is why I included it in a recent post.  Unfortunately, Third Child took offense. 

"How come I have to be the mad one?" she wondered.


Now, I love all of my Critters dearly and have always tried to treat them equally, if not identically, making allowances for individual personalities and temperaments.  This is sometimes a challenge (HUGE UNDERSTATEMENT!!!) and almost always impossible for them to appreciate.  So at times, it may seem like I am playing favorites. 

Since FirstBorn, Only Son and Bonus Baby have undeniably unique positions in the family, they tend to be the most envied.  (Sweetie Petite-y is often lovingly referred to around here as the Forgotten Child - but that's another post...)  I think it is important to Third Child that she is B.B.'s favorite because she feels like she isn't mine...

This, of course, is ridiculous. They are all my favorites, and when any of them asks, that's what I tell them.  (Husband, however, always claims that anyone other than the asker is his personal favorite, no matter that he may have just told that Critter someting different.)

Third Child, not to be deterred, has recently begun telling, not asking, employing the same training method on me that she uses on Bonus Baby.

"Hey Momster, it's your favorite!"  announces her voice on the answering machine.

"Can we have pasta for dinner tonight because I'm your favorite?"

"Your favorite wants to know if she can go to _____'s house tonight..." 
(Her siblings are quick to point out that referring to oneself in third person is a sure sign of mental instability.)

I find her attempts humourous, and even sweet.  Sweeter still are the little messages she leaves on my computer:

(courtesy of Third Child)


With results like this, who am I to mess with her system?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Worm Death Alley

My Critters have always attended excellent private schools - first faith based, and as they move on into high school, a top-notch, internationally acclaimed prep school.  Believe me, we realize how lucky we are.  Such opportunities aren't available to everyone of our income bracket, and even though it's a real hardship at times, its a sacrifice we consider well worth it.

And sometimes.....sometimes little incidents happen that confirm that our Critters are just where they're supposed to be.  For example:

At said prep school, students from all over the world mingle with local teens on a campus that rivals many smaller colleges.  Academic buildings both historic and modern dot beautifully groomed grounds, connected by miles of well kept walkways.  Committed instructors share their knowledge with a brave, new generation.  In this enriching environment, students thrive.

But not everyone on campus is capable of learning...

...because sometimes it rains...

... and the well kept walkways become WORM DEATH ALLEY!

As squirmy hordes take refuge from the water saturated soil, the rain slowly tapers and all is well....


A thousand students pour from their classrooms.

A thousand students careen through the hallways.

A thousand students burst through doorways, stumble down steps, and flow onto sidewalks.


But, drifting though campus is one who cares...

...someone who cherishes the very breath of every animated creature...

...someone who not only would never carelessly snuff out a life, but would deign to rescue even a lowly worm.

The Angel of Worm Death Alley!

(Dedicated to Firstborn - caring individual, quasi-Buddhist, and all around cool teenager!)