Fight the Klutz Frump, and Other Tips for a Well-Lived Life


I should probably save all these tips for upcoming Works-for-Me Wednesday posts, but since Shannon could not be bothered to acknowledge my seven million shout-outs to her the other day (forget what I said about the Golden Rule, okay?), I just might start boycotting the carnival, which will really show her! Continue reading

Fight the Bed Frump: Three sheets to the wind

Don’t worry (or, I’m sorry), there’s nothing about sex in today’s post. Or inebriated sailors, or, as Wikipedia explains, a ship whose sheets have come loose. My brother (neither a sailor nor staggering drunk) called me earlier this week to ask my advice about sheets. He’s attending training for people who joined the Air Force to pay for medical school, and his wife scheduled her visit with family for the same two weeks.

In a stunning gesture that MY HUSBAND COULD LEARN A LOT FROM, Brad hopes to surprise Hannah with new sheets when they both get home. It sounds like Hannah has been dropping subtle hints, subtle enough that Brad, who despite being a good husband is still a man, had no idea where to begin. Flannel? Silk? Cotton? Hemp? Thread-count? He wondered if he should wash them before using them the first time. (Yes, unless you want the option of returning them, then No).

These look rather slippery to me.

There are a lot of sheet options (Bamboo? Felt? Cotton-Poly), so I devised the following quiz to help OTHER HUSBANDS WHO WISH TO SURPRISE THEIR WIVES. Women can take the quiz to make their hints less subtle, and men, answer with your wife in mind. Forgive the irresponsible over-generalization, but I don’t think most men care what the sheets are made of, as long as your lovely body graces them.

What Kind of Sheet Are You?

1. Your favorite breakfast is:

a) Granola with Soy Milk
b) Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
c) Eggs Benedict, Extra Hollandaise
d) Crepes with Berries and Creme Fraiche
e) Quiche Lorraine

2. You Usually Sleep:

a) In an untidy sprawl.
b) Left side
c) Spooning
d) Right side
e) Fetal position

3. Your favorite movie is:

a) Juno
b) Sound of Music
c) Sex and the City
d) The Philadelphia Story
e) Xanadu

4. Your idea of recreation is:

a) Raising llamas
b) Reading a book in the window seat
c) Day at the spa
d) Metropolitan Museum Costume Gala
e) Roller Derby

Mostly A’s: Flannel
Mostly B’s: Jersey Knit
Mostly C’s: Silk or Satin
Mostly D’s: 1200 Thread-count 100% Egyptian Cotton
Mostly E’s: Cotton/Polyester Blend

Now that you know what kind of sheets to buy, remember to wash them twice a year, whether they need them or not. And one final hint: if you have a king-size bed, you can write “foot” on both ends of the fitted sheet so you can easily tell which way they go. My sister and mom draw big arrows too, but I’m not sure that’s necessary.

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For more Fight the Frump goodness, visit Fussypants.

Like trying a swimsuit on, only in front of your realtor and your mortgage broker

split level homeYou’ve probably heard that there’s a housing slump. But I’m not buying it. Unless by “slump” you mean that paying 229,000 for a screwy multi-level, 1600-square-foot house in an okay neighborhood is a steal. (Just nod, you New Yorkers; I know, life isn’t fair).

Most of the time I feel really grateful for the money Dick brings home. He also doesn’t complain about his job like he did when he was teaching, which is good because then I don’t feel like telling him to shut up at dinner because AT LEAST YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO LOOK FOR KID SHOES TODAY. SEVEN TIMES.

But house-hunting, even in a housing “slump,” is stealthily depressing. It’s like how I usually feel pretty good about my body, just glad I have shoulders and knees and elbows, but then I try on clothes, or get my picture taken with anomalously skinny people, and suddenly I am plunged into a real slump.

Here’s a great cure for the money-grubbies: Global Rich List (via FMH). Someone asked me tonight how the BlogHer Ads thing is working for me, and I was embarrassed to say that I still have not remembered my password, so, beyond meeting some great other bloggers (like Marianne and Beth) in my “circle,” I don’t really know how it’s going. I’m sure millions of dollars are waiting for me to claim.

I started with BlogHer after talking to a bloggy friend of mine who joked about how she would be retiring soon on her $28/month ad income. So I thought it would be instructive to see how an income of $336 a year (28 x 12) stacks up:

Since I know my bloggy friend has a couple other sources of income, it’s probably only of interest to me that if one were to make just 336 dollars per year from one’s blog, one would be richer than quite a few people in the world. One would also be annoying for saying “one” all the time.

For those who don’t measure everything in terms of blogs(!?!), Wikipedia says that the median household income in the U.S. is $46,326, which stacks up like so:

I just have two words to say about that: Ho-ly Cow.

If only there were a website that could make me feel this positive about my body. It would tell me that, compared to most mammals, like whales and elephants, say, I really look like this:


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I have fought the Finance Frump before, and probably will again, but I hope this helps in the war against all manner of frumpiness!

Motherhood’s New Clothes

Is there anything worse than the perfume-pushers at department stores who douse the unwary? Probably not, but I also don’t like fashion or makeup or shopping. My ovaries have even failed me in my laundry endeavors. In fact, it is entirely possible that I am not a woman at all, except for those three children who miraculously arrived to suckle at my bosom and sing Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam all day.

Most of the time when people talk about fashion, I think of the Emperor’s New Clothes fairytale. Or Thoreau, who advised: “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” This is when I’m not thinking about other intellectual things like what’s for dinner and what was on TV last night.

Fashion is a creative, subjective thing. One person’s [insert high-fashion label] is another person’s thrift shop bargain (unless by thrift you mean “vintage,” in which case they really ARE the same thing). Consider this ring featured in The New York Times.

The comments were the best thing about this column, proving again that the Internet really is like manna, a gift from Heaven that nourishes and allows the unempowered a format for correcting the hubris of salaried journalistas. Here are just a few:

is that my highschool ring? (Mary)

What a find! It must be really difficult to research and source these unique items, what with a Banana Republic on every other corner in NYC and most shopping malls around the country. Maybe you could do a piece on gum ball machine jewelry too. (Sar Casm)

That is one ugly ring — why not go to Salvation Army or Goodwill and pick up something for $1? (Casino Con)

Man, I love the internet. Only, let’s not diss Salvation Army, ok?

Speaking of fashion and motherhood, though, my good friend Andrea dropped out of high school to marry her high school sweetheart. (And no, she didn’t “have to”). She later took the GED and got a plaque from the state of Utah congratulating her on getting the high score that year. Then she became a pharamicist, and then later she said something profound about fashion and motherhood, which brought me a lot of vindicatory satisfaction at the time.

In her visits with new mothers at the hospital, Andrea said she could often tell which mothers were going to breastfeed by how they looked after the birth. Breastfeeding was less common in those mothers who fussed over their hair and clothes and makeup than those who looked like death warmed over. Since I looked like death not even warmed over after giving birth, I thought this sounded only fair. Who has time/energy/desire to primp with a bloodsucking eel attached 24/7?

Then Mrs. Fussypants had to go and give birth to her fifth boy child. And then she had to go and wear pearls. And earrings. And, is that mascara? And I KNOW she breastfeeds.

At least she did have to suffer the crime against humanity known as the hospital gown. Otherwise I’d have to hate her. As it is, I’m thinking I need to reconsider my principled stand against Beautified Mother Barbie. Now that Barbie breastfeeds, and all.

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p.s. Thanks to Fussy for allowing me to use her picture.

p.p.s. I didn’t ask Andrea’s permission before outing her as a smart high school dropout and probably misrepresenting her words egregiously. I hope she can forgive me.

Finance Frump

First: You feel the tax rebate is:

Most criminal use of taxpayer money ever!
You want me to stimulate what?
Hallelujah! Money! Money! Money!
Why didn’t we have another kid in 2007?

Second: The best way to spend it is:

Save it all, baby.
Blow it on 79 cute shoes.
Invest in a Mutual What?
Add to our buy-a-home nest egg.
Donate to a local food bank.

I guess my bigger question is whether anyone else feels like they’re financially frumpy? Because, honey, we are. Oh, we paid off our “consumer” debt with our tax refund last month. But we’re stuck with a student loan, car loan, and a itty bitty substantial loan to both Dads for the Florida-house fiasco. And whenever I remember the Zabaleen in Cairo, I know that we are blessed more than we could ever deserve or earn for ourselves.

So, even though I know most (all?) of you are probably better examples of fiscal responsibility than me, I’ve listed the principles of financial frump fighting that we have found to really work (especially when we actually follow them). Would be very grateful for any other ideas you may have.

Fight the Financial Frump

  • Pay the Lord first.
  • Save 10% (Especially if by contributing pre-tax you get an employer-matching contribution).
  • Make a budget (Track fixed and discretionary expenses, set goals, blah blah).
  • Factor in some Mad Money so you don’t feel too deprived (This one’s easy to follow!).
  • If you’re really serious about sticking to a budget, use Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. This worked for us in Japan; helped that it was short-term, with a big goal in mind (saving enough to move to NYC for graduate school).
  • Plan for “emergencies.” Everything always costs more than it should. Especially those doctor copays and birthday presents. Use your employer Flex account if available (not for the presents, unfortunately).
  • Adjust your perspective. Really this is the biggest one. I am not as well-off as I think I should be. I’m not as good-looking or smart or creative as I feel like I should be either. And, worst of all, I’m not as grateful, patient, humble or NICE as I should be. But hey, at least I am self-aware, right?

Frump of Mind

woman sticking head in fireplace ovenThe first time I heard someone express a desire to “stick my head in the oven,” I thought, what a sad, defeatist attitude. What good could possibly come of that, unless you had a gas oven?

But now I get it: I’ve been depressed the past couple weeks. It’s a situational depression that will go away soon, rather than clinical depression requiring medication or therapy, but, if I felt like this all the time, I would be checking myself into the nearest psych ward.

And when I’ve thought about sticking my head in the oven this past week, it wasn’t in a “the kids are driving me crazy” sort of way, but rather, for the first time, a “maybe the kids would be okay without me” sort of way. I don’t mean to be melodramatic; as I said, I know this will pass, it just hasn’t, quite, yet.

A lot of exciting or friendly things have happened recently, and each one cheered me up for about ten minutes. Each time I thought about them was good for another ten minutes of cheering up, so I thought I’d share them here. If you have any good advice on fighting post-surgical or otherwise-situational depression, somewhere between eating chocolate (not drastic enough) and hospitalization (too drastic), please let me know.

Here’s how I’m fighting the frump of mind:

A Mom to take advantage of:

My mom came yesterday to take Spot (18 mo) and Susan (3 1/2) for a few five days. I felt guilty when she offered. Of course I would love to have a break from them; although I can take care of them, it is really hard right now. But how hard does it have to be before it becomes right that someone else should have to take care of my children? I still don’t know, but when I found myself sitting on the floor, Spot in my lap still unsure why nursing is no longer on the program and Susan decorating her face with marker “freckles” AND when those two normally normal things suddenly seemed unbearable, I guess that was hard enough.

Mom told me to “take advantage of this time.” Did she mean by blogging? Well, at my doctor’s appointment yesterday I was told to take off the sling only for “desk work.” Sounds like blogging to me!


Speaking of blogging, a good friend of mine from high school had this sign made for me after she read my Love you when you’re clean and sweet-smelling post. I recently visited Andrea and saw her new baby Easton. I’m happy to report that he was both clean and sweet-smelling. She should keep him.

I’d hang it in the girls’ room, but I’m afraid they’d jump on the bed and knock it off the wall. Because they’re ladies like that. Maybe the dining room.

Speaking of blogging again, I just got some cute hairbows in the mail from Gourmet Mom-on-the-Go. You can think bloggy giveaways are silly and shameless self-promotion, until you actually win something yourself, and then, just as Toni says, even if you haven’t actually won the lottery, it’s a great pick-me-up!

My girls found the bows and have been wearing them ever since, which is why I could only find one of each pair for this picture.

I also got this book in the mail from my good friend Tara as part of a get-well-soon package. Funny, practical, and so nice to know that someone is wanting to save us from all-McDonalds-all-the-time.

It included floam for the kids and even a check to pay me back money I had forgotten she owed me. That’s true friendship right there (both my forgetting and her remembering).

Finding a Dream Place to Live

We’ve been drooling over Utah’s version of Pleasantville for months now, even though we really can’t afford a cardboard box on an outlying street under a bridge. A couple nights ago we found a tiny townhome in the BEST location ever. Made an offer today.

Our dream cardboard box looks nothing like this, but we could walk by here every day, if we wanted.

Forgive us our trespasses

I got really upset last week. My sister Mary had posted some of my recipes under her name on a new family recipe site she’s created to make sharing our favorite, modified recipes with each other easier. I got on my high “copyright,” “plagiarism,” “hard-work-taking-those-pictures and revising-and-writing-up-those-recipes” horse and made her feel bad. And THEN, yesterday? I wrote a post in which I showed some blog buttons that I have made. And my friend Tara said, Wait, I made that button. I heard (unspoken) words like “hypocrite” and “scraper” and “not-good-blogger-etiquette-r.”

Who hates that feeling (however deserved) of knowing that they have done something wrong? Do you get that awful, headachy, sick feeling? In Mary’s case, she did what she did because she thought she was helping me (remember, ole’ one arm over here) and that I wouldn’t care. I did. In my case, I thought there was a clear distinction between graphic and button — and had meant that I’d taken a graphic and created the html code to turn it into a hyperlink. I wasn’t clear enough.

My sister made amends, I made amends. One of the great things about blogging is that posts can be edited, or even taken down, if necessary. But even after Mary groveled sufficiently for the hardest of hearts, I still felt just a bit of nice self-righteous superiority. Hello! I would never do something like that. And then I did, and even though I fixed the problem and said I was sorry, I couldn’t blame Tara if she’s still just a bit miffed. Although I would never hold a grudge.

Luckily, Tara is superior to me in every way, so I’m sure it won’t take a mistake (which we’d be a long time waiting for) on her part for her to realize how easy they are to make.


Going under the knife

I read an article in the New York Times six months ago that changed the way I view cosmetic surgery. I don’t say “plastic” surgery, because it was a plastic surgeon who sewed up my 4-year-old brother’s eyelids after a car accident left him full of broken glass. Plastic surgeons fix cleft palates and enable mastectomy victims to feel themselves again. But no matter how much I guiltily longed for rhinoplasty in moments of teenage angst, boob jobs and tummy tucks still seemed, well, sort of shallow.

THEN I had three kids, and stretch marks from my breasts to my calves, and a creepy mommy-pouch, which might work quite nicely if we were marsupials. Only another mother can truly appreciate how disheartening it is to look like an old bag (literally) at thirty. At least, I thought only another mother could, but it turns out that cosmetic surgeons are both deeply empathetic, and eager to fix the problem. As the great Dr. Stoker says in the Times article,

The severe physical trauma of pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding can have profound negative effects that cause women to lose their hourglass figures . . .

Twenty years ago, a woman did not think she could do something about it and she covered up with discreet clothing . . . But now women don’t have to go on feeling self-conscious or resentful about their appearance.

Ah! Ah! That’s me. Severe physical trauma, lost figure, self-conscious and resentful. All I need is a breast-lift (implants optional), tummy tuck and some discreet full-body liposuction, or, in other words, The Mommy Makeover, and I could be better than new.

I could go from this:

To this:

Who wouldn’t want to go back to their 11-year-old self, strange costumes and big hair and all? And for only $15k – $30k? I don’t have anything better to do with that kind of money. It’s not like children are starving in Africa. Or, if there were, it’s not like American Idol and tons of celebrities aren’t doing EVERYTHING they can to solve that problem.

I’m tired of Fighting the Frump with baby steps. Exercise and drinking water and avoiding unflattering clothes and taking a ding-dang shower and having a positive outlook: great ideas, but do they get rid of my marsupial pouch? Are they as easy and convenient as one-time surgery? Will they make me look like Katie Holmes? I don’t think so.

After months of deliberation, I went under the knife last week. I wasn’t prepared for the pain. Or the brain fog. Or the constipation. Turns out it’s serious business, that general anesthesia. As they strapped me to the table (I had to be sitting upright for the surgeon to have access) and put the oxygen on me, I had second thoughts. What if something happened and I never woke up? Would my kids be glad I looked AWESOME in my coffin?

Was it worth weaning Spot? I know it’s not too early to wean her; she’s 18 months and happy as a clam on 2% milk, but when she climbed on my bed and tugged on my shirt a couple days before the surgery, I cried. Sometimes I think she’ll be my last baby, but those are usually the days when I’m not even remotely sad about no longer breastfeeding — no longer being the human pacifier, the body that has grown saggy and baggy and old with the business of bringing three babies into the world.

Then I woke up and Dick was there, and I felt so sad. I thought my heart would break. Is sadness a side effect of anesthesia? Shouldn’t I be feeling sassy and fresh?

Dick held my hand (tighter!) and asked why the doctor had written Y-E-R on my right arm? And I realized there had been a big mistake. Instead of a boob job and tummy tuck and full-body liposuction, I’d gotten surgery on my shoulder, which had been marked YES. I just hope my surgeon’s hand is steadier on a scalpel than on a marker.

Because I can’t imagine going under the knife for anything less than a seriously better body.