Friday, May 23, 2014

Advice for the new graduates.

Yesterday, at lunch with my coworkers, the talk turned to graduation. And commencement speakers.

While I think that college commencement speakers have a chance of leaving an impression, I think we can all agree that high school graduation speakers are, for the most part, a giant waste of time and oxygen. I can say this because I was 1 of the speakers at my high school graduation. I gave what is probably 1 of the worst speeches ever, and I'd like to personally apologize to every human crammed inside that sweltering school gym.

Also, 18-year-olds don't listen to anything.

But if you could go back and give your 18-year-old self advice, what would you say?

My coworkers were hilarious. A flood of words rushed out over our table:
  • Don't do drugs!
  • Don't have sex with that guy!
  • Don't take out all those student loans!
  • Don't get married!
  • Don't date him, him, or him!
Lots of "don'ts." And we all agreed that our 18-year-old selves wouldn't have paid any attention. But there was also the unspoken understanding that all of those horrible mistakes got us where we are today, and were somehow necessary. Horrible, yet necessary - much like vaccinations, or family vacations.

To my 18-year-old self, I'd probably just say this:

Everything is going to be fine. Wear sunscreen.

Because I was wound a bit tightly, and am just now learning how to let the fuck go. Also, sun damage is no joke.

So, happy graduation season. And if you're in Iowa, enjoy eating ham buns at a party inside a cleaned-out garage. My husband makes fun of ham buns, acting like they're just ham sandwiches. But we know the difference.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is your summer soundtrack ready?

NPR posed an important query - really, a question for the ages: What's your go-to driving song, the tune that's perfect for rolled-down windows and wind-blown hair?

I poured over the comments because, really? I'm always on the lookout for new tunes - or tunes I'd forgotten. Some of bands I'd never heard of just made me feel hopelessly square and unhip (The Japandroids? Who?). Other bands, I thought the commenters must be insane (Pink Floyd? Really? Is it legal to play that music outside of your parents' basement?).

Perhaps my window for new things is rather narrow.

When I got my first car with a cassette player in the summer of '96, I made a mix tape within about 2 hours of getting my ride home. That tape has since been lost to time - or my basement. I remember that it had "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley on it. And the live version of "So Lonely" by The Police. Other than that? Hmm.

If required to make a windows-down mix tape now, here's what I would concoct:
It's a shame that K-tel no longer makes compilations, because I would obviously be their top programmer.

What songs would be on your windows-down mix tape? What am I missing?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My last day as a 38-year-old lady.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I turn 39.

With so many of my friends freaking out about turning 40, 39 seems like a non-event. For that matter, turning 40 seems like none of my concern - kind of like circumcision. I know some people get really worked up about it, but it's not really my issue.

I guess that means that I like getting older. I'm happier.

Actually, I was way more Zen before I found a white eyebrow today, and before I spent 2 hours talking about marketing with a funeral director.

But still. I am happy.

I'm happy, and I'm thankful for another year. I'm glad I'm not dead yet. Too much to do.

Here's what I've learned - in no particular order:
  • Marrying a computer nerd means you'll never have to set up a router again. Totally worth it.
  • Sunscreen works. Use it religiously. You'll thank me at your 20-year reunion.
  • Having a bad dog isn't necessarily a reflection on you as a person. Some dogs - like some people - are just a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket. Having 1 of those dogs - or people - in your family doesn't mean you're a bad person.
  • Order dessert.
  • Get your thyroid tested.
  • Living in an old house is a great way to hide your housekeeping skills or lack thereof. That weird smell? Old house. That crooked wall? Totally made you overlook the giant dust bunny, right?
  • If you feel like going to bed early, go to bed early. It feels decadent, and it's free.
  • A kind, loving partner is worth the wait. You'll be glad you didn't settle. 
  • Being the favorite aunt is super-cool, but sometimes, not being the mom is really hard.
  • People say the wrong thing. Ninety percent of the time, they didn't mean it. Let it go. Or at least try.
  • Expensive bras are worth it, especially if you're a lady of a certain ... biological wealth.
  • Worrying is, sadly, not an Olympic sport. Put your imagination to better use. Like blogging!
  • If it makes you feel bad, don't eat it. (Evidently, this doesn't apply to dogs and poo. They still eat it.)
  • It doesn't matter how old you are - you always need your parents.
  • French onion dip on a BLT is pretty much the best thing ever.
  • No one knows what they're doing. We're all faking it, to varying degrees of success.
  • Because I hate cleaning my car, paying to have it detailed is worth every penny. Sometimes, it's OK to throw money at a problem to make it go away.
  • Don't badmouth your friend's ex because she might get back with him and then you'll feel dumb and she won't forget what you said. Unless he's a total tool, then eventually, she'll tell you how right you were.
  • Everybody loves Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler." And if they say they don't, they're lying.
What have you learned so far?


Wanna celebrate my birthday? Like noodleroux on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Yes, I'm trying new things, even at my advanced age. I hope I don't break a hip.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In which I run around my house nekkid, licking all the stuff.

My Guy and I have been blessed to host various and sundry family members over the last 2 weeks.

I genuinely like these people. They are good people.

I've been cooking. And cleaning. And changing sheets. And washing towels.

The good news out of all of this is that holy banana sandwich, I have found my life calling. Clearly, I was put on this Earth to be a spokesmodel for Bar Keepers Friend - even if the product's lack of apostrophe makes me cry. This stuff is freakin' magic!

Let's say you're like me, and you live in an old house. And you've scrubbed and scrubbed your home's original tub, and it's fine. But once you introduce Bar Keepers Friend to your tub? Your tub will shine like new! Years of gunk that you didn't even know was there will rinse right down the drain ... along with a few layers of skin from your hands because you forgot to wear gloves. But it's so, so worth it.

My only regret is that I didn't take before and after shots (of the tub, not my hands). But it's probably for the best, as the after shots would be so bright that readers would be blinded, and I'd get sued, and it would be a whole thing.

So, that's the good news.

The bad news about hosting a bunch of family across a few weeks is that you get a little crazy and just need a little alone time. OK, maybe a lot crazy, to the point that once you're alone, you want to run around your house nekkid, just because you can. And maybe make nekkid snow angels in the dirt on your floors. And maybe lick all your furniture to mark it as your own, because you're a girl and the idea of peeing to mark just seems like too much trouble, even in your somewhat irrational state.

The few friends I've mentioned this to have seemed more than a little alarmed. Is this whole licking thing not a normal impulse?

Granted, I grew up in a house where licking a cookie meant that it was yours. It was viewed as a somewhat offbeat tactic, but acceptable because the ownership of baked goods is a big deal. Perhaps my peers don't have this same point of reference?

You will probably be relieved to know that instead of spreading saliva, I've just been going to bed really, really early. And ignoring laundry. And admiring my visage in the reflection from my better-than-new tub.

You're welcome.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

When Mom needs an intervention.

This week, my amazing mom has been kind enough to let me interview her and feature her on this here blog. If my blog were a movie, this post would be the DVD extra that propels you to buy the DVD. Why? We're dishing the dirt on Mother's Little Helper.

Me: I would be remiss if we didn't address your addiction. When did you get your first library card?

Mama C: Busted. I thought we would get thru this without talking about it. Sigh. Well, we lived on River Heights, across the Meredith Willson footbridge from the library, so it was 1st grade or earlier. (Ed. note: Mama C grew up in the town on which "The Music Man" was based. It's a famous foot bridge!) I'm sure I wasn't in kindergarten yet when my sisters would take me over there. I don't remember picture books, but I do remember they had shelves and shelves of biographies in the children's section ... they had orange covers ... Johnny Appleseed, Abe Lincoln, Molly Pitcher, all the presidents. I read them all. And we had the Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, R.N. series at home.

Me: Did you set out to raise readers, or were you just stuck taking us to the library with you?

Mama C: It was purely selfish on my part -- you had no choice because I HAD to have books to read.

Me: I respect that. How many books do you average a week?

Mama C: Back in the day, I would check out 10-12 books a week. Now I usually have about 3 books going ... actual books plus what's on my Kindle.  And if I'm down to only one book, I need backups. Having to wear glasses cut back on my reading to some extent cuz I can't do my hair and wear glasses to read, but I can read and fold clean clothes.

Me: You used to read while you were doing your hair????

Mama C: Of course. Blow drying or curling my hair. Emptying the dishwasher. Cooking.

Me: Well, emptying the dishwasher, sure. But handling a hot curling iron while reading? I'm not sure whether I should award you a medal or call Dr. Drew. Mostly, I'm impressed. And I love you.


Happy Mothers' Day, everyone. May your addictions be good ones.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Interview with Mom: On creativity, friends, and profanity.

My mom is a saint for putting up with all these crazy interview questions. In the final installment of my Mothers' Day celebration / interrogation, Mom opens up about taking time for herself, the value of girlfriends, and being a lady.

Me: I've always thought of you as an artist. Do you identify yourself that way?

Mama C: Not as an artist. Creative, sure. I was never 'good enough' as an artist because I define that as painting or drawing or sculpture. I could master techniques but was never satisfied with how I used them. But I definitely have an urge to be creative, to do something with my hands.

Me: Do you feel like you've found your niche with quilting?
One of Mom's many gorgeous quilts, and a shih tzu who approves.
Mama C: I love the colors and feel of the fabrics. Walking into a quilt store, I'm just on overload. I love the satisfaction of putting a quilt top together, although I usually follow a pattern. And the fact that there is a useful quilt at the end of the process is gratifying. I do know that I get cranky and irritable [or just more so than usual] when I haven't quilted for awhile, so maybe this is my cozy niche.

Me: I get hung up on the "usefulness" aspect - perhaps it's a Midwestern thing. So many of the crafts and crap I see on Pinterest, I think, "Yeah, you could do that - but WHY?" With a quilt, it's a creative endeavor with a very solid end result. People need blankets or they get cold and die.

Mama C: Yup. I love the idea of somebody snuggling under a quilt I made on a cold evening. I've also found great joy and satisfaction in being a 'Quilt Fairy' and swooping in unexpectedly on people to give them a quilt.

Me: That is the best! Do you schedule time to quilt, or does it just kind of happen organically?

Mama C: The problem is that I forget to take ME time to quilt ... ya know, the bucket with the holes punched along the rim or the pyramid of champagne glasses that won't fill til the top one gets filled? So, I think the secret is to cross out an afternoon to quilt, just like you would for a meeting or appointment or whatever else was going on.

Me: This sounds like a good rule about just about anything. Women seem really skilled at putting ourselves last.

Mama C: Women tend to be nurturing and we take care of everybody within our vicinity, but we forget to take care of ourselves. Where is it written that we can't sit down to read a book or quilt or sit on the patio in the sun? I'm really bad at that, then I have a strict talk with myself and it gets better ... and then I forget.

Me: Do you think girlfriends help?

Mama C: YES. [I censored my response] To have a close friend move away or die just leaves a hole you don't know how to fill. Who can you talk with, bitch about things to? Who will tell you you're not crazy? Who can you just sit with in silence and enjoy the company? I read something somewhere [who knows] about people coming into your life when you need them, but not necessarily staying for long and I think that's true. But definitely yes, you do need girlfriends so you have somebody to laugh, cry, and hold dear. And reconnecting with past girlfriends is a real gift -- they know all your history.

Me: Was there an "eff yeah" in there originally?

Mama C: Um, perhaps ... but I am a lady of grace and dignity and I will not stoop to profanity. [snicker]

Me: Umm, OK. Sure.


She's pretty great, isn't she?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Interview with Mom: Yes, she really almost left us on the side of the road.

It's almost Mothers' Day! I'm celebrating all week with my favorite mom. That's my mom. And no, you can't have her.

Yesterday, Mom gave up the secret to marriage. And today? Well, a mom's gotta talk kids at some point.

Me: So, what was the hardest part of parenting, besides not leaving us on the side of the road even when you wanted to? What has been the best part?

Mama C: The hardest part is letting you two make your own mistakes because I knew you wouldn't listen to advice from a parental unit. A few times we did make you do things that we felt were important, but generally you had to learn to make good choices. Side of the road almost happened, though.

(Ed. note: Circa 1983, Mom traveled to the next town over - kids in tow - to go to Target. Poochie was 3, and I was 8. If memory serves, we were little monsters the entire trip. On the ride home, Mom had had it. She pulled her Buick Regal over to the side of the highway, in front of the Pioneer Feed plant. She used a chilly, dead-serious tone we'd never heard before. I began to calculate how long it would take me to walk home 20 miles. Although she didn't physically remove us from the car, whatever she said [the words are lost to time] really got the desired effect. No one said a word the rest of the ride home - nor the rest of the day. The episode lives on in family lore - obviously.)

Oh, the best parts ... unexpected/spontaneous hugs from you two whether as kids, teenagers or adults. They just melt my heart. Seeing the adults you and Poochie have grown to be -- loving, kind, caring people. Uh-huh ... need another Kleenex.

Me: We take after our parents.

What's your experience been like as a grandma?

Mama C: Everyone tells you it's awesome as they bore you with endless pictures of ugly babies. But Nora is so wonderful. And beautiful and smart and all those other things. I am overwhelmed with love, with the miracle of her. And tearful [hard to believe, huh?] when I think that my mother never knew what wonderful children I have, my dad didn't really 'know' you and Poochie. I think when you're the parent, you're so busy taking care of the baby/child you forget to see the wonder of it all, but as a grandparent you just sit back and watch.


I love "the wonder of it all," don't you?

Tomorrow, don't miss Mom's thoughts on creativity, friendship, and that crappy habit women have of taking care of everybody else first.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Interview with Mom: The secret to wedded bliss.

The week-long celebration of Mothers' Day - and my rad mama in particular - continues!

Yesterday, Mom talked about style and raising a feminist. Today? She talks about her gajillion years of marriage, all to the same man.

Me: So, you've been married since about the dawn of time. What have you learned from 45-plus years with the same guy?

Mama C: As his mother said after almost 70 years of marriage ... "you just take it one day at a time."

Some days the little stuff drives you crazy, some days it's endearing to know exactly what he's gonna do or say. But when I look at him, I remember that really cute guy with the killer smile and those blue eyes from so long ago and I know that he will be there to hold my hand not only on the good days but on the really bad ones too.

And now I need a Kleenex.

Me: I love you so much.

I think that was a gift you gave me and Poochie, too - even when it was obvious to us as kids that you and Dad kind of wanted to kill each other, we knew you looooooved each other, and nobody was going anywhere.

Mama C: Hmmm - nobody was going anywhere ... maybe that's because I kept telling your dad how happy he was. "Repeat after me, Steve."

Me: What advice would you give those of us who want to be married and stay married but kind of have no idea what we're doing?

Mama C: Seriously, I think Gramma said it all. Marriage is not always easy, but it is a commitment that you've made to another person. It takes work. Sometimes you have to give [and give and give ...] and sometimes you need to take. I wish it wasn't so easy for people to end a marriage cuz they don't take it seriously enough. I certainly don't have all the answers, or even some of them. But one day at a time is good advice.


One day at a time is how I'm taking this interview, too. Tomorrow? Learn the truth about that time Mom almost left her kids on the side of the highway and never looked back. Really.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Interview with Mom: Raising strong women and lookin' good.

In honor of Mothers' Day, we're talking to my mom. Yesterday, she dished on her real-life "Mad Men" experiences. Today, she tells all when it comes to raising a daughter and finding her personal style.

Me: How did your "Mad Men"-esque experiences impact how you raised your daughter?

Mama C: I'd like to think she learned the value of herself, although I don't think any of us really do. We're basically conditioned to doubt ourselves. To stand up for who she was, not take any crap.

Realistically, we played house and school for hours on end - typically female roles. So I don't think I instilled radical feminist beliefs in her except by accident. But I think she knew [and knows!] that she could do anything as well as anybody else, male or female.

Me: Well, for what it's worth, when some idiot on the playground attempted to belittle me by saying I was "just a girl," it didn't work, because I had no earthly clue what he was talking about.

Mama C: Thank you for that!

Me: I've always experienced you as being very feminine – your nails are impeccable, and you’d rather die than leave the house without earrings. Have you always been a girly girl?

Mama C: You have to remember that I grew up in an era of starched dresses, hats, gloves and mary janes. I remember slacks because you had to wear them UNDER your dress when it was really cold outside and you were walking to school. Even in high school and my two years of college, I was still wearing skirts [mini tho they were]. I did wear jeans once in a variety show in high school. And hair - once I was in high school, it was the era of teasing and hair spray ... flipped, of course, which was tricky. Sleeping in curlers. Ack!

Me: In my mind, though, you knew all the tricks. So glamorous! Who / what influenced your style, either back in the day or now? Also, it kind of kills me that you remember the one time you wore jeans in high school. I must have been a huge disappointment.

Mama C: No you weren't ... I was envious. I would have loved to be able to wear jeans. Oh, and we didn't have panty hose either so there were the undergarments and nylons and runs. Egads, So ... I really wanted to be Audrey Hepburn, but I wasn't built like her. I looked at the magazines for trendy styles for hair/clothes. I watched what my friends wore. What was worn on TV. Truthfully, I worked to buy my clothes, so my wardrobe wasn't very extensive. I've always wanted to just have a classic look that never goes out of style. Haven't found it yet, but I still clean up pretty good. Is that called peer pressure?

Me: You know, Audrey probably would have killed for your rack.

Mama C: Hahahahaha. I will keep that thought in mind always.


My goodness, I love this woman.

Tomorrow? Mom talks marriage. A lot of marriage. Because she's been doing it for a long time.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Interview with Mom: My mama could write for "Mad Men."

I recently spotted a church sign that read, "MOTHERS ARE A GIFT FROM GOD."

And then I barfed.

OK, not really. I just rolled my eyes really hard. Perhaps I'm a teensy bit sensitive, but it seems like Mothers' Day has morphed into The Canonization of All Mothers Day. As a non-mama, this makes me a bit testy, as if the world is closing in with pitchforks and torches, ready to teach me once and for all that I have no value as a female human since I'm not a mom.

Possibly jumping to conclusions, table for one?

But after my initial eye roll, the church sign initiated this thought process:
  • What EVER.
  • Well, actually, my mom truly is a gift from God.
  • My mom is awesome.
  • Mothers' Day, I will focus on my mom!
Sadly, this does not mean that I'm spending this week just staring at my mom, following her around, gazing at her with adoration. Although that would be fun for the whole family.

No, instead, I interviewed my sweet mama. She is lovely and amazing and knows a lot of things about a lot of stuff. Also, she's patient and puts up with my random requests.

Here's Part I of our chat.

Me: OK, let's get the big question out of the way: I'm your favorite, right?

Mama C: You are my very favorite daughter!!

Me: Ha. Yeah, I am. (Ed. note: I'm the only daughter.) When did you know you wanted to be a mom - or did you?

Mama C: I guess I always wanted to be a mom ... played with many dolls. I was of an age that I ended up on the line between 'you get married and have kids' and 'I'm gonna burn my bra and change the world' attitudes.

Me: What did you think of the feminist movement? What impact did it have on you?

Mama C: Again, see above comment. I was caught in the middle -- young enough not to be happy with the way things were "supposed" to be with women being second-class citizens, but not quite young enough to really rock the boat. I worked in the "Mad Men" environment, which could be very difficult. I believed that if I could do a job as well as a man, I should have the opportunity to have that job and be paid the same as a man. But I never worked in a situation where that really became an issue because of where I was employed ... not a big corporation, etc.

Me: I know "Mad Men" is a great show, and, well, Jon Hamm - come on. But I can't watch it because it's really upsetting to see how the women are treated. How did you deal with all those tiny slights?

Mama C: I could definitely write a few episodes of "Mad Men." Hard to comprehend, perhaps, but I was 19, 20, 21, working in an environment where my boss was the epitome of a gentleman and the rest of the men harassed me. They thought nasty cartoons or items in a desk drawer were hysterical. One thought the secretaries all needed shoulders rubbed when he came up behind them while they sat at their desks. The men were too happy to get a reaction and I learned to shut the desk drawer without comment and to suddenly scoot my chair backwards with satisfying results.

Me: HA! I hope you had one of those chairs with the big metal adjuster thing on the back.

Mama C: You know, I did!!! … And not to brag or anything, as your Dad has said, I was 'hot' and I wore incredibly short skirts and have great legs. Don't know how I did it. Okay - moving on.

Me: You can't help it that you're incredibly good looking.

Mama C: And my daughter is sooooo much like me.

Me: Damned straight. (Ed note: I should be so lucky.)

Tommorrow ... find out what Mom has to say about raising a daughter and finding personal style.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Abe Lincoln + cheese sauce = romantic vacation.

My Guy and I went on a little belated anniversary celebration road trip. Because we are collectively 800 years old, we traveled to Springfield, Illinois, home of Abraham Lincoln. Or, as we now call him, Abe. Because that's how we roll.
Us chillin' with the A to the L. And in no way is this a completely unflattering, psycho killer photo of me. Nope. No way.
The museum and Abe's house were mega cool. Like any good trip, they left us wanting to learn more, more, more! Did you know Abe is the only president to hold a patent?


My Guy and I stayed at a quaint inn in what was the first upscale apartment building in Springfield. An upscale apartment building built by a self-made awesome businesswoman. In 1909. No biggie.

The inn met My Guy's 1 and only criteria for hotel stays: we didn't have to eat breakfast at the same table as a bunch of randoms. However, we got to listen in on the breakfast conversations of some interesting folks.

One woman was regaling her man friend with how she found out her dad was shacked up with a girlfriend even though he was in theory living with her mom. Hint: If your boyfriend is still married, don't have a picture on your desk of his grandkid, and then tell all your coworkers that the cute baby is your boyfriend's grandchild.

Another table spent their breakfast discussing the Holocaust. Instead of being thoughtful, this convo was peppered with comments like, "Do you know how many camps were in Poland? A lot. Since I'm a teacher, I teach my kids that."

And then there was the table that was trying to figure out what movie that woman from that one show was in. And because it's rude to eavesdrop, I had to use superhuman strength not to be all, "'The Year of Living Dangerously!' It was 'The Year of Living Dangerously,' which I've never even seen, but I know because I'm a human IMDB!"

Sigh. Even on vacation, I'm working.

Speaking of working it, the husband and I totally ate our way around town. It was good. We are now fat. And on our last night in town, we took on the local specialty, The Horseshoe.

The horseshoe is a piece of Texas toast with the meat of your choice piled on top. Then, that's covered with a gallon of cheese sauce. And then the whole mess is suffocated with about 7 pounds of French fries.
Behold the culinary awesomeness!
When this entrée arrived at our table, My Guy moaned just a bit. Then he asked me, "What do we doooo?"

Well, we dug in. Or, more accurately, I chowed down on my spinach salad and ate some of his horseshoe's fries.

Half a horseshoe later, My Guy was kind of whimpering. It was delicious, but it was a bit much. Like all road trips, there comes a time to go home.

It was time to go home and eat nothing but rice for several days. We're eating rice, and we're sad about the lack of eavesdropping opportunities in our house.