Thursday, March 27, 2008

Do you eBay?

I’ve been a big eBay fan ever since I found I could purchase some really unusual stuff with the click of a mouse. My first purchase was five years ago when I bought an antique light fixture for my daughter’s nursery, but I learned early on that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the bidding. And being a competitive person, I overbid a time or two just to win. Nothing that broke the bank, just spent a couple bucks more for something than I had planned. Now I watch items and only bid within the last 30 seconds.

Last year I took advantage of a promotion they offered to list some items with a reduced fee. I rooted around the closets and found three things: a light fixture (I had bought an antique pair for my daughter’s new room, when I only needed one), a smocked dress, and a collectible. I took photos, typed up descriptions, entered beginning bids, and waited. And waited. And not a single person bid on my lovely items.

Now I realize I was selling the wrong things. Instead of listing nice, quality items that someone might actually use, I should have been rummaging around my pantry for food items that looked like certain states. Two sisters from Virginia recently sold an Illinois-shaped cornflake on eBay for $1350. Come on! It doesn’t even really look like it to me. Trust me. I lived there. I know the shape of the state.

Eons ago I remember watching a woman on Johnny Carson who found some fascinating potato chips. (Lo and behold, here is Myrtle on YouTube, just as crazy as she was in 1987, proving you can find ANYTHING online.) Since I had an obsessive desire to be on The Tonight Show and possessed no entertaining talents that might land me a guest spot, I began searching my food for signs of something that might propel me out of obscurity. That lasted about a day. As I matured, I lost my desire to sit next to Johnny. Now it’s Oprah. Or maybe Letterman.

But still, I have a problem not just with people who make a fortune selling stupid, stupid stuff on eBay, but also with the people who have more money than sense and bid outlandish amounts for virtually nothing. Is it just me or is $1350 a lot to pay for a corn flake? You could buy cases of the stuff and donate it to a food pantry, right?

You tell me…do you eBay? What was your most memorable purchase or sale?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Some bunny to love

Sometimes it takes a holiday to realize my kids are still young at heart. Since we have two teenagers and a preschooler, it’s a challenge to find activities they all can enjoy. Easter, and the promise of a basket full of surprises, was enough to make my big boys seem a bit younger than they look.

Being a bit of a procrastinator, I’d crawled into bed Saturday night without getting their baskets ready for Easter morning. I tried to guilt my husband into helping, but we were both too comfortable and he wouldn’t budge, even though I told him that I’d bought the stuff—the least he could do was help place it in their baskets. That guilt trip got stalled not far down the road.

So Easter morning, I assembled their goodies, hid the baskets around the house and climbed back into bed, settling in with a book until they woke up. Our daughter found hers first and her brothers weren’t too far behind. The boys’ favorite treat was a set of Nerf guns. We’ve been on Spring break the past week and a few days into the vacation, sheer boredom sent them digging through the toy closet. They’d unearthed the totes full of Legos, and one found an errant, semi-functioning Nerf gun that rekindled their desire to shoot each other with foam darts.

The Easter Bunny delivered. Before I could lay some ground rules about shooting each other at close range, the first dart had been fired. And hit little sister square in the forehead as she was trying to unwrap a chocolate bunny. There was no blood and hardly a red mark, but that didn’t mean she didn’t wail. She’s a quick study and knows the harder she cries the more trouble her brothers get into.

Fast forward to a great morning at church and then a fun Easter dinner with our friends. Our brave neighbors, Matt and Tammy, graciously hired a Fajita Wagon and catered lunch for about 50 friends and neighbors. It was great. Good food and fellowship and no dirty dishes to clean up afterward. I didn’t hear anyone complain about not getting to eat ham or sweet potatoes.

Later we had an egg hunt in our back yard, and our thirteen-year-old complained briefly about how few eggs were hidden and how easy they were to find. I stared at him for a moment and then smiled, “And how old are you?” He smiled back and mumbled something about how he still likes hunting for eggs. I’m guessing he wouldn’t admit that to his friends who already have facial hair and deep voices.

Hope you had a happy Easter and if the bunny brought you a basket, I hope he brought some chocolate—and maybe something that lets you shoot someone you love in the forehead without actually hurting them. On a side note, since it was Easter, I indulged in two glasses of sweet tea—and then couldn’t sleep. No, you’re never too old for surprises or too smart to remember the effects of caffeine. Or maybe that’s just me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rings and Things

Since my friend Wila sends me so many interesting musings on her life as a wife and mother and because I love and respect her perspective, I offered up my blog space to her today. So here is her guest blog:

Rigel’s friend visited the other evening and stayed for dinner. My poor husband had a difficult time eating or carrying on a conversation—he found her nose piercing disturbing. Maybe I spend more time than he does at the mall and in the company of teens, but the tiny sparkle on the side of her nose really didn’t seem that extreme to me. The day after her visit the nose piercing came up in a family conversation. Rigel told her father not to worry. She did not want to pierce her nose, but she really would like to pierce her belly button and get a small tattoo, by the way. It was hard not to laugh at the obvious incomprehension that passed over Bert’s face.

Because I know he feels very strongly about what he considers permanently disfiguring oneself, I remained quiet and hoped to give the impression of a unified front. But I remember seriously considering a small tattoo in college. I have no regrets over not going through with it, and I really wouldn’t want my daughter to be seriously covered in body art, but come on, a tiny bumble bee beside her navel could be cute. Especially next to the belly button ring.

Just so you know, out of respect for her father and since she is too young to drive herself to the local tattoo parlor, at this time, Rigel has no plans to pierce her belly button or tattoo any part of her body until she is of voting age.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Brave Women

Much has been debated and commented upon lately about Governor Spitzer’s wife, Silda, and the supporting role she played as he resigned from office. Had I been standing in her sling-backs, I’m not sure my knees would have held me upright during his speech. Nor would I have kept my hand from flying away from my side to smack him in the back of the head while I said through clenched teeth, “You idiot!”

My friend Wila wrote me a few days ago, and she told her husband that “if he cheats with a prostitute when he is Governor of New York, I will not be standing by his side sweetly. I will be standing beside him wearing a T-shirt pointing in his direction and reading: I'm No Longer with Stupid."

I’m sure Silda Spitzer was tempted. Where are those open-all-night T-shirt printers when you need them? I remembered seeing Dina McGreevey on Oprah talking about her appearance by her husband’s side when James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey, resigned from office after a scandal over his homosexual affair. She said she did it for her daughter, and she’d do it again today if she had to.

There are many things we do for our children that put their feelings before our own. And if one of them is standing beside their father when he makes a mistake, then women like Silda and Dina shouldn’t be questioned as to why they stand by their husbands’ sides. I don’t think we are judging them. Instead we are standing in awe at their ability to publicly cope with something so private. It would be hard enough to get through such a scandal in the privacy of your home. I can’t fathom putting on a brave face in front of millions.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hello, My Name is Memorable

I was never great at remembering people’s names and, therefore, I really didn’t try. I wasn’t good at it and no one expected me to, least of all, me. But my friend Elizabeth Jenkins is phenomenal at it. She remembers the names of everyone she meets, and when we lived near each other, I used her like a crutch.

After I moved away from her, I realized I had no one to lean on, no one who would gently remind me of the name of someone I’d just met. I’m sure she’s not even aware of it, but I used her as an excuse not to try.

But one day I told myself that I was going to be good at remembering people’s names. I made a conscious decision to at least try. And I did. Sometimes I would hurry to find a piece of paper and jot down the name of someone I’d just met and that helped. Other times I would make myself associate that person with someone I knew who had the same name. Or I might meet someone named George and think, I’ll bet he’s curious. Whatever it took, I tried it.

Miraculously, I became good at remembering names. It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually I found that I had mastered some techniques that helped. I won’t say I’m as good as Elizabeth, but I’m definitely better than I was.

When my son came home from school one day and announced, “I stink at math,” I quickly stopped him in his tracks. “No, you do not stink at math,” I told him. “It just a subject you have to try a little harder at.” And then I went on to tell him my story about remembering names. As long as I kept telling myself, and anyone else who cared to listen, that I was bad at remembering names, then I had an out. I was living up to my own expectations. I didn’t want him to live up to his own.

He does have to try harder at math. He’s like me—English comes easy, numbers do not. But now he knows better than to throw an excuse out that he’ll only aspire to. It’s easy to admit our faults. The hard part is learning to overcome them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An early morning tragedy

This morning Khandi Busby got out of her father’s yellow Cadillac after he stopped at a gas station in Dallas. She grabbed her two sons, ages six and eight, and dragged them to an overpass. Moments later she tossed both boys 22 feet down to the pavement below, into oncoming 6:30 a.m. traffic. She jumped after them. Miraculously, all survived. She is in critical condition; the boys are listed as good.

What happened? No one knows at this point but maybe her father, who police say followed her to the overpass and tried to talk her out of the act, will be able to shed some light on what caused her to attempt to kill her sons and herself.

In January, Lam Luong threw his four babies off a bridge in Alabama. None of them survived. Luong had a long history of drug abuse, but the details make the story no less tragic. Four innocent children died at the hands of the man God meant as their protector. Andrea Yates used a bathtub, Susan Smith drove her children into a pond, and in our small community last August, Andrea Roberts killed her husband and two children before turning the gun on herself. My maternal instincts can’t fathom how a life could spin that far out of control.

It’s my prayer that Ms. Busby’s children recover and are placed in the hands of someone who will endeavor to make the rest of their lives happy and safe. Whether their mother can ever be entrusted with their care—assuming something can be done to help her mental condition—remains to be seen.

It’s just a sad, sad day. Please keep her and her boys, Gary and Derrick, in your prayers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Better than...therapy: A Girls' Weekend

This past weekend was my short trip to heaven. Well, it was just Tuscon, but it felt like heaven since I spent three days with four of my best friends.

We get together once a year. Some times two or three can’t be there due to scheduling conflicts, but everyone makes an effort to be present—even if it’s only in spirit. Or in Leanna’s case, via a lovely vase of flowers with a card saying she wished she could have made the trek.

A little more than four years ago, we all lived in Illinois and formed friendships, a bookclub, and a bond that has not been broken through time or distance. Now we live in five different states and continue our friendships with phone calls, emails and cards.

I could prattle on about what we did over the weekend, but to outsiders it might seem insignificant—we shopped, we dined, we talked and talked and talked like teenagers at a sleepover (with no mother telling us to turn off the lights and GO TO SLEEP!). On the last night, Traci and I kept Sonya awake by telling her it was only 1:00 AM and not 2:30. We figured she could sleep when she got home.

In my opinion, you never outgrow your need for your girlfriends. My mother still goes to movies, plays and dinners with hers. But her generation tended to stay put once they settled, so I’m envious of her relationships since her friends are just a short drive away. Mine take a little planning a plane ticket to visit.

But it’s worth every effort it takes to get together. I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Does anyone have a barf bag?

I was not ready for this day. Kindergarten registration. For my baby. She’s been talking about it for at least a year since we almost daily drive past the elementary school she’ll be attending.

We unloaded from the van with our necessary paperwork: birth certificate, social security card, shot records, utility bill and my driver’s license. As we walked to the doors, I pointed to the industrial quality doormat. “Look, you’re going to be a wildcat,” I said. “Just like Troy and Gabriella,” she responded. It was a good omen. If you can’t be in High School Musical, you can at least share their mascot.

Once we found the office, we signed in, they made our copies and handed us the forms. Filling it out onsite was optional and since library storytime was just minutes away, we decided to get them to-go.

As we were leaving, she started talking about her options for getting to school in the fall. It’s about a half-mile, tops, and we’d already discussed her riding her bike or scooter with me tagging along beside her. “I’ll tell you one thing,” she said. “I am not riding a bike with stabilizers on it.” Huh? “Do you mean training wheels?” I asked. (I am not making this up!) “Yeah, but I call them stabilizers,” she said.

I assured her she had an entire summer to learn how to ride her bike and that by the time school started she should be able to shed the stabilizers and ride on just two wheels. But what was I thinking? It’s bad enough she’s starting school and now I want her to be able to ride a two-wheeler? Let me off this roller coaster now—I’m getting nauseous!