Thursday, January 27, 2011

Let's Get Lit

Yep, it's been a week of enlightenment for yours truly.

It all started with my quest to comfortably furnish the music room. After the disaster with the ginormous chairs, I was ready to give up. Once bitten twice shy, baby. When furniture stores started advertising great New Years sales, however, the need to have somewhere to rest my ample ass while other family members watched shows in which I had no interest resurfaced. After much deliberation, hand-wringing and anticipated regret, I purchased a new sofa. And unlike the chairs of comfortably overstuffed monstrosity, not only did I love it, but it fit the room as well. Yay.

Now the main reason I wanted a sofa in the other room was so that I could read. The music room is the one room in the house that does not have a ceiling light fixture. We had an old (Tom had it when I met him, and I think it was old then) floor lamp that we used. It did not suit the room - or me - but it served its purpose. Tom and the girls were the only ones who used that room, and they thought it was fine. When the sofa entered the picture and I became more of a fixture, though, it had to go.

My new floor lamp arrived from CSN stores yesterday. I had a little trouble putting it together and had to enlist Tom to help. He proceeded to laugh at me, because it was pretty simple. (I'll go ahead and say it for you - but so am I.) We're really pleased with the ability to direct light in several directions and I just like how the lamp looks in the room. If I hadn't made such a big deal of it, you wouldn't even know it was there - and that's just what I wanted. Something that looked like it belonged so naturally that you don't even stop to notice it.

So what to do with the old floor lamp?

Well, we moved it to the family room. I thought it would look awful. I've mentioned how awful I always thought it looked in the music room. But it didn't. It looked - good. I couldn't believe the difference a lamp made in a room -a much different feel from the overhead light - much homier. I said to Tom, I said, "How did we not know this before? It's like we're not even grown ups." I've just never paid attention to lighting. Is it light enough to see? Light enough to knit? Light enough to read? Then it's light enough.

I stand corrected. Firmly, firmly corrected.

I need more lamps. Lots more lamps. Lamps for every room. Lamps, lamps, lamps. How many lamps do I need, you ask? ALL of them.

I've got my sights set on this to replace the new old family room lamp, eventually. I had originally wanted this one for the music room, but it wouldn't have worked behind my sofa. The lowest fixture would've been obscured. Or maybe this would be a better fit for the room? I don't know. I definitely like the first one better, but then, I liked those big ass chairs, too. There's got to be a goodness of fit. Not a pressing thing. I have some time to mull it over.

But that's future dream light stuff at this point, and there is more actual new light in my life as I write this. When my SAD took a turn for the bitchy last week, Tom was forced into the realization that the lack of sunlight wasn't only going to affect me. He talked to a few folks, read a few articles, and scored a light box for me to try. A co-worker of his had used it to no avail, but different things work for different people. I'm going to give it a shot for a couple weeks - basking in its holy-mother-of-God-bright glow as I do my daily socializing important work and household related stuff on the computer. We shall see. I am optimistic, and that's something I haven't been much of for the past couple years - months - I don't know - how long has it been winter again?

I wish there were pictures accompanying this post. I took them. I downloaded them. My computer will not allow me to upload them to Blogger. I need a new computer. Yesterday. Contributions to the cause happily accepted. (I keed.)

Full disclosure: I was provided with a gift code from CSN which I used to purchase the floor lamp in exchange for the review, but this did not in any way influence the opinion I expressed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Consider Joxer

Since breaking our ties with the cable company, Liv has developed a full-on obsession with Xena: Warrior Princess on Netflix streaming. This delights Tom and I, as Xena and it's companion show (from which Xena actually sprang as an unplanned spin-off), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, were must-see TV during our courtship and newlywed years. These masterpieces of modern television, with their sharp dialogue and cutting edge special effects, had crossover episodes and shared some recurring characters. (Part of the previous sentence should have been presented in the thus far elusive sarcasm font. I'll let you figure out which part.)

One of those recurring characters was a wannabe warrior named Joxer. The character page for Joxer on IMDb describes him as a Barney Fife type character, and I suppose that fits. I always thought of him as more of a Don Quixote. Perhaps I was influenced by his helmet.


He was not an unpopular character. Fans of the show, Tom and I included, were always happy when we realized that an episode would be featuring Joxer. He provided comic relief with his foolishness and inflated sense of self, but he was not entirely one-dimensional. He was fun.

In small doses.

Which was precisely how he was delivered.

Sometimes I feel like that's the role I play.

Not disliked by too many, actively liked by some - but only in small doses - and never to be taken too seriously. Posing and posturing and trying to make myself seem more important than I actually am.

A joke, or perhaps just a punchline.

A secondary character in the story of my own life.

On a not unrelated note? Winter sucks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reduce. Reuse. Redecorate.

Those of you who follow me on facebook know that I just spent a long weekend at the beach. It was most rejuvenating and not nearly long enough. I won't bore you with details, but let's just say the weekend involved a lot of sunrises, seafood and spirits. I had all too rare one on one time with each of my daughters, each of my parents, and my husband. It was almost perfect.

But all good things must end, and by end, I mean come to a screeching halt.

But that's ok, I guess. I wouldn't have had the profound appreciation I did for the beautiful blue skies if I never had gray skies with which to compare them. The peaceful, almost zen-like feeling of calm that I had while waiting for the sun to rise wouldn't have been as intense if I didn't have the everyone is late for the bus and I need number 2 pencils for today and we're out of milk and oh by the way you need to sign this mornings with which to compare them.

It's all good.

So during one of those aforementioned one on one times with the husband - just him and me and raw oysters and steamed clams and shrimp and a pitcher of Long Islands and a few beers - I noticed a wreath on the wall of the establishment that was actually a lifesaver completely covered with bottle caps. It looked excellent, especially from across the room with a pitcher of Long Islands in me. Tom blanched a little bit when I expressed interest. We already save the corks from wine bottles (Which are becoming increasingly rare. Or maybe we're just buying cheaper wines...) to make these:

And the tabs from soda and beer cans to make these:

and these:
(credit where credit is due - my friend Sara was wearing a belt like this at the pre-party for our HS reunion this summer and I loved it. She/it was a total inspiration)

Currently I'm working on making a clutch bag from the soda/beer tabs. I don't have all of the logistics figured out, but it's going to be awesome.

And now I must have a bottle cap/lifesaver wreath.

"Where will you put such a thing?" inquired my handsome husband, no doubt wondering as well where we were going to put another receptacle for beverage related refuse.

"Above the bar!" I answered confidently.

"We don't HAVE a bar", he pointed out, and not erroneously.

I leaned across the table, my cheeks pink with vodka, tequila, rum and gin (and, by the way, whoever came up with the idea of combining all of that with a little triple sec, Coke and sweet and sour should have a monument built in their honor. Just sayin'.) and my eyes bright with enthusiasm. I got very close to his face, grabbed him by the collar and stage whispered, "We're gonna BUILD one!"

"We don't have any space to build a bar."

"We could make the girls share a room and use the other one as a bar."

He contemplated that idea for less than half a second before shutting it down. I guess beer doesn't lead to the same degree of creative thinking that liquor does.

"Well, we could build one in the basement." I had sunk back into my seat at this point and was approaching a pout with dangerous speed. And when momma(kin) ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Multiplied by liquor. Ahem. So instead of reminding me that we don't have an outside door to our basement, thus rendering it unsafe as actual living space, he cautiously agreed that this was within the realm of possibility.


As the fantasy bar in my basement unfolds, (he thought I'd forget I wanted a bar when I was sober! Silly man!) I need to think about furnishings. The folks at CSN are very very good to bloggers - and other folks as well! - so that was the first place I thought of for adjustable bar stools. They did not disappoint, with their excellent selection in a wide price range. I ruled out a few right away - because they might clash with my future potential wreath - but I am narrowing down my fantasy choices.

Now I just need someone to clean out my basement.

And build me a bar.

And possibly install a basement door.

Not me, though. I'll be too busy making the wreath.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I'm (sort of) Snowed In! Play With Me!

Anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time with my family knows that we play an ongoing and spontaneous game. It is never planned, but it frequently occurs. Our game is that someone will say something that reminds someone else of a lyric. Once that lyric has been sung, the rest of the family must join in, adding as many lyrics containing that word or phrase as they can. We're all good at it, but, at the risk of being immodest, I'm the best. You might even say I am the champion. I am IronMan, I am a rock, I am the egg man, I am woman hear me roar.....

Now anyone in my family will be happy to tell you that I am also the only one with no musical talent. The girls will tell you so very enthusiastically. Tom will tell you, too, but you'd have to ask and he'd answer with less zeal. He knows which side his bread is buttered on. He also knows the way to San Jose, what time it is and the muffin man.

If you're ever hanging out with us and we start something like this, nothing would delight us more than to have you join in. We're not exclusive or anything. I've mentioned our game here before, I believe. We've found that the easiest words to play are money, love and rain. The least musically inclined among us could have a nice solid run with any of those words.

So - why (do fools fall in love?, why Judy why?, why? because we like you) am I, the least musically inclined among us, the best at our musical little game? That's easy. Easy like Sunday morning, take it easy, ease on down the road. While their expertise is unquestioned regarding the music, I take more time to listen to the words. I can often spout off obscure, mostly forgotten lyrics, but I can't tell you the names of everyone in the band and who played what on which album. Tom is by far the family expert on that. Liv doesn't care. Lea and I are neck and neck, but she is poised to sprint ahead.

A good lyric will stay with me forever.

This all came about because, after my last post I had a lyric running all around in my brain (most of that was ALSO a lyric! Did you catch it???) and that lyric was:
Slow down, you crazy child, take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile. It's alright - you can afford to lose a day or two. ~Billy Joel, Vienna
It's irrelevant, now, which makes me almost profoundly sad - because that need to - well - take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile - still exists, even though technological advancements have made it a near impossibility.


Which led me to thinking about a bunch of other phone lyrics, many of which have been made irrelevant. Yep - phone is an easy word to play, but I'm gonna let you play it (or at least get it started - I can't always resist...)

Oh! And since I won't be able to hear you singing your lyric, if it's not super-obvious, maybe you could help me out by including the artist and or song title...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Call Me

The plan is that we will be giving up our land line next month. I realize that this is not a huge thing - that it's what's done now. Tom wanted to do it months ago - years ago, really, but I balked. I didn't like my cell phone and sure didn't want to have to rely on it. There's some residual hearing loss from the height of the squealy fangirl days that has left me not thrilled with phones in general and cell phones in particular. They're hard for me. I like it when the phone rings and I can say, "Is someone gonna get that?" Unless it is very specifically for me, I can dodge it that way.

Ask my real life friends how often I call them.

My mother says that's why I don't have very many friends. "No one wants to be involved in a one-sided friendship, Tammy."

I try to explain that the friendships are reciprocal, it's just the phone calls that are not.

I wasn't always this way.

Ah, that's me on my corded phone in college circa February, 1981. IUP Turnbull Hall, holla! Pledge pin, size 5 jeans... sigh... I don't know who I was talking to (though I have a strong suspicion) but the look on my face certainly implies that he was dreamy...

I am old enough to have grown up with a party line. That's right. In my early adolescence, when I was giggling with my girlfriends on the corded, rotary dial phone, there was every possibility that either of my parents, my sister, or any member of another family that shared our line might pick up an extension at any time. I would go to my parents room to use their extension - for privacy - but privacy was obviously an illusion. There were two phones in my parents' house - the aforementioned one in their bedroom, and another in the kitchen. They still have a corded phone in their kitchen. I swear to God.

I will never forget the day - in my mid (ok, late-mid) twenties - when I went on a date with a boy who had a car phone. He also had a Corvette with personalized plates that alluded to his ability to elude the cops with the mad speeds his car could reach. Jealous yet? I thought you might be. The car phone was this huge console that sat between the two seats. This dude had his phaser set to 'impress the ladies'. (bonus points if you read that in the voice of The Ladies' Man. Yeah.)

And then - when I glanced at it - he asked if I wanted to use it. The phone, that is. I most certainly did. Do you know what I said to the girlfriend I called? Of course you do. "You're not going to believe where I'm calling you from!" Followed by, "Yeah, I think so." - this in response to her query as to whether or not he liked the top I'd settled on for the date. I'd called her earlier - from my GIANT cordless - because I was a little unsure about the propriety of said top for a first date. "Half my boobs are showing..."

"Top half or bottom half?"


"You're probably ok, then."

Anyway, fast forward a couple few years (oh yes, we can't forward from that particular story fast enough...) to my own first cell phone. Part of my job was making home visits and it was viewed as a valuable tool. You know - for emergencies. I could call if I was running late, I could call if the directions I was given were unclear, and - most importantly - I would have it if my car broke down. That was the big one, right? "It's a good thing to have, if your car breaks down." I really did stick to the 'emergencies only' policy, too. Minutes were expensive. If I was conservative with them, I could be liberal in other areas of my life.

Going back to that corded phone at my parents' house - it goes without saying that if you called that line and no-one was home, it just rang and rang. If you called that line and one of us was on it, you got a busy signal.

I know this clip doesn't relate to phones, but it relates to grumpy old men and I like it! I love it!

I don't want to be the grumpy old woman - "And that's the way it was and we liked it! we loved it!" - but I swear - sometimes it would be nice to take the phone of the hook and be unreachable. We really don't have that option, now. Oh sure, we can 'go off the grid' for a day or two (or an hour or two) - but everything we missed is right there waiting for us when we get back - and most of us cannot resist the impulse to catch up. So - we are - essentially - always available to everyone.

I'd rather tell you that that's why I balked at losing the land line - it's a much nobler reason - but I can never lie to you for long. It all comes back to the hearing thing.

My grandmother had a wringer washer and a clothesline until the day they moved her into a nursing home, shortly before she died. In inclement weather, the clothesline moved from the back yard to the basement. She HAD an electric washer and dryer, but only because my mother and my aunt had insisted upon it. She continued to do it her way as long as it was physically feasible for her to do so.

There is something sweet and sentimental about that story, certainly.

I loved my grandma.

But I don't want to be her.

So, if you need to call me - better make sure you have the number for my cell. Y'know what? better yet - just text me. Or shoot me a message on Facebook. I'm much more likely to respond...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Requiem for a Squealy Fangirl

Tom recently shared this article with me, analyzing the death of rock and roll. It was sad and, while I tried to find a point with which I could argue, I just couldn't. Time to move on or become antiquated.

I sort of knew it in the summer of 2001. Tom and I won general admission tickets to an 80's nostalgia show: Quiet Riot, Warrant and Poison. We found a spot on the lawn, bought an overpriced bucket of warmish beer, and settled in to enjoy the show. Quiet Riot was good. They were still very tight. Kevin Dubrow was surprisingly humble and the show was a lot of fun. The crowd was still rather thin, as it tends to be for the first of three acts. Warrant was up next and it was starting to get dark. More people were trickling in. When they broke into their rock anthem Heaven, Jani Lane held the mic out to the audience, encouraging us to sing the chorus:

Heaven isn't too far away
Closer to it every day
No matter what your friends might say
We'll find a way

We did, of course, swaying back and forth appropriately. Those with lighters held them high. A few drunk rock chicks may have wept a little. Jani stopped the band and sat on the edge of the stage, becoming a little verklempt himself. He put his head in his hands, unable to continue. "You guys remember us. You really remember us."

Rock and roll coughed softly. We couldn't see it at the time, but there was blood in the hanky.

By the time Poison came on, it was dark and the crowd was thick. And drunk. That wasn't weird. Younger kids started to show up and that wasn't weird, either. But they were wearing shredded T-shirts and fright wigs. It was a hot summer evening. Tom and I struggled - trying to figure out why these kids would be wearing what had to be hot, itchy wigs on such a warm night. Then we saw one with a thickly folded bandanna holding his wig in place. It was a clear homage to Bret Michaels. (Loooooooong before Rock of Love) I mean, surely it was an homage, right? I mean, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? But it wasn't an homage, I realized, as Rock and Roll coughed again, a little more violently this time. He was - they were - making fun of us. Making sport of a whole generation. I wanted to spank them, and not just for fun. I wanted to cry like Jani Lane.

Fast forward to 2011. Steven Tyler. An icon. A rock god. The man who wrote Mama Kin - the song I loved so much I named my blog after it. Steven Tyler is really really doing this American Idol thing.

Rock and Roll clutched its heart and collapsed. Its hand fell open upon impact. The mic rolled slowly across the floor, silent, until it was picked up by P. Puffy Puff Diddy Daddy who turned it over in his hands once or twice in wonder, then hit the auto tune.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I haven't for years. It seems so pointless. Of course I want to lose weight, organize my life and my home, get my financial situation under control and quit smoking. Oh, wait. I don't smoke. I just got caught up in the excitement of public resolutions, fueled enthusiastically by the media. Still. If I DID smoke, I bet I'd feel really bad about it this time of year.


No 1/1 resolutions for me.

As a matter of fact, as a protest to the resolution warriors, I believe I will actually QUIT my gym this week rather than buying new workout clothes and vowing to go more regularly (or, you know, at all). Bask in the rebellion.

I do, however, tend to make resolutions on my birthday. I don't talk about them publicly because they're nobody's business (and also because nobody tends to ask. The media doesn't launch a mass campaign to remind one of all the things one needs to change about oneself in early September and it is therefore not on the mind of the collective public.) I am taking advantage of the public resolution season this year by re-examining and making adjustments to the birthday resolutions. Surely it cannot come as a surprise to you that someone self-centered enough to consider the anniversary of their own birth to be the start of the meaningful year feels free to play fast and loose with the rules of resolution.


Re-evaluating some resolutions, but forming none.

Last year, though, I did jump on the bandwagon wherein folks were choosing a single word or concept to be their guiding resolution for the year. I must not have blogged about it, because I can't find it anywhere in my archives, but I chose 'live in the present' as the concept I wanted to dedicate myself to in 2010. How did I do, you ask? Not bad. Not perfect. The smart phone was certainly a hindrance to that goal. (But would I give it up? Maybe when you pry it from my cold dead hand.) I did find this post, and I have certainly been true to the resolutions proclaimed therein.

I've noticed a trend this year where people are choosing a single word or concept to describe the past year. Mine would not be living in the present, although I did a reasonably good job with that. Mine would be strength. This year was a very dramatic one in the Casa Howard and my strength was called upon more than I would've liked. No-one was more surprised than me to find that it was there when I needed it - and when others needed it. Turns out, it was there all along, I just hadn't noticed it because it isn't a loud, flashy, 'look at me' sort of strength. It is quiet and steady and - at the risk of sounding arrogant - rather awesome. Around mid-year, I started feeling like Maria in The Sound of Music singing I Have Confidence. It's been there all along, sure, but I just discovered it - and it's exhilarating.

Someone ought to put my likeness on a collectible plate.

Just sayin'.

This year? The year that goes to 11?

I think I'm going to concentrate on independence. I think it will suit my newfound strength nicely. I talked about learned weakness here. I no longer feel weak. It's time to put action behind the feelings. I'll let you know how it goes. (You know. If it goes well...)

So - how about you? Resolutions? Words for 2010 (I'd say "keep it clean" here, but that would only be for effect. Clean is highly overrated. Keep it real.) Words for 2011? Inquiring minds want to know. (*I* want to know!)