Saturday, December 27, 2008

Digital Nostalgia...

I read quite a few blogs.  I recently turned my mom on to the world of blogging. Sort of. She logged on and read my blog, and clicked through to Jorie's Blog, which she loved. Now, whether or not she can find them again remains to be seen, but as we have not yet done our tutorial on google reader, she gets a pass. I'll just send her a link. 

Today, when perusing one of my favorite creative blogs, I ran across a bit of software heaven. When one of the first things I noticed was that it had only recently released the PC version, having a mac-only following before that I knew it HAD to be great.  When I tried it out, I was blown away.  When my highly critical professional digital imaging photographer hubby declared it "incredible" I knew I had a treasure.

I remember my Mamaw's Polaroid camera. I can picture her holding that dinosaur of a camera in front of her face, making sure we were all in "birth order" and directing the whole grand group from behind the viewfinder until we all were moaning, "Maaamaaaaawwww...just take the picture!"  I remember the satisfying churning  sound as the old camera chugged out a murky image framed in crisp white that we kids would fight over who got to wave in the air to help it "develop" faster. The images were spotty, usually poorly exposed, and had an amazingly short lifespan.  But, they were precious. Valuable.  Worth more than a 4 gb card full of today's images, most of which will never make it to paper or be held in someone's hand.  They were one of a kind. They could not be ordered in bulk from Shutterfly for less than a dime each.  They couldn't be scanned and emailed. They were, in their own magical way, one-of-a-kind treasures, and now, they are icons of my childhood, almost forgotten.  Until today.

Some very clever, forward/backward thinking techie genius has developed a software that will take one of the thousands of digital images stored on your hard drive, memory card or thumb drive, and churn it out of a virtual Polaroid camera, right onto your desktop.  Complete with sound effects...and the murky brown color.  You can even virtually grab your print and wave it in the cyber-air of your desktop to help it develop faster, without even having to fight your cousins for the privilege. The resulting "Poladroid" is an almost artistic version of your digital pic, with spots, stripes, vignetting, and colors that are unpredictable at best.  This guy is a genius.  Check it out. Download the software.  Bring a little bit of nostalgia to the digital age.  I'll bet you won't be able to resist waving it in the virtual air...just a little bit.

A few tips that took me a while to figure out:
*the files aren't "developed" (and saved) until the red X appears on the bottom of the print.
*the final file is saved by default into the pictures folder of the logged in user. (mac)
*the files can be double clicked during the developing process and saved in all of their burnt sienna glory. 
Have fun! 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas...?

from the land of plenty. Too much. The land of excess. 

You would think that this year, our first year as a married couple with one single income, the holiday would seem more stripped of its maniacal materialism, and closer to its core. You would think.

When I went to Target on Christmas Eve-Eve to finish the shopping, my husband accused me of "gilding the lily", which is his typical response to me when I am trying to be superwoman.  "I'm sure Santa has more than done his job. Really."  But, off I went to battle supercenters near midnight. 

I did get a few more things for the kids, and did spend a little more money. I thought that I was going to enjoy being by myself and get a little more into the Christmas spirit, but I just ended up tired, hungry, and even more cynical.  

I'm not sure if it is that I seem to have lost my place in the world or if I am just a bit down in the dumps, but I could not catch the Christmas mojo this year.  The most important things that define Christmas-y-ness to me went undone. Like my baking of 16 versions of cookies and candies or like my careful execution of the entire city of Bethlehem with my 200 piece nativity. Ever since my world turned on its ear, I have been feeling a little bit discombobulated, dissatisfied, and overwhelmed. You would think that suddenly being freed from 8 restricted hours a day, I would gain a tremendous sense of freedom and bundles of free time.  Don't stay-at-home-moms take naps? Bubble baths in the afternoon after Oprah?  Don't their houses smell intoxicatingly of Mr. Clean and Lemon Pledge every day?  Isn't the laundry always caught up and the supper on the stove when hardworking hubby comes through the door?  That's what I always thought.  

The truth of the matter is, my life is so far from that it's not even funny.  I was 100 times more organized and on top of things when my 9-5 career kept me structured. We ran like a well-oiled machine.  I was supermom.   I dreamed of the day when I could do what I thought I did best full a mommy, a wife, and a creative person.  Those were the things that I had to push into my limited free time when I was climbing the corporate ladder.  Now, I can't manage to match the socks in time for everyone to get dressed.  Add to that the burden of Christmas shopping, decorating, visiting and the like, I was a wreck.  And I'm not proud of it. 

I ironed the dampness out of the kids Christmas clothes because they weren't washed until an hour before church.  By the time we arrived, 15 minutes late to Christmas Eve services, Harrisen had Tootsie Roll smeared on his Little Lord Fonteleroy collar.  Daddy had ironed leftover tomato sauce into the ribbon on Evangeline's bonnet rather than taking a damp cloth and cleaning it.  So there were my angels, covered in food, 15 minutes late, and looking like a hot mess.  I broke down in the church parking lot, crying, saying, "Let's just go home. It's not worth it. I don't want to even go in."  To which my husband gave me that look that said, quite plainly, albeit with no words, "Riiiiight....because Christmas Eve services are about showing off your perfect kids, not about celebrating the birth of Christ."  Of course, he was right. 

So, I sucked it up and went into the sanctuary of his parent's church and was struck with the beauty and awe of the true meaning of the Holiday. The presence of the Spirit filled me and my eyes overflowed with tears. 

Just kidding. I wish.

Actually, I was so tied up in a knot, I could not shake free and let my heart open to the service. Between mopping at the children with a soapy paper towel hastily snatched from the bathroom and trying not to be resentful that I was missing mass at our beloved church to dutifully fulfill my Christmas Eve obligation to the in-laws, I barely managed to make it through without crying. I did cry, once. The one moment I let myself realize I was missing it. Missing it over stained white satin ribbons.  Shit.  This is probably why my atheist friends say church is a big sham.

Anyway, supermom's cape is at the cleaners, and she's trying to cope. I won't sugar coat it as my maternal family tree's upbringing would have me do.  I won't lie and sing, "This was the best Christmas EVER!"  Because it wasn't.  But it wasn't the worst, either.  And my sweet savior is still born, whether or not I chose to be emotionally present at His birth. That's the beauty of the story. He's born. He's born for us who are weak and flawed and imperfect.  And he loves me, whether or not the nativity is set up or the baking got done.  If I was perfect I wouldn't need him.  So, happy birthday, Baby. Thank you for coming to this crazy Earth for the people like me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dirty Little Secret.

We all have them. We keep them close, hidden away because of shame. Luckily, my dirty little secret has a door, so it's easy to keep it out of the light of day. Until I decide to come clean to the world on my blog, that is.

In our "old house", we had the typical issues with storage space. My closet was split between 3 rooms...the master bedroom, the nursery, and the guest room. It was a pain in the heiney.  It was all I could do to keep pairs of shoes in the same closet.  When we moved to the "new house" one of the selling points was the amazing walk in closet off of the small cozy bathroom that would, one day, hold my claw foot bathtub.  

Built in shoe racks. Shelving. Double french doors to let in natural light. Room for a small dresser and a chair.  It was like my own little hideaway. My escape. I had been delivered from the valley of turn-of-the-century closets. 

When we moved, I reveled in organizing baskets full of socks, scarves, belts and accessories. I lined up my shoes. I had brand new towels folded in stacks on the shelves, and fabric drawers fit for slippers and flip flops.  I even set up a small desk with my computer in the corner. It was going to be heaven to get dressed, check my email, sip a cup of tea...

Well, that didn't last long.  

This morning, I noticed there are still capri pants hanging on the spacious racks. White capri pants.  Pants that no self respecting southern woman would wear past Labor Day, much less, December!  Last night's towel from my bubble bath is balled up damp on the floor...a bubble bath not taken in the claw foot tub in the cozy little bathroom, mind you...but from the kids' bath, because our remodeling fund ran out before the claw foot tub came to fruition.  Clean laundry is in lopsided stacks on the floor. The power cord from my external hard drive seems to be mating with my hair dryer. My winter boots and mules made it down from the attic, but they are co-mingling with peep toe pumps and jeweled kitten-heeled sandals in bright tropical colors.  I think there is an unwrapped tampon that Evangeline tried to eat somewhere in the rubble. 

It's shameful. Simply shameful. There is no excuse for the chaos that is my closet. But, since I'm in a self-preserving mood, let me try to form one.

You see, when you are the CEO of a household that is composed of 4 people who dirty things and one person who cleans things, the person who cleans things gets to their own personal mess last.  Harrisen's shoes are lined up like soldiers. His clothes are folded in the proper drawers and his hanging items are grouped by type.  Even his toys that live in the closet are stowed in color-coordinated bins.  Evangeline's closet is pristine.  I spent way too much on her clothes to pile them on the floor. Besides, I have to set a good example, right?   

My house usually is pretty neat, and you would rarely freak me out by dropping in unexpectedly.  Just don't ask me for a tour of my closet, or try to help yourself to a sweater if you get chilly.  My closet door is closed for a reason.  I expect it will be open again in about 16 years. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Praying for the light...

My heart is heavy. I walk around doing the day to day things that, strung together, moment by moment, make a life. But since Saturday, they are strung together not with the normal ribbons of joy and laughter, but with the brittle thread of tears, grief and confusion.

Sunday morning, the caller ID announced an early morning phone call from my best friend, Heidi, half-way across the country. I chirped a sunny, "Good Morning!" and heard, muffled from the other end, "No, it's not."

Death. Early, untimely, and unfair. Death has stolen my friend's true love. Death has taken a Daddy away from his children. Death has come far too close to home.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a person of deep faith. Today, I don't feel the depth. I don't rejoice knowing he is in a better place. I dwell on the darkness left here now that his light is gone.

I pray for Andrea. I pray for Jacob and Sydney. I pray for the light that I know will come.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Who are you today?

I kinda like waking up each morning and deciding who I am going to be for the day. Some days I go to a public school and teach. Substitute teaching is actually kind of fun. You get to spend the day in someone else's shoes, which, in a voyeuristic sort of way is exciting. Best of all, there's not much pressure. Most teachers and principals feel that if you make it through the day without killing one of them or yourself, it's been a pretty successful day. I can swing that. Avoid homicide? Check. Avoid suicide? Check.

And some days, you get that really jazzed up feeling that I have missed...the one where you (yes, it's cliche') make a difference.

Ever since I spent three years of my life as a special education teacher, I have had a soft spot for those kids. The ones that need a little extra. Sometimes it's extra time, extra effort, extra attention. But a lot of the time they just seem to need a little extra love. Kids can be so painfully vulnerable and it makes you wonder how any of us have managed to make it to adulthood reasonably unscathed after being raised in a world full of grown ups. Teachers can be so mean. They can remove themselves so much from their inner child that they successfully ignore the tears that spring up in a big 4th grader's eyes because he has to leave art class for reading remediation. How can they forget? How can they not remember how it felt to be a child and be called out for being different? I don't ever want to grow up to the point where I lose my ability to see the world from a couple of feet below my shoulders. And yes, Donny, one day you will see that being able to really read is more important than making clay animals. But rest assured, Mrs. Smith gets it. I get that today, it's not. Today, you just want to sit with the rest of the 4th grade, with their big hunks of greasy grey modeling clay and be no more or no less than average.

I can't help but feel like we are doing them a disservice. I don't know the answer to improving the public education of inner-city students. I care. I really do. But on the days that I substitute teach at a certain school, I leave feeling like a fraud. I leave their loud, crowded, and chaotic school and drive my SUV a few blocks down the very same street to my son's quiet, calm oasis of a private school...where the teachers have the luxury of teaching students whose parents not only care about their schoolwork, but sometimes care too much. Those same students who don't have their only hot meal at school, because they all bring their high-protein, low-sugar lunches to school with a cold pack. They have had a hot meal for breakfast, and will have another for dinner, unless dinner consists of teka maki and a california roll. They don't barrel out of under-supervised yellow school buses, but rather hop out of german engineering in the carpool lane. They don't attend the school within walking distance from home, they attend a school their parents have researched and deemed the best philosophy for the type of life they want to provide for their child. It's more than meeting an obligation when I go down the street. It's about paying more than most do for a college education for preschool that nurtures the whole child. And I'm not mocking myself or my fellow Montessori parents. Well, not much. :)

It just seems, each time I drive the 4 blocks that takes me from one world to another, that here is here, and there is there, and where is the in between?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

John McCain is a GOOD man...

So says my three year old.

I'm so guilty. So guilty of using my three year old's innocence to promote my political agenda. But I'm in good company. My uber-liberal, Obama-volunteering best friend abuses her mommy power to indoctrinate her preschooler, too, so if I'm guilty, I'm in good company.

A few moments after my son was born, before he was even dry, my dear husband exclaimed, much to the delight of my obstetrician..."A little Republican!" And now, in this heated election he wears his "Little Republican" shirt proudly. Just not to the Montessori School, where he probably would never be welcome again.

We have a little dialogue in our family these days. It goes like this...
"Harrisen, who you gonna vote for for President?"
"John McCain!"
"What about Obama?"

Ok, it's funny. Especially out of the mouths of babes, ya know?

In Denver, at my best friend's house, the dialogue goes like this...
"Tommy, who's Obama?"
"Our next President!"
"Who's John McCain?"

So tonight, as we watch thirty long, agonizing minutes of the Barack and Michelle show, Harrisen says, "John McCain is gonna win cause he's a GOOD man."

I wish, Buddy, I wish.

No matter what the funny dialogue is in your home this election year, the Smith family prayer is for a safe, strong America. God Bless Her.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monkeys and Zebras and OH MY!

I am quite proud of myself. Unlike most things in life where I make myself somewhat miserable trying to make mountains out of molehills, I have made a tiny step towards simplicity this Halloween.

Halloween brings out the creative genius in a lot of people. I always know it's getting to be that time of year when I have to *gasp* wait in line at the friendly neighborhood fabric store to have my selections measured and cut. I always get inspiration from the people closely examining the pattern books for costumes, arguing with their mother in laws, and looking generally overwhelmed at the task of creating a costume from a flat piece of fabric or two. Inspired, because I can totally relate, even though the actual construction, thankfully, does not overwhelm me.

Halloween is a prime time for MOTY elections. Remember back in the 70's? I always felt bad for the kids in the vinyl smock with matching mask. I remember feeling so thankful that my mother could sew and create my costumes. I guess a little bit of that elementary school snobbery remains to this day because I put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to my kids halloween costume.

For Harrisen's first "big" costume, I actually bought a serger. I had never used one, never thought I needed one, but I wanted the seams of his little monkey outfit to look professional. I cringe now thinking how I learned to use that machine on FUR of all things. (Not a great learning curve, looking back, but how was I to know?) And you know what? Aside from one ear a little askew, it was indeed, fabulous.

So fabulous, in fact that Evangeline is wearing it this Halloween. Therefore easing my workload, and conquering my obsession to be an over-the-top Halloween mom. A hand-me-down costume...and I'm totally ok with it! Score one for me!

Now Harrisen's costume...that's another story. I actually broke the above-mentioned serger doing the tail of his zebra costume. So, aside from materials and time, his lovely little zebra costume, including the authentic tail that I researched on Google, cost me $69 plus tax. But I learned a very good lesson. Never try to serge a zebra tail.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Journey into the unknown...

I recently escaped from one of the most damaging experiences of my life.  You know, the kind that makes you all "woe is me" and "why me" and a plethora of other pitiful and embarrassing emotions?  Well, this one really did a number on me.  I spent the better part of a month recovering from the trauma this "experience" inflicted on my psyche.  2 days after the great escape I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes, Fox news blaring in the background, husband arguing with the talking heads on television and my two kids wrestling on the floor and it's like a switch flipped on, and I could see again.  I stopped what I was doing, and said, "Scot, I'm home."  I had been present but absent for almost 3 months, and the weight of that realization really hurt. 

So, unwilling to let a poor (ok, poor is a really tame word.  But it's a PG rated blog. So there.) choice keep me down after it knocked me down, I started really looking for the lemonade.  I sure had a lot of lemons, so it just made sense.  I realized that maybe what I was doing wasn't what I was supposed to be doing, and God was setting me on a new path.  

Long story a little shorter, signs have been coming at me hard and fast.  The latest of which was just last night, when I found out I would not be returning to the NPO world right now, as I thought I might.  I've spent the better part of a decade raising money for very worthy causes...and I was pretty happy.  I was good at it.  It made sense and filled a need within me to do something that mattered.  But I can't help but see now that I have neglected my own creative soul in the process.  Surely, there is a way to do both.  So, I'm beginning the journey now. And it's exciting as can be.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


We recently took our annual family trip to the beach. Yes, we go in's usually still a little cold, but this year was fantastic. Wonderful weather, warm sunny days, and a new little girl to experience the joys of sand for the first time.

On our way down to the Gulf, there was a pretty significant storm which churned up the water a bit, which meant the seashells were plentiful. This is an especially fun thing for a two-and-a-half-year-old. Seashells are just magical to kids, and the beach was littered with them.

The problem was, because the storm was pretty violent, only the smallest of the shells were unharmed. Most of them were gorgeous, but missing parts...a little battered, splintered, and not quite whole.

I remember as a young girl (heck, even a young adult) searching for seashells on the beach and only choosing the whole, perfect beautiful specimens for my bucket. The broken ones were...well...broken. I only wanted the pretty seashells that looked like they were supposed to look for my collection.

It's funny how age and wisdom, and the trials of life change our perspective. I realized this time that I really loved the battered, broken seashells on the beach. The big beautiful orange fans of shells that were missing the top half of their glorious curve. The dark grey and maroon twirly shells with the tips missing. The sand dollars that were cracked open, showing the intricate maze inside. I found myself wondering where these shells had come from, and what they had been through to end up at my feet. What magnificant wave crashed on top of them to give them the scars they carried. I wondered if it is necessary to go through the storms and waves in life to see the beauty of something that has been broken.

I found myself pointing out shells to Harrisen with my sandy big toe, and watching him squeal and gasp at how shiny, how bright, how big, how small each and every one was. I wondered what he would go through in his life before he recognized the beauty of broken-ness. I wanted to protect him from it, knowing all the while that I can't.

I now know this. Nothing is perfect. Nobody that has truly lived life goes without being hurt. Nobody that has experienced great joy has done so without great pain, and scars can sometimes make us beautiful. Just like the seashells.

Each time we visit a beach on our travels, I bring back some shells and sand to save in a little glass bottle, labeled with the name of the beach and the date we visited it. I usually look for perfect little shells to sit atop the miniature beach in a bottle.

Not this time. Orange Beach, Alabama. February, 2008. Beauty out of broken-ness. The shells sitting atop the sand in this little glass jar will be beautiful. But they won't be perfect.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Good Lord in Heaven.

First, let me preface this by saying, this might not be exactly P.C. I have the utmost respect for people trying to get by in a language other than their native tongue. I'm the gal who asked a Senegalese holy man to "Sleep with a Slave" while living in West Africa. Did you know that in Wolof, "Sleep with Peace" is very very very similar to "Sleep with a Slave"?

That being said. Sheesh. The Indian out-sourcing of is driving me totally batty.

I call Brother because I have lost the install disc to some very expensive software for my embroidery machine. The call goes something like this:

Them: Hello. May I have your name?
Me: Katie Smith

Them: Can you spell that please?

Me: Smith? S-M-I-T-H.

Them: Ok, that's Haiti. H-as in....

Me: No. Katie. K-A-T-I-E

Them: Thank you Mrs. Smith, for that information. What is your street address?

Me: 805 Cobblestone Drive. One word.

Them: That's Cuble, C-U-B-L-E

Me: No, Cobblestone. C-O-B-B-L-E-S-T-O....

You get the picture. She didn't do very well with Shreveport, either. Or my email address, which is uber long.

Then we get to the problem. My missing software disc.

Them: What is the name of the product?

Me: PED-Basic.

Them: TED-Basic? T as in....

Me: No. PED. P-E-D. It's your product. PED-Basic. It's a Brother software product.

Them: Thank you for that information, Mrs. Smith. What is the model number of your equipment.

Me: It's not equipment. It's software. A disc. I lost it.

Them: Which disc did you lose?

Me: PED-Basic. The software. The install disc.

Them: Thank you for that information, Mrs. Smith. May I put you on hold while I research your problem?

Me: What the fuck? (I didn't actually say this part out loud.)

When she comes back on the line she tells me that she cannot help me with my problem and she was transferring me to someone in "that department".

I thanked her and waited patiently.

When the person in "that department"....(what department is it? The department that deals specifically with morons who need to embroider their baby's easter dress and have lost their disc in a pile of sewing rubble?) answers the line, I have never been happier to hear a whiney nasal midwest accent in all my life.

Turns out I can download the software right on the website. *sigh*

Bless that poor Indian woman's sweet heart. I can't imagine spending all day every day on the phone talking to people I can't understand. And I imagine I was probably the kindest customer she spoke to all day.

Are Americans really too spoiled to take jobs like that anymore?