Smile For The Camera!

I absolutely LOVE taking pictures. Photographs of people, where ever I am at the moment, my dog, whatever. It doesn’t matter. I have tons of photo albums in my bookcase – years’ worth of memories, all bound into multi-colored books. I’m probably one of the only people left in the world who still prints out pictures and puts them in albums.

Before every cell phone had a camera, I used to take mine with me everywhere. Since I’m naturally blonde, I’d take photos to help me remember certain occasions.

Company trip or Girls Night Out? Whether they liked it or not, I was there taking photos. Many times this really came in handy if alcohol had been involved. Who was the guy Jill was dancing with? What happened to Nicki’s shoes? Why is Carl wearing a cape? Hmmmm. Well, let me just reference my handy-dandy digital photos.

Company having a party? Check. I was there, camera in hand, ready to document. (One of my coworkers nicknamed me the company “Documentarian.” I thought it she was kidding until I Googled it and realized that it’s a real word – someone who documents things.) Okay. That was me.

This came in handy each year when the company would take all of the employees to Florida. As usual, I packed my camera. And the crazy and fantastic group of people that I worked with always provided me with opportunities for great pictures.

I have to include a bad one of myself.  It's only fair.

I have to include a bad one of myself. It’s only fair.

It’s funny how people act like they don’t like getting their picture taken, but as soon as I would take a photo, people would want to see it.

“Oh, that’s terrible of me! Take another one!!!”

Now, that always made me laugh. If you didn’t like me taking a picture in the first place, then why do you want me to take another one?

It’s because PEOPLE LIKE PICTURES. They’re memories you can see.

V on a stuffed horse.

V on a stuffed horse.

My friend, E.Y.* says I have a knack for getting people to do things that they normally wouldn’t do, and then I take a picture of it.

“Hey E! Go stand by that fountain and it will look like you’re peeing!”

“Okay!!!”

Click-click-click.

“Hey E! Wrap yourself up in this beach towel and you’ll look like a baby!”

“Okay!!!”

Click-click-click.

Flying back from the Fla trip, the airline said babies could board first, so here E is acting like a baby.

Flying back from the Fla trip, the airline said babies could board first, so here E is acting like a baby.

What’s REALLY funny is that E doesn’t drink so these pictures were taken when he was perfectly sober.

E said that I’m the friend that will take really crappy pictures of you all year long and then give them to you on a CD as a Christmas present.

Yep. That’s how I roll. And now that I have a camera on my phone, those great pictures for next year’s Christmas CD are just a quick click away.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

*E’s name and people’s faces have been hidden to protect my life for including these stories in this blog post.

Bra size?  C - for cakes.

Bra size? C – for cakes.

It's a bird...it's a plane!  It's a man on a piano!

It’s a bird…it’s a plane! It’s a man on a piano!

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My Other Thanksgiving List

As Thanksgiving draws closer, I realize how blessed my life is and how many things I have to be thankful for.

I’m thankful that I have a wonderful husband, great kids, loving parents and a warm house. I’m very thankful my dad’s cancer is in remission. I’m thankful for my 93 year old grandmother who is here visiting for this Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all of my friends who make me laugh. But I’m also thankful for a lot of other stuff that never receive any recognition.

So here’s my list of “other” things I’m thankful for:

1. I’m thankful that I don’t have another gynecologist appointment for another full year, because those appointments are just not any fun.
2. I’m thankful that I have a zero balance on my credit cards. (Which means I can go hog wild at ANY MOMENT.)
3. I’m thankful for my favorite restaurants that offer take-out when I’m too lazy to cook.
4. Which makes me also thankful for whoever invented microwave ovens because when I’m too lazy to leave the house to grab take-out, I can just nuke a hot dog.
5. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m thankful for hair dye.
6. I’m thankful for plug-in air freshener that makes my house always smell like I’m Betty Crocker and I’ve just taken an apple pie out of the oven.
7. I’m thankful for FaceBook, because it allows me to mass-notify people of things going on in my life.
8. I’m thankful that Girl Scout cookies only come 15 to a box, so when I have a sweet tooth it’s not as damaging to my waistline as eating an entire package of Oreo cookies…unless I have TWO boxes of Girl Scout cookies, which I have done before.
9. I’m thankful that I have not had a cavity in 20 years, because I loathe going to the dentist just as much as I loathe going to the gynecologist.
10. I’m thankful I have not found any wiry chin hairs yet.
11. I’m SUPER thankful to the girl who invented Spanx so I can eat like a Sumo wrestler and still squeeze myself into my clothes without looking like a stuffed sausage.
12. I’m thankful for texting because there are just some people I don’t want to talk to on the phone.
13. I’m thankful that when I forget to take my 6 pound dog out and she accidently poops in the house, there’s not much to clean up.
14. I’m thankful that I have had the opportunity to eat Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s in my life, because my future grandchildren will never know how wonderful that creamy filling actually is.
15. I’m thankful that I live in a country where I can practice my faith and not worry about whether I’m going to get shot in the head.
16. I’m thankful for Purell. If you’re a germ-o-phobe like me, you will totally get why I’m thankful for this.
17. I’m thankful for MapQuest because otherwise I might end up in Alabama when I want to go to North Carolina.
18. I’m thankful that my step-kids don’t view me as their Step-Monster, even though my husband tells me they are a little afraid of me. Winning!
19. I’m thankful that my husband’s SUV and my car are both paid off, even though the windshield is cracked and the bumper has a dent in it from where my husband backed into my son’s truck.
20. I’m thankful for heated seats in my car so when it’s freezing cold outside, my butt is toasty warm.
21. I’m thankful for Dutch Monkey doughnuts. If you don’t know what that is, look it up and have some shipped to you. You’ll be thankful too.
22. I’m thankful that I made it to 43 years old before I had to get reading glasses.
23. I’m thankful for my high school girl friends who I’ve known for (cough) over 25 years but when we get together, we are taken back to 1986 and giggle like we are 16 years old. But then again, that could be the wine.
24. I’m thankful for the Weather Channel so I know how to accurately dress each day.
25. I’m thankful for e-bay so when I want to buy something but I don’t want my husband to know, I can sell stuff and have cash to go buy what I want.
26. I’m thankful for Clorox wipes to help my Obsessive-Compulsive tendency to easily clean everything.
27. I’m thankful that someone mixed tequila with some frozen lime juice and created the margarita.
28. I’m thankful that I have a dishwasher because I would totally hate to have to hand wash those utensils we used for our take-out dinner.
29. I’m thankful that I don’t have any other body-invasive procedures on the schedule such as a colonoscopy or anything super fun like that.

I’m sure there are a zillion other things I’m thankful of and should put on this list, but that could take all day to list and seriously, no one is that interested in my life.

But there is one more thing…I am thankful for the people who actually read and enjoy my blogs. It’s fun to write them, but it’s even more fun when people acknowledge that they enjoy them.

So, dear reader….I’m thankful for YOU.

An Unconventional Friendship

Two young girls are playing together upstairs at my house. Even from downstairs, I can hear them giggling and dancing around the bedroom. One is trying to teach the other how to dance “Gangnam Style”. The song plays over and over and over. I shake my head. I have no idea what that song means, but it really doesn’t matter.

They are best friends, but these two girls do not have what many would call a “typical” friendship.

One is my step-daughter.

The other is the daughter of my ex-husband.

Yes, you read that right.

How did this unusual friendship happen? Well, let me explain.

Being silly

My ex-husband and I divorced 12 years ago and believe me, it wasn’t cordial. Our divorce was finalized after two years of name calling of words that hadn’t even been invented yet, playing “This is Mine, You Can Keep That”, and paying barrels of money to our lawyers who loved us for basically covering their mortgages each month.

Fast forward another year when I was out visiting my then 85-year old grandmother in rural Mississippi. I had been griping about something my ex had done, when she looked at me and said “Why do you hate him so much? You were best friends until you divorced.”

“Well”, I began, “He did this, and this and this…” (of course, not taking any of the blame for myself!)

Pitifully, she just shook her head and said “You’re divorced. You don’t love him. He doesn’t love you. But you have a small child together and you both need to stop acting so selfish and start acting like parents. Forgive each other and move on.”

Ok. Let me tell you that when your grandmother (who normally has you on a pedestal and thinks you can do absolutely nothing wrong) begins to notice that you’ve become nothing more than a griping whiner, you have to really look at yourself. What I saw wasn’t pretty. I had always been a cheery, happy, funny Mommy but somewhere I had turned into an extremely bitter person, and I didn’t like myself like that.

Upon returning home, I called my ex and told him what my grandmother said. We decided we needed to try to work out his – I mean our “communication” issues. Although we had never argued in front of our son, we realized that if we wanted to bring up a good, well rounded child, we would need to stop the constant complaining and arguing. The plan worked. Over time we actually were able to become friends again.

We realized the important thing was for our son to be able to see his parents as respectable friends who just couldn’t stay married. He didn’t have to choose sides: he could spend weekends or holidays with either one of us and it was okay.

My ex married a wonderful lady who has become a very good friend to me. I have said before that I would have been drawn to her as a friend if we had just met at an office or school. We really get along and I especially appreciate how much she loves my son.

My ex and his wife now have a ten year old daughter. I would babysit her when she was a baby and I’ve watched her grow over the years into an amazing young girl. I have been to her birthday parties and I have cheered her on at her soccer games. I adore her.

I remarried three years ago, and as unconventional as it sounds, I invited them to my wedding. We introduced their little girl to my new little step-daughter. At first they were shy around each other, but soon they began running around the reception like old friends. They danced out on the dance floor and giggled over slices of wedding cake.

Making Monster Wreaths (idea by @babyrabies)

They truly hit it off. They now spend the night at each others houses as many times as possible. They do arts and crafts together. They build tents on the catwalk overlooking our living room.

Although they have both voiced that they would love to have more siblings, (sorry, but this baby factory is CLOSED) neither of the girls has a sister. One afternoon when I was putting away freshly laundered clothes, I overheard them trying to figure out how they could possibly be sisters because they sort of share the same brother….my son.

And now as I sit at my desk writing this post, I hear them upstairs laughing and playing, and my heart giggles along with them. It is so amazing to me that out of a sad and hurtful past, a beautiful new friendship was born. And what could be sweeter than that?

But I still don’t get what “Gangnam Style” means.

I Met My Husband Online And You Can Too

Many of you have followed up with that post by asking me about online dating.  Well, here’s my advice and two-cents, which really isn’t much.  After all, it’s only two cents worth so don’t sue me.

If you have read my previous posts, you will know that I was a long time resident of Loserville.  A ten year resident, to be exact and after a friend convinced me to try Match.com where I met the love of my life, I packed up my things and moved out of town for good.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t think that I am calling anyone else a Loser for not being married or in a relationship.  I call myself that simply because I was so ready to meet someone that I easily would have settled for Mr. Close-But-Not-Exactly-Mr-Right, or at some points, even just a human, breathing male.  But I got lucky this time.  Or it was divine intervention.  Either way…

Trust me.  If there’s FourSquare in Loserville, I’m pretty sure I’m still the Mayor.

  1. Use your brain.  When deciding to find a date on line, safety is first and foremost.  There are a lot of wackos out there but on the flip side, there are a lot of good people that are serious about wanting to meet someone.  Use your common sense at all times.  Most on-line sites won’t allow you to post contact information.  You must go through their site to contact a person.  Don’t give out ANY personal information until you are sure you are ready to talk in person.
  2. “How YOU doin?”– Introduce yourself . For me, I sent Dale a “wink”, which is Match.com’s way of saying “Hey you’re a cutie and I am interested.”  So yes, since I sent Dale a wink first, I take full credit  for this relationship.  If they are interested, they will respond.

    Dale’s Match.com profile picture

  3. Cyber stalk him.  After we e-mailed each other back and forth I had enough information to Google him and had already checked out his Facebook page and his LinkedIn profile within the first few days.  I saw pictures of his parents before I even knew their names.  I found his ex-wife’s Facebook and Twitter pages.   I found articles on awards that he had received on software he had written.  My point is, do some simple research.  Thank God Al Gore invented the internet so that we could do cyber-research on someone without them even knowing!! You might want to run a background check on them or even find their divorce information on line – it’s all public information.  Now I didn’t do those things, but I’m pretty sure my Dad did.
  4. Talk to each other.  We talked on the phone like silly teenagers – up until 2-3am talking about the most random stuff.  You can learn a lot about someone just over the phone.  Use your intuition – if something seems off then it just might be.  (I didn’t give him my home number – just my cell number.  I knew my home number could be traced to my home address, and I wasn’t ready to let anyone know where I lived.
  5. Don’t be a victim….meet in public.  We decided to meet at a very public park, where it would be more difficult to kidnap me and make a skin suit out of me if that was his intention.  Let someone know where you are going and give them a link to the page of the person you are meeting.  Sounds a bit overcautious but just think about the skin suit and you won’t feel like you’re overreacting.
  6. Go the 20 questions route – talk about everything.   We talked about everything from politics, religion, kids, reasons why we were divorced, reasons why we turned to on-line dating, what our parents do, etc.
  7. Meet his friends and let him meet yours.  If he doesn’t have friends or “isn’t ready” for you to meet his friends within a few weeks of dating then watch out for that red flag…it’s going to be waving at you.  Dale met six of my closest friends on our SECOND DATE.  I was scheduled to do a triathlon with three of my girlfriends and we all met up for dinner to fill up on carbs.  Poor Dale – he was answering questions right and left, but got the thumbs up from my girlfriends before dessert was even served.  Trust me, you may be blind to any red flags, but your friends will openly tell you if your potential date is a raging psychopath.

    2nd date – meeting my friends

  8. Talk about everything.  Dale and I were really comfortable talking on the phone so when we met, the conversation transitioned very easily from introductions to life stories.  Within the first hour of meeting in person, I knew about a near fatal car wreck he had when he was 17.  There are going to be times when you can’t stay up until 2am on the phone.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a long conversation or text messages, or emails, just get to know each other every single day.
  9. Meet each other’s kids, and let the kids meet each other.  We were lucky that our kids were 15, 10 and 8 when they first met.  The oldest worked at an ice-cream shop at the time so it was a perfect place to bring the younger kids.  Make the kids comfortable when they are meeting potential step-siblings.  Things are changing for them so you need to pay extra attention to their thoughts and feelings.
  10. Meet each other’s families – who better to give you input than your families?  My father is retired military, and a judge….and my maiden name was Gunn…so he’s Judge Gunn.  He is extremely conservative, so when I told him that I met the man of my dreams and we were getting married after only knowing each other for four weeks, my parents were more than a bit skeptical…as were Dale’s parents.  We decided to get everyone together to meet.  After dinner, my father pulled me aside and said “Ok.  I get it.  He’s your perfect match.”  (Then I think he ordered a full background check on my new fiancé. LOL!)
  11. Be realistic.  You may meet the love of your life immediately or it may take a few tries.  Don’t try to make something work if it doesn’t feel right and don’t rush it if you aren’t ready.  Don’t settle!
  12. Finally, Have FUN!  Dating isn’t brain surgery.  It’s about meeting new people and seeing if there is a connection.  Look at it this way – even if there isn’t chemistry, you got out of the house and did something out of your comfort zone…and you may have gotten a free dinner out of the deal!  Score!

Life Is So Much Better With Your Friends

The 1980’s were such an incredibly colorful and fun time to grow up in. We all had big hair that made us appear three inches taller than we actually were because it was so teased and poofed up like a rooster crown. Our clothes were made up of big, baggy neon shirts with low hanging belts, printed or acid washed jeans, colorful pumps with lace socks, and fingerless lace gloves a la Madonna. Jewelry consisted of earrings that each weighed the equivalent to a TV remote control, Swatch watches, and hundreds of jelly bracelets in every color imaginable that went halfway up our arms. And don’t even get me started on rabbit fur jackets. I wanted one so bad but I got a faux fur jacket instead. Do you know the difference between a real rabbit fur jacket and a fake one? One feels soft and snuggly while the other feels like you took the built up hair out of your hairbrush and made it into a coat. Definitely not the same. (But then I found out how rabbit fur jackets were made and I was glad I had a faux one.)

AND GOOD GRIEF – THE MAKEUP! We would wear purple or blue eye shadow and then line our eyes with darker shades of more purple or blue and we would end up looking like the daughters of Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Mascara would be applied in so many layers that it looked like tarantula legs were stuck to our eyelids. Blush was always applied in a dark stripe across the cheekbones, and foundation was so thick that a chisel was the only way we could take it off. Maybelline must have made a killing in the 80’s.

High school is where I spent my time during the 80’s. It’s normally a place that most people try to purge from their memory. For me, it’s the time in my life where I had a really bad overbite that was trying to be rectified with braces. …and not the cool colored kind they have today. Mine were shiny metal and unfortunately for my popularity status, I also had to wear rubber bands and headgear. Anyone that doesn’t know what headgear is clearly did not grow up in the 1980’s. I am confident that somewhere there was a demented orthodontist that created a metal torture device called headgear that you had to clip around your head that other othodontists could use for their own merriment.

But back to high school. It’s where I tried but completely failed at having a Farrah Faucett hairdo. It’s where I had crushes on boys that didn’t know I even existed, most likely because I had a chest flatter than a 10 year old boy.

But while the 80’s are home to some of my most embarrassing memories, it’s also when some of my best memories were made of growing up. I made some of my best friends while cheerleading for the basketball team, dancing across the football field at half time with the drill team (squeeze the marble, girls!), and of course, I made friends in my classes.

My best friends, however, were a group of girls I bonded with like no others. Somewhere along the line, we started calling ourselves “The Hatundas”… I don’t know where it came from or what it meant, but it sounded funny and we thought it was wicked. We would be heading to the latest football game, acting so cool in our class-after-class-hand-me-down polyester uniforms while sitting in the back of the bus screaming “Hail to Hatunda” and “Back of the bus forever!!!” The other girls would just look at us like they should redirect the bus driver away from the football game, and instead head on over to the local mental institution and schedule us for individual lobotomies. We didn’t care. We were just having fun and acting stupid. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in high school?

After graduation, the Hatundas all went our separate ways and ended up at different colleges. Some got married and had babies, others traveled all over, and some started jobs in the corporate world. Over the years we tried to get together but it wasn’t until our 25th high school reunion that we really realized how much we missed seeing each other and how much we still really needed each other. Plus we realized we were getting old. And when the day comes that you realize you’re getting old, it’s a bad, bad day.

We have started getting together every other month for dinner and I look forward to each time like a kid looking forward to Christmas morning. Knowing that I am going to reminisce, laugh and talk with the girls who helped shape my life is priceless to me. The endless bags of taco-flavored Doritos, late night pizza and Dr. Pepper menu has changed to Tapas and Mojitos and wine. The conversation has also changed from who were we going to the Prom with, skanky girls that hit on our boyfriends, passing the test to finally get out driver’s license, and curfews… to our husbands midlife lack of hair confidence, the gross time when our son’s figured out what their willie’s do, and simply how hard it is raising kids. Our clothing is much better as well, but the giggles have a tendency to stay the same – especially at the stupid way our kids wear their hair and the way they dress, since the 80’s style is coming back around full circle.

I love these ex-Madonna wanna-be’s with all of my heart and wouldn’t trade my lifelong membership in the
Hatunda’s for anything in this world.

So, Hail to you, Hatunda! WHATEVER that means.

Do you stay in touch with your high school friends? Share your story!

We made the fun photo below using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store and Android Marketplace

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