Thursday, April 29, 2010

Give and then Give Again

Charity is a funny thing.

Not a ha-ha kind of funny. But "it's-amazing-how-when-life-sucks-people-can-be-so-darn-good" kind of funny.


Six years ago I founded a charity based in Boston that has done fairly well, as these things go.


It's a one night event, held every spring and well known in our industry (the industry I work in that keeps me in shoes and also supports my vacation addiction). Actually it's not only the largest charitable event but it also boasts the highest attendance of any single event for our industry in New England.


I'd like to say it's me - that I brought it to where it is today. But you know what? I'd be lying. It's not about me. I am so not the draw.


The beneficiary is not a faceless organization, a scholarship or some kind of foundation.

It's a person.

Every year it's someone different. Someone we all know. Or someone we've heard of. Or someone we don't know who works with someone else we do know.

That guy.

He's the draw.


It's a lot of work, this one night event. People go out of their way to attend, flying in from Vegas and Dallas and Atlanta. Driving up from New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Reaching deep in their pockets, even if it means emptying them out.

Amazing.

Every year I am grateful for their support. And sadly, I am grateful to God that I get to stand on my side of the microphone. It takes a lot to hold back the tears as we talk about why we're here. Why we're really here.

And sometimes I just go ahead and cry anyway.

Because this event, this one night of support and friendship and love, won't take away the cancer. Or the kidney failure. Or the loss of a loved one.


Tonight's event was a lot of work and it's not over yet. It will be frustrating at times. It will be hectic and chaotic. And it will be fun for me too, at some point, and hopefully for everyone there as well.

Then finally, at the end of the night I will go home with sore feet, a raspy voice and desperately in need of sleep knowing what little I could do, I did.


And it's so worth it - when I see his face, that guy who we all came out to honor and support, there's that split second when the realization will hit him.

I see it every year and if I had to put words to the expression it would be something like - "Wow, these people are here for me. I didn't ask and yet, here they are. Some I've known for years and some I've just met but... these people, these are my people."

You know what Caleb?

You may have cancer but you also have us.

And we'd kick cancer's ass from here to the moon for you if we could.

Because you're right, dude. We are your people.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Marriage Project

I’m a project type of person.

I’m all about planning, researching and list making. The only thing better than a list on the back of a used envelope is one with every item crossed off.

Home improvement project? Bring it on.

Fund raising project? Where do I sign up?

Marriage Project? Whoa… what???

Admittedly when I committed to reviewing Kathi Lipp’s latest book The Marriage Project: 21 Days to More Love and Laughter I thought I would blow through it in a day and bang out a quick review. Easy peasy.

Yeah. Not quite.

The introductory section of The Marriage Project was like a skewed version of my own life. I had a lot of “Oh my, has she been looking in my windows?” moments. Kathi is on her second marriage (ditto). Kathi brought two children into the marriage (ditto) as did her husband Roger (ditto). And about six months into her marriage, Kathi and Roger looked at each other and thought “What have we gotten ourselves into?” (Do I even have to say ditto again?)

Kathi is not a marriage expert, and honestly, who is??? She’s a devoted wife and mother who has discovered that a great marriage doesn’t just happen. You make it happen.

Keeping the format simple, Kathi breaks the 21 days down into three categories 1) daily “projects” - suggestions for one or both of you to do each day that will not only show your spouse you care but are so easy you will wonder why you didn’t do them before, 2) major “projects” – weekly date nights with some wonderful suggestions on how to spend quality time together and 3) bonus “projects” – a way for you and your spouse… well, you should probably just buy the book.


With insightful views on marriage, funny anecdotes that keep the pages moving and project suggestions that are less complicated but more rewarding than tying your shoes, Kathi Lipp proves that 21 days of projects devoted to bringing more love and laughter to your marriage.


The Marriage Project is your 21 day guide to the good stuff.


Kathi Lipp is a national speaker and author who inspires women to take beneficial action steps in their personal, marital and spiritual lives.

Her wit and wisdom will give you new ways to:


  • Avoid settling for less than God’s loving plan for your life.
  • Develop new levels of warmth and tenderness with your husband.
  • Return fun and flirting to your marriage.
  • Boost your confidence to follow God-given dreams and goals.
  • Create and environment of encouragement in your friendships.

You can learn more about Kathi on her site www.kathilipp.com.



Her books can be found on BN.com and anywhere great books are sold!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Day Before The Day

I have a picture hanging in my office that mirrors how I feel today.

Great big swaths of blue and yellow run across the paper, faded now from the sun that has streamed through my office window for more than a decade.

It's the first thing I see when I unlock my office door in the morning and when I stop to think about it, I can't help but smile.

I remember picking Zig up at the big red house where she attended preschool, her running into my arms, shouting "Mommy!", me picking her up and smothering her with kisses.

The glow on her sweet little apple-cheeked face as she presented her masterpiece to me. I don't remember but I bet I had tears in my eyes when I read the caption. Her work of art now hangs above my desk and is the first thing I see when I open my office door in the morning.



In the upper right hand corner I can barely make out the words the teacher had written at Zig's direction.

"My Last Day as a 2 year old. 3/31/99"


Was she sad that she would no longer be two? Excited at the prospect of being three? Did she look forward to the year ahead as full of new challenges that she would master or full of obstacles she would struggle with?

I didn't ask and in my defense seriously, she was two.

Today is my last day as a thirty nine year old.

If given a large canvas and jars of paint, I suspect my picture would look incredibly similar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The nose knows

When you perceive a smell and suddenly remember something that you've forgotten for years, that is your olfactory and memory at work. There is a more detailed explanation of how the two do their thing, but I'm not here to give you a lesson in olfaction, look it up if you don't believe me - geesh do I have to do everything?

I bring up the olfactory nerve synapses (don't I sound all smart and stuff?) because the other day I was taken back to my late teenage years, yeah...way back. I walked into the grocery store, like I do every week without olfactory interruption - mostly because I am always in a hurry. I'm not one of those people who browse the isles at a moderate pace, no I'm a speed shopper. I'm in and I'm out. That's just how I roll. But this week I wasn't in a rush, I had no place to be so I took my time. When I walked in the smell hit me. (just that regular grocery store smell, if you don't know what I'm talking about take a moment and breathe it in the next time you go)

I was taken back to a time when I worked in the meat department of my local grocery store. I thought about getting there at 6 AM every morning. I thought about how freaking cold it was in that little room behind the glass. Yeah people, it's freeeeeeeeezing in there. I thought about how simpler my job was back then. Put the meat in the tray, weigh it, run it through the machine and slap on a price sticker. Now my days are consumed with ROI reports, revising our company web page, weekly meetings, spread sheets, presentations and endless emails of people who all want a little piece of me. Almost like I'm a piece of meat, funny how life comes full circle that way.

It always amazes me when I have moments like that. When just a smell brings back a memory or a feeling.

The smell of Eternity perfume reminds me of when I was in my early 20's. I practically bathed in that stuff.

I love the smell of books (especially old books) because it reminds me of the fifth grade, when I realized how much I loved reading and would spend hours in the library.

The smell of fresh cut grass makes me think of playing in our yard when I was a kid.

The smell of the laundry when it comes out of the washer brings me back to helping my grandmother hang the clothes outside.

The smell of a fire burning outside makes me think of the summer I spent camping with friends at the beach.

It's incredible how the whole olfactory nerve synapses thing works. How just a smell can bring you back in time.

Do you have a certain smell that brings you back?

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Adventures of Paco Suave


Blog friends, meet Paco Suave.


Paco, say hello to our blog friends.

Paco has been with us since shortly after Christmas when a friend brought him to our annual after-Christmas Yankee Swap.

There are 2 rules for our swap. 1) rewrap a gift you received for Christmas - something you don't want, don't need or truly dislike and 2) swap it and take home the gift you wind up with.


Someone brought Paco to the swap. Someone wound up with Paco.
Someone left Paco behind.

I'm not going to sugar coat this. The Swedish Chef did it.


In his original state Paco was an unnamed flat body encased in plastic and turned into a dartboard. An inappropriate dartboard.


I was certain it was an oversight. How could someone leave such a delightful gift behind? The only thing better than a naked man dartboard would've been an Obama chia pet.

In my efforts to reunite gift and owner, I tucked the naked man dartboard into a bag with other assorted things for The Swedish Chef and left it on my porch. The bag was picked up. Paco was left behind.

Well, needless to say, if naked man dartboards had feelings, Paco's would've been hurt. The Swedish Chef heartlessly deserted poor unsuspecting Paco.

So I did what any caring, thoughtful person would've done.
I left Paco on the Swedish Chef's bed. With a note written by Paco professing his everlasting friendship and love.

Since then Paco has undergone a serious transformation. His naked dartboard body has been replaced in the first ever naked-man-dartboard-to-Ken-doll transplant.


Check out those abs! With his new body he has found that he is much more mobile and has developed a taste for social networking, travel and adventure. And also stylish clothes.

He returned to Beck House via a FedEx box a week after he was found in the Swedish Chef's bed.


He created his own Facebook page.


He snuck into a bag and hid
by the kitty litter boxes at the Swedish Chef's house.

He bought some stylish new outfits.


He found his way into the glove compartment of Babs Killabez's car.


Paco has made new friends, underwent a body-changing makeover, traveled down the East Coast and created quite a stir along the way. I've asked him to guest blog about his adventures but he's shy and needs encouragement. You'd think a previously naked man dartboard would not have any reservations...

However I have a feeling in the next few weeks you'll be hearing more from Paco Suave.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Hair

One of the girls in my office recently got her hair cut. She went from long to short. I love the new look. I have hair envy. I've been wanting to do something different with my hair and Melissa has inspired me.

I called my friend Judi, who owns a hair salon in town. She told me to come down, she just had a cancellation. So I walk in with a photo of my soon-to-be new haircut. I'm sitting waiting for her to finish up with her client and I'm looking at this photo and suddenly I am having second thoughts. Will batman like it? Can I pull off such short hair? Is my face too round? Will this even look good on me?!? I was in need of a second opinion. So I sent batman a text. His text messaging is in shorthand so I will translate for you.

Me: Will you mind if I cut my hair short
Him: No
Translation: You are beautiful to me no matter what your hair looks like
Me: I'm talking really short
Him: Okay
Translation: You are a goddess
Me: So a crew-cut is all right with you?
Him: Can I call you buzz?
Translation: I love you

So I have batman's blessing and Judi is just finishing up. I'm ready. This is it. She washes my hair, we head on over to the chair.

"So what are we doing?"
"Just a trim"

I'm such a chicken.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Inventory


Ahhh laundry.

Don't you just love the sorting, the folding, the laying-out-flat-to-dry sweaters? The sense of accomplishment when the clothes are clean and folded precisely. The balled up piles of bleached white socks. The stack of fluffy soft towels and crisply ironed sheets.

And as if that alone weren't enough, you also get an added bonus: the shiny smiling faces of your family as they cheerfully take their pile of clothes, kissing you on the cheek as they march off to their rooms with shouts of "Hurray Mom! Thank you for keeping us clean and presentable once again!"

Riiiiiight.

The laundry room - a necessary evil. Giant devices of torture that can turn a hundred dollar sweater into a ball of cat yarn. Eater of socks and stockings, it waits until your back is turned and it's filled with a load of whites before snarfing a red tshirt into it's cavernous piehole.

In an effort to placate the gods of all things clean and fresh-smelling, I
had our laundry room repainted and added some new shelving it to this week. In preparation, I cleaned around and under the washer and dryer - a task that is not regularly part of the daily, weekly or even monthly to-do list.

No you don't clean under yours regularly. Don't even try to tell me you do. I've been to your house and guess what? I checked. And it's nasty.

Anyway, in only three and a half years of living at Beck House, here's what has accumulated under and around that area:

Seven white socks, each totally unique and vastly different from the other

Three colored socks in varying styles of stripes and polka dots

A twenty dollar bill, freshly laundered and still folded

Two tubes of chapstick, also freshly laundered

One tube of lip gloss

One tube of some sort of body lotion with glitter

A wife beater t-shirt

A navy blue toddler slipper
A thong

Three laundry detergent caps

A bag of microwave popcorn, still in the wrapper


Ok, I get the detergent caps, which speak to the function of the room but don't say much about my ability to clean it.

If you're wondering where your missing socks go when you do laundry - I have found them. Please come claim your socks before they run away and hide again.

The lip gloss, lotion and chapstick belong to Ziggy, who's pockets are filled with them daily in and effort to beautify what is already, in my modest opinion, perfect.

It's just a guess, but since I know Moose and TK don't wear them the wife-beater is probably a leftover from Moose's birthday party last summer. With 16 twenty-somethings sleeping over, something is bound to get left behind. I'm just grateful it was only t-shirt.

Clearly the twenty was mine - remember the time I told you I was pretty sure I was missing twenty dollars? No? Well I was. So it's mine.

Ditto on the thong.

Even the slipper I can figure out - it's small, probably fell out of the hamper and before you know it, it's scurried under and behind the machine.

But the bag of popcorn??? Seriously. Popcorn?

Anyone care to explain this one to me, please feel free...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Zig!

It started with a simple Facebook invite. Nothing big, just something to send out so a few friends could celebrate her birthday with us.

Even so, I wanted a theme.
Ziggy didn't.
Ok, it's her birthday so... no theme.
But me being me, I created a funny-to-me picture for Ziggy's birthday.



Which Ziggy, her being her, did not find amusing.

She begged me to replace it with a boring bunch of balloons.


But still - no theme mom! Really. I don't want a theme, it's no big deal.

Fine, no theme. Fine, balloons.

Yawn.


I casually complained mentioned to a friend or two that Ziggy lacked enthusiasm for the ridiculously funny picture I created for her.
Because the more I thought about it, the funnier it was.
Birthday present. In my shorts. Ha!

Yeah.

Then I sat back and let the good times, or ahem, the toilet paper, roll...

Her gifts came wrapped in toilet paper. There were toilet paper games.
Poop jokes for weeks leading up to her birthday. And then... there was the cake.

It was so good I wish I could take credit for it but it was the creation of two of the best embarrass-your-children-masterminds of our time...

A close up of the delicious cake - made with crushed cookies and cake, pudding, food coloring and hand crafted out tootsie rolls.


Drips over the side add a certain level of authenticity, don't you think?



Served on the kitchen floor, where else?









That's one tasty treat right there.


Zig - all I have to say is, it wasn't my idea.
Remember that when you decide to get even.