As soon as I made a commitment to write a post once a week, I could think of absolutely nothing to write about for two and a half weeks. I haven't been able to blog.  There have been no clever status updates.  Heck, there have been no status updates. Period. Nothing. Totally uninspired as of late. I am also losing every Words With Friends game I'm currently playing.  My world is in a tailspin and I blame the economy.

Also, I'm really trying to get through all six seasons of Lost, but I mostly blame the economy.

Here's what I managed to pull together.

It's about my grandmother and yes, it's totally random so you'll have to work through your own clever transition after this sentence ends.

My grandmother used to tell me that everything was 'down yonder'.  It really didn’t matter what it was.  If I asked a question that began with the word ‘where’, without even looking up, she would wave her hand and reply that it was “down yonder”.  It was where her friend Mildred lived, where the toy store was and it was also the location of anything I was looking for in her house. 

Obviously, I used to think it was an actual place.  I thought the coolest people and things were in Down Yonder and I desperately wanted to go there and I often wondered if so many of the things she needed were residing Down Yonder…why didn’t she just move?

As I got older, though, I realize that "down yonder" was just my grandmother’s way of saying, “Look, I don’t feel like explaining where it is right now.”

My grandmother was perhaps the oldest person I ever knew.  We called her Mamo (pronounced MOM-O) and even when she wasn’t old, she was old. 

She did things old people did.  You know what I’m talking about.  The things people from another era did…that era that freely drank tap water and had no idea what a revolution, “cut film cover to vent,” would be for future generations of moms.  She was from that era. 

She did crazy things like sweep her carpet in one direction after vacuuming instead of kicking teddy graham crumbs under her couch so she wouldn't feel them when she walked. She washed aluminum foil to reuse instead of having every size Lock and Lock QVC ever put on Easy Pay.  She burned her trash in a can in the back yard instead of chasing the recycling man down the street in her nightgown at 7:30AM every Wednesday morning.

While I spend my evenings trying to decide if everyone in my house would agree to a dinner of wheat thins and a spoonful of peanut butter, she was happily ironing my grandfather’s pajamas and making a meal with options that rivaled Golden Corral.  

One of the really quirky things about my grandmother was her need to make all things even. Never did this commitment show itself more than at Christmas.  Stockings were all about “evening the score”.   She was adamant that she spend the exact same amount of money on the penny.

I said, to the penny.

One year, she put a can of soup and $1.45 in nickels and dimes in my father’s stocking so it would be equal to what she spent on my uncle.

Another year,  I was the one who came up short.  That year I opened a box of accessories for my Dickens Christmas Village.  There were trees and walkways, benches and street lamps. Finally, I got to the bag of fake snow. It was the box that was going to forever change the way my village of tiny people permanently celebrating Christmas would operate.  For so long, they been without accessorization (no, its not a word), and all that was about to change.  

The catch was…I had no Christmas village. I had no Dickens Village…no 1950’s themed small town Christmas…

Sadly, this 13 year-old was village-less.  

I panicked a little.  I had visions of my grandmother coming over to see the village in all its glory and staring at a stark mini landscape of benches, walkways and street lamps covered in synthetic snow, wondering where the buildings and people went.  

Would she buy that it was a Roanoke Christmas Village?  Or maybe I could feign the same shock she was registering and assure her that FEMA was on its way.  Whatever the solution was, I would not, could not admit that I had no village.  It was a secret I would take to my grave.  It was Christmas, after all, and it was the attempt at being monetarily equal that counted.

I wrote the obligatory thank you note and tried to put some thoughtful detail into the card.  My mother liked for our thank you notes to be specific.  After all, if she had to muster up an entire thank you note about the owl collection that Mamo kept adding to each year despite my mother's insistence that she thought owls were creepy and she most definitely did not have a collection of them, then I could write a sentence about Christmas village accessories. 

Dear Mamo,

Wow…what a fun time we had at Christmas this year.  I enjoyed all the food and time we spent together.  Thank you so much for your generosity.  I know that in addition to the winter coat, I will really enjoy setting up my lamp post and tree accessories.  It's going to be a really fun challenge to figure out where to put everything. I know I will get a lot of use out of my goose shaped book light and you know I look forward to that horse calendar every year.  

Thank you for your thoughtfulness,

Sound Financial Advice...Yes, From Me. What?

I didn’t post last week, because gas is too expensive.  I’m not sure how they relate…but I’m sure that they do somehow.   

Every so often, my husband, Andy, describes the beach house he wants to live in once he’s retired.  It sounds absolutely perfect.  When I hear him talking about it, my heart warms at the thought of us growing old together in our beach house.  We will take long walks on the beach, hand-in-hand, picking up seashells to give to the other one before going to dinner at 4PM.  It will be perfect.  Just like a Valtrex commercial.

I made the mistake once of asking when we would be moving.

He stared at me blankly and said, “Oh,” uncomfortably.  Apparently, he hadn’t thought to invite me.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  After seven years of marriage, I’m still not allowed to borrow his cds. 

And when I say that I'm not allowed to, what I mean is that I'm totally allowed to but I choose not to borrow them.  One of my spiritual gifts is the ability to render a cd unreadable to any given cd player.  It's like the anti-Midas touch...but with Aerosmith. So I chose to take that burden off of my shoulders by not borrowing them. I just don't want you to get the wrong idea about my insanely wonderful husband.

Moving on.

Every marriage counselor, church leader, married person and hot dog vendor will tell you to sit down and set financial goals together.  Envision your beach house (together).  Plan your finances or they will plan you…or something.  After all, you have to be able to sit down and have honest conversations about money. 

I really don’t want to do any of those things I just listed above. 

Marriages don’t fall apart due to money issues. They fall apart because you talk about money issues…plain and simple.

By the way, I define money issues as anything that makes you log into your online bank account.  To me wealth is never having to check a balance.  

If you have plenty of money, that’s great!  And by great, I mean go away.  I’m totally kidding.  Absolutely you should talk about money with your spouse. Bathe in it.  Burn it in your fire pit and invite the neighbors over to make s’mores. Celebrate your wealth.  And by celebrate your wealth, I obviously mean…go away.

I really mean it this time…go away.

If, however, on the 14th and 29th of each month, you are trying to scrape together a decent dinner using freezer burned Hot Pockets and that can of peas that has been in your pantry since before Hurricane Katrina to avoid spending money, I have some advice for you.  For the love of God...don’t talk about money.  Ever.  Talking about money leads to fights about money which left untreated over time, can lead to a lot of eye rolling behind the other one’s back. 

And it will always happen in the middle of the live finale of Survivor.  I don't know why. It just will.  

Look, it has absolutely never happened to me, but I know someone who knows someone who has a friend that this happened to. 

There is something to the saying that “ignorance is bliss.”  Not talking about money also gives you a false sense of wealth.  I have no problem with this.  This city is full of people who have a false sense of wealth.  Sign me up.

Okay, so that is the first part of my advice.  Did you get it.  Okay, let's recap.  If you don't have money, there is no need to make any financial have nothing to plan with.

No, Dave Ramsey doesn't read my blog.  Why do you ask?

Continuing forward with our finance chat, we have all been feeling the rising gas prices (I say all of us because, if you will remember, I asked the rich people to stop reading this post).   We are all friends here and I would like to share some sound financial advice for all my slightly cash strapped friends, calling in sick to their jobs every other week to save a day’s worth of gas. 

All those that cry out to God and beg, “Please God, give me a low grade fever, just enough of one to stay home, but not too much to warrant a copay."

I would like to take this time to stop and assure my father that, yes, I do have the 50 dollar bill in the back of my wallet for emergencies.  I gave it a pet name.  I call it Visa.  

Glad we got that covered.  So this is how I intend to save money this year. 

This year, for all major holidays, when I’m asked what I want as a gift…I’m cutting off a portion of my grocery list and handing it over.  What do I really want for my birthday?  I want several months’ worth of toilet paper and dish soap.  Do you know how much that would help a girl out?  Plus, one of the things I hate most in life is lugging toilet paper home from the grocery store.  This is 2nd only to getting a  case of bottled water home and is the primary reason why I will never join Costco.  

Speaking of presents, if you are planning to get me a gift this year, I really like Ragu, Robusto Three Cheese Spaghetti Sauce.  I'll wait while you write it down.

Here's my 2nd strategy.  Sam needs to start chipping in for gas.  There’s just no avoiding this one.  Times are tough and 150 years ago, he would be responsible for livestock or like 20 acres of our land so he’s really getting off easy here.  He can get a job, rob a bank, ask grandma…whatever.  Don’t ask don’t tell, but until gas gets back down to something reasonable or my job moves closer to my house, he’s gonna have to start pulling his own weight. 

If you want me to forward an email to look for someone, raise money, raise awareness or proclaim I am not ashamed of one thing or another…it’s going to cost you $1.  Time is money, people.  Time is money.

And finally, I’m going to sell a Groupon, for one week at Andy’s beach house.  Andy will be there.  You will have a blast.  Oh, man, I forgot…I wasn’t invited to Andy’s beach house.

Oh Shoot.  Well, sorry I missed you.

Domestically Challenged and Loving It

I have a subscription to Good Housekeeping.  I’m not really sure why.  Maybe I thought it would inspire me.  Perhaps one day in desperation and looking around at a house that completely overwhelmed me I “turned over a new leaf” and decided to become Martha Stewart and June Cleaver.  Or, more realistically, I probably entered a contest online one day to get something like Dunkin Donuts coffee for life and forgot to select the box that said, “No, I don’t want a subscription.”

The point is, it now comes monthly, fills me with guilt and I resent it.  It is a screaming monthly reminder that I am not June Cleaver. 

June Cleaver never had safety pins where buttons used to be.  June Cleaver was interested in seasonal table decor.  June Cleaver probably felt grown up enough to buy a whole chicken or turkey from the grocery store.  I also bet June Cleaver never EVER lost her vacuum cleaner.  

Andy, stop nodding your head.

The magazine has people like Heidi Klum on the cover talking about her domestic bliss with her four children, two television shows and her rock star husband…okay her easy listening star husband.  Heidi Klum does it all by “maintaining balance”.  What does this mean?  This is not how real women function.  If I had millions of dollars I could pay for balance, but I don’t and unfortunately for me balance doesn’t offer a payment plan.

See, unlike June Cleaver, women today have more roles.  We are spread too thin.  I mean I’m a wife, a mother, a working woman, a Sunday School teacher, a Facebook-er, a blogger and an up and coming Words with Friends competitor.  Plus, there’s all that extra time I spend trying to figure out how to become a Black Eyed Pea.  I’m literally swamped.

Let's face it.  I am not Super Woman.  I am Decent Enough Woman. 

The magazine doesn’t stop there.  It also contains articles about things like freshening up your washcloths, cleaning leather gloves and droopy flower fixers.

If I had a nickel for every time I sighed in exasperation over my droopy flowers…

Also, I resent women that can find a washcloth in their house when they need one, much less take the time to freshen it up.

Wait. Does opening the linen closet to spray a few squirts of Febreze inside and slamming the door shut before everything topples out count?  No?  Okay, then yes, I resent these women. 

Most of the time I just thumb through the magazine while actively hoarding electrolytes (this is what happens when you drink an unnatural amount of 0 calorie sports drinks, but don’t actually exercise) and roll my eyes at the articles. 

I think if Good Housekeeping were to feature me in their magazine, the interview might go something like this:

GH: So, Rachel, you work 30 hours a week, have one child and a husband that does all your laundry, tell our readers how you manage to “do it all”. 

Me:  Well, I’ll tell you Good Housekeeping.  It’s not easy.  It’s really hard to fit everything into my day and still have time to take my pre-dinner nap and follow new episodes of Storage Wars, but I have a few secrets that help me sustain my Decent Enough Woman status…and I’m going to share them with you now.    

1.) Wake up 5 minutes before you have to walk out the door.  It’s really important to get your rest and I find that the adrenaline rush everyone gets from all the yelling and screaming as we try to get out the door on time really wakes us all up.

2.) Rotate your morning routine to give you more time.  On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I brush my teeth and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I brush my hair.  By just creating that simple hygiene rotation I free up a few precious minutes that I can spend looking for my car keys and digging change out of my old purses to buy some coffee on the way to work.

3.) Find three pairs of black pants and five shirts to wear to work and rotate them.  There’s just no time to get creative when you are always on the go. Plus, you never have to shave your legs again…another great time saver.

4.) Don’t offer anyone breakfast. Nobody ever agrees on what to eat anyway and if they are THAT hungry they can get it themselves.  I keep PEZ and Kit Kats in easy to reach places so my son at least has the option. I mean I don’t want to be a  “bad mother.”

5.) Never bring a list to the grocery store.  Grocery shopping eats up so much time when you are a busy mom of one like me.  I find that if I just sprint through the store and throw things in my cart as I go I get out so much quicker.  Sure it costs a few hundred dollars more a month and I never actually have the ingredients for anything, but it just works for us.      
6.) Skip the exercise and remove all mirrors in your house.  I don’t think I need to insult anyone’s intelligence here. This is just good old fashioned common sense.

7.) When it comes to housecleaning, all you need is Febreze and baby wipes.  They clean everything.  Your couch, your oven, your kid.  No time to bathe your child? Just give him a good wipe down and chase him through the house with your favorite Febreze scent. 

So, while its not easy to be me, I think I’ve shared some excellent wisdom to help get you started.  Good luck and just start slow.  Don’t overwhelm yourself.  If you need to stop to play a round of Angry Birds, please do.