Monthly Archives: April 2012

38 Hours to the Waffle House

Over the weekend we went camping with the Cub Scouts, to Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park. Every time we leave our driveway for one of these trips (usually at 5:00 on Friday), I start my internal countdown. “In 38 hours I will be at the Waffle House, eating hash browns.”

After that, every time that something goes awry, or when Other People’s Children get on my nerves, I take a deep breath and check my watch. “It’s OK. In 36 hours I will be at the Waffle House, eating hash browns.”

We arrived on Friday night and set the tent up just as darkness fell. It was around that time that we discovered that the 80 campers of Pack 23 would be sharing this:


Saturday morning everyone wakes up early, and the nicest campers get up and make coffee. One of the few things I do enjoy about camping is the coffee – there’s something very peaceful about sitting in the early-morning chill of the woods, drinking a cup of the fresh stuff.

After breakfast the pack boarded the SAM Shortline, which departs from the park. Our first stop was in blink-and-you-miss-it Plains, Georgia, where apparently nothing has happened since Jimmy Carter was elected President.

After that we rolled on to Archery, GA, where Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home/farm has been maintained as it was in the Depression.

There were chickens.

Jimmy Carter was also there, giving a talk to another group. We couldn’t get close, but we could hear and see him from the yard.

Then we loaded up the train for the long ride back.

Saturday evening was low-key – we relaxed at the tent, helped prepare dinner, and then had a campfire with skits, songs, and s’mores.

Sunday morning we packed up the car and then, OH YES, we found a Waffle House. And OH YES, there were hash browns.

The camping part gets easier every time. We’ve purchased camping gear a little at a time, and by now we have almost everything we need to be comfortable. And camping with a group provides some level of safety net in case you forgot something. And I certainly appreciate the IDEA of escaping the TVs and the video games to spend some time in the woods. As long as the children remain enthusiastic about camping trips, I’m happy to go.

Otherwise, find mama a hotel.


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WIWW: Just playing, May.

A friend e-mailed me last week after reading my whining about Aviary (the new photo editing program in Flickr). She pointed me to PicMonkey, which was apparently started by ex-Picnikers, or grown in a lab, or something. So I gave it a try, and it’s SO MUCH BETTER than Aviary. It’s very similar to Picnik, and very user-friendly. Go forth and enhance!

pleated poppy

Can you tell the week was getting to me? By Friday I was quite run-down.

Things got a good bit better after Jason suggested that Tyler and I meet him in Thomasville for dinner. He was on his way back from witness interviews in Valdosta, and we had a very pleasant family date.

I changed into something more festive:

Saturday I was awarded extra points in the field of Accessories, for turning an otherwise-uninspiring outfit into something more fun. Unfortunately, it proceeded to be chilly and rainy most of the afternoon. Boooo. Hisssss.

Monday came early, and the forecasted high was just under 70 degrees.

Tuesday I woke up with a sore throat and sinus pressure.

But I dragged myself to work anyway – partly because I have a crazy work ethic and partly because I enjoy the screams of my hypochondriac co-workers.

Wednesday I woke up S-I-C-K, so no picture.

Hopefully I’ll be all fixed next week.


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Hall Pass

Everyone knows that after a divorce, you get a temporary pass on certain behaviors – crying in public, eating ice cream for dinner, and treating your ex like crap.

Hold the phone. What was that?

There are CERTAIN behaviors for which you get a pass, and others that are equally unacceptable on Day One or Day Seven Thousand Three Hundred and Two.  As uncomfortable as it is to say it on the internet, where it will live forever, treating your ex like crap falls into the latter category.

Last weekend we went over to a friend’s house – we’ll call him Joe. The last time I was in Joe’s house, I was helping move his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s furniture out. The house was, quite frankly, a disaster. There was a layer of dust over everything, the countertops were dirty, and the cat had made it her mission to shed on every horizontal surface. Some vertical surfaces, too. For his part, Joe was just shell-shocked, shambling through the half-empty house. He was one White Russian away from being the Dude. I didn’t know what to expect when he invited us to dinner on Saturday.

When I walked in the door, I almost clapped. The house was clean. The dust and cat hair and air of neglect was gone. Joe had pulled himself together.

During and after a divorce (and by “divorce” I mean any part of the process – the separation, the filing of legal papers, the final hearing), you’re allowed to vent your frustration. Everyone deals with it differently. Gain 30 lbs.? Fine. Lose 30 lbs.? Also fine. Cake for breakfast? Super. Going vegan? Cool. There are about a thousand ways, some better choices than others, to deal with the shock and displacement. Eventually you re-learn, or learn for the first time, how you really want to live and figure out what actually works for your new life. You upgrade from ice cream to spaghetti for dinner. You lose the weight you put on, or buy bigger clothes. You stop drinking so much on the nights you don’t have your kids. And eventually that rough patch fades like a sunburn.

There are other behaviors you don’t get a pass to indulge in, ever, because they create problems that may be too big to overcome. The biggest, the number one, is how you deal your ex.  Being verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive to an ex because he/she left you can wreak havoc that will haunt you until the end of your days. The reason for this is simple – unlike the examples above, you can’t take back your words and actions when they relate to another person. Not only can you never take your words back, but the first days and weeks of interaction with your ex will set the tone for the rest of your lives as divorced people.

After Jason left his wife, she used to call him and scream near-incoherent obscenities at him. “YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO MEEEEE!!!!” was a common theme. When she got angry, she would pick up the phone and leave him a nasty voicemail. She made plans for the girls during his parenting time, without asking him.  She changed the locks on their house, then decided she didn’t want to keep the house, moved in with her parents, and left a four-foot-high pile of junk behind. In her mind, her actions were totally justified because Jason hurt her feelings and she was going to “hit back” in whatever way she could. What she failed to see is that you lose credibility as a “victim” the second you start swinging with the sole intention of drawing blood.    

In those first weeks and months, any chance Jason and his ex had of ever “getting along” was poisoned by these kinds of interactions. To this day, she refuses to speak to him, communicating only by e-mail and text message and through the children. It’s been almost five years.

Intentionally hurtful words and actions don’t fade like a sunburn. They leave scars that may get lighter over time, but never go away.

Be mindful of the cuts you make.

(And if your ex is the one lashing out at you, DO NOT ENGAGE. Repeat. DO NOT ENGAGE. Let the call go to voicemail. Don’t reply to that e-mail. Now would be a good time for a glass of wine. Take some deep breaths.)


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The Whole Buffalo

There are two truths that circle each other at the center of my being:

1. I love to create nice things – food, clothing, crafts, you name it.

2. I am cheap to a fault. Seriously. And I come from a loooong line of frugal quasi-hoarders.

For a long time, I would buy things on sale with the idea that I would do “something” with them “one day.” I had Rubbermaid boxes full of fabric and patterns from the 99-cent pattern sales at Jo-Ann’s. I had skeins of yarn from the local yarn shop’s big summer sale, and stacks of baskets purchased at 40% off from Michael’s. A friend in Alabama decided to give up stamping, and gave me hundreds of dollars’ worth of stamps, ink, and paper. (I don’t stamp!) In addition, I had every leftover scrap from every project I had ever undertaken.

Needless to say, it was kind of a disaster.

In order to bring the two circling truths into harmony, I needed to craft SMARTER, not harder.

During the first move last year, and the second move last year, I sucked it up and parted with a lot of things. I vowed to use the materials I already had, or in the alternative, to actually complete projects in a timely fashion.

Which brings me to a $9.00 tank top. When I was gathering supplies for my second maxi dress, I needed a tank top. The only ones available at Target were $9.00 – almost three times more than the tutorial’s example! My impatience won out over my frugality that day, and I bought it. Then I cut it up to make the dress.

And what do you think happened to the bottom 12″ of the tank top? Did I throw it out?

No. I kept it. Because I am an insane person who could do “something” with it “one day.” For a week it sat on the dresser in the guest room, taunting me.

On Wednesday, I silenced the taunting.

With the leftovers from the tank top, I made this fabric flower pin:

And this fabric flower pin (this was the hem of the tank top):

My $9.00 tank top had yielded three finished, wearable pieces. And when I was done making them, I tossed the scraps. I may have asked Jason to unfurl my clenched claw-fingers, but I did it!

Leftovers and scraps are great for trying new techniques or experimenting for potential projects. But I have to be vigilant about USING them, and silencing the inner voice that tells me I should save everything for “something,” “one day.”


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WIWW: In which we skip April entirely, and it’s May Flowers everywhere.

The weather this week has been beautiful – clear and sunny, but not oppressively hot.

pleated poppy

Wednesday night, I thought to myself, “SELF! You must wash the tablecloth on the dining room table!” And then realized to do that I’d have to 1) finish the sewing project I had been procrastinating on, 2) put all my sewing gear away, and 3) THEN I could remove the tablecloth.

Well, I got through step one.


Yup, I made another one of those dresses. They’re so easy, and comfortable. This one turned out even better than the first one – I made the waist higher and the sash narrower.

Friday I paired a pale pink tank (under a black tee) with coral shoes. I was unsure at first, but I think I like it.

I used to hate pink in all its forms. Last year I embraced pale pink, and this year I am rather in love with Ann Taylor Loft’s “Summer Plum,” which is a dark raspberry color.

(Chi Chi approves.)

Tee and Tank: Ann Taylor Loft
Khakis: Dockers
Shoes: Target

Monday I dressed up for work:

Shell & Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft
Pencil Skirt: Target
Shoes: Shoe Station

Tuesday I went…. in the totally opposite direction:

All Target, All The Time

Aaaaaand Wednesday:



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The Story of a Dress; or, a Triumph on Multiple Levels

The story is a cliche.

I used to be athletic, but after college I stopped exercising regularly, and then I had a baby, and then…..

Bottom line: by the spring of 2008, when I had my annual weigh-in at the doctor’s office, the number on the scale was 203.

January 27, 2008

Y’all, I was BIG. (Also, Holy Tiny Adorable Tyler, Batman!)

March, 2008

And I had an excuse for every extra pound. But seeing those numbers on the scale, and watching my doctor’s eyebrows lift as she asked about my diet and exercise habits, was enough to push me from apathy to action.

I started eating better, and walking. Eventually, I added yoga, and Zumba, and running, and kayaking, and hiking.

When I dropped the first dozen pounds, I bought a dress. It was Issac Mizrahi for Target, size 14.

May, 2008

I felt almost pretty for the first time in ages, and got tons of compliments on the dress.

July, 2008

So I kept it, even when I shrank out of it.

On my wedding day, I weighed 143 lbs. I had lost almost a third of my body weight in about 18 months.

And that size-14 dress still hung in my closet.

I kept my weight between 145 and 150 until the fire, when I stopped weighing myself (the scale was carted off with the rest of our stuff, and buying a new one was not a priority), reduced my exercise, and ate whatever was in sight.

Old habits. They die hard.

I ended up gaining 10-12 lbs, but instead of throwing my hands up in despair and making more excuses, I tackled the problem with more confidence. I’m almost back in my goal range now. As scary as it is to feel that your weight is out of your control, it’s almost scarier to know that it IS in your control.

As you know, I recently started sewing more with my awesome vintage machine.

Dress. Sewing machine. Do you see where this is headed?

I shortened the straps and took about four inches in at the waist, making my size-14 dress into approximately a size-6. Victory!

Voila! Easter 2012.

I had a thought as I was looking at the “before” pictures for this post. It is one thing for someone to love you when you start out young, and beautiful, and thin, and put-together. It is quite another for someone to meet you at a very low point, when you look your worst, and love you anyway. Jason was my biggest cheerleader as I struggled to make changes in my diet and exercise, but he made it clear that my weight did not matter to him. I get all choked up with gratitude just thinking about it.


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WIWW: Easter

Welcome back to What I Wore (Thursday through) Wednesday, where I share ridiculous photographs of my questionable sartorial choices for your amusement. I’m your host, Windy.

pleated poppy

For the record: I am not a fan of Aviary, which is apparently replacing Picnik for Flickr users. Where are my font choices? Why does “enhance” make me look like a plague victim? BAH.


Thursday. Gun Show. BOOM.

A very fashionable friend of mine used to take big square scarves and roll them up for use as belts. I love this idea and stole it mercilessly.

Friday we were just two pirates in search of something to plunder:

Sunday was Easter.

Monday I went back to work on too little sleep and not enough quality time with my flat-iron.

Tuesday my photographer and I took things outside.

Wednesday it cooled off considerably, so….pants.

See you next time.


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Substantial Change in Circumstances, or, Death by a Thousand Cuts

In Florida, modifications to marital settlement agreements require a “substantial change in circumstances.” If you and your ex cannot agree on a change to the agreement, the party seeking the change must show that a “substantial change in circumstances” has occurred. And believe you me, the Court does not define “substantial” the same way you do. Daddy getting a new girlfriend – not substantial. Mommy recruiting the children as her personal spies – not substantial. Parents disagreeing about the right age to get a nose ring, date, wear a bikini, or babysit – not substantial.

And so the “substantial change in circumstances” standard sentences divorced parents to death by a thousand cuts.

An example:

Tyler had a field trip last Wednesday morning. He asked me Tuesday night to bring him his favorite hat to wear on the trip (they were going to a wildlife refuge) and I told him I would drop it by the school before they left at 9:00. I arrived about ten minutes after the late bell and walked to Tyler’s classroom.

Tyler wasn’t there. The teacher said she hadn’t been called about an absence, but that she needed to get started with her lesson and Tyler shouldn’t miss it. This is the second time in two weeks that Tyler has been late to school.

I passed my ex as I was driving back to work. Tyler was in the backseat, looking glum, probably worried that he was going to miss his field trip.

And there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to claw my steering wheel in impotent rage.

However, a counter-example:

I asked my ex if he would be open to sending Tyler to a sleep-away camp this summer. The camp is one that I went to as a child. My mother went to the same camp when SHE was a child, and knows the director personally. It’s about an hour from her house, so she could be there quickly if Tyler got sick or hurt. My ex said that Tyler was too young and that there were “too many crazies out there.” So I’m sending him during my parenting time, at my own expense. And there’s nothing he can do about it.

I’m going to guess that ninety-nine percent of your ex’s behavior that drives you up a wall is not “substantial.”

Those parents bent on self-destruction will fly just under the radar, seeing how close they can get to the Line of Litigation. They’re the kind of parent who drops the kids off 15 minutes late, every single time.

And there’s nothing you can do about it.

So, how do you cope? I can share the methods Jason and I have used:

1. Stick to your guns.

Jason and I told his oldest daughter consistently that she would not be shaving her legs until she left elementary school. Her mother let her start shaving last summer (without talking to Jason)(while telling Hollyn that “it’s the mom’s decision”), and Hollyn assumed that we would follow suit. We didn’t.

In an ideal co-parenting situation, the parents work together to create smooth transitions between households. If you both have the same parenting values, then you can probably agree on some ground rules (no TVs in bedrooms, no dessert on week nights, etc.)

However, this is just an ideal. “Working together” with your ex should NEVER entail them bullying you into accepting their vision of parenting as the correct or only option, or agreeing to something against your better judgment. Your house, your rules.

Which brings me to….

2. Don’t Be A Bully

The allowable number of times to ask your ex about a potentially contentious subject is ONE. Nagging, wheedling, or otherwise acting like a 12-year-old girl who needs a ride to the mall will get you nowhere. Their house, their rules.


3. Two Wrongs STILL Don’t Make a Right

Just because your ex drops the kids off 15 minutes late doesn’t mean you get to do the same. If you demonstrate politeness, courtesy, and fairness, you’re more likely to get it in return. Plus, you’ll sleep better at night. When parents retaliate against each other, the only ones who get hurt are the children. You have an independent obligation to do the right thing for your children, simply because it’s the right thing and not because it makes you feel superior to your ex. You must be good without regard to his/her behavior.

All that being said….

4. Pick your battles

There are cases where the above guidelines should be put aside. If you have a legitimate, reasonable fear that your children are being allowed to engage in harmful or illegal behavior, please speak up loudly. Examples include underage driving,  underage drinking, smoking, or self-harm (cutting, eating disorders, etc.).

If you don’t like something that’s going on at your ex’s house, ask yourself a question: If I called the cops about this, would they do anything? If the answer is “no,” then you should probably save your outrage for a real issue. “Officer! He’s letting my children JUMP ON A TRAMPOLINE!!! Everyone knows those things are death traps! You’d better get here quick!” “Officer! She let my daughter GO ON A DATE! Bring the really big German Shepherds!”

And finally…..

5. Be prepared

If your ex is unwilling to split a cost with you, be prepared to pay for it yourself. If your ex is unwilling to take your child to an activity, be prepared to do it yourself. And for the LOVE OF PETE, don’t drag your children into it. “Well, I know you’d like to join the soccer team, but if your dad won’t pay half, then you can’t.”

Being a single parent, operating an independent household, is both a burden and an opportunity. You can make your home a place of safety, security, and comfort for your children. You can provide a place for them to be themselves, to be happy without guilt. It takes a lot of work, but the work is just as necessary as putting gas in your car – and a lot more worthwhile.

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Hippity Hoppity

Three years ago, I watched my son discover one of his favorite foods.

The boy just LOVES deviled eggs. I haven’t told him that you can make deviled eggs year-round; he thinks they are a Special Easter Food.

He’s already told me he plans on eating “at least twelve” on Sunday.

This could end….poorly. I can’t wait.

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WIWW: Sweaters are a Distant Memory

We had our first solidly-above-90 day this week. That means it’s only 6 weeks until the pool is warm enough for me to get in!

pleated poppy

Thursday I busted out my ankle pants. I don’t wear capris – I find them stumpefying (on me) and kind of middle aged. Plus then you HAVE to shave your legs. Ankle-length pants leave just enough of a question – did she or didn’t she?

Friday I again paired my green khakis with a yellow sweater, but this is a pointelle cap-sleeve cardigan. Because it’s already hot here.

Monday: I found this top a couple of years ago at Goodwill. It’s orange linen with gold embroidery, and it’s suuuper comfortable. For work I paired it with dark trouser jeans and brown wedges.

Close-up of embroidery:

Tuesday was Dress Like Your Pet day. In this photo, you will notice Ron doing his best chameleon impression as he attempts to blend in with the floor:

Wednesday I busted out my Salute to Spring Coral Shoes.

I also wore other clothes. Just to be clear.

Have a warm week!

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