It’s a Man’s Job So Some Woman’s Gotta Do It

1175005_608687255820204_1173494709_nI always thought that gender stereotyping was a thing of the past. I mean come on; the women’s lib and feminist movement has been huge and only grows stronger with each passing decade since what…the late 70’s? Sure, we don’t burn our bras in protest anymore, but we’re living in a day and age where mothers raise their daughters to firmly believe that they can be and do anything in this wide, wild world if they just set their minds to it.

I wasn’t necessarily raised as one of those women; the ones that are encouraged to get out there and grab life by the short and curlies. I can’t recall a time when I was ever told, “Honey, you can do anything that a man can do. Go get ‘em, girl.” As a matter of fact, in my household, there was a distinct gender division in that there were mom chores and dad chores. I haven’t seen my dad wash a dish, touch a vacuum (unless it needed fixing), or do a load of laundry in all my 39 years on this planet. In turn, though, I’ve never seen my mom fix a fence, install an in-ground sprinkler system, fire up the grill, or hop on the riding mower. My parents have always had their gender specific roles firmly in place, and it works for them.

Yet no one ever told me it was entirely a man’s world, either. I grew up blissfully oblivious to any knowledge that there might actually be a distinct difference in the career paths that males and females are expected to follow. People were just that to me; people. I had never truly thought that having breasts made any woman less of a man.

Flashdance paved the way for this line of thinking. Jennifer Beals starred as Alex Owens, a welder in a steel mill by day and an exotic dancer by night. You can’t blur the line dividing what is or at least what was perceived to be two completely gender-based roles in the workplace much more than that, right? Women had come far enough by that time that they could wear a hard hat or a welding mask without anyone giving it a second thought. At least it made sense in my mind that things had become that way.

So at 18, fresh out of high school, I found myself working on an assembly line in a fire alarm factory. To me, it was a job, plain and simple. I helped build and create. I operated heavy machinery.  I learned to work a soldering iron until I became so adept at what I was doing that the job required little to no thought on my part. I was clearly doing what probably would have made every member of our once gender divided society elicit a collective gasp 50 years prior. Yes, we had definitely come a long way. Or had we?

After 10 years of factory work, I moved out of state. I eased into the role of what was once expected of a woman; being a stay at home mother and housewife while the man of the house shuffled off to his 9 to 5. These days, though, no one even bats an eyelash at those roles being reversed. A man sitting at home changing diapers and watching soap operas while the lady of the house heads out the door with briefcase in hand isn’t all that unheard of anymore. That line hasn’t just been blurred; it seems to have been erased altogether with the turn of the century.

In many households now, though, the male and female adults both have to work, and with the economy having taken a dump, this soon became the way it had to be in ours.

So, I found myself unable to continue sitting on my fat duff eating potato chips, drinking Mountain Dew, and watching Netflix all day while my husband went out and brought home the bacon. It was time for me to either rejoin the workforce or go hungry.

Fortunately, though, I didn’t have to look far for a job. My husband is a property manager with plenty of work opportunities around the 96 unit complex that he runs for a guy to make money. This guy started painting apartments for him a little over 3 years ago.

So, among the many titles that I already held, such as Mother, Wife, Lover, Homemaker, Bunny (my husband’s pet name for me, don’t judge) Superwoman, and God’s Gift to Mankind (too far you think?), I also now held a new title; Commercial Painter.

I quickly found that I was amazing at this new venture. Maybe it’s the artist and perfectionist in me, or maybe I’m just a natural, but either way, the apartments that I paint look far better than the rest and are rented out at a much quicker rate. Potential renters will even comment on the amazing paint job when they view a finished apartment, and my husband will beam with pride as he explains that it’s his wife’s handiwork that they are seeing.

I leave work every day a complete mess, though. There will be paint in my hair, on the backs of my arms and legs, and all over my clothes. Rather than ruin every t-shirt and pair of shorts or sweatpants that I own with paint splatter, I simply reuse the same 5 or so shirts and pairs of pants until they either get holes in them or are so caked with paint that they’re stiff enough to stand up on their own. Even then, whether or not they get retired to the trash can is debatable. It is, however, safe to say that I’m never a totally gorgeous sight after a long hard day of painting.

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Once in a while after work, I’ll need to make a quick run to the store or my husband and I will stop for a bite to eat at a fast food place or even an extremely casual sit down place like Denny’s. I’ll enter these public places amidst the stares, glares, and disgusted looks from other patrons and think to myself, “What? It’s just paint people.” Then I’ll hang my head in shame, and silently wonder if I should maybe think about retiring the work clothes that I’m currently wearing and opt to destroy something else in my closet.

Recently, though, when I was out and about running errands, I came across a couple of guys in paint spattered work clothes walking through one of the stores that I had stopped at. I smiled a knowing smile at them. These were my brothers in battle. My kindred. They, however, had something that I didn’t:

Man parts.

I realized the full impact of that fact when I looked around and saw that no one in the place gave these guys in all of their paint smeared glory a second thought. They were just a couple of men in their work clothes; the same work clothes that I often wear as people stare and glare in my direction everywhere that I go.

Why did it matter that they were men and I wasn’t? Did people automatically assume that these guys could accomplish a task better than I could because what we do for a living is somehow predetermined by society to be “man’s work”?

Then it hit me. Apparently we haven’t come as far in this equal rights day and age as I had assumed. Gender stereotyping is still alive and well. I get “the look” because many people’s one-track minds aren’t completely ready to give in to the idea of a woman doing a man’s job.

So in protest to this injustice, I’m not going to wear makeup. I’m not going to get my hair done. I’m not going get a manicure or a pedicure. I’ll walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. I might not even shave my legs for a while.

In other words, nothing’s going to change.

Still, though, I am WOman.

You won’t hear me roar, but you might see me steal your job.

Bacon Nation

Daily Prompt: 2100

The language of the future: what will it be like? Write an experimental post using some imagined vocabulary — abbreviations, slang, new terms.

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There’s this new Facebook game going around in which you’re encouraged to replace one word of any movie title with the word bacon.

This of course only works with movie titles that are more than one word long, as my son and I soon discovered.

The boy, being 11 (almost 12) decided that this is now his new favorite game, and on our drive home from work yesterday, he started musing to himself over this whole bacon bit of fun. I, of course, added my 2 salty cents, and before we knew it, we were embroiled in a contest to see who could come up with the most amazing bacon movie title.

I was admittedly in the lead with “Mr. Magorium’s Bacon Emporium” and “Percy Jackson and the Bacon Thief”, both of which he found uproariously funny, until he, after about 20 seconds of silence and some careful, face scrunching consideration, blurted out, “Harry Bacon”. We both laughed the remaining mile home. I conceded. The kid won by a landslide.

Then I got to thinking about this amazing little game and the awesomeness of bacon. What if bacon becomes so big, that someday, we’ve replaced every adjective and verb with the word bacon, just like the Smurfs always did with the name of their race. Bank tellers would send us off with a smile and encourage us to, “Have a bacony day!”

What if bacon became currency?! Bacon bits could be spare change, of course, and our wealth could be counted in terms of how many slabs we have. Okay maybe that wouldn’t work; we’d always be eating up our assets.

Bacon could become so huge, though, that it replaces all other amazing things in life. Like hugs and kisses. Can’t you just see yourself holding your arms out to your spouse as they walk through the door, saying, “Come on over here and give me some bacon.”

What? It could work.

There’s a whole bacony world out there, just waiting to be explored. I’m betting that bacon will become so big someday,  that I can almost taste the future.

Just some food for thought.

Collaborating With My Kid

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On a recent trip to Michigan to visit my parents that included my husband, daughter, son, and one of my step-daughters, we found ourselves attending my cousin’s college graduation party. It was just a simple outdoor gathering with a barbecue style buffet spread.

While there, there was an item made available to the gathered guests and children that caught my ever-artistic daughter’s eye:

Sidewalk chalk.

She proceeded to grab the bucket of chalk and set to work doodling on the cement driveway.

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This eventually led to her working on a detailed picture of one of her favorite things to draw:

Her “Mushies”.

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Being the huge Alice in Wonderland fanatic that she is, she loves mushrooms, and she loves to draw colorful and creative pictures of whatever toadstools her imagination can work up; among other things, of course. She has a very vivid imagination.

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So there she was down on her knees, diligently working on her chalky cement creation while other party-goers were slowly packing up and heading out one by one. The party was coming to an end, and my husband and parents were trying to hurry my daughter along so that we could leave soon ourselves.

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My child, however, takes after her mother in that she’s not only an artist, but a perfectionist as well, and walking away from an unfinished work of art just isn’t an option for her. I understand this incessant need to finish a masterpiece while others may not.

In a crunch for time, however, I bent down and asked, “Would you like me to help?”

She responded with a relieved “yes,” and we proceeded to finish the creation together that she had started herself.

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Now, in the artistic world, one does not simply allow other people to dip their hands into one’s creative cookie jar. This is especially true with me and my daughter, considering how seriously we take each project that we set our minds to. There has to be complete trust in another person’s artistic abilities to even consider allowing them to touch your own masterpiece.

My daughter and I share a bond that goes deeper than just mother and child, though. We share an artistic bond, in that we have almost the exact same sense of artistic style, imagination, and ability. We have complete trust in one another artistically, and often times, we’ll find ourselves working together or running ideas by each other on any given project.

We collaborate well, and we complement each other quite nicely. It means a lot to me that I’m the only one on this earth that she trusts enough to touch her work. This goes both ways.

We recently worked together on a project to rework a beat up old gun rack that had been kicking around the thrift store for almost a year into a sword rack for my step-son. My husband screwed a wooden plaque on the front for us, and I painted the whole thing black. I had intended to paint some sort of Asian dragon design on it, but I asked my daughter if she would be willing to do it instead, because I knew it would turn out just as well if she did it.

And it did.

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I look forward to collaborating on many more future projects with my kiddo. As a matter of fact, we’re wracking our brains even now trying to come up with something amazing that we can work on together. I have a few ideas. You’ll have to stick around if you want to see what we come up with.

I told her yesterday that I was throwing her out of my art class. Not because I don’t love her, of course, but because she’s just way too advanced. Then I decided to let her stay, but only as my assistant. I think that would be a much better arrangement, don’t you?

You, Me, and My OCD

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Yes, I suffer from a mental disorder. Honestly, I bet 99.9 percent of the world’s population suffers from some sort of snafu up in their cranium in one form or another. Maybe some just aren’t as prominent as others.  Or, perhaps they simply remain undiagnosed.

Do you suffer from PMS or sometimes just get sad or irritable and really can’t pinpoint why? Well, there you go; you could be bi-polar.

Do you alphabetize your DVDs, make sure your socks are matched and folded before you put them away, or check again to make sure your door is locked before you go to bed at night? Then congratulations, I’ve just diagnosed your OCD.

Has something ever shot out of your mouth and immediately afterward you thought, “Did I just say that? That couldn’t have been me!” Bam. Multiple personality disorder.

So you see, whether you pay much attention to it or not, most of us suffer from a mental disorder in one way or another.

Mine just happens to have been diagnosed by a doctor. I guess that makes a difference in the grand scheme of things when it comes to how the world looks at you, right? Perhaps it shouldn’t, but believe me, it does.

I generally don’t talk about my mental illness to people that I’ve just met if I can help it. My husband, however, likes to throw it out there in casual conversation like it’s a truly interesting discussion piece. Who knows, maybe it is. That doesn’t change the fact that spreading the word to people I barely know gets under my skin nonetheless.

This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my disorder or the way I think. I know it’s “not normal”, sure, but I don’t think I’m some sort of terrible person because of it. I don’t want to go bury my head in the sand or hide out in a dark room because, Heaven forbid, people know.

No, I honestly don’t like to mention it much because people tend to get ridiculous about it.

No one should feel the need to talk to me like I’m a ticking time bomb. Don’t think I didn’t notice that your voice went up 2 octaves in my presence and that you’re addressing me like a child because you don’t want to rock the boat. I have a mental disorder. I’m not an idiot.

I don’t know if other people that have been diagnosed with OCD can relate, but I’ve been faced with all kinds of stupid remarks or reactions when my little (okay, big) mental issue is brought to the surface.

“What, you mean like that hand washing thing?” This is one of my personal favorites. Thank you for the ignorant stereotyping. Your lack of knowledge is duly noted.

People with “that hand washing thing” only make up a small percentage of those suffering from OCD, which is defined as:

An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

So yeah. It naturally must be “that hand washing thing”, even though OCD can present itself in pretty much any way that a mind with some sort of imagination can conceive.

Mine happens to lean more toward the compulsion side that the obsession side of the disorder. I have an immaculately spotless house because dust, dirt, loose hair, fingerprints, and a plethora of other things can give me anxiety attacks. I say the word can, because over the course of the past few years since I decided not to walk through my life in a drug induced stupor, I’ve had to work really hard at combatting this thing and I’ve experienced a great measure of success. There are things that used to send me into anxiety fueled fits of rage that I am now able to overlook.

It’s been a huge struggle, though, let me tell you.  I’m still not “cured” by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe never will be, but I have made some huge strides in several areas thanks to some family-inflicted cognitive behavior and exposure therapy. This basically boils down to my husband putting his foot down over certain things that I would do, even at the risk of my mental anguish, before I drove the rest of the family crazy. Yes, I resented this for a while, but I got over it.

Sometimes, when you don’t have a choice in the matter, all you can do is try not to totally flip out, cope, and move on. I have realized that anxiety levels can’t stay intensely elevated forever. It’s like a bad high. You have to come down sooner or later, and as soon as I realized that I would eventually come down, things started getting better.

As much as I’ve worked hard to overcome certain obstacles though, it just makes it worse when people, who know exactly what my OCD entails, throw this little gem at me:

“Wow. You should come clean my house!”

Umm…no.

You see, you’re assuming that I, in some way shape or form, enjoy this behavior. I don’t. Not at all. Doing what I do and feeling what I feel is like a ball and chain around my neck that I can’t ever take off. It’s a huge weight on me all the time. By suggesting that I branch out and take this behavior outside of my home, you’re essentially implying that I should give up the only small sense of freedom that I currently enjoy, because when I am able to step out of my home, I am also able to breathe and relax.

Which brings me to my next point:

Stop apologizing for the condition of your own home when I walk through the door. Okay, so your place is a little messy. So what? Are you honestly under some false assumption that this will cause me to freak out to the point that I’m hyper-ventilating into a paper bag while I stand in your living room?

To be honest, your mess is like a breath of fresh air to me. I’m living vicariously through your stacks of junk mail piled up on the kitchen table and the dust across the top of your entertainment center because I can’t be that way but wish I could.

You wouldn’t know it though, because you won’t come to my house.

For different reasons, people are terrified of visiting my home. This is either thanks again in part to my husband spreading the word about my anxiety disorder, or the fact that I will bend over backward to over-correct my nervousness when we have visitors so that maybe people won’t notice it. Then, my obsequiousness just scares people, so I can’t win either way.

My in laws won’t visit because I make them uncomfortable. My family won’t visit, either. I can honestly admit that it hurts worse knowing they won’t come, than it would working through my anxiety with a house full of people. It makes me feel somewhat unloved when those closest to me refuse to help me get better at the risk of their own discomfort, or mine. Isn’t family supposed to be there to help us work through our issues?

This is why I adore my best friend. She’s the only one that seems to get this. Maybe it’s because she herself suffers from Bi-polar disorder, so we’re kind of like 2 screwed up peas in a pod. She will make the 5 hour pilgrimage from her house to mine occasionally, and I love her for loving me enough to stay with me despite my issues. She knows all about my anxiety, and guess what? If she sees me get nervous, she’ll talk me through it. That’s a true friend. Other than her and my husband, I don’t seem to have many of those, but not for lack of wishing there were more. People that understand are hard to find.

So I say this to those who don’t know how to handle a person with a mental disorder:

You can get to know us. We don’t bite. We’re honestly not all that different from you, we just have heightened emotions at times, and tend do things that others might not consider to be normal. Then again, who’s to say what genuinely defines normal?

We are who we are. People, just like you. Your perception of us won’t change a thing.

Wheye

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This is my 16 year old daughter’s latest creation that I thought I’d share. It amazes me what she can do already at 16, and I can only imagine what jaw dropping stuff she’ll bust out with another 5 years down the road.

She named her creation “Wheye”, because as she so aptly put it, “I have a lot of questions for this crazy world and it inspired me.”

Good job, Amber. Eye love it!

I’m very proud of you.

To the Single Girl From Mrs. ‘Been There, Done That’

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I have been a happily married woman for close to 11 years now. Okay, well, maybe not always happily. Sometimes I wish the man came with a remote control that I could use on him to oh…I don’t know…mute his snoring, make him stop using the top of the laundry hamper as a table, or get him to pay attention to me when I’m talking to him.

At any rate, I love the big lug, and had to endure the same process of luring him in, trapping him, and caging him that every other red blooded woman that doesn’t live in a country with arranged marriages has to go through. Sometimes I think arranged marriages might even be easier than this whole “looking for love” ordeal. At least then you know you’ll have a mate regardless, right?

I personally had to venture out into the big, wild world and repeat stage one of this process several times until I finally caught my keeper, though.

While those tales of high school sweethearts that have known no other and are now celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary are wonderful stories, they’re few and far between. For those women that aren’t living the ultimate fairy tale, well, there’s a process to go through to get from “How do you do,” to “I do”. A process that might make competing in a triathlon pale by comparison. A process that some have even given up on after several failed attempts. A process that strikes fear into the hearts of women and men alike all over the world.

The dating process.

Now, I have single friends. Several of them. Friends that I love dearly and wish nothing but the best for. I sit back and listen to their tales of dating woes time and time again, and, well, I admittedly grow weary of hearing them. Not because I already have my special someone, so I’ve now become selfish and incapable of being sympathetic to the lonely plight of the single girl, but because every fiber in my body wants to tell them exactly what they’re doing wrong.  That would make me a bad friend and a bad listener, though. Wouldn’t it?

Then I got to thinking. Maybe, just maybe, I’d be a better friend if I were to finally (wo)man up and lay it all out straight for them. I’d hate to lose anyone as a friend, but I can’t sit by and watch some of them ruin their chances at happiness time and time again anymore without saying something, even at the risk of angering them.

So, I’ve decided it’s time for an intervention. Not only for my dear single friends that I feel need a little schooling from someone who’s been there, done that, and emerged victorious, but for single girls everywhere.

Consider class to be in session. Feel free to take notes as we go.

Lesson #1: Keep Your Goodies to Yourself.

Being A Christian woman, I could go on and on about the biblical ramifications of sex before marriage, but you’ve likely heard it all before at some point in your life, so I won’t.

From the point of view of your average, reasoning being, here’s what’s wrong with jumping into bed with a guy on the first, second, or even fifth date.

Every relationship in the world is built on trust; man and woman, landlord and tenant, employer and employee, and so on.

When you almost immediately give up the one thing that seals the deal and finalizes an intimate relationship with a man, you’ve completely blown it in the trust department, and here’s why:

“Well if it was this easy to get her into bed, who else is she out there sleeping with? I don’t want a girl that gets around.”

Yep, your credibility as a trustworthy woman just went right out the window for 3 minutes of fun. You’ve now been demoted from filet mignon to about the level of a hot dog.

Now, while a lot of men may see nothing wrong with throwing themselves at anything that bats an eyelash or flirts a little, this isn’t generally a quality that they’re looking for in a woman. Seems like a double standard, I know, but it’s simply human nature. I can guarantee that “a girl that sleeps with me on the first date” isn’t anywhere on a guy’s list of what he wants in a wife

So, turning your first date into a booty call isn’t winning him over. While it may have “been awhile” for you, and those hormones and pheromones and any other sort of ‘mones’ may be so thick in the room that you can cut them with a knife, you need to keep your self-control in check if you genuinely want things to work out.

You’re an adult, you can do this. I can guarantee he’ll still respect you in the morning, and if he does walk away when you don’t give it up on the first date, well, it’s pretty obvious that he wasn’t serious about a relationship with you to begin with.

Then you can simply chalk it up to a ‘bullet dodged’ and move on.

Lesson #2: Find a New Body Wash.

Look, ladies, if I can smell it on you, I can pretty much guarantee that he can, too.

Desperation.

While most men suffer from selective hearing and vision problems, they have a sense of smell keener than a bloodhound on a raccoon trail when it comes to unwanted emotional female baggage. They can smell the stench of desperation from a hundred miles away, and this will almost always send them running in the opposite direction, because with desperation, comes clinginess.

Just ask any man if they’re looking to give up any and all sense of freedom that they currently enjoy to a clingy woman. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out what his answer will be.

Here’s a great way to gauge your level of desperation:

How often does he text you first? Are you almost always the one sending the first text and then just sitting there, phone in hand, checking your screen every 10 seconds until you receive a text back?  Then, when he doesn’t send a text back after about 10 minutes, are you texting him again just to be sure he actually saw the first one?

If this sounds like you, girl, you need a hobby.

While he may be the hottest thing since fire and you genuinely hope a relationship with this guy is in your future, blocking out all other thoughts but him from your mind is not only unhealthy for so many reasons, it going to cause you to blow it in the end. You need to redirect your focus into other things and let nature take its course if you want this relationship to work.

Lesson #3: Slow Your Roll.

This still falls under that whole desperation category. If you’re mentally hearing wedding bells after the first phone conversation, you need to take a deep breath and go watch a movie on Lifetime or something. You’re getting attached too quickly, which will make for a huge let down and mental anguish on your part should things not work out the way you had anticipated. Don’t let your mind get ahead of the game. You haven’t even passed go and collected your first 200 yet, but you’ve already sent yourself to mental jail. Here’s your get out free card:

Knock it off.

Though waiting is one of those things that sucks to a generation that wants instant gratification, you don’t have much of a choice if you truly want things to work out. Patience is a virtue, and there’s no better time than when you’re dating someone new to be virtuous.

Also, it’s great that you had a wonderful first date and plan to see him again, but your second date or second lengthy phone conversation is a bad time to throw out the fact that you’ve had 30 failed attempts at relationships already and you’re just looking for lifelong commitment. There are challenges on Fear Factor that are likely less off-putting to a guy than this bit of information. Even if he asked you what you are looking for in a relationship, it’s still a bad idea. Why? Because he’s likely just gauging your answer to see what kind of mess he’d be stepping into should he choose to get involved with you.

This would be a good time to play it cool. “Well, I just figured I’d go with the flow and see what happens.” Is always an acceptable answer when faced with what your future relationship plans are. Stifle your need to divulge too much information too quickly.

Save your expressions of undying love for this guy and your constant text affirmations that he’s always on your mind for a couple of months down the road, too. Hook him with your personality first, before you start throwing the cutesy shmootsy hearts and flowers junk at him.

Just have fun for now. Enjoy the companionship. That’s what phase one in a relationship is all about.

Lesson #4: Don’t Be THAT Girl.

After a person has heard, “I think I’ve found the one” for the 12th time in a 3 month span, it tends to grow tiring. Then, like ‘the boy who cried wolf’, no one’s going to want to listen when you genuinely have found a lasting relationship.

I was happy for you the first time. And the second. I was even happy for you with the third guy that you fell head over heels in love with after two dates and a romp in the bedroom. We’re coming up on oh…I lost count how many now…occasions of this very same pattern repeating itself and I am becoming emotionally numb here.

I get it; I do, because I adore my man. You want to shout your joy from the rooftops and tell everyone how amazing this new guy is. Do yourself a favor, though, and keep it on the down low for a month or two until things actually do start to get more serious. Then, once there’s some indication that he’ll be sticking around for a while, by all means, share your good news with the rest of the world. I’d love to hear about how into him you are when you get to that point.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind hearing about how a date went. If you want to talk about how he’s a nice guy, and that you went out and shared a few laughs over some slices of pepperoni, by all means, tell me all about it and share some information about him. I don’t mind at all. It’s watching you go completely off the rails for each new guy that comes along that I’m having a hard time with. Hopefully you can understand.

For those of you that I know personally, and those that I’ve never met, I mean no offense. I’m just calling it as I see it. Don’t think I haven’t been right where you are now. I have. It just so happens that along the way, I learned some valuable lessons in playing my cards right. That’s why I can say with pride that I’ve enjoyed nearly 11 years of marital bliss now with a wonderful man.

It all boils down to one thing; limits. They’re put in place in many situations to keep us safe. Speed limits, drinking limits, dosage limits…dating limits.

Ladies; if you’re looking for a meaningful relationship, yet you find yourself changing love interests more often than you’re changing underwear, it may be that you need to set some tighter limits in this game called love.

If you’re only betting on the queen of hearts, don’t bet everything you’ve got. Wait until you have a full house to go all in.

That’s just my 2 cent anti.

A Ray of Artshine

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So, after wracking my brain to come up with a fun, low budget idea for my art class tomorrow, I came up with this. My mom made something similar many years ago and I sort of stole her idea.

You simply cut paper plates in half and paint them whatever color you like. Once they dry, hot glue them in a circular fan pattern. Then paint an uncut paper plate and hot glue it in the center. You can draw or paint a face on the center plate if you like, or leave it plain. Then attach a piece of yarn to the back and you have a super cute and creative wall decoration.

Not only was it an inexpensive project because the paints only cost 57 cents a bottle at Wal Mart, and the only other materials needed are paper plates and glue, but it’s also a great lesson in color mixing for the kids. I intend to supply them with only the primary colors plus white and black, and they will need to mix them to create oranges or purples or whatever colors they decide on.

Hopefully they’ll have fun with it.

Tales From The Thrift Store: Carnival of Chaos

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It was just your typical Saturday in Ghettoville, and things were rather slow at the store. So I was off elsewhere in the building doing what Super Heroes do; sweeping up dead cockroaches in the pantry while I microwaved a breakfast burrito.

I peeked around the corner and then did this ninja-flip, Chuck Norris style kick move across the kitchen. The remaining roaches scattered. “And don’t come back.” I said firmly with a nod, fully satisfied with myself for a job well done. I then slid slowly up to the window in the swinging kitchen door to spy on any potential crime going down in the cafeteria. All was quiet.

Until around 11:45 a.m., that is. That’s when all hell broke loose at your local neighborhood Baptist Church.

Now, before I get to this installment of crazy, I need to explain what went down last year around this time.

You see, I used to keep several chairs and a coffee table that I was trying to sell near the thrift shop door, and each day after I rolled the big door up, I would pull them into the entry area in an effort to get them noticed and potentially sold faster.

This became problematic when the local area homeless, who I, of course, didn’t mind coming in to see me for food and a change of clothes, started to view this as an invitation to hang out for most of the day; smoking, eating, drinking beer, cursing profusely, and fighting with one another. It was like an episode of ‘The 3 Stooges’ meets an episode of ‘Cops.’ For the first time ever, I had to throw people out on a regular basis. This didn’t always go well. I am not, after all, fit to be a bouncer. There are mosquitos that are tougher than I am.

So, to alleviate this problem, I planned to do some rearranging when I got the chance. Okay, fine; when I wasn’t feeling lazier than a blood gorged tick on a dog’s rear end. This rearranging was going to entail moving the chairs and tables to the back of the store. It was a big job. Might have taken me all of 5 minutes if I applied myself.

It was the day that the “Jacksonville Caribbean Parade and Festival” happened, that ultimately pushed me over the edge enough to finally put that decision into effect, though.

The day started like any other warm, humid Florida day. I had opened up shop and set my tables and chairs in the doorway.

As I straightened up around the place, 2 guys carrying huge tin foil trays came in and said they had a food delivery for some lady that I had never even heard of. I assured them that they had the wrong address. They argued that this was where they were told to bring their delivery.

We went back and forth in that manner for a couple more minutes. I finally did a little air karate move that made them nervous. They high-tailed it back out to their van as they made a confirmation call on their cell phone.  They then decided to just sit in their van in the parking lot for the next 20 minutes. I monitored the situation and wondered if they would eventually leave. They might be some of my crazed stalker fans. They could have just come right out and asked me for an autograph. No need to beat around the bush…

About 30 minutes later, a couple of young ladies came along with bags that they proceeded to plop down onto the coffee table in the doorway. They then settled themselves into the chairs that I had set up there. They pulled wigs, weave, and face paint out of the bags, and started doing each other’s hair and makeup like they were in the dressing room of some low budget Las Vegas Showgirl Review. I stared at them quizzically. They didn’t even glance in my direction. As far as they were concerned, I wasn’t there. They were joined a few minutes later by a couple more ladies that started doing the same.

It was then that I noticed all of the vehicles now parked down at the far end of the parking lot. I peeked around the corner. Much to my surprise, people were setting up a tent and chairs in front of the side entrance to our building. I, being a very non confrontation person… okay, chicken… a big, fat, hide under the coop like I just saw a fox, chicken… had to man up and go find out what was going on. So I slid past the women in the doorway who apparently thought ‘Thrift Store’ now meant ‘Salon’, and went down to try and find the person in charge.

Upon asking around a bit, I found out that they were setting up for a parade. Some Caribbean thing that would leave the parking lot at 1p.m, and travel down the street to a place where they were hosting activities and entertainment afterward.

Well then. I assumed at this point that they had maybe talked to our Pastor or Administrator, or someone that had given them the green light on using our property to set up for this event, and that person had just failed to let me know. Yep, that had to be it. So, I contacted my Pastor in an effort to clear things up.

He had no idea who they were or what was going on, either. They had never called for permission to use our property.

By this time, the parking lot was starting to fill up; a couple of large trucks with speakers on the back, some vehicles with bass thumping music that was so loud it drowned out the sound of the radio that I keep on in the store, and people with tailgates open passing out food. I went to try and find someone in charge again and was rerouted several times until I finally found someone that, while not the “head cheese” of this operation, was at least able to function as a liaison.

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I put her on the phone with Pastor. She assured him that this whole set up was merely a “children’s parade”, and that they would all be off the premises by 1 that afternoon. That, folks, was a big, fat, stinky, steaming pile of lie.

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Since they had convinced him that it was a children’s parade, however, and since they vowed to be gone within the next hour, my Pastor agreed to allow them use of the parking lot to set up. THE PARKING LOT.

Things went south pretty quickly. The handful of people loitering in the thrift-store-turned-salon doorway quickly doubled. They started asking to use the restroom. Seemed harmless enough, right? Plus, as you may already know, I have a problem saying no. I’m a floor mat to the point that there’s permanent footprints across my backside.

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Little did I know that the restroom had been converted into their own personal dressing room until I saw the first of the barely covered, glitter-coated females come back through the store. I did a double take and tried to process what I was seeing.  I reasoned that maybe they were making another Twilight movie and I had just warped onto the set. “Twilight VI: Bella’s Gone Wild” or some such nonsense.

They were in a church, but they obviously either didn’t realize it, or didn’t care.

Customers wouldn’t even pull into the crowded parking lot to shop, and the ONE that did, gave a disgusted huff and made a hasty exit when one of the stripper wanna be’s pranced through the store. Not to mention, they had starting pulling the store chairs that I was trying to sell all over the place. A couple of them had been drug halfway across the parking lot.

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They finally got their show on the road at about 1:30. The mess they left behind in the bathrooms was like the aftermath of an explosion at Hobby Lobby. There was glitter and feathers everywhere. The sinks were caked with makeup and stray weave.

These people that hadn’t even asked for permission to be here in the first place, just showed up and left me with a huge mess. Was I being punked? I peeked around the corner to see if Ashton Kutcher was standing there laughing.

To top it all off, “gone by one” apparently hadn’t included their vehicles. They took up all of my customer parking. I really had no choice but to just close up for the day at that point. So I did, and took the next hour afterward to clean up the mess that they had left behind.

Pastor wasn’t happy when he found out that they had lied to him, and when all of their vehicles were still sitting there in the parking lot that night, he got into contact with someone in charge and firmly requested that they be removed.

And that was it.

I had thought that whole mess was just a distant memory.

Until today.

When I saw the truck with big speakers pull into the parking lot and start setting up, and a young lady with a glittery bra in her hand came around the corner and asked if she could use the restroom, I froze.

Oh no. No no no no no. I’m not going through this again.

So I called my husband.

“Do you know anything about these people having permission to be here this year?” I asked.

“I highly doubt it. Call the cops.” He replied.

Now, revert back to the part where I said I’m a huge, non-confrontational chicken. I really didn’t want to call the cops. I honestly didn’t want to deal with the situation again at all this year. I mean seriously. Again? They were gonna pull this…this taking over the place without permission stunt again?!

So I went and talked to one of the ladies that was helping hook up speakers on the bed of one of the trucks.

“Setting up for the Caribbean Parade?” I asked.

“Yes ma’am.”

“You know, you don’t have permission to be here right?”

“We don’t? Let me call the facilitator and find out what’s going on.”

She played dumb after she got off the phone.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I’m from out of town.”

“There’s a vacant lot right across the street. Ya’ll can’t move over there?” I asked

“No, we need to be on this side of the street.”

I was clearly going to get nowhere so I went back inside. The situation wasn’t out of hand like last year… yet. There were only 4 vehicles in the lot so far. No tents were set up, and no half naked people were running around the store or flopped in various chairs playing beauty parlor.

My husband kept urging me to call the police, and I kept stalling and making excuses. Then, a cop car pulled into the parking lot with lights flashing. Good, I thought. Either my hubby or Pastor must have done the dirty deed for me.

I peered out the window behind the desk and waited for the police man or woman to step out of the vehicle and handle the situation. And I waited. And waited. Nothing was happening. Then, while that nothing was happening, more people were starting to arrive. A truck pulling a flatbed trailer with huge speakers on it had pulled in and parked across the middle of the lot. Barely clothed, glittered and feathered women were pouring out of vehicles. Bass was bumping and drowning out my store music once again.

So, I heaved a sigh and headed toward the police car. The officer rolled down his window as I approached.

“Let me guess. Escorting the parade?” I asked.

“Yes ma’am, I am,” was his reply.

“Well, I just wanted to let you know that these people don’t have permission to be here again this year, and they hadn’t asked permission before just showing up and using our facilities last year, either.”

“Well, I haven’t heard anything about that,” was his reply. “You’ll either have to talk to their facilitator and clear it up, or talk to Officer Grant who will be arriving soon.”

I said, “Look. Last year, they came in and ran my customers off and created a huge mess for me in there. We really don’t want them here.”

He suggested that I just go close the store to keep them out while they set up. Seriously? Helpful much? Welcome to Jacksonville.

He then pointed out Officer Grant arriving on scene, and suggested once again that I go talk to her…and so I did. She was very understanding and even looked slightly horrified that they had never bothered to call and get permission first. Finally, I’m getting somewhere.

She assured me that the entire entourage would be moved out to the street right away, but as she started to herd them out, they started multiplying like rabbits. I don’t think she ever fully got them all out of the lot before the parade started.

I was grateful for the effort on her part, though, and grateful that I didn’t have to keep dealing with them wanting to come in and trash the bathrooms to get ready. Or so I thought.

After their glittery bodies, clad in less material then I usually see covering folks at the beach, shuffled off down the road to the beat of the island music thumping through several sets of enormous speakers, I heaved a sigh of relief and headed off to use the restroom. I had been holding it for so long at that point that my teeth were starting to float.

When I got there, I found that the decorative candles had been knocked off the shelves and were now laying on the floor, along with glitter, feathers, and an empty panty-hose package. There was makeup smeared all over the sink. Apparently, some of them had snuck in while I was out trying to get the police to handle the situation.

I huffed irritably and went to find the broom.

At least all was quiet until closing after that.

I closed 15 minutes early anyway, and went home to nurse my throbbing headache.

I hope that the Caribbean crew at least learned a lesson in asking permission first this year, but I doubt it.

Until next time, readers: stay clothed.

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Tales From The Thrift Store: A Member in the Hand is Worth a Guy in the Bush

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As I, Superhero Thrift Store Manager, arrived in Ghettoville Friday morning at 10 a.m. to open up as usual, I happened to glance off to my right and see something curious in the bushes. This was just after I finished cutting through the front door lock with my laser heat vision. Okay, okay, fine. You got me. I only turned the key. I did notice something off to the right that caught my attention, though.

Back in the corner, behind a series of bushes, I saw what appeared to be…a human head. It’s okay to freak out at this point. I did. Screamed like a girl and peed myself a little. Upon further investigation, though, the head happened to be attached to a body, and this body happened to be passed out across the top of a sleeping bag.

Yes, it was what it looked like. A squatter was camped out in our church shrubbery, clearly loitering, trespassing, and well…judging by the mess of trash that lay around him, littering, too.

So, I did what any red-blooded American would have done when faced with such a situation. I called the local law enforc…

Oh, come on. No I didn’t. I run a charity here. I went inside, grabbed a couple of bottled waters, a pop top can of ravioli, 3 Slim Jims, a Nutri Grain Bar, and went back out to rouse sleeping beauty. No kisses were doled out in this version of the story, though. I’m not THAT charitable.

He was a skinny Mexican gentleman. Or maybe Puerto Rican, I don’t know. I’m bad with nationalities. I once thought Michael Jackson was black. All I know is that this guy was maybe 5’7, dark haired, brown skinned, mustachioed, and weighed about 95 pounds soaking wet. He had his shirt and shoes off and was lying on his back across the top of his navy blue sleep sack, with his hand crammed firmly down the front of his pants and a death grip on his manhood.

I puzzled at his chosen slumber position for a moment before waking him. Was that for protection against any knife wielding maniacs that might happen upon him asleep there in the bushes, or was he merely having a pleasant dream? I gave a whistle to try and rouse him. He didn’t stir. Heavy sleeper, this guy. I yelled, “Good morning. Hey. Hello.” Loud enough that his bloodshot eyes finally started to open at a pace slow enough that one would have thought they were stuffed with peanut butter.

Now, you can call me stupid for approaching a sleeping homeless man all alone, but I think we’ve already established previously that I’m not always in the habit of thinking things through. Where others see danger, I simply see opportunities for charity. Yes, it may get me killed one day, but no one lives forever. If I’m going to go, I may as well go out giving.

Anyway, imagine his surprise when he opened his eyes to find a short, fat, white woman hovering over him. He quickly released his member, yanked his hand out of his pants, and proceeded to rub it across his sleep palsied face. Yeah. Eww. I caught the hint of panic in his suddenly fully awake and animated movements, so I said, “Whoa, whoa. It’s okay. I’m not about to call the police. We already knew you were back here.” Which was the truth, we did. Well, not him specifically, of course. One of our Deacons had discovered his belongings in the bushes a couple of weeks prior, and was going to speak with whomever the items belonged to about the litter around the little hidden campsite.  He never showed up that day, though, so that conversation was never had.

I handed him the food that I had brought him and said, “Here’s something for you to eat and some bottled water. You’re alright. Please, just clean up your litter, okay? If you want, you can come see me in the thrift store and help yourself to a change of clothes.” He responded with, “Okay. Thank you.”

He never came in to see me, and made himself scarce for the rest of the day.

So I went about my business parked lazily behind the thrift store desk, laptop open in front of me. Hey, I have no internet at the store, so writing is what I do to wile away the hours.

An hour or so after opening, a woman of about 70 came into the store to peruse the discount fodder. She was about my height, 5’2, with a chunky build, shoulder length white hair pulled back by a headband, stretchy black yoga pants, a grey t-shirt with the name of some charity foundation on it, a Rasta colored bracelet, funky beaded necklace, and tennis shoes. I looked down at my own stretchy black yoga pants, t-shirt, and tennis shoes, and back up at the lady who smiled at me from the back of the store. It was like I was looking into some crazy time lapse mirror. When she turned away, I elbowed my daughter and said, “I think I just caught a glimpse of my future.” She agreed that she had been thinking something along those lines, too. I gave a nervous laugh.

I went back to pecking at the keyboard with all the swiftness of a dying tortoise.

Then, later that afternoon, Queen Sneezy came in. I have never in my life heard a person sneeze that many times in a row. I stopped saying, “bless you” after about the 15th one. My daughter swears she lost count after 40. I was wondering if I was going to have to call the paramedics. If I did have to, what would I tell them? “Yeah. I have this lady here sneezing herself to death. Mouth to mouth? I don’t think so.”

I think the whole thing was Ray’s fault. Ray Darr. The world’s worst excuse for a pet rabbit. Now he’s trying to kill people with his dirty rabbit dander. We recently found out that he’s just a baby bunny because his little…okay enormous rabbit jewels finally dropped. We’re all still puzzling over that one. How could he be a baby when he’s bigger than some of the Great Danes in the neighborhood? Seriously. The earth shakes when this guy hops.

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See? This is what happens when we bring Ray to the store. He tries to kill people.

Anyway, that about sums up my Friday in the land of crazy.

Stay tuned for Saturday’s tales of Insanity.

Until next time, readers…stay out of the bushes.

Oxymorons and Such

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I have admittedly been suffering from writers block for the last two weeks. Well that’s not entirely true, because the words still seem to flow when I’m given a topic assignment that interests me, so maybe writers block isn’t exactly what I’d call it. It’s more or less been a lack of imagination. Creative Constipation. I’ve simply had an inability lately to think up good writing topics on my own.

So, I’ll go to the Daily Prompt each day and look it over. Lately they haven’t appealed to me much, but occasionally I’ll say, “Ooo, that’s a good one.” Then I’ll get sucked into some TV series on Netflix, and writing goes out the window for the day. Sad, I know, but it happens.

I used to try and write something daily, but I’ve been pretty unmotivated for whatever reason these past couple of weeks, so it’s been more like twice a week. I suppose I can blame my allergies. I’ve had an almost continuous sinus headache that has kept me feeling pretty crappy and has sapped my focus.

When I have written lately, it’s usually turned out to be something sad and depressing. When I wrote the previous post, my husband came home that evening and said, “Would you warn me before you’re gonna post stuff that makes me cry? I can’t be bawling like a baby at work.”

He’s right. I have been getting further and further away from the lighthearted humor that I used to try to fit into all of my posts. I’d rather be funny than depressing. I was just trying to keep it real. Didn’t mean to make anyone shed tears on my account. Don’t cry my adoring fans, don’t cry. There, there.

I mean sure, it’s all true stuff about my life and the emotions that past events have brought about, but all one and a half of you don’t want that sappy junk. You want the good stuff. You’re humor junkies, shaking in the ultraviolet glow of your electronic devices until you get your next fix. “Show me the funny,” I can hear you say. I’m telepathic like that. I’m watching you with my mind’s eye right now. You’re looking good. Have you lost a few pounds? I have to be honest, though, pink isn’t your color, and it’s about time you had a haircut.

Anyway, in the interest of lightening the mood for a change, I thought I’d grace you with a few of the crazy things that my kids have done or said that have made me chuckle over the years. Having offspring, while a full time, exhausting job most days, isn’t without its entertainment value, after all.

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I were discussing the fact that my son will walk around with sticky, gooey hands and a dirty face, and it doesn’t bother him in the least. So, in an effort to sound all motherly and intelligent, she turned to him and said, “You’d better wash your hands more often, or you’ll get Glaucoma.” I about died laughing. She of course knows what that is now, and I, being the compassionate, loving mom that I am, bring it up from time and time just to agitate her. It always works. She’s easy to rile up, though. It usually takes little to no effort to push her buttons. I think it’s a redhead thing. Or maybe a teenager thing. Probably both.

Then a few months back, my husband, who refused to cut his hair for whatever reason, decided to slick back his unruly mane with hair gel one day. I looked at him on the ride home and said, “Nice hair.” He said, “You think? I was going for a Bella Lugosi look.” I responded with, “Well, I think you more or less have Fonzie pegged.” My son vehemently disagreed from the back seat. I said, “Son, do you even know who  Fonzie is?” “Yeah. He’s that guy from the Muppets,” he replied.  My husband and I both laughed out loud.

This is also the same boy that was bored one day while we were running the thrift store, so he decided to go out and dance in the rain with a stuffed buffalo. I peeked around the corner out of the big roll up door at him spinning around with his buffalo, and said, “Son, should you have that buffalo out in the rain?” His response to me was, “Yeah, it’s fine. He’s a water buffalo.” I love my son.

Many years ago, when my oldest step daughter was about 11, her younger brother decided to shut the door in her face while we they were getting out of the minivan. A small argument ensued between the 2 once she made it out of the vehicle, which resulted in her eventually calling him a ‘stupid genius.’ I looked at her and said, “He can’t be stupid and a genius. That’s an oxymoron.” She put her little hand on her hip, gave me a cocky glare, and said, “I am NOT a moron.” I laughed until my sides ached.

Several years later, we all went to Krystal after church to get burgers; all 7 of us. On our way out, that same child thought that one of the large, sectioned windows next to the door actually was the door, and walked right smack into it. She stood there for a second and then said, “Oh. This one must be locked.” The whole family witnessed this display, and we all burst out laughing. This resulted in my quick witted self turning the situation into a joke. “How do you confuse a blond?” I asked. “You put a window where a door should be!” Everyone laughed, but I got a slug in the arm for that one from the blond in question. That whole scene still haunts her from time to time to this very day. Only because I bring it up, of course.

My kids.

They’re crazy, but I love them, all five of them; two that I gave birth to and three that I married into. When we’re all out and about people will say, “Are all of those your kids?!” I just smile and say, “Yep, never a dull moment in my house.”

And I mean it.