Sunday, June 29, 2008

A New Perspective

I know I dont typically blog about spiritual things, but I've been thinking a lot about church recently.

I feel like it just keeps coming up... and so many people in my life have so many different opinions on the matter. I have to admit, I'm a little bit confused about what my actual convictions are to this present day, but I think I'm getting closer to understanding.

Having grown up in a community of believers who all regularly attended church (most of whom had family involved if not running their respective churches), I always felt a bit different from my circle since my family loosely attended. We weren't every Sundayers. We weren't even every other Sundayers. Maybe, like, twice a month. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I was pretty involved in youth group(s) as I got older, so I attended more and more into High School, and church was very much a part of my life as I graduated and married Tyson.

When we moved to Missouri, we found a big church we wanted to be part of, and took a membership class almost right away. We got involved. We were in a small group at someone's house (hoping to connect with a new community being young and far away from home), and I volunteered to help in children's church... we took a membership class... and then came the subject of tithing.

It felt like a double standard. For the first time, I was making my own money, understanding the value (or lack thereof) of the dollar... and the church wanted it. I understood, in theory, why my dollar belonged to the church... because God calls us to give, because Jesus talks about money in the Bible more than he talks about anything else, because its all God's anyway and isn't that nice of him to allow us to keep 90% of what He has blessed us with... but, it felt uncomfortable, and it left a bad taste. I wanted to do it... but I was skeptical. And then, I felt guilty. Like I couldn't be a good Christian, or a growing Christian... if I wasn't giving.

I'm not saying thats the reason why we stopped going to church. I think we just got busy... we moved back to Santa Barbara, Tyson worked some Sundays and when he didnt, we drove to visit our families. We had a baby, moved a few more times, had another baby, the kids always get sick in the nursery, the services don't work out with morning nap routines, the kids cry when we leave them in their classes, so we'll take a break for awhile... conflict after conflict arose, and all the while were collecting life experiences and making observations about 'Christians' and 'church' along the way...

I can't speak for my husband (tho I think he may agree to an extent), but my observations and experiences of 'the faithful' in the void of regular church attendance hasnt been pretty. I see the hypocrisies. I see the double standards. I see the conflicts, the drama, the corruption, and sometimes, the downright cheesinesses (can I even say that?). And it bothers me... because everyone who is part of a church is so insistent in the necessity of being 'part of the family,' and Im thinking "WHY!? My family has enough of all that! The church wants our money to build and buy shiny new things, all the while they are mis representing Christ to the rest of the world who is watching while they all proceed to fall away one by one by one... "

For the last couple years, we've been not so regularly attending Atascadero Bible Church. I have to admit, I had my reservations at first. Its big. Everyone who even remotely claims Christ or morality of ANY kind on our small community attends. I thought... "I know too much about too many people. They know too much about me. They have too many shiny things and fancy programs to be interested in my family, or remember my face. But then again, what if they remember my face?"... but finally, we went. It wasn't bad. The next time, it was more comfortable than the first time... and so its continued all this time, until now, when finally I can say its the church we 'not so regularly but always if ever' attend.

I've been pleasantly surprised. I've found theres a reason for the huge number of attendees... they're doing something right. I don't agree with everything, always. But I feel more comfortable now. And I've made a few friends...

Today the message was "Why Join A Church?"

I thought..."Here we go. Im not getting sucked in to making a commitment just because I feel guilty..." and then I thought of all the reasons I'm not sure church attendance is a requirement for being an effective Christian, and how I dont feel the church today is ANYTHING that Christ meant it to be, all the corruption, all the short comings...

And then, I heard the message. And I feel slightly... encouraged. And enlightened. And surprisingly, less guilty!

The message was not condescending. It was not a guilt trip. It was not a membership plug.

The message spoke of the church being the Bride of Christ. It immediately reminded me of the beauty and perfection of a bride on her wedding day. But the pastor pointed out... the bride isn't beautiful without preparing herself. The bride, he said, is filthy at the beginning of the day, and only thru a nurturing process is she gradually transformed. Even so, the groom loves her, and anticipates what she will become in time.

He also drew the parallel of actual marriage. Why get married? Why not just live together? Well, that answer is pretty obvious to me. Marriage is hard... but it is good. At least I believe that. Its a pledge of loyalty, and a necessary commitment for a growing relationship.

But what about the hypocrisies? What about all the church's short comings? What about all the people who go to church, and bring their baggage, or think they don't have any baggage and are somehow better than the rest? What about the double standards?

He pointed out... this is why we go to church. Ministry is dirty. People are filthy. But Christ still gave to them. We go to church... not because we are perfect and holy and squeaky clean images of perfection... but actually, quite the contrary. We go... because we are hypocrites hoping to help heal each other... gradually. And we are all in different parts of the journey, and communing for a variety reasons and hang ups and triumphs.

Lastly, his point was that Christ loves the church. She is his bride. He purchased her with his blood, he nurtured and cherished her, and he has set her apart for a reason.

It would be easy to argue that over the centurys and political campaigns and one scandal after another, the church has lost sight of her sanctification (that is to say her 'purpose'). And maybe so. But, the fact is... she is still his bride. And we are to love what Christ loves. And no matter what our opinions of church in general might be... we ought to be careful how we speak of Christ's bride... for whom he gave his life.

So... i'm still not completely sure how I feel about church. But I think I can be more mindful of its purpose. And I can definitely be more careful about how I regard it.

And maybe... just maybe... we can make it 2 Sundays in a row. Its not membership... but its a start.

Wayyyyyy Low Maintenence Banana Bread

I think this was my Mom's recipe (??)... I like it the best of all the Banana Bread recipes I've tried because the ingredients dont include things you might not buy on a regular basis (buttermilk and the like...) and it turns out just about every time even if you vary the ingredients a little (such as using whole wheat flour instead of white flour, or adding wheat germ, or using low fat margarine instead of butter).


1 3/4 c. Flour
2/3 c. Sugar
2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. mashed banana (2-3-ish as ripe as they come)
1/3 c. melted shortening or margarine or butter
2 tbsp milk
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cups nuts to sprinkle on top (optional... I use chocolate chips instead sometimes, shhhhh!)

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Set aside.

Melt butter in microwave safe bowl. Mix in sugar, banana, milk, eggs. Once combined, add in dry ingredients.

Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes.

Makes 1 loaf.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Good Eats in Apple Valley

So, if your in the 'inner circle,' you know my 'secret someday' fantasy of opening a deli/bakery/coffee house type situation. You know, after I've successfully raised musical prodigy children and home schooled them right into the gates of Harvard, become a world reknowned hair stylist to the rich and famous and won a Grammy for my reality series based on my amazing skill, earn a college degree and become a nurse, no, make it doctor, stumble across a cure for cancer, started a non profit organization for under privileged children financed by my extra income from being paid to blog... and so on... I occasionally brainstorm prize winning menu items for my cafe in my down time. Sometimes, if your REEEEEEAAAAAL lucky and I like you and trust your good taste, I might bounce an idea or so off of you... ah, who am I kidding, prolly everyone who cares enough to read this already knows this twisted trivia about me and we've already planned the whooole thing out, right down to seasonal side dishes...

Anyways... Carly is obsessed with this chicken salad recipe, and it was her birthday dinner request recently so I got to fantasizing about it again myself... and its definitely going on the menu. Maybe its a little overboard to post my lunch experience from today on my blog, but... its really REALLY worth making, if you don't have a similar recipe of your own already. Particularly right now, as its a GREAT light summer dinner idea. I think I'm making it for our community potluck in the park this Monday... come try it! (Or... make it yourself and eat it at home in solitude, ya frigging hermit!):

Chicken Salad Worth Selling Your Soul For:

1 10-14oz can 98% Fat Free all white meat canned chicken*
1 large scoop mayo (I've used fat free sour cream before... I bet plain yogurt would even work)
3 tbsp minced onion
1 small diced apple
1 chopped celery stalk
1/2 c red seedless grapes, sliced in halves
1/4 c. chopped walnuts

*(This is the cheating way. You can also put a bunch of frozen boneless skinless chicken breast in your crock pot with chicken broth, slow cook it till it shreds, and wha-la! Same effect.)

Toss all ingredients into large mixing bowl.

In separate small mixing bowl, combine the following:

1 large spoonful mayo**
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

**(I've used light mayo, fat free sour cream, and I bet even plain yogurt would do the trick too!)

Mix all this stuff up... let it sit for a few minutes so it all falls madly in love with eachother... then fold it into the chicken bowl of magic and stir it all together.

Serve it with these yummy crackers, or if you're feeling really naughty or serving it to a crowd you'd like to make fat, it is DELECTABLE on a crissont.

Ok, so seriously. I cared enough to photo journal this... go make it.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Eeney Meeney Miney Mo...

We recently attended Tyson's cousin's graduation celebration in Santa Barbara. We missed the ceremony, since it was on a Friday afternoon, but she had a family gathering of sorts the following Saturday and we gladly accepted the invitation to attend her celebration at an old favorite restaurant from when we lived there.

Our kids are finally getting to an age where they are slightly more... portable. We can actually leave the house at any given moment without packing 2 sets of spare clothes, blankets, pacis, snacks, strollers, back up strollers,diapers, wipes, more wipes, baby carriers, bottles, sunscreen, books... ahh! My head is spinning just in the memory of it all. Its a beautiful thing to be rid of... I definitely don't feel sentimental AT ALL about having them be old enough to ditch the gear.

The only problem remaining (at the moment, anyway) is... well... they are both still at pretty high maintenance and all together unpredictable ages. You never can tell if a new surrounding will scare them into their best behavior disguises, or cause them to come unglued all together. They may choose to be best friends for the car ride, or poke, tease, spit, and throw toys at each other the whole way....

So, in the interest of not making Courtney's high school graduation party all about accommodating our adorable little loose cannons, we came up with a new strategy:

Divide the risk.


I cant believe we hadn't thought of it before. Anabelle could spend a day with my Mom... special grandma time. She wins! Dawson gets to go on a special grown up trip with Mommy and Daddy. He wins! Everyone goes home happy.

This would generally be the part of the story where my water tight plan starts sinking faster than the Titanic. But you know what we found out?

Having one kid... is bliss.

Dawson was SO much fun to watch as he soaked in the experience of the restaurant, and he was SO well behaved sitting between us with no one to gauge or skewer while developing his chopstick skills...

And no 'lovely assistant' to teach this new 'light things on fire at the dinner table' trick to...

We had a quick errand to run after the lunch and before heading back to the house for cake and presents, so we took a leisurely stroll up (and down) State St, amongst the beautiful people, wearing our cheesey 'matching' outfits Dawson had specially requested...

We fit SO much into our day trip. We lunched, we caked, we ran errands, we hit the park, we even broke Grandma Violet out of her retirement home for a hot cocoa date.

This would NOT have happened so smoothly (if at all!) with the 2 of them (or at least not 2 of our children!). But... with just the boy, this day... was perfection. It was such a complete joy to feel like for one day the world stopped spinning in every direction around us, allowing us to focus on Dawson as he drank in all the new sights and sounds and places and things.

It made me feel validated for wanting to be a parent. And desperate for more quality one on one time with the 2 greatest kids I know.

I'll let you know which one we decide to get rid of in a later post. HA!

Way to Kick A Mom When Shes Down...

Im afraid to say, just recently our sweet little Anabelle has run far, far, FAR away... and replaced her formerly sugar hold the spice little self with a dark and evil impostor.

I guess... hope?... its just a long over due case of the terrible twos. Just when I was starting to think I'd gotten off easy! Trickery.

For instance: ANY time I tell her something she doesn't want to hear... from 'drink your milk before you leave the table' to 'Mommy can get your cocoa after I go to the bathroom' she responds with this:

And occasionally this:

Also? She is a TOTAL princess. And I don't mean the "welcome to Disneyland, can I get you a marshmallow to munch and sing you a lullabye while you browse thru my kindgdom" kind. I mean the kind that waves her bejeweled scepter in the face of the starving villagers and coldly declares : "Let them eat cake!"

No mercy for her exhausted mother.

She is positively obsessed and determined to be a BIG GIRL. She devours every opportunity possible to remind us... "NO! IM NOT BEAUTIFUL, IM A BIG GIRL!... NO! IM NOT TIRED, IM A BIG GIRL!!!! NOOOOO! IM NOT HUNGRY, IM A BIG GIRL!!!" And so it plays on, and on, and on...

Yesterday was a particularly long and exhausting day, and Ty was at a late evening meeting so I took the kids on a brief outing for a change of scenery. By the time we got home, it was almost their bedtime, we hadn't eaten dinner as planned, the house was a train wreck of a home daycare, the children were caked in filth...

As we pulled in the driveway the 2 little evil dictators in the back seat started in with their list of demands...

I shut off the engine, put my hands on the wheel, took some deep cleansing breaths... fantasized about what it would be like to have just one night of peaceful rest in the state mental hospital...

Finally, feeling rather sorry for myself I slowly turned around to face the jeering little monsters... and in the calmest voice I could manage I softly said, "Can Mommy tell you guys something?"

Surprisingly, they both stopped mid-jeer and stood at attention, eyes wide and waiting to hear this important gem of wisdom I had to impart to them.

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting the little dears to call my bluff and actually focus on me, so I hadn't really prepared a speech. I hung on to the silence as long as I dared before I blurted out...

"Sometimes... its really hard to be the Mommy."

I know... not my proudest moment... but I was sulking. And apparently... they could smell the fear and vulnerability, for little Miss Antoinette in the back seat piped in without missing a single beat...

"!NO!!!!!!!! ITS NOT. YOU'RE A BIGGG GIRL!!!!!"

Thats when Dawson threw his head back in hysterical, sadistic, echoing laughter. And I realized I might as well join them, since its against the law to beat them.

Score one for team toddler.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Little Moments

Last night... after the storm of the day had died down and there was calm at long last... our family took time to delight in our very own backyard in the company of the hummingbirds.

...which eventually got boring, like most grown-up activities, I suppose...

But nothing a good old fashioned game of Hop On Pop couldn't mend.

I live for little moments like this.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Well, Look Who Just Showed Up!

I always joke with my friend Kari about how I blog sappy things about my husband as they happen because the thoughtfulness shines thru in spotty patches in the dark forest of wedded woes.

This is, of course (hellloooo, its ME!), an exaggeration... but in all honesty, lets face it. In the daily bustle between hitting the snooze button one too many times and finally collapsing half dead between the 'crap when was the last time I washed these and why am I sleeping on graham cracker crumbs?' sheets, some days, the... less than desirable... qualities in a spouse have their way of standing out like a sore thumb.

So I am acknowledging now the fact that Tyson has had this way of showing up unexpectedly since the day I met him. Like he swoops in at the moment I've had too much to handle just when hope is lost and I least expect it. I particularly remember one hot summer softball tournament, almost a decade ago... somewhere in the bloody heat and misery surrounding the Fresno hills. I had only known Tyson long enough to know I had it bad for him, and that he probably had some sort of affection for me since he had cared enough to ask me to prom...

I had gone out on a limb and mentioned this 'away' game to him, hinting that if he was up for wasting money to drive to the middle of nowhere and melt into a puddle while the moments were sucked out of his life in the hot summer sun, it would be great to have an adoring fan. He made no promises, and I caravaned over bright and early with my team in our parent's mini vans. I couldn't stop thinking about him, and feeling silly for thinking he would go out of his way for such a ridiculous waste of time.

By mid morning after we had finished our first game, we had just finished our second warm up rounds when I remember as if it were 5 minutes ago hearing a sound that made my stomach hit the ground for years to follow. I anxiously scanned the spectators and the parking lot, feeling ridiculous for thinking I could actually distinguish the rasp of the engine in that little red sports car.... then suddenly... I stopped breathing. There he was, in all his quirky teenage glory, pink bandanna wrapped loud and proud around his beautiful shiny bald head.

He just... showed up. Not even knowing where the tournament was, other than the town it was in that he had never been to before. He just went out of his way to make me feel appreciated and important, and cared for.

Now that our lives are increasingly more busy with the family static that we live among day in and day out, it would seem there are fewer opportunities to heroically swoop in out of the darkness from nowhere to save the day from unforeseen calamity and mortal peril. Perhaps as complicated as 'grown up' can feel sometimes, there is an over all absence of the dramatic pull of each and every life altering scenario there once was in our glory days. Sometimes (well, a lot of times) I miss those days. Until he reminds me. Like yesterday.

I was standing in the kitchen, utterly exhausted and mentally drained from solving one too many toddler crime cases, hustling to make something to bring to our next event, trying not to listen to the voices in my head screaming all the items on my to-do list at a pitch so high it could only be heard by the dog, who was barking his face off outside threatening to blow the house down if I didn't drop everything and fill his dinner dish before I even so much as dared to go to the bathroom.

Enter: Tyson from work. He asks about my day, I tell him to look around. He heads off to change his clothes or put out a fire somewhere, and returns a moment later. He eyes a DVD case sitting on the counter that I had told him about earlier in the day. A couple weeks ago, I had offered to return it for a friend and it had somehow fallen out of sight until she called earlier in the day to inquire about the $25 in late fees. Oopsey.

He picks up the DVD, and offers to run it down and return it before 7pm, when another late fee would accrue. I gladly accepted the generous offer, which I hadn't fit anywhere into my evening agenda. Before I could blink, he followed with "want me to take the kids with me?"

"Um.... is that really a question?"

He turned to gather the heard, and then I heard Anabelle pattering across the kitchen floor. She pulled on my leg... "Momma... you need anything else from store?"

They were his words, I knew it the moment she said them. Tyson and I talk every day on his lunch break, and he always closes with "alright... see you soon... do you need anything from San Luis?"

I didn't need anything else from the store. And I think generally I don't need anything else, period. It was a small way of showing up to salvage my day, but it meant a lot. First that he could come home after a long day and put my unfinished to do list at the top of his priorities, second for rescuing his maiden from the terrors and furies of the toddler dragons for a quiet moment to stuff my deviled eggs and watch the Tim Russert tribute on the evening news in peace, and lastly... for taming the beasts and imparting a small touch of his assertive kindness in life lesson to his daughter.

Thanks for showing up for me, Ty. I love ya.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Burrito Pie.... Arriba! Ole!

This recipe was recently requested from me... its a McDermott family favorite... ok, its MY favorite so I guess that makes it a Harkness family favorite too. My Grandmom used to make it for family dinners on occasion growing up, it always feels a little bit like cheating and eating pie for dinner (kind of). Also, its ingredients that you usually have on hand... so I end up making it a lot of nights I just run out of ideas.

SO. Without further ado... Ahem.


1 Cup Bisquick
1/4 cup water
1 16 oz can refried beans

Mix all ingredients until well combined, then spread into well greased (PAM) 10'' pie pan. Chill.*

3-4 cooked and shredded/cubed chicken breasts**
1 can your favorite salsa

Mix chicken and salsa together, dump on top of burrito 'crust.'


1 Cup shredded cheddar or Jack cheese
1 can sliced olives
2-3 sliced green onions
1 Avocado, sliced lengthwise (into moon shaped slivers)

Add cheese to top of chicken mixture. Arrange avocados in sun like pattern, then garnish with olives and green onions. Pretty, huh?

Bake 30 min at 400. Serve with dab of sour cream on top. Yuuuuuuum!

*I sooooo never chill the crust. Anyone know why the heck you're supposed to do that anyways?
** Tip for chicken filling, I usually put a whole bag of frozen chicken breast in the crock pot on low sometime mid-morning, and by mid afternoon when you're ready to assemble, you already have your filling waiting for you. It also shreds really nice, never dries out, and you don't have to touch raw chicken. Win, win, WIN!

I'm soooo hungry now. I'm off to raid the pantry.


Its the End of the World As We Know It...

Lately I've been really thinking about the world.

Not in terms of political party.

Not in terms of how the economy effects my job's security.

Not in terms of how the cost of oil will force my poor little opressed soccer mom altar-ego to drive a honda to pick my kids up from school instead of a gas guzzling SUV.

But just standing back and looking at the biiiiig picture.

I hate what we are.

All of us. The whole world.

I think we are living in times like no other time before. We have bought and consumed ourselves to a place that is complete unmarked territory. I don't know that the blame can be pointed at any particular world leader, generation, or specific policy... all I know is that we need change like we have never in history needed it before.

I realize that I am a young little speck, still a little bright eyed and unexperienced with a flare for the dramatic... but in my humble speculation, what have we become? And more importantly, how do we mend it?

History books will say to us that economic cycling is an important part of domestic (and really global) industry. Its what makes everything tick in time and balance out. There has to be recession to be prosperity. I appreciate this.

But has there ever before been a time so hopeless... where seemingly every nation is shaking each other's hands with a dagger tucked behind their backs, we are killing our own kind and our environment for oil and power to no avail, we are depleting our natural resources one evaporating iceberg at a time, and no one seems to have a melting pot to piss in let alone dip in to for a small portion of the billions of non-existent dollars we need to help every day people at home and across oceans who have been devastated by hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, fires and earthquakes.

I am a worrier. I know, I know. Dont worry about things you cant control or change... stress is bad for your heart... It cause my skin to break out and look less than the perfect picture of the American dream!

But honestly. I feel a responsibility to do something for my kids. Not only because their faces might melt off from the hole my hairspray can is putting in their ozone layer. But because... look at what a selfish, defiant, destructive example we have set for ourselves that has somehow become the standard the entire world lives by.

I am going to start thinking long and hard (thats what she said) about what I can do. My vote might not count, but I think I can bring myself to walk my milk carton out to the recycle instead of chucking it into the trash can. My husband can carpool to work.

And Im going to keep thinking... and even worrying. I really hope everyone with a soul does the same thing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Visitors

Wowooooooweee. My life is a whirlwind of summer chaos right now. Today is my little brother Kyle's birthday AND Jr.High promotion. This Saturday we are traveling to Santa Barbara for the day to celebrate Tyson's cousin's High School graduation, Sunday is Father's Day (x3), next week we have almost every single weeknight booked with potlucks and parties, Carly's birthday is next Friday, Chris and Kayla are getting married next Saturday... BLIMEY! When does the madness stop? Unfortunately... July looks like its filling up fast as well. I guess the up side in over scheduling is that MAYBE summer will fly by and I will be too busy with my juggling act to have my usual panic attack from the heat wave. That, or heat exhaustion will be the final straw for my frayed string of sanity, and I will finally have that nervous breakdown that is always looming just below the surface. If that is the case, lets hope the insane asylum has air conditioning.

That said, I had every intention of blogging each beautiful moment of Austin and Tiffany's stay with us last week. BUT... since it took me three nights to finish my car chime entry alone with all the constant disruptions and emergencies and also since the photos of their visit have been uploaded and rotting away in photobucket for over a week now... I think I'll just have to let the pictures tell their own tale.


Monday, June 9, 2008

The Urban Car Chime Myth

The title is a spoof off an episode of Sex and the City, where Carrie stumbles upon this deliciously rare pair of Manaolo Blahniks. I thought the reference would be appropriate for this entry, since I just returned from girls weekend with a group of friends that are every bit as classy (and then some!) as the ladies of the hit series. Upon my return, I am reminded yet again of what a rich woman I am... if only I could buy my groceries with friendships!

Anyways, while I am waiting for pictures to post of the wild weekend (my camera didn't make it with me... its a long story), I thought I might grace you with the Urban Car Chime Myth of the Santa Barbara circle of friends.

There are 4 friends in this particular circle: Krista, Lynn, Terese and myself, and we were all fortunate enough to be co-workers once upon a useful-working-class-member-of-society lifetime ago...

Ahh, those were the days...

Tyson and I were 2 toddlers lighter, living in a tiny apartment a block from my office and a mile from the beach in the magical land of Santa Barbara. Ty was a hot dog man for Costco while attending college, and I paid 'the rest' of our rent turning tricks for State Farm Insurance (and financial services). Every day I would wake up at 7am (soooo early... HA!), shuffle down to the office by 8 where coffee was already brewed and waiting and the music was bumpin loud and proud, thanks to Krista (sometimes Lynn)... the early riser(s). Terese would fly into the parking lot like a bat out of hell sometime before 9am... usually... HAHA, love you Terese... and we spent our days slaving away and managing the risks of every day lives policy after policy after policy. Somewhere along the way, we all managed to fall madly in girl love with each other as we shared our work loads and our lives together over a working lunch in the break room almost 5 times a week.

One year, as Christmas approached, our office was invited to attend a holiday luncheon for all the local agencies in our region at a nearby restaurant. The event would be a buffet style lunch, followed by a small gift exchange. Each associate attending was asked to bring a wrapped gift and there was a set spending limit of somewhere around $10 or $20 per gift.

This was a time where the cash flow was more of a trickle, and I remember considering momentarily the long list of family and friends that I planned to buy gifts for with my non existent life savings and my credit card with the $250 limit. But, this was an opportunity to celebrate my favorite season with my friends and co-workers and also to GET A PRESENT (cha-CHING!), so not participating = not an option. I purchased my gift in the said price range, wrapped it thoughtfully, and showed up trying to hide my childish anticipation for the gift table.

I don't remember all the details of the exchange, but I do know I got to choose a gift early on, and I ended up with something half decent that someone 'stole' from me instead of choosing their own gift to unwrap as the pickings got more and more slim. That was fine with me, because it allowed me to GET ANOTHER PRESENT to unwrap from the table. YESSSSS!

Now, my entire office knows how much I love presents. They know I am trying not to widdle on my way up to the table. By this time, there are only a few sad looking wrap job gifts left, but WHO CARES, they are PRESENTS!!! I grabbed one that looked most promising in the bunch and turned to face the sea of faces fixed on me as I tore out the tissue paper with my hands trembling with excitement and anticipation.....


Aaaaaand..... I'm pretty sure it was like watching a dog get hit by a car for everyone in the room to see my heart hit the floor and the disappointment cloud my face.

For in my hot little hands that couldn't wait to savage the mountain of gifts, staring back at me were THESE little beauties:

Car Chimes. IIIII KNOW!! What in the blazes are 'car chimes,' RIGHT?!

The experience felt kind of out-of-body... I stood there frozen in front of a room of professional colleagues (one of them being the Judas who betrayed me), staring at my prize. I couldn't move. I didn't know what to say! I had been SO OBVIOUSLY INVESTED in the game, and I was set up to have rotten vegetables thrown at me.

It felt like an eternity had gone by before Krista hollers from across the room "WHAT IS IT???????"

"Its... its... Car Chimes!" I responded, trying to sound as enthusiastic as possible.

"OH!... Car Chimes!"

"Yah, Chimes, I guess you hang them from your rear view mirror, maybe?"

Just what every working woman trying to buy Christmas gifts for her entire family on milk money needs! GAHHHHH!

It wasn't even the fact that I got jilted that made it so initially humiliating and embarrassing and now, finally, FUNNY. Its the fact that I was SOOOO excited to begin with, I must have been the ONLY ONE in there that really cared more about opening presents than the free lunch. Look where it got me.

In the car on the way back to the office, I think my girlfriends laughed so hard they cried. By the time we got back to the office, I was finally laughing too. My boss, who had stayed behind, was also thoroughly entertained. Who wouldn't be, really? Its classic. I set myself up, and bit it hard. I wish it were on tape, maybe the horrible scene could have won me a grand prize on America's Funniest Home Videos or something. If nothing else, it would be good to have handy somewhere so I can pull it out and watch it on replay all the days that life doesn't go my way...

But I ended up stuffing them in my desk and trying to blot them from my memory.

When I left the office for good after Dawson was born and it was time to move home, I found them stuffed way in the back of the last drawer I was cleaning out. It didn't seem right to take them, so I ceremoniously passed them on to Terese (who moved into our old house when we moved out!) and asked that she carry the torch (or maybe I suggested re-gifting them at the exchange the following year?). She graciously accepted.

Terese later married her Lyle and moved several hours north to be closer to family and build her life, so naturally, she passed the chimes to Lynn (who by then was the last of our group left in the office as Krista had taken a job in Bakersfield and purchased a home).

Last April, all of us girls gathered again for a reunion of sorts in Santa Barbara to celebrate Krista's engagement. We wined and dined at a posh restaurant downtown, and tucked tight in the bottom of her gift bag of wedding lotions and potions were... HAHAHAHA SUCKA!... you guessed it, car chimes.

I think my favorite part about the passing of the chimes is... whoever is on the receiving end I know that was true for me, anyway, when I LOST a trivia game at Krista's house for the Sex and the City movie party night, yet I was mysteriously awarded a big red goodie bag anyways.

I figured she just knew I was a sore looser that loved presents.

But alas, I WAS TRICKED, and the wretched chimes have found their way to me yet again (along with some pretty bath potions to soften the blow... thanks, Krista!).

Which means... the circle is complete and ready to be retraced! AND I HAVE THE POWER to bestow for the next life event in our circle.

Watch out, bitches. Don't get pregnant, don't have birthdays, don't purchase homes... Don't even BREATHE THE MENTION of anything that suggests 'life event worthy of gift-receiving," or you juuuuust might be the proud owner of the traveling car chimes once more.

It feels good to be in charge. Almost as good as it feels to be part of such a cool group of friends.

I love you girls!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Love is in the Air

...because Chris and Kayla are getting married June 2st!

I wanted to post these shots of the gorgeous job that Rachel (matron of honor) did for Kayla, who is tying the knot in less than 3 weeks! WaHOOOOO!

Kayla's soon to be husband (Chris) and Rachel's husband (John) have been best friends since childhood (they were neighbors at one point!), and my husband (Tyson) joined their 'inner circle' in High School (maybe before?). Rachel and Kayla and Christina all went to high school together, and I played softball with Rachel in our early teens and met Kayla not long after thru our then boyfriends... we even went to Sr. prom together (well... not 'together' but, you know...) Who ever could have guessed we would all end up joined in one giant circle of holy matrimony? Crazy! I think its sooo cool that we go that far back and have been able to share each other's stories as they've unfolded.

ANYHOOT, enough with the history, now ON TO THE SHOWER!:

Kayla LOVES pink, and Rachel was so thoughtful in making this day all about Kayla's preferences... so obviously there were little touches of pink girly frills wherever possible. It was so feminine and pretty without being over the top... really well done.

The event was outside, which was a little concerning at first when we awoke to an overcast day... but the sun actually made an appearance or two, and it was TOTALLY worth wearing a light sweater to be in Rachel's beautiful back yard.

The shower was at 2pm, but I offered to come a little early to 'help' put all the last minutes together. Rachel graciously accepted, but when I got there she had everything SO under control I felt pretty useless. She humored me and let me do ALL the FUN jobs, like flower arranging and balloon disbursing and food situating and wine bottle opening.

What a hostess! Oh, and did I mention that despite being 20 weeks pregnant and a mother of a 15 mo old, she still managed to have things so organized we sat around and chatted for 45 minutes before the party showed up?

She always has been kind of an over achiever. ;)

The shower was simple, low key, and classy. No silly frilly 'make me a gown of toilet paper' games. A brief ice breaker to get everyone aquainted followed by plenty of time for eating, chit chat, feeding our faces some more, presents, cake, ok maybe just ONE more time to the food table... ah. It was bliss. I want to go back and eat it all again. Yummmmmmmmm.

(Isnt Christina HOT in this picture??!?! )

Julie had fun pretending to be one of the fancy and refined ladies whilst I got to sit at the feet of the bride to be and assist as her 'special helper...' for all the packages with the extra strong tape she just couldn't possibly pry open without the help of my super human gift opening capabilities. Man, I just dont think I will ever get past peeing my pants in pure joy over an occasion that involves presents of any sort. GAH! I want to open presents now. Somebody bring me one? ;)

Anyhoot. Rachel nominated me to be the honorary cake-baker, which I was initially stressing about (in a good way...) because as much as I LOVE to bake, I seem to have a bad case of performance anxiety (hence, Anabelle's first birthday cake fiasco...Ugh. If only I had discovered blog therapy back then!). But... yet again, thanks to my amazing friends... I think I managed to pull it off. Stephanie happens to be an old pro by now after perfecting this amazing recipe that Flo posted awhile back. I did a trial run (or 2)... everyone was really devastated about having to sample the dummy cake over and over and over again at first, but I think it paid off in the end. The curse is broken, huzzah!

Just think, Kayla... the next time you cut a cake you will be in a gorgeous white dress!! Wow. I cant wait, you deserve all the best and more and I LOVE when good things happen for good people. Can't wait for the next decade of friendship! Muah!