Speed dating‎

Book Club On The Blog: Volume IV

It’s been a minute y’all.
Life in a nutshell right now: buying a house, planning renovations for said-house, not living in this house but making mortgage payments on it, creating elaborate narratives about what our new neighbors are like.  It’s a whole thing you guys.

In other news, I’ve been reading some good books lately and thought I’d share.  With fall here, I feel like I’m supposed to tell you to grab a book and get cozy under a blanket by the fire.  But we all know it’s more like: read your Kindle in bed with retainers in your mouth and kind of sleep-swipe a few pages until you pass out and your husband has to reach over you to turn out the light.  But I wouldn’t know.

  1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine // Gail Honeyman
    [Fiction]
    eleanor oliphant is completely fine
    If you enjoyed “A Man Called Ove”, you’ll like this one.  I thought Eleanor Oliphant was even better; it’s such a fantastic book.  She’s 30, living the life of a loner, sticks closely to her established routines, and is enormously awkward in social situations.  Eleanor meets Raymond from work and for the first time, she experiences friendship.  There are a lot of layers to this book that are pieced together as you read and get to know Eleanor more.  The novel is divided into three sections: “Good Days”, “Bad Days”, “Better Days”.  Lots of emotions but mostly a lot of love for Eleanor, who grew on me.
  2. These Is My Words // Nancy Turner
    [Historical Fiction]
    these is my words
    This is written as Sarah Prine’s diary entries in the late 1800’s, taking place in the Arizona Territories.  It’s strangely more entertaining than that first sentence makes it sound.  A friend recommended it and when I finally picked it up, it kept my interest each time I sat down to read.  With that said, while there is triumph and romance and adventure, there is also tragedy and a significant amount of trauma Sarah is working through as she journals. Some people may find it hard to push through certain parts.  It’s not a “feel-good”, light read, but in my opinion, it’s worth picking up and there are moments that will leave you cheering.
  3. Of Mess And Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life // Jen Hatmaker
    [Nonfiction: Humor/Essays]
    of mess and moxie
    Of Mess and Moxie read very similarly to Jen’s previous book, For The Love.  She balanced her content with humor, depth, and recipes- FIIIINE I TOOK PICTURES of the smoothie recipes before returning to the library so sue me.  (Fun fact- I’m meeting Jen and Nichole Nordeman on Monday. I’ve already made peace with the fact that they will be darling and even more wonderful in person, while I’ll probably say something that will result in carrying the burden of my awkwardness for the next three decades.  Almost guaranteed.)
  4. The Magnolia Story // Chip and Joanna Gaines
    [Nonfiction: Memoir]
    magnolia
    Hi, remember how I had to stage a house and channel all of my inner Joanna? (Which really means: I lost my ever-loving mind and long story short, I glued my fingers together.)  I joined the Fixer Upper bandwagon over the summer while all our house stuff was going down.  The Magnolia Story went on a summer vacay with me and was a great, easy beach read.  Chip and Joanna write in alternating voices/fonts and share their story- how they met, what their journey’s been like with Fixer Upper up until now, etc.  (Another fun fact: My sister-in-law borrowed the book at the end of our vacation, but y’all.. she didn’t get to finish the last two chapters.  So please make space for this humble brag: I sent her picture texts of the pages from the last two chapters while in the airport because I couldn’t let her not finish this book.  Is that OCD or deep and abiding family love.. who will ever know?)
  5. Best Day Ever // Kaira Rouda
    [Fiction: Thriller]
    best day ever
    Y’all don’t even knowwwww how fast I read this book.  To be fair- it’s a pretty quick read as it is, but it was an excellent thriller.  Paul and Mia live a charmed life: the perfect marriage, a big house, two beautiful children, lots of money.  Their story takes place in a 24 hour window on the way to their lake house, where Paul has planned “the best day ever”.  As you read, you realize not everything is as it appears, and the plot begins to twist and turn.  Slightly predictable, but still enjoyable.  (Disclaimer for some: occasional strong language)
  6. None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different Than Us (And Why That’s a Good Thing) // Jen Wilkin
    [Christian Nonfiction]
    none like him
    Jen Wilkin wrote such a profound and important book in None Like Him. As humans, we reflect God’s image in numerous ways, but from the beginning of time, we’ve wrongly wanted to be like God. She writes,
    “God is (and we can be): Holy, Loving, Just, Good, Merciful, Gracious, Wise, Faithful…
    Only God is: Infinite, Incomprehensible, Self-Existent, Self-Sufficient, Eternal, Unchanging, All-Present, All-Knowing, All-Powerful” (paraphrased, page 24)
    This book does a great job explaining how limited we are in relation to God’s limitless attributes.  It breaks down big theological ideas so that they aren’t as intimidating.  Can’t recommend highly enough; I’ll be picking this up again and again over the years.book club on the blog

Books I’m Reading Now But Can’t Vouch For Quite Yet:
Always // Sarah Jio
I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections // Nora Ephron

Previous Book Recommendations
Book Club on the Blog Posts 1, 2, 3

Finally: Unrelated to books, but completely related to my gym class nemesis, if you haven’t read my last post: People of the Gym: Group Fitness Participants please do so now.  Maybe one of you knows the girl who kept crowding My Spot at my last gym class and can forward the post to her, so she can get some chill.  Unresolved anger alert.

Back to books.. Your turn: What are you reading?  What needs to go on my list?

People of the Gym: Group Fitness Participants

What can I say?  People watching comes naturally to me.  It’s both fascinating and horrifying to observe people behave in ways that must seem appropriate to them.. but to everyone else, it’s just like.. no.  To write a blog post on “People of the Gym”, particularly Group Fitness Participants, proved to be an outlet for all the overstimulation and commentary I’ve held in my head for the past decade.  It was also gratifying to text friends to gather ideas and find out that they witness ridiculous people doing outrageous things in their gym classes too.  PSA America:  Do better.  Your Group Fitness behavior is all kinds of dysfunctional.

gym group fitness

Person Sending Help Signals With Their Eyes in the Fitness Room Mirrors
She looked terrified even in the warm-up, first red flag.  You kept an eye on her to make sure she was emotionally ready to lock in her plank.  How could you have known the mountain climber/side plank combo was her breaking point?  You made eye contact in the fitness mirror and she unleashed a frenzy of eye blinking morse code.  Based on your complete inability to understand morse code signals, you had no idea what she was communicating, but it seemed urgent which is why you went and gave her a big hug full of empathy and understanding.  That was the last time she ever came to Body Attack.

 

The Close Stander
Also known as the ankle biter shadow, allllll up in your biz with their jumping jacks.  The entire time I’m working out, I feel like they’re about to clip my Achilles tendon, which obviously explains why I don’t go all-in on my workout.  I have to hold back the energy just a little bit on my jumping jacks, in case the need arises to whip around and roundhouse kick near my neighbors to establish my territory.  “All. The. Space. I’m. Kicking. Is. Mine.”  That outburst will buy you a five foot workout radius… highly recommend.

 

Girl Who Executed An Entire Mary Kay Make-Up Regimen Before Her 6am Class
The ones who wear make up to work out….. noooo maaa’aaaams!  I’m not even talking to the women who exercise after their 9-5 desk job with some residual mascara still hanging on.  I’m calling out the ones who show up to the gym before sunrise, trying to act like they aren’t wearing their Age Fighting Moisturizer + Liquid Foundation + Mineral Eye Shadow in Granite (girl i need this, lets talk after class) + Eye Liner + Mineral Blush to swing kettle bells.  DON’T ACT LIKE YOU AREN’T WEARING BROW GEL.  WE SEE YOUR GROOMED EYEBROWS. If I even make it to a 6am class, y’all gonna be so blessed by my morning regimen: chapstick, deodorant, eye slits half open just enough so I don’t walk into a door.

 

The Spot Stealer
1.  You exchange pleasantries with everyone before the class starts.
2.  You decide you like everyone here, this class is awesome, it’s going to be a great work out, endorphins are the best!
3.  Spread out and get started.  Kick, jump, bend, squat, sweat, smile, repeat.  So amazing, you love this.
4.  Break for water between songs.
5.  Turn around and see that Catelynn- who you thought was your gym friend- put her mat down in the place you were just working out.  Not too thrilled about this right now.
6.  Weigh your options: 1) Confront her directly and confirm that wow, Catelynn did that on purpose because she’s the absolute worst.  No wonder she spells her name like that.  She needs to find some new real estate for her mat asap.  Or 2)  Put your mat down a foot away and passive-aggressively sigh as you do it.  Complete any core-strengthening mat activities with one eye on the instructor and the other side-eyeing your Gym Nemesis.
7.  Obviously you’ll choose Option 2 because you’re a lover not a fighter.  But next time Catelynn steals your spot, she better know you WILL meet her after class for a street fight and maybe a smoothie.. because let’s just all get along.

 

The Overachiever(s)
These are the people who push their bodies to the brink of hospitalization every single class or else they feel ashamed to be alive.  In my crowdsourcing of ideas for this post, a friend said, “The best is when I’m in Spin class and the teacher gives us a “break” and people jump off their bikes and do push-ups on the floor.”  Whaaaaaat.  Just reading that sentence makes me feel angry.

Come here, you tired little people.  Just stop being so fancy all the time and let me tell you something.  When a fitness instructor says you can “take a break”, that doesn’t mean you need to suddenly burn 900 calories in front of everyone.  We would actually rather that you pause for a moment with some water, catch your breath like the rest of us, feel like you are physically dying and may never breathe again, plan the hymns for your funeral, then notice the break’s over and start peddling with the instructor again. That’s literally what everyone else is doing during a break.

 

Girl Who Wore Her Spandex Bikini To Work Out
It’s *almost* as if she meant to.  Let me tell you something- I am a Christian woman but if this girl’s falling all out of her clothes in front of my husband, I will cut a sister so fast.  I will slash the Father Son and Holy Spirit right into her at Fitness Connection.  YALL TRY ME.  I don’t even understand why this is a comfortable workout decision- to wear 1/8 of the amount of clothing that’s actually needed to keep all the girls tucked in.  If Jigglypuff knows she’s about to do Step Aerobics, then she needs to make some smart life choices and ask, “WWJD” (What Would Joey Do).
friends joey

 

The Conversationalists
No, it’s totally okay, you guys.  Please continue having your conversation even though the instructor is having to talk over you to direct everyone to the next exercises.  Also, please laugh REALLY LOUDLY a few more times so we can all like you a little less.  In fact, while y’all were carrying on, the rest of the class set up an emergency GoFundMe and- good news!- we’ve raised enough money to buy you a  Keurig and some armchairs.  That soccer practice recap sounded really important so we thought y’all may want to get set up with some coffee in a location where we’ll never have to hear your voices again.  Mkay, buhbye, xo.

 

The One Who’s Like: Nahhhh I’m Good
My favorite kind of person, because they’re only nine minutes into their Zumba class and they’re like “unless you play Despacito, I’m out”.  They’re perpetually half a beat behind the rhythm.  They’ve stumbled into 3-5 people already.  Finally.. you see them pick up their keys, water bottle, and phone, and take off through the back doors.  They’ll spend the last 40 minutes of the class in the locker room looking at their phone, because that’s still 40 precious minutes they don’t have to pick up their kid from childcare.  Besides, Despacito is on YouTube.

 

That Guy Whispering “Can I have yo numbah” During Yoga

Thankfully not all the dudes in a group fitness class are like this, but there’s always one.  The guy who’s trying to be super casual about going to yoga… but really he’s activating his facial recognition software to see who was on his Tinder feed last week.  “ayyyy girl, how do u do downward dog, and ALSO..*whispers*.. will u go to olive garden with me?”  You move into Warrior II pose and whisper back, “No, I get diarrhea and go into anaphylactic shock every time I eat gluten or vegetables or breadsticks, namaste tho.”  That’ll teach him.

 

Overeager Middle-Aged Woman Having Her Midlife Crisis At This Exact Moment
I have witnessed- yes, this is true- a woman exuberantly participating in the front row of a Les Mills dance class wearing a belly chain of COINS over her tennis skirt. So many questions on this one, just so many.
1) Where was this purchased, Judy?
2) Do your sons know you’re doing this right now?
3)  Will you use three of those coins to buy me a Powerade after class?
4) Is your midlife crisis happening right now at this exact moment?
5) Are you swinging the coins around off-beat on purpose?  This is like clapping on the 1 and 3. I cannot handle this off rhythm coin clinking.  Honestly Judy, if you are going to involve us in your midlife crisis, I need it to sync with my step touch.

 

Broseph With Something To Prove
(See related: The Overachiever)
Most likely to go way too hard at Boot Camp, and vom at the end for good measure.
Probably wearing a muscle shirt so there’s no doubt as to how many muscles he owns.
Not afraid to manly waddle in the gym instead of walk, because how else do you transport all those muscles from one location to the next?

 

The Third Trimester Pregnant Lady Squatting Lower, Jumping Higher, Lifting Heavier Than All Y’all
It’s a really special feeling you get as a very much not-pregnant-woman when you are slacking on burpees because of leg cramps, and you look over, and Maternity Mandy already finished her burpee variations with box jumps, flipped a fifty pound tire across the room, and is now forty seconds into holding a handstand.  WHAT THE.  GO HAVE YOUR BABY. And do like the other people who grew babies.. gain 50 pounds and wear your husband’s clothes and drink lemon water cuz you have cankles and literally roll to get out of bed.  And if Maternity Mandy so much as posts one workout picture deadlifting a loaded barbell with her pregnant belly swinging around, report her photo as “inappropriate” to the Instagram gestapo, because no one should get a free pass from stretch marks and indigestion.

gym group fitnessIf you liked this post, share it with all your Gym Rat friends so they can get some act-right in their group fitness classes.
And while you’re here, check out similar posts:
People of the Beach: You Do You
Thank You Notes: People of the Gym

How To Stage A House And Also Lose Your Mind (Part Three)

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present our third and final edition to “How To Stage A House And Also Lose Your Mind”.

If you missed the two previous posts, sit your kids in front of a cartoon and get caught up.  Your temporary neglect is so purposeful and necessary… they’ll be fine.

Check them out here:
stage a houseHow To Stage A House And Also Lose Your Mind Part (Part One)
Step One: Bring in a professional stager who will make you rethink everything you’ve ever done in your house.

Step Two: Live out the American Dream, which is to say, have a house of stuff and rent two storage units to hold your other stuff.


stage a houseHow To Stage A House And Also Lose Your Mind (Part Two)

Step Three: Tackle the to-do list from the stager and realize Joanna Gaines is a DIY Goddess and we are not worthy.

Step Four: Once you’ve successfully declutter your home, go shopping.

And now…
Part Three:
stage a house
Step Five: Knock out those final items on the to-do list and laugh to keep from crying.

The final items on the to-do list are what I call the LOList.  It’s the tasks that are bottom-of-the-barrel priority, but still need to be attended to in the staging preparation.  Additionally, somewhere in the process of accomplishing those tasks, I will almost certainly LOL, ranging from a quiet snicker to an all-out cackle accompanied by a teensy bit of tinkle spray… choosing to laugh pretty much because my only other option is stress-induced sobbing.

Excerpts from the list and a description of how it went down:
LOList 1.  Move dead copperhead off of our property
Just a shot in the dark, but we had to assume buyers weren’t in the market for a house with “granite countertops! new carpet upstairs! also venomous snakes nearby!”  Just days before the house was to be listed, I put my daughter to bed and then my mom and I mulched the yard until I couldn’t feel my fingertips anymore.  (My sugar daddy would’ve been out there with us, but he was at work chasing paper so we can buy nice things like name brand sunscreen, y’all hear me?)  That three-foot-long viper tried to jump me as soon as the moon rose.  My Parseltongue is a little rusty but it’s possible he slithered up like, “sssup” and I was like “NO HE DI’INT” and he was like “hisss” and then I got my mom to back her car over it like twelve times.

We let it sit dead by our driveway for a few days as a PSA to all the other snakes.  Then we gave it a proper burial by scooping it with a shovel and catapulting it into the briars.  NOT TODAY VOLDEMORT.  Mama gotta stage.

LOList 2.  Patch and paint holes in the wall.
What should’ve been the easiest, most-common staging task became the biggest thorn in my flesh, the project that wouldn’t die a finished, perfectly completed death.  Ugh.  Why were the paint cans we needed to use corroded with rust, tainting all my paint shades? Why were the three colors we needed all like 2 shade variations from each other?
paint colorsHow was I supposed to know that Lowes was going to mislabel 2 of the 3 new paint can shades?  I mean.. you open a can of paint and stir that baby up, but it’s not until you get it on the wall for touch-ups that you’re like “OH.  Nooo.. no no no.”  Believe me.. I was in the master bathroom just slapping up guess and check brush strokes to figure out which can was supposed to go with those walls.
bathroom paintLow point, seriously weighing if the buyers would walk ALL the way into master bathroom to turn and see this piece of abstract art touch-up.  I really wanted to just tape a Post-it underneath those wall touch-ups that said, “Ma’ams and Sirs, I TRIED”.  And I’d leave the ink pen and Post-its in the bathroom in case they wanted to write back to me during showings and say reassuring things like, “Honey we know” or “You obviously devoted your time and attention to the living room, it shows.”  THANK YOU FOR NOTICING, SHOWING #3.

LOList 3.  Attach broken piece of wood back to vanity.
The side of the vanity had a painted wooden piece that chipped off, so I asked my husband, Daniel, to help me reattach it.  In he comes with a bottle of Super Glue.  Now, I taught elementary school for seven years and I can man-handle some Elmer’s Glue, y’all.  I’d never worked with Super Glue before but I figured it was only six degrees of separation from its cousin, Elmer, so I was all in.
Well.
Daniel dotted the back of the piece with Super Glue and had me press it onto the vanity to hold it in place.  I was not prepared for the glue to seep out from behind and bond with my fingertips.  I straaaightttt up superglued my fingers into the wood.  It was touch-and-go for at least 45 seconds.  I went through the fastest grieving process in humankind and made peace with the amputation of all fingers, if that would solve the problem of superglued wood fingers.  Daniel helped yank my fingers off of the wood, with no regard for my tender epidermis, and then- because who stops to think this through- I then touched my fingertips together and couldn’t break them apart.  (Reminder: I am responsible for raising a human. What is wrong with me)
The end of the story involves a cocktail of nail polish remover, dish soap, hot water, a Brillo pad, and a lot of minutes.  The vanity did get fixed and so did my fingers, but my biggest takeaway: Super Glue is no relative or friend to Elmer, nor can it be man-handled.  It handled me.

Step Six:  Set aside a day to outsource the deep cleaning of your house.
I wisely hired people to fumigate my house using enormous amounts of Lysol and Clorox.  Don’t judge me, you people peddling your all-natural cleaning products and the special cleaning cloths and the nontoxic ingredients you use to disinfect all the surfaces.  LISTEN.  I was in a bad way trying to get my house ready, which required that I tap into my strongest skill set: Googling.  I found a squad to work their cleaning magic and it just so happened their potions included Clorox.  They could’ve come into my house and sprayed bleach and ammonia all over the hardwoods… if the end product resulted in shiny, clean floors, then girl you just go right on ahead.

Step Seven: Ban your children from eating, playing, breathing, and living in the staged house.
A List of Our House Rules
1.  If you need to eat today, you can sit in your appointed location at the kitchen table and gum your food like a 90 year old.  Cleaning up your trail of sandwich crumbs seven times a day would literally put me in the grave.  If this is a problem Hansel and Gretel, you can walk yourself out to the curb and bite into the triple stacks of Ritz crackers you were trying to eat on the ottoman.  You may return inside when all crumbs are accounted for and not located on your clothes, face, fingers, shoelaces, or pockets.

2.  From this point forward, playing inside the house does not include couch forts, borrowing any Tupperware containers, or taking out the entire collection of dress up clothes.  While we’re at it, I’ve already staged your toys in the playroom, so we no longer play with toys inside either.  You may play all the hilarious and fun things in your imagination, but SO HELP ME if you unstack all the blankets from the rattan basket again or unroll any paper towels…  I will move your belongings to the shed, angel children, and you will sleep there until our house sells.

3.  Breathing is now regulated in our house as well.  You may breathe regular air like a normal person doing normal things.  We no longer permit breathing on glass to write our names in the fog.  Penalty for breaking this rule will be revoking all rights to your own name, so that you will have nothing to write in the fog.  This rule protects mirrors, windowpanes, and drinking glasses to stay stage-ready at all times.

Step Eight: Run two dozen laps around the house purposelessly because don’t you have to do more things?? Then list it.
There you have it, everyone.
Eight simple steps that will guarantee that you will have a wonderfully staged house and also have zero chill at the end of it.  Your emotions will be frayed and fragile but that house will be your masterpiece creation.  Godspeed to all of you on your staging journeys.  I’ll just be here tending to my eye twitch and residual heart palpitations… the price one must pay to sell your house. And your soul.

stage a house

How To Stage A House And Also Lose Your Mind (Part Two)

Welcome back everyone to “How To Stage a House and Also Lose Your Mind”, Part Two.
If you’re just joining us for the first time, I’mma need you to pause here and go read Part One so you can understand how I feel about stagers and storage units.  Basically, what you need to know is that I would rather have a flight delayed four times, sit on the tarmac for hours without pretzels or Wi-Fi, and then taxi back to the gate, than have to get a house ready to sell ever again in my lifetime.  Now that I’m a complete expert at prepping a house to be staged to perfection, I’ve decided to impart my wealth of knowledge to all of you (at no cost) (unless you want to pay me) (you can pay me if you want to)

Steps One and Two previously covered in Part One for “How To Stage A House And Also Lose Your Mind” were:
Step One: Bring in a professional stager who will make you re-think everything you’ve ever done in your house. (AKA she wants you to light all of your decorating choices on fire, and to be quite honest, you’ll light the match because you are so over looking at that bedspread with those curtains the past nine years.  It needs-ta-go.)
Step Two: Live out the American Dream, which is to say, have a house of stuff and rent two storage units to hold your other stuff. (The decluttering process to get your house stage-ready may require you to rent a storage unit.  Storage unit buildings tend to give me active-meth-lab-vibes so I made it a habit to swing my flatbed of boxes through the hallways as quickly as possible. I also gave the security cameras some deliberate sustained eye contact so the Crime Scene Investigators could see straight into my soul if they ever had to investigate my disappearance near the “alleged” meth lab unit.)

stage a house

3.  Step Three:  Tackle the to-do list from the stager and realize Joanna Gaines is a DIY Goddess and we are not worthy.

Our stager gave us a list of almost 80 things to address in the house but somehow the jobs I deemed most urgent were nowhere on her list:
MUST STAIN COFFEE TABLE.
PAINT BASEBOARDS IMMEDIATELY.
LANDSCAPE ENTIRE FRONT YARD OR POTENTIAL BUYERS WILL WALK.

Staining a coffee table is one of those things where they show .5 seconds of the project on HGTV but then suddenly, after cutting over to sponsors, you come back to this beautiful, finished mahogany piece that was magically stained, dried, and sealed all during a Tempur-Pedic commercial.  And from the couch, you sip your La Croix and think, “That looks quick and simple. I could totally do that.”  No, sweetie. Nope. It’s not like that.

Coffee Table Staining: Illusion vs. Reality
When Joanna Gaines stains a coffee table, I can only imagine it’s as easy as breathing her warm, honeyed breath onto the table and watching the old stain gently blow off past the Magnolia Silos.  Meanwhile, I’ve hauled our table into the front yard and sat on top of it for ten minutes to Google which sandpaper grit I’m supposed to use… decide to use all the grits because who really knows… stop sanding to dream about shrimp and grits… start sanding the table with the bottoms of my feet when my husband walks by to make a Marriage Point that a pedicure would benefit all the humans in our household, cause I’m petty like that.

Over in Texas, Joanna prepares to stain her coffee table by putting on her “painting clothes”- white skinny jeans and a blue linen top. I can just see her brushing that rich mahogany blend into the wood grain, pausing every now and then to sip some coffee and kiss a bluebird.  That almost describes me staining our table, except substitute everything she was doing with the exact opposite.  I would’ve worn my chambray tunic, JoJo, but instead, I threw on soccer shorts and a tournament t-shirt from 2000 to really get after it.

In the course of my staining project- this thing that should’ve never been allowed to happen- I used a paintbrush from the dollar store… I stained the table in the living room, which concentrated all the fumes and temporarily sent me to an alternate reality… I built an unnecessarily elaborate furniture barricade around the table as it dried so my toddler couldn’t get to it.  To top it all off, after staining, the palms of my hands looked like I’d gotten bootleg henna from the State Fair.
hennaImagine a henna artist who is visually impaired, a little tipsy, and doesn’t have any opposable thumbs, and whatever you’re imagining they would’ve drawn is pretty much how my hands looked by the end of the staining project.

There are some other steps, you know, that are required in the process of staining a coffee table. I won’t bore you with all the other details, but I’ll at least give a nod to Joanna’s final step, which is typically much like mine- sealing the stain using a pinch of morning dew, a generous helping of positive thoughts, and soft, reassuring whispers to the wood grains.  However, this time, I had to seal the coffee table with my polyurethane tears after our cat jumped onto its wet stain, then raced away, leaving little brown paw prints on our hardwood floors.  True story:

paw prints

Step Four: Once you’ve successfully decluttered your home, go shopping.

It only takes a few storage unit trips before it becomes apparent you need to shop for more stuff to fill your house.  This seems like a good time to point out, that if you’re in a “joint-bank-account” scenario, be prepared to come home with seven HomeGoods bags and defend every single item as “essential to the sale of your home”.  Like this:

Him: “Why did you shop for more stuff when we just dropped off a ton of things at the storage unit yesterday?”
Me: “We can’t just move all of our old stuff out and then have nothing.  We have to make our house look pretty now.  Trust me, buyers will love walking through our house with these pieces.”
Him:  “Ok but that mirror with the spikes you bought is weird.”
Me:  “Then don’t look at it.”
Him:
Me:
Me: *runs away*

For some reason, buyers need you to have a trendy porcelain bowl with fruit on your staged kitchen table, so if you don’t have one, add it to the shopping list.  May I also suggest a fake orchid in the bathroom because zen.  And not to be forgotten for all the staged houses everywhere, new throw pillows.  So many throw pillows for all the rooms, that hypothetically, a person going to Target for pasta salad ingredients would see and need new throw pillows for the master bedroom… which also requires new master bedding, as well.  target pillows

But it’s okay, because it’s essential to the sale of our home.

stage a house

The final edition, Part Three, coming soon… Stay tuned.

How To Stage A House And Also Lose Your Mind (Part One)

Hello, and welcome everybody to “How to Stage a House And Also Lose Your Mind”.
Before we get started, I’d like to take a moment and thank our fake sponsor, The Magic Eraser, for magically erasing the closet and hall markings that would have otherwise led buyers to believe that we kept uncaged raccoons in our home, served them Mountain Dew, and then let them climb up the walls.  (To offer perspective, if I’d won the Powerball last week, I would have used all the money to buy more Magic Erasers and also world peace.)

Summer 2017 held lots of changes and a season of massive transition for our family.  When I wasn’t busy attending to my skin melting off in the 99 degree weather (humidity level: Satan’s morning breath), I was probably inside surrounded by moving boxes and packaging tape, boxing up every blessed (and cursed) thing we own.  We moved forward in the process of selling our home without finding a house to purchase, so we pulled the oldest trick in the Millennial Book and moved back home with my Mom while we continue our search. (Hey Roomie!) I missed being able to sit down and write this summer, but TRUST FAM, this post wrote itself every time I taped a box shut or cleaned out a closet.

Prepping a house to get it ready for a sale- especially if you’ve lived there longer than ten minutes- is just an absolute nightmare.  It’s the Project of all Projects.  Since we’ve walked this road the past few months, I’d like to gather all of you Young Grasshoppers close and describe what it’s like to prep and stage a house to perfection.  This post is just Part One; more posts will roll out continuing the steps on How to Stage a House in the next few days, so stay tuned.  HUR WE GO:

stage a house

1.  Step One:  Bring in a professional stager who will make you re-think everything you’ve ever done in your house.

Our stager was wonderful and had a great eye for how to simplify and beautify a space.  This essentially meant that as she walked through every room in our house she gave some variation of “ummmmmmmmm no”.  One of our conversations was like,
Stager: “Let’s go see the guest room”
Me: “Alright, I’ll walk you upstairs”
S: “Ohhhhhhhkayyy so this room is very cluttered already”
Me: “yah it sucks”
S: “A lot of dark colors… a lot of dark furniture…”
Me: “ive always hated this room too Cindy”
S: “We’re going to need to make a lot changes in here”
Me: “ok let’s just set it on fire”

If you want to know what a stager will tell you to do, here’s the short version: put all of your husband’s college furniture in a place known as Not Your House, place a bowl of fruit on the table, and do most of the projects you should’ve done two years into living there that you didn’t do because you were watching Parenthood Season 4.

2. Step Two: Live out the American Dream, which is to say, have a house of stuff and rent two storage units to hold your other stuff.

Getting your house stage-ready means you have to declutter, which then requires you to decide if you’re going to get rid of the stuff or put it into storage.  The great thing about storage units is that they make amazing settings for CSI episodes where the serial killer stores all of his victims’ ponytails.  Also, the location where a criminal stacks his gold bars and then sits in a lawn chair in the unit to count all of them.  I guess what I’m getting at is that low-lit storage units make me feel suspicious of everyone and creeped out by everything.  So naturally, when it’s time for us to declutter the house and rent a storage space, I went on high alert for for anyone who’d wanna cut off my ponytail every time we dropped off boxes or furniture.

Aside from my mental anguish at walking down the creepy hallways of a storage unit, I did consider it a personal goal to perfect my flat bed driving skills.  Driving one of those is essentially a combination of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road (where I’m an unpredictable, largely unsafe driver) and Tokyo Drift (where I’m drifting the flat bed at every turn to make it around a corner) plus trying to hold four boxes, a nightstand, and some cornhole boards steady so they don’t topple off.  You can’t even sing “Jesus Take The Wheel” because Jesus is like, “sry, cant help you on this one. you’re in satans building, safe travels”

As my husband and I would start unloading, we would ask ourselves, “What can we do with our two year old right now to win Parent of the Year?”  storage unit Answer: let her sit unsupervised in an armchair in a storage unit and eat easy mac while we Tetris our furniture into place.  Please do not send us a Parent of the Year trophy, because it would probably end up in this storage unit; instead you may put our parenting accolades on blast on all social media channels and we will humbly receive your kind words.

We were pushing stuff into those units and stacking boxes straight up to the ceiling. My husband’s most endearing habit lately has been to ask me where an item could possibly be located: “Have you seen where my black belt is?”, “Do you know where the cable box would be?”, “Which storage unit has the box of my grilling stuff?”… Every single time, I lay hands on his handsome face and say I CAN NO SOONER TELL YOU WHERE ANYTHING IS IN OUR LIVES RIGHT NOW than if I walked four hours and seven minutes across town to the storage unit and took every single item out one-by-one to find that cable box.  (Which I will not be doing, so R.I.P. cable box, black belt, grilling stuff, also Blu-Ray DVDs, steak knives, and whatever was in his nightstand.)

You have been granted exclusive access to Steps One and Two of staging a house, but y’all know I got more to say.  Check back soon for Part Two to assess my level of crazy while trying to DIY stain our coffee table in house-staging mode…  Suffice it to say: the cray hit the fan. See y’all back here soon!

This One’s For You, Dad

To the dad who carpools and coaches, who stays up until curfew and runs next to the bicycle without training wheels: Don’t underestimate the power you have as a present father.  Your consistent involvement is admirable, but far beyond that, know that your influence will affect your children into adulthood.  It’s the collection of hundreds of little moments- chaperoning his field trip or brushing her hair after the bath- that will bring them successfully to the brink of adulthood.  And before you know it, they’ll be grown and gone, ready to take on the world, knowing they can spread their wings because they had a dad who pushed them out of the nest with an enormous amount of love.

To the dad who just welcomed a new baby- ankle deep in diapers, bleary-eyed and exhausted, and so, so proud: Whether you’re holding your first or your fourth, congratulations on your beautiful miracle.  You’ll almost certainly mess up in this parenting gig, at least twice by 2:30, but press on, keep going because we’re all cheering for you.  Celebrate this Father’s Day squeezing the little hand that has managed to completely take hold of your heart.  After all.. babies don’t keep.

fathers day

To the dad who spends this Father’s Day weary from illness and medication: You have a crew that couldn’t be prouder of your strength and bravery.  You’ve proven that neither bandages nor IVs, pills nor their side effects, hospital stays, diagnoses, or ongoing treatments could keep you from being an incredible dad, one who somehow still has the fortitude and humor to challenge us to arm wrestle, even with an IV port in your arm.  Fighting for your health has reminded the whole family that every day is a gift, and it’s with that in mind, that your children celebrate you on Father’s Day, letting you win that arm wrestle just this once.

To the dad of multiples whose remarkable super powers qualify him to join the Avengers Initiative:  It’s okay to operate on adrenaline 95% of the time to make sure all the children are in all the right places.  You experience the emotions associated with each stage of childhood multiplied by two (or three or four..!): joy, confusion, surprise, exhaustion, hopefulness, frustration, love.  What a privilege you’ve been given to be their dad and what a gift it is that they have you too.

To the dad whose children have no trace of his biological DNA, yet are every part of who he is: Happy Father’s Day.  I know it doesn’t matter that your kids don’t have your eyes or your height, or maybe even your skin color; they don’t have to share your physical features to be entirely deserving of your love.  Others may call you a “foster dad” or an “adoptive dad”, but at home, it sounds so much simpler: “Dad”.  You’re a good one, and they’re so lucky to have you.

father's day

To the dad who regrets his mistakes and all the time lost with his children: Today is a new day.  In fact, it’s your new day.  Make the decision to forgive yourself before you expect anyone else to extend forgiveness.  Be the father you wish you could’ve been starting today, by giving your kids the gift of time and attention.  Pick up the phone.  Go to their game.  Write the letter.  Tell them you’re proud.  Ask for forgiveness.  You can never recapture all of those years gone by, but you can mend those relationships by making today count.

To the single dad feeling equal parts overwhelmed and empowered: You are walking a tough road, but you’re doing such a great job. You’re facing the challenge of being in charge of lunches and bedtimes and the discipline and all the sick days like a real man- accomplishing it with determination, wearing the dandelion flower crown your kid made for you at the park.  It’s no secret that your children are your most important priority; that’s easily seen by the wonderful way you’re raising them.  What you’re doing is far from easy, but so very worth it.

father's day

To the dad who celebrates Father’s Day as a proud father and grandfather: The full life you’ve lived is never more evident than when you’re surrounded by the energy and youth of your family.  We all know you’re also the dad that signs his name at the end of text messages, which is entirely unnecessary but amusing.  You may not have any clue what “Juju on That Beat” means or understand the point of a fidget spinner, but you’ve taught your family everything else they know, which obviously means they can light a fire without matches and farting will always be funny.

To those of you who celebrate Father’s Day with a twinge of envy and a hint of grief, relying solely on memories for this type of day: I stand with you.  This summer will mark a decade since my dad’s funeral.  This last one’s for you, Dad.

To the dad whose legacy lives on in his children, gone but never forgotten:  If you could see your kids now, I think you’d be impressed.  They’re not so little anymore- taller, older- with beautiful families of their own.  Your memory lives on, even in your absence.  Every pasta dish, each church service, basketball game, or dad joke, you’re there.  Your kids have your sense of humor- dry and quirky but clever and carefree.  They miss you everyday, but especially today.  Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

father's day

A very happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing dads out there.  May today include the giant steak dinner you so very deserve.

Things I Love And You Might Too

Summer’s unofficially here!  It’s my favorite season… beach trips, fresh tomato sandwiches, grilling out, outdoor live music- or more accurately, people watching at the outdoor live music.  As your summer begins, take a look at some recommendations I have for you- a beach read, an encouraging podcast for moms, an app (developed locally!), a delicious recipe, and a bingeworthy Netflix show.  These are some of my recent favorites… and I have a feeling you may love them too!

things i love

Your Next Summer Read

Since my last book club on the blog post, I’ve read a handful of books, but by far the best one I want to tell you about is The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi.  Set in Afghanistan, the novel flashes between the separate stories of two women who disguised themselves as boys to create a better life for themselves.  If you need something to read on the airplane, at the beach, before bed… check this out.    the pearl that broke its shell

current favorite podcast

Thanks to the recommendation of my friend, Holly, I’ve really been enjoying the Risen Motherhood podcast.  Most episodes are 20 minutes long; all are gospel-centered and cover topics relevant to being a mom. (Topics like: adoption, disciplining our children, miscarriage/infertility, “Mom Guilt”, putting your marriage first, etc.)   New episodes drop on Wednesdays.. it’s so worth the listen!

the app you didn’t know you needed

Several months ago, my friend, Becky, casually mentioned that she and her husband were “creating an app”.  I think I just stared at her like “………………………………how do you do that”.  Then she used smart words for a few minutes and I made a mental note to download the app when it was ready.  Their free app is officially live and it’s called Just My Style.  This app is perfect for me because y’all know I have issues with shopping in public places (see previous blog posts on: Target, Grocery StoreCostcoOpening Doors While Shopping With a Stroller). With this app, think like: online window shopping + Tinder for women’s clothing.

You choose a category you want to browse in- say, sleeveless tops- and then you either give it a thumbs up or thumbs down before you can move on to see the next sleeveless shirt.  The more you use the app, the smarter it gets to learn what types of styles you’re into.  Some of the clothes I’ll give a thumbs down, but as I keep using the app, it shows me more and more styles that I’m interested in (thumbs up!).  I can then go to my “Love It” list to see store/pricing details or buy it directly if I want to.
     

The app uses clothing options from Anthropologie, Athleta, GAP, JCrew, Lands End, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, Target, Under Armour, Nordstrom Rack, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Amazon, + more.  Love the concept, love supporting local awesomeness, and love not leaving my couch to window shop.  Available for download with Apple or Android devices: get it here.

if you’re not on a diet, make these.

Clearly I’m not a food blogger, but I have to share a cookie recipe with you guys.  It will be like a turning point in your life once you’ve eaten them… they’re that good.  Here is a photo of the homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies:
cookiesThis past weekend, I went on a Girl’s Weekend with some of my best friends from college.  (Last year’s recap can be read here.)  This year, we went to Nashville and terrorized the city in all the best ways- did some of the music scene, ate good food, took pictures like middle school girls.  One of our friends is named Amy and she can work a kitchen.  On our last night together, the group decided we needed to peer pressure Amy to make her homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies.. so we did a 9pm grocery run and sent her to slave in the kitchen until we had these cookies in our hands.  I may or may not have appointed myself as her apprentice and stalked her in the kitchen in case she “needed help cleaning” or “wanted to let me lick any spoons or cooking tools”.

Here are screenshots of her recipe so we can all get fat and love life.  (I have no clue how Pioneer Woman makes fancy recipe cards embedded into her blog and I have no interest in finding out so make peace with your screenshots.)

our netflix binge can be yours too

We love finding a good show that sucks you in and makes you watch three episodes in a row on a weeknight.  The one we’ve gotten into earlier in the year is a British crime drama called Broadchurch.  Don’t let the heavy accents throw you off; this show is worth watching and keeps you on the edge of your seat.  There are currently two seasons on Netflix or you can watch online here.  We just found out that Season 3 is coming to BBC America on JUNE 28 so naturally I have it in our iCalendar because that’s what normal people do.  You have less than a month to crank through the first two seasons of Broadchurch so you can catch the third and final season at the same time as the Barker fam.

broadchurch

Also, not on Netflix but- The Bachelorette.  Who else is watching this season?  Who else’s husband “doesn’t watch that show” but happens to be in the room making comments on half of the content? Watching the show always generates that age old question… “If I have Bible Study the same night as The Bachelor, which one cancels out?”  Just had to throw it out there that I’m hunkered down on Monday nights filling my mind with nonsense, so if you are too, let’s have a conversation about how “the whaboom guy” needs a life coach.  Stop trying to make fetch happen, Lucas!

——————-

That’s all I’ve got, people.  Everything else in my life is regular and boring EXCEPT FOR the aforementioned book, podcast, app, recipe, and TV show.  They will take your summer to the next level and that’s a fact.  If you try any of them out, let me know what you think!  Now it’s your turn… what do I need to read? Listen to? Eat? Download? Watch?  Talk to me Internet!

Would You Rather: Walk Barefoot In a Gas Station Bathroom… Or Go Bathing Suit Shopping?

Last weekend, I found myself bathing suit shopping at the mall.
Let me rephrase that:
Last weekend at the mall, I decided I’ll just keep wearing the same bathing suits I’ve worn for the past nine years.

So basically, it didn’t go well.

If y’all don’t mind, I just need to vent about this disaster of a process.  I’m normally a glass-half-full kind of person.  Optimistic.  Hopeful.  But there is just no room in my glass right now for positivity.  If anything, my glass is half full of tears from entering the ninth circle of hell, also known as Belk’s swim department dressing room.

I know I’m not alone because I found this on the internet, and the internet doesn’t lie.
bathingsuits

Let’s start here: the styles.
Somehow, in my advanced market research, I’ve discovered that stores either sell suits geared toward the women taking the Assisted Living Van over to the mall.. or they sell swim suits that are so itty bitty that they must have been cobbled together for garden fairies.  ATTENTION AMERICA: Last time I checked, there is no YMCA for garden fairies and the senior center’s therapy pool is booked through 2021.  They don’t need new swim suits.  I DO.

Obviously I’m mistaken, but I thought that we were all on the same page here, that bathing suits should not be responsible for unsightly tan lines.  Bathing suits with all these criss-cross strings across the top… They will be entirely responsible for creating a labyrinth of sunburn across bridesmaids’ chests everywhere and ruining wedding pictures.  I’m calling it now!!!!!  Not to mention, at the mall, I saw several swim suits that sit off-the-shoulder, which would mean I’d sacrificially accept white rings around my upper arms to be able to have evenly tanned shoulders. You guys, have we thought this thing through?  Is vanity completely dead?  Do we need a think tank to generate some fresh ideas?

I wouldn’t say I’m a high maintenance person, but if we’re being honest, I wouldn’t want to go bathing suit shopping with me.
-I need a suit that has enough fabric but not so much fabric that it creates a swim skirt.
-I need something that would pass all variations of The Toddler Test- able to hold up against the energetic two year old crawling up my torso in the pool or the hangry, thrashing toddler who’s being carried like a gym bag off the beach.
-I do not need a suit that is accompanied by a set of instructions.  If I need to read a piece of paper to understand where these pieces connect and make sense of the cut-outs, then I can already tell you that I’d rather swim in my street clothes.
-Due to the already sensitive nature of the shopping trip, I require zero models to be on the swimsuit tag.  (If models MUST be on the tag to display the swimwear, I request that they look like the rest of us commoners with a messy bun and chipped nail polish and a Cookout milkshake in one hand)

Here’s the thing though:  you finally survive the dressing room angst and find a suit that fits, that you also happen to like, but when you check the price tag, you just about lose your religion.  This was me at the mall, you guys.  I was moments away from going nuclear when I realized the bathing suit TOP that I liked was $88.  I’m sorry, WHAT??  Paging Trina Turk:  I’m gonna need you to knock off some dollar signs so I can look cute at the beach!

Long story short, I bought it.
Whatever.  In related news, we’ll be having a lemonade stand at our house this weekend.  All proceeds will go toward offsetting the cost of my diamond-lined swim top.

On my way home from the mall, I let my husband know that I was headed back and my emotional status was Code Red.  The whole saga spilled out when I got home: the bathing suits all look weird… it costs $150 to cover 30-40% of my body… my one-year-old has way better bathing suit choices than I do… I’m gonna get bizarre tan lines, is nothing sacred anymore… shouldn’t I be allowed to borrow a bathing suit and sprint after a toddling Puddle Jumper before I spend that kind of money… I’m not crying, you’re crying… fine, I’ll just eat kale sandwiches until the end of time… I’m never going shopping for swimsuits again… OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF

So, we return to our original question.  Would you rather: walk barefoot in a gas station bathroom.. or go bathing suit shopping?
bathing suit shoppingWe’re not talking like a well-lit Sheetz that’s cleaned every hour on the hour.. we’re talking like backwoods rusty old toilets and fetid standing water and gotta-get-the-key-to-unlock-the-door type of bathroom (obviously with one of those gigantic wooden blocks hanging off the key).

After serious consideration, I’ve decided I would rather walk barefoot in a gas station bathroom than ever go bathing suit shopping again.  While quality medical care and a hearty dose of antibiotics can attend to any diseases acquired from that nasty gas station bathroom, ain’t no amount of therapy can undo the emotional trauma and drama associated with bathing suit shopping.

CAN I GET A WITNESS?

Congratulations to the Four Giveaway Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Blogiversary giveaway!  And a warm welcome to all of you lovely people receiving this post via email for the very first time.

Lest you think my technological prowess set up some complex coding system that chose the four winners, please direct your attention to Exhibit A:
IMG_7315 Sometimes you just can’t beat an old school raffle out of a Keds shoebox.  That was my level of Cannot Even with technology tonight.  I recruited my husband, Daniel, to randomly choose four winners for the Target gift cards.  If you didn’t win, he said he would accept full responsibility and you can direct all hate mail to his personal email account: iknowallthewordstothespicegirlssong@daniel.com

and the giveaway winners are...

Congratulations to annette.knox, meganbbarker, cmw27540, and krbratch!  I’ll be in touch to arrange sending you your Target gift card.  Thanks again to everyone who participated; hope you have a great week!

One Year Blogiversary! {+GIVEAWAY}

You guys!  I can’t believe that one year ago- March 2016- I began blogging here at The Cat That Barked.

One Year Blogiversary {+GIVEAWAY!}

The first words of my first post were: “I didn’t realize 2016 would be The Year of the Blog.  It just kind of happened.”  There’s more to that story, so hang with me here… we boutta get deep for a hot minute.

The journey that led me here started well before the first post was ever published.  You see, months before I created this little internet space, I gave birth to our beautiful daughter.  She was sweet and easy from the very beginning.  My world had been turned upside down, in the most special, exhausting way, and I loved getting to spend my days (and nights, HELLO) with my girl.

It was about three months after she was born that my symptoms began: sadness, irrational anger, anxiety, very low self-esteem, and on the list went.  My husband… my sweet husband, y’all… he saw my crazy eyes and my unpredictable mood swings and loved me through all of it.  And it was during this dark season of postpartum depression that I rediscovered creativity and passion, through writing.  My PPD story could be its own post, and maybe one day it will be.  Once I was able to stabilize emotionally, thanks to my doctors and the people who loved me, I was able to move forward as a healthy, happy wife and mom. Writing became part of my healing process.

The irony is not lost on me that postpartum depression indirectly produced a humor blog.  As I celebrate a year of blogging, it means so much more to me than updating a website.  Each post- whether humorous or pensive, related to faith or parenting or man-colds or book recommendations- is my celebration of being able to see the world in vibrant color again, in all of its hilarity and beauty, and have the gift of time and talent to write about it.

These were some of my favorite posts to write this past year.  Get cozy and read any you missed:

When I Die, Spread My Ashes In Target’s Threshold Aisle
target

The Truth About Co-Parenting With Google
Google

Slow Clap For Teachers: The Saints of Society
teachers

People of the Beach: You Do You.
People of the Beach-

Calling All White People To The Dance Floor
dance floor

Want more?  Go here to read other posts from this past year.

Having an audience has been one of the most energizing pieces to blogging this past year, and so, I felt it was only appropriate to say thank you for being such an interactive and supportive crew of beautiful internet citizens.  In the spirit of celebration, who doesn’t love a GIVEAWAY?!

Here’s the deal.  I have four Target gift cards to give away, each worth $25 for winners to pick out a little somethin somethin courtesy of The Cat That Barked.  To enter, all you have to do is subscribe to the blog by entering your email address on the right side of the site.  Anytime a new post is written, it goes to your inbox and it’s as simple as that.  No quizzes, no random spam, no “Fwd:Fwd:Fwd: READ THIS” subject lines… just 2-4 emails a month with fresh content.  (Already my Email Buddy? Then your name is already submitted for one of the gift cards!)  The four winners of the giveaway will be randomly chosen and announced on the blog Monday evening, so make sure you’re entered to win by April 10, 2017 at 9PM EST!  Good luck!

Here’s to another great year of blogging with all of you wonderful people!