Sunday, October 31, 2010

Holey wars.

There are a few places I can go where I know no one will interrupt me.

Most obviously, I could just leave if I don't want interruptions.

But there are times when I'm more utilitarian; more outcome-driven.

Aside from simply driving away to be alone in my head, I like to mow the lawn.

Who can argue with the importance of this function? And for people like me who thrive on immediate gratification, mowing is all that; loud activity, no potential of disturbance, quick results.

Another series of self-directed "me-time" tasks takes place in the bathroom. I'm sure we can all think of several.

And a thought struck me as I took a shower this morning. Alone with my thoughts, I was prioritizing the day that stretched ever-so supinely in front of me.

It was then that I noticed, not for the first time, that I really need to apply some caulk to the areas around my bathroom window.


The space between being alone with my ethereal morning thoughts and being tightly wound within my numerous, non-luxurious obligations became firmly enmeshed, in that brief moment.

My need to start a holey war became even more clear when I remembered the late-fall Colorado winds and impending sub-zero snow-filled days slash nights.

I need to caulk.

Let's be clear. There's nothing bad about the caulking gun. Unlike its counterpart that's often associated with the "spree" misnomer, shooting the caulking gun does a world of good on so many levels.

First and most importantly is the savings. One cheap tube of caulk can do so much good. How many guns can you generally say that about, unless you're in the mood to pop a cap in someone?

Very quick google research points toward the fact that weatherizing is good. One particularly illuminating site I visited provided a graph which indicated that I'd save about a grand every year if I got all jihad-dy on the cold air that seeps into the holes that are created in my house over time.

I've become an advocate of holey wars.

It's been an unusually tame season where I live. Tomorrow's November, for god's sake, and Colorado's seen nary a snowflake. I was in the sunshine for hours yesterday, and I got a bit of a burn.

But like Republican control of the House and Senate or the early onset of Alhzeimer's, I know what's coming.

And if both houses would agree, we'd have the Homestar program, affectionately dubbed Cash for Caulkers. According to, "American homes would be more energy efficient and provide energy savings to consumers; the program would create more employment opportunities, and there would be an overall reduction in carbon emissions."

The program is much more detailed, obviously, than the quote from this piece that I just mentioned. But there's a lot to be said about plugging holes, and it really does make a difference on so many levels.

Cash for Caulkers, aka Homestar, is stuck in the Senate.


But a tube of caulk is a very affordable way to take a baby step.

It's a holey war I'll gladly wage, despite the personal and political obstacles.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Logan and I needed haircuts this past Wednesday. It wasn't a question of want. It was definitely a matter of need.

We'd found a diamond in the rough right down the street in the form of Terri, who's an amazing stylist. And she worked at Great Clips. I go to Great Clips specifically to see Terri, and I'm armed with coupons. No down side.

Until we called Great Clips this past Wednesday, to see if Terri was working.

We heard that "Terri is no longer a part of the Great Clips team."

For a minute, I saw Terri as an escaped con from the Big House.

Good for you, Terri, I thought. You're better than Great Clips.

But then I wondered, what are we going to do?

We were shaggy, and we had coupons. So we opted to go to Great Clips, sans Terri. Anything, we thought, had to be better than what we were projecting from the neck up.

What could happen?

Logan went first. It was a Sophie's Choice moment when his stylist became available, actually.

She'd cut my hair before - pre-Terri - and I was underwhelmed. So I casually offered it up to Logan. Go first, I suggested.

I opted for the other stylist, who looked just a bit more, well, stylish.

I'll cut to the chase, so to speak.

We both thought our haircuts sucked. Sure, it was a bargain, but Logan thought his stylist was inflicting some sort of odd pleasure by playing rough with the scissor and comb, and my stylist simply couldn't take direction.

I believe that, once armed with the knowledge and implements required to cut hair, I should provide gentle assistance when it comes to the look I'm attempting to achieve. And my haircutting person was flummoxed by the simple instruction I attempted to provide.

But it's over now. The damage has been done.

Logan looks pretty good, despite his tender scalp. And yet, regardless of my copious use of product and tasteful application of hair accessories, I still look like an intellectually challenged hermaphrodite.

There's solace in the knowledge that my hair will grow out.

But despite the value, the necessity and the inevitable growth, I miss Terri.

And now it's become painfully apparent that sometimes you get exactly what you pay for.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friends don't let friends buy retail.

My mom and I used to love to shop together.

The mall was our destination, and we'd spend hours wandering around the fancy stores.

She was so easy to be with - we'd saunter, chat and shop. Then we'd lunch, then we'd shop some more.

Some stores featured a man in a tuxedo playing classical music on a grand piano. Each store smelled like fancy perfume. All the clerks were impeccably dressed, with manners and service that were Top Drawer.

My mom has been gone for 10 years, and if she were still around, she'd be shocked at the current state of retail shopping, what with the popularity of open air malls, Target, Walmart and thrift stores.

She'd be especially shocked at the stores to which I point my car. The world of thrift was not on my mom's radar. Ten years ago, it wasn't on my radar, either.

But I've learned this past decade that the homogeneity of malls may be comforting and predictable, but it's not very much fun.

Sorry, mom. I've realized that the retail world is a nice place to visit, but it's very, very expensive.

And like being raised a Lutheran, buying things at Full Blown Retail at malls isn't something that I have to do once I have a choice.

Like learning that your parents are actually fallible humans with lives that extend past your needs and desires, or that a woman you thought you knew used to be a man, I've met a cadre of people who make it a point to shop thriftily who would have otherwise flown way under my Thrift Store radar.

You'd never guess that these folks cull through the discards of others.

That being said, in homage to my mom, there are some things I'll always buy new.


Art. Usually.

And jewelry. I bought this totally cool ring in Evergreen last weekend. You may be distracted by my old lady hands, but the ring on my finger is totally cool - a large ring with two smaller rings inside the larger ring. I love it.

And I'll always remember the day I found it. I'll value the circumstance that found me in Evergreen, staring at this cool ring that I had to have right then. And I was willing to pay retail.

I had that special feeling. Just like the feeling I get in a thrift store when I find something I have to have right then.

Rarely have I found items that I stare at with complete admiration when I'm in the midst of the vacuous confines of a mall.

So that brings me back to my mom. If she were here, I'm sure we'd first have a tearful, beautiful, incredulous reunion. There would be conversation.

She'd be happy for my life's twists and turns that have brought me to the interesting, colorful place where I now find myself.

Shortly after our happy, decade-long separation, I'm sure my mom would want to go shopping.

I'd love to drive her to the places I currently enjoy, regardless of their lack of pianists and their profusion of All Things Casual.

Because it's becoming increasingly clear - friends don't let friends buy retail.

I imagine that moment of reunion with my mom all the time. Sometimes we're at the mall.

But times change.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The sound of sirens

Ah, Starbucks.

Among the long line of jobs for which I was highly overqualified (but I had a great time), I was a barista at Starbucks for a year or so. Back then, we memorized beverages by cup placement, and arm muscles were highly toned after a few months at the helm of the espresso machines.

The beverages, like the Norse siren that accompanies each cup, have become legendary. As have the Starbucks ceramics.

I find a whole lot of Starbucks merch at thrift stores.

A mug with Starbucks branding that I typically purchase for 50 cents generally sells for a whole lot more than a cup of Starbucks coffee.

I like those odds.

The thrift store folks have meted out what's valuable, for the most part. But Starbucks merch flies under the radar. What looks like an ordinary coffee cup has huge value for the coffee-crazy Starbucks lover.

It's not just the Starbucks ceramics that cause a stir, although the city-specific mugs have a special cache. Certain travel mugs are highly valued. As are certain Starbucks gift cards.

Like Cabbage Patch dolls and Beanie Babies, completely spent Starbucks gift cards hold huge value to some folks, simply based on the image on the card.

Who knew?

A simple cup of outrageously overpriced coffee means so much more to some people.

Back in the day, we should have accumulated those bits of memorabilia, when making a cup of Starbucks required nothing more than cup placement and a flip of the wrist.

The clarion call of those very loud sounds of sirens seemed so muted back then.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Let's talk about me for a minute.

I've been having a bit of a writer's block lately.

I have blog topic ideas scratched all over my chalk board. I've scrawled ideas for writing projects on bits of paper that litter the drawers and flat surfaces of my home and the interior of my purse. And yet, for the past week or so, nothing of value has risen to the surface and found its way into my laptop.

Like Violet Beauregarde must have felt when presented with the prospect of an unlimited supply of chewing gum, all the possibilities for writing topics have become a bit overwhelming.

I don't know where to start.

And I've done my share of starting lately.

I started to write about the implications of silence. Great idea in my head, but it didn't go in the direction I wanted, so I put it in the vault.

Then I started a blog about the plastic grocery bag issue. It's a big topic, and I did quite a bit of research. There's the recycling angle. The cultural lack of momentum for bringing reusable bags to the store. The story about states that have tried to pass laws to ban the use of plastic bags. Those laws have died, primarily because of the 'freedom of choice' argument. The creativity angle. Case in point, this lovely dress, which was made completely out of plastic grocery bags. The 1950s-style dress was accompanied by its own plastic grocery bag pillbox hat.

In addition to this very stylish garment, people make slippers, throw rugs, purses and so much more out of those pesky, ubiquitous plastic garbage bags.

But the topic seemed too vast once I did a bit of research and I realized all the directions I could go. So I put the idea in the vault.

I was beginning to wonder if I'd lost my mojo. I became concerned that, like Violet Beauregarde, I'd bitten off more than I could chew. I began to think that the blog, like so many great ideas and interesting outlets I've pursued in the past, would quietly be relegated to the "yeah, I used to do that for a while" personal history that people like me seem to accumulate.

So I thought I'd write about that. The attention span issue. I'd like to say I finished that one, but I didn't. I put the unfinished effort in a file, and I'll tackle it later.

I hope.

My brain was beginning to feel like Violet's jaw after a day of vigorous chewing.

Too many ideas, no clear direction on where to start.

There are the ideas I generate, and there are the hot tips I get from cool people who read the blog. James gave me some great leads on websites that buy books, as well as a craigslist-like site called Once Freecycle accepts you as a member, you can peruse the postings of items people want to get rid of, and you can post stuff you want to give away. Freecycle combines internet reach with the old-world concept of trade, and it's a national program.

So many other ideas are bubbling in my brain, and I'm sure with some deep breathing, a spare few hours and a bit of clarity, I'll sort through the sticky mess that has become my In Box.

Once that happens, maybe I'll feel more like Violet did once she was rolled to the Juicing Room. The pressure will find sweet release.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Open wide.

I really should hate the entire concept of dentistry, but I don't.

After establishing a trusted relationship with My Dentist, who retired and left me to flounder in a sea of dental charlatans, I eventually found a dentist who I love. He started practicing dentistry the year I was born, and I'm 48. 

He practices all methods to which every dentist should aspire. He's orally intuitive, and doesn't do anything to my choppers that doesn't need to be done.

My only dental fear is that I'll outlive him, and I'll have to find another dentist.

And so I visit this Dental Marvel every six months. My visits are events I oddly anticipate.

I've developed a quirky rapport with the woman to the right. She probably will never see this blog, and I'm sure, what with the facial garb and interesting eyewear, you'd never recognize her in a lineup.

She's so straightforward, letting me know, very clinically, how my teeth and gums are doing. 

I feel very close to her. The last time I got my oral report card, she told me about how both of her parents died within a month of one another. And she described how she and her brother are cleaning out their parents' house, as clinically as she told me about my need to floss.

We've developed a bizarre connection, what with her divulgences and my tacit compassion. I can only affiliate so much while her hands are in my mouth.

It's soothing, going to the dentist.

I've had one massage in my lifetime. One mud bath, years ago. And it may seem hard to believe, but I've experienced neither mani nor pedi.

But when I walk out of the dentist's office every six months after my cleaning, I feel like I've experienced a bit of an oral spa.

So the many assets of vigilant oral hygiene have wide-reaching effects. Not only do I get a bit of a dental report card twice a year; I get my teeth cleaned much more thoroughly than I can do all by myself.

Everyone has dental horror stories, and I’m not immune. Bad experiences compel huge gaps in time between dental visits.

And despite almost everyone’s ambivalence when it comes to opening wide at the dentist’s office, it’s been proven that regular check-ups have wide reaching effects that go beyond my cathartic bi-annual exercise.

I recently heard a segment on some morning tee vee show that focused on how to avoid plastic surgery. The primary way, according to this morning show, to avoid facial plastic surgery, is to take care of your teeth.

Because when you don't take care of your teeth, teeth need to eventually be pulled. And pulling teeth changes the contour of your face.

And according to Annie Getsinger at, "poor oral hygiene has been associated with heart problems and infections in those with diabetes or artificial joints."

And, "aside from the problem of bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and causing infection elsewhere in the body, gum disease takes a toll on a person's ability to fight off illness."

It's not brain surgery.

I'm sure that morning show covered brain surgery on another riveting segment.

Sure, it sucks to go to the dentist. And if you don't have dental insurance, seeing the dentist every six months may not seem quite so spa-like.

It's hard to justify something as fundamentally unpleasant as going to the dentist, especially if your dentist wants to sell you on dental planing, whitening, a seemingly necessary crown or root canal.

But if you're lucky enough to find a dentist who's not going to take you to the cleaners just because he can see what you can't while drilling you for all you're worth, it's no big deal to open wide every six months.

You may evade the need for bigger things down the line.

And you may find the whole exercise to be relaxing, kind of like a spa.