Category Archives: Random

Home Alone: How to Enjoy Your Birthday

Working from home can sometimes require tapping into your inner creative when it comes to enjoying certain social events like celebrating your birthday.

When you work in an office, birthdays are commonplace. Your “other” family begins the celebratory (and sometimes obligatory) going-through-of-the-motions on your special day. (“Gawww, another birthday?”) Some of your co-workers might already have known that today was your special day, but others might pass you in the morning completely unaware, only to eventually stick their heads in your office after switching on their computers and seeing you’re all the rage on Facebook. (“Oh, crap, I forgot!”)OfficeBday A handful of folks may treat you to lunch. (“Someone figure out the tip, wouldya?”) Late afternoon usually consists of a Costco sheet cake someone runs out to buy at the last minute during their lunch hour and the presentation of a greeting card that was hurriedly passed around the office. (“Who had the card last!?”) And lest we forget, candles.

But if you work from home, your birthday can, at first, seem a bit depressing. There’s nobody there to lay a flower on your desk that they picked while at lunch. There are no cards to open with that surprised look on your face while you say, “Aw, you shouldn’t have!” Nobody sends birthday cards anymore, so there’s no use awaiting the mail truck.

So you do the next best thing to lift your morale. You jump online to see who’s coming out of the woodwork to wish you a happy birthday. And it’s a nice, temporary boost to your self-esteem to see friends and family posting their well-wishes.

As someone who works from home, I decided to take matters into my own hands this year and find creative ways to celebrate. My mission? To plan my own special day. And the only guest at this party was going to be me, myself and I.

If you work at home or find yourself alone on your birthday, here’s a glimpse into my day. This might provide you with some fun ways to spend your special day and celebrate just being you.

Good Morning, Princess
I overslept and spread out across my bed like an aloof cat, purring and embracing my slothfulness with nary a twang of guilt. With no particular plan in place, I arose, stretched, and stepped onto the floor. The first gift of my day? Gratitude. I made it through yet another year and felt blessed that I was still able to plop both of my feet on the floor each day.

Normally, I’d head to the kitchen and eat a fairly healthy breakfast. Nope. Not today. No quinoa oatmeal with raw honey and granola for this gal. I suddenly recalled that you can get a free pastry at Panera Bread on your birthday. Today, I was going to be bad to the bone. The bible says that man shall not live by bread alone. But today, by God, I was going to be a sinner. Some giant bear claw behind their glass window was sweetly calling my name. So off I went to devour – with gusto – that floury, gooey, sweet, calorie-laden, almond-filled pastry, and my taste buds immediately had a foodgasm. BearClawPastryI could hear the gal next to me eating her pale-looking porridge mumbling, “I want what she’s having.” Second birthday gift: Enjoying complete decadence minus the remorse.

You So Pretty
Warm water. A foot massage. Pampering. Reading trashy Hollywood magazines. What more could a girl (or guy!) ask for? It was time to head over and get buffed and polished. The only decision I had to make was what color d’jour I wanted on my nails. I was feeling rebellious. ManiPediNo Springtime Primrose Pink for me today. I was also feeling frisky – and a bit risky – so I said just one word to the gal, “Navy.” I didn’t even peruse the 99 bottles of blue on the wall. I just said, “You pick.” Third birthday gift: Being a rebel without a cause.

Good Afternoon, Birthday Girl
Before I knew it, it was almost time for lunch. I only had to travel three doors down from the nail spa to find my favorite Chinese restaurant. Walking through the doors, I swear I heard a chorus of angels singing Alleluia as I looked around to a completely empty restaurant. I felt like I had found my own little corner of feng shui paradise. Since it was too early for the lunch crowd [read: those people who work in offices], I had the place all to myself. So, with book in hand, I turned off my cell phone, sipped my hot ‘n sour soup and downed my crunchy shrimp rolls. I politely asked the proprietor if she minded if I sat and read. She looked around the vast array of empty tables and looked at me as if to say, “What do you think?” as she politely bowed her head in agreement. Fourth birthday gift: Reading for more than an hour with no disruptions.



I considered completing the afternoon with a matinee where I could enjoy a jumbo box of popcorn and a box of Jujubes all to myself, but the hours had slipped by, and my party was winding down. I headed home, drunk with gratification and satisfied that my day had been completely geared toward reveling in self-love. I was satiated, not only with good food but with good intentions to party by myself more often in the future.

That was the best gift. And I always save the best for last.

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I Want to Be Alone

Greta Garbo

“I vaaant to be alone,” is a famous line that Swedish Hollywood starlet, Greta Garbo, said in the 1932 film, Grand Hotel. In reality – and as she clarified later – she actually said “I want to be let alone.” That makes a big difference, for I doubt anyone would actually prefer to be alone without human contact whatsoever.

Being “let” alone is something I treasure (although the grammar nazi in me would use the phrase “left alone”). I often recall how difficult it was to find alone time when I was raising small children. Standing in the shower for more than three minutes or finding time to read often resulted in this famous quote floating around my head. But I also reminded myself that these precious moments with my children would go by in a flash, and I would recall another quote: “This, too, shall pass.”

I remember receiving repeated calls from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher letting me know my daughter had a stomachache (again) and wanted to be picked up. I sat on the stoop with her the next day while waiting for the big yellow bus and asked her, “Why do you get upset at school?” She finally admitted, with tiny tears streaming down her face, that she didn’t want me to be alone at home. Wow. Ask and ye shall receive.

I embraced her and said, “Mommy treasures having alone time!” With that, her tears subsided, she skipped to the bus…and that, too, passed.

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Miss Spelling

“I was tired, bored and stressed out.”  No, not me. On the contrary, since being laid off from a company after 16 long years, the one thing I’m NOT is tired, bored or stressed out.  Broke?  Yes.  Stressed?  Meh…

No, the quote is from Lori Anne Madison, a cute, blond, petite, six-year old whose one incorrect letter in this year’s National Spelling Bee ended her chances to beat out those twice her size and age.

I want this child. No, really, I want to adopt her. Not only is she tugging at this Grammar Nazi’s heart strings, but she’s sassy ta boot. With her cornfield blond bob and devilish grin, she reminds me of myself at that age. Not that I was spelling that well at the ripe old age of six, but the sassy part had definitely set in by then. Gradually through the years, with the constant din of the nuns spewing their diatribes with one raised eyebrow and dragon breath wafting over your shoulder if you even once forgot the “i before e except after c” rule and the “never end your sentences in a preposition,” imperative, the years of repetitive exercises soon burned a permanent indention in your brain. Spelling bees were the bomb, and I’ll see your AP class any day for the fun, instructive contest that has been lost in today’s dark educational abyss and replaced with standards of losing…I mean learning… tests. Read: “I’m tired, bored and stressed out.”

Years later, with children of my own, I had a tendency to chase them around the room with a red pen in my hand. This struck fear deep in their souls that sometimes prompted them to eat their homework before succumbing to my editor’s marks. (Who needs a dog?) My daughter’s response was always, “Mom, the teacher doesn’t care…as long as we get the idea.” My head exploded, my eyes bulged, and my head spun around ala Linda Blair. I reminded my daughter that some day she’ll be thankful that I was such a Word Witch. Not only would her homework end up looking like a blood splattered newspaper, but I then proceeded to red-line the teacher’s instructions, which were usually replete with typos and grammar gaps.

Recently, an app was devised by the Mitt Romney campaign which invites users to photograph themselves with their choice of pro-Romney slogans and then share them on social media. One of the slogans reads, “A Better Amercia.” Oops. Somebody didn’t observe the “i-before-c” rule. Really!?

So I’m getting out my crayons, poster board and Elmers glue. Then I’m distributing my posters that say “Lori Anne Madison for President.”

But first I need to fill out those adoption papers.


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ImagePretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

~Maya Angelou

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Two for the Price of…Well, Two

I’m only separated from her by a bedroom wall.  Both of our doors are ajar, and we’re staring at our computer screens.  Once in awhile I hear her sigh, and I feel the heaviness in my own chest.  She rustles underneath her comforter as she switches positions. I mumble across the hallway, “You should sit up at a desk. You’re going to hurt your back.”

Dead silence.  My adult daughter is hunched over her computer on her bed because she, like me, has been laid off from work.  We’re both scouring the want ads, and have mastered the fine art of cutting and pasting cover letters and attaching resumes as fast as you can say “stimulus package.”  We can type the letters c-r-a-i-g-s-l-i-s-t and hit the submit button in our sleep.

But I sense that she’s still a little greener at this than I am.  Although she’s over the feeling of being sucker punched after the layoff, she’s still new at reading in between the lines in the want ads.  She’s quickly being wooed by companies for her “marketing” skills.  Excitedly, she perks up when she gets a response, just to find out that it’s a telemarketing mill or a door-to-door sales job with no benefits, or that it barely pays minimum wage, (if any) replete with promises about how good it will look on your resume.  I want to protect her from the leeches, like a mother bear protects her cub, but discovering the realities of being in the belly of the beast is part of the process that she needs to experience.

Given time, the terminology will soon become second nature to her, when she realizes “entry level” means they aren’t going to pay you diddly; “multi-tasking” means they’re so unorganized that you’ll be doing just about everything; and “team player” means we tell you what to do….no questions asked.

And we are each other’s worse enemy, albeit lovingly.  Now and then, she’ll blurt through the walls, “Don’t apply for the so-and-so job, because I just did!”  I smile and just say, “Well, you go girl!” Sigh…

And the race is on.  Will an employer want someone at my age with years of experience who is mellowed like a fine wine, or someone young and easily molded to fit their Type A, achievement-driven mindset?

Every once in a while I try to find humor in the drudgery of it all.  I imagine creating our own ad to post on Craigslist – advertising us as a “two-for-oner.”  We would come in a special package – a mother/daughter duo.  Get the best of both worlds, the ad would imply.  Your office will run smoothly and efficiently in the background with mom’s touch, complete with homemade goodies (and I even clean refrigerators) and the daughter will provide her perky social media expertise and technical wizadry knowhow, complete with really nice looking shoes and sassy style.  Of course, I would have to remind them that when I say “two for one,” it’s gonna have to be a BIG one, complete with benefits, morning bagels, bottled water and gym memberships.

On the bright side, she and I were able to watch the snowbound commuters on the news last week who were miserable, grumbling on their dying cell phones trying to get home before 2012 – we, from the comfort of our couch.  We weren’t eating bon-bons since they’re not in our budget, but we were warm with a roof over our head with nowhere we had to be.

And suffice it to say there’s plenty of food – including a big bag of flour –  in the pantry if we have to play survivor and resort to making our own bread.

“You can make your own bread??” she inquired.  I just smiled.

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The Break that Refreshes

When my first-born was just a toddler back in the early 80s, I remember taking a rather unexpected – but well-needed – momentary break from married life. After some trivial disagreement I had with my husband that I blew way out of proportion, I got out of bed the next morning with that “last straw” determination looming in my head. I was ready to take extreme measures. I heaved my small son onto my hip and with $17.00 in cash, a limited credit card, and one small diaper bag draped over my arm, I stubbornly headed straight to the airport to run away from home. “I’ll show him,” I mumbled to myself.

Yes, that’s what I said. I was running away from home. On the way to the airport, I was having flashbacks of a time when I was all of nine years old and did the same thing. I remember slamming the front door, heading down the street with a small bag containing one pair of pajamas, and promising my mother she’d never see me again. We must have had some trivial disagreement and, again, I must have blown it out of proportion. I don’t know. Maybe she wouldn’t let me eat that box of Jello straight out of the box that I wanted. Stomping out the door and heading down the street, I mumbled to myself, “I won’t turn back, I won’t turn back.” But I made it to the fourth mailbox and decided to go back home. I already missed Fritos…and Jello.

But this time, I dug my feet in and swore I wouldn’t turn back. Ironically, I was headed across country to be with my mom. I was feeling the need to return to the familiar, safe, uncomplicated home of my youth. I planned to just show up on my parents’ doorstep unannounced, and I envisioned them giddy with excitement that I was bringing their grandchild for a visit. I would luxuriate in mom’s chicken noodle soup and bask in the smell of dad’s cherry-flavored pipe tobacco smoke, free from the domestic discourse I was experiencing at my own house. I wouldn’t have to think about solutions, compromises, or restless sleep for awhile.

First road hazard: My connecting flight left without me in Missouri, stranding me at the airport late at night with a cranky toddler and now about $12.00. Luckily, the airlines put me up in a hotel. But the box of cereal for my son the next day in the hotel cost $11.00, not including the milk. I was left with one dollar to my name.  I won’t turn back, I won’t turn back.

After the predictable warm and welcoming embrace from my surprised parents, there was a momentary walking on egg shells by my parents when I explained why I really came to visit. Well, there was no chicken soup on the stove, and my dad’s pipe had been replaced by a nubby, number-two pencil and a stern yet loving look as he buried his head in his crossword puzzle with that “talk to your mother” look on his face.

Second road hazard: Although happy to see me – and after allowing me and my sleepy toddler to settle in for the night – my mother turned to me the next day and said softly but sternly, “What, you think you have a monopoly on marriage problems? You need to go back home…and fix it.” And with that, she handed me a basket of laundry to fold, turned on her heels, and resumed her domestic putzing, never to say another word on the subject.

Suddenly, I was feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling let down, unappreciated and misunderstood.  I won’t turn back…I won’t turn back. But I did. I reflected on my reactions – and actions – for the next day or two, thought about what my mother had said, and returned to my marital nest. My husband had been sitting patiently at home, waiting for me to hit that fourth mailbox. We had both just learned our first lesson in Marriage Communication 101, and we set to work on fixing it.

Not long ago, my son – now an adult in a relationship of his own – returned to our home for a night to take a break from a similar, unresolved conflict he was having. I wasn’t sure if I should kick him out onto the porch or whip up a batch of chocolate chip waffles. I allowed him to “sleep on it” and cool off for one night. But there would be no waffles the next day. And if there had been, I would have flung one across the room at him and – unlike my delicate, soft-spoken mother – would have shouted, “SNAP OUT OF IT!” in my favorite Cher impression.

Mom would be proud. But, next time, I’m going to at least try to make it to the end of the street. Then, I’ll return home and fix it.

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“Hey, Nice Doll-Fins…”

Summer is just around the corner, and beachcombers are making their vacation plans to slather on the sunscreen, collect shells along the shore and delight at dolphin sightings on the distant horizon.

I recently read an interesting scientific article about the social networking of these ethereal creatures. It seems they have their own little networking community deep under that deep cerulean sea where males and females court each other and build alliances. Sound familiar? I’m thinking Facebook for Muculent Mammals. I’m also thinking these relationships may be deserving of their own reality show.

One of the reasons for these alliances and friendships among dolphins, scientists say, is that all this socializing sets the stage for their biggest goal: the race to reproduce. Yeah, this is all sounding very familiar.

Let me set the stage for this reality show I’m envisioning based on these scientists’ theories. I can’t help but visualize the set – a big, noisy underwater night club filled with slithery, silver, male dolphins standing around the bar with their bro network as they team up in duos or trios (what scientists call the “first-level alliance”) to support each other as they surround and woo an unsuspecting female. They say this makes it harder for the female dolphin to race away. But as they surround her, I can just imagine one brave bottlenose [reads script] saying, “Hey, baby, nice snout. Wanna go out?” Ew. And with that, she bolts [stage left], leaving him and his useless buddies drowning in her wake.

But, then, the plot thickens. An outsider male – who has had one too many Seaweed Stingers – makes an attempt to steal said female. This, in turn, causes the first group of dolphin dudes to join forces with other groups. (This is known as the “second-level alliance”). I believe in human-speak, this is called “misery loves company.”

Animal behaviorists say a trio of dolphins under attack will seek help from their other buddies. “Hey, Slick, you got my back?” At this point, the second-level alliance will receive help from yet another group of male dolphins, now forming a “third-level” alliance. (Phew! These guys just never give up, do they?) The testosterone level in this watering hole is now at an all-time high.

Scientists say the effort it takes to keep track of these shifting alliances helps explain why dolphins have such large brains. Perhaps this is where humans differ, as the only thing becoming large at this point is a guy’s…um, dorsal fin?

As for the scientific observation of female dolphins, it seems having a strong network of female relatives and friends helps them rear healthy calves. Apparently, dolphin calves survive longer if Mommy Dearest Dolphin has some bffs that have also raised calves. And where’s Daddy Dolphin in all this? [See below] I guess he thinks he’s done his part since he’s already conquered his catch. So the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is now paramount to the success of rearing the cute little dolphinettes. It seems hanging out with the girls is also a protective mechanism, because their young calves can be easy prey for sharks. These mamas may seem sweet and reserved, but mess with their kids and they’ll show you seven kinds of crazy.

This all leads to the male dolphins once again revisiting The Dolphin Den. Off they go again to assemble their multi-layered alliances, check out the pretty new clientele, and see who they can attempt to woo this time. Either that, or they’re just there to watch the latest Porpoise Playoffs.

Stay tuned for season two of this series…

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