Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova and Happy New Year! - 29 Elul 5771

The title pretty much says it all. HAPPY NEW YEAR. May it be sweet and delicious and full of good things. May your name be written in the Book of Life. May you not eat an entire round raisin challah all by yourself...

...oh, that one's just for me. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Updating Randomly - September 24, 2011

A list. In bullet form. And not much else, form-wise.
  • First, my Amazon make-affiliate-links-easily widget seems to be dead. If you know how to get it to be undead, do share.
  • Still working on finding my tribe of special needs moms. I reached out to a local email list looking for others like me and received three replies. One asked about a meetup I'd mentioned in passing - without a please, a thank you, or a "me too" in there. I sent her the information she wanted and never heard a thing. One zoomed right in on a comment I made in passing within my post about my writing/editing work and wanted to meet up to talk about how she could get herself into writing/editing. I had to just move past that with some eye rolling. And one was a fellow mama looking for someone with whom to connect. We had coffee yesterday and it was fantastic. One reply made it all worth it.
  • Consignment season is winding down. I was very, very restrained at the one sale I went to yesterday. A cute girly outfit, two sweaters, a fleece top. That's it. And the prices weren't even that great, but the kid really did (still does) need some warmer clothes for the short-but-cold winter we get here in Georgia. She's otherwise set though.
  • Sometimes I am just so tired of everything. 
  • Sometimes I am able to swim to the surface again and look at the sun.
  • The kid takes steps now, will stand for many seconds now, and is babbling strings of consonants and vowels with inflection and with occasional words mushed in. (She's loud.) 
  • And yet her PT told me she may someday still need a stroller/chair for field trips, when she's older. I know the reality of my daughter's abilities, but I really would like to stay positive, focus on the now, and worry about the then in three or four years. Because she's doing so well. And she hates being confined in a stroller right now and much prefers to walk (with her walker or holding someone's hand). But she's getting heavy now and carrying her is getting harder. And I know she may still need assistance and I know that this is OK. But I don't like hearing it. Because I don't know what I believe anymore.
  • Pumpkin season is upon us. I made pumpkin cream cheese and pumpkin spice syrup for coffee. I also made 100-calorie cupcakes (not pumpkin, but still good). I have plans to make pumpkin-oatmeal muffiny things. I found a lot of this stuff on Pinterest. Feel free to follow me there.
  • I'm in my fourth week of doing Weight Watchers. Even with a trip out of town, two long car rides, and several dinners out, I've lost almost six pounds and am on my way to my 5% goal. I like this system - I like that it gives me parameters and goals and I like the accountability. I have no judgment about the old points vs. the new points, and I don't care if you did or didn't like WW for yourself or if you use a free system instead. I just know that for now, this is working for me and I like it. Now to just start adding in more exercise... (Perhaps starting the 30-day Shred again...or getting my Wii fixed so I can do Wii Fit? I miss my Wii.)
  • I've been reading reading reading. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was incredible. The Girl's Guide to Homelessness was heartbreaking and fantastic. And I'm concurrently reading Blue Jelly: Love Lost and the Lessons of Canning, Spoiled, and the The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner. Oh how I wish I just had the widgety thing - making those links was kind of a pain. FULL CIRCLE! WOOT WOOT!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Giveaway - Win a Free Copy of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook Software - Or Save $20 On Your Purchase!

As a former zine girl, the idea of scrapbooking definitely is appealing. Paper! Pictures! Extras! Photos! Glue sticks! Cut and paste! But I don't really have the time or money for it, nevermind the space to store all the tools, so I just stare at the cute supplies in the craft store and move on.

But digital scrapbooking...that I might be able to handle. Plus, I have thousands of digital pictures on my hard drive that I never look at or print that probably should be organized and shared with friends and family.

So when I was approached by My Memories to try its scrapbook software suite for free, I thought sure, why not. And I have to say, I found the program easy to figure out and use. There are lots of nice touches - easy ways to add a variety of backgrounds; options for adding realistic-looking ribbons, brads, and other little details on the page; background music if you so desire (not my thing, but maybe yours?); and more.

One thing I noted is that this program reminds me a bit of the kiosks at CVS or the websites out there that I've used to create photo books, but this has many, many more options from which to choose. Plus, saving a project locally, having all of my photos at hand without having to upload them or bring them somewhere, and being able to choose where to have the final product printed is great. Also it's not a giant pain in the butt like those kiosks can be. Ahem.

(I should note that on my four-year-old MacBook, the software sometimes ran slowly or gave me the pinwheel of doom for a few minutes, but when I closed out all other programs it ran more smoothly.)

Also, you could totally use this to make invitations or holiday cards or calendars or all sorts of other crafty things, and you can print them yourself or export them to have them printed wherever you want. You can also make DVDs (that's where the music comes in) and even export iPod-friendly files. Seriously, this is a pretty impressive program and I look forward to exploring it further. I may even make Hanukkah presents for the fam with it this year.

And look below - this was my first attempt without even reading the directions. (Yeah, that's what I do. Dive right in.) I had pictures from our vacation last week right at my fingertips, so it was easy. And yes, the text is placed deliberately to obscure and watermark my daughter's face because I don't usually share pictures of her here (but she's just so cute...):
Created with the My Memories Scrapbooking Software Suite
I also like that this software suite is very reasonably priced - it's only $39.97 - and even better, I have a code that can get you a nice discount. Simply go to and enter the code STMMMS76900 during checkout to get $10 off the software suite and a $10 credit to the store. Full disclosure - I get a small kickback if you use this code. And that kickback will be used for such frivolities as paying down credit card debt - so you know, it goes to a good cause. Please use it!

A discount is nice, of course, but free is even better, right?

I was given two copies of the software. One was mine to keep (thank you, My Memories!), and the other is to give to a lucky blog reader. Woohoo, I love contests!

To enter the My Memories Suite Scrapbook Software giveaway:

Mandatory entry: Go look around and then come back and leave a comment telling me about your favorite digital kit or album template.

Optional entry: Tweet about the contest (once a day) and come back and comment with a link to your tweet. Here, look, I wrote it for you! "I just entered to win the @mymemoriessuite #scrapbook software from @marlatiara at!"

Optional entry: Blog about the contest (once) and come back and comment three separate times with a link to your post.

Optional entry: Become a Facebook fan of My Memories and come back and let me know you did it. (once)

Optional entry: Follow My Memories on Twitter and come back and let me know you did it. (once)

The contest will end on September 30, 2011, and I'll use to pick a winner. If you don't have a profile or something, MAKE SURE you put your email address in your comment so I have a way to find you!

And if you've come to my blog for the first time, I'd love it if you'd stick around. You don't have to - I don't want to make you stay, and you should know that I only do occasional giveaways and contests (when I really like the product!) and that this is more of a personal blog - but take a minute, if you would, to read my intro post and see if we'd click. I write about everything from thrifting and crafts to raising a daughter with cerebral palsy to reading to...well, a lot of brain dumping. If you like what you see, add me with Google or Networked Blogs or just come back and peek in once in a while. Thanks!

And does it need to be said that all opinions are mine mine mine mine and mine? If I hated it, I'd tell you. Trufax.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thrifting on Vacation - September 17, 2011

Last week my husband, the kid, and I finally got to take a non-family vacation. It was short and sweet - Virginia Beach, staying at the home of my friend's mom, which was mere steps from the ocean. The last time we went to the beach, the kid had a tantrum and was freaked out. One time before that, she face-planted into the sand. So I wasn't sure what to expect, but this time was different - she LOVED the sand and could've spent hours playing in it. I had moments where I realized that most parents of four-year-olds don't spend their time saying "Don't crawl away from mama, please." (This is entirely different from "Don't run/stay where I can see you," I assure you.) was good. Plus we got to watch the dolphins swim around and I ran screaming away from a crab because apparently I am 12.

And I think she grew two or three inches over the course of the week, and her ability to stand unassisted got better and her steps grew a bit stronger. She's taken up to seven unassisted steps at a time, but she's best at taking one or two.

It amused me when I told a few people that we were taking our first vacation in years and they thought I meant we were going without the kid. That is something that is far, far in the future for a variety of reasons - this was our first vacation as a family.

I also hit three thrift stores while we were away - the thrifting in Virginia Beach is AMAZING, and I've always found treasures when I've gone out with my friend. This time we went to an indie store and the Goodwill outlet, and the next day I ran quickly into the Goodwill near her house because the sign said "half-price books" and I was weak. Oh so very, very weak.

Store one (independent store):

Little Mermaid shirts - 99 cents each.

Children's Place butterfly shirts. 99 cents on the left, $1.99 on the right. Sadly, the white one has a hole on the back that I didn't notice in the store. Boo.

Shirt on the left, 99 cents. Shirt on the right, 75 cents. I think it's funny that the cupcake shirt shows the "one of a kind" cupcake as the plain one. The pink shirt is a duplicate of one the kid already has - that's a good thing!

Taking a chance on a Baby Gap dress. $3.99 (ooh, splurge!). I think with leggings she should be able to handle wearing it.

Too big Hello Kitty jeans. $1.98, how could I not?

45 cents. Yep.

Jeans for me that I haven't yet tried on. They're Gap, they're my size, they were $1.99. I figured it was worth the risk.

I had this Casio when I was a kid. It was $1.99 and it not only works perfectly, but it came with a ROM with four songs on it. These are listed on eBay for $50 but...I don't think anyone would pay $50 for it, do you? I bought it for the kid so she can play it and I won't care if she breaks it/drools on it.

Crazy hockey puck yelling dude for my husband. 25 cents.  When you smash it, it yells things at you.

Amazing score of a Vtech toy laptop. Works perfectly and the kid likes smashing the keyboard and pretending to type. $1.99. Seriously. Hopefully when she's older she'll use the programs it has.

The laptop, closed. It has a handle, but the mouse dangles off it so...I don't really get it.

I've been dying to read the Penderwicks, and it was marked down to 75 cents. Nice.

Bag of Mr. Potato Head - $1.99 (hard to see but he has a lot of parts in there, and the kid likes playing with the speech therapist's set so now she has her own)

Sing-a-ma-jig. This annoying toy was a mere $4.98 and as you can see, is brand new with tags. The kid already has one - when you put them together, they harmonize. So...why not.

Goodwill outlet, where you pay by weight:

I lied. The books aren't by weight. But it was 50 cents or something.

All of this, plus the book above, plus a little magnetic Doodle Cars-movie toy (can't find it now) cost $1.44. Total. LOOK AT THE PONIES! (They're for me. Shut up. The white one still has her clothes and accessories and she's the newest. I think it's funny that I got the evolution of ponies - green is oldest and looks like a horse, white/blonde is a little less horsey and is from 2004 or something, and unicorn is OMG ANIME MAGIC SPARKLE BIG EYED THING from 2010.) (Update: Apparently I have Rarity (the unicorn/new one), Golden Delicious (the slightly older one) and a "Fake Fakie" that isn't really a MLP (the green one).)
These are the half-price books - $1.50 each. I never buy hardbacks but for $1.50, I splurged. The pink one at the top is called Dreaming of Dior and has the most gorgeous illustrations of fabulous dresses. I had to run through the book section because my husband didn't really want to be in the store in the first place and the kid had entertained herself briefly with rearranging the VHS tapes but then had an epic meltdown, so this was all I got. Because I needed more books...

If you're wondering, this week's project is to send stuff OUTWARD. I have a giant box and a giant bag for Goodwill already put aside. More will be added. I think I'm going to have to make some painful decisions, but purging is important, particularly if I want to be able to keep shopping...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago - September 11, 2011

Ten years ago I was out of work. By choice. Because I desperately wanted to move from Boston to New York City, so I'd set up some interviews, quit my job, and waited to see what would happen. (Rash decisions, all of them. I wanted to shake things up. I made some poor choices.) And I wanted to go with my boyfriend, so I was working things out with him so we could go. And we'd decided that if I didn't have an actual job lined up by October 2001, we'd probably just take the leap and go anyway. We'd started casually looking at apartments, at neighborhoods and places to live, figuring out our options.

Ten years ago I was in my plaid bathrobe getting ready very slowly to meet a friend for lunch in downtown Boston. I flipped on the TV to keep me company and the first plane had just hit. I thought, wow, what an idiot, flying a little plane into the World Trade Center. That has to be a mistake. A tiny plane, surely. I hope nobody was injured. And then I saw - live as it happened - the second plane hit. I will never forget seeing that. "Wait, was the second plane confused? Wait, what just happened? Wait. Wait. Wait." And I screamed. And I stared. And I sat on the couch. And then the news people said that the planes had taken off from Boston and I started crying. I called my mom and cried while I watched the towers collapse. "Oh wait, I was wrong, they didn't collapse. No. No. No, wait, they just did. Oh my god."

My boyfriend was working on something at Fenway Park and I had visions of fighter planes or attack planes or bombs or I don't know what just raining down on him. I had to call several phone lines (if I remember correctly, he didn't even have his own cell phone yet) and finally was able to reach someone who told me he was fine and he'd be home soon.

My friend sent her sister over to keep me company. I honestly don't remember HOW that worked out - she may see this and comment - but it did. And it was a lifesaver, having someone there. Just someone there. Because I thought the world was exploding.

And I kept saying, over and over, one thing.

Someday it is going to be ten years from now. Someday we are going to look back at this and it will be ten years later.

It was the only way I could get through that day. It doesn't make sense, don't try to make sense of it, it's just where my mind ran away to. The future. This isn't real. It isn't happening.

My boyfriend (now my husband) knew someone on one of the planes. My stepfather did too. I just found out another friend knew someone too.

I never moved to New York City, but I went into the city in October 2001 anyway, to visit a friend and to go to a Tori Amos concert. I will never forget how the city smelled. I will never forget the posters of the missing covering every street lamp, every bus shelter. Everywhere.

I can't believe it has been ten years. I can't believe today is here. I just can't believe any of it. Still.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Asking a Question Using a Longwinded Metaphor (Special Needs Parent Post) - September 7, 2011

What do you do when life throws you a roadblock? Not even necessarily a big one. Not something dire. Just that you finally think you've found a way to make your car go along a bumpy road and navigate the twists and turns and then there's a tree that has fallen in the middle of your path. What do you do when you really just want to turn your car around and go home (but you can't) or you want to sit in your car and cry (but really, you can't) or you want to make someone make all the trees in the world vanish (but seriously, you can't)? But your car still goes - in fact, it's really going well lately! - and the sun is shining, it's not even raining, and if you could just get past that fucking tree maybe you'd have a few minutes where the right song would come on the radio and you could sing along in harmony....

Right now I'm getting myself ready to climb out of the car and go to the store and search for just the right saw to chop down the damn tree so I can continue on my way.

And maybe someday I'll decide to talk about more than cars and trees and will instead tell you about my beautiful, smart, complicated daughter and how I am wondering when I'm going to figure this all out, because as I'm sure nobody is surprised and everyone can understand, just when I thought I had figured things out, something new came along.

[Since occasionally people who know me in real life and/or are related to me do read my blog, I feel the need to add that there is nothing WRONG and nobody is sick and there is nothing to be concerned about. I am just venting.]

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers - September 3, 2011

I've told this story so many times over the past week to so many people, but now I want to tell...well, you, I guess.

Last week was tricky. Things were just difficult in general. I had phone calls to make, doctors to fire and doctors to hire [in terms of my kid's treatment - I realized later that this implied I have some fancy job where I hire and fire, I mean just in terms of our family], paperwork to handle, some drama with the kid, etc etc etc. I was feeling beaten down and just very tired.

On Wednesday morning I woke up and checked my email bright and early to make sure I had been paid for a freelance gig (I'd missed getting paid on the 15th and really needed the money on the 31st). Yup, the notification was there, hooray, I got paid - and an email that had the subject like "Decatur Book Festival/Joshilyn Jackson." Gmail told me that the first sentence was something about not being stalkery...

You need to know some background. Labor Day weekend (right now!) is always the Decatur Book Festival, which is one of the largest book festivals in the country and which takes place down the street from where I live. Authors come from all over the country to speak, sign, and mingle. It's always a good time, and it's been fascinating to watch it grow and thrive.

This year, there were some auctions as fundraisers as a part of the festival. They auctioned off an hour with an author or two at the local restaurant The Brick Store, which is one of the top beer bars in the WORLD and which boasts an incredibly monstrous beer list. This blipped on my radar and passed - yes, there was an auction to win time with Joshilyn Jackson, and yes, I think she's a fantastic writer AND a hysterical person (her blog...Faster Than Kudzu...just...go read it), but two freelancers and one kid means there's not a lot of wiggle room in our budget, and an auction...yeah. No way could I even bid the minimum.

The topic of the auctions came up on a local blog, and someone asked who she should bid on. So I longingly noted that she should bid on JJ, and that I was a huge fan and wished I could. And then I forgot.

To make a long story short (I'm never good at that, am I), a woman named Kim wound up winning the auction, but her +1 was not able to come with her. So she, being resourceful and all around fabulous, came upon my comment, clicked through, found my blog, found my email address, and wrote me offering me that coveted spot.

My eyes filled with tears.

I accepted, and today Kim and I hung out with both Joshilyn Jackson (who is hysterical and smart and fantastic) and Susan Rebecca White (who was a sweetheart and someone I genuinely liked - is it weird that I added her as a Facebook friend when I got home? I hope not - we have a few mutual friends...). I drank a fancy microbrew (imported possibly) strawberry beer in its own special glass. I talked too fast and too loud, as I do. I said hello to people who walked by that I knew and I met people that I didn't know who knew one of the other three women at our table. And I felt like a rock star for an hour. A dorky, awkward rock star (I forgot to tell Joshilyn that I identified STRONGLY with her Alan Thicke story), but a star nonetheless. And then it ended and we all walked in different directions. Which is OK.

So if you see this, Kim, a big huge public thank you!

It was grand that the universe was being pleasant for a change, let me tell you. Now we must tackle this Very Long Weekend with the kid....