Thursday, September 30, 2010

Best wishes and warm regards

When I wake up in the morning, I stumble to the bathroom sink, brush my teeth, and look at myself in the mirror. Usually I see something like this:
As I'm admiring my amazing bedhead and my general beauty in the morning, one question comes to mind: "WHY am I still single?" I mean, I really have no idea why no man would want to wake up next to THIS every morning. I really don't. Is it because I refuse to date men who start sentences off with "I ain't got no . . ."? Is it because I'm too judgmental when men sport mullets? Or is it because I'll never love a man the way I love the fajitas at Lupe Tortilla? I don't know the answer. But I'm tired of the status quo.

So I've joined the world of online dating.

So far, my experience has been an interesting one. I've had contact with one really nice and really normal guy and that has been super fun. But I've also been contacted by a few . . . ummmmmm . . . interesting guys. And by "interesting" I mean "Holy CRAP! People like this really exist??" For instance, one guy from California just emailed me the other day. And I think that we could be just PERFECT for each other. "Why do you think that, Catherine?" you ask. Well, see for yourselves:

Hi Pretty,

My name is Gary and I am 47 years old.

I beg to be counted among the crowds who behold your splendor because angels conspired to paint you a masterpiece. [Wow. I don't . . . I can't . . . is he . . . My armpits are sweating. They're ACTUALLY sweating after just one freakin' line.] You're so appealing that I think we could make a perfect and unique connection. [Weeeeeell . . . Let's agree to disagree on that one, bud.] I was caught by your lovely look and smiles that is so geniune, captivating and I guess from your heart too?. [Well, when you can't decide if you're making a statement or asking a question, the ever-popular question mark/period combination is always a good choice.] This definitely means that you must be a very special, nice, kind and unique person with such a combined beauty and radiant smile by the Grace of God. [Must . . . find . . . delete . . .] Most importantly, I am more concern about the beauty of the Heart and Soul than the outside beauty. Outside beauty will fade away with time, but the beauty of Heart and Soul will stay for forever.

I don't play planks or a flatter with stuffs of the nature, [wait - come again . . .?] I mean every word from the bottom of my heart. playing planks or flattering to me is like cheating. Best wishes and Warm Regards.

Since most people say they like to travel, [Wait - there's more? But didn't he just say "Best wishes and Warm Regards?" I'm so confused . . .] it would be nice to meet someone out of the neighborhood to visit another city. Most people just settle for someone because it is convenient, because they live close. That is pretty sad. If someone is willing to make a supreme effort to get to know you, maybe such person is worth getting to know too. Please don’t tell me our profiles don’t match on distance if that is the only reason why you are not interested. [Oh buddy . . . that is the LEAST of our problems, believe me . . .]

If you are interested in meeting a true gentleman, send me an email. Let me know even if you are not interested. [Okay . . . I'm not.] Keep Smiling and God Bless you always as you want to know more about me, we can chat via yahoo or msn IM, it is more convinient, secured and faster compared to this medium. On the messenger, instant answers can be given to any possible question. You can also send me your yahoo or msn email address, s o that I can add you to my yahoo IM.

I look forward to your response soon. [Weeeeeeeeell . . . define "soon" . . .]
Yours: Gary

Ahhhhhhh . . . now I see. Thaaaaaaaaat's why I'm still single.

Seriously?? Is this what I have to look forward to in this online world? This going to be a painful process.

I feel like someone is playing a plank on me . . .

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Budget cuts hit home.

As you all know, Texas has been having some MAJOR budget issues as of late. Naturally, the State has had to make some budget cuts to alleviate the situation. Up until now, I've been lucky because I haven't seen too many effects of such cutbacks. But I know it's coming. And, in fact, today I was driving down the main street in my hometown and I noticed one of the first casualties of the budget crisis: apparently the road-sign proofreader has been laid off . . .

As Texans we just cannot stand for this. We must rally together to help her get her job back. And not just because we need our signs spell-checked. Not even because signs like this will make me cause 10 car pile-ups. No, friends - we need to do this because it's the rigth thing to do . . .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A sweet party

This weekend I celebrated my 35th birthday in style. Well, maybe I should say that I celebrated in sugar . . .

For the past three months, I have been in a contest with some girls at work to see who can give up processed foods for the longest period of time. So I have not had any processed food since the beginning of July. But the most beautiful thing is that the other girls in the contest and I have decided that we get to cheat for our birthdays.

And I've been jonesin' for some sugar, people - wonderful, glorious sugar. Sugar that's processed, refined, and then processed and refined again.

So I decided that, for my birthday, I would invite some friends over and ask them to bring a dessert instead of a gift so that we could have one huge dessert party. At first, I planned to invite a TON of people. But then we decided to have it over at my mom's house and make it a pool party, which meant that I'd have to be in a bathing suit at some point. Sooooooooo I had to pare down the list considerably and invite only those people who are either blind or bound by the ties of unconditional love. And, honestly, the unconditional love part still had me a little insecure.

Can I just tell you that a dessert party is the BEST idea I've EVER had?? It was awesome. And everyone came bearing major YUMMIES. Emma and Ben made me some cupcakes:

Avery and Savannah made me some cookies [see them in the back there?]:

And my friend Diana brought me Heaven on a plate:

But that wasn't it! My roommate brought sopapilla cheesecake, Jill brought banana pudding, my friend Tracy brought a fresh strawberry cake, Tammy brought fruit pies, Erin brought cookies, my friend Amy brought cupcakes from Frost, my friend Vicki brought a ton of fruit, and my other friend Tracy brought a cookie cake. It was the most amazing display of sugar you've ever seen. And I did NOT have trouble digging in.

Because there was a Swiss Cake Roll with my name on it . . .

And then, of course, I had to try a little bit of what everyone made for me - you know, because I didn't want to be rude or anything. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a little carried away . . .

But at least my family and friends were there to help me so that I didn't embarrass myself . . .

It was awesome. I got chocolate on my shirt, frosting in my hair, and I fell JUST short of my goal of going into a sugar coma by 2 am . . . but it sure wasn't for lack of trying!

Thanks for the birthday wishes everyone!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My mid-life crisis.

Well, today is my birthday - that glorious day when I get to be the center of attention. The day when people can break into song on my behalf and it's not awkward. And the day when I can eat as much cake and ice cream as I want without being judged.

I freakin' LOVE my birthday.

BUT . . . I have to confess something to you today: this year I feel like I might be on the verge of a mid-life crisis because I'm 35 years old and had hoped to accomplish so much more by this point in my life. I mean, there are MAJOR goals that I haven't reached . . . and important dreams that haven't been realized. And it's kind of depressing.

"Aren't you being a little hard on yourself, Catherine?" you ask. I don't think so. I've wasted my time when I could have been well on the way to checking some of these things off of my life's "to-do" list. But I'll let y'all judge for yourselves. Just take a look at all the things that I have yet to accomplish . . .

1. Be the recipient of a comment such as: "You look a little thin - are you sure you're eating enough?"
Sure, this may seem a little shallow but it's a dream of mine so don't knock it. And I'm not picky - I'll even take something similar, like "Man, you barely ate ANYthing tonight" or "Is that your hip bone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" You know - something along those lines.

2. Being asked to tour with the Hip Hop Abs group as a back-up dancer.
Look, I've been doing Hip Hop Abs for a while now and I think it's time I got recognized for all my hard work. No, I don't have any rhythm. No, I don't have any soul. But you've not seen the "Flava Jam" or the "Oblique Slammer" until you've seen me do them. Aaaaaaand, frankly, you won't see me do them because I keep the blinds closed and the lights off so that I don't embarrass myself. So maybe this goal is a bit premature . . .

3. Getting Mike Rowe to marry me using any means necessary . . . including, but not limited to, a pregnancy scare.
Don't judge me. I love that man.

4. Getting in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Thickest layer of Cheetos cheese on fingers." I've tried, people. I really have. But the problem is that the cheese is just so darn GOOD. I try to resist it but I just can't do it - I have to lick it off, essentially licking my chances at a world record away. But it is SO worth it . . .

5. Getting a wedding ring that's so big I have to take it off every three hours to give my hand muscles a break.
Again, you make think this is shallow. I think it is a worthy ambition. But, frankly, at this point I'd take a ring pop . . .

6. Use the phrase "Fo shizzle, yo" in a conversation without anybody thinking it's funny.
Stop laughing. Yep - I think I need to start coming to grips with the fact that I may never accomplish this one.

7. Have the Permullet admitted to the Hair Hall of Fame.
Seriously - why hasn't this been done yet? It's a travesty. And the worst part is that I'm SURE it would be a total SHOE-IN. I mean, just LOOK at it:
It's amazing. And it needs to be recognized on a national level, friends.

8. Be mistaken for a butt model.
I sometimes fantasize about having this conversation with someone:

Stranger: Excuse me . . . did you model in the March 2005 Abercrombie catalog?
Me: No, I didn't.
Stranger: Were you in the 2008 "Ifs Ands and BUTTS" Calendar?
Me: Nope - sure wasn't.
Stranger: Well, you are a dead ringer for whoever did. Your butt is amazing.
Me: Wow! Thanks!
Stranger: It's so firm.
Me: Wow - that went from flattering to awkward REALLY fast . . .
Stranger: Can I touch it?
Me: Ummmm . . .

And, friends, I'm not too proud to admit that I'm not really sure what my response would be in that situation . . .

9. Get a Little Debbie snack cake named after me.
This would be the greatest dream EVER. And I even have a name picked out for mine: Catchy Cakes. Seriously - how perfect is that?? I think they'd be some sort of cross between Oatmeal Creme Pies and Swiss Cake Rolls. Well, actually, that might be totally disgusting . . . but the NAME is super presh and that's all that matters. And the best part is that I'm SURE that if Deb named a cake after me we would TOTALLY be BFFs and she'd give me a lifetime supply of Swiss Cake Rolls. And then my life would be complete.

10. All kidding aside, I do have one goal that I really DO want to accomplish: Rid the world of abuse . . . of the word "literally."
Seriously. I can't take it anymore. My friend just emailed me tonight to tell me that this lady told him that she'd been in a wreck and it LITERALLY killed her. This is the kind of abuse that I want to eradicate. I want to run for office with that as my platform, asking for harsh prison sentences for people who say things like "I was so mad I was LITERALLY spitting fire." Do I have your vote?

So now you see why I'm a little down this year and why I feel like I've let myself down. These are HUGE goals to leave unrealized . . . I can't believe that I have failed so miserably. It's so depressing. I'd really like to have a mid-life crisis over it all but I can't afford a Corvette and I have no pool boy to have an affair with. BUT there's always Gustavo . . .

Hmmmm - I think I'm gonna like my mid-life crisis!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gonna have to work on that . . .

You know how I am about grammar and word usage, right? Well, the rest of my family is like that, too. My sisters and I are all grammar and words people because our parents always were. And I have no doubt that my sisters' kids will follow in their mothers' footsteps, too . . . because they know that if they don't, we might disown them.

But learning proper grammar is a process, just like anything else. And it takes a while to learn all the rules. So they make mistakes now and again that just crack me up.

For instance . . .

My mom was out with my niece Emma (9) and my nephew Ben (6) the other day and she was trying to park her car. She pulled into the spot but her park job was horrible. That's when this conversation happened:

Ben: [opens the door and sees the parking job] Dearsie, you did a horrible job. Just horrible. You're on the line.
Dearsie: I am?
Ben: Yes . . . it's hooooooooorrible.
Dearsie: Well, you're very encouraging. Close the door and I'll fix it.
Ben: Okay.
Dearsie: [backs out and pulls back in]
Ben: [opens the door to examine the new parking job, only to find that it's worse than before] Dearsie, your parking is getting more worser.
Dearsie: More worser??
Ben: Yeah. It's more worser than before.
Emma: Ben - it's not "more worser" . . . it's just "worser."
Ben: Oh. Dearsie, it's worser.

Well, she almost got it right . . .

And then Erin told me about something that Avery said the other day that is quite alarming because it involves one of my biggest pet peeves. Avery (5) and Savannah (7) were taking a bath and they decided to have a contest to see who could hold their breath longest under water. So they both went under and Savannah came up before Avery did. When Avery came up, they had this conversation:

Savannah: You won, Avery!
Avery: Literally?
Savannah: Yeah! You won!
Avery: LITERALLY????

She's only 5 so I'll let her get away with this blatant misuse of the word "literally." But she better have it under control by the time she's 7. Because if any of my sisters' kids grows up to abuse that word, my ears will melt, my head will explode, and I'll die.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nora: The Owner's Manual (Part Two)

As I told y'all yesterday, I've decided to start renting my mom out for parties. It makes sense, really, because everyone loves my stories about my mom . . . so why not give them the opportunity to experience her in person? But I realized that Nora Renters (like yourself, perhaps?) would benefit from an Owner's Manual that would provide tips, explanations and, in some cases, apologies to assist them during their rental period. So bit by bit, I'm compiling all the information I need to give YOU all the information YOU need when you rent my mom.

For instance . . .

1. Beverages
If, during your rental period, you offer my mom a drink, there are a few things you should know.

a. She likes Diet Coke or Regular Pepsi. You'll need to know this because, if you all are sitting around chatting and you happen to stand up to do something like go to the bathroom, answer the door, or save a drowning child, she will doubtless say: "I'd love a Diet Coke while you're up . . ." And you need to know that she likes LOTS of ice in her Diet Cokes so make sure that you're not stingy in the ice department . . .

b. She loves hot chocolate and will definitely accept a mug of it if you offer her some. And you might decide on the spur of the moment that you will be super fun and go that extra mile by garnishing that hot chocolate with some marshmallows. Sort of like a little surprise for her. And that's a great idea. Except for one thing . . . she likes to rinse her marshmallows before putting them in the hot chocolate. Yep. That's what I said. She rinses her marshmallows . . . because she doesn't like marshmallow dust. Don't ask questions, people . . .

c. If you're having a barbecue and everyone's drinking ice-cold beers, you might find yourself offering my mom one. She's not really a drinker and she's REALLY not a beer drinker but there's something about ice-cold beer that she's attracted to. She thinks it looks good, even though she knows she doesn't like the taste. So if you offer her one, she'll probably say yes. But she'll want it to be in an ice-cold mug, for some reason, so hopefully you have one in your freezer for the occasion. Aaaaaaaaaaaaand she'll take one sip and then she'll be done . . . because she really does NOT like beer. But she'll talk a while about how it looks so niiiiiiiiice and coooooooooold.
Allow me to apologize for the wasted beer . . .

2. Road trips

Are you wanting a great conversationalist to accompany you on your trip? Do you want someone who will make you laugh with witty comments as you drive? Then you should DEFINITELY rent my mom for your next road trip! She will make the time fly because she is great at finding interesting and fun topics to talk about.

HOWEVER . . . are you trying to get somewhere quickly? Are you attempting to beat your last time of 3 hours and 2 minutes from Houston to Dallas? Then you should definitely NOT rent my mom for that road trip. And let me explain why . . .

First of all, she loves a "lark." What is a lark? Well, it's a little spontaneous excursion, if you will. So you will hear this many times on your trip: "What does that sign say? Old General Store, Next Exit? Let's go check it out! Come ooooooooooon . . . it'll be a lark!!" Larks are NOT good for breaking record travel times . . .

Second, she cannot use the restroom at just any old place. McDonald's? Absolutely not. Burger King? Are you kidding me? Gas station? Go slap your own face. Nope - on a road trip, my mom will only use the restroom at a hotel. So that means that you cannot combine your gas/lunch/restroom stop at that Chevron with the attached Taco Bell. Noooooooooooo. That would be too easy. Instead, you have to pull out of the Chevron and drive over to the Holiday Inn so that my mom can go in and use their restrooms. She feels that they're cleaner than any other option and she's got a good point. But it is a serious set-back in time. And, to make matters worse, she's worried that they won't let her use the restroom if she's not a guest there so she makes you go in to run interference by pretending to inquire about their hotel. I can't tell you the number of Holiday Inn, Comfort Suites, and Hampton brochures I've been given over the years. Take my word for it - she's not the road trip buddy for you if you're in a hurry.

And third, she thinks the trip from Houston to Dallas (which is 3 and half hours AT MOST) is too long and should maybe be broken up into a two-day trip. In fact, she and my dad drove to Dallas from Houston once and she convinced him to stop and spend the night in Ennis. For those of you who aren't familiar with that trip, Ennis is only about 40 miles outside of Dallas. THEY WERE ALMOST THERE. I'm so glad that I wasn't on that trip because I think it would have killed a part of my soul to have stopped. It's killing a bit of my soul even now, just writing about it . . .

3. Phone calls
If my mom calls you at any point during the day, she will likely butt-dial you at least 5 more times. So it's a good idea to invest in the unlimited minutes plan with your cell phone provider.

4. Movies
My mom loves movies and will always be up for catching one with you. But you should know that if there is a highly inappropriate line in the movie that you would rather die than repeat, my mom will not hear it. And then she'll turn to you and ask you what they just said. It's horrible. So be warned that you'll have lots of moments like this:

Actor in movie: And then I'm gonna take your blankety blank and shove it up your bleepity bleep so far that you'll have to blank to blank for the rest of your bleeping life.
Mom: [in a loud whisper] What did he say?
Me: [Oh, Lord, no! Just ignore her, Catherine. Pretend you can't hear her right now. It'll work.]
Mom: [poking my arm] Catherine . . . what did he say?
Me: [gulp] I don't know. I couldn't hear it.
Mom: He said something about shoving something up his blankety blank . . .
Me: [Oh God, please spare me] Oh he did? I didn't hear it.
Mom: Are you sure? What did he say he was going to have to do for the rest of his life?
Me: [Please - make it stop . . .] No idea. He was mumbling so I missed it.
Mom: Too bad. Seems like it might have been an important line.
Me: I know. Bummer, right?

Just play dumb, friends. It's the only solution.

Well, I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect when you spend a little time with my mom. I'll update this manual from time to time so that you have all the up-to-date information that you need.

And, in the meantime, I'll be working on my next project . . .

Nora: The Pocket Translator - The Everything-You-Need-Guide To Understand What the Heck She's Saying . . .

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nora: The Owner's Manual (Part One)

I have written about my mom so much on this blog that she has developed quite a following of devoted fans. Some of you know her personally and some of you only know her through her antics as retold here on The Catherine Chronicles, but ALL of you love her.

And that's why I've decided to start renting her out for parties.

I'm still working out the details - you know, like how much I'll charge per hour - but I think this idea will really be one of my best, and most lucrative, ideas to date. But, as I started drafting the rental agreement and the commercial jingle, I realized that not everyone knows my mom and her quirks like my sisters and I do. So I figured that the most responsible thing to do would be to create a list of instructions that people can reference when they rent my mom out for the evening so that they'll know EXACTLY how to handle any situation that my arise. And so I have begun to assemble the single greatest Nora reference guide to date. Okay, well it's the ONLY Nora reference guide to date but that's beside the point . . .

ANYWAY, it is with great honor that I now present to you Part One of . . . "Nora: The Owner's Manual."

What's in this manual? Everything you need to know about Nora, my friend. You'll find all kinds of instructions, tips, explanations, and troubleshooting ideas - arranged by topic - that I think you will find helpful if you decide to rent my mom out for your next party. Just read on and you'll understand what I mean . . .

1. Food
My mom has very particular eating habits and you need to know this if you are going to rent her out for the evening. Here are a few rules to keep in mind:

a. She like hot dogs at the movies. And she likes mustard on the hot dog. BUT she does not want to SEE the mustard. Yes - you read that right. No - you're not crazy. Let me say it for you again: She likes mustard on her hot dog but only if she cannot SEE it. So you have to put the mustard on under the hot dog and then gently rest the hot dog back onto the bed of mustard you created so that it hides any hint of yellow. And, yes, YOU will be doing this because she does not get her own food at the movies . . .

b. She also likes popcorn at the movies. Buttered popcorn, to be exact. And you need to know that she likes butter in the middle AND on top. So you have to get them to fill up the bag halfway and then let you put butter on that part. Then you have to give it to them so that they can fill the rest of the bag up with popcorn and THEN you have to put butter on the top. But here's the rub - while she loves the butter on her popcorn, it makes her cough throughout the movie. So she's enjoying her popcorn but you can't hear half of the dialogue because the butter has coated her throat and she's coughing up a lung. But at least she will have paid for your movie ticket . . .

c. Speaking of popcorn . . . she likes cheese-flavored popcorn but it has to be from a certain place. My dad never failed to get her a big tub of it from her favorite place for Christmas and my mom would eat that stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The problem is that from Christmas Eve until sometime in mid-March, my mom has orange fingers. From the cheese flavoring. So keep that in mind if you're wanting to rent her around that time . . .

d. She has a strange habit when it comes to Werther's Original candies, in particular. I don't know what it is about THAT candy specifically, but she has to put two of them in her mouth when she eats them. Because she likes the clicking sound they make. Just go with it, people.

e. She likes Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. Well, that's not exactly accurate - she likes the RAISINS from the Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. She will buy an entire bag of Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and just eat the raisins. So don't be startled if you see a bagel lying around that looks like a rat got to it. It wasn't a rat - it was my mom. Eating just the raisins from the bagel. "Catherine, why doesn't she just buy a box of raisins?" you ask. Ahhhhh - I have asked the same question, my friends. And the answer? It beats the heck outta me.

2. Animals
My mom is not really much of an "animal lover." And no one knows this more than my dog, Jacques. He was my dad's dog and I inherited him after my dad died. When he was living with my parents, he was really territorial over my dad when my dad was sick. So when my mom would try to bring my dad his medicine, Jacques would try to attack her feet to keep her away. I'll admit it - he was a BRAT. I tried lots of different techniques to try to stop him, but all to no avail (alas, I had not yet been introduced to my man Cesar Milan!) So my mom - the animal lover - fought Jacques off by spraying hairspray at him. Which didn't do a THING to deter his territorial behavior. Instead, it just made him a well-coiffed territorial dog. Eat your hearts our, PETA.

While we're on the topic . . . if, when you're renting my mom, you introduce her to your pets, please do not be offended if she doesn't remember your dog's name. My sister has had a dog named Lola for several years and my mom just cannot remember her name. Well, I take that back - she just remembers the WRONG name . . . she calls her Lolly. Consistently. And my friend Andy had a dog named Copper that my mom always called either Porter or Cooper. But never Copper. She just can't seem to get a handle on pet names. And it's likely that yours will be no different.

She also can't dog genders right. Now, my mom remembers that my dog's name is Jacques and I think that's because he lived with my parents for several years. But she can't seem to remember that he is a HE. So we have lots of conversations like this:

Mom: [pointing to Jacques] Does she need to go outside?
Me: Yes. And he's a boy.
Mom: Whatever.

Or . . .

Mom: [pointing to Jacques] Catherine, what is she doing? Does she want something? Does she want one of her toys?
Me: Mom . . . HE'S A BOY.
Mom: Oh, whatever. Just get her away from me.

She's a veritable Dr. Doolittle, I tell ya.

So there you have it - the beginnings of my Owner's Manual. She's a very complicated person so I have a long way to go on this thing before it's ready for final print. But at least you can get started studying the above tips/explanations so that you'll be ready to rent her for your next party.

And I'll get back to you on the hourly rates . . .

Friday, September 17, 2010

Full Frontal Fall . . .

My mom and I got together the other night to watch an Irish television show that we found on Netflix and have fallen in love with (Ballykissangel - add it to your queue if you like Irish stuff!!). I came over after church and still needed to do my workout (because I'm SUPER fit like that) so I brought all my workout stuff with me over to my mom's so that I could just exercise at her house before we watched our show (pause while you admire my dedication . . .).

ANYWAY, I walked into the house and saw that her Fall decorations were up and they looked lovely. Her friend/neighbor/decorator-on-the-side does all the decorating for her and my mom LOVES it. This year the house looks fabulous, as usual, and my mom was proud to show off all her little vignettes around the house. She's a BIG fan of the vignette . . .

So she walked me around and showed me what Stephanie had done in each room. First she showed me the lovely table in the entryway:

Then she showed me the kitchen window:
That one is my mom's favorite because she just LOVES the frolicking children.

Then she showed me the dining room and the fireplace. I didn't get pictures of those but I DID get this shot of one little vignette on one side of the fireplace:

Everything just looks great. So I spent some time admiring and oooooooooing and ahhhhhhhhing before popping my Hip Hop Abs video in (stop laughing . . .). I worked out for about an hour (pause to give you time to admire my dedication again . . .) and then, after I was finished, I did some stretches. I decided to stretch my quads - because I work out so hard that I have to call my thighs my "quads" . . . that's how good I am. So I used one hand to grab the mantel for balance while I used the other hand to pull my leg up behind me to stretch the muscle. As I did that, I looked down at the fireplace until I finished my stretch. As I was looking down, I saw another vignette that I had somehow missed. And I'm not sure if I've just been working at my current job too long but this vignette seems a bit inappropriate:

I looked at it and couldn't decide if I should say "Cover the kids' eyes!" or "Oh my - you might want to see a doctor about that." It was just so disconcerting. And out-of-place, I might add. I mean, the kitchen vignette features frolicking children and glittering pumpkins, aaaaaaaaand the fireplace vignette needs to be registered with the State of Texas . . .

So then I thought "Well, maybe I'm over-reacting. Maybe I was just at a bad angle. I'm sure if you're not looking down on it, it's not as bad." So I decided to sit down and look at it from another angle:

But that was worse, somehow. I suddenly felt targeted, harassed . . . stalked, even. I swear I saw it winking at me. So I stood up and got as far away from it as possible.

Tonight, my sister Erin and I were over at my mom's house again and we were talking about this little offensive vignette again and we had my mom laughing so hard about it. But this was my favorite part of that conversation:

Erin: That thing's like soft porn.
Me: Seriously! I mean, is that supposed to be a squash or something? Or is it a bird? I can't tell.
Mom: I think it's a crankshank.
Me: A WHAT?!
Erin: Oh, man - it's getting worse.
Mom: [laughing hysterically] No, I didn't mean a crankshank. I meant a . . . a . . .
Me: A crankSHAFT?
Erin: Oh, Lord . . . make it stop. Please.
Mom: NO! [bent over laughing] Not a CRANKSHAFT! A crank . . . a crank . . . oh what is it called . . . a crook . . . a crook-necked squash, I think.
Erin: Well, whatever it is - all it's missing is a trench coat . . .

So that's what Fall has brought to my mom's house this year: white lights, frolicking children, glittering pumpkins, aaaaaaaaand a vignette I shall hereafter call "Full Frontal Fall."

And Fall will never be the same for me . . .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shoo, fly!

Back in June, I posted a picture of a lady with a bunch of flies on her rear-end . . . remember? It's the one that probably evoked a gag reflex from you? Ring any bells? Well, if not, let me post it here for you again . . .

Yeah - disgusting.

Well, after I posted that picture, my friend sent me a video of a Swiss commercial that she thought I might like. So I thought I'd share it here with you . . .

Yep. You're welcome.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A very liberal policy

My friends and I went to lunch in Huntsville today and we picked a burger place that we hadn't been to in a while. As we were standing in line waiting to order, my friend Sean noticed a sign that is designed to help employees determine who can buy alcohol at their establishment. BUT I'm not really sure that THIS sign is going to help anyone . . .

Well, I'm glad that responsibility matters . . . because apparently age doesn't.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Might want to re-think that one . . .

My friend saw a napkin that made her laugh the other day so she took a picture and sent it to me. It belongs to a couple who we'll call "Amy and Sean Simpson" (the names have been changed to protect the innocent . . . but the initials are the same):

You know - sometimes you just have to say NO to the monogram . . .

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Operation: Manifest Destiny . . . Nevada Edition.

I've told y'all before about the tracker that I have on my website - it's a cool service that tracks the number of hits I get each day, the search terms that land people on my page, and where in the world my readers come from. That last stat is really interesting to me because it's cool to know where my blog is being read. And they plot it for you on a map so that you can look at the map of the world and see little red bubbles where you have readers. Wanna see it? Okay! Here's what it looked like today:

So I like to look at this little map from time to time to see how I'm doing. But I'm always struck by the fact that, aside from a few readers in California and Washington, I haven't really been able to reach the Western part of the United States. And this bothers me. I mean, is it something I said? Am I boring? Am I fat? Am I ugly? Am I going to die alone as a fat, ugly boring person??

Wow - that really snowballed, didn't it?

ANYWAY . . . I've decided that I'm going to try to reach out to folks in those states, one state at a time. Maybe I need to write about something that interests them. Maybe I need to try to connect to them more. I don't know what I'm doing here but I'm willing to give it a shot. And who knows? Maybe I'll expand into those hold-out states, one red bubble at a time. It'll be my very own Manifest Destiny project - my 3rd grade social studies teacher will be so proud that I remembered that term. And if any of my readers knows anyone in those states, you can help with Operation: Manifest Destiny by . . . well . . . begging them to read my blog. Bribing them if you have to. I'm not above violence, either . . .

With that said, let's begin our efforts to conquer the West:

We'll start Operation: Manifest Destiny with Nevada. In preparation, I did a little research and found some facts about Nevada . . . like their state bird is a Mountain Bluebird and their state flower is Sagebrush. And I found a website that said I could find permanent residents in Nevada and then gave me a link that said "find a grave." And I had to give kuddos to them for that because you can't really get more permanent than THAT. But the more and more I researched about Nevada, the more I thought about Las Vegas. And the more I thought about Las Vegas, the more I thought about gambling. And that's when I decided that I just need to come clean and be totally honest with any potential Nevada readers. So here's my confession:

I'm a terrible gambler.

Now some people might say that flippantly but please mark my words on this - when I say "terrible," I mean AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUL. I lose just about every bet I make. I bet my friend once that A&M would win a football game and ended up making a pumpkin cake for him each week for a month. I bet another friend that I could beat him in ping pong and lost that one miserably. And if I'm trying to think of someone's name and say "I'd bet $100 that it begins with a G," it invariably begins with an M.

It's a real problem.

When I was in law school in Birmingham, my parents didn't like me to drive home to Texas by myself so they would pay for someone to fly out to Birmingham and then drive home with me. I loved that they had unreasonable fears that I was going to be abducted off of the interstate somewhere between Houston and Birmingham, because I enjoyed the company on the road trip. One year, they flew my sister Tammy out to ride back with me for Spring Break. Tammy was actually back in school at that time and was on her Spring Break, as well. So my parents sent Tammy with some extra cash so that we could do something fun on the way home to kick off our Spring Break. They thought we might have fun spending the night along the way in some nice Bed & Breakfast or something like that. But we had other plans . . .

When you drive to Houston from Birmingham, you take I-10 right through Lake Charles, Louisiana. And do you know what's in Lake Charles, Louisiana? Lots of casinos - that's what. So Tammy and I decided that we were going to hit the casino on the way home and get to know the high-rolling gamblers deep within ourselves. We were so excited about our plan and talked about it all the way to Lake Charles - we were convinced that we were going to take the extra cash that our parents gave us and parlay it into some MEGA BUCKS. It was going to be epic. The people of Lake Charles would remember us forever.

When we got into Lake Charles, we picked the casino that we wanted to go to. As we pulled into the parking lot, we called our parents and left a voicemail saying something to the effect of "Hey, we're here at the casino. Don't wait up for us - we could be here all night. We're just going to ride out our winnings so we might just stay the night and come home tomorrow. We'll call you later to give you a report on how much money we've won Don't be jeaaaaaaaaaaaalous!!" We were absolutely giggling maniacs, beside ourselves with excitement. We took a second to gather our composure and put on our game faces and then we walked into the casino, ready to put the hurt on Lake Charles.

When we walked into the casino, there was a big escalator that took you to a second story where the entrances to the actual casino boats were. We rode up the escalator and, at the top, surveyed our options. There were two boats and one was called something like "The Grand Casino." We didn't really know which one to pick so, being the seasoned gamblers that we were, we decided to pick the one with the best name. And, in this case, it was the "Grand Casino."

We walked into The Grand Casino and looked around - the place was hopping and a bit overwhelming. We quietly conferred and decided that it was best to act like we knew what we were doing so that no one would know we were newbies to this whole scene. We did a few laps around the place, our heads held high in a slightly snobby manner, trying to figure out how to get in the action. After our fifth lap around, we finally had to stop and say, "Ummmmm . . . excuse me . . . ummmmm . . . where do we get the little chip things?"

Our cover was totally blown.

Once we had converted our money to chips, we looked around to see what we could play. We played on the dollar slot machines for a while but, after a while, we grew tired of those. That's when I saw the Blackjack table. I turned to Tammy and said "Blackjack - now I'm gooooooooooooooooood at Blackjack. I'll totally win us a bunch of money at that table." So we headed that way and took a seat at the table. The buy-in was $20 so I put my chips on the table and gave Tammy a knowing look that said "Hey, don't worry - I've got this, toots." The dealer dealt my card. I said "Hit me." He corrected me and told me I had to tap the table. I said "I know - I was just testing you" and tapped the table. He dealt another card. I tapped the table. He dealt another card.

Aaaaaaaaaaand that's when I lost the $20.

But that was no problem because we still had more left. This time I put $40 on the table - just to show that I wasn't scared. The dealer dealt a card. I tapped the table. He dealt another card. I tapped the table. He dealt another card.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand that's when I lost the $40.

But, still, that was no problem - we had a little more money and I was TOTALLY in control. One good hand and we were SO in the money. So I put our last $40 on the table and the dealer dealt me a card. I tapped and he dealt again. I tapped and he dealt again.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand that's when I lost the rest of our money.

Before I even knew what was happening, I had turned to Tammy with a crazed look in my eye, had grabbed her by her shoulders, and was shaking her and yelling "Do you have anymore money?? I can win it back! I CAN WIN IT BACK!!!" I'd been in the casino a grand total of 20 minutes and I had already lost all my money and developed a serious gambling addiction. And poor Tammy didn't get to spend any of the money that our parents had given her.

So we got out of there as fast as we could. We went down the escalator and headed back to the car and called our parents to tell them we'd see them in a few hours. That's when my dad told us that we must have picked the high-roller boat because there should have been a nickel slot machine around and a $5 Blackjack table.

Well. Crap.

So our big gambling adventure lasted almost exactly 30 minutes. When we got back out to the parking lot, my car had not even cooled down yet.

How embarrassing.

So I must be up-front with any potential readers from Nevada - I'm not a good gambler. And it's possible that, if you accompany me to a casino and I run out of money, I might grab you and shake you and ask you for more. But that's okay. You have to love me through it, friends. Love me through it.

So, dear people of Nevada: will you give me a chance? Will you read my blog? I might not be a great gambler or know what Sagebrush looks like but I'm sure I'll say SOMETHING in my blog that you can relate to.

In fact, I'm willing to bet on it . . .

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School days, school days . . .

I loved school. If I could have, I would have become a professional student and spent the rest of my life walking around campus with a backpack and a college t-shirt. But I had to "grow up" and "get a job" and "get off the dole" - you know, things of this nature. So I graduated and went out into the real world and left school behind.

Until I had nieces and nephews. Now I get to live vicariously through them and I love it. They are all back in school now for the year and they call me every once in a while to tell me what they're learning and how their days went. I love it. And I love hearing the stories about things that they've learned.

For example . . .

My older sister, Tammy, homeschools her kids and she loves it. This year Emma is in 4th grade and Ben is in 1st and they are learning lots of cool stuff. Ben is really enjoying the mythology lessons they've had and he likes to tell everyone the stories that he's learning about the different mythological characters. After one conversation with him, I know more about mythology than I ever did in high school.

This year, Tammy has decided to start teaching Ben Spanish this year so he's learned a few new Spanish vocabulary words over the last two weeks. He likes to tell them to me when we're together because he knows that I like Spanish, too. But Tammy just recently discovered that Ben might not really be that enthused about learning that particular language:

Tammy: Guess how you say "blue" in Spanish.
Ben: How?
Tammy: "Azul." Can you say that?
Ben: Azul.
Tammy: Good job! And this is how you say -
Ben: Mommy?
Tammy: Yes?
Ben: I don't really want to learn Spanish?
Tammy: No? Why not?
Ben: Because I want to learn Italy-ish.

My younger sister, Erin's, kiddos are back in school, too. Savannah is in 2nd grade and Avery just started kindergarten so it's been a big school year for them so far. Avery absolutely loves kindergarten - she's so excited to go in the morning and she's enjoying all the new things that she's learning at school. And, lucky for us, she's willing to impart her new-found knowledge to the rest of us:

Erin: So what did you learn at school today?
Avery: Ummm . . . we learned about the Golden Rule.
Erin: Ooooooo! That's a good one! Tell me what the Golden Rule is.
Avery: Well, it's like . . . when . . . well . . . like if you hit me, then I can hit you back.
Erin: Weeeeeeellllllll . . . it's actually a LITTLE different than that.
Avery: No - that's what it is.
Erin: No - it's like if you don't like people to hit you, then you shouldn't hit other people. Because you should treat them the way you want THEM to treat YOU.
Avery: [taking that in . . .] No, Mommy. That's not right. It's like . . . if you kick me in the leg, I can kick you in the leg. THAT'S the Golden Rule . . . okay? [runs off]

Erin would have pressed the issue but she was concerned that Avery's version of the Golden Rule might also include "if you don't agree with me, I can kick your face."

So there's no telling what I'll learn vicariously through the kids this year - mythology, long division, maybe even Italy-ish or Germany-ish. But I know that I've for sure learned one thing so far: if I ever want to justify violence toward another person, I'm consulting Avery.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When power naps go wrong . . .

Ah Labor Day! The day that we celebrate . . . ummmmm . . . well, we celebrate . . . I think it's the . . . wait - what DO we celebrate?

I think that Labor Day was originally intended as a day to celebrate trade and labor unions. But I'm not part of one so that doesn't work for me. I think it's also meant as a day to celebrate the American worker and I do qualify as one of those, I guess. So I'm just supposed to celebrate work . . . I think. So, in honor of Labor Day, I thought I'd tell you my favorite work-related story.

After I graduated from A&M, I had a year off before law school started. Since I had graduated with a degree in Psychology and Spanish, there weren't a lot of options available for me - you can't do much in either of those fields without at least a Masters degree. But, in the middle of my job search, I was told that a local high school was in need of a Spanish teacher. I wasn't certified and was pretty sure that I wouldn't get the job but I decided to apply anyway. I went for my interview and was so excited when they offered me the job. I would be officially classified as a "long-term substitute," which meant that I wouldn't get paid as much as a teacher, but that was okay with me - I was going to do something with my degree and I was thrilled. Plus, I had always wanted to be a teacher - mainly so that I could write on chalkboards and overhead projectors. So teaching was a dream come true for me. And, of course, I wrote on the overhead every single day. And I mean EVERY day - warm-ups, conjugations, vocabulary words, quizzes, homework assignments . . . I wrote it all up there. And I LOVED it.

My main challenge when I was teaching was that I was only four years older than some of my students so it was hard at first to get them to listen to me and respect me. And I looked a lot younger than I was so I got stopped a lot in the hallway by other teachers who wanted to know if I had a hall pass. But eventually my students started listening to me (well, most of them did) and other teachers stopped thinking I was a student roaming the hallways. I went to my students' football games, basketball games, drill team competitions, and band concerts and I loved it. I started really FEELING like a teacher - like I was making a difference in their lives. And I was kind of proud of myself because I was finally an adult with a real job . . . mature, responsible, and all grown-up.

BUT . . . one day, I had a bit of a set-back. I had stayed up really late the night before and I was REALLY struggling at work. I mean, I could barely keep my eyes open . . . even when I was conjugating verbs on the overhead. I knew that the mature, grown-up thing to do would be to just power through it and remain professional about it. But I just couldn't. So during my off-period, I did the unthinkable: I decided that I would take a power nap.

Don't judge me.

Now my off-period was 4th period - the lunch period. So it was a nice LONG break during the day. My desk was positioned in the back corner of the room, along the same wall as the door to my classroom so you couldn't see it from the window in the door, which was very helpful to me on this day. So I walked over to the door and locked it - just so that no one could come in and bust me. Then I went back to my desk and I made a deal with myself that I would just close my eyes for 20 minutes. I set my alarm on my watch and then I put my head down and gave in to the fatigue.

Uuuuuuuuuunfortunately, I fell asleep for a lot longer than 20 minutes. In fact, I slept right through my alarm and through the whole of 4th period. Every last minute of it. What woke me up in the end was the bell ringing for kids to change classes. And that was a MAJOR problem because that meant that students would be walking into my room any minute and I had to get the door unlocked before they did. And then to my horror, I discovered two things: 1) I had fallen asleep with my head on my arm. That's no big deal, right? Well, it is when you're wearing a bumpy sweater. My right cheek was an exact replica of the pattern on my sweater - and it wasn't going to come out anytime soon; and 2) Both of my legs had fallen asleep . . .

Now this was not my first run-in with my legs falling asleep. When I was in college, my best friend came to A&M for the weekend and we had fallen asleep in the living room while watching a movie. Since she was my guest, I had given her the couch and I had slept on the floor. I must have slept in a weird position because, when I woke up the next morning to the sound of my telephone ringing, my leg was asleep. That was no big deal to me - I would just use my other leg to stand up so that I could walk over to the phone to answer it. It sounded like a good idea to me. So I stood up using my other leg aaaaaaaaand then made the mistake of trying to walk over to the phone. As soon as I put any weight on the asleep leg, I went down like a sack of potatoes - complete dead weight. I mean, my leg might as well have been made of marshmallow. I went down with such a thud that I'm surprised I didn't fall through the floor and into the apartment below. The earthquake that I caused startled Jill awake and she sat up quickly to see what was happening. By that time I was a giggling pile in the middle of the living room . . . and the answering machine was answering the call.

So when BOTH of my legs were asleep that day at my desk, I knew I couldn't stand up on them. That's when I became desperate and had no idea what I was going to do. I started to picture a line of students forming at my classroom door and the principal pounding on the door, demanding that I open it. I pictured them breaking down the door, only to find me an invalid with two dead legs and a strange-looking right cheek. It was a horrifying predicament for me. But then an idea came to me: teacher's chairs have wheels on them so I can just wheel myself to the door! Luckily, I had a counter top that stretched along the same wall that the door and my desk were on, so I just used my arms to push off of my desk and then pull myself along the wall using the counter top. But while I was doing THAT, I was also trying to rub the sweater impression out of my right cheek. So I would pull myself a couple of feet then rub my face frantically, pull myself a couple of feet then rub my face frantically . . . over and over and over. I finally got to the door, unlocked it, and then wheeled myself back to my desk so that I could sit there and pretend that nothing had happened.

As students filed into the classroom, I just sat at my desk and pretended to be hard at work. I thought about changing the translation warm-up to include sentences like "My legs feel strange." or "Holy crap - did I just hear the bell?" but I thought that might give me away. By the time the tardy bell rang, the feeling was coming back into my legs and I was in the "pins and needles" phase. The last thing I wanted to do was to get up and walk on pins and needles legs but SOMEONE had to go put the warm-up on the overhead. I had to act naturally. So I got up and tried to walk as normally as I could but that was an impossible task. Have you ever tried to walk on a pins and needles leg? It's so uncomfortable and yet, somehow, it's so ticklish. So you end up walking slowly and flinching every time you move the pins and needles leg. And, in my case, it was BOTH of my legs - my class just watched me as I took a step, flinched, took another step, and flinched all the way to the overhead while trying to nonchalantly keep a piece of paper up by my right cheek. I was so embarrassed. As I wrote the warm-up on the overhead, I silently vowed to never sleep at work again. Well, at least not with a bumpy sweater on . . .

I'm a lawyer now and I love my job. But I must admit that my time as a Spanish teacher really made me think seriously about being a teacher forever and forgetting the whole law school thing - I loved it that much. But, since I'd wanted to be a lawyer since I was in the 4th grade, I decided to at least try it. And I'm glad I did because I knew in the first week of law school that I was meant to be there - there was no question in my my mind. And even though I would have loved a career as a teacher, I know that I'm meant to be in the job I have right now. So I wouldn't change a thing.

But I DO miss my overhead . . .

Friday, September 3, 2010

Two more Nora-isms!

I blogged yesterday about my dad's birthday celebration and some of the stories that came out of that night. But what I failed to mention was how my mom pulled out a couple of Nora-isms for us for the occasion . . . and we were all so glad that she did! After all, no evening would be complete without a Nora-ism or two, right?

The first one happened when my sister Erin was telling us about how sick her husband, Matt, was with this stomach bug he got yesterday. She gave us a detailed recounting - complete with her best puking sounds - and then she tried to give us some more of the gory details:

Erin: And you know what color it was?
Tammy: Gross! I don't want to know!
Mom: Seriously! Yuck! That is MTF . . .
Tammy: MTF??
Mom: Yeah. Too much . . . inf . . . whatever that expression is.
Erin: TMI?
Mom: Yeah. That's it.

Later, when we were at dinner, Jill stopped by the restaurant to eat with us and to hear all of our stories from the evening. After we finished with all the story-telling, we were talking about some of the old sad movies we watched when we were kids and we were wondering when and if we should inflict them on my sisters' kids the way our parents had done to us:

Tammy: Do you think the kids are ready for "Savannah Smiles?"
Jill: Nooooooooo!
Me: I don't think I'M ready for that one again!
Erin: We should TOTALLY show them that one. And then we should follow it up with "The Champ." [to Jill . . .] That one is SUCH a sad movie.
Mom: Yeah - and "Ocean's Eleven?"
Erin: [Translating for Jill . . .] That's "Deep End of the Ocean."
Mom: Maaaaaaaaan - "Ocean's Eleven" is a saaaaaaaaaaaaad one.
Me: It's "Deep End of the Ocean," Mom.
Mom: Right . . . what did I say??

Oh mom, we can always count on you to entertain us!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy birthday, Dad!!

September 1st is a special day. "Why is it so special, Catherine?" you ask. Well, I'll tell you . . .

Today is my daddy's birthday. And he would have been 66 years old.

As most of you know, my dad died four years ago. He was such an amazing man - if you never met him, I wish that you had been able to. He was funny, quick-witted, intelligent, kind, selfless, and a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. We miss him more than I could possibly express. I know that's such a cliche but it's so true - there's just not a word in the English language that's deep enough or sad enough to fully capture what it was like to lose him. He was such an important person to all of us and there isn't a day that goes by that we don't think about him, miss him, and wish with all of our mights that he could be here with us.

After he died, we came up with the idea of celebrating his birthday in a way that would really honor his memory - something that would be really special. So on that first birthday after his death, we went up to the mall and found people who did something nice like open the door for someone, let someone go ahead of him, or pick something up that someone had dropped . . . you know, the kinds of things my dad always did. When we found these good Samaritans, we told them about how special my dad was and how their actions had reminded us of him and then we gave them a $20 bill, just as a little treat to reward them.

And so a tradition was born . . .

We've continued to celebrate my dad's birthday that way but our process has evolved a little since then. Now we each write a little note in a card and explain what we're doing and why we're doing it. After we write the little note, we put a $20 bill inside the envelope and seal it up. Then we head to the mall to begin our search for the lucky recipients of our cards! When we get there, we split up so that we can divide and conquer. Then, after we have all given out our cards, we head over to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and to tell each other the story of how we gave our cards away. And that's an important rule for the evening: we are not allowed to tell each other our stories until we are all together at dinner . . . because hearing the stories is the best part!!

So that's how we celebrated my dad's birthday tonight. We wrote out our cards with a little note that said: "My dad died in 2006 after being diagnosed with cancer. He was a great man who was always putting the needs of others before his own. He was the most thoughtful and considerate person I've ever known. Today is his birthday so we are celebrating it by looking for people who remind of us him by the way they interact with those around them. I saw you do something thoughtful or considerate and it reminded me of my dad so I wanted to give you this little reward for being special. Thanks for being a part of my dad's birthday celebration!" Then we put our $20 in and headed up to the mall to begin our search for the worthy recipients of our cards.

When we got to the mall tonight, we split up as usual. The kids all wanted to come with me because 1) I'm their favorite aunt, 2) I'm freakin' awesome, and 3) I don't say "no" when we walk past the cookie kiosk. So the kids and I walked around the mall looking for a person worthy of our reward. About 5 minutes into our search, we walked past a Build-A-Bear store and Avery, with an air of forced nonchalance, says "Catchy, we should go check to see if there's anybody nice in that store." She tried to say "that store" very casually, like it was just any old boring store and she'd really rather do ANYTHING else but go browse around "that store." But I had her number. Oh yes - I had her number.

I quickly realized that the kids and I weren't on the same page when it came to the specific characteristics we were looking for. I tried to explain that we were looking for people who were being thoughtful and considerate - the way that Grandpa always was. But Ben just wanted to give his card to every person he saw being "lovey." So every couple he saw made him shout things like "Catchy! They're holding hands! Let's give them a card!" or "Oh my gosh! Look! They're being lovey! Let's give them a card!" And Avery wanted to give one to the guys at the massage kiosk every time we passed them because, as she said: "They are sooooooo nice - they are just giving EVERYONE massages." I didn't have the heart to tell her that they were being paid for their services. Then, after I had steered Avery away from the massage kiosk, Emma tried to nonchalantly suggest that we look for worthy recipients in the pet store.

I'm telling you - these kids are sneaky . . .

After we had walked around the mall a few times, we walked over to Barnes and Noble, which is in this outdoor shopping area that's part of the mall area. As we were walking into Barnes and Noble, a lady in front of us held the door open for the kids. Immediately, Emma turned to Savannah and said "Should we give her our card?" Savannah quickly agreed so they gave their card to the lady who had opened the door. Emma explained that we were celebrating her grandpa's birthday by looking for people who do nice things. The lady (Ruth) was so touched that she gave Emma a kiss on her forehead. We left Barnes and Noble and that's when I realized that we hadn't gotten a picture of Ruth. So we rushed back to Barnes and Noble and the kids began to search for her like they were little detectives, saying things like: "She won't be in the kids section - she'll be in the adult section. Because she's an adult." or "That's one of the friends she was with so she must be around here somewhere." They found her pretty quickly and, by this time, she and her daughter (LaShanda)had read the card and were so touched by what we were doing. Ruth took the time to tell us that she had recently lost her own mother and that her mother's birthday is next week so the sentiment in our card was really touching to her. She and LaShanda were so sweet and chatted with us for a while. Here's a part of our conversation:

Ruth: You just have no idea how much this means to me.
Me: Well, thank you so much. I'm so glad.
LaShanda: We almost weren't even here!
Me: Really??
LaShanda: We're new to the area and we got a little turned around so we almost just went home a little while ago. But for some reason we just decided to come in here.
Ruth: It was Jesus, that's what it was.
Me: Oh my goodness - well, I'm so glad that y'all DID!
Ruth: So am I.
Me: [caught up in the sweetness of the moment]
Ruth: I was having a very hard day. And you have brightened my day with this.
Me: Well, thank you so much. That really means a lot. We were glad to find you! Right guys? [I wonder what these kids are thinking right now? This must be pretty cool for them to have this kind of conversation with this nice lady. Such a neat experience for them . . .]
Savannah: Yeah. We were like "We need to hurry up and get this DONE so that we can go EAT."
Me: [Oooooooooooooookaaaaaaaaaaaay . . . Not the sentiment I was shooting for but-]
Ben: Yeah - my cousin Avery [taps Avery on the shoulder] - she saw a teenager open the door for us and she wouldn't even give her her card! We were so mad because we just want to go EAT!!
Me: [Wow. This is just . . . awesome . . . pure awesomeness.] Okay! Well, we better run!!

But then, on our way out of Barnes and Noble, Savannah said to me: "Catchy, she said that we brightened her day. But you know what? She brightened MY day - she was really nice." And she really was! Here she is with Emma, Avery, Savannah, and Ben:

As we started to head back to the indoor part of the mall, Avery decided to address the accusations that Ben had laid at her feet. You know - about not giving her card to a teenager who had opened the door for them. Apparently, she didn't like the implication that she had been too picky. So she took my hand and said "Catchy, know why I didn't give that girl my card when she held the door open for us? It's because she was not a big 'dult [that's "adult" to you and me, folks] so she doesn't need so much money. Cuz what is she even gonna buy with so much money??"

Oh . . . to go back to the days when $20 was more money than you could imagine spending . . .

When we were back in the mall, we ran into Erin who still hadn't found a person to give her card to. So Savannah and Emma decided to go help Erin with her quest and Ben and Avery stayed with me. We looked everywhere and just had no luck. Finally, we saw a huge, tatted-up man holding the door open for an older man. The kids decided that they wanted to give him their card so they ran over to him and handed them their card. Tammy was with us by that point so she helped explain what we were doing and what the card was for. The man told us his name was David and he took a picture with the kiddos:

Just as I was putting my camera up, I noticed a young couple coming through the doors of the mall and heading to the plaza where we were standing. The husband (Tray) was pushing a stroller and, as he was pushing his stroller out one door, a young lady was pushing her stroller in through the door right next to him. Her stroller got caught in the little hump in the door jamb so Tray leaned around his stroller and helped the other lady out by pulling her stroller over the hump. I thought that was so nice of him. I mean, he had his own stroller to deal with and he could have just kept going but he went out of his way to help another person. Plus, my dad was always the epitome of a Texas gentleman and I liked that Tray was being a gentleman - it felt like the perfect reason to give him a card in honor of my dad. So I stopped him and gave him the card and told him about my dad. He and his wife Carolyn were so sweet and told us that they were going to read their card over dinner tonight:

After I had handed out my card, it was time for us to all head to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. My Uncle Bernie and Aunt Mary had sent us a BUNCH of gift cards for us to use for our celebration dinner so Erin and I decided it was a good night to order the steak. You know - since Uncle Bernie and Aunt Mary were treating and all . . . :) After we got our orders in, we began the story-telling. The kids went first, telling every detail about their adventures in the mall, the people they had met, and their near-starvation. Avery and Ben told us all about David, and Avery even made sure that every knew how tall David was:

And then Emma and Savannah gave an animated account of trying to track down our friend in Barnes and Noble so that we could get her picture:
And after the kids were finished, the rest of us shared our stories . . .

From Tammy:
After walking the mall a couple of times I decided to plant myself at one of the escalators thinking that could provide some nice opportunities for courtesy or chivalry. There were definitely opportunities but no takers! Then I watched as a young couple headed towards the escalator and I saw the guy step aside and wave the girl forward. For a second I thought that was nice but I should hold out for something more notable. But then I saw that the girl did not get on the escalator. It all happened very quickly, but I saw her look down at the escalator and hesitate for a nano-second and recognized myself in irrational yet firm "fear" of getting on an escalator!! As she was doing that dance of which foot to lead with, her beau stepped on the escalator backwards so he could face her and maintain eye contact with her in order to relieve her nerves.... I thought it was very touching. As they arrived on the second floor I went over to her and asked her why she had hesitated and she confirmed my thoughts that she has a hang up with escalators. Then I asked him why he had gone up the escalator facing her and he confirmed that he rode backwards to help her because he knew she was nervous. They were very sweet when I explained what it was I was doing.....I was glad I got to share with them!!

From Erin:
Ok, so I actually found two people who deserved a card. The first one was best, so I will save it for last! My second one happened after I gave up walking the mall after roughly 306 laps. I had Emma and Savannah with me and I asked them if we could sit for a bit so I could rest my knee cause I'm gettin' the olds real bad. Then, we see Dearsie and Tammy and we flag them down and see how their doing. I explained to them that I couldn't find anyone to give my card too and that I was just taking a quick break. That's when Tammy, who apparently sees the desperation in my eyes, takes matters into her own hand. In one swift movement, she hikes her purse up on her shoulder and with ninja like movements she reaches in and tosses her iPhone out of her purse and onto the mall floor!! We all look down and then look up to tell her, but she is giving us that evil eye that's telling us to shut our pieholes. So we all are really quiet (and slightly terrified) and we wait. Sure enough, a young 20-something girl had seen it and stopped dead in her tracks to see if we were going to pick it up. She hesitates for a minute because I'm sure she is wondering how we didn't hear the thing slamming into the ground and probably because we are all suspiciously still and avoiding eye contact with each other. Then she walks over and taps Tammy on the shoulder and tells her she dropped something. It was so fun being part of a set up!!! We told her right away that it was a set up and she passed the test. It was really cute and I was explaining to her what we were doing. Then I gave her the card and was in the middle of telling her that it held a note explaining in more detail about what we are doing, when Savannah cut in and shouted, "yea, there's 20 bucks in that thang!" So thank you to Nikki for stopping and passing our test!

BUT . . . my first find was really fun! Every year my mom's job is to find a man that takes his hat off in the food court or the restaurant while he eats. We have found someone only once and it earned him 50 bucks! We have never been able to find anyone since, so my mom keeps the reward at 50 because it's so hard to find someone who does it . . . so they are extra special when we do. Anyway, I'm walking and I see a cowboy. And I don't just mean someone wearing one of those fashion cowboy hats (nudge nudge wink wink). This guy is the real deal...ironed crease in the jeans, handlebar mustache, I mean ever-thang. So naturally, I decide to stalk him. I follow him everywhere. I mean, a cowboy has to eat right? FINALLY, he heads over to the food court and I say to myself, "ba BOOOOOOOM" cause I know it's coming. I know he is gonna do it. He goes and waits in line at Wendy's of all places. It's the only place with a line. Of course. I mean, even Chick-Fil-A was empty. My pits are sweating in anticipation, but I manage to find a small hidden table to sit and stare....and wait. And wait. I suddenly feel like I'm being watched and I can sense someone way too close to me, so I look up and see my brother-in-law, Brian, standing by the trash can watching the same guy. Huh uh. Nope. This was MY GUY. I have a restraining order to prove it! So we joke (I mostly pretend to joke that this is my find) and laugh and watch as cowboy goes and sits down and.........DOESN'T take his dang hat off!!! We were sooo disappointed. So, Brian turns to go his way and I turn to go mine and I take one last look at my massive let down, and I see a bald head!!! I literally - yes . . . literally, Catherine - start jumping up and down clapping and run after Brian to come see!! We call my mom to bring her envelope and she and Tammy sprint to the food court and that's where my story ends and my mom's begins!!

From my mom:
My job is always the food court. Every time Charlie and I would sit in the food court he would shake his head and wonder why parents don't teach their sons to take their hats off when they sit down to eat. So my job every year is to find some man in the food court who has taken his hat off. There were slim pickins this year when I first got there. I made the rounds several times before deciding that I would join forces with Tammy to see if I could help her find someone for hers. So I met up with her and we walked around the mall looking for the perfect recipient.

Tammy finally found a nice couple to give her card to and, just about the last second before we finished with that couple, my cell phone rang. It was Erin telling me to hurry back to the food court. She had someone! Tammy and I were clear up at the other end so we had to run. What happened was Erin had noticed a "cowboy" wearing is traditional cowboy hat walking toward the food court. She thought "if anyone is going to take off his hat it would be this guy". So she watched him for a while as he ordered his food. Then when he got to his table Erin noticed that someone was standing next to her. It was Brian. He had noticed the same guy and was watching him for the same reason. As they watched, the guy sat down, left his hat on and started to lay out his food. Erin and Brian were so disappointed because they were so sure he "would be the one". Brian walked away and just as Erin was walking away she saw that after he finished laying out his meal he took his cowboy hat off and put it on the table. She ran after to Brian to tell him while she called me to hurry. When I got there, Brian and Erin ushered Tammy and me over to his table where I promptly sat down across from him. You'd think any normal person would be like "what the heck?? Who are you??" Instead, he just smiled like "what's up?" I told him the whole story and he was very happy. His name was Russ and he was sitting there with a Sephora shopping bag because his wife was having a birthday the next day. I laugh when I think about me just plunking myself down across from him and then Erin and Brian also swooping in on him!

Brian's story, as told by my mom . . .
Brian wanted me to be his "spotter" - he wanted to walk ahead of someone and "accidentally" drop a credit card to see if someone would return it. I guess if they didn't, I was supposed to tackle and cuff 'em. He picked this couple walking toward an exit and started walking in front of them and almost immediately dropped his credit card. As soon as Brian dropped his card, the woman starting calling after him "Sir, Sir, you dropped your credit card." As Brian turned around and started walking back the woman tried to explain that she would have picked it up but couldn't bend. At that point I joined the party while Brian explained about the envelope he was handing them. The woman (Cathy) started to cry. We were both about to panic because we never made anyone cry before! But through her tears she started to explain that she was a home pediatric aid and that she takes care of a little 13 year old boy who can't walk. She said that just that day his mother had been thanking her and telling her how good Cathy was to her son and how devoted she was to making him comfortable and keeping him happy. The boy's mother told her that she hoped Cathy would get a blessing that day for all her good works. At this point, she was very close to sobbing. (I was close to sobbing too because there was only 20 bucks in the dang envelope and I suddenly wished there were more!!) As we stood there listening about what the mom had said to her, Cathy explained that it meant a lot to her because the little boy's birthday was in a couple of days and now she would have something to give him. At that point, I reached into my purse and gave her my other envelope and told her to give it to the little boy on his birthday. (I always have two envelopes: one regular one and the "special one" in case I can find some hatless guy at the food court.) Boy, we certainly had no idea when Brian hatched that plan what a touching, beautiful story we were going to hear. You could tell that she loved that kid even though it was her "job". He must be a sweet child to engender that kind of devotion. Good find Brian!

Note to self: get Mom photography lessons . . .

I want to say here that my brother-in-law Matt (Erin's husband) LOVES this tradition and looks forward to it every year. But he came down with a stomach bug this afternoon and, while we were walking around the mall and yukking it up at Cheesecake Factory, Matt was home puking his guts up. Poor guy. So when he feels better, we are going to go to the mall with him to let him find his recipients and then we'll go to dinner with him so we can hear HIS story.

So that's it! That's how we spent the evening celebrating my daddy. It was a lot of fun and we had a great time honoring his memory. I hope that my dad is proud of the way we have chosen to help his memory live on. I know I'm proud to have a dad whose memory is worth celebrating . . .

Happy birthday, Dad!!!