My Convertible Life

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Friday's Five: Year-End List of Posts

I'd hate to miss out on all the year-end lists of bests and worsts, so here are links to the five Juni&Pip posts (not including Friday's Fives, New Music Mondays and recipes) that earned the most clicks on my blog in 2009 (at least according to FeedBurner).

I don't know if they're the posts people liked best, or if they just happened to be the ones that more people read. And they're not necessarily my favorites, although I like all of them. Okay, let's be honest -- I wrote them, so of course I like them. Here they are, in order of most clicked:
  1. Donate for Super Dylan: Great kid, great cause. We'll be walking again in May, so get ready to join us.
  2. Knock Knock: I mean, really -- who can resist a few non-sequitur jokes from a four-year-old?
  3. How Netflix Saved My Marriage: Believe it or not, the title is not much of an exaggeration.
  4. You Want a Piece of Me?: The one where I complain about going to doctors and getting old.
  5. The Pile: An archeological dig through the mess on top of our bedroom dresser.
But enough about me, let's talk about you. What posts on my blog do YOU like best? And while you're thinking about your favorites, go ahead and click on all five listed here to drive up my stats even more -- it will make me feel so popular. (As there's no "sarcasm" font on blogger, I'll add here that I'm not so delusional self-absorbed that I actually think you have a list my favorite posts -- but I really do feel loved knowing that people are actually reading some of my ramblings.)

Happy reading -- and a very happy New Year to you all!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fourth Quarter Meal Report

Back in January, I really didn't think I would make it all year with the meal-planning -- but I figured even a little planning was better than none, so it was worth a try.

Turns out, I did make it -- every single week! Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for a moment.

Of course, we're still eating frozen pizza (4 nights), frozen skillet meals (3 nights) and hot dogs (2 nights), but we're doing it less frequently and more intentionally. And the kids are still eating too many chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of Easy Mac -- but I still trust that one day they'll learn to appreciate my cooking.

So for the final 12 weeks of 2009, we were out of town four nights, had dinner in a restaurant eight nights (as a family or for date night), ate at a party or a friends' house six nights (hooray for holidays) and got dinner from our meal-trade five nights. Of the remaining dinners, here's a sampling of what we had during Q4:
  • 24 different dinners made at home
  • 22 nights of leftovers (a.k.a. good planning and lots of turkey)
  • 5 dishes involving chicken in various formats (crockpot, pasta, enchiladas)
  • 5 nights of homemade chowders and chili
  • 3 nights of breakfast
  • 2 nights of holiday meals
  • and assorted other dinners
Although I never turned into Julie & Julia through this process and I'm certainly no gourmet cook, it was worth every minute spent planning and every minute not wasted fretting over what to have for dinner. Now I might just have to reward myself with a sassy new apron to carry on this great idea in 2010.

For earlier meal reports, go to Q1Q2 and Q3.

Note: I found the adorable apron in the photo on an Etsy shop -- there were too many cute fabrics to choose from. I don't know anyone at GreatGoods (she's in Idaho -- who knew) and they haven't sent me anything (yet) in exchange for this post, but you should check out her site.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Letter to Santa

Junius wrote his first letter to Santa this week. I'm not sure who was more excited about it -- Junius or his daddy.

Thanks to some really wonderful coaching from Abby, they did a great job -- not sure if you can read Daddy's translation of Junius's drawings in the letter (shown left), but here's what it says:
Dear Santa, I have been good this year. Lightning McQueen and Chick Hicks [illustrations of the cars that he's asking for]. Please bring toys to other children too. Merry Christmas to Santa.
After they wrote the letter, we all went up to North Hills (a convenient substitute for the North Pole) and mailed the letter in the special Santa mailbox outside the toy store.

The whole thing was very sweet, but it left me feeling a little conflicted. I grew up "believing" in Santa the same way I "believed" in Pippi Longstocking, the Narnia siblings and the Muppets -- another great character to enjoy. I never felt deprived of the magic of Christmas, but also never had the crushing he's-not-real-and-everything-is-ruined moment.

As a kid, I loved watching Christmas specials, singing carols, decorating the house, waiting for my grandparents to arrive (which really signaled the beginning of the holiday for me). On Christmas Eve, we'd go to mass, then come home and open one present. Once we were in our pajamas, Granny would start looking anxiously out the window declaring, "Oh my stars! I think I see some reindeer out there -- you kids better get to bed!" In retrospect, I'm sure our holidays were filled with plenty of stress for my parents, but for me it was all fun and good times -- even though I didn't really believe that Santa was real.

Now as a mom, I'm at a total loss about how to create that same fun-without-the-pressure for my own kids. They'll be excited about Christmas morning no matter what -- doesn't matter who the presents are from. What I worry about (after listening to my 4-year-old for the past month) is my kids believing that Santa will automatically bring them every gift they want. I'm more worried about their disappointment in Christmas if they believe too much.

At the same time, I don't want to ignore Santa completely -- and I couldn't do that, even if I wanted to, given that he's everywhere and that so many people really want to believe. It's a tough call -- wish I had the answer. I know I'm not alone in this struggle -- see Erin's post at Triangle Mamas.

So tonight, after the kids go to bed, we'll put out a couple of presents under the tree from Santa. And I'll watch them in the morning to see their reaction. And then I'll be thankful that I have another 364 days to figure it out for next time.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mama Wisdom for the Holdiay Break

Preschool is closed until the new year.

I should probably be excited about the opportunity to spend two whole weeks with my beautiful children, playing and celebrating the holidays. Instead, I'm a little bit terrified.

Did I mention it's two whole weeks, plus two more days?

But instead of quaking in my slippers and trying to figure out how to get Sesame Street to play on continuous loop, I'm making plans with friends and remembering this note that came home from Junius's preschool teacher last week:
"As my children get older, I struggle more and more to fit into their schedule. It doesn't seem that long ago that they were happy to sit with me on the sofa and watch Charlie Brown or read a Christmas story. At the time, I remember thinking that what I really needed was time to run to the mall or wrap a gift. I didn't realize how quickly the time would fly. While your children are small and still think you are the greatest thing ever, please take the time to make those memories that will last. Make cookies together, let your child help you wrap gifts for the family, read a Christmas story, sit on the bed and tell your child what Christmas was like when you were a child. Before long your children will be grabbing the car keys and running out the door. You only have them for a short time -- make it count!"
So now we're heading out for a fun morning with friends at the Museum of Life and Science, where I won't be distracted by my computer or the 782 things that need to be done around the house before everyone arrives later this week. We'll have a great time with minimal whining (by me or them) and lots of activities.

And hopefully all this fun togetherness will have another side benefit -- a good naptime for the kids so I can still have a few minutes to myself when we return home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The One Where I Get Excited about an Invisible Potty Seat

In case you're tired of reading my soapbox rants and other people's guest posts, you can head on over to Triangle Mamas and see my post about a toilet seat. Really.

Don't say I never gave you anything.

Friday, December 18, 2009

An Open Letter to WRAL's Meterologist

A friend emailed the following letter last night -- it cracked me up, so I asked him if I could post it on my blog today (in lieu of the usual Friday's Five) as his blog is currently on hiatus. Thankfully he said yes (because he's a lawyer type, I couldn't publish without permission for fear of legal action).

The post is all the funnier because of the big, fluffy white flakes currently falling outside my window. Better luck next time, my friend -- last night, I was sure you'd be right!

Dear Greg,

I am on to you. It's a twisted little game you got going on, and I will not let it stand. See, Fishel, we've been down this road before, you and me. And as our former president famously said, "Fool me once, shame on — [pauses] - shame on you. Fool me — You can't get fooled again."

Here is the deal. You played this wintry weather scare game on the night of my wife's baby shower. Your dire warnings of 'frozen precipiatation' scared all my native southern friends from venturing outdoors. You made it sound like a flake of snow was akin to the ebola virus. Your 28 years of experience freaking out the natives might get you some street cred with the bread-buying, beer-hoarding locals, but I am not from here and I am hip to your reindeer games.

So, anyway, on that faithful night two years ago, me and my poor wife were just sitting at friend's house, alone, in the dark. No friends to wish our new arrival well. No cute baby clothes. No silly games we have decided here in the 21st are somehow an acceptable way to wish a couple well. And the worst part? The roads were dry. Bone dry. Yancey County dry. Dry enough for even the most southern of my friends to drive safely on.

So this time, Fishel (if that's your real name), I am choosing to ignore your doppler 5000 and your accuweather predictions.

I am going to the Raleigh Times at 11:55 tomorrow. I am going to enjoy my [monthly lunch group]. And when I hear your dire predictions of wintry weather, I will spitefully laugh and ruefully think of my young son and how he was forced to go without shower presents, all because you couldn't get your shower predictions right.

Yours in accurate forecasting,

Image from

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday Soapbox: The Myth of Rubbing Shoulders

Today I'm stealing a guest post written earlier this week by a 2007 graduate of Enloe High School regarding the significance of Wake County's diversity policy. For those less familiar with Raleigh, Enloe is a magnet high school that offers the International Baccalaureate program and is focused on humanities, sciences and the arts. Enloe, which regularly makes Newsweek's list of the top 100 high schools, opened in 1962 as the first integrated secondary school in Raleigh.

I love this post for several reasons...
  1. This student learned more than the standard curriculum in high school -- he learned about the world, about people, and about the kind of person he wants to be.
  2. This student recognized that his high school experience had significance beyond simply getting him a diploma and into college.
  3. This student is still connected to his community and paying attention to current events, even though he has graduated and moved away for college.
  4. This student took the time to share his experiences in an effort to make a difference for others.
Without further ado, here's Abhiram in his own words:

The Myth of Rubbing Shoulders

[There is a] myth that kids in magnet schools are merely rubbing shoulders and don't learn anything from diversity. I would like to debunk this right here and now with a few examples.

I understand very well that the following examples concern sensitive topics, and my intention is not to inflame emotions about these particular topics, but to address the impact that a diverse environment can bring to discussions concerning these topics.

Having participated in class debates about affirmative action in a diverse classroom, I understand very well the palpable tension that hovered in the air. Looking across the room, I could see very clearly the real impact this debate was having on each person as it related to their academic, social, and racial identity. Being in that diverse environment reminds you that you're not just talking about demographics, but real people on whom your advocated policy impacts. In a diverse classroom, you as a student can no longer ignore that elephant in the room and live in your ideological cave, but must absolutely step out into the open and see the world and the truth that it offers from many different perspectives.

Another example: As religion can be a personal and sensitive topic, it is often avoided as a topic of conversation among peers in ordinary life. However not too long ago, this peaceable state of affairs came to a crashing halt when one Wake County teacher invited a controversial speaker to talk to Enloe students. This speaker crossed the line and attacked and spread falsehoods about a particular minority. Had there not been a diverse enough community to recognize the blatant lies that had been propagated, it is not clear whether the appropriate authorities would have been contacted. In fact, no member of this particular minority was at the talk; the diverse student body confronted the issue and discussed it with their peers and it was only because of that diverse discussion that subsequently a responsible student (who belonged to that minority) alerted the appropriate authorities. [For more background on this incident, click here.]

Also, we take a course on World History in the 10th grade and part of this course includes a discussion of Holocaust and a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. Can you even imagine how much more poignant each moment becomes when you look at the expression on your Jewish friend’s face who’s family had suffered at Nazi hands?

Another topic we discuss in our World History Class is the Hindu Caste System. Once again the elephant in the room could not be ignored. There are Hindus in the classroom. I can still remember the looks on people’s faces as they glanced at us, perhaps wondering, “Do they really believe that?”, “Does their religion really say that?”, “How could they be so blatantly insensitive?”

And then we have a class discussion; nobody defends the anti-egalitarianism, but we point out mankind’s long tradition of misusing and misinterpreting religion to justify evil, with examples of anti-egalitarianism from other religions and from our own country’s history, when slave-owners would justify “keeping one’s place in society” to their slaves through biblical stories. What diversity brought was not mere, “shoulder rubbing,” rather it functioned as a check and balance on our collective arrogance. It reminded us that we are all human and all come from equally legitimate backgrounds which have all had their fair share of unfairness.

Suddenly, it begins to all tie together. We no longer see only through our own eyes, but through those of our peers as well. We begin to understand not only the men and women with whom we interact, but also what drives them, and why they see the world the way they do.

What diversity brings is not merely the “rubbing of shoulders” between the rich and the poor, or even the one-way transfer of knowledge from one party to another. It brings an understanding between people and of the motivations that drive them. It is an understanding to which “F&R” kids contribute and receive, and one that they deserve as well. It enlightens ALL of us with multiple perspectives on issues so that when we deal with the diverse conflict present on the increasingly international daily theatre, we will not blindly rush forward with single-minded and ignorant views.

If you're a registered voter in Wake County and you'd like to sign a petition (started by Enloe students) in support of the district's commitment to ensuring diverse and healthy schools, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday's Five: Shop Local

If you think you might be getting a Christmas gift from me this year and you'd like to be surprised by said gift, you should stop reading now. Seriously -- grandparents, this means you. Go read today's Advent meditation from my neighbor's mama, Pastor Margaret, instead.

Okay, for the rest of you still reading, here's a list of five of my favorite local spots for holiday gift shopping (none of which have offered me anything to write this post). I try to avoid the mall most of the year (unless I have a gift card to Ann Taylor Loft and a babysitter), but especially in December -- it's a serious holiday cheer destroyer for me. In past years I've done most of my shopping online, but this year I'm trying to buy local as much as possible.

  1. Quail Ridge Books and Music: If you didn't already know this would be first on my list, then you really haven't been reading my blog (click the "books" tag on the right for more links). Go super local and look for authors like John Bemis or David Sedaris and musicians like Tift Merritt and Big Bang Boom while you're there.
  2. Revival Antiques: The furniture at this great store is all beyond my gift budget, but they have interesting smaller items too -- lamps, perfume bottles, tin wall hangings, jewelry and tea cup sets, to name a few. Plus the store is never, ever crowded and you get bonus points for "recycling" the antiques.
  3. Logan Trading Company: From ergonomically designed garden tools to bird houses to holiday decorations, this store has lots of interesting items. And you can have lunch at the cafe while you watch for the train to pass by.
  4. State Farmer's Market: When all else fails, give food. I've got a couple of people on my list who are really tough to buy for (ahem, Grandpa) -- but I've never seen them turn down a tasty treat.
  5. Raleigh Flea Market: Spend your weekend wandering around the fairgrounds and find a little something for everyone -- I particularly like the antiques and quirky crafts, but there's also food, toys, books, clothes and more. Parking and spectacular people-watching are free with every trip.
For more ideas in Raleigh, check out Ilina's post on Triangle Mamas -- and share your local favorites (for wherever you are) in the comments below...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Recipe: Marbled Chocolate Treats

If you get this holiday treat from me, pretend you don't know how crazy easy it is to make. Over the years, I've slightly modified this recipe from Kraft -- a tasty and simple treat that makes a pretty gift to share with teachers, friends and neighbors. Assuming, of course, that my husband and children don't eat them all before I get them out of the house.

Marbled Chocolate Treats


  • 10 honey grahams, broken in half (20 squares) 
  • 6 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate 
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (optional)
  • 3 squares premium white baking chocolate 


  1. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Arrange grahams on bottom of pan, cutting as needed to completely cover bottom of pan; set aside. 
  2. Microwave semi-sweet chocolate and peanut butter (optional) in medium microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until chocolate is completely melted when stirred, stirring every 30 sec. Stir until well blended. Pour over grahams; spread with spatula to cover completely. 
  3. Repeat microwave melting steps with the white chocolate. Drop spoonfuls of the white chocolate over chocolate-covered grahams. Immediately cut through the chocolate mixtures with knife several times for tiger-stripe effect. 
  4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. Use foil handles to remove dessert from pan. Peel off foil. Break dessert into bars. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Merry Pumpkins

We got our tree this weekend, much to the delight of my son. I usually have a pretty strict no-Christmas-decorating-until-after-my-birthday policy -- I'm not a fan of losing my big day in everyone else's holiday festivities -- but he's been nagging me for a month and I couldn't take it anymore.

My neighbor was similarly appalled horrified concerned about my delayed decorating plan -- and the fact that my (uncarved) pumpkins were still sitting on the front porch from Halloween. So she took matters into her own hands last week.

One day, when I returned home with my kids after an outing to the park, we found this:

Hilarious! She's brilliant -- and she's got a lot of felt. Have I mentioned how much I love living here? And do you think the pumpkins will last long enough for her to come over with bunny ears in a few months?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Remember me? I'm Your Wife...

What with all the ranting last week, I ran out of days to write about the glorious 27 hours I spent with my husband over Thanksgiving weekend.

That's 27 hours alone. No kids. No parents. No work. No deadlines. Just us. Overnight. For the first time in three years.

Crazy, crazy fun.

We left the kids at home with my parents on Friday morning at 9:30 and returned home the next day around noon. Picasso and Warhol at the Nasher in the morning. Pepper's for lunch. Afternoon nap at The Franklin. Dinner at Mediterranean Deli. Movie at The Varsity. The Franklin's special breakfast in bed. Brunch from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. Plus some lovely details in between that I won't write about because my parents and my in-laws read my blog (and it's not that kind of blog anyway).

Did I mention it had been three years?

Oh, and my favorite part about staying at The Franklin? The "do not disturb" button right beside the headboard -- you don't even have to get out of bed to hang the tag on your door.

Could it be more perfect?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday's Five: That Lovin' Feelin'

Just in time for the holidays, here's a super mushy mama post for you...

Too often, I find myself wishing time away, wishing that my kids were older so that they'd be less needy, so that I could go to the bathroom without an escort, so that I could sleep past 7 a.m.

And then I realize that they're doing just that -- growing up way too quickly -- and I remind myself to savor the sweet moments that I know will disappear all too soon.

Here are five of my favorite baby moments to savor, some already passed and some that I'm still (literally) holding onto:
  1. Nursing: After the first few awkward weeks, nursing came easily with both my babies (thankfully). That's Pippi in the photo, fresh at the hospital. We were still getting the hang of it there, but nursing felt like the perfect connection to me. (Side note: If nursing doesn't work for you, don't do it and don't feel guilty about it. I loved it because it was easy -- but that's another post.)
  2. Sleeping on my chest: Junius mostly liked to be held when he slept as a baby -- there were certainly times when this was exhausting, but it was also such a sweet feeling with the weight of his little body all warm and snuggled against me.
  3. Tucking baby's head into my neck: Whether it's the newborn snuggle under my chin or the toddler tucked into the side of my neck, I love this move -- feels like a hug, even when they're too young to know how to give one. Plus, you get to smell their sweet little heads. And where they're old enough to slide one hand around the back of my neck, it's even more lovely.
  4. Reading in my lap: Pippi never has been much for the snuggle nap -- but now that she'll finally sit long enough to read a book, I get to enjoy the weight of her leaned back against me in the rocking chair before bed. It's about the only time she gets still all day.
  5. Holding hands: There's something about that tiny hand tucked into mine that just melts me. It's a sign of complete trust that they have in me -- such an amazing responsibility.
And now I think I'll go pat their sweet little sleeping heads one more time for good measure. Before I know it, they'll be teenagers and I'll be that mom telling stories of how they used to fit on my lap and want me to cuddle with them before bed. Sigh.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday Sopabox: Character Education

A few years ago, I stopped watching the evening news because it was just too disturbing -- becoming a mom made me nervous enough, but seeing story after story about fires, crashes, abductions and killings put me over the edge.

Now it looks like I'm going to have to stop reading the paper, too. For the past two mornings, I've started my day as a serious grouch because of the headlines about the new Wake County Board of Education.

Today's soapbox post will ignore the actual substance of the decisions made at Tuesday night's board meeting -- you already know how I feel about the diversity policy and the magnet program, and I'm saving the staff development issue for another day. Today I just want to rant talk about the behavior and attitudes at the meeting following the swearing in of the four new members.

These new members campaigned on the notion that the old school board was arrogant and deaf to the concerns of parents and the community. Then, after being sworn in, these same members promptly got drunk from the kool-aid of power, pushed through eight new agenda items on major issues without any notice (or even printed materials) to the other four board members, and elected one of their own as the new board chair and another as vice chair (a leadership change that usually takes place in June of each year).

When questioned about whether they were behaving with the same arrogance that they'd accused the old board of, new board chair Ron Margiotta (the only incumbent who supported the new board members during the campaign) had this to say during the meeting: "Let's show the public we're going to respond to what they've been asking for all this time. That's the opposite of arrogance."

This is the same Ron Margiotta who threatened to cut off public comment during the same meeting when critics lined up to voice their concerns. Um, hello, irony?

To the "ruling majority": I've got news for you people. "The public" is not a homogeneous group. "The public" is not made up only of voters who elected you. "The public" is not all lined up to dismantle the Wake County public schools. "The public" is more than the squeaky wheel. In fact, only about 3 percent of the 570,000 registered voters in Wake County even supported you in this campaign. That's hardly a sweeping mandate for change.

If you're really serious about listening to "the public," that means you have to listen to ALL of it. Even me -- who didn't get to vote for or against you since you don't represent my district and who disagrees with most everything you did on Tuesday night. I know things aren't perfect in our schools -- and I'm happy to share my list of things I'd change if anyone wants to listen -- but I'm not interested in throwing out a healthy baby with the bathwater.

As a parent, I'm trying to teach my children how to behave politely and appropriately as the best way to get what they want. I'm attempting to model for them the way I hope they'll act when things aren't going their way (some days that goes better than others). And in our public schools, a district-wide focus on character education emphasizes such traits as integrity, respect and self-discipline.

If our own school board members can't display these traits, can't behave in a civil and thoughtful manner during a public meeting, how the hell can we expect our students to act appropriately in school? Maybe it's time these new board members had a tutorial on the difference between being a character and acting with character. And while you're at it, throw in a lesson on sunshine laws for good measure.

Disclaimer: I did not attend the meeting Tuesday night. I went to plenty when it was part of my job, so I chose to spend that time with my family instead. I'm writing this post based on what was reported in The News & Observer, so I realize that I'm responding to someone else's view of the event. No need to lecture me on not believing everything in print, unless you were actually there and want to adjust the record.

Photo by Ted Richardson at, showing three of the four new board members (Debra Goldman, Chris Malone and John Tedesco) during Tuesday's meeting, along with newly elected board chair Ron Margiotta (seated).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Guest Post: There's a Reason They're Smiling

Today we feature a special guest blogger: my husband. May God bless this wonderful man, who fearlessly tackled a most painful chore two nights ago and thus earned the right to rant.

Okay, I confess. I’m a customer service critic. From attitudes and aptitudes to cleanliness and consistency, I want companies to get it right.

Good customer service isn’t that hard….really…unless, you’re Time Warner Cable. They don’t seem to get it. After we discovered that we don’t need or want to pay for 400+ channels (including the home-wrecking channel, the laundry detergent channel or the we-don't-have-a-theme-yet-but-here's-some-bad-programming-anyway channel), I decided to make the call and downgrade our service.

But before I begin, in fairness, I must offer kudos to TWC’s “John” in sales and “Sara” in customer service who were nice, but powerless to do the one thing I wanted. No, that job was reserved for the folks in “retention.”

I’m not exactly sure what they were retaining, but “Jeremy” and “Bridget” had it bad. Jeremy bumbled for 10 minutes looking up my account, couldn’t take a payment and didn’t even try to solve my problem. He passed me to Sara (see kudos above) who could only take a payment and send me back to Bridget for more retaining.

Poor Bridget. Bless her heart, she couldn’t find my account for 20 minutes. She asked for our phone number (which came from TWC and was only ten digits) and couldn’t find it. I gave her my account number (which came from TWC) and she couldn’t find it. I spelled our last name several times and she couldn’t find it. I even tried spelling it louder for her. I gave her my wife’s Verizon cell phone number and then miracle of miracles! It appeared!

I stated what I wanted to do, how much I wanted to pay and why. She said “okay” and over the next 40 minutes dodged any rational discussion about whether or not she could do what I asked. Apparently the "okay" was her way of saying "yeah, right." She proposed meaningless offer after meaningless offer. I debated her logic, berated her company and mandated my request. I was even tempted by a free month of any movie channel. But alas, no.

Then I pulled out the nuclear option. I told her I was ready to cancel all of my services. Right then. Seriously. We could do it. We have more than 30 Sesame Street episodes on our TiVo, plus countless others from Franklin, Bob the Builder and the Biscuit Brothers. And of course, there's always our knight in shining armor -- Netflix!

I restated what I wanted one last time. Finally she said, “Okay, I can do that. I’m sorry, I didn’t know that I could.” There it was -- the magic "okay" and just like that I got what I proposed at the beginning of the call. Total elapsed time: 1 hour 20 minutes. We’ll save $516 over the next year on cable. Not bad for a Pyrrhic victory. I was exhausted when the call ended.

Of course, for every bad experience, there are those good ones. Such as the folks at the N.C. License Plate Agency on Wake Forest Road and the fine folks at the Guilford County Tax Office. That’s right – two government agencies.

The folks I encountered the morning after my TWC-near-death-experience were very nice, smiling and helpful people. They helped me sort out the hanging details of a license plate renewal that fell through the crack of last year’s move. They were patient, polite and personable. I suspect they knew I needed them more than they needed me. But they played along and made me happy about “going legit.” After I paid the back car tax and the renewal fee, I was done. It cost me $257, but I was happy and my faith in humanity was renewed.

Maybe they knew what the TWC folks didn’t. You don’t have to be so brazen about TAKING someone’s money if they’ll gladly GIVE it to you.

Thanks for letting me rant…

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hooray for Birthdays!

December is my birth month. And yes, I like to stretch out the celebrating as long as possible. I'm a huge fan of birthdays in general, but mine in particular. When people complain about birthdays as a marker of getting older, my response is always, "It's better than the alternative."

The American Cancer Society has started a campaign for more birthdays, proclaiming that "there's no such thing as too many candles!" And even if I do get a little nervous about growing older, I completely agree with that slogan. I know that my friends who are cancer survivors are celebrating every candle, and I'm cheering right along with them.

In honor of my birthday, I hope you'll take a moment to read the guest post below from a great blogger, mom, scientist and cancer survivor. You might also want to read her more recent post in defense of mammograms, following the new guidelines released by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force -- as a scientist and a survivor, she knows what she's talking about.

From WhyMommy at Toddler Planet:
Inflammatory breast cancer

There’s more than one kind of breast cancer. Did you know that? During October, we’re so often flooded with “buy pink” campaigns, and reminders to check ourselves for lumps, that it’s become almost commonplace. We all know that we should do regular self exams, and we’ve heard it so often that the urgency often fades into the background of children, spouses, laundry, and work. But did you know that there’s a kind of breast cancer that forms without a tell-tale lump?

It’s called inflammatory breast cancer, and it spreads FAST. The cancer forms in thin sheets, or in nests, like a bird’s nest of cancer growing inside your breast. There are few external signals or symptoms, and they’re sneaky too, since most of them are similar to mastitis, which many of us have experienced while breastfeeding a baby, or bug bites, or sunburn. But taken together, one or more of these symptoms can signal a dangerous cancer lurking in your breast.

What are the symptoms? Here’s a list, from the IBC Research Foundation:
* Swelling, usually sudden, sometimes a cup size in a few days
* Itching
* Pink, red, or dark colored area (called erythema) sometimes with texture similar to the skin of an orange (called peau d’orange)
* Ridges and thickened areas of the skin
* Nipple retraction
* Nipple discharge, may or may not be bloody
* Breast is warm to the touch
* Breast pain (from a constant ache to stabbing pains)
* Change in color and texture of the areola

There’s a great illustration of these symptoms over at Worldwide Breast Cancer that is guaranteed to be not like anything you’ve seen before….

In my mind, it boils down to this. If you notice ANYTHING DIFFERENT on one breast that’s not on the other breast, please CALL YOUR DOCTOR. Today. Because this cancer moves fast, faster than almost any other cancer, and is deadly. Only 40% of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis.

In the 2.5 years since my diagnosis, I’ve already lost a dozen friends to cancer. Many of them were moms and bloggers, readers just like you. They fought hard. They fought with everything they had. But cancer treatment is largely still in the experimental stages, and it’s a tough road. Just to be here today, I had to not only survive cancer, but also survive 6 months of chemotherapy, 7 weeks of daily radiation, 2 surgeries to remove my breasts and ovaries, and a lot of physical therapy to deal with lymphedema, which makes my arm swell in the heat when I step outside (as a lovely side effect of the mastectomy that took all my lymph nodes on that side). It’s been a hard, hard road, but I’m grateful for the chance to be here today, to hug my children, to play their games, to laugh at their knock-knock jokes.

There is joy after cancer. But first we have to get there. So please, take a moment, call/email/blog/tweet/update your friends, and SHARE the SIGNS of inflammatory breast cancer with the people you care about. You never know. You might just save a life.

Just in case that's not enough to motivate you, check out this fantastic video courtesy of Ilina. She reports that "Emily Somers created, directed and choreographed this video in Portland for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. This was all her idea to help promote their new pink gloves. I don't know how she got so many employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it. When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community."