Ok. So I took a bit of a hiatus. About four years of a hiatus, to be exact. Lately I’ve found a renewed interest in blogging so I’m attempting to get back into the swing of things. Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps.
And a rough one it has been. I’ve been trying to find my footing in a new life, figuring out how to do things on my own since my husband and I separated in April. This has left little time for blogging, but I hope that the new year will be a far better one, in many ways. I really do have so much to write about, and I need to get all of that down, hopefully in a neat little year-end wrap-up. mark this as my pledge to have something meaningful on this blog in the coming week, however, this is not a resolution. I’m so done with those.
I hate mowing grass. No. Let me rephrase – I detest it. My backyard is fenced in and it’s impossible to get my dad’s huge riding mower in so I would have to use the push mower to keep the grass at bay.
The other day, my dad (the king of grand ideas, rember?) suggested I get a new lawnmower that would make my most detested task a little easier. No, not one of those fancy green ones with the deer on the side or even the old fashioned spinning blade ones.
Behold, I present to you my new lawnmower. His name is Star.
I have thought about making homemade laundry detergent for a long time since reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette. My sister renewed my interest a couple months ago when she suggested making her own so I decided to go for it. Here’s the video and I’ll be sure to post a review on how it works once I’ve tried it.
have always considered myself a geek. I’m into the programming, have really enjoyed learning Ruby on Rails, love doing anything on my Mac, get silly over little changes in the iPhone OS, and even though I haven’t used it as much as I want to, I get excited when there is a new iPhone SDK beta. But I did realize something today. I am not nearly as geeky as I want to be, or should be. And that is a bad thing.
My family thinks I am the biggest nerd. When I start talking about what I do at work their eyes glaze over and they kind of nod and look really confused. They’ll never get it. To them I am the epitome that they think about when they think of someone who is geeky. Little do they know that it’s really a farce.
Until recently, I really thought that I had come a long way in terms of learning Ruby and Ruby on Rails. Every day I was becoming more and more confident and not afraid to suggest better ways of writing the code or taking criticism from others concerning my code. But today I took a step back. I looked at how long I’ve been doing the Rails thing (oh, about a year-and-a-half) and exactly where I’m at, or feel like I’m at (advanced beginner at best). After a year-and-a-half I really think I should be further along than I am. There are times when the simplest things stump me and render me useless. There are also times when I feel like I am a joke, plain stupid and dare I say it, ditzy. Sure, Rails is ever-changing. Yes, we’re trying different things all the time. Alright, although Rails makes everything seem easy, we’re doing a lot of work that is very complex. Excuses. I should be better. I need to be better.
This past year, I took on teaching myself a little iPhone development because not only am I interested in how applications work, I thought it would be interesting to learn something new. I now think I took on too much. Now, I am not required by anyone but myself to put out an application, but it’s been disappointing to me to really get nowhere with it. I see all of the awesome applications that others are making and think “Hey, I can do that,” but the truth is that I’m not doing that. I’m not even sure if I can anymore.
A friend of mine told me today that it’s probably difficult for me to be exactly where I want to be because I am very occupied at the moment with being a mother. I do have two full-time jobs, the one I go to during the day, and the one that I go home to in the evenings. He said that it’s either get rid of the kid and focus on being the geek or keep the kid and be half-mom, half-geek. Well, of course I am not getting rid of my child, but I don’t feel that half-geek is acceptable either. I need to be good at something. I would like that something to be programming.
I by no means intend for this post to be a “feel sorry for me” kind of thing; That is not why I’m laying it all out like this. This is my blog and I needed some therapy. I’m even disabling the comments on this post because I’m not really looking for advice right now, just a means to vent. I guess I have issues. But you know what? It happens. There are times when everyone feels inferior, even people who know what they are doing.
I think this will pass and I’ll eventually be back to my chipper self, but I also believe it was time for me to take inventory and figure out what to do. I think I’m on a new mission now, to really figure out the best way to retain what I learn. Maybe find a new way of thinking. I’m going to continue reading books, writing code, and doing what I can to understand what’s going on around me but hopefully try to gain a new perspective along the way.
Yesterday my family celebrated my nephew’s third birthday at the place where birthdays are a business, Chuck E. Cheese. Because my nephew’s birthday is in the winter and there are very few options for locations to have a party other than my sister’s house, I agree that having the party at the “House of the Mouse” seemed like a great, low-stress idea. The party however though could not have been more chaotic. It’s completely driven by the staff at the restaurant and is extremely impersonal. There were four other birthday parties going on at the same time my nephew was having his, so that meant there was a group “Birthday Song” sing and Chuck himself stopped by only to dance a little bit and have his picture taken with the birthday boy, as well as every other birthday child there. My nephew didn’t even open his presents there because we had to vacate the area at a certain time to allow for another party. But I digress, that’s just a general rant about the place.
Now, I have to admit, from time to time I do like to take Aidyn to Chuck E. Cheese so that she can run around and play without me having to worry too much about her wandering off. We usually tend to go during the “off” hours, on weeknights and early on Saturdays as to avoid the larger crowds and birthday parties which I now have discovered has been an excellent plan. You see, yesterday’s experience there was crazy. Kids were running around being kids and I totally expect that. It is touted as the place where “a kid can be a kid” after all. What I did not expect was the rudeness that I encountered from the parents.
Why is it that this place, supposedly a fun place for children, bring out the worst in us adults? For example, my husband, daughter and I were waiting in line to have our portrait drawn at a booth where a camera takes a picture of the subjects and the screen shows a hand with a pencil sketching the photo. There were a couple of acquaintances in front of us getting their picture taken and we were next. There was no one behind us. As we were waiting, a woman with her son came over and stood on the other side of the machine. She looked over at my husband and me and said “Are you in line?” When we said yes, for whatever reason, she huffed loudly and then came around to stand behind us, like us being there in line was inconveniencing her. Apparently the photo process was taking too long for her because she stood there impatiently tapping her foot, as if that would make us speed up, arms crossed and still huffing. Finally she walked away, dragging her child with her. We didn’t take any longer to get our picture done than any of those before us and did nothing to that woman to make her so frustrated. I understand that she was probably stressed out, her kid wanted their picture taken, and it was taking longer than expected for their turn but really, what did that little interaction tell that child, and my child for that matter? That if you don’t get your way right away you stomp off and drag anyone with you that you can? Maybe it shows that losing patience because you have to wait is the answer.
Another instance of rudeness, most likely bred from frustration, was at the counter where we were waiting in line to cash Aidyn’s tickets for prizes. Aidyn and my nephew were not so patiently waiting their turn to look in the cases at the prizes but my husband and I were doing our best to keep them contained. When space opened up to the left of us, the couple in front of us with their children moved into that space, freeing up space on the right. We moved forward, allowing the kids to look in the case and decide on which prizes they wanted for their tickets. Now, at the same time, both employees who were working behind the counter had disappeared into the back and because they had been standing there for some time, the couple to our left were visibly frustrated. When one employee returned, the male in the couple asked the employee a question, which the employee answered as he picked up his calculator. After answering, the employee began to head our way, telling the man, “Just one minute please.” When he asked us what we would like, the man to our left shouted and pointed his finger up into the face of the employee and said “We were here first!.” At the same time we pointed over at the couple and said “They were first.” It was not that employee’s fault they did not know who was next, although he probably could have asked. But did he deserve to be degraded like that, with someone’s finger in their face? No. A simple “Excuse me, but we were next” or even letting it slide would have been appropriate in front of the children.
I do not claim to be a saint but when I have my child with me I try to set an example of how to behave in public. I can understand that going to a place like Chuck E. Cheese makes adults frustrated and causes tempers to flare and rudeness abound, but being adults we need to realize that we are adults. Just because we are in a place geared toward children does not mean we act like children and throw tantrums and pout when we don’t get our way. And with so many little eyes and ears watching and listening (and children are extremely observant) it is everyone’s responsibility to be on their best behavior.
Although I was appalled at the rudeness that I experienced, it really wasn’t that terrible. For the most part people were kind and were just looking out for the best interest of their children. It could have been much worse. I leave you with this video a friend sent to me just the other day. At least when I was at the party no one threw punches.
It takes some people years and years to decide what they want to do in life but I was lucky. I can truly say that I knew in high school that I was going to and was meant to be a programmer.
It all happened kind of by accident when my family moved and I started the tenth grade at a different high school. As my guidance counselor was going over the classes I had chosen to take that year at my previous school, she enrolled me in their equivalents at the current school. Trigonometry, Physical Education, Chorus, American Studies, and English were all available at my grade level but as she made her way down my schedule she couldn’t seem to find a match for my last elective, Keyboarding.
When the guidance counselor at the new school asked me what “this Keyboarding” was, I told her that Keyboarding was a typing class where students were taught how to type on an electric typewriter keyboard. I informed her that I took it as a “fun thing to do” during activity period and decided that I liked typing so much that I wanted to take on the full-blown class the next semester. ”Oh,” she said, “we don’t have Keyboarding here but we do have BASIC.” ”What’s BASIC?” I asked, to which she replied, “It’s like Keyboarding.”
Now every time I think of what she said, “It’s like Keyboarding,” I always think of the scene in Three Amigos when the Amigos walk into a Mexican bar and ask for a beer. When the bartender informs the three that the bar only serves tequila, they ask what tequila is. The bartender replies “Oh, it’s like beer.” Makes me laugh every single time because to me the situation could not be more relevant.
Who knows where I would be if I realized that taking that one BASIC course would mean years of learning difficult, complex concepts and having to take Calculus and eventually Statistical Inference. In high school I stayed as far away from math and science as I possibly could. Why would I want to pursue a career where those two things would be blended into a something that I would use daily? In the end I’m thankful that guidance counselor had no clue what BASIC was. She may never realize it, but that misunderstanding is the single reason I am where I am today and I could not be happier.
Now, I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions, and yes, I am aware that it’s not quite the new year yet, but I feel compelled to put down a couple of things that I hope to accomplish and avoid this year. Maybe if I actually put them down here for the public to view I will feel as though I’m being held accountable!
This year, I resolve to:
- Focus on quality time with my daughter and realize that I will never be able to spend the quantity of time with her that I want.
- Distinguish wants from needs and act appropriately when confronted with the overwhelming desire to purchase yet another item that I will use for two weeks and then put away forever.
- Keep my extremely personal life personal and not divulge every detail to those I do not truly consider my best friends. Because I frequently open myself up to people I feel close to, I provide them with ammunition that frequently gets used against me, hurting only myself.
- Not be too emotional at work. I tend to get upset too easily and my emotion comes through. Although I am a human, this is not acceptable in professional situations.
- Improve my programming skills and read at least one new technical book per month.
- Blog at least once per week.
- Be true to myself and not be made into someone others want me to be.
- Don’t take life for granted and realize that I should appreciate the small miracles around me. I believe this will make me a happier person. I’ve been struggling with a sort of depression lately and it’s very easy in this state to overlook the simple things that bring joy to life.
That’s quite a long list of resolutions to try to meet but they are all very important things that I have been striving to do, even lately. We’ll see how I do as I blog this year… if I keep that one.
I am one of those people who believes that it is not always necessary to spend an exorbitant amount of money to have a fun, memorable event. I made sure to keep this in mind when it came time to plan my daughter’s fourth birthday bash – a Barbie themed party, complete with the cake, decorations, and balloons. Normally, this type of event, a simple, at-home party, would have run me anywhere from $100 to $150 for a handful of family members and maybe a couple of friends. This figure includes serving dinner but does not include gifts.
Planning is Key
The first thing I did in regards to the party was plan. How hard is it to plan a small party for a four year-old? Not very, but if you forget tiny details they begin to add up to big expenses. Crafting your budget will enable you to know how many people you can invite, what you can spend on necessities including cake, ice cream, and supplies, and will keep you from making impulse purchases as you near the party date. My budget was $30.
Aidyn decided a while ago that she wanted to have a Barbie-themed party. When I first sat down to determine the supplies I needed to accomplish this, I came up with the following and noted the cost if I were to take a more non-DIY approach:
- Spaghetti dinner for 18 – $20 (includes salad with fixings, spaghetti, homemade sauce, and garlic bread)
- A Barbie cake – $15-$30 for a round or sheet cake from the local bakery
- Themed plates – $2.99 for 8 (I would need two packages)
- Themed cups – $3.39 for 8 (Again, would need two packages)
- Themed napkins – $3.39 for 16 (At last, something I don’t need to purchase two of)
- Pink cutlery – $2.49 for 24 (8 of each, forks, knives, and spoons… would need two)
- Balloons – $2.49 each for mylar balloons at Giant Eagle or Wal-Mart (would most likely need two)
- Ice Cream – $2.50 on sale for each container (need two, Chocolate and Vanilla)
- Potato Chips – Anywhere from $1.50 per package to $3.00 per package (would need two)
- Pop – Anywhere from $1.25 each 2 liter (would need three) to $6.98 for a case of Pepsi.
- Coffee – Already have that at home
- Children’s beverages – Already have a variety of sugar-free Kool-Aid like drinks in the house
How I did it
The first thing I decided to do was to nix the dinner idea. Just because my child has a party does not require me to feed dinner to every person who walks through the door. Would dinner be fun? Of course, but it is a lot of extra preparation, expense, and clean-up to deal with, especially for a party honoring a four year-old child. We decided to have the party at 4 p.m. and only serve cake and ice cream.
Next, onto the cake. I detest store-bought cakes because, not only are they expensive, they are impersonal, sometimes sloppy, and you never truly get what you want unless it is made from a template they have made hundreds of times before (back to impersonal). At first, I thought I would buy a pre-molded cake pan from JoAnn Fabrics (anywhere from $9 to $14 depending if a 40% off coupon was used), buy cake mix, make my own icing, color it myself and decorate the cake, but when I searched the internet for Barbie Cake ideas, I saw a wealth of possibility. Barbie cakes that featured dolls with cake skirts were everywhere and seemed very nice and very doable and although I knew I would put more time into this type of cake, I knew it would be worth it. Total cost of cake was $11: $2 for the doll, $2 for the cake mix, $5 for homemade fondant and icing, and an additional $2 for eggs and oil.
Decorations are always very costly. Because party plates and cups are generally used and then thrown away, I decided to forego the Barbie plates and purchase a package of 20 pink plates for $1 at the dollar store. I also picked up a package of pink napkins for the same price. I already had plastic cutlery and cups at my house, so we used those, but even if we didn’t have these things, we would have purchased cups and used regular silverware. As far as balloons go, we purchased two Barbie mylar balloons from the dollar store for $1 each and had six balloons, that we already had on hand, inflated with helium at Wal-Mart for $0.25 each. My sister had the excellent idea of creating big poofy decorations from pastel tissue paper which cost $2 for two packages. The poofs turned out beautiful and matched the girly Barbie theme perfectly. Total cost for decorations: $7.50.
I didn’t have much leeway on the ice cream and potato chips. I purchased two half-gallons of ice cream on sale for $2.50 each and purchased two bags of potato chips (one plain and one barbeque) for $1.50 each, also on sale. I went the 2 liter route with pop and purchased three two liters (Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Orange) for $1.25 each. I also made coffee and Kool-Aid that I had on hand. Food and beverage total: $11.75.
Grand total for party: $30.25.
Sometimes it’s the Little Things that Mean the Most
Beautiful cakes ultimately get cut into and eaten, plates are covered with frosting and tossed in the trash, and even the most beautiful decorations get taken down. It’s the memories that last. What my daughter will remember is helping me bake her birthday cake, crafting decorations, spending time with her closest family and friends, and of course, receiving lots of little girl gifts. She told me it was the best birthday party she ever had, not that she’s had many to compare with, but it really meant a lot to me that she had a nice time.
Also important to me is that as she grows, I’m teaching her a valuable lesson – that there is benefit in being creative with how money is spent and how memories are created. For Aidyn, doing much of the work for the party together was fun and it undoubtedly made for some great memories. Working together with the help of family and the fact that we are willing to put in extra effort to provide her with a wonderful party shows her exactly how important she is to all of us. That’s something she will cherish for a lifetime.
“You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.”
I cannot count how many times I have heard this phrase used in reference to me and the way that I am. I’m a country girl. I always have been and I always will be. Some people might look down on this, saying that I’m a little backwards or set in ways that were popular back in the 1800’s but I’m quite proud of where I come from and the lifestyle I choose to lead.
In my jewelry box drawer, buried under a stack of small pictures, is a cigarette lighter with a cowboy boot and the word “Country” etched into the leather-like exterior. It was given to me while I was in college by one of my best friends who told me that as soon as he saw it on the counter at the convenience store he had to buy it for me. You see, he used to call me “Country” because he always said that I seemed so out of place with all of the city kids that came to the school seeking higher education. He would call me simple and naive yet strange because, like him, I was a Computer Science major. In his mind, the quaint life associated with living in the country and technology blended together as well as oil and water. I just didn’t fit the mold of your typical geek.
Truth be told, I love the conveniences of modern life. The loss of power to my home due to wind storms as a result of Ike last week was terrible. I didn’t know what to do with myself having no electricity, running water, and God forbid, no internet. Although I enjoy all of those things, I still appreciate the the serenity and simplicity living in the country provides.
Growing up, I always believed that I would move away from this tiny spot on the map, and I managed to do so for a while. I went to college but somehow found my way back. I never thought I would take after my parents, who have an affinity for all things hick like none I have ever known. It is because of them I’ve embraced gardening and a little bit of farming, the idea of putting up food by way of canning for the winter, and being able to walk out my door into the beauty of the state game lands that border my property.
So go ahead. Take me out of the country. I’ll probably embarrass you with my weird, backwoods accent and my inability to handle myself in a large city but know I’ll be true to myself. I’m a high-tech sort of redneck, a strange breed who, if you take the chance to get to know, will talk about everything from Ruby to raising chickens and why I love my Mac to why I love my Ball Blue Book of Preservation. Be a good friend and I might even knit you a pair of socks. Just don’t try to change my ways. One thing I will never do is look down on someone for their “city ways,” as my dad would put it, and in return I ask that people not try to strip the country out of me.