Monthly Archives: January 2013

What price, beauty?

Disclaimer:  This will be a post without a photo.  Why?  Because I’m not a big self-portrait kinda gal.  I never take those dressing room photos or bathroom mirror photos because I WILL forget and be shirtless or pantless OR Chuck will walk by in his skivvies, completely unnoticed until one of my children brings my blog up at the Christian school to show their teacher what kind of camera I recommend or how to make a Valentine wreath.  So there.

ANYWAY.  Since I tore my MCL (medial collateral ligament) in my left knee while snow skiing over Christmas, my days go much like this:

Get up.

Go out for breakfast.

Run a short errand.

Rest & stitch until carpool time.

Pick the boys up.

Rest & stitch until bedtime where I then continue to rest until it’s time for breakfast.

(Coincidentally, this is very, very close to how my days went PRE-injury but as the Bible says,  “judge ye not others, lest ye be judged or called a judgmental asshole by Noelle” — Book of Matthew, verse 7, slightly paraphrased.)

I digress.  Today, after a lovely breakfast with a girlfriend, I decided my short errand would be to get my eyebrows waxed.  Now, my grandma always drilled into me that you get what you pay for.  I knew better…. I have the absolute, most talented eyebrow waxer named Danielle, who is NOT expensive and who hand to GOD & placed on Barack’s grandma’s Bible, I will NEVER stray from again. But one day, when I got a pedicure, I noticed the lovely Asian people at the nail place also wax body parts as well.  I looked like Tom Selleck at the time so I thought, “Why not?”  A young, Asian man did my eyes and upper lip and I left very happy & slightly smug that the sixty-something man getting a pedicure (yes, you read that right) proclaimed “You didn’t even FLINCH!”  I don’t get many opportunities to feel like a badass, so you know, cherish the moments as they come.

Today, I decided, rather than use my BRAIN and call Danielle, to just run in there and get a “quickie” wax job, so to speak.  At first, I thought things were progressing nicely.  Nice Wax Lady did both eyebrows & started on the lip.  She seemed a little sloppy with the wax but hey, as long as my eyes are shut, no biggie, right?  It did cross my mind that perhaps my upper lip covered more acreage in her opinion than it did in mine but it would be over soon.  At one point a drop landed on my earlobe and another on my neck and she just ripped them off with fabric like it was part of the plan.  Someone was repeatedly sending me texts during all of  this and Nice Wax Lady would say, “You get phone?”  And I would say, “No.” And she would say, “Yes.”  This dialogue was repeated every single time the person who sent me 6 photos in a row, sent a text.  I still have no idea what it meant but finally she just sticks my phone in my face and I say, “No answering phone,” because as we all know, when a foreign person begins talking to you, you have to respond to them as if you too suddenly have no grasp of the English language!  C’mon, just ADMIT that you have answered, “Si, large chis dip!” when ordering at Senor Tequila.  Do not lie to me.  The waiter asks, “Rice & beans with that?” And you say, “Jes.”  ADMIT IT.

After finishing my lip, she bends down & I know the inevitable is coming……….  “Chin too?  Hair on you chin?”  I say, “Yes, I have a couple, you can get them too.”  She says, “LOT of hair on chin!”  I mean, for the love of God, perhaps I should just let them grow & guest star on Duck Dynasty! Damn! But of course I say, “Yes. Hair on chin.”  I swear she took that little wax-covered stick and began slathering on the hot wax like Pollock painting a canvas and every time she would put the fabric on and rip it off she put it right up in my eyes and said, “See?  See all that? LOTS of hair!”  When she finishes the chin, I start to sit up & HOLY HELL, if at that moment she doesn’t stroke both sides of my face and say, “I get all this too or you be all uneven, you know!” She gestured to her own cheeks as though I might have two large tufts of hair protruding that would cause small children to run and hide.  At this point, I honestly thought, “My God, what am I, THUMPER?”  But, of course, I said, “Just take it all. Please. Make even.”  I almost cried because I’m sure that my friend who is completely bald, has more hair on his head than I do at this moment and I’m wondering if Al Gore has to endure this torture when the little Asian people “take care of” him. She starts putting the wax on my face and the best way I can describe what she did next is to liken it to taking a piece of packing tape and jabbing it at a skirt to get the lint off.  Only she’s doing it with wax strips on my face.  OVER & OVER.  You liberals bitched about waterboarding?  Have I got some torture for you?!?!  Once my face is as smooth as a baby’s ass, she reaches for a mirror and I seriously feared I would look into it and know how Quasimodo felt when forced to look at his deformed countenance.  It wasn’t bad.  I am hair-free.  If you see me out, feel free to rub my cheeks.  I think it might bring you some sort of good, Asian luck.   Thank GOD, I crossed my legs, had on jeans and put my purse over my bikini area or I might still be there.

Also, Danielle, have no fear!  Next time, I come see YOU!

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“The End of Normal”

The End of Normal A Wife's Anguish, a Widow's New LifeI don’t normally review books.  I will likely catch some flack for liking this one.  One of my friends likes to jokingly call me “Champion of the Rich” & although I might not go that far, I certainly do not understand the tendency in our society to dislike or even hate someone because they have been successful or born to a life of privilege & have access to more luxuries and resources than we do.  There is no doubt that the infamous Bernie Madoff, former Chairman of NASDAQ, who defrauded many, many people of billions of dollars in his infamous Ponzi scheme, is the epitome of  heartless.  You will likely think that even more after reading this book.  Throughout this book & since I finished it last night in a puddle of tears, I am fascinated by the psychology of such a person.  I cannot reconcile the two personas that the author, Bernie’s former daughter-in-law, Stephanie Madoff Mack reveals:  Bernie, the financier who took people’s money, security, college funds, retirement savings, etc. with seemingly no conscience whatsoever & Bernie, the grandfather who came by in the middle of the workday just so he could feed his newborn granddaughter a bottle.  But this book is not about him.  This book is about his son Mark, who took his own life on the 2nd anniversary of his father’s arrest and the life he shared with his wife, the author, Stephanie Madoff Mack.

I’m not a lover of the media & have long been of the opinion that half of the things that are reported are not only grossly inaccurate but are stories I don’t even need to know.  I will confess that when the Madoff scandal broke in 2008, I made the erroneous assumption that his entire family had to be aware of what was going on.  I had no idea that his sons actually turned him in to the authorities immediately after he confessed to them & that, although it was in the same building where their father’s investment company was based, they worked in another business that they grew to be successful on their own merit, not Bernie Madoff’s.  They were, however, unfortunate enough to have their father’s last name.  And it would haunt Mark for what ended up being his short life.  The relentless pursuit of Madoff’s sons and grandchildren is a disgrace & Stephanie has been brave enough to expose that injustice.  Heartbreaking, really.  The final straw that drove her husband to hang himself from the beam in their NYC loft was that victims, led by a team of lawyers, filed suit against his four year-old daughter.  I cannot begin to imagine the inner emotional turmoil that this man, who immediately severed relations with his father after his father confessed his crime, must have endured every day he lived.

I read some reviews of this book on Goodreads AFTER I had finished  the book & people continue to be impossibly unfeeling and callous — downright cruel.  Stephanie is called whiny, bitchy, “born with a silver spoon”, etc.  The bottom line is, she WAS from a wealthy family and she then married into a wealthier family & the controversial “stolen” wealth of her father-in-law would destroy the marriage and family that she and Mark had worked so hard to build.  Should she be given less sympathy because she has more financial resources at her disposal and multiple residences, purchased with her wealth, not her father-in-law’s?  I think not.  When she wakes up every day, she is still faced with two children whose father took his own life & the loss of the man that she considered her soulmate.  This book was, for me, a fascinating study of relationships and human nature.  It explores the complicated inner workings of families.  It explores the odd reasoning that some victims go through in an effort to seek compensation and damages so that they feel justice has been served.  It disturbs me that in our society, people seem to feel that if they cannot get blood from the turnip that wronged them, they are entitled to the blood of people connected to the turnip, who bear no responsibility for the “wrong” in the first place.  The investors who pursued Mark and Stephanie’s wealth as compensation for what Mark’s dad did are no better than a victim who sues an uninsured, drunk driver to no avail and then decides to go after the family of the drunk.

Several reviewers on Goodreads felt the need to criticize Stephanie’s writing style, her grammar, & her use of the Madoff name.  I don’t think she set out to write a literary classic.  I think it was pretty necessary to include the Madoff name, considering that that is what the book is about.  I read it in less than 2 days and couldn’t put it down.  I think she wrote a beautiful memoir and tribute to her husband.  I think she wanted to vindicate Mark because he had been tried in the court of public opinion and sentenced himself to death.  The book changed my life for the better.  I want to wake up every day and thank God that I have my husband here to father my children.  I want to understand and dear Lord, I want the public to understand that having wealth does not make someone greedy, selfish & unworthy of our love & respect. Are there evil, greedy rich folks?  Yes.  There are evil, greedy middle class folks too.  Is it ok to be privileged & enjoy that blessing?  It certainly is.  Pray for these people if you like but in most cases you have no reason to belittle or persecute them.   I encourage you to read “The End of Normal” without passing judgment on this beautiful, brave woman.  Please read it and take something away from it that makes you a better person.

And if you’d like to follow up on Stephanie Madoff Mack, you can read more here & here.  I think she is a beautiful person, inside & out.  Thank God she is there for her children.HBZ-STEPHANIE-MACK-3-0312-de

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“What Kind Of Camera Should I Buy?” – Part One

As a professional photographer, I am often asked, “What kind of camera do you recommend?”  This is not a simple question to answer, but after months (years?) of promising to address this, I am finally going to try.  After all, I put “click” in the title of my blog because I originally planned to share a bit of photographic knowledge with my readers each week.  Before I begin with specific camera choices, I would like to cover two topics.

#1 — It makes absolutely no difference if you have Nikon or Canon equipment.  I prefer Canon because I had a Canon film camera “back in the day” & that is what I am most comfortable with.  My dad, also a professional photographer, shoots both Canon AND Nikon.  You cannot tell a difference in print quality.  Rather than share more on this opinion since I don’t think it matters, you can go here to read more.  Ken Rockwell is well-respected in our industry & gives an excellent history of both brands. (I realize there are many other brands but those are the two leaders in reputation & quality.)

#2 — A specific camera will not make you a good photographer.  A motivated person with a willingness to learn, study the instruction manual & develop a basic understanding of light, can take award-worthy prints with a point & shoot camera.  Conversely, a fancy digital SLR* with 5 different lenses will not make you a good photographer unless you’re willing to invest the time to master the equipment.

So…..now that we have that out of the way, I would ask, “What do you intend to primarily photograph with your camera?”  If you would like a camera for good vacation photos & snapshots, you don’t want to spend a fortune, yet you would still like to have some creative control, I would recommend a high-end point & shoot camera.  If you intend to photograph sports, sell your prints online or think you will pursue a serious hobby or career in the field of photography, I recommend you purchase a digital SLR with interchangeable lenses.  This is a significant investment & cannot be done cheaply, though there is a trick that can save you some $$$ if you want to go that route.  (I’ll cover that tomorrow.)  Today, let’s cover the point & shoot.

Drum roll…my pick for the best point & shoot camera on the market is the Canon Powershot G15.  Before you freak out over the price, listen to me. I am generally asked what camera I recommend for the best pictures.  I have owned several cheaper cameras & I am convinced that for the many features, quality of prints & ease of use, it is WELL worth the money to spend roughly $500 on this camera.  It should last you for many, many years.  I took mine to Florida in 2012 and barely picked up my Canon 5D SLR.  Not only was it much, much lighter and more convenient to take from place to place, the picture quality was astounding.  It is a 12.1 megapixel camera, which basically means it takes very high quality photos/files and has the added bonus of 1080p full HD video capabilities.  The camera is very easy to learn to use and can be fully automatic or completely manual.  The zoom lens is 28-140mm & is very “fast” in low-light situations.  It has an attached flash but I rarely need to use it since you have full control over the ISO (what we used to call film speed–the camera’s sensitivity to light) in both manual and program modes.  I really can’t say enough good things about this camera.  It is also wonderful for professionals like me, who take a lot of pictures but do not want to risk wear & tear on their SLRs taking lots of personal snapshots & are tired of lugging their big cameras everywhere.  If you search the internet, you will find this camera ranging anywhere from $425-$499.  It is definitely worth it & locally (Little Rock) available at Best Buy.

Canon G15 front

If you would like to save even more and don’t mind buying a lightly used G15 or purchasing on Ebay, you can find some great deals.  You can also look for models from previous years, like the G12 (which I also own) or the G10, which fashion designer Tory Burch claims to carry with her. If Tory likes it, it has to be good, right?  Canon typically adds features each time that the model # changes so those cameras may not have as many megapixels or a lens as fast as the G15, but are still fine cameras if you can’t swing $499.  I can, however, only speak for the Sureshot cameras that have a “G” model number.  I have not used the other Sureshot cameras.  If you’re looking for a great source for used camera equipment, I buy almost everything from www.keh.com.  If you don’t find what you are looking for on their website, call them because they often have equipment that is just not yet listed.  They are a reputable company that refurbishes what they sell so stick to EX or LN (excellent and like new, + or – after the rating is also ok) and you’ll be fine!

I don’t like to recommend cameras without showing examples, so here are a few examples of photos that I have taken with my G12 & G15.  The Colorado photos were all taken with the G15.  Almost all of these picture were taken on the program or full auto settings for convenience since I was on vacation.

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It takes great portraits!

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The G-series Sureshot cameras capture action well!

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This was converted to black & white in Photoshop.

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Excellent sunset photos – handheld!

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Great color saturation!

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It takes excellent photos in that tiny window between dusk & dark.


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It captures goofy kids well!

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Intense color saturation, even at night.

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And finally, it allows you to override auto settings by shooting in manual mode (& in this case, manual focus) for creative control.

I hope this has been helpful in your search for a camera.  You really do get what you pay for & I hope if you are in the market you will consider going the extra mile and purchasing Canon’s G-series point and shoot cameras.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

* SLR stands for single-lens reflex & these cameras are the ones with interchangeable lenses like the pros use.

Thank God I Had My Pants On…

photoSo…….I love social media.  And now I’m pretty impressed with Hugh McDonald.  I’ll admit I had read a little about him & he didn’t strike me as a guy who wouldn’t care about his customers.  I had a feeling social media was our only hope, because as I have learned from my dad, there is a wall of sorts in most corporations that is comprised of people who are there to insulate the upper management from crazy people like myself.  So I hatched a plan about 2 a.m. this morning & it worked.  HOWEVER, I expected a phone call from Mr. McDonald or more likely, someone who works for him during the upcoming work week.  I can’t really say I expected a personal visit, on the weekend, during an NFL play-off game.   Wow….I am truly impressed.

We had settled in to watch the Patriots play.  Chuck was waiting on me hand and foot & he had just commented that it was because he really needed to up his game the next few hours since he was competing with Tom Brady. (I mean I’m wearing “I love the Patriots” underwear, not “I love Chuck”.)   Apollo started freaking out & Wyatt said, “There’s a strange guy walking up to our house in leather!”  My first thought was “Holy cow, Ryder has finally fulfilled her dream of snagging a country star!”  But, no.  Chuck went to the door & honestly neither of us can remember exactly what happened except that a really tall guy in jeans and a leather jacket & Ray-Bans was standing there & he wasn’t selling the Democrat-Gazette.  He said something like, “Is this the Buttry’s?  I’m Hugh McDonald.  Did you guys write the letter?”  Chuck, jaw still on floor, said something like, “Uh, letter.  SHE  (pointing, of course) wrote the letter.  I, uh, thought it might find it’s way to you…..but not so soon.”  So he came inside, shook our hands and was very good-natured & grinning at me with a sideways glance.  In that moment, I knew he was just fine with a fart joke or two.  That was a big WHEW.  Everyone was afraid he’d be angry but what man doesn’t enjoy some fart humor, really? I wasn’t too concerned.  I mean I was very understanding in my letter and didn’t go off on him but I knew a normal letter just wouldn’t get the job done.  (Plus, I’ve never written a normal letter.) I also confessed to Mr. McDonald  that Chuck only found out about the letter a few hours prior & approved it, with a grin,  but was going to claim he did not know me.

Back to Hugh, ….er Mr. McDonald.  He had actually taken my advice and printed out all of our outages from the past few years and said, “You are right.  This is unacceptable.”  He was genuinely concerned.  My feeling all along has been that the right people just did not know that the good folks of Waverly were suffering so.  I mean with a different crew dispatched each time, some from other states, I felt like we were just lost in the shuffle.  To get something done, you need to go higher than the bottom.  We talked. He asked about my leg.  He asked where we went skiing & I couldn’t remember.  Seriously drew a blank for a few seconds.  He asked if the Patriots were winning. He said had done a quick survey of the area, saw some issues and I’m convinced he’s going to look into our problems. Some have asked if I grilled him. Uh, NO, I did not.  The man went above and beyond and he deserves a chance to make a change.  Besides, I also learned from my dad that you catch more flies with sugar. And humor. I have his card.  I can follow up.  By the way,  I gave him permission to bulldoze every tree within 50 feet of a power line.  I hope my neighbors are ok with that because Hugh….er Mr. McDonald & I are a team now.  Like Starsky & Hutch, Hart to Hart, Cagney & Lacey – WE GOT THIS ;-)  I’ll profess my love for him on here, but I’ll try to keep it off my underwear.

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An Open Letter to Hugh McDonald, CEO of Entergy Arkansas….or, to quote Al Pacino “I’m In The Daaahk Here!”

This is happening WAY too often.

This is happening WAY too often.

UPDATE:  At about 3:30 this afternoon, Hugh McDonald, President and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, knocked on our door.  He was extremely nice, extremely impressive & I am writing an additional blog entry detailing our experience.  My plan went pretty much exactly as I hoped.

Dear Mr. McDonald,

We’ve never met, but I’m willing to bet that we have a lot in common, the least of which is probably that we love for a lightbulb to come on when we get up in the morning and flip the switch.  You like this because it pays your salary & I like it because I don’t like to wipe my ass in the dark.  (You probably do too.)  I, like most empathetic human beings, realize that this world we live in is not perfect.  I realize that occasionally things are going to happen that inconvenience me and I try my best to think of people in worse circumstances.  People whose children don’t have enough food, people who live where there is raw sewage in the street & anyone who is currently involved with one of the Kardashians.  I GET that there are people suffering.  HOWEVER, each month when we pay our electric bill, I expect to have electricity in my home.  I have compassion for those in less fortunate circumstances but since I do pay for this service monthly & on time, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to be able to make toast on a whim if I want to.  Or watch tv.  Or make snide comments on the internet:)  Or see my hand in front of my face when I walk into my closet to suit up for a belly-dancing gig.

I’m writing this because all but four houses on the north side of Waverly Dr. were without power AGAIN today, January 12, 2013 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:13 p.m.  It was not because an ice storm came though, not because a tornado struck, & not because an idiot drunk driver took out one of your poles.  We were without power because leaning poles that were damaged in the ice storm were never fixed, fell completely over and started a fire.  And quite honestly, they could have caused much more damage than they did.  We, as a community of neighbors, are really at the end of our rope.  We, as a street, feel like the forgotten stepchild of Entergy Arkansas. We are, Mr. McDonald, ready for someone to listen to us and hear our concerns as to why we are ALWAYS last on the list.  We are equally ready to march downtown and knock that little red & white ball off your office roof to get SOMEONE’S attention.  Never underestimate a group of pissed-off mothers.  If it’s within the capabilities of your database at Entergy, I’d love for you to look up our street and see just how many times we’ve been without power in the last oh, ten years.  And of those times, I would like you to see how many times we had our power restored DEAD LAST.  If the resulting answer is NOT  “Uh, oh.  A hell of a lot! You DO have a point!” then I suggest you hire a new IT staff because your data is waaaay off.

We survived the ice storm of 2000.  That was a rough one on Entergy & us both.  I’ll give you that.  It was hell.  We ended up in a hotel with a norovirus outbreak and if, perhaps for writing a letter like this, I DO end up in hell, I guarantee you it will not be worse than that week of my life. (Picture Steve McQueen at the end of  “The Great Escape”, should you need a visual.)  We had intermittent outages before and after that.  We were without power nearly a week when the tornado hit Cammack Village & we were without 6 days just this Christmas season and lived in a hotel.  If a thunderstorm blows through we are almost always without power for at LEAST a few hours.  I live in fear that one of my kids will simply fart & “POOF!” we’ll be at the Motel 6 before nightfall.  I’ve gone to work with wet hair.  I’ve thrown away, if you count all the outages, probably close to $1000 in food and meat, if not more.  I have cleaned up the re-solidified drippings of Klondike bars and popsicles until last time I just gave the kids $5.00 to come lick up the mess, with bonus incentives if they finished before their tongues stuck to the freezer.  I have had to leave my daughter’s birthday cake in a powerless oven and run out to buy one for her party.  I then had to move that party to the park because we could not see each other in our home.   Our power has gone off in the middle of the day, the middle of the night, upon waking, upon retiring and once at noon, as I was leaving for a lunch date.  I really CANNOT COUNT the number of outages we have had but I know I have a street of neighbors willing to back me up on my claims.

The point of my letter is this:  There has GOT to be a reason that we, on Waverly Dr.,  deal with so many outages.  Something with the “Waverly power grid” (I made that up, I’ll admit) is grossly deficient and inefficient.  Perhaps some trees need cut.  Maybe we need to put some sort of access from the adjacent school property that makes getting to our lines easier.  Maybe the linemen look at our property when they arrive and say, “We’re saving that mess for last. It’s Waverly again.”  At any rate, NOTHING pro-active is being done to make these outages fewer & easier to deal with.  Maybe, just maybe, for the length of our little street, the lines need buried.  (And before you cite cost as a reason to avoid that remedy, you have to be paying out-of-state workers and weekend workers a fortune to constantly get us up and running again.)  I will admit we used to have a few tree-huggers on our street that refused to allow trees to be trimmed and removed by the utility company.  I am happy to report that they have moved and not only will we now allow that, we will fire up our Stihl’s &  grab our machetes and pitch in to help make your access easier.  Actually, if it helps my case, I’ll stay away from the chainsaws.

We are done. We are tired. In the summer, we are hot.  In the winter, we are cold.  We like to see things during our waking hours.  I have a torn ligament in my leg & my husband will tell you that I’m just a bit testy when my electric blanket is no longer “electric” & I drop my bottle of hydrocodone in the dark.  It’s not pretty.  I am tired of people telling me I need a generator when I pay for electricity & I expect that it be there when I need to roast a turkey, fire up a hot dog in the microwave or charge my freaking phone.  I run a photography business out of my home and my clients have a reasonable expectation of when their prints will be edited and delivered.  Mr. McDonald, I do not know your family situation, but I can tell you that hell hath no fury like a teenage daughter that cannot dry her hair to go out on a Saturday night or a husband who cannot plug in his nose-hair trimmer.  All of the aforementioned requires power & this is getting to be a real pain.  Over & over.

Your linemen have been great and worked hard.  I’m not complaining about them or the wonderful workers who come in from surrounding states to assist them.  All we are asking is that someone with some power and influence in the vast entity that is Entergy agree to hear our concerns.  We will come to you or you can come to us.  We are a nice group of people but we have had enough.  Won’t you please help us?  Or ask someone to at least try?

Sincerely,

Noelle Buttry

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Cain & Abel – The Sequel

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Is that not the SWEETEST photo ever?  I thought so at the time.  Protective older brother embracing his little brother.  Perhaps a hint of pride in the eldest’s eye.  Utterly unconditional love emanating from the youngest.

HAHAHAHAHAHA………….I’m glad I have this moment in time captured because it isn’t happening now.

Before I begin this entry, I should probably warn you that I write to get things off my chest.  I write for a release – cheap therapy, or at least cheaper than the therapy I pay for on a regular basis.  I don’t write for solutions and I don’t write to hear wonderful, drippingly sweet stories of how your kids are your best friends & the other day while one of them was kissing you goodbye, a butterfly lit on your shoulder making the moment so perfect you had to go inside and light a woodsy-scented candle to complete the scene.  I don’t want to hear that.  You should also probably know that I carve out and eat the entrails of people who have ONE child & give me unsolicited child-rearing advice.  Take on THREE motherfucker & then go all “Dr. Phil” on me.  That’s why there is one of those tiny, little salt shakers in my handbag.  Entrail seasoning.  Just a fair warning….

My boys now literally FIGHT ALL OF THE TIME.  I fully intended to be one of those nauseating parents who was not going to have kids who played video games.  They were going to build with blocks and Lincoln Logs and swing happily on their tubular, metal swingsets, for Christ’s sake.  Build forts in the woods!  Do puzzles! Draw! READ!  (They do read – I’m not a complete failure.)  However, in this day and age, the problem with that line of thinking is that sadly, those children become the misfits who have no friends.  We eventually joined the masses and let them get a game system.  It hasn’t been too bad.  And we have rules.  One of my biggest is no hand-held games when we’re at dinner.  You must sit & be part of the family.  In all honesty, I struggle with that one myself sometimes.  But a few months ago they found this seemingly innocuous game on the computer called Minecraft.  It seemed cool at first.  It’s almost Lego-like in that you build things – buildings, cities, rooms, etc.  You can talk to other kids who are building stuff too.  And there-in lie the issues…… It fosters meanness.  Knocking down each other’s stuff, destroying each other’s buildings, and the language!  Oh, my, the language!  I’ll be the first to admit that my kids hear bad language from me.  I say shit, damn and hell on a regular basis.  They’ve heard me drop the F-bomb, though I’m really trying on that one, God, really.*  But really children.  Pre-teen unsupervised children.  Cunt???  Pussy???  Whaaaat?  Coming from the mouths of 10 year-olds!?!?  My boys pointed out that THEY weren’t using the language, & that the other kids were just typing it in and it appeared on the screen.  Yeah, also, officer, I wasn’t drinking that liquor, I was just holding it for my friend & it spilled on my shoe.  I’ve watched enough crime tv to know that my boys have big potential as defense attorneys but that crude language was the last straw for me.  Minecraft is gone.  For good.  Not just because of the language but the fact that something about this game got a strong hold on their impressionable little minds and turned them into violent little asshats.  Punching, knocking chairs into tables, name-calling (though not “cunt” or “pussy” that I know of, YET) & wrestling each other over SHIT THAT DOES NOT ACTUALLY EXIST?!?!  I think not.  Things were very improved for a while after we deleted it.  They read soooo much more.  Wyatt watched the History Channel or documentaries for hours on end. They fought much, much less.  I was rather pleased with myself.  But it’s starting again.  And sometimes it is not even provoked by video games.  Just meanness.

Our youngest cannot seem to understand that we do not allow name-calling.  Our oldest two cannot seem to understand that we do not want or need their advice when dealing with them and that we will be happy to sit back and watch them try out their parenting skills in due time.  I intend to have my hand buried in a bowl of buttered popcorn, watching Roseanne re-runs in a muu muu while this is going on, by the way.  Chuck and I may briefly argue some (generally over where we are going to eat or what movie to see or how the dishwasher is supposed to be loaded – nothing serious) but we are not a violent couple.  I yell, oh, yes, I yell.  I’m working on that but damn, it’s HARD.  We will continue to take things away until they get the idea that we mean business.  I have said things to them recently that I am not proud of.  I really would not take them downtown and start the adoption process.  I really would not put them on a plane to Russia to live in an orphanage.  I probably would not send them to Colombia to harvest coffee beans in stifling heat and humidity.  But I will continue to enforce the rules in our house until they decide it will be easier to comply & be fed & live peacefully.  Or until they move out.  Hopefully they will come to their senses sooner rather than later.

* (As for my ‘trying’, please feel free to ask for prayer for me in front of your church congregations. Most parishioners will remember me as the one who lived in sin before marriage. “Oh, HER?  That was ’92 & she’s STILL sinnin’ ?”)

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“We’re goin’ to Jackson…..ain’t never comin’ back…”

Ok, we came back.  But who can resist a good June and Johnny reference when talking about Jackson, MS?  Before I tell you this story & before you ask, “Why Jackson?”, I should probably tell you something about myself.  I believe there are few, if any, cities, that don’t have something of interest to offer the traveler who passes through.  Some treasure to find.  History to seek.  Art & architecture.  People & food.  And often, yes, shopping.  We travel through Jackson every year on our way to the gulf coast of Florida.  We have eaten at Cracker Barrel, O’Charley’s, and Ruby Tuesday.  We have crashed at a Hampton Inn.  We have never taken the time to explore this southern city, the capital city of Mississippi.  And I knew in my heart there had to be more.

Soooo…..earlier this fall, I decided that a mother/daughter weekend was in order & my mom and I set out early one Saturday morning for Jackson.  Our first stop (after the donut shop) was Lake Village, AR.  I had never been to Paul Michael Co., a giant warehouse of decor and furniture that is based there,  so I wanted to stop there on the way.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you I was underwhelmed.  Maybe the stuff just isn’t my style & it was somewhat picked over since it was near Christmas, but I think I escaped with a total expense of around $25.00, unheard of in these parts.  Another motive for choosing Jackson was knowing that the catalog At West End (AWE) is based there.  I wanted so much from their catalog this fall and I assumed they had a storefront too.  I was slightly wrong.  They have an outlet, very similar to Paul Michael, but with cooler, more “quirky” stuff.  I got out of there for less than $20.00 though!  Unfortunately for Chuck, I found many more places to swipe my debit card so he didn’t get off for less than $100.  But the important part is we had a GREAT time.  Let me take you on a little photo tour of our journey….

We started our day in Fondren, a historic neighborhood in Jackson with cute galleries, independent restaurants, antique & thrift shops & many cool, vintage signs…..We tried to eat at Walker’s but they were only open for dinner :-(

IMG_9845IMG_9849Is this storefront graphic not the cutest?
IMG_9862Along with some vintage Christmas ornaments, I snagged this vintage crewel embroidery piece in a thrift shop….

IMG_9897We stayed at the historic King Edward Hotel, downtown.  It is now a Hilton Garden Inn but they have done an excellent job of restoring it to it’s former glory, even going to the extent of keeping the King Edward rooftop sign.
IMG_9902
The lobby was stunning….IMG_9901Me with my mom.  Thanks to the teenager in the lobby for snapping this…
IMG_9998We wanted to eat at the Mayflower Cafe, but the wait was too long.

IMG_9903So we ate here instead.  It was like stepping back in time.  A good meal.
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When we got back to our room after dinner….I had a craft for us to do.  I know, right?  They turned out so cute.  I wish my picture was better.IMG_9917 The next morning, at our hotel, we ate these.

IMG_9926And this too. I’m telling you this breakfast was GOOD.  And there was so much more available than this.  I love the hotel life!IMG_9925The next day we drove around waiting for stuff to open.  I found a cathedral, because I most always find a cathedral.
IMG_9996We found more cool signs.  I’m not sure what part of Jackson has EVER had sand, but at one time this hotel was ultra-cool.  I’d love to have the money to restore it to “ultra-cool” again.
IMG_9938We saw the Governor’s Mansion.  Southern elegance at it’s finest.
IMG_9997 We shopped.  We found more cute boutiques.  We LOVED  Turkoyz in Highland Village.IMG_9974 IMG_9977After an Italian lunch in Ridgeland, MS, we headed for Oxford.  The town was shut down since school was out for break.  However, Square Books was open and I happened upon an autographed copy of Tony LaRussa’s book for Chuck’s Christmas present.  And my favorite restaurant in Oxford, Old Venice Pizza Co.  just happened to be open for dinner.  Who says you can’t have Italian twice in one day?  The square was lit beautifully.  It was worth the detour.
IMG_0011We did other stuff too.  We got lost looking for a flea market and ended up in the worst part of town. But hey, there were MORE cool, vintage signs to photograph!  We killed time in a Books-A-Million, we fed a homeless man our fruit, we drove around the Capitol building, we laughed, we got lost again in Oxford.  We had fun.  And we can’t wait to do it again.

Merry “Noelle”!

Vintage Love!

Vintage Love!

I grew up in a family that loved the holidays, none moreso than Christmas.  Even my dad loved to shop.  We would always hop in Dad’s super-sized 70′s Lincoln Town Car & head for St. Louis or Memphis to squeeze in one last shopping excursion before we opened presents.  I got the entire backseat to myself and we usually spent lots of time looking at lights & decorations.  I still love to see towns that go all out on their holiday decor.  Drape a banner between light poles at your town’s entrance & you have me for life.  Cute decorations on your telephone poles as I drive through your town??  Be still my heart!  Unfortunately, my children don’t seem to get the same awe-inspiring feeling when we drive them around to see lights.

Growing up with the name “Noelle”, I experienced soooo much frustration at never being able to find anything personalized.  Those kids that had pencils with their names on them? Not me.  Stickers that said, “Property of Noelle”?  You have to be kidding.  Those were reserved for the Tracys, Stacys and Maries of the world.  Even if you saw my name on Christmas decor, it was always “Noel”.

My grandma, Dorothy & I spent most every Saturday in Poplar Buff, MO shopping, taking baton lessons (yes, me) & visiting her sister, Phyllis & her crew.   My favorite destination was Newberry’s Department Store.  Not only did they have toys, but a REAL, honest-to-goodness lunch counter where you could take a break, hop up on a stool and enjoy a hot grilled cheese and cold, thick milkshake.  It was a small slice of heaven to me.  In fact, if I make it to heaven and it’s a Newberry’s store, I will be ecstatic.  One of my favorite things to buy was Christmas decorations.  Lights, ornaments, you name it.  Christmas was a big deal in our house.  So imagine my surprise when I stumbled up on a display of ornaments that were made by a company called NOELLE.  Not Noel.  NOELLE!!!  I was even more surprised to learn that they were manufactured at a facility in Poplar Bluff, MO, the very soil on which I stood.  I remember being so excited about this discovery that one time my dad drove me out to the plant just to show me that it did indeed exist.  The ornaments were not fancy.  They were pretty much just glass balls in various colors, but to me they were nothing short of gorgeous.  I have no clue the total number of boxes of these ornaments we must have purchased when I was small.  I wish I could say that I have a huge collection of them; that my grandma passed them all to me when she died.  The truth is they were lost.  My grandma swears our decorations were stolen from the outside storage shed she kept them in.  Possibly true.  But my grandma had so many unconfirmed crime stories that happened on our property, she should have been a novelist.  I don’t know where those ornaments are but I hope they’re enjoying a good home.

Well, imagine my surprise AGAIN, a few weeks ago, while enjoying a spur-of-the-moment trek through the Midtowne Antique Mall.  The box of NOELLE ornaments you see above?  $2.25!  Two dollars and twenty-five cents for a slice of my childhood that I never expected to encounter again.  I love them!  I will save that box forever.  The company went out of business after not too many years, if I remember correctly.  It’s a shame because when I walk through the stores today and see plastic ornaments and LED lights, I remember what it was like to have Christmas back when things were “real”.  And then my kids call me old for reminiscing, roll their eyes at me, and we move on.

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