Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to Seduce a Housewife

You know you want it. She knows you want it. You have no idea how to get it, until now. Listen closely boys, Mama is speaking now.

As you slowly make your way into the kitchen, gingerly give her a side glance with your sexiest smile. Then stroll over to the dishwasher, and gently caress it. Feel the smooth stainless steel with nimble fingertips and reach for the handle underneath. Now ease the door down and bend over to pick up a dish, let her eyes linger on you for a minute as she recovers from the initial shock of your picking up the dishes and putting them into the cabinet. After you have exhibited your manliness from lifting all of those dishes, saunter over to the pantry and gather the broom and dustpan. Her breath catches and her heart starts beating faster as you run your strong hands down the shaft of the broom, but do not acknowledge her reaction. Continue to sweep the entire kitchen floor, swaying the broom back and forth, back and forth and don't be afraid to put your hips into it. When she breaks out of her trance and attempts to grab the dustpan, gently stop her and say "No, I insist." Her knees will start to tremble as she touches the side of your face to see if you are running a high temperature. Then softly whisper into her ear, "Go rest, your favorite show is coming on now." She will softly gaze into your eyes- looking for any sign of her husband- only to give up and walk dizzily into the bedroom. Do not follow her. Continue on your Journey of Seduction by wiping down the counters and giving the kids a bath. After you have read the bedtime stories and tucked in the kids, congratulations, it's Business Time. As you wearily climb onto the bed, she presses her foot against your foot- a.k.a. the "greenlight"- and it's officially time for Business.
Well done, my friend, you have just seduced your Housewife. Only now, you are too exhausted to do anything but lay your head face down in the mattress from doing all the chores she does everynight before bed. And suddenly it dawns on you why she gives you "the finger" on any given night when you look up from your Fantasy Football scores and grunt at her as she walks by with no bra on and call it foreplay.

Consider yourself evolved.

You're welcome.

The Great Resolution Revolution- At Home TN December Article

The Great Resolution Revolution
Our At Home Tennessee columnist and fierce rebel, Mandi Gaskin, is taking no prisoners as she tells the New Year tradition who’s the boss.

It happens every year about this time. After all the presents have been opened and I am slowly coming down from the sugar high that I have been on for the last month, the dim reality of the New Year sets in. And the resolutions that I made from the previous year begin to mock me like a fat kid playing dodge ball as I come face to face with the broken promises of yesteryears. Last year I made a resolution not to worry so much, only to have to an anxiety attack two months later as a result of my cable going out and almost missed the Housewives Reunion. And then after making the I’m-going-to-work-out-more-to-become-the-next-Miss-Fitness-USA resolution for 10 straight years in a row, I am still sitting on 15 extra pounds and bribing myself with Snickers bars to take a walk around the block. But this year I am wising up and going rogue on the New Year’s traditions. Instead of making promises that will most likely last until St. Patrick’s Day, I am going to sit this year out- making no promises and setting myself free of grand expectations.
However, when talking to my best friend about this new state of mind she gave me a suggestion of a new spin on the tradition that she started two years ago. Instead of making specific negative goals for herself in the temporary (i.e. - no more cupcakes, Fatty!), she began creating positive themes for the coming year that she could stand behind the whole year through. In 2008, after being fed up with going along with whatever people suggested despite how she felt, she created the “Year of Truth” for herself. Throughout the year when someone would ask her to accompany them to an event she had no interest in or go to an obligatory dinner that she despised, she would remind herself of the “Year of Truth” and confidently tell them “no, thank you.” Coincidentally, that was also the year that I learned she hated my favorite boots as well as the casserole that I always prepared for her when she came to visit. “It’s about giving yourself back the power and the opportunity that enables you to differentiate the things you do for yourself and the things that you do for others. And it’s astounding how quickly that simple theme becomes a law in your life that allows you to prioritize yourself and what is important to you,” she says.
Intrigued by this notion, I began to inquire as to what my theme would be should I choose one. My first consideration was the “Year of Ambivalence”, prodded by my lack of motivation or general laziness to make any sort of change. But then I figured it should probably be something a little more positive so that I don’t spiral into an existence of all-around slacker with the excuse of my self-proclaimed theme. And so, dear readers, after careful deliberation I am declaring this next year to be the “Year of Acceptance;” for the acceptance of things that I cannot control, for flaws that I cannot correct, as a way of letting go to allow myself the freedom to breathe and grow without constantly fighting the reality of what is going on before me. Or in the words of Steve Winwood, I am going to “just roll with it baby.”
And so on this New Year’s Eve, as I am counting down one more year that has passed me by without meeting the ridiculous expectations that I set for myself; I know that I will be facing the year ahead with a willingness to just be me, and that is perfectly acceptable.

Mandi is a writer, a wife, and a mother; who keeps telling herself that she has it all figured out, but who is she kidding? You can follow her hilarious life lessons on or right here at At Home Tennessee.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Put a Little Love in your Heart

To know me is to love me. I am a selfless giver, a person of sacrifice- a sort of Mother Teresa-type if you will. And if you believe this, then I also have an African elephant for sale in my back yard for the discounted price of thirty thousand dollars (cash only please).

I tease.

In reality I am more likened to Veronica Salt in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” where you can hear me singing ‘I want it now!’ most days of the year and Christmas usually gives me just the platform I need to justify this behavior. But this year is different. Blame my maturity, or blame ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition; but I feel like giving back this year and giving others a chance at a Christmas of their dreams. And so this year, in lieu of gift giving to each other, my family and I will be combining our normal Christmas funds to sponsor several underprivileged families and elderly in nursing homes that do not have family. Sure, I am giving up my chance at an IPad, or those ankle boots that I have been eyeing since September; but those things flew out of my mind once I hit the store in search of the perfect gift for the nine year old girl who simply asked for Jolly Ranchers and Fruit Snacks “because she didn’t want to make a list that would cost too much money and make her mom feel bad.”
And so, come this Christmas, when we go to deliver the gifts to the elderly as a family, or see the look on the kids’ faces as they believe that Santa really was listening; I have a feeling that they won’t be the only ones there who are having the Christmas they will never forget. I have discovered that there is no greater gift than giving of yourself to see the joy in others. And that my friends, is a Christmas miracle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Queen has arrived...

We have all heard the stories. The tragic cases of kids being bullied, many of them taking their lives from being tormented by their peers for being viewed as different. I find it heartbreaking and distressing that these bullies- these kids- have lost the ability to feel compassion and the awareness that their words have consequences.

But that is not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about a special girl and a special high school in Tupelo, MS that is dispelling all the stories in the media today. Amanda Aldridge is a beautiful seventeen year old girl who happens to have Downs Syndrome. She attends Tupelo High School where she is the manager of the girls basketball team (to whom she is frequently referred to as "Coach Aldridge" and gives the pep talks before the game), a member of the thesbian theater group and the fellowship of Christian Athletes. She has loads of friends, not because they are patronizing, but because they see her as one of their peers- and they cannot deny her sweet spirit that is contagious to all who come in contact with her.
Tupelo High School has a student body of over 2000 students who are responsible for voting for the Homecoming Court maids. Once Amanda was nominated, the students started campaigning for her, many of those being the girls who were willing to give up their own seat so she could be the Homecoming Queen. When the day finally arrived, Amanda was voted by the students of Tupelo High School to be the 2010 Homecoming Queen. When she found out, her mother told me she looked at her and said, "See mom, I told you I was going to win!" The support didn't end there. That morning, Amanda received a bouquet of flowers from two other senior maids who were nominated and when she arrived at school, the basketball team threw her a surprise party that said, "Amanda is our Queen." And as for Amanda, she hasn't stopped smiling since.

And so when all of the news stories talk about the doom and gloom of the world, with all the negativity that makes headlines day in and day out, I wanted to shine a light on something that was worth being told- that in it's truest form, the human spirit is a wonderous beauty and has the capacity to love regardless of any differences we may have. And just like Amanda, that is something that deserves honor.

The Queen herself, looking beautiful as ever.

Monday, November 8, 2010

At Home TN Article- November

Home for the Holidaze
At Home Tennessee columnist Mandi Gaskin braves the battlefield where many visit but few survive: A Family Thanksgiving.

I love this time of year. A chill takes hold of the air, pumpkins are being carved and turkeys are running for their lives. It’s a time of peace and thankfulness; that is until you arrive at your family Thanksgiving. And if your family is anything like mine, you need a stiff drink and a visit to your therapist to refill your meds by the time dessert is served. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family in small doses, but when all 57 of them come together it’s like a full moon on Friday the 13th that causes all of them to get crazy-eyed and act out in a way that is neither normal nor appropriate. You see, I come from a musical family. And by that I mean every single person in my family thinks they can sing better than the person beside them. And therefore every holiday get together turns into an American Idol audition, except with middle aged participants belting out gospel hymns or Broadway tunes. It always starts out innocently enough. When my aunt invariably hops on the piano for a family friendly sing-a-long and starts singing “When the Roll is called up Yonder.” But by the second verse you can’t hear yourself think over the competing roars of vibrato. I remember one Thanksgiving when I was 10 years old I decided to join in on the chorus and started singing harmony with the others, and suddenly my mother looks at me and says, “Get off my part.” It is every man for himself amongst such fierce competition. The first time I brought my husband home for the holidays I watched as my aunt sauntered over to the piano and I broke out into a sweat, knowing exactly what was about to happen. When the voices reached into octaves that only dogs can hear I saw my husband sitting there with his mouth hanging open, staring in disbelief. I just mouthed, “I’m sorry. Don’t leave me.” He hasn’t. Yet.
I know that I am not the only one that feels this way about their family. A friend of mine once told me that he doesn’t even consider it Thanksgiving until at least two rolls have been thrown across the dinner table and someone is crying in the bathroom. “I wouldn’t change it for anything though,” he mused, “it’s free entertainment. Sort of like dinner and a movie, and every year I like to try to guess the ending.” I know exactly what he means, my holiday doesn’t officially kick off until I have been insulted by both my mother (“Did you mean to wear your hair like that?”) and my grandmother (“That baby weight is not going to lose itself you know.”).
My sister doesn’t fair much better at these functions. She is single and in her 30’s which my family translates as desperately alone and needy. And to resolve this they bring pictures of a “nice boy from church with an unfortunate case of acne” as potential suitors to fulfill her void. She keeps a bottle of wine in her car for such emergencies. But this year will be different for her as she has met “the one” and will be bringing him home for the first time to be sacrificed at our family Thanksgiving. I don’t know what I am looking forward to more, my uncle asking him how much money he makes or my mother asking him if he and my sister have consummated their relationship.
But the truth is, no matter how much I complain or get embarrassed by this group of lunatics that are my family, looking back over the decades that we have spent together, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change anything about them. Yes they are loud and wildly inappropriate, but they love each other fiercely and are passionate about a bond that makes a family. And much to my chagrin, they are responsible for the person that I am today and for that I will always have the utmost love and respect for them. And speaking of respect, that reminds me, I need to start practicing my Aretha Franklin solo for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Mandi Gaskin is a mother, wife, and writer. She would like to formally apologize to her family, who has blacklisted her from Thanksgiving this year for making fun of them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ho's in the front, Bro's in the back

Last weekend we were invited to go to a dinner event in Kentucky with friends. And since we have fancy friends, there was a limo rented to take us to the event and back. As soon as the limo arrived, the couples climbed in and immediately segregated like it was 1952 in Mississippi, with girls in the front and boys in the back. This wasn't anything unusual as it happens most of the time when we go out with other married couples but I never paid much attention to it until then. And so I got curious and started observing the two groups- and soon discovered the answer to this social phenomenon.
The girls were sitting in front with their wine in stemware while exchanging feelings on aging and the general consensus of public school and where it is going in the future. There was talk about the newest diets we've tried, the stress of balancing work and home, and even shed a few tears when the conversation turned to the tender moments of motherhood and the hardships of keeping the romance alive after years of marriage.

And then I turned around to look at the guys- who were blaring the Marshall Tucker Band, drinking god knows what from flower pots they found while looking up dirty words on the and giggling like 10 year old school girls when one of them screamed out the definition for "Douche Rocket."

The girls just looked back with a quiet resignation and understanding that boys will always be stuck in the 5th grade, and we will just have to drink more.

Point: Made.
Case: Closed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Story Time

Ashley and I have been married for 8 years. And during that 8 years we have perfected our battle skills to that of the Gladiators. Passive Aggressiveness is our battle sport of choice and we have been known to go days dancing around an issue like contestants on Dancing with the Stars.

I tell you that to tell you this.

One of our favorite past times these days is to read stories to Rinks. He is naturally brilliant (and I say that with no bias whatsoever) and he enjoys it as much as we do. His new favorite books are those of the parent specific kind called "Mommies are for Counting Stars" and "Daddies are for Catching Fireflies". Each of these books tells of things that Mommy does (Mommy tucks you in at night) or what Daddy does (Daddy helps you fly a kite). However, this week as Ashley and I were having a mild disagreement over who was supposed to clean the bathrooms (clearly it was him), these books took on a whole new theme as we got creative with our passive aggressiveness. I walked in on story time as Ashley is gently reading the Mommy book to Rinks. I listen at the door in tender admiration, until I hear Ashley say "Mommy is for bossing Daddy around like he is 12 and doesn't know what he is doing" and "Mommy is for nagging Daddy about cleaning the toilet when he told her 3 times that he would do it on Sunday."
I got to give it to him, he is a clever bastard, that is why I love him. But two can play this game. So the next night during Story Time I gently reach for the "Daddy" book as Rinks coos in excitment. Ashley eyes me suspiciously. I begin, "Daddies are for Catching Fireflies. Daddies are for helping build forts on summer nights. And Daddies are for being sore losers when he can't admit to Mommy that he was wrong in the first place. The End." Ashley just smiles and shakes his head.

Rinks eyes us apprehensively as if to say, "Somebody needs to tell me who is going to pay for my therapist bill. Geez."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"The F Word"- My October Column for At Home Tennessee

The F Word
At Home Tennessee columnist, Mandi Gaskin, discovers that the key to unlock the door to permanent weight loss is through facing her biggest nemesis: Fear.

I have never been a skinny girl. As my grandmother often put it, “You are built strong” which always brought to mind disturbing images of an Ox. But I never thought about my weight until I went to the doctor for a checkup when I was 12 years old. The doctor looked down at me as he tapped the chart in his hand and proclaimed, “Your weight is off the charts.” I could still taste the remnants of the Snickers bar that I had eaten only an hour before while I stared at him in horror. Up until that point I had been enjoying a heavenly diet of sausage biscuits, French fries, and candy bars. My friends would come to my house and raid our cabinets like it was the 7-11 because my mother believed that Little Debbie was part of the food pyramid. But from that day at the doctor, one message registered with me for the next 15 years- Fat=Failure, Thin=success. And from that moment on food and I became Frenemies. We would go weeks loving each other in a blissful relationship of pasta and fried chicken to breaking up for days while I shamed myself into eating carrot sticks for a “cleanse.” By the time I reached my twenties I took on this obsessive behavior like it was a full time job. If there was a bandwagon, I was normally driving it and yelling from a bullhorn for people to hop on. Nothing excited me and tortured me more than a diet. I would plan for it like I was training for the Olympics, buying grapefruit juice by the case in order to gear up for my Grapefruit juice and soup diet. By the seventh day I was 5 pounds lighter and so irritable that I almost picked a fight with the sweet Wal-Mart greeter who didn’t hand me my shopping cart fast enough. And then I tried jumping rope- like, for hours- because I once heard Naomi Campbell say that it helped your cheeks have that “sunken in” look, or maybe it was from her steady diet of cocaine and cigarettes. But even when the numbers on the scale descended down thirty pounds, the fear and self pressure to maintain my new weight would feel like climbing Mt. Everest and cause me to dive into a cheesecake and avoid the gym like I was Howie Mendel at a Handshaking convention. The cycle grew stronger and stronger with each new diet plan that I committed to and inevitably failed. It wasn’t until I was almost 30 and took a step back to really look at my 10 years of losing and gaining the same thirty pounds that I saw the pattern that had evolved. And what I found had nothing to do with the food, or even my thighs (gasp!). I have always known I was an emotional eater-choosing food to fit my mood like many people pick a fine wine with their dinner. But what I didn’t realize was how I was using food as an escape door from something that I didn’t want to face. Whether it was stress from a job, or from feeling hopeless about my expanding waist, or from disappointment that I haven’t yet won the Nobel Peace Prize (did I mention that I have ridiculous standards?) Rather than sitting with my feelings of fear or disappointment, I would use the food to escape- even if it was just for 10 minutes- from a reality that I wasn’t happy with or felt like I couldn’t control. Now I would love to tell you I am as Zen as a Buddhist monk since learning this revelation but sadly I am a slow learner and am not very adept to change. And so I still have my days where I look at the lovely paunch that remains from childbirth with distain or feel hopeless and start looking for the nearest chocolate chip cookie; but I also have those times of awareness where I can stay present and really try to understand my fear or disappointment and listen to my body instead of bolting from reality. And that, my friends, is a step in the right direction.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear God: I get it, you've made your point.

Just when I am getting a little confidence, just when I feel a hint of self esteem coming back, the universe finds a way to punch me in the face like I am Tina Turner at a marriage retreat. I was doing so well today. I was feeling good, went to Zumba, danced my ass off, and decided to treat myself to a healthy lunch at Subway with my friend Melissa (which by the way Subway, I am waiting on my royalty checks from all this publicity I give you, don't be stingy). Coming straight from Zumba we are looking like a hot mess, still sweaty and not a stitch of makeup to be found but still feeling good from the endorphins. And just then while standing in line deciding if we should splurge on the cookies or not, we hear someone come up behind us. Suddenly we both turn around and what do our eyes behold? SuperModel Nikki Taylor.

My Subway Nightmare.


We both stared at her in disbelief just as a gentle breeze blew her hair away from her flawless face (which I now realize was the air conditioner, but still) and the sunlight coming through the window made a golden halo shimmering from behind. Melissa turned to me and said, "You have got to be kidding me right now." To which I just shook my head and replied, "God is a cruel and discriminative god. And he hates us."

Just then the Subway cashier looked at us and asked, "How many cookies did you girls want?"
And like two bitter, deflated fat kids; we both looked at her and said in unison, "All of them."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anxious Annie

I went to the doctor last week for my yearly checkup. As I stripped down and put on that god-awful cloth they call a robe the Doctor began asking me questions. And that is when things went south. Literally and figuratively. As she starts feeling me up like I am in the backseat of a Ford Mustang in 1996 she casually makes conversations about motherhood and how its been going thus far. I start ranting on about teething and lumpy poo (the baby's, not mine- well, ok, except when I add spinach to my diet but that's another post) and my nightly sleeping patterns or lack thereof. And that is when she informed me that it is, in fact, not normal to stay up all hours of the night worrying about Dolphins in eastern Asia, or children in Rwanda that are wandering the desert lost and alone, or our landfills that are overloaded from mass consumerism, or a small piglet (Wilbur!) being inhumanely slaughtered as I lay my head on this pillow in order to enhance my burger which is probably contributing to Global Warming which is inevitably going to cause the end of the world- all by December of 2012 according to the Mayans. She looked at me with concern and vigorously started making notes. When I casually but assertively asked what she was writing, she told me that she thought I might have a touch of Anxiety. I am not sure which part tipped her off, the panic attack or the hyperventilation. She then started rattling off pills like we were at a County Auction. I hesitated, because I used to be a self righteous prick who sided with Tom Cruise when his suggestion for the "postpartum" debate was just to "run it off by exercising".
But then I had a baby and I lost my mind. And if Valium were offered in Pez dispensers, I would buy them by the case.
After she finished her pill spill she said, "Or you could just drink 2 glasses of wine a night and have the same effect."
"Can't I just chase my meds with my wine?" I asked. In case you are wondering, I delivered my shame along with my baby.
"No," she said, "Unless you want to start speaking Chinese by 9pm."

Māo shì zài gélóu shàng. Jiéshù.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dancing Queen

I have been working out with Turbofire (think kickboxing meets dance) and have been I loving it. But everyone needs a break. So when my friend asked me to go to Zumba with her, I accepted, excited about the change of pace. I walked in and felt the music pulsing through my body. I love this already. The class starts and we are instantly moving and shaking our moneymakers. With each step I feel lighter, younger, and vibrant. As I move through each combo I imagine myself as Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, complete with the headband and tight buttocks. Sweating with enthusiasm, I am one chain and water bucket away from recreating the "She's a Maniac" video. I am twisting my hips, turning light on my heels, and doing the Rumba like I am auditioning for the lead role in "Dirty Dancing 2- Havana Nights." I am one with the music, lost in my own Awesomeness.

And then I look in the mirror.


Rather than Jennifer Beals staring back at me, I was faced with a Nikki Blonsky (from Hairspray) silhouette complete with wiggles and jiggles, and not the kind that are featured in the latest T-Pain video. When I shimmy-ed my leg, a ripple started at my knee and rolled its way up to my ass causing the lower half of my body to be a half second slower than the top part. And when she ordered us to "wave our hands in the air", mine waved hello back to me in the mirror. Had I seen this in my 20's, I would have ran out of there in humiliation vowing only to eat celery until I looked like Britney Spears in her "Slave" days. But now I have entered my 30's and you know what? I don't give a damn. I just looked at my Tracy Turnblad reflection and laughed. Because as long as these hips can shake, I'm gonna shake'em... cause my hips don't lie.

Me, as I see myself in my head.

Me, in real life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Life Lines- September Column in At Home TN Magazine

I loved writing this article about my girlfriends from college. We had a weekend reunion where we brought all of our kids together. I got to see these girls that I spent my youth with as moms and wives- and what a difference a decade makes! That said, I believe that girlfriends are our true Life Lines in this crazy journey we call life. Enjoy.

Life Lines

Being an adult is overrated. And this never became more true than this weekend when I returned to Mississippi for a reunion with my girlfriends of college past. A past when days consisted of classes interchanged with mid-day naps, when the night life started at 11pm, and when the biggest worry of your life was if that cute guy from economics was finally going to ask you out (he didn’t).
Now almost 10 years have come and gone as we greet each other enthusiastically in between peeling 2 year olds off the stairwell (them) while frantically searching for missing pacifiers on the floor (me). There are 5 of us, and this time the baggage that we brought is not the latest Vera Bradley design but 5 boisterous children ranging from 10 months to two and a half years. We are like brave zookeepers, determined to create some order despite the pack of monkeys that surround us. We laugh as we make a meager attempt at conversation over a blaring Elmo’s World, all while trying to catch up on our lives that have scattered across three states.
By the time dinner was served (hotdogs, pasta shells, and carrots), bath time concluded in a watery mess, and bedtime gloriously rolled around, we all came together like weary soldiers covered in smashed carrots, dried shampoo, and god only knows what else to finally have some “me” time. I looked at the faces of my girlfriends as we talked alone for the first time all day , and even as I noticed lines of exhaustion that were displayed on their faces, I also saw the shining light of youth and wonder in their eyes that brought me back to a time when we were just girls. Before we were someone’s wife or mother, we were 5 girls who shared scandalous secrets, cried in each other’s arms over boys that we were sure was “the one”, and had endless conversations about how each one of us would carve out our own space in the world to call our own. We sat with the whole world at our fingertips ready to take on whatever was to be thrown our way.
Over the years we have celebrated weddings and births, climbed corporate ladders, moved across the state or the country, dealt with heartbreak and joy, and have been on more diets than anybody cares to count. And I am not so naïve to think that in that time we are the same people or have the same relationships that we did in college. We don’t. In many ways we couldn’t be more different now. Beth is an up and coming photographer making waves in the industry while Shea is perfectly content staying at home with her two children. And while I am trying to become the next Oprah Winfrey; Courtney and Kellie are trying to find balance between being a mom and still going after their dreams. But what we have is a history that bridges the space where common threads used to hold us together. And that is how we are able to sit here now, 10 years later, and rekindle the same connections that we had in college. Though our conversations have changed from term papers, frat parties, and boys to diaper rashes, stretch marks, and well, boys (some things never change); I can still rest assured that Beth will blow her entire budget on the latest Marc Jacobs bag that I will invariably try to mimic, that Kellie and Shea will have no idea who Marc Jacobs is, and Courtney will be the reasonable voice to bridge the gap between us all. Even with all the time that has passed, I know these girls inside and out. And that is something that I will never find with other girlfriends that come along in life because there is something so special about someone knowing you for better or worse and loving you in spite of that.
We talked for hours on end that night after the kids were asleep about the joys and woes of marriage and motherhood, and also reminisced about those blissful days of eating pancakes at 3 in the morning just because we could. At the end of the weekend we each said our goodbyes as we went back to our lives as wives and mothers. And as I was driving home I caught myself smiling at the thought of those 5 innocent girls that grew up to be 5 beautiful women who still share secrets, cry on each other’s shoulders, and are just trying to carve out a place in this world to call their own.

The Fruit of our Loins...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I am an addict, America. No, I am not hooked on phonics or drugs for that matter. It is something darker, more devious. I am addicted to the sweet, syrupy liquid poison known as Diet Coke. I thought it was an innocent relationship. I thought I could quit on my terms and tell it who was Boss. But two weeks ago I tried to divorce my toxic love and got a rude awakening. You might be wondering why I would cut myself off from such a delicious treat. My first red flag came to me at lunch one day while I was about to dine at (surprise) Subway. Just as I am making my way in line to build my sandwich I happen to glance over at the soda fountain and see my worst nightmare played out before my very eyes. The Diet Coke was "out of order." For any reasonable person this would have been a non-issue. But for an addict like me about to get my fix, this was reason enough to turn around and walk right out of the restaurant. And that is how my journey to sobriety began...and ended.

Step 1: Admittance. After realizing this was not normal I decided that maybe Diet Coke and I needed a break.

Step 2: Belief. I dug down deep to find the part of me that didn't need Diet Coke to get through the day.

Step 3: Discovery. What I found was there is no part of me that wants to go without Diet Coke throughout the day.

Step 4: Rage. After 3 days without my beloved bubbly, I turned into one of the cast members from "Bad Girls Club" with mood swings to match.

Step 5: Repentance. After apologizing to the innocent bystander at the red light on 8th and Wedgewood, I drove to the nearest Sonic.

Step 6-12: Who the hell knows. I arrived at Sonic and practically ripped the Route 44 Diet Coke out of the carhop's hand like Kanye West at the VMA Awards. And as I felt that familiar burn run down my throat like it had so many times before, things suddenly came into focus. And that's when I realized, if loving Diet Coke is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Sigh. (Burp)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I love the fair. The humid night, the bright lights, the smell of fried twinkies and turkey legs drifting in the air. I say this now because there was a time when I forgot how much I loved the fair. I got a little high-falutin' as they say and thought I was too sophisticated to walk amongst the Carnies. But then out of the blue my sister called to see if we wanted to join them in the land of sugar and sweat. Glee was coming on, which usually halts all plans in my world, but I thought it would be a nice change.

And so I packed up Rinks in his neat plaid shorts and loafers (I know, hindsight is 20/20) and we were off to the fair. I will admit, I walked in with somewhat of an attitude. Things were dirty, it was hot, and if that lady asked to guess my weight one more time I was going to punch her in the throat. But then I saw the tilt-a-whirl and like the waves cascading onto the shore, all the memories of my youth came flooding back and I threw Rinks at Ashley and literally bolted for the line. Losing all dignity I pushed two 8 year olds out of the way that were trying to take my buggie and then jumped in right in time to start spinning. After one taste it was on like donkey kong (oh yes I did) as I ran from ride to ride, handing my tickets to the nice gentleman with three teeth in his whole head and smelled oddly of cigarettes and ranch dressing. When I saw the Alpine coaster (who, by the way still has "Daisy Dukes" on replay from 1995) I had the urge to make Ashley ride it with me so we could make out with the teenagers. He denied me. By the end of the night Rinks was stripped down to his diaper with lemonade running down his belly and dirt up to his ankles (he fit right in) as Ashley pulled me off the Round Up. I wasn't ready to leave, and so I pouted the whole way home... but only with the left side of my body because the right side was still numb from The Sizzler.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Labor of Love- Rinks' turns 1.

I remember when I was 15 I couldn't wait to turn 16. And when I was 17, I would count down the days until the weekends- those chilly October Friday night ballgames or date nights with a guy in a fast car and a slow smile, hurrying my way through life to the next big thing. When I graduated from college, which I also tried to finish early so I could get on with being a prestigious adult, I couldn't wait to get married and then carry on with my big career in the flavor of the month. But since this exact time last year, since September 5, 2009 at exactly 3:43pm, life served up a big spoonful of karma in the form of the most precious little boy I could have ever imagined. And the life I have been trying to live in fast forward suddenly seemed to be moving at warp speed. When I brought Rinks home a year ago I was terrified, overjoyed, overwhelmed, and in amazement that a love so big could fit into a little body of 6 pounds 8 ounces. And from that day I have been grabbing on to the coat tails of life begging and pleading with it to slow down, to take it easy on my heart, as I watch each day and then week go by while my little baby turns into a little boy. Each time I hold Rinks I find myself clutching the moment and realizing that one day he will wriggle out of my arms and off into the world. And just as I predicted, with a fierce spirit and a curious mind my little soldier decided to start walking at 10 months. He never wobbled, never paused to ask if I was emotionally ready for it but rather just stood up and started walking. And now after years of looking forward to the next big thing, all I want to do is hold on to what I have at each given moment. Someone once asked me what it was like having a child, and I remember telling them it's like having your heart walking around in the world, feeling everything it feels, and doing everything you can to protect it because your own livelihood depends on it's function. And for my little Rinks, my short bald love, I want to guide each step of the way for him, removing obstacles in life like I remove the pebbles on the playground before he steps on one that might cause him to fall. And just as I know I can't possibly make time stand still, I resolve that this train is not going to slow down any time soon, so I guess that means I will just hold on a little tighter and enjoy the ride.

Happy 1st Birthday Rinks, love of our lives, and bundle of giggles; we love you more than any language could convey.

Mama and Daddy

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dumb Blonde

I have been blonde for approximately 14.7 years. I was a believer that Blondes had more fun. After all, do you think that Norma Jean would have turned into Marilyn Monroe had she not dipped her drab brown strands into a pot of platinum dye? Don't think so. But as I have gotten older, my hair has started to show it's age. No, not in the form of gray, but in the form of a horse mane that was in need of some hydration. So I thought it was about time to go little darker with my peroxide infused locks, I have visions of Jennifer Aniston hair in my immediate future. Since Ashley threatened annihilation the last time I went to the salon, I thought it would be smart to go to Wal-Greens to see what they had to offer.

Before: Blonde Ambition

And I came back with a small box of "toasted coconut medium blonde" which, ironically enough, is exactly how I would describe Jennifer Aniston's hair. I brought it home and got right to work. I lathered and waited and rinsed and dried but there are no words to describe the big reveal. Actually there are, and it would be Skanky, Hot Mess, or Craptastic.

Between: Dyed, Fried, and Laid to the Side

My former Scarlett Johansson locks of love were now likened to heavy metals. Literally, 2 inches down from my scalp looked like a shiny penny while the rest of my hair looked like a cascade of silver nickels. I walked out of the bathroom to Ashley where he just responded with a prompt, "Whoa." But I was not deterred. I am a professional who keeps their cool. So I just pulled my metallic hair back and marched right back to Wal-Greens for round two. I came back with "bronze honey dark blonde". Perfect, I think. How can you go wrong with the three metals that represent the Olympic games? You can, and I did. Now my hair was two lovely shades of bronze and gray.

It was time to call in the big dogs. So the next morning I tucked my tail and ran into the Salon down the street. Linda, whom I now refer to as the Hair Messiah, took one look at me and said, "Honey, we have got our work cut out for us." She studies my hair like a surgeon about to perform brain surgery and begins calling out various tints of color to her nimble servants. She whips up her concoction and says, "I hope you're ready for this" before she slathers the goo all over my Olympic mane.

After: The next cast member of "The Jersey Shore"

And while my journey started with the hopes of saving money while creating a sexy version of Rachel from Friends; two hours and $180 dollars later I walked out of the salon looking like Snookie from Jersey Shore. Oy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Da Club

This weekend was my good friend Holly's birthday and to celebrate she wanted to have a fun night out on the town with friends. I was excited about going since the extent of my wild nights these days is when I choose to get spicy peppers on my pizza, or if I'm feeling really crazy I might even go for extra cheese. I haven't always been this lame. In my prime I have been known to shake what my mama so graciously gave me while battling on the dance floor with the best of them. So after a great dinner we decided it was time for some dancing and I was primed and ready. I had on my Spanx for minimal jiggle, my most comfortable wedges with arch support, and my game face on. The music was a little louder than I remembered but the base was vibrating and I felt that familiar groove coming back, like riding a bicycle. When I look on the dance floor there is literally a full out dance battle going on. I feel like I have just walked into a scene from "Step Up." I watch as the participants go toe to toe with the latest moves; moves that look vaguely familiar, from a Lady Ga Ga video that I saw once when trying to find Sesame Street perhaps? One dancer catches my eye and eases his way over and starts dancing in front of me, prompting me to start moving too. Suddenly my mind races to think of any move that I know, my feet are moving in an awkward shuffle as I scour my memory to come up with something, but it seems that since having my baby he not only took away my thin waist, but also any rhythm that I once had. It's me against the music but all I manage to pull out is a side to side two-step that is from circa 1994. I notice that it is making me look more like the Church Lady intead of Brittney Spears in her "Slave" video, and my partner starts to ease away politely. Then, just like the Christmas miracle, I remembered my infamous roundhouse hip swirl move that used to knock em dead. I start rolling and popping my hips like my life and dignity depended on it, "Move aside Beyonce, mama's got this one!" I think to myself. After I finish my best diva moves I take a break and head to the bar to get some water. While there I see a guy who was totally checking me out. I figure he saw me on the dance floor and is now about to come over and ask for my number, to which I am going to have to embarrass him while I tell him that 'sorry, I am married, but I appreciate the offer.' Poor bastard. And just as I predicted, he makes his way over. I pretend not to notice him when he comes up beside me and says, "I saw you dancing out there." Yeah, I thought, eat your heart out. Then he continues, "You look just like a teacher. What grade do you teach?" I looked at him with horror and that's when it hit me. I have crossed the threshold of cool and entered the world of Squareville, I might as well have on a mauve embroidered cardigan with low sensible pumps. And so now I will drown the sorrows of my youth in my spicy peppers and extra cheese, at least while I am still young enough not to get heartburn.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heartbreak Hotel

Today I was faced with every working mom's worst nightmare. I came home after work as I do everyday to greet the Nanny and my little bundle of joy. We chat for a moment about the day and then she proceeds to make her way out. And just as she is walking out the door, Rinks goes barreling after her (seriously, he was faster than Lindsay Lohan's jail sentence) and begins climbing up her leg wanting her to pick him up. As his tender, loving mother I walk over and pick him since he obviously has us confused and thought he was climbing up my leg. But just as she shuts the door behind her, Rinks starts bawling while in my arms... the arms of the person that gave him life. So I did what any reasonable person would do. I sat my 11-month old down on the couch for a face to face meeting.
"Listen," I said as he started chewing on the remote control. "Do you see these stretch marks? That was you, Mister. And do you remember that really bad diaper 3 weeks ago? The one that caused even Buddy the dog to start gagging? Well who do you think cleaned that up? That's right. Me." Rinks has stopped chewing the remote control and has now moved on to throwing the pillows off the couch, but I will not be deterred. "I don't want to burst your bubble, little boy blue, but the Nanny- the one that you apparently have gone Rogue for- well I pay her to hang out with you. But me? I do it for FREE. Because mama loves you and you need to remember that."

Rinks looks at me for a brief moment, and then starts making farting noises with his mouth.

I think he got my point.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Fun Police

I have said it once, and I will say it again. The Boy in the Bubble is likely to have more fun than Rinks as long as Ashley a.k.a. The Fun Police is around. And this past week confirmed my theory on this point.

Let me explain.

We decided to take a family vacation to the Gulf Shore beaches this week, never mind that it was burning like the 5th realm of hell, it was Rinks first trip to the beach and we were excited to see how he would react to it. So we pack up our 12 bags, beach tent, chairs, blankets, coolers, and walk down to the white sandy beaches for fun in the sun. I can see Ashley tense up as I slather SPF 100 on Rinks who is sitting on the blanket...under the tent... that is under a pier (can you see the picture being painted here?) So I begin to lay out Rinks toys as he makes his way to the edge of the blanket where he proceeds to eat the sand. I start laughing and taking pictures to document the world's most adorable moment. But then I look up to see Ashley literally rocking back and forth in his chair in a state of panic as he looks on at Rinks eating the earth's polluted salt. "What's wrong?" I ask, already knowing the answer. "He is getting sand all over him, it's in his mouth!" "That is so strange", I say feigning disbelief. "Since we are ON A BEACH." I have never been known for my subtlety, or empathy. Meanwhile Rinks is quickly becoming a human sand castle as sand makes its way into every crevice and he is giggling with delight. But the human fun-o-meter sounds his alarm at the sight of too much amusement and scoops up Rinks as he announces, "We're going to the pool... where it is clean."

And so Captain Party Pooper marches our little sand crab up to the pool to "clean him off" with 12 other kids who have all just put the P in P-O-O-L.

The Little Sand Crab himself.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No, Seriously, I am a Big Deal...

Somebody widen the door frame, because my head is unable to fit through it anymore. My first "column" is being released in this month's issue (July) At Home Tennessee magazine. Here is the article below, but for the full effect of my ugly mug that goes along with it, you will need to pick up the magazine (that was an order, not a suggestion). For those of you that are wondering if stardom is going to go to my head and cause me to forget the little people, you common folk, mere mugwamps; the answer is yes. Now, what was your name again?

You Are What You Eat
At Home Tennessee writer Mandi Gaskin takes on the challenge of Saving the Earth by asking the question “What’s for Dinner?”

I am a good girl. I recycle, I change out my light bulbs to energy-saving fluorescents, I even carpool with annoying people (you know who you are) in order to cut down on pollution. So when the editors of At Home Tennessee asked me to single handedly Save the Earth (ok, I may be exaggerating a little) I thought I had it in the bio-degradable bag.
But after one trip to the grocery store on my normal shopping routine I knew I was in trouble. Taking on this new eco challenge forced me to take a closer look at the impact my food was having on the earth, and it wasn’t pretty. Seeing the mounds of meat, fruits, and vegetables that are available all year long at any given grocery store used to conjure thoughts like, “God Bless America- Land of the Free, Home of Convenience” were now causing a slight wave of guilt and overindulgence. Were strawberries really meant to be eaten in December? Should we be eating chicken at every single meal? And are my bell peppers supposed to be the size of my first born child? I knew my conscious was trying to tell me something, so on the way home I did what any normal American would do- I attempted to stuff my inner voice with hormone-ridden chicken strips. And when those crispy fried animal parts didn’t subside my nagging guilt, I knew it was time to make a change.
I know what you are thinking; you think I am about to tell you that I gave up all meat and dairy, moved to a commune, and am now growing my very own tomatoes. But you are severely underestimating my innate laziness. You see, I want to save the earth, but I don’t necessarily want to work to do this. So I found myself in a whole new challenging predicament. How can I save the planet, and still have time to watch the “Real Housewives”? So the next day, while Teresa and Danielle are tearing out each other’s weave, I go online and ask Google how I can be a better consumer in the world which I am trying to save. And the answers actually surprised me. Sure, there were the extremist websites that preached giving up your skillet for a diet made up of raw food (no thanks) to fencing your backyard to make room for Wilbur (call me a coward, but I prefer not to look my dinner in the eye before turning him into, well, dinner). But there were also very reasonable options to leaving a smaller footprint on the environment when it comes to dining, and it can basically be summed up in two words: Farmer’s Market. In supporting local farmers through these venues we are not only able to cut down on the global effects of shipping bulk products, but more importantly to bring back humane treatment of the animals we eat and restore the balance in the food chain that has been lost in the mass consumerism that makes up this great country. I liked the idea that I could still buy all my favorite foods minus the guilt, but I was still hesitant about the cost and more importantly, my time. So on Monday, we loaded up some empty coolers and made our way down to the local Farmer’s Market in Nashville where I found a scene that was absolutely delightful. There were droves of people from all walks of life shopping with their families, talking to the vendors, and picking out fresh-from-the-farm cuisine. Sure, it wasn’t the air-conditioned, florescent world of my previous grocery trips. It was hot, and there were flies in abundance, but I was able to shake the hands and speak to the folks that had taken the time to carefully grow the vegetables or humanely slaughter the meat on their farms that I was responsible for feeding to my family. Not to mention all without heavily impacting the earth with pesticides or transportation emissions or breaking the budget. And best of all? I made it home just in time for the “Real Housewives.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oprah Made Me Do It

Did somebody see the Band Wagon? Because I need to hop on it. The new book "Women, Food, and God" by Geneen Roth was released earlier this year and promoted on Oprah as a way to stop dieting and win the war with food. I hesitated about getting it at first because I like to at least act like I make my own decisions and am not a mind nome that does exactly what Oprah tells me to do. So I waited a whole week after Oprah told me to get it (see? I am a rebel) and I should tell you, I am floored by it. My first thought was that it was going to be a fruity cheese-fest where she told you to look at yourself and repeat a sanskrit mantra, but what I found was Geneen's realistic take on the mind battle that we fight everyday when it comes to not only food, but anything that takes our attention away from the true feelings from which we are trying to escape. I loved it so much that I wanted to read it with a group of girlfriends that I knew would benefit as much as I had, so I started a bookclub! Now every other Tuesday night, my girlfriends and I will get together, leave behind the guilt of what we ate that day, or the stress of how we must split our time while trying to be superwoman; and just come together for some group therapy... and of course a little wine.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hate Mail

Dear Giselle,

I have two questions for you.

1.) How many orphans did you have to save in your past life in order to get knocked up by Tom Brady and manage to look like this 2 months after having his future All-American baby?

2.) Can't you at least act like you had to put in a little work to look like this so that the rest of us don't drown ourselves in our haagen daz?

I am going to take a wild guess and bet that you have never had to prostitute yourself for tile at the Home Depot.

I hate you.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Money Pit Challenge- Day # Who the Hell Cares, I Stopped Counting Three Weeks Ago to Prevent Wrist Slitting

Since being on this budget challenge, or "the 5th Realm of Hell" as I like to call it, I have lost most if not all of my friends, had a near divorce from my husband, and seriously considered anti-depressants to prevent me from choking myself on stale, dry peanut-butter sandwiches. Have we saved money? Sure. Am I in a perpetual bad mood capable of harm at any given moment? Absolutely.

So here is what I have learned in the past 60 days from being monetarily handicapped:
1.)Dave Ramsey is the Devil. Is it a coincidence that another famous Ramsey (Gordon) is on a show called "Hell's Kitchen"? I think not.
2.) Money really can buy you Happiness. It's called Silver Palm Cabernet and it's $38 a bottle.
3.) Anti-depressants are not the answer. Vodka is.
4.) Grocery shopping with your husband will put you on the fast track to the lawyer's office.
5.) I now hate eggs, for no good reason.
6.) Suze Orman's teeth are not supposed to glow in the dark. Right?
7.) When a waiter tells you that your debit card is worn down from too much use, you have permission to punch him in the neck.
8.) No matter how many ways you try to camouflage Tuna Fish, it will always make you smell like you have been eating a dead carcass.
9.) Money may not buy you love, but it sure can love you long time.
10.) What the hell is the point of making money if you can't spend it?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Run, Fat Girl, Ruuuun!!

I previously had my doubts, but tonight it was confirmed. God is mocking me. "But Mandi," you say, "Smile, Jesus loves you." And I say, "Reader, put a sock in it."

The reason for my sour mood? Well I had the brilliant idea of asking my sister to start training with me to support me in my efforts to become a world class runner (ok, or maybe just to run a 5k). You see, my sister is taller than me, skinnier than me, and has a golden tan even in December. And knowing that she hasn't worked out in 8 years (literally, 8 years!) I thought she would be the perfect running partner so I could at least feel good about myself when I smoked her on the road.

So when we started our run she says to me, "No judging! I haven't done this in a long time!" I mentally smile and say, "Oh, you'll be fine." I am feeling confident that I will be her running mentor and train her to catch up with my athletic ability.

Fast forward 5 minutes.

My sister has been carrying on a full fledged conversation mid-run while I am sucking in air like Willie Nelson on Snoop Dogg's tour bus. When I suggest that we stop and walk for a while, she seems genuinely disappointed. "Gosh, this is easier than I anticipated." She says in an annoying perky voice. "When can we start running again?" In disbelief I look at her and say (in between dry-heaves), "When I say so, bitch." When we start running again (against my own will) she is a full 15 yards in front of me and turns around and yells, "I hope it's ok that I am running at this pace, it just feels comfortable to me." She turns back around while I give her the finger. When we finally (finally!) get to the end of our route she turns to me and says, "Let's run up that hill! Come on, sis, you can do it, it's the last leg!" I am mentally clubbing her at the knees at this point while I watch her cellulite-free thighs (thighs that have never seen the inside of a gym, mind you) run up the hill in front of me.

At that's when it hit me. There is a God. And He hates me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Moment of Irony: Brought to you by the Gaskins

Disclaimer: Before I tell this story, know that neither my husband or son has contracted Mad Cow Disease; so please, no calls to DHS.

Now Presenting: A moment of Irony- Brought to you by The Gaskins.
To say that my husband is over protective of our little boy is like saying that a fish can swim. In all honesty, the Boy in the Bubble is likely to experience more adventure than Rinks as long as Ashley is around. So fast forward to last night when Rinks is sitting in the high chair gnawing on a watermelon rind given to him to keep him busy while mama was hard at work on her Spaghetti a la Prego. That's when Ashley walks in and takes one look at Rinks and then throws that "I can't believe you" look at me and asks, "Did you wash that before you gave it to him?" I give him a look that says, "In the 10 years that you have known me, have you ever seen me wash a watermelon rind?" To which he swiftly grabs the rind out of Rinks' hand, climbs up on his high horse and gallops over to the sink where he grabs the knife laying in the sink and cuts the rind off of the watermelon, then eats the rind himself before giving the rest of it back to the now screaming Rinks.

In the words of Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story.

Three minutes before Ashley walked into the kitchen to disrupt me and Rinks in our happy harmony, I used a knife to cut open the raw hamburger meat to put into the Spaghetti. (I can literally see the light bulb going off in your head right now) Yep, Mr. Perfect Dad picked up that very knife to cut the watermelon rind- the one which was "so infested with pesticides that he can't believe I would just give that to our son to chew on when there is no telling what it has on it" and then gave the now Ebola-infested rind back to our baby boy before taking a bite himself. I didn't catch this until I went back to get the knife 10 minutes later and thus spent the rest of the night keeping a close eye on Rinks to make sure he wasn't foaming at the mouth.

The obvious point of this story? There is no point. I just wanted to put this awesome example of karmic irony that smacked Sergeant Safety upside the head on display for all to see.

There is more than one bitch in this house, and her name is Karma.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Mate

This Memorial Day weekend was spent with my parents at the lake, where Rinks got his first chance at the wheel of the Papa's boat. His reaction? Absolute boredom. We caught him in action...

Papa's First Mate:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 39: The Po' Mo' Fo' Diet

Like Miss Oprah Winfrey herself, I had an A-Ha moment this past week. I discovered that while my bank account was fattening up, my ass was shrinking down. How could this be? The truth is, since I haven't had the luxury of eating out, I have been forced to cook. And since being forced to cook, I have discovered that it's a sonofabitch to make actual junk food. The sheer effort that it takes to make a pizza, fried chicken, or french fries makes me want to take a nap. It's like the Christmas miracle, where my innate laziness is actually working in my favor. So this has resulted in meals composed of grilled chicken on a the Foreman grill, boil-in-a-bag rice, and if I am feeling really ambitious- a green salad. The result? I have lost more weight on this "financial" challenge than I did on the actual "weight loss" challenge! I also cancelled my gym membership to save $40 a month and started walking Buddy Lee everyday, who kicks my ass more than any trainer every thought about doing and doesn't feel the slightest bit of remorse for it. So maybe for my next project I will write a how-to book called "Lose your dignity, lose your ass." And then I will sell a million copies which will allow me to once again eat in restaurants, gain it all back, and then go back to my self-loathing challenges.


So here is what my typical lunch is looking like these days... this is my "fancy" green salad with Field greens, red onion, tomatoes, avacado, feta cheese and balsalmic vinegarette. Budgeting never looked so tasty...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

LiveSouthNash Article

For those of you who do not live in the local South Nashville area, this is my article that is in the LiveSouthNash magazine this month! And as if I wasn't already a big deal? I am so excited to announce that I have been asked by "At Home Tennessee" magazine to write a column every month! So if you haven't subscribed to it yet, do it now and nobody gets hurt.

"The Thrill of the Thrift"
This week the B-word was used in our house. That’s right, Budget. I usually try to avoid this word like the Black Plague, but like most of us in these economic times, I caved. The thing is, I have never followed a budget. I grew up in the credit-crazed 80’s and 90’s in a middle class family that didn’t talk about money. If we wanted something, we got it. If we didn’t exactly have the money, we charged it. Debt was just a part of our language, something that we accepted as an ingredient that was necessary to live. But there is a side effect to that kind of mentality (aside from the obvious debt snowball), and it has to do with value and putting a price on the dollar. Because I didn’t have to earn anything growing up, I didn’t appreciate the things that I had, nor was there any satisfaction in acquiring them. Even after I started making my own money as an adult I still had the mentality that everything is disposable, that if something breaks down or tears up then just get a new one. No investment, no value, move on. However, I got the wakeup call I needed in the form of “The Great Recession” and for the first time in my life I started following a (gasp!) budget. But more surprising than my newfound discipline was my newfound thrill for the thrifty. Sure, it would be fun to dine on lobster and steak three times a week but there is something more thrilling about being faced with the challenge to eat on $50 a week that ignites my inner competitor, creating a spark in the pit of my stomach that no lobster can match. Suddenly when every spare cent matters in helping you achieve your goal, no restaurant meal tastes as good as the victory of your 49 cent double coupon canned tuna feels. And that is something you can take to the bank.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 31: Prostitution at the Home Depot

We all have a price. Julia Roberts found out hers in Pretty Woman. And I found out mine this weekend at the Home Depot.

Since being on this budget, we have been able to save 4 times the amount of money that we normally save (Ya-hoo!), stocking away most of it into savings like the responsible adults that we have become (since 30 days ago). And when we had a yardsale last weekend, we made a couple of hundred extra bucks that I categorize as "wild card" money.
My definition of "wild card" money? Freedom to spend without guilt or dirty looks- a.k.a.- Install the backsplash in the kitchen that I have been wanting for months! Ashley's definition of "wild card" money? Put it in savings. (Who invited Captain Lame-O to the party?)
If you haven't noticed yet, I am the kind of gal who likes to get my way, any way I can get it. Some call it conniving, I call it resourceful. And on this particular occasion, a little persuasion was in order. So this weekend while standing at the Home Depot looking at tile, Ashley asked how badly I wanted this backsplash, and I knew exactly what his old dirty bastard self was really asking. And as it turns out, I am quite the slut for tile. I will spare you details and keep this site PG-13, but needless to say I got my backsplash, and now every time I walk into my kitchen I feel a little bit dirty on the inside. But don't look so shocked ladies, we have all done it- a little cuddle here and a tickle there when you needed something to go your way. No, it's not the first and it won't be the last. As a matter of fact, there is a stunning chandelier that caught my eye tonight which reminds me that I need to shave my legs for when I have the "discussion" with Ashley as to whether I can buy it.

My Kitchen before I became a cheap whore:

And After:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 26: The Wedding Crasher

As most of you know we had a little rain last weekend. And since then Nashville has been an outstanding example of what a Community should be. There has been overwhelming support donated in time, supplies, and money from people of all walks of life to the victims of the flood. So not to be out done, my friends and I decide to clean out our closets and donate some items to the flood victims last Saturday. And because we are who we are, we did this with the accompaniment of beer and some cocktails (and yes it was 10 in the morning, don't judge me).

I tell you that to tell you this.

After our 10am Purge Party I decided that I would the one who would take the items to the clothing drive at a nearby church (you can call me Saint Augustine, I don't mind). At this point I haven't showered, I have on what I slept in the night before (literally), and I am pretty sure I haven't even brushed my teeth. Do you think I noticed all of the cars filling the church parking lot or the 9 girls walking in wearing the same lemon yellow chiffon tea-length dress. Nope. Like the good Samaritan I prided myself to be, I pulled my car right up to the front door and loaded my arms with all of my goodies and marched straight into the church.

Here's the Scene:

Candles are lit, soft music is playing, there is an older man in a tuxedo wiping a tear in his eye as he looks onward. The bridal party is looking on from a few yards away as they give privacy to the bride and groom who are seeing each other for the first time before they pledge their eternal love and devotion to each other before God and State. The bride is covering her mouth in disbelief that this day is finally here. The Groom is holding his breath as he sees his bride in white for the first time.
And then I walk in.
I didn't grasp what was going on at first as I was clomping my way through the lobby (I'll admit, I'm not the most observant person in the world) until I stopped 5 feet from the happy couple. I managed to get out a "Uh. Whoops. Umm, Congratulations?" and then ducked to the nearest open door to escape my mortification. And so to the world I might be a good Samaritan, but to the Harris family I will forever be "that Homeless Lady at our wedding that smelled like day-old bacon and beer." Cheers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Drunko

Oh how I love the Mexicans. They gave us burritos, George Lopez, and Cinco de Mayo. And you know what I love even more? Free beer. And thanks to my neighborhood planning committee and hefty HOA payments every month, we had our annual Cinco de Mayo fiesta complete with all of the tacos, beer and margaritas one dared to take on. And I gladly took on the challenge. When Ashley and I heard the word "Free" and "Beer" and then "Food" we skipped down the street like two fat kids going to a cake eating contest. And we were not disappointed. I filled my belly with tacos, margaritas, and Corona while dancing to a faux-Selena look alike belting out Alicia Keys songs in Spanish. Maybe it was the ambiance of the music, or maybe it was that 3rd Corona that caused me to get into the festive spirit of our gracious neighbors of the South; but deep down I know the reason, and it spells F-R-E-E.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 19: Where in the hell is Noah when you need him?

What do you do when your entire city submerges underwater for a weekend?

You play dress up with your 8 month old baby while eating pizza for 4 meals straight.

"All this rain is making me crabby."

Check out the craziness!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 15: Eggs with a side of Chronic Depression

I am a spoiled American. There are children suffering in China and Sudan, there are millions that are going hungry here on our very turf; and yet when my husband told me that we couldn't go to a nice dinner with our favorite friends last weekend, I literally cried. Like, with real tears. And then I pouted for a solid hour while I gave him incriminating looks meant to make him feel like the horrible food nazi that he is. Naturally, he hardly noticed. Maybe he was punishing me for my fabulous hair (see previous post), or maybe he was trying to follow through on the goal that we set out to accomplish (such a goody goody) but either way I ended up crying over my egg sandwich and stale potato chips. When I got over it (3 days later) I realized that it was the right decision because we didn't have the cash allotted for it and I would have felt bad about it the next day. Plus I saved a load of calories, so there's that. I'm bitter, 2 pounds lighter, and have no friends; but by God we are right on track.

Make no mistake, I hate budgeting. As I hate Hell, and all Montegue.

As this budget is slowly turning me into a sulking, pouty Crank; it is affecting Ashley in a totally different way.

Let me explain.

We are on our way back from the market this past weekend when Ashley looks at me and says, "I need to tell you something. But I need you not to get mad." Side note to all men: When you say, "don't be mad" before your next statement you are essentially providing the springboard to our rage, to which we then just have to decide at what level of rage the statement deserves. So of course I immediately get mad because I automatically assume he is having an illicit affair with... with who? That slutbag red head that helped bag our groceries (and apparently alot more)? She gave him double coupon points when it clearly wasn't allowed. I should have known. As I start mentally clawing those freckles off of her smug little face, Ashley goes on. "Since we have started this budget and have stopped eating out, I have lost 10 pounds." Suddenly it's not the redhead's face I am mentally clawing at (my apologies for the slutbag comment, I am sure you are a nice girl). I look at his sheepish expression. "And your point is?" I ask. "Well, my pants are not fitting anymore and I need to get a little more fat in my diet so I can keep some weight on." Of course. Why wouldn't he accidentally lose the weight that I literally devoted an entire challenge to last month just by cutting out a taco bell meal? Because he is a man, and that is precisely the reason that I should have been a lesbian... or a man.

Meanwhile, this is what my lunch is looking like these days... I wonder how much cash I need to allocate for a Prozac prescription?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 11: The Coupon, the Coconut, and Captain Clueless

Since introducing this Budget Challenge to our family, we have also been introduced to the Almighty Coupon. Come to our house on any given Sunday and you will hear the sounds of snipping and cutting as we browse excitedly through the paper for our favorite items. (P.S.- Southern Savers is my new best friend) (P.P.S.- When did we become our Grandparents?) In order to cut down on food expenses, I have fine-tuned a system in which I plan out every meal in detail so that I know exactly what to buy, how much to buy, and if I have a coupon for it. This system has worked so well that at the end of the week, we have precisely one meal left to cook before it's time to go to the store again. I am a machine.

But then something happened.

Last week, I was busy with work and Ashley took it upon himself to make the weekly trip to the grocery store. We have exactly $100 per week in cash to use toward groceries. I figured since he took it upon himself to go to the store, he must have planned everything out and I, for one, was impressed. He walks in proudly holding his grocery bags from not one, but two different grocery stores to redeem his coupons. Again, I was impressed. And then I started unpacking the groceries.

And these are some of the things I found:
2 packs of spagetti noodles.
Cilantro seasoning
2 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese (this would be a good time to mention we don't eat Mac'n cheese)
A huge sack of potatoes
Spray Butter

Here are some things that I DID NOT find:
Spagetti Sauce

I look up at him and casually ask, "Umm. How did you come up with this list, dear?" (Sidenote: In our relationship, "dear" is not a term of actual endearment)

"From my coupons." He responds blankly.

So you see, he just made it a two for one deal where the coupons were his shopping list. Makes total sense, right? And now we are eating Spagetti noodles... with Spray Butter and Cilantro. But what else should I have expected? Because afterall this is the same guy who brought home a Coconut the last time he was responsible for grocery shopping.

Day 10: 101 Ways to Piss Off Your Husband

Number 37: Blow your entire miscellaneous cash budget for the month on your Hair. He has always said he saw fireworks when he first saw me, he still does, but now it's for different reasons.
But damn, my hair looks good!

P.S.- My waist is not as small as it appears in this photo, but now I will forever angle the camera like this.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 7: Trail of (Blood, Sweat, and) Tears

As I write to you at this very moment, I am unable to bend my legs or walk without looking like I have had a questionable late-night rendevous. Why? You ask. Let me start from the beginning.
Since it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we are cutting back on our spending habits, we decided to get creative and go old school by having a family picnic at the park. So we packed up Rinks, Buddy Lee, and some sandwiches and headed off to a day of family bliss. We had a wonderful lunch and were so proud of ourselves for being so thrifty that we thought, Why not stretch out our family fun and go on a stroll on one of the trails? So we packed up Rinks in the stroller and Buddy Lee on the leash and off to the woods we go. You might even say we had a pep in our step, enjoying our scenery, appreciating the simple things in life that money can't buy. Sure, there were hills that were at least 45 degree angles, but I was welcoming the challenge since I am still trying to shrink my ass.
We are having great conversation along the way, so good in fact that we don't realize that we have been walking for an hour. We look and see that we have walked almost 3 miles. Hmmm? Here is a timestamped look at how the rest of the "stroll" that started at 1:30pm went...
2:15pm, Mile 4: We casually start to wonder when this trail is going to end, surely anytime now, right?
2:33pm, Mile 5: We look at each other nervously as there is clearly no end in sight anytime soon, but neither one of us wants to admit it, so we say something about needing some exercise and laugh uncomfortably.
2:48pm, Mile 6: Rinks has practically spent a full day of daycare- all in his stroller- as he has already played, napped, eaten lunch AND a snack and then is back to sleep again.
3:05pm, Mile 7: Ashley at this point starts getting Walker's Delirium, as I have now named it, and starts ranting on about how the trees are really alive and naming off flowers that look like Trumpets.
3:23pm, Mile 8: My legs are in the third realm of hell so I start pleading to God that if he would miraculously send a cab then I will never swear again (He didn't, so f*ck that).
3:41pm, Mile 9: Ashley starts negotiating who would be the first to be sacrificed for food so the rest of us could survive (Buddy Lee was the unanimous vote).
4:04pm, Mile 10: Like a veil unfolding from the heavens, we see civilization sprawling out before us and we practically start hugging and crying. But since we couldn't really move at that point, we just gave each other a knowing smile because when nature calls again, we will be heading straight to the nearest Chili's.

Rinks at Mile 6, during his SECOND nap.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 2: Yes, God?

Call it coincidence or call it the Fateful Hand of NBC directly playing into my life, but when I turned on my television tonight and saw Suze Orman and her shoulder pads on "The Biggest Loser" talking about how finances are directly related to your waist size I thought, "Good God, her teeth are glowing" and then I thought, "How appropriate that NBC is tailoring their shows to my Blog." (I am still waiting on my check, NBC)

Regardless, when Suze Shoulder Pads started talking about how spending habits and dieting habits are usually synonymous I got to thinking of my own habits and I must say, there is truth to this. I love an easy fix. It is my fantasy that the "Staples Easy Button" will become a reality in the future because in any situation, that is what I am looking for. When it comes to dieting, I am looking for the quickest, easiest way to get the fastest results with minimum effort. Diet pill? Yes, please. Magic Juice Drink with Green Tea? I'll take two, please. (In case all of you blog police are investigating, I did not take anything in my previous challenge, hence all the bitching the entire way through) Likewise, when it comes to my finances I am the same way. Not enough money? I'll hustle to make more. Or even better, just charge it. I was amazed when comparing the two how my behavior and attitude were one in the same about both subjects. This was truly an A-Ha moment, and all thanks to ole' Suze and her questionably pearly whites.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 1: The Money Pit Challenge

Well as they say, When it Rains it Pours... And three weeks ago, when I decided to use the next challenge to turn around my finances, the Almighty must have decided to have a laugh while squatting down and taking a hot steaming shit on my bank account. First it was through my brakes, which apparently were all but existent. Then it was the air conditioner in our house that the handy man described as "a doozy" (this is never a good thing). And finally, to put the corn kernel on top, the hospital sent me a nice little note explaining that my insurance company doesn't want to pay for my labor and delivery.


So what's a girl to do? She polishes off a bottle of wine and then makes a plan. Welcome to my plan.
Here is the reason for this challenge (besides the obvious stated above), I feel that although a swollen bank account can by no means make you happy, it can certainly make you free. And by that I mean freedom to pursue dreams, freedom from stress that comes from knowing you don't truly own anything you have, and freedom from spinning your wheels with working a job to pay the bills, while spending more because you need retail therapy from your job. Ultimately, I am not looking to get rich (but if the Spirit leads you to send me money, follow it!) but more importantly to live free from debt and financial stress. So first things first, I must use the B-word. That's right, Budget. This word is likened to the F-word in my house and we have avoided saying it for years because truthfully neither me nor my husband are math wizards (Understatement: There are 5th graders that could smoke us in a Math Challenge) and looking at a spreadsheet gives me hives. But now is the time to change this, and a budget must be made. So we are taking the Dave Ramsey route and doing the "envelope system" where we pay all of the fixed bills through our bank account and take out a set amount of cash for all non-fixed items (i.e. Grocery, entertainment, and misc.). We will start our $1,000 emergency fund and then start snowballing all of our payments to debt smallest to largest. Sure, this sounds easy enough on paper, but when Ashley told me tonight that my hair appointment will have to come out of the miscellaneous cash account which will all but deplete it for the month, I had a small panic attack. In the words of my wise handy man, this should be a doozy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Next up to bat: The Money Pit

Hold on to your panties boys and girls because coming up next is the change that we all could take part in these days. It's the Money Pit. This 60-day financial turn around will address my Nicolas Cage spending habits and the search for what I am really trying to buy. Here's a hint, it's not on the shelves at Macy's. I am going to officially start this on Monday April 12th, right after I go on a spending binge this weekend like Michael Jackson at a Toys-R-Us. Awww... too soon?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Big Pimpin'

What happens when you leave your 7 month old son with your single sister on Spring Break?


I got a picture text from my swingin' sis that read, "Spring Break Pole Dancing!"


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Several of you have been asking for me to post some progress pictures, and of course I will be happy to oblige. So behold...

Ok, you caught me, you sneaky bitches.

This is my progress picture below. I refrained from posting pictures previously because I didn't want all of you getting so jealous and depressed (in that order)about how incredible I look, because then that would be on my conscience and who needs that? And I know what you are thinking, and no, those are not designer shorts.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 60: Things are looking "Berry" Good

Sixty days have come and gone and now as I gaze into the mirror, I see Halle Berry staring back at me. Ok, so maybe when you see me you will not see an African American Oscar winner. But I did lose 12 pounds and I have a new resolve that I have never had before. All in all, I didn't lose the full 20 lbs that I set out to lose but it isn't about the weight nor has it ever been about the weight. On this journey I have developed the confidence to take back control of what I once thought was a lost cause. I can't pinpoint the exact time when I acquired this newfound resolve but I think that it has to do with slow steady consistency, the turning over of the mind. The "Ah Ha" moment. Somewhere along the way in my life I convinced myself that I was not capable of changing my weight issues, but in reality I wasn't willing to let it go, to lift it up to see what it was actually covering. But during these 60 days I have discovered what that was, and it was fear. Fear of not succeeding, fear of boredom, fear of regret, fear of change, and most of all fear of having to face reality instead of being able to occupy my mind with weight. If I lost this weight, then I wouldn't have the scale to obsess over and that would mean that I would have to start focusing on (god forbid) the real problems with fear. The mental beating that I gave myself everyday over my body became the the dillusional voice in my head that masked itself as something I needed; something that was familiar and comfortable. Like I wouldn't know what to do if I patted myself on the back instead of cracking the whip over my own backside. (Did I mention I am my own therapist? And I can be yours too for the low price of $150/hr!)
But I have put down the whip, and picked up some new respect for myself, and an appreciation for what I am capable of. And that my friends, is Change.

Although this journey is far from over, I will move on to another (because I'm the one that came up with this stupid time line, and I am not one to break my own rules.) So moving on, out of my three options in the previous post, I have decided to take on Door #2, Financial. Because 1.) I have knocked out Door #3 because I am just too damn brilliant and 2.) I believe that your bank account and your waist size have more in common than we might think, so it made the most sense in transitioning. So hold on to your shoulder pads Suze Orman, because there is a new sheriff coming to town!

Coming up next: 60-days-to-change-my-bank-account-from-brokin'-to-smokin'