Since we last spoke…

A yellow rose for friendshipYeah, I realize we have a LITTLE catching up to do. Please know, dear readers, you have oft been on my mind. You were, however, also the one thing I felt I had control over for a while, and I had to give something up for a bit or else risk losing it completely. So for everyone’s sake, I chose sanity and hoped you would understand when I came crawling back on my hands and knees, holding a yellow rose for friendship in my teeth.

So here we are, and it’s that awkward place where it’s been a little too long and I’m not sure where to begin. And you’re not sure what to ask.

[Insert uncomfortable silence here]

And, true to form, I’ll start blathering now just to fill the silence. Go ahead and just nod if you’d like.

These things have happened since we last spoke…

We moved back to our hometown, moving our kids from one of the biggest school districts in the state to a school where everyone knows everyone else’s name, parents and possibly the last five people who lived in their house.

We downsized from a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom two story that we custom built to a 3-bedroom 1950s ranch with 1 bathroom on the main level that we all have get to share.

I began collecting unemployment and realized it is almost as fun as collecting Beanie Babies or McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Except I don’t get to go to any fun conventions.

I took the initiation into “the poor club” by asking my sister-in-law to color my hair and my sister to cut it for free. (Actually, I’m getting more compliments than ever. They may have found their true calling!)

I had the insurance company tell me I’m “too old” to need a prescription from my dermatologist for my incredibly flattering cystic acne outbreak. I considered faxing them a photo of myself and telling them to “say it to my face!” Seriously, could they please pour salt in my wounds, or, in this case, my zits?

I lost 30 pounds and went down two jeans sizes.

Gotcha! Just wanted to make sure you were awake. (In other words, I have the skin of a teenager but am still strutting the body of a middle-aged Twinkies taste-tester.)

I experienced a full-bladder complete peeing of the pants in a hotel lobby while already feeling pretty hot in some sexy gray sweatpants.

Wish I could say, “Gotcha!” on that last one, but sadly, ’tis completely true.

I discovered Pinterest. Didn’t sleep for days.

We have a new baby. His name is Herky (or “Turkey” if your hearing is like my father-in-law’s). He’s got big ears, a smashed-in face and is pretty hairy, but we love him anyway. Except when he bites or tries to hump our leg.

I bit it leaving school conferences and sprained an ankle. Husband and I concurred that walking just isn’t “my thing.”

I survived as a sports mom running to games for one fall baseball league, two football teams and a soccer league. (And yes, if you do the math, that’s 4 sports and only 3 kids.) Boy #2 won the Super Bowl, though, so that made it worth it, since for me it’s all about the mom glory! (We’re making the other two sleep in the driveway.)

In a nutshell: The boys are doing great in their new schools and have adjusted well, we are really enjoying our new, albeit smaller home (especially the lower house payment!), we added a puppy to the craziness and, despite some setbacks and stressors, life is good. Really, really good.

More to come soon. Promise.


Yellow rose image credits

There’s nothing like a small-town July 4th celebration

Since moving to southern Iowa when I was 4, I can remember missing my hometown’s 4th of July celebration only twice — once right after Husband and I were married and we chose to stay in northern Iowa, where we lived, to celebrate with friends, and once when we traveled to Mackinac Island for my brother-in-law’s July 6 wedding. What is it that keeps us coming back? It’s not the flashiest celebration. It doesn’t bring in the biggest musical acts or boast the best carnival around. The fireworks can’t compete with those set off at the state capitol, only 50 miles north. There’s no live orchestra providing the score to the pyrotechnics display. But despite all that, there is something that draws us every year. Call it quaintness, call it naiveté.  Maybe it’s just plain pride. But that small-town celebration delivers just the right mix of tradition, fellowship, wonder and, yes, sometimes bewilderment, that makes my family — among hundreds of others — coming back for more.










I love the irony of this old man, probably a farmer, donning his ball cap bedazzled in red sequins and a white-sequined star while watching musical entertainment on the bandstand. The best part was that no one gave him a second look. (Except, possibly, me.)

Last year, we sat through rain to watch the parade. This year, it was a 100+ degree heat index and piercing sun. But, seriously, how could we even think of missing it, especially when we got to see entries such as this?








To be fair, I think this conversion van was actually pulling a float. However, I’m pretty sure the “float” consisted of a hay rack holding the “Short Cut” barber and maybe his grandkids. Although the theme for the floats this year was “Christmas in July,” it seemed more like “Less is more” or maybe even, “Who gives a flip?”








The parade was peppered with Santas as parade entries tried to get into the “Christmas in July” theme chosen for this year’s celebration. My shirt was visibly WET by the end of the parade from sweat. I really can’t imagine how Santa held up in his fur-lined suit, hat and beard. I sweated more just looking at him.







This Santa at least had the common sense to can the suit and instead go with a lavender T-shirt.








When in doubt, post a disclaimer on your float.








Apparently, they confused “Christmas in July” with “Halloween in July.” A hearse with an arm hanging out the back — it’s good old-fashioned family fun, folks.










It is not the 4th of July until I have spotted the walking Spam can. He is my favorite walking meat-substitute character ever.










No, these dudes were not in the parade, but they did enjoy parading around in all their glory. I admit, it was swelteringly hot, but I think these guys would’ve gone shirtless even if it was 30 degrees and snowing. But come on, if you were that buff, wouldn’t you?








Speaking of the heat, the parade was held up for a bit because some old guy had his 100-year-old mom or wife (not sure which) in the van to watch the parade and she passed out. Not the best idea when the heat index is 110 degrees, sir. Granted, you at least had the windows down, but still, the poor woman was probably baking with the sun beating down on the vehicle. Please, people, when I am over 90 and the temperature is over 90, let me stay home in the air-conditioning. I promise I won’t be angry that I’m missing it.

While we’re on the subject of vehicles, there are always a lot of vehicles in the parade. All shapes, all sizes, all colors. And since we’re in Iowa, we can’t have a parade without tons of tractors.








Hey, who’s driving my car???








And along with vehicles, we also have lots of animals. Usually, just horses, like these.







I found this horse’s blinders very disturbing. And I thought it was possibly the most humiliating thing you could make a horse wear, until I saw this…








Poor thing. It looked like something from Flashdance, and I could tell it was embarrassed. I think the owner should’ve had to wear matching pink legwarmers and beads in his hair too.










The Grinch was not happy, and I don’t blame her. I can’t imagine how hot she was in that green makeup, hat and coat, along with that black plastic garbage big sticking to her leg. But hey, at least she stayed in character.








You know you’re in small-town Iowa when you see people walking their goats in a parade. However, I almost missed the quintessential small-town Iowa parade entry. See if you can spot it, as I only managed to snap a photo after it passed me.








If you can’t tell, it’s a cow. But what you can’t see is that — a girl was riding it. This was a first for me. I grew up with cows and didn’t have a clue that I could’ve actually been riding them that whole time. And to think of how I used to ride my imaginary horse through the pastures, when all I had to do was throw a saddle on Bessie. Who knew?

After the parade we took our heat-stroked and sunburnt selves back to the paradise of air-conditioning before heading back uptown for the carnival rides. Here I am with two of the Boys, sporting my sexy tan.










Yes, I was a lobster. A highlight, though, was burning my cleavage. Not actually having cleavage until my recent weight gain, this was a first, and although it was a tad bit painful, I thought the white line in between really accentuated the fact that I now have a rather ample bosom. (My apologies to anyone reading this who is under the age of 35 and has to look up the word “bosom.”)






Although carnival and amusement park rides rank right up there with circuses and magic in my mind, somehow I found myself on a ride with my nephew. I’m blaming it on the fact that it’s called “The Sizzler.” Didn’t that used to be the name of a steakhouse? I was temporarily confused and thought I was volunteering to taste a ribeye, not spin in circles. Oh well, nothing goes with a massive sunburn like vertigo.

If you didn’t think of a carney as a glamorous job, think again. Notice the disco ball hanging in this booth? Not only did the worker get to control a ride under the strobing effect of the disco ball, he also got to be in charge of the music that was blaring out of the massive speaker in the trailer beside him.







Yes, yes I did win the hat. And no, you can’t borrow it.







Carnival prize suicide, although swept under the rug by the mainstream media because of the powerful carnival barker lobby, is on the rise. Sadly, Wish Bear’s last wish — to ditch this life on the road and maybe retire at some quiet second-hand store — did not come true.







Well, that’s all I have to report from this year’s small-town 4th of July. Despite the snarkiness of my post, I really do enjoy the celebration. (I’m getting a little afraid that one year I’m going to get to the city limits on July 3 and see a sign stating that I’m hereby banned from the festivities.)






Until next year, Creepy Carousel Bunny says he’ll be watching you… while you sleep…

Want more small-town 4th of July fun? Check out the highlights of 2008, 2009 and 2010!

I Hate April Fool’s Day

I would start this post out with a hearty, “April Fool’s Day!!!”… but as you can see by the title, I hate April 1.

Really, who thought up this day where people go around tricking other people, getting them all worked up, their heart pounding and sweat pouring out of every pore, and then saying, “Just kidding!”

I hate it.

My poor kids suffer the effects of my hatred. When they were littler, I used to pretend I was okay with it. I think I may have pretended we overslept one year . . . and I might have made supper for breakfast once  . . . but now they are just poor neglected children whose mother refuses to participate.  Just add it to the list of ways I’m damaging them.

I’m not really sure where this intolerance for April Fool’s Day comes from. I don’t recall any pranks-gone-horribly-wrong in my past. I think it just has to do with the fact that I’m a generally anxious person, and April Fool’s Day and Anxiety just do not get along.

I’m not trying to single out April Fool’s Day because I’m a horribly Scroogish person. I like to have fun — within limits. But here are some other things I hate that may help to better explain:

1. Clowns. They trick you by putting on that “silly” face, which if you ask me is never cute or funny. Why do they have to hide their face? I don’t like it. It’s trickery, and it freaks me out. I may have mentioned once or twice that I once saw an evil clown driving the backroads of Iowa with a very angry look on his face. He was alone, and I think he was running from the law. This did not do much for my clown phobia.

2. Jack-in-the-Boxes. Those stupid things never pop up in the same place twice. So you tense up, ready for it — and nothing. But just when you let your guard down—POP! I hate those things. And when it’s a clown popping up? Oh, don’t even go there.

3. Biscuit Tubes. You know the ones I’m talking about — those Pillsbury ones? You start peeling off the paper to reveal the cardboard, which is supposed to pop open at the seams. But most of the time it doesn’t pop open when it’s supposed to, so you wait… and finally you carefully stick a knife in between the seams and—POP! And you scream. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Now, with all the technology in the world, WHY can’t they make biscuit tubes that just open predictably, every time?

4. Magic. I have to preface this by saying that I like the magic that Boy #2 does because, well, he’s my kid, and that would be really mean if I hated it. But I could do without other kinds of magic. Again, I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen, and I don’t care for trickery. Just flippin’ tell me how you did it and no one gets hurt, okay?

5. Balloons. Now, I don’t have a problem with mylar balloons. They come in fun shapes and styles, and they don’t just pop for no reason like the other kind. Regular balloons? I’m not a fan. Again, the unpredictable popping about does me in. Not to mention that high-pitched squeal my kids like to make where they pull the end of the balloon tight and slowly let the air out…

So now that I’ve pretty much proven that I’m a fun-hater (and have justified my need for psychological intervention), at least you’ll know better than to try to pull an April Fool’s prank on me (Especially if it involves a clown doing magic tricks while holding balloons and making biscuits).

Ha — April Fool’s!

(Or is it???)

Liz Lemon and Me — Full Circle

Well, it’s finally happened, folks. Liz and I have officially come full circle.

It all started this morning, on a particularly chilly end-of-March walk to work. Of course, it was made even chillier due to the fact that when I pulled into my parking lot, not one space was empty, which then forced me to cruise adjacent lots until I finally ended up pulling in directly behind the “adult bookstore” and all-around general porn palace. This forced me to not only walk farther in the cold, but also to not want to make eye contact with anyone.

So I was walking — trying to will my short out-of-shape legs to move faster toward the heated building — when I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of a storefront window . . . and did a double-take. Yes, I realized I was dressed just like Liz Lemon. And not in a good way. Nope. Instead, I was dressed in that Jack-Donaghy-tells-Liz-Lemon-“don’t-dress-like-a-small-town-lesbian” kind of way. Not that there’s anything wrong with the look; Ellen Degeneres looks adorable in it. But I just don’t pull it off like Ellen can. Instead of “hip and with it,” my look said “gender-neutral and confused.”

No, it wasn’t quite as bad as THIS Liz Lemon look…








I hadn’t realized it when I left the house because I hadn’t looked in the mirror again after grabbing a coat and heading out the door. The coat . . . it pulled it all together. Without the coat, the outfit wasn’t too bad. A little on the manly side, but fitted enough to show a few curves: button-up chambray-colored cotton Converse shirt with a white tank underneath and sleeves rolled up; stone-colored jeans, straight-legged; silver Converse sneakers. But the snow this morning had caught me by surprise, and I had to make a quick coat decision . . . one I made a little too quick, I learned only too late.

Here I have to back up once again (plot sequence is so not my forté) and explain why I couldn’t just wear my regular winter coat. You see, a few weeks back I was pumping gas, and I locked the trigger on the gas pump like I normally do, because, well, I’m lazy and holding it for three minutes just seems way too hard. So the pump finally stopped, and as I was gawking at the near-$60 price my pump had racked up, I proceeded to pull the nozzle out of my gas tank.

And that’s where it went all kinds of wrong.

Before I knew what had hit me (which was, of course, gasoline), the nozzle flew out of my hand, and the hose whipped around like an angry snake, gas spewing everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. The trigger hadn’t unlocked like it normally does after removing the nozzle from my gas tank. And the gas decided it wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity to make a run for it, so it kept shooting out as I fumbled around trying to catch the nozzle and shut it off before I owed Kum & Go $120.

Needless to say, when I finally shut the beast down, I was $10 poorer and highly flammable. And my coat is dry-clean only. But being March and all, I didn’t feel the need to rush right out to the dry-cleaners. I’d just wear a jacket.

And then it snowed again. So this morning I grabbed one of my son’s warm in-between coats to wear (Being 13 and all, he doesn’t believe in the ritual of coat-wearing.) . . . A plaid Timberland flannel with a quilted lining. Yeah, nothing too feminine about that. Add to it the androgynous shirt and pants, bi-curious shoes and nerdy plastic glasses . . . and I was Liz Lemon.

So where does the “full circle” part come in? I’m getting there, hang with me.

All day I kept giggling to myself as I thought about how only Liz Lemon and I would unwittingly dress like lesbians. And since I’ve been so neglectful of my blog, I wanted to make sure to preserve this in the blogosphere before I forgot about it. So I started Googling “Liz Lemon,” pairing it with keywords like “wardrobe” and “dresses like lesbian” and “flannel shirt.” I wanted to find a photo of the specific look I was thinking of in case you weren’t familiar with Liz’s style. And I found a few.

This Liz Lemon look is close, but minus the sweater. We can’t see her shoes, but I’d bet money they’re sneakers.













But it was when I Googled “Liz Lemon” and “spinster” that the worlds of Paula Reece and Liz Lemon collided. Here, I took a screen shot for you:

Notice anything? Look closely in the bottom right-hand corner…

This is either a sign Liz/Tina and I were meant to be BFF’s — or that I’m a stalker.

Until the restraining order is issued, I’ll go with “BFF’s.”

Cat butts and whatnot

It’s really hard to write a post with a cat’s butt in your face.

Normally I don’t have such issues, as Husband is allergic to cats, but this morning I am at my sister-in-law’s house, as she is admittedly on her way to becoming “the cat lady” (minus the spinster lifestyle since she’s married with two kids), I am having to navigate my laptop while a really cute cat paces back and forth across my chest, blocking my view of the screen and occasionally pausing so that her butt is positioned directly in front of my nose. And kitty, even though you’re awfully sweet, your butt is awfully stinky.

I’ve got lots to tell you, about Mayo Clinic, turning 39 and a Polish house guest, but for now I’ll have to leave you with a helpful tip and a cool photo. I promise to write more when I have time to actually catch my breath.

Paula’s Helpful Tip:

Do not attempt to eat a chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell while driving in the dark. Especially if there is not a napkin anywhere to be found. When you arrive at your destination, you will find yourself covered in stains, and you may just end up licking the inside of the sleeve of your down coat to clean up what tastes like sour cream and cheese. Not pretty, and not very tasty either.

Paula’s Cool Photo:

The coolest Barnes & Noble store EVER is in the skyway system at the Mayo Clinics in Rochester, MN. It used to be a theatre and still maintains the setting of a castle. This is my mother-in-law and Boy #2 posing. She took time off work to go with us to doctor appointments last week. What an awesome mom and grandma!!












So, peeps, I’ll write more soon when I’m not distracted by cat butts, promise.