Sunday, August 29, 2010

Holly Lane Designs Jewelry Winner!

Hi All! Greetings from the beach. I'll be sure to update you in the next day or so about our beach house, but I'm far too busy worrying about lice and bedbugs right now to give you the full rundown.

Instead, I'd like to congratulate Tracie from "From Tracie" as our Holly Lane Designs earring winner. I know you will enjoy your Story earrings.

A big thank you to all who entered the giveaway!

Remember, all Holly Lane Designs are 20% off until midnight tonight!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Holly Lane Designs Giveaway!

Things are still nutty over here and I'm not exactly rocking things in the Mom department. I really enjoyed discovering that my ELEVEN year old son has been wearing kids' size ONE baseball cleats for the last 3 seasons. He told me his feet have been hurting for years, maybe because he's a size THREE. He almost kissed me on the mouth when I bought him new ones.

And the big school decision? Aargh.

Anyway, since I don't really want to write about my glorious life today, I thought I'd spread a little love to you in the form of an awesome giveaway!

This spring, in the span of one week, I noticed 3 people wearing gorgeous, unique sterling silver jewelry. Each piece was different, but each appealed to me. Turns out they were all from Holly Lane Designs! It felt like when you learn a cool new vocab word and it starts to turn up all over the place.

I contacted the artist, Tiffany Scott, and saw her entire line, each piece inspired by a Bible verse or Christian image. I learned her jewelry often sparks conversations the way it did with me. In fact, Tiffany, a mom of 5 and an awesome artist, creates her jewelry as an opportunity for people to share their lives and their faith with each other.

I bought the dogwood earrings necklace and am in love! They are sterling silver and smoky quartz and, as all HLD pieces do, came with a story card explaining the Christian symbolism that inspired them. As Molly says, "Are you going to wear the same jewelry every single day, Mom?" Yes, I think I will.

Here I am wearing it at BlogHer with Christy:

Tiffany and I would love to offer a pair of Holly Lane Designs earrings to a lucky winner!

I picked the "Story" earrings to give away. Here's what Tiffany has to say about them:

"This particular piece is meant to represent the story God has written for us. In it He has placed characters (i.e.broken homes, small town, big city) and given us a plot unique to each one of us. He has woven our story together with others and has put us on a journey where we can discover Him. He writes with a love for us like no other!"

I love sharing my story with you through An Inch of Gray, and reading your blogs and your comments to learn more about your stories!

I'm sure you'll love these earrings as much as I do!

To enter, just visit Holly Lane Designs, then come back and tell me what your favorite piece is.

For an additional entry, just leave me a second comment if you follow An Inch of Gray!

For a third entry, feel free to blog or tweet about the giveaway.

Contest ends Sunday morning at 10.

And, as an added bonus, Holly Lane Designs is having a 20% off sale on the entire line of jewelry, through August 29th!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Hodge-Podge

I've had a hard time writing because I'm in an August funk. While I'm looking forward to having more time to devote to my job and to myself once the kids are in school, I'm not looking forward to all of the schlepping here and there, the homework trauma, and the weekends full of sports.
Jake can relate and he proclaims, "August is the Sunday of the summer."

You nailed it, kid. When I was teaching school I could NOT enjoy Sundays because all I could do was think about what I should be doing to get ready for school the next day.

Adding to our August-angst is my annual pilgrimage down the "Where should I send the kids to school" road? Yes, I know school starts in mere DAYS, and most other parents would have figured this out by, say, last June. I know that if it is causing me stress, it must also be causing Molly (the kid in question this year) stress too. My friends won't even talk to me about it, because they've been there with me before, and before, and before.

I have been praying that God would give me a clear sign about where to send Molly-- to the public school she attended last year, or the private one she attended the 3 years prior. Sunday morning I sat in church and the pastor used a certain word in his sermon no fewer than 15 times, and the word just happened to be the NAME OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOL!

Here's the thing, the school's name is a word found in the Bible, so it's not like the pastor was saying, "Miss Junie's Finishing School," but it's not super-common word like, say, Jesus or Faith. I was taken aback. Like, "God, is this my sign? Seriously? The two schools and school experiences are so utterly different I need a CLEAR sign, Dude."

Now if a brick had hit me on the head as I left church and the brick had etched in it "Miss Junie's Finishing School" I would GET it, but this? I just don't know what to make of this.

So we have that issue.
We also have Molly's Triple-C's. She announced that she HATES "Cats, Clowns, and Canada." I kind of get the first two, but Canada? No explanation forthcoming from Molly, and I would like to apologize to my dear Canadian readers. I promise I am not a Canada-basher. She actually fake-spat when she saw a maple leaf yesterday. I'm so sorry.
Not much else to report except Tom and I are having a stand-off between gray (his choice) and black (my choice) shingles for our new roof. Roof guys are ready to go, but they need our decision. I know black is not energy efficient, but it looks nice. Thoughts? Please weigh in.

If you would like to make our school decision, shingle decision, and figure out a way to cure Molly's Xenophobia, I'd be grateful. Not too much to ask for a Friday afternoon, right?

I know you can do it! I am still laughing over the descriptions you came up with to describe my sitting next to the sex blogger at dinner. Check 'em out in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The One that Got Away

So on leg 10 of my 13 legs of driving and schlepping the kids around yesterday (is this boot camp for Back to School?), I passed a lovely bench on a trash pile. It looked like the one above, but without the artfully placed teacup and throw, natch.

Things working in my favor:
It was in the front yard of a house with an "Under Contract" sign on it.

The house was fancy-schmantzy, indicating the people probably bought nice stuff.

Moving causes a desperate need to unload treasures.

Thing working against me:

Very full bladder. Like seriously, intensely full.

I decided to rush home to avoid losing bladder control in my hometown while dumpster diving. When I returned with my helpful son in tow, the bench was gone.


What about you? What's the one that got away?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hair Today, More Hair Tomorrow

So I got an email a few weeks ago from a reader and fellow blogger who asked what she considered a semi-embarrassing question. From the pictures she'd seen of my hot husband, she wanted to know if he was quite hairy.

Turns out her husband is also hirsute, and she wanted to know if I was in the club with her. You didn't know there was a club? Oh well. Your loss. I sure hope there's NOT a club for men whose wives have cellulite and blood sugar-induced mood swings, for undoubtedly Tom is a card carrying member.

Anyway, I did share that Tom is hairy. In fact, I remember going to a Halloween party back in grad school and seeing 2 guys with pumpkins on their heads. I remember thinking, "Wow, one of those pumpkin guys has seriously hairy knees."
Little did I know one day I would marry that pumpkin head. The hair has been a non-issue, even with the advent of the well-groomed, metrosexual look. Tom OWNS his hair, and if he eventually sports a uni brow, so be it.

In fact, it is barely noticeable to me.

Except those times when it is:

Tom and Jake, 1999.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is it Just Me, or is it a Little Hot in Here?

One more little story from BlogHer. Although the hotel provided yummy food, I really wanted to connect with people whenever possible over smaller meals at restaurants.

The opportunity to go to a Chinese restaurant with some of my favorite bloggers and a few new faces presented itself Saturday night. I sat next to a lovely young woman I didn't know. She had long red nails, cascading hair, and a slinky dress. To me she looked Eastern European, vulnerable, and oh-so-young. I went directly into mother-hen mode, hoping to make her feel comfortable being around all of these older, more experienced (a-hem!) women.

Upon introducing myself, I found out she was one of the speakers. At the sex session. Yep, BlogHer held an enthusiastically attended session on sex, or Sex Bloggers, or blogs about sex, or something to that effect. I didn't attend, but I did pass by a table after the session where sponsors were handing out accessories...accoutrements, okay, appliances that related to what was discussed in the session.

I got an eye full, and was quite intrigued to see that one item was shaped like a duck (!) but I admit I skirted the table at a brisk pace. I had the bizarre fear that one of the items would mysteriously jump into my swag bag and I'd have some 'splaining to do back home. "Mom, if this is an electric toothbrush, where's the brush part?"

While I know objects can't leap into tote bags, it reminded me of an irrational fear that would grip me whenever I walked across a bridge as a kid. I'd keep a death grip on my Bermuda bag because I could actually visualize myself involuntarily hurling it over the edge.

Weird, I know. Okay then.

So while there is nothing wrong with having a sex talk at BlogHer, I did not attend the session, I am not super comfortable talking about intimate subjects, I did not pick up any session-related goodies, and here I was sitting net to the BlogHer's resident Sex-pert, in the flesh!

I took a deep breath and asked her how she thought her session went. She told me she wished there had been more time to break into smaller groups according to particular fe*tishes. Dear Lord. "Waiter, more white wine, STAT!"

You see I'm just not a va-va-voom person. I didn't get involved in Pre-marital sex and I'm sorry to say I'm often too tired to get real revved up for During-marital sex. Now before you start giving me advice about what I should have picked up from the giveaway table, let me just say that is not the direction this post is supposed to take. Move along people.

I guess my point is that my sitting next to the sex-pert seems a bit incongruous, or at the very least wasteful. Her Sex-pert-ness was wasted on me. You see, I really didn't have much to offer, and I sincerely did not want to find out any specifics about her hobbies. I know myself, and I know how certain info or images can mess with my brain, even at age 40, so I just didn't want to go there. I remember reading a Vanity Fair article about F*urries a few years back and I'm still traumatized.

In the end, it was a positively lovely evening, and the talk centered around blogging, family, jobs, kids and pretty mild subjects. All of my tablemates were beyond charming, and the convo stayed PG-13.

In trying to wrap up this post I encountered a figurative language FAIL. I was trying to find just the right word picture: "Seating Anna next to the Sex-pert was like putting Ronald McDonald next to Julia Child." Too creepy. "Putting Anna next to the Sex-pert was like putting a paint by numbers next to a Warhol." Not loving that either.

Soooooo, if you can think of a better way to say what you think I think I'm trying to say, I'd be grateful. I may even send you some sort of prize. Just remember what little gift-y I didn't pick up at BlogHer. Sorry.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weekend Update

Christy, Kate, Anna, Jill

Not quite sure how to sum up BlogHer, but I realize if I don't post something soon, the statute of limitations on all BlogHer-related posts will be long gone.

First, we must remember that the big weekend coincided with a family reunion at my in-laws in CT. While I was devastated to have to miss the the latter part of this gathering (19 people under one roof), it made jumping on a train to the big city quite convenient.

I planned on chronicling my outfits for the whole weekend and sharing with you how much I spent on each (Photo Below: Old Navy shirt: $3, Ann Taylor Pants: $5, both from the thrift shop), but I soon realized it's a lot less awkward to ask my 9 year old to photograph me than people I've just met, so all I've got for you is the train outfit. I know you feel like weeping right now at the loss of a play-by-play wardrobe report.

At check-in, I heard a woman call my name. Although I didn't recognize her, I was filled with gratitude and relief that someone reached out to me. Turns out it was Headless Mom , a 3-time BlogHer alum, and I didn't recognize her because, well, on her blog she's headless. She was warm and outgoing and made me feel at ease right away. She let me stick to her like an STD on Jersey Shore during those nervous-making first few hours. Turns out we're sorority sisters! S-weet!

I became more at ease as the weekend progressed. My roommate Kate, served as Julie McCoy, and as a former meeting planner and all-around delightful person, she helped make an often overwhelming weekend a lot more enjoyable. I believe that without Kate I would have stayed holed up in the hotel room most of the time. There were more than 2,000 women there. That's a lot of noise, luggage, and estrogen even for an extrovert like me.

I was thrilled and grateful throughout the weekend to see that the connection forged by reading each other's blogs is genuine. Thanks to Headless Mom, Christy, Kablooey and others, I now know it takes about 2 seconds to get comfortable with bloggy friends, having shared their joys and sorrows with them on-line.

I must admit I wondered-- would it be awkward meeting big-time bloggers whom I feel like I know? Would I be overly familiar, talking about their children, husbands, and gynos? Would they be mean? I loved meeting Jessica, Marinka, Kelcey, Vodkamom and others. They were just as charming and hilarious in person as on screen. Loved. Loved. Loved them! I pictured us all having a pajama party a la Grease, which somehow did not happen, but I'm proud that I introduced myself and I tried hard not to stalk them all over the Hilton.

A big highlight was meeting my new BFF Jill when she and Christy came into our room Friday morning while I was still in bed. With my bleary eyes (can you say too much white wine on Thursday night??) I thought she was the charming Stacey, whom I'd met before, so I kind of lunged at her, nightgown bunched up around my midsection.

I'm pretty sure, as my high school friend would say, that my "spiders were escaping," so this may have been a tad alarming for a first greeting. Sorry, Jill. Thanks for continuing to hang with me the whole weekend! Stacey, my dear, I'm sure you were glad that when we finally got to see each other, I was fully clothed.

Jill and Anna.

My favorite times were smaller gatherings, at dinners, in the hotel bar, and in the Serenity Suite. I wish there could have been more chances for this, but I also understand that for first-timers like me, the weekend had to build up to that. We needed some structure to give us a purpose and make us feel that we belonged.

I think those who got the most out of the weekend probably set up breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in advance with people they wanted to hang out with. This probably gets easier to do and more comfortable with time. By NOT knowing that many people, however, I was able to meet wonderful new women, and I have a some great new (to me!) blogs to check out.

You hear a lot about SWAG at BlogHer. The whole swag thing left me feeling...meh. I realize now that I spent HOURS in the Expo Hall picking up free samples when I could have and should have been chatting with interesting people.

My kids were not overly impressed by my "haul" and wondered why I couldn't be one of "those Cool Nintendo Mommy Bloggers." Hmmm. The verdict? The swag thing made me feel-- as I peered around trying to see what other people had-- acquisitional and empty. I really wanted to feel relational and full. I mean I was full, but Butterfinger samples are not what I'm talking about. The expo serves a purpose and is a place to go when feeling at loose ends, but it is NOT the highlight of BlogHer. And fancy swag at private parties? Kind of just makes me feel left out, unless I'm invited, in which case, no problemo.

I realized as we went along that what I want more of at a blogging convention and in life are those moments of sitting, laughing and sharing. When my fancy jeans (White House, Black Market: $7 at the thrift store!) are sagging in the crotch, my shoes are kicked off, and wine, friendship and the joy of being a woman and being away put a flattering haze around everyone, laughter happens, and people connect.

For the past 2 1/2 years, blogging has made me feel connected to you, even if it's 2 am here and you are halfway around the world. And because of that, and what I now know, I will no longer need to talk about "In Real Life" friends and "Bloggy" friends. We are all friends, and for that I am grateful.

Shoot! I forgot to tell you about Saturday's dinner. If you'll humor me I have a juicy tidbit for you tomorrow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Don't Make Me Put on My Angry Eyes

Just rolled into town after the week-long in-law reunion in Connecticut/BlogHer festivities! I missed you!

Feeling tired and dazed and not sure which order in which to write it all down.

How about I start at the end, on Sunday, when I got escorted out of a news stand in Grand Central Station? I assure you that I was thinking of you, dear friends, when I almost got sent to the pokey.

From the crappy caliber of the above photo, you will know it was maybe NOT such a wise call that I skipped the photography class at BlogHer in order to sleep off some wine, take a long shower, and spend a little alone time time with The Book Thief.

I was trying to get better shots for you, when the assertive news stand lady made me cease and desist. "No picture! No picture in here! Lady, you go now!"

Not sure whether she took umbrage with the fact that I thought it was hi-lar-i-ous to label a rack of the following titles: Doll Advertiser, Doll Collector, Watch and Clock, Classic Cars, Cigar, World War II Vehicles, and possibly Urology Today "GENERAL Interest," or whether she thought I was some kind of security threat.

I'm guessing she wanted to nab me before I could fulfill my diabolical plan of photographing as many magazine covers as possible. Then, instead of leafing through my book on the train to CT, I could just scroll through my view finder and learn whatever my heart desired about Origami, German U-Boats and archeology, or at least what could be found on the covers.

I can't wait to write more, but let me just say my week away was filled with family, new and old friends, and fortunately, no jail-time.