Saturday, October 02, 2010

New blog, more general.

Hello all!
I'm starting a new blog that speaks more generally about my life now that it's way past the makeover.
Follow the yellow brick link:

Hope you like the new blog, I will post at least once a week with either a new drawing, some new writing, or both, like you'll see in the first post.
Jen Kelly

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Don't forget to stop and smell the fertilizer.

My daughter pointed and shouted-“Jack pooped! Jack pooped!”

That would have been great except that our dog Jack--and his gifts--were in the kitchen. Location, location, location.

We adopted Jack a few months ago from PAWS, a local no-kill shelter. He’s seven-years-old and eight excitable pounds of Jack Russell Terrier. My Mom’s cat is twice his size (it's freakishly tall for a cat and Jack’s kind of small for a JRT). Jack and my family are pretty happy with each other, but there’s one big issue. Although he’s potty trained, he really prefers not to use that training.

We’ve gotten to the point where he doesn’t pee inside anymore (Thank You, Jesus) but he still likes to poo in the comfort of his own home. To which I might add, “Don’t we all?”

I can stand outside in the yard with him for ten minutes without any luck.

"Jack! Go poo-poo!"
He looks at me.
I wait for 30 seconds or so.
"Jack!!! Go poo-poo!"
Repeat for nine more minutes.

He sits next to me, watching the yard, looking up at me, scratching his ear with his hind leg, and eating grass. TEN MINUTES! It’s a long time unless I use it talking with friends or checking email on my phone. I ignore him as he goes about sniffing. Later I’ll hang up and gaze down to search for anything I haven’t smelled yet. He stares back with his huge Chihuahua-like eyes, adoring and patient.

I take him inside and within a half hour we’ll find it somewhere. The smell makes me snap to attention. I get a visual on Jack, and scour the perimeter of the floor around him. Sometimes he’s still next to it. Small-dog poop logs. He’s quiet and fast, like a stealth bomber. A lot of the time I turn around, there sits the payload, and he’s already gone.

Anyway, Heather and her family were over for dinner. Yes, the same Heather who nominated me for the Makeover (Thanks, Heather!). We were having take-out from India Pavilion (if you’re in State College, try it) when my daughter sounded the alarm.

“Jack pooped! Jack pooped!”

This was the first time in the year and a half we’ve been friends with Heather and Ashley Holleman that they’ve come to our house for a meal (I never invite people over when the house is messy. Yes, it was messy for the entire year and a half). As hostess, I wanted the dinner to be pleasant and enjoyable. I refrained from cooking expressly for the purpose of sparing our company from a crappy evening. Or an evening on the crapper, for that matter.

But dogs and babies are never upstaged. Jack had already showed them how he can repeatedly chase and fetch a ball (an endless activity to which Sisyphus would have preferred his boulder). Perhaps copping a squat was the only other trick he knew.

Needless to say, Public Displays of Jack’s Rectum were not approved as the evening’s entertainment. I mentally translated the French word ‘Merde’ into English and turned to find it. I was relieved because it didn’t look like much, but in passing to get the paper towels it registered that it was a little smashed on one end. Maybe in a rush he stepped on it. Great, now our white carpet would have the cutest trail of footprints made out of poop.

By the way, the carpet was white when we moved in. Who in the world installs white carpet? People without young children or pets.

Just then I noticed Heather’s youngest daughter was in the kitchen (yes, you can see it coming). She was standing on her left leg, looking down at the bottom of her right foot. I rushed over to her. There was a piece of poop smashed between her toes. It was a small percentage of Jack's complete movement, but on the bottom of a four-year-old’s foot it covered a lot of territory.

Heather’s daughters both look like adorable pixies. Their smiles swirl with mischief, no doubt passed down from their Dad. But at that moment, the girl looked up at me with worried eyes, for all the world resembling one of those morose “Precious Moments” figurines. And then it slammed into my head: the image of a dainty Precious Moments figurine holding out a porcelain foot, tenderly painted brown.

There are critical moments as a parent (or parent figure) when you MUST NOT LAUGH! I closed my eyes and grit my teeth hard. I didn’t want to bust a gut right there; after all, to a four-year-old, stepping in poop is high level drama—I mean ‘trauma’ to be taken seriously. Plus I wasn't laughing at her. Besmirched Precious Moments figurines are enough to make me chuckle.

Heather got up and began to move around the table to come over. She said something like “Jen can you give me a paper towel?” But I already had one in my hand and since it was my dog’s poop, I felt I should clean it up.

Have you ever witnessed when two couples, or families, go out to eat and one couple tries to pick up the whole check? And there’s a tussle over who gets to pay, who gets to be the giver? It’s hard to receive from people you love if you feel they give you so much already. It’s frequently like that between me and Heather.

So ignoring Heather’s paper towel request I bent down and took her daughter’s tiny foot in my hand. I marveled at how small it was. My daughter is a year older, so I hadn’t seen a foot this size in so long. I wondered wistfully how could already have forgotten the look of my own kids’ feet from a year ago, two and three years ago.

Those memories of my kids’ expressions, funny habits and small feet are plastered over daily by the experiences of them right now. It’s a good trade, but sometimes I feel sad that back then I was too tired and stressed to sit and memorize them at significant points. You think loved ones don’t change much, until you see pictures. You don’t think you’ll ever forget a face, and then you realize you have.

But, my spirits were still high from the ‘precious moment’ of laughter a minute before.
And I was happy because I’d gotten there first and was able to give Heather the gift of not cleaning poop off her child. Well, no more than one usually cleans off a child.

I nestled the girl’s ankle in my palm as I wiped her foot clean. Heather stood silently over my shoulder, or maybe I just didn’t hear her, but I felt her there. She trusted me to care for one of her beloved daughters. She accepted me—by accepting my gift of service—reflecting all that love. I realized there was nothing else I would have rather done but whatever made me feel that loved. The poop was so worth it.

I was grateful I found love in all the wrong places. Sorry, I had to say that. You know how it is.
Actually, not the wrong places, just the unexpected ones.

My dog gave me crap, and somehow I received love.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't be Stupid and Lewd at the Same Wrong Time.

Note: In order to avoid overlong blog posts, I'm just going to stop at okay parts and start back up the next time where I left off. I was trying to make self-contained short anecdotes, but I'm too behind to do that now. Enjoy!

I felt like a rock star as my nominating friend Heather and I were led through a service door leading into the kitchen of the Autoport, the restaurant where I was about to be ‘unveiled’. I walked by someone sliding a creamy tangle of fettucini alfredo from a pan onto a plate and automatically I said “yummy.” The surprised staff person gave me an impatient glance, like “who the **** are you, and why are you here?” Chastened, I kept my mouth shut as I passed the other harried waitstaff skirting around us on their missions. Luckily the walk through the kitchen was short and we did not get lost in the bowels of the building, like some other faux-rock stars. (If the Autoport even has bowels).

Heather went ahead into the dining room to say a few words about why she nominated me for the makeover. I stayed back, waiting in a food prep area next to the swinging door to the dining room, my appointed entrance. The two Premier Models that had led us through the kitchen stayed with me. The Models were a beautiful blonde woman and a beautiful brunette woman. I identified them as Premier Models because their company-issued tank tops had "Premier Model" embroidered in the middle of their chests, but sported no nametags. It’s hard to ignore something written smack in the middle of a woman’s chest. I wondered if it bothered them to not have a nametag.

Anyway, I couldn’t think of their names and now their shirts were no help. If we’d been introduced, I’d forgotten it in all the excitement. They showed up at our hotel room door, all smiles and shaking hands while I was busy rubbing my teeth in case of stray lipstick. If I called out “Oh, Premier Model, could you bring me a microphone?” Which one of us would feel dumber?

I eyed one Model surreptitiously, noting her perfect makeup that she probably put on herself, and her slender body that sported “assets” that had the enviable combination of fullness and buoyancy that the young take so for granted. For almost twenty years I’ve drawn the female figure, so instinctually my eyes followed the contours of her back as they pulled into the curve of her waist before flowing out and down to form her hips.

Then I looked away, feeling a little creepy for checking her out, even as an artist. Nevermind that in a short minute I would be extensively checked out by around 80 people in the next room. I had signed up for that, whereas she was just working. If she wanted creepy 40 year-olds looking her over, she could work at Hooters.

We heard indistinct talking coming through the door as we waited for the cue to come out. The model with dark brown hair leaned her head near the door. I turned toward the blonde model and she smiled at me shyly. As I always seem to do lately, I complimented her to prevent myself from trying to be funny. When I’m nervous, my humor gets inappropriate.

Like what happened a week ago when I was visiting a friend who happens to be a pastor’s wife. Her husband, the pastor, had been working on expanding their backyard deck since I’d been there last. I had been chatting with my friend for a bit when the pastor walked out the sliding door to say hello. There are some people I like kidding around with and he’s one of them. But I was a little nervous for some reason and after saying hello, I gestured to the construction going on around me and said “I sure like a man with a big deck!”

Thank the Lord he left before I could say anything else as stupid. My friend was polite enough to ignore the fact that I’d said perhaps the worst faux pas of my life, making a lewd comment to the pastor husband of one of my good friends. So…yeah. When I’m nervous, I get stupid and inappropriate.

I like to think I've learned from that lesson. I just told her her hair was beautiful.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How can I be hungover if I didn't drink?

Hello dear ones!
I am nearly recovered from last week. I mostly just stood, sat, or posed where they told me to, but I was still exhausted by the end of Friday. It was the end of a long month of being made over, and working up to the big reveal. I hadn't realized how much I needed to rest until I got home.

Being hailed by so many people I love was truly wonderful. Plus the loot was fantastic! I'll be posting pictures soon of the outfits and teeth closeups and all that jazz. If you saw the power point presentation at the unveiling, then you may have seen them already. I was hiding in one of the hotel rooms when that was being shown to you all, so I haven't even seen it yet!

I'm slow to recover, and must catch up on work I put off last week before I can venture into publishing the thoughts of the last two weeks or so. Sorry for the LONG delay in posting, the exterior busy-ness stole much time away from all the interior navel gazing that goes into this blog.

hugs to all and I'll post soon the full story of an experience of a lifetime.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fall into the gap.

I met a new doctor at a routine exam. She leaned her head to the side, shaking my hand and smiling as she introduced herself. Her teeth were bed-sheet white and straight, but she had a gap between her top front teeth. My eyes were drawn there uncontrollably. I notice tooth gaps, I always do. Why hasn’t she gotten that fixed? I wondered.

I always shook my head and tsk-tsked when people got plastic surgery to appear younger, or 'improve' some part of their appearance. "Why can’t they accept the way He has made them over time? Didn’t He mean for us to have a big nose, or wrinkle up, and perhaps think of other things than vanity? It’s sometimes a blessing to lose what you value—if what you value is meaningless." I smugly anticipated the day when I would grow old gracefully, I'd show them all, I'd take what came.

This is what came: sagging anatomy, crow’s feet, upper arm hammocks, muffin top and an apron. (If you don’t know what an apron is, keep yourself in the dark.)

Seeing is believing. I completely understood. I wanted plastic surgery. Once I found out the cost for arms, butts, or boobs, it was necessary to adopt the attitude that if God made old people look old, who was I to change that?

I had a gap between my two front teeth on and off since I was knee high, and I (usually) never liked it. I chose to pretend it made me look fun and likeable. I'd never have to worry about someone hating me because I was beautiful. That’s a silver lining, right? I tried so hard to love the gap, but if you have to try, it usually ain’t gonna happen. I tried to love being a size 26, but could never figure out how to do that either.

There’s a quilting tradition in U.S. where a quilter will purposely sew a mistake into their quilts—an upside-down patch, a mismatched color, a backwards pattern. This is to acknowledge that God is the only being who can make perfection. I reversed that in my mind, seeing my tooth gap as a God-made flaw which he wasn’t correcting. If what He makes is perfect, why am I like this? And anyway, isn’t it some sort of hubris if you PUT the imperfection there? Does it count as humility, instead of some disingenuous gesture? Maybe it depends on the quilter.

My Non-Pleasant Gap was ever-present from when my teeth came in to when the braces eradicated it at 13. After braces I always wore a retainer of some sort which kept me gap-free until I was about 30. Some dental work ruined the fit of the mouth guard that had kept the top teeth in place. I didn’t want to drop $400 for a new one. I didn’t realize how much the guard was keeping everything in line.

Suddenly unfettered, the teeth eventually grew apart. Their separation left a new gap. Or maybe it was the old gap, just coming back around like an ex looking to hook up.

I assumed God brought it back. I pouted. Eventually, I decided if God wanted it there, who was I to change it? I suspect I only adopted that attitude because I was told there really wasn’t a good option for improving function or appearance. Essentially they weren’t broken, so my dentist wouldn’t fix them. Fine, prudent, responsible, but a bummer. Is the word ‘bummer’ back in style yet? I still use it. I’m like a stopped clock that’s still correct twice a day. Every 30 years my lingo is back in style.

So. There I am, telling my front gap that I’m not ashamed being seen with it, while looking all around for a way to ditch it. (Teenage flashbacks.)

Back to the quilt metaphor-thingy. What if I made a perfect quilt as a celebration of his Glory rather than a proclamation of my human inability to measure up? In other words, can I justify fixing the gap like I really want to do, by saying it’s a testimony, not a false humility? I want perfection to look how I think it should look, but He’s got his own ideas, I guess. Why else slap that gap back on my face? Was it to keep me humble through my (perceived) imperfections? I correct it, does that go against what God wants for me?

And then, the Mother’s Day Makeover arrived, making the whole thing a little more confusing.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Optical Delusions

I was sitting in the patient’s chair at Tar-jay Optical. Why go to Target for your optical needs? Why not? I feel so comfortable at Target. Red and white is my favorite color scheme.
This appointment had nothing to do with the makeover, I just needed an eye exam. My arms were getting too short.

The optometrist is Dr. Miller, A friendly woman somewhere in her forties kind of age, I think. She had blonde hair, long and wavy in even undulations instead of curls. She directed me to put my chin here, look there, track the flashlight. “Don’t worry, this (nozzle that is zooming real close to my eye) just blows out a puff of air.” Later she asked repeatedly: “Which one looks better? (Click. Her voice lilted up in a soothing question)…A? (Click . Her voice slid back down.)…or B? (Click)…A? (Click, with a wee-bit longer pause)…or B?

The exam was over more quickly than I expected. She sat back in her rolling chair and began to explain how my far-range vision is fine, but my near-range vision is beginning to degenerate in that way that always seems to begin as you take your first waking breath on your fortieth birthday. She then eased into a practiced explanation about some glasses that would help me see at both distances and—

“You’re going to say the ‘B’ word, aren’t you?” I interrupted.
She smirks and regains her footing in her choreographed spiel, continuing without repeating the word, but dancing around it.

OMG! As the kids say.

A few minutes later I am at the front desk, asking if they have a pair of over-the -counter magnifying eyeglasses I can try on before committing a lot of money for real reading glasses. (I called them ‘cheaters’ when Rob got OTC magnifiers. Now it’s not quite as funny. Let’s call them “cheapers,” because they are.)

I slipped on the cheapers. They improved things sight-wise, but when I glanced up at the attendant, I reflexively pointed my nose down and gazed up over the glasses. The Librarian glare.

I already need age-related reading glasses, which is enough of a blow, I don’t want to be seen doing that over-the-glasses gesture that automatically ages you ten to twenty years.

I got the invisible trifocals. Doesn’t that sound better than bifocals? Like I have a legitimate vision problem, not just the usual accompaniment to crow’s feet and sagging assets (—my God-given bosomly endowment is now an “en down ment.”)

I purchased a pair of cool looking cheapers (yes, that's possible) to have as a spare, because Rob’s prescription reading glasses seem to run off with the car keys right when he needs them.

When I get home I talked to Rob about going out for dinner.
“I want to go now, I’m hungry.” I said. Both of us swivel our heads to look at the clock on the stove. It’s almost four pm.
“Oh, no!” I cried. “I’m even eating like a senior citizen now!”

At least now I’ll be able to read the menu without pictures.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I had that “I don’t wanna go to the gym” thing going on a recent morning. I really should have washed my hair, but I was being lazy about everything, and it looked passable to me. I thought maybe if I worked out hard right away that I would just look sweaty.

I’d forgotten the rule that you will always run across someone you know when you try to just dash somewhere without being noticed.

So I walked into Curves. I tried to slide by the main desk (after signing in) without anyone seeing me. I wanted to get right into sweating to disguise the lazy state of my hair.

One of the Curves employees says hello, all smiles. I must not have been hideous, because she didn’t shrink back in horror. Then again, they’ve seen a lot of Bed Head and legitimately sweaty hair. Oh well, she’ll forget me in a second.

But, I forgot I’m “The Winner.”

I jumped on a jogging board and started a marching in place to get the whole target heart rate thing going. About 10 minutes later I’ve moved about halfway around the room. There are a million signs on the walls. Bulletin board, charts, motivational sayings, policy notices, or whatever. So, it took awhile for me to notice the large sign by the desk.

Jen Kelly
The BNI Mother’s Day
Makeover Winner!

My name up in colored paper.
I almost cried, but you can’t cry when you’re doing bicep curls. That’s so not cool.

There were cut-out flowers gamboling around my name and the letters themselves were all different colors. This was a lot more work than slapping the words on poster board with a Sharpie and calling it a day. I was touched that someone had done that for me, and I was suddenly gushing gratitude for everything I am receiving because of the makeover. I closed my eyes, pretending to be overcome with exertion instead of merely trying to hold it together before my eyes started to water. It might have been fine to be seen crying, but what if they come over to comfort me and noticed the rest of me wasn’t sweaty enough to warrant the condition of my hair? The whole ruse would be over.

More people gradually joined the circuit. A blonde woman sat on a machine near me and I glanced at her. It was Jean, one of my favorite receptionists from Weight Watchers. She had been there every week while I lost the 90 pounds and was someone I looked forward to seeing at the weigh-in and meeting. But I have never seen her outside of Weight Watchers. Of course I would see her then, because of the rule. We chatted as we rounded the circle. Oh well. Surely no one else would notice me.

Then the woman from the desk walked up to me, smiling.

“You’re Jen, right?” she asks. “The BNI makeover winner?”
The winner who, she’s now probably thinking, could really use a makeover. Or shampoo.
“Yeah.” I said uncomfortably; I never know what to do when I’m identified as “the winner”.
She introduced herself and told me that she wanted to take a picture of me for the Welcome sign before I left.
“Does my hair look terrible?” I asked.
“You won the contest?” Jean asked, looking from the poster to me.
“Yeah.” I said. It’s still hard to tell people without feeling sheepish. I should practice in a mirror saying “Yes! I did!” I feel sheepish about feeling sheepish at this point.

I agreed to the photo. At least I had one of my favorite t-shirts on. It says "Jenius" which made me laugh out loud when I saw it in the catalog. But people who know my name tend to mentally pronounce it like Jen-ius, not Jean-ius. And the funny gets a little lost when it seems like it's purposely spelled that way as a nod to my name. I like the way it was intended. Like I'm a self-proclaimed genius who misspells the title. It's a t-shirt that says "I'm with stupid" but you don't need to be standing next to anyone.

The Curves employee moved on, and Jean turned to me.
“I know you’re not the kind of person to be all about the prizes, but… what prizes did you get?” She asked eagerly.

But I am all about the prizes. I’m only human. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about them. What will my smile look like without that gap between my front teeth? I hope the Miche Bag shells are pretty. I wonder if I should get some Spanx before they take me shopping for the party outfit; I must control my Mommy Muffin Top.

“Well, you deserve it, Jen. You’ve been working so hard, and you look great now.” Jean said. She was on her back, her calves nestled in the machine where you open your legs and then bring them back together.
“I have a friend who used to call this the ‘Good girl/bad girl’ machine.” She laughed.
Now I’ll always enjoy that thought when I’m using that station. At least until my thighs start fatiguing.

I finished my workout and the woman took my picture. At first I stood there, arms hanging. I felt totally lame. I put my hands on my hips, to make myself look more alive. Isn’t that called ‘arms akimbo’? I wondered to myself. What a funny phrase. I remembered my daughter’s preschool pictures where she had her hands on her hips and was glaring at the camera with a hint of a smile. She looked impatient to get back to whatever activity she was doing before they pulled her away, combed her hair and washed her face. She had a look of indignity and fraying tolerance, but also enjoying the attention. It was sassy, so perfectly her.

I was legitimately sweaty now, in a baggy t-shirt, hair in a sloppy pony tail. I had definitely looked better. But I didn’t glare. I’m not three years old anymore.
When I pulled my smile into place, it melted all the anxiety. The happiness was suddenly Jenuine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Becoming Grace Kelly

It was small talk, I had just been introduced to Nancy.
Nancy asked me what I did.
I told her I taught drawing at Penn State.
“Oh—I wish I could draw.” She said, smiling.

I began the dance I always do when someone tells me that.

“You could. I could teach you.” I said, smiling back at her.
“No, I don’t have any talent.” She said, smile fading.
“How do you know?” I asked, smile in place.
“I can only do stick figures.” She said, her eyebrows growing closer, lifting.

Now, if I had thought of it I would have said, “That’s how I started” but I didn’t think of it.

“It’s easy. Anyone can learn.” I said.
(Yes, Mom, it IS true. Drawing’s actually pretty simple, it’s just learning what to look for, and then practicing a lot.)
“I would love to learn, but I just can’t.” She said.
“Have you had lessons?” I asked.
“Just what I learned in high school and college.”
“You had a drawing class in college?” I asked, still looking as friendly and non-threatening as I could.
“No, I just drew things, you know, stick figures. My sister-in-law can draw. She can do beautiful things in pen and ink.” She said.

I thought of the stuff I’d been drawing lately for my class, pen and ink, ink wash, pencil.

“I can do beautiful things. I can teach you how.” I said.
“I bet you can do beautiful things.” She said.
After a couple more volleys back and forth she stopped deflecting my assertion and just looked at me. Her eyes looked troubled, battling fear and hope in equal measure. Her face shouted 'Dare I try?'

“You really can learn. I’ll give you a free lesson,” I offered, using a total drug dealer tactic; it’s free until they’re hooked.
“I would like to do pen and ink.” She said, hope taking over. “You know, my grandfather didn’t start drawing until he was 70.” She said.
“See, you’ve got tons of time.” I said.

I witnessed how being afraid to really try—if nothing else— is a ridiculous thing to cling to.
What would happen if she failed miserably? The Ministry of Drawing would come and break her pencil? It’s not rewiring a house or fixing car brakes. No lives are at stake.
Likewise, of course, why am I afraid to get wonderful free stuff? Why all the doubt and shame?

I imagine Kanye West will jump up and say, “I’m sorry, but Heather is one of the best mothers of all time!”
And then I’d feel stupid that I actually thought I might deserve it after all. And if front of all those people!

I told a friend about all the makeover jazz and the accompanying confusion. She knows I’m a believer (and not just in the Monkee sense).
“Doesn’t God give His grace whether you deserve it or not, for just believing in Him? Trusting He loves you?” She asked.
That stopped me.
“Uh, yeah.” I said. Always the eloquent speaker.
“So can you look at this as grace? Your friend went to the trouble of writing and submitting an essay so that you could maybe win some wonderful things. She loves you and wanted you to enjoy them."

Does my pride matter more than accepting her love?

It's a gift. You don't earn gifts. You just accept gracefully.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Could this really be for me?
All I've done is lose 90 pounds. It's not as impossible as people think. I only did what Weight Watchers recommended more often than not, and then waited long enough for it to add up (or drop off, depending on how you look at it). Presto.

I sat in my car in my driveway, staring at the phone in my hand. My iPhone. A gift for reaching my goal weight. I have so much already, why should I get more?

But most of the prizes are things I have wanted...a gym membership I couldn't justify, thinner replacement clothes which weren't in the budget.
The housecleaning--who wouldn't need that? More to the point, I need that.
On the shallow side, I'd wanted a Miche bag for about a year, but not quite enough to fork over the money. That was icing on the can-you-believe-it? cake.

Is it too good to be true? I wondered. I stared out the windshield at my white garage door. When will the other shoe drop? The Lord giveth, right? Should I brace for it to be taken away? Especially since I couldn't deserve it?

Heather had called me an hour before "just because she had a few minutes between classes." She'd seemed oddly guarded or preoccupied. Now I see she had been gauging whether I had been notified yet.

I speed dialed Heather.
"Hello, Jen Kelly!" She said.
I just screamed. That seemed to articulate everything the best.
She squealed in unison.
I laughed, imagining her Squealing-with-Joy expression. It's easy to conjure because I see it so often. It doesn't even matter if she knows you or not, she'll celebrate even the smallest accomplishment.(For example, read her blog about her cheering for someone collecting trash-

It's difficult to mope very long around Heather.

I don't remember most of what we said after that except that she had asked Kelly from BNI why specifically they had selected me as the winning mom. Kelly said it was very hard to choose, but that they liked how I had inspired so many people.

Crap. What exactly did Heather write in that essay?
Who are these inspired people?
What if the BNI people meet me and are disappointed?

"You deserve it." Heather said.
Right. Okay. Whatever.

Clearly, I bring Extreme Insecurity to this Extreme Makeover. Perhaps it's the perfect match :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Winner

“You’ve been selected as the winner!” Kelly told me, excitement in her voice.

What do you imagine I’d think at that moment?  Uh huh, right…no.  I was a touch peeved.  They were supposed to pick my friend Heather.  Why didn’t they?

Heather started it.  She came across a flyer for a Mother’s Day Makeover Contest. (“We are looking for a deserving Centre County Mom over the age of 18 to win her own “Extreme Makeover”)  It would bestow one lucky mom with a gargantuan list of prizes.  It was just like What Not to Wear but without the cameras hovering in your face as someone throws away your clothes and insults you.  At least, I hope it’s without; the clothing makeover hasn’t happened yet.  Everyone with the contest has been genuinely sweet.

The prize list is mind-boggling and long. (

But near the end of this list is a prize that screamed my name: housecleaning.  Heather saw that prize and I popped in her mind. I moan about struggling with housecleaning all the time.  She only needed to write a 300 word essay telling them why I deserved the makeover.  Luckily for me she is an English professor, a writer (4 novels), a blogger (, and an all around cheerleader.  She loves to brag about her friends, kids, husband, and students) to whomever is standing next to her.  It does not matter who is standing there, she will tell anyone under the sun about the greatness in you. There will be a lot of Heather in this story.

So she wrote an essay about me and my 100 pound weight loss (she exaggerates—it’s only 90 lbs) and how I started a neighborhood fitness group  (To which I ALWAYS say, “No, you started it!”  And she replies, “No, if you hadn’t loved the idea it would never have happened.”  Whatever.  She started it.) She wrote about how I overcame a bunch of hardships to get where I am now.  I’m not sure what those hardships are yet, I haven’t read the essay.  I can’t wait to find out what they are.  My hardships are the problems of the incredibly blessed: I can’t get my kids to do things the third time I ask, I have too much work to do, my house is a mess, I don’t have enough time to do art. What kind of problems are those?  I have healthy happy kids, I have a job when some don’t, I have a house when some don’t, and I’m talented but don’t make the time to use my gifts.  I shouldn’t complain, but only God knows why I do.

She attached a picture, sent off the essay, and then told me about the contest.  She said I’d totally win.  I thought if they knew about her, she’d win.  So I wrote and submitted my own essay about how great she is, thinking she’d outshine everyone.  If you know her, you know she is lit with love and enthusiasm.  Like, way beyond anyone you’ve ever seen.   How could she not win?

A couple weeks later I got a voicemail message from Kelly at Premier Promotions. The message just said to call her back. The thought electrified me; Heather had won! How cool! She’s going to flip!

When I got on the phone with Kelly from Premier Promotions she explained the contest. I fidgeted in my seat, waiting for her to say Heather had won.  And then she didn’t.

“And you’ve been selected as the winner!” Kelly told me, excitement in her voice.

Dumbstruck.  Then peeved.  No, that can’t be right, I thought.  My mind worked to right itself.  Luckily, Kelly kept talking.  She talked about Business Networking International (BNI for short), the organization that created the contest.  She told me about Bridge of Hope, a charity for homeless mothers in Centre County, who would receive the proceeds from the “Unveiling party” cover charge and silent auction.  She told me about some of the prizes.  I already remembered the big ones: the one-year membership to Curves, the Smile Makeover. (This is from Carnicella & Associates. Three words: Massaging Dental Chairs!)

It became clear she was talking to me as the recipient.  She was asking me when I could meet the next week to get the ball rolling on my Smile Makeover since that took time.  I made the appointment and something started to grow in me: