Tall Poppy Diaries

Observations and musings on life as a happy high-achiever (or what the Aussie's call a "Tall Poppy" ). "Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have." --Oprah Winfrey

Friday, April 15, 2005


  It's Been THAT Long?

Geez! I had NO idea that I had been away from Blogland since March 16th? I have tried to post a few times, but if Blogger doesn't let me in...well, it just doesn't happen. So anyway,.... Quite a lot has happened since March 16th. Actually, I tried to get on to post a few pictures not long ago since pictures, of course, are worth a thousand words--which is about what it would take to catch up on all that's been happening since I was last here. But, as is often the case, Blogger wasn't cooperating and I lost patience with it.

Right now, we are in the midst off Science Fair and Animal Project Mania around here. My 4th grader has his heart and mind set on doing a project on magnets, compasses, the Bermuda Triangle and the Sargasso Sea which makes absolutely NO sense to me whatsoever (Magnetic Declination? Huh? What?). Last year, he won the Science Fair (it was supposed to be for 4th-6th graders, but he won as a third grader) with a project I didn't understand either, so my contribution was to make it "look nice" the night before the fair. However, this year the project MUST be completed and ready to go by next Tuesday (the science fair isn't until next Friday) or I don't get to go to Las Vegas to spend a few days with Orange Poppy. So, of course, I am quite busy studying up on all things magnetic and spooky so that I can be of maximum assistance in getting the project completed so that my travel plans will not be thwarted. Yes indeed, I have my priorities in order....

I have also been REALLY busy with mystery shopping--and LOVING it! I have gotten to do some of the most FUN shops! On Monday, I was sent to the airport to shop 12 stores there. I spent about four hours going from shop to shop buying things that I loved. I was paid handsomely for my time AND got to keep two of the items. This week I'm doing all phone shops. Next week, I have several bank shops AND a hotel shop on Friday night. So we will be throwing one of our infamous Harry Potter birthday parties for Son 1 on Friday after school. Then we'll leave all of the mess at home and go spend the night and next day in a nice hotel! Gotta like that....

The third floor renovation is just about complete. All we're missing now are a few little things, like the chair rail and the light fixture in the sunroom. At some point I'll have to take some pics of it. It has turned out pretty well. It's sort of a "cottage theme" with lots of wicker and withe wrought iron. It's a favorite hangout for the kids and their friends now. Since it is painted two shades of yellow (with white trim), we call it "The Lemony Snicket". And since the sunroom area has five windows that look out onto the back of our neighborhood and the adjoining greenspace, the kid's friends call the sunroom "The Treehouse". There is a queen-size bed in the bedroom and a daybed with trundle in the sunroom. So, of course, the boys LOVE sleeping up there. I got some painter's buckets from Wal-Mart and painted them the boy's favorite colors (green and yellow) and the boys are allowed to have as much of their "junk" as they can fit in their two buckets up there. So they keep a few toys, Lego's and books in their buckets and...(drumroll...) actually pick their stuff up and keep things neat, too! I'm thinkin' we need buckets in their rooms, now!

Well, I guess I will be brave and attempt yet again to post some pics. As usual, I won't be leaving them up for long. But those of you (bless your hearts...) who check in frequently will be able to catch up on a few of the goings-on here in the Poppy Patch. Now usually, I go through a very rigorous procedure of posting the pictures inside my post. No time for that today...So they won't look as neat as usual. But you'll get the general idea. Enjoy! And have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


  Alive and Well...

Just wanted to send out a quick note and let you all know that I am alive and well. I have tried to get into Blogger three times during my hiatus, but it wouldn't let me in. It was probably down during those times because I had no problem getting in this morning. However, at the time, I didn't have time to try to figure out what the problem was.

Thanks to all of you who have sent emails and comments! All is well, I just haven't had any spare time to blog. The renovation is more or less complete (we still have to put up a chair rail and paint the trim) and our houseguests (who were here for a week) have just left. However, now I have to get my Easter orders out; I found out last week that I had to make a Lady Macbeth (LRHG) costume, King Duncan (Son 1) costume, and several additional accessories for the school Shakespeare festival--BY TOMORROW; and there is a mad dash to finish up school projects before the Spring Break begins next Friday.

SO, I'm still on hiatus until at least this weekend. I just wanted you to know that I'm okay, no need to worry, and I'll be back. It's just that when things pile up, the thing that's easiest to let go of is the one that takes the most time, pays the least and/or is in no way attached to the happiness and welfare of my boys. In my case, guess which thing THAT would be? ;)

Hope all of you are well and I thank you again for your love and friendship.

Monday, February 28, 2005


  Mystery Shopping 101

It's Monday morning in Poppydom--and a busy day awaits. The third floor re-do is coming along nicely, but with hubby in NYC for board meetings I am left here to supervise the construction workers. SOOO not fun!

Before the workers get here (they are usually an hour or so late), I thought I'd talk to ya' about Mystery Shopping. I have had so many people ask for suggestions on how to get started that I thought I'd post them right here.

Right off the bat, let me make this clear--You are NOT going to get rich being a mystery shopper. However, you can make decent spending money by working on your own time if you stay organized and market your skills and experience appropriately. I started mystery shopping JUST so that I could afford an occasional outrageous splurge (like those $365 Jimmy Choo's that I left on the sale table in Florida) and not have to ask "anyone's" permission.

Being a Tall Poppy is about being confident. Part of being confident is knowing that YOU are responsible for your happiness, and that YOU can make changes in your life to make you comfortable and happy. When I see a hole, I fill it--and that is what Mystery Shopping is doing for me. My business pays for the trips that I like to take a couple of times a year. But I'm hoping that mystery shopping will pay for my fetishes. My first week, I earned $100 (pre-tax) with four jobs--plus reimbursements for two meals. Last week, I earned $205 (pre-tax) with nine jobs. And that's pretty good for mystery shopping. As long as you are realistic about what you want from Mystery Shopping, it can be a great little hobby--that pays for other hobbies. Got it?

Now, let's start with the most basic information--Applying for your jobs:

  1. DO NOT EVER PAY A FEE TO ANYONE--for "referrals", for "lists", or anything else. The only fee that I can think of that you MIGHT consider is the MSPA Certification fee. I haven't done that, but I might if I decide to stick to this. Anything that anyone offers to sell you regarding Mystery Shopping is available for free on the web--and I'm about to tell you where to find it.
  2. Don't do a Google search for "Mystery" or "Secret" shopping--that just brings up all of the unscrupulous businesses. Instead, go to the MSPA (Mystery Shopper Providers Association) or Volition.com's Mystery Shopping Forum for information and lists.
  3. Do not give out your Social Security number to any company without first checking to make absolutely, positively sure that they are legit (if they are MSPA-certified, they're ok. If you find them on the list at Volition.com, they are "shopper certified" and are probably ok.) Most of the companies do not MAKE you give them your SS#, even though it is on their questionnaire. Try leaving it blank first.
  4. When you start looking for a company to shop for, go to this page at the MSPA website. Then, just click on your country and submit. That will bring up all of their member companies who have assignments in your country. You don't want to click on your state or territory because most of the companies who will hire you will be located somewhere else. Now, begin by applying to all of the MSPA companies listed. After you apply to all of the MSPA companies, go to Volition.com and start applying to THOSE companies.

Now, about the application process....

  1. Some people think that Roboform "spyware"--but it's not. It's a godsend. If you fill in the blanks on your Roboform, then click on your "filler" every time you have to fill in a new application Roboform will save you hours and hours of time. Plus, it will also remember all of your passwords for you. This comes in handy because you have to apply with EVERY company separately, and they all have their own login information, as well. I say, "Go Robo!" I have heard bad things about Gator autofill, so I'd stick with Roboform.
  2. Some applications will be all "fill in the dot". Others will require that you write a paragraph about your best shopping experience, your worst shopping experience, why you would be a great mystery shopper, etc. Do yourself a favor--keep a word document open for Mystery Shopping writing samples. Every time you write a paragraph, copy and paste it to the Word document so that the next time you are asked to write a paragraph, you can copy, paste and edit the paragraph to their specs instead of writing the whole thing over again. I even save all of my various edited versions, because some companies want you to write 300-character explanations. Some want 300 words. So you will save yourself a lot of time if you save all of your writing samples (organized by topic) in your Word document.
  3. When you are asked to write about what makes you a great mystery shopper, play up any past experiences that might set you apart from the crowd. For instance, they are looking for people with good writing skills so you might want to mention that you have X number of people who visit your personal weblog to read what you've written every day. They are looking for people who eat, shop and go to movies a lot (consumer experience). They are looking for people who can be discreet and are good "actors". They are looking for people who have traveled extensively. And if you are non-caucasian or male, mystery shopping companies are looking for YOU! So read the introductions to mystery shopping that most of the companies have on their sites to see what they are looking for. Read the forums at Volition where many shoppers talk about what types of work specific companies do. And set yourself up to be an attractive candidate for the types of work you want.
  4. Just judging from my own experience, I think that my education, past work experience, and above average income level are working in my favor to get the higher-paying jobs. You might want to keep that in mind when you are filling out your applications. I'm just sayin'....

Testing and certification...

You may be as surprised as I was to learn that you have to "certify" for many of the better jobs. Sometimes you have to certify just to work for a particular company. And you have to certify for most jobs within the company. There is one mystery shopping company that I really wanted to work for, but they had a certification test that you HAD to pass with 100% of the answers correct. I managed to fail that test, and now I can't re-apply with that company for 30 days! Soooo...

  1. After you sign up to work with a company, go to the Shopper area of the site and make certain that you don't have to take certification tests to work with specific companies. For instance, I have had to take individual certification tests to "shop" my grocery stores and all of the finer retailers. If you aren't "certified" for those jobs, the schedulers won't schedule you.
  2. If you have to take a certification test, take it seriously. The companies do. Either print out the study materials or open up a second browser window so that you can refer to the study materials as you take the test.

Now, about the jobs themselves.... I can only speak from my two weeks of experience. However, within 48 hours of putting in my initial applications, I was receiving great opportunities to do interesting jobs that I think I'm being adequately compensated for. So don't think that you "have" to take a low-paying job just to prove yourself to the company. If they need you, they'll schedule you--even if you have no prior experience.

Now, every person's idea of "adequate compensation" is different. I wouldn't do a fast food "shop" (industry term for an MS job) where you only get paid $5 and a $5 food purchase reimbursement. When I figure the 30-45 minutes I'd have to spend "training" and reading the instructions for the job, 30 minutes in the restaurant, and another 30-45 minutes filling out the questionnaire, it's just not worth it for me. However, there are many shoppers with small children who go to fast food restaurants several times a week anyway. They like these shops. So it's all up to you.

I look for a $15-20 minimum payment for the job AND additional reimbursements for any mandatory purchases, under most circumstances. Unless it's a really fun job (like an amusement park, resort or something), I want it to be within 10 miles of my home, too. Having said that, I am doing a shop soon that is 13 miles away, has a fairly detailed questionnaire that has to be filled out, and only pays $13. However, it is on the way to another job that I REALLY wanted to do that's 15 miles away, pays $15 and gives a $10 reimbursement for a purchase in a wonderful store that I LOVE and has a fairly short questionnaire (in other words, no mandatory 1,000 word commentary on my experience in the store). So I justify taking the two lower-paying jobs that are further away because I love going to that store anyway.

There are other jobs that require you to take digital photos of a business, upload the pictures onto a website, AND fill out a questionnaire about the shopping experience. Keep in mind how much time it takes to go somewhere, take pictures, get back home, download the pictures to your computer, enhance the pictures, upload the pictures to the website, AND fill out the questionnaire. I wouldn't take ANY photo assignment for less than $30--unless you are VERY bored.

Also, there are a lot of companies that do "phone call only" shops where you call a business and then fill out a questionnaire about your experience on the phone. Some of these pay as little as .25 per call. Let me remind you--YOUR TIME IS WORTH MORE THAN .75/HOUR. 'Kay? I am doing a series of phone shops for a company that is paying me $5 per call. Don't undervalue yourself. I figure that in one hour, I can do 3-4 calls and questionnaires. $15-20/hour for sitting at home in my pj's, making four phone calls, and filling out four questionnaires? Good. $1/hour for sitting at home in my pj's, making four calls and filling out questionnaires? I'd rather be watching The Today Show, thanks.

I'm going to close for now because I've gotta get moving! However, if you have further questions, either e-mail me or comment here and I'll try to help you out. Have a great day!

Friday, February 25, 2005


  "He's Just Not That Into You"...or is he?

In between supervising the contractors who are renovating our third floor and fitting in three rather complicated "last minute" mystery shopping gigs, I have decided to write a bit about the book, "He's Just Not That Into You".

Why? Well, mainly because I have something to say--and this is my place to say it. But also, I have some really fabulous single girlfriends out there with whom I want to share a dash of my own experiences with Single Male Behavior.

What makes me such an expert on Single Male Behaviour? Well, I NEVER said that I was an expert. However, I was single for a pretty long time. I had quite a few boyfriends. But more importantly, I had a lot of male friends. I was a fly on the wall for many a session of "guy talk" about women and relationships. And between my boyfriends and my guy friends, I think I have a pretty good idea about what's up with the 'Menfolk'. And I'm not sure that "He's Just Not That Into You" does them justice.

The basic premise of the book is that if a guy is REALLY interested in you, he will always call when you want him to; he'll always act the way you want him to; he'll send you flowers and take you on romantic vactions...and introduce you to his mother when you want him to. And if he doesn't? "He's Just Not That Into You". Well, to the authors' credits, I will say that much of what they say is true. And I can think of one guyfriend-boyfriend-guyfriend-boyfriend-guyfriend of mine in DC who TOTALLY fit this scenario--but I couldn't see it/admit it at the time. And had this book been around them, it all would have been crystal clear.

However, I don't think that men are so simpleminded that you can say "He's just not that into me" every time a guy fails to take that next step that you expect from them. I think the "He's Just Not That Into You" rule becomes more and more applicable the older and more confident a man is. If a guy is confident, self-assured, and knows what he's looking for? Yep. This works. But I have known a lot of guys--especially in their teens, 20's, and early 30's--who let their buddies' or family's opinions of a situation or girl talk them into and out of relationships. I saw guys dump great girls on more than one occasion just because they sensed that their pals disapproved. Likewise, I watched guys who weren't "into" a particular girl marry her just because his parents thought it was right, or because she fit the right profile for his future plans.

One of my guy friends walked away from a girl he was madly in love with the first time they had a disagreement about his meddling parents (and yes, they were obnoxious...); then he met a girl on the rebound and married her three months later. Then he realized that he was still totally in love with the other girl. His marriage lasted two agonizing years. By the time he got the divorce finalized, the first girl had fallen in love with someone else and got married a few months later. My guy friend? Last I heard (two years ago) he was still single--eight years later. So did he run away from the first girl because "He just wasn't that into her"? I don't think so.

I also disagree that the reason some "guy friends" never become "boyfriends" is because "They just aren't that into you". When I was writing the guy chapter in my book, I talked to several of my guy friends (most of whom didn't even know each other) and asked them why they thought we had always remained friends and never dated. All six of the guys I asked said:
  1. they were afraid I would turn them down and they would be humiliated
  2. they were afraid that if we dated and it didn't work out that our friendship would never be the same
  3. (the four guys I asked who were a part of a group of guy friends of mine said:) they were afraid that it would mess up the dynamics of our group (if one of the guys in the group dated me and then it didn't work out, the rest of the guys would be mad because I wouldn't be "hanging out" and/or playing "stand-in date" for football games and parties with any of them anymore)

However, "He's Just Not That Into You" says that all of those reasons are just excuses--ways of saying "I don't want to kiss you, but I don't want to hurt your feelings, either". Sorry. I don't buy it. One of my guy friends recently said to me, "I think that one of the reasons we liked hanging around you was--and PLEASE don't be offended when I say this--but I think it was sort of a "thrill of the hunt" thing. Like, maybe if we were in the right place at the right time something would happen and our friendship would become a dating relationship. But I think that maybe we were waiting for YOU to make the move. And you never did...".

I think that, as men get older, they do become more confident and sure of what they are looking for. And I think that if you have a date or two with a guy and he flakes off, you can safely assume that he's just not that into you. And if you think that a guy is acting the way he is because "He's Just Not That Into You", you're probably right. But is "He's just not that into you" really a blanket explanation for every relationship quandary a singleton finds herself in? Nope. Not in my book...

So...what do YOU think?

Thursday, February 24, 2005


  Random Randomness....

1. Where have I been? Everywhere and nowhere...at the same time.
2. Where am I going next? Nowhere, but I have to pack my bag and be at the station an hour before departure time so that I can pretend to be going here. But I'm not. Shoot. Oh well, I do get a free meal and a decent paycheck for my efforts.
3. How's the Mystery Shopping gig going? It's good. Filling out 30+ applications? Not fun. But the "shops"? Fun. So I guess it's a trade-off.
4. If anyone is interested in getting into Mystery Shopping, let me know. I'll give you a few pointers on how to get started, not get suckered, and land the higher-paying jobs.
5. What else is going on? Well, Little Red Headed Girl's mother and I (along with one very brave father of a boy in Son 1's class) took 15 kids snow tubing on Tuesday at Soldier Hollow (an hour away from here). We were gone the whole day and we never saw a single tear! Well,... I almost cried (tubing on Olympic venue hills is NOT for the faint of heart). But the kids were great....
6. Oh, and speaking of crying, yesterday I spent five hours with Little Red Headed Girl's father. He's our family dentist. $2300 later, I left his office. We all have beautiful, straight, white teeth and spectacular smiles. We spend $5-7,000 a year to fake everyone off into thinking that our teeth are as great as they look. At this rate, by the time Son 1 and Little Red Headed Girl get married in --oh, say, 15-20 years-- our entire family will be Indentured Servants working at her family's behest. But that's okay. WE will STILL own the family silver....
7. I have finished reading the book I bought on the way back from Florida, "He's Just Not That Into You". I'll share my thoughts on it and my opinions on Single Male Behavior in my next post.
8. I KNEW you were going to ask that! Tomorrow.
9. PLEASE let me know if you want to be linked to The Poppy Club and have not been. PoppyLatte (a member of the Board) just let me know yesterday that SHE hadn't been linked. So don't assume that I don't love you anymore, or that you have gone Weedy, or something and are no longer deserving of Poppy Club membership. Just e-mail me or leave a comment and I'll get you fixed right up.
10. Thank you SO much, Emerald City Poppy (Our official Poppy Club Chorister) for your latest song, "Don't Worry, Tall Poppy". For those of you who missed it, here it is:

Don't Worry, Tall Poppy
(to the tune of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin)

Here's a little song I stole
Pink Poppy takes the leading role
Don't worry Tall Poppy

No time to write her loyal fan base
Her monitor's become a blank space
Don't worry Tall Poppy
Don't worry Tall Poppy now

Somebody come to clean her stead
She have to pile stuff on her bed
Don't worry Tall Poppy

She sorry that her entry's late
She don't realize we will wait
Don't worry Tall Poppy

Look at me, I'm a Poppy!
Don't worry Tall Poppy
We'll all give you our IM names
When you worry, come chat
We make you happy
Don't worry Tall Poppy

She got the grace, she got shoe style
She got some friends to make her smile
Don't worry Tall Poppy

Enjoy an afternoon in town
Go secret shopping for a gown
So don't worry, Tall Poppy
Don't worry Tall Poppy now

Don't worry
Don't worry, don't do it
You want a smile on your face?
Take a wee break from hubby and kids
Don't worry, it will soon pass
You know that it does
Don't worry, be happy

I'm not worried, I'm a Poppy

You are one FUNNY girl, La Nina....

11. Can ANYONE tell me why I am getting 50-70 hits a day from this? http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://photos1.blogger.com/img/221/1411/640/Carly%2520Patterson.jpg&imgrefurl=http://tall Hmmm...
12. What am I laughing at this morning? Girl From Florida--just in general. But this, this and this in particular...

More later.....

Friday, February 18, 2005


  Of Parenting, Organizing and Mystery Shopping....

Hey y'all! I'm back--sort of. We have had an unruly week. The kids have been on half-days since Wednesday which means that by the time we rush around, get them off to school and settle in to work, they're BAAAACCCKK! Plus, we've had Parent-Teacher conferences, a meeting for one of the foundations where I serve on the board, and lots of mid-semester school projects to work on. Then--as if that weren't enough--the boys are out of school Monday AND Tuesday of next week. It takes A LOT of preparation to get ready for a four-day weekend, let me tell ya'.

SOOO, blogging has been taking a back seat to other must-do projects--like packing away the Christmas ornaments! (No, I didn't make it by MLK Day, but it wasn't the week before Easter either....) Yes, on Wednesday I carted all of the ornaments from the dining room table down to the theatre (the boxes were already in a basement closet 'cause I was too lazy to take them back up to the attic in December). I put Season Four of Sex and the City in the DVD player and started packing. Took me all day, but I got all gazillion ornaments appropriately wrapped and in their little boxes... and only two days after Valentines Day! Woo hoo!

But yesterday, in between foundation meetings and Parent-Teacher conferences, I did something somewhat odd and a bit exciting...I signed up to be a Secret Shopper. Yes I did. I don't know if anything will come of it. But I know that I'd be a good one if they let me have a stab at it. I also signed up to be a secret screener for theatres! Crossing my fingers that I get some hits. I think that would be SO much fun. I would never be able to support my family doing it--luckily I don't have to worry about that-- but you do get paid for your time, re-imbursed for your expenses and a card to purchase an item for $25-40. So I thought I'd try it out. Will let you know if I get any assignments...

And, well, other than trying to get in the mood to clean for the cleaning people (I HATE that...), that's pretty much my last two days in a nutshell. What have I missed with y'all? Please do tell...

Monday, February 14, 2005


  The Best Valentine's Present Ever--Part 2

And this is how the conversation between my husband and my son went:

Hubby: Son, you need to clean up your room.
Son 1: But Dad, it's too hard.

Me (chiming in from three rooms away): Son, there is a place for EVERYTHING in your room. Those toys are supposed to be in the PLAYROOM--NOT your bedroom. If you MUST keep the toys in your bedroom, you have an entire closet with virtually nothing in it and shelves from floor to ceiling. Shelves are made so that you can pick things up off the floor and put them away. (going back to gluing heart-shaped candies to homemade valentines...)
Son 1: But Daaaaaddd...it's too hard to pick up all of these little pieces. And besides, even if I pick up the Legos and tapes, my room's STILL going to be a mess.
Hubby: Son, I'm going to hire someone to come and clean the house. They'll come in and do all of the final touch stuff that Mom usually does after you do YOUR part. But you've got to get all of the toys and stuff off the floor...

I literally fell out of my chair and sat stunned on the floor--certain that I had misunderstood what my husband had just said. I waited for Hubby to go downstairs, said, "Son, I need to see you for a moment", and scooted back into my chair to await clarification of the conversation I had just overheard. When Son 1 arrived, I asked what he thought of the valentines (attempting to mask the REAL reason I had called him in)--then whispered, "Did Daddy just say that he was going to HIRE someone to come and clean the house?" Son 1 replied, "Yeah. Weird, huh?" and left.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. You see, housekeeping has been one of the most divisive subjects in our marriage. I LOVE being a "homekeeper". I love for our home to be pretty, warm and comfortable. I love having friends over. I love that the neighborhood kids love being at our house. But if I have to spend more than an hour a day cleaning house, I'm miserable. And angry. And if I don't clean all day and have the whole house--all 6200+ sq. ft. of it--picked up and ready for company, Hubby is miserable. And angry.

When we were talking about all of those important things that a couple talks about before they get married, it never occurred to me that Hubby-to-be would not "believe" in two things: Housekeepers and Babysitters. Never occurred to me. Growing up, our family always had both. Even as a single, working girl, I had cleaning services come in once or twice a month just to keep things up to snuff. I never knew that the reason why my husband's large house at Sundance was clean whenever I visited was because his mother and sister drove over an hour each way to clean it for him before he arrived. I never knew that he thought that "Family=Babysitter" even when the closest family members were 800 miles away.

I have always taken great pride in my homes. I've always done a lot of entertaining. And, now that I have playdate-aged children, I relish playing hostess to the younger set, as well. But I also believe that I should be able to have time to myself to do the things that are important to me. I am a firm believer in nourishing your own spirit so that you have something left inside to give to others. I also spend a lot of one-on-one time with my children. My friends tell me that they feel badly that they don't do the things with their children that I do with mine. One of these days, we will certainly look back and say "Now, THAT was time well-spent."

If I were spending my "Me time" and "Mommy time" cleaning house, would I feel the same way? I don't think so. Life is too short. I feel like an hour a day (not including the laundry) should be plenty of time to get all of the cleaning done. Otherwise, there is too much house and too much junk. Unfortunately, we have both.

I have tried to talk Hubby into moving into a smaller house. He says no. And so we have reached an impasse where I clean when I feel like it or HAVE to, and he stays mad about the house being a wreck. NOT GOOD! Any time I mention getting a cleaning service to come in once or twice a month just to keep things on track, he either argues with me about why we don't need one or he walks away.

Valentine's Day isn't supposed to be about roses, and dinners and candy. It's supposed to be about showing your love and affection for other people. What most of us want most on Valentine's Day are time and attention from the people we love. I know that having a housekeeper come into your home may not scream EITHER of these things to you. But it does to me. Having my husband FINALLY agree to have a housekeeper come into our home signals that he values MY time and that he is paying attention to MY needs. Is it a stretch of the imagination to read so much into such a simple gesture? Perhaps it would be to you. But Cyndy, you and I are obviously kindred spirits on this issue...After 11 years of struggling over this issue and having it rip the two of us apart: Of all of the Valentine's gifts I've ever been given, this year's gift, a cleaning service, is without a doubt The Best Valentine's Gift I've ever received....


  The Best Valentines Gift EVER! Part 1--The Game

OK, I admit it. What used to be one of my favorite days of the year has, over the years, become something else entirely. I'll stop short of saying that it's a disappointment. I actually enjoy Valentine's Day, and all that it represents--whether I feel like I'm anyone's Valentine or not. I enjoy figuring out with my children what to do for THEIR valentines. I enjoy figuring out what special treat to bestow on MY valentines. And over the years, I have to set my Valentine's Day "satisfaction bar" increasingly lower and lower to accommodate the lack of Valentine's Day spirit of those for whom I attempt to make the day special. Sadly, what I "expect" on Valentine's Day is pretty minimal. In fact, I don't expect anything. And then what I DO get is always a welcome surprise!

It hasn't always been like this. Growing up, I was always SOMEONE'S valentine. There was always at least one guy or one friend who would make my Valentine's Day special. And until I got married, my parents always made sure that I got my Whitman's Chocolates and big bag of Red Hots I love so much. To this day, ANYTHING sugary/cinnamony screams "Your Daddy Loves You". Odd. I know. But it's just the way it is.

In college, it became a sorority house joke to open up the school newspaper and see if I had more $5 Valentine ads bought for me than any of the other girls on campus. Some Valentines were elusive and only hinted at the identity of the person for whom their valentine was meant. The girls would say, "Yep. I think that's supposed to be you". I would say, "No, I don't think so". But late at night, when nobody was around, I would cut out all of the Valentines that I knew were meant for me (including those that I had denied earlier), place them in my scrapbook and go to sleep knowing that there were lots of folks out there who thought I was pretty special.

Once I was out in the working world, every Valentine's Day brought some kind of special surprise. Most Valentine's Days brought roses to my desk or chocolates to my doorstep. Some women think that these sorts of gifts are passe'. Not me. Having a dozen BEAUTIFUL long-stemmed roses with baby's breath delivered to someone's desk on Valentine's Day takes forethought, effort, and cash. Have you ever tried to call a florist on Valentine's Day to have roses delivered? Or even the day BEFORE Valentine's. If so? 'Nuff said. Some Valentine's Days brought surprise trips, romantic dinners, and gifts of a more personal nature. But I can't remember a single Valentine's Day where I felt unloved. Or lonely. Until I got married.

Now, don't misunderstand--Hubby was GREAT at making sure that Valentine's Day was special when we were dating. And even for a year or two after we got married. But somewhere along the way, the roses, Cumming's chocolates and romantic dinners gave way to me cooking dinner for everyone, me making a special treat for dessert, me finding the perfect, sweet Valentine gift that said "I Love You" to my three men, and me cleaning the kitchen while everyone else went off to bed. Not to sound even MORE like the Princess and the Pea than I already do, but I distinctly remember that the last box of chocolates I got for Valentine's Day was a box that had been given to Hubby as a "thank you" for speaking to some group a few days before. He opened the box, gave a few pieces to our boys and me, and then the box disappeared. Forever.

The last few years, Hubby has managed to swing by Smith's before Valentine's dinner and grab a dozen of those roses the grocery store always keeps in the cannister by the cash register for "last minute shoppers". And I have treated those roses with the same care as I always did the really beautiful ones he USED to send me, 'cause at this point, I figured THAT was about as good as it was going to get. And grocery store roses were certainly better than nothing.

Over the years, I have decided that all of those years of being the girl with the roses, and chocolates, and trips and numerous potential suitors had finally caught up with me. I was destined to spend the rest of my days making the day special for other people. And that was fine. I had my day in the sun. And now it was someone else's turn.

So as I worked last night, putting the boy's Valentine's together for their school friends and teachers, thoughts of what I would be getting for Valentine's this year never crossed my mind. When Son 1 finished cutting out his hearts and writing his messages to his classmates, I sent him off to relax in his room while I glued the heart-shaped candies into the centers of his cards.

As I sat in the chair, Hubby came upstairs and started talking to Son 1 about cleaning up his room (which is littered from stem to stern with Lego's, beads, games and dozens of tapes from his numerous "Books on Tape" collections that he plays constantly in his room. Yes, I fear he may be a mutant--but I'll take "Harry Potter--Year Five" over "Britney Spears" any day...). And over the course of his conversation with our Son, he let it slip what my Valentine's present would be this year.

Was Hubby considering it my Valentine's present? I don't know. But I gotta tell you... what I am getting this year from my husband just may be the best Valentine's present EVER! EVER, I say.

So... Opiate Poppy gave me an idea the other day on another post and I thought we'd try it here.

1). First, You tell me what you think the best Valentine's present Hubby could give me is. And then
2). Second, you tell me what the best Valentine's present YOU could ever receive would be.

(Gosh, now that I read this, it sounds an awful lot like Scarlet Poppy, too! Geez, Scarlet--am I morphing into a long-winded, less clever version of you? Never fear--'tis certain that this, like all good things, shall pass. LOL!)

I'll give you the rest of this post--complete with the answer to The Best Valentine's Day present EVER--tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


  MBF'sW, Part 2: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Tiffany's

Friday: Friday morning, I woke up, checked in with Scarlett and then checked in with Tiffany's to figure out why the bowls had not yet been delivered. After 30 minutes on the phone with them, they finally said that they had no record of the transaction. Zero. Zippola. At this point, instead of saying, "We are so sorry that we can't get our acts together. We will deliver the bowls personally today (since the delivery address is less than a mile away from Tiffany's) and we apologize for our error", they said, "We're sorry. But to make it up to you, we'll have it delivered Next Day UPS which would get it there Monday since they don't make weekend deliveries."

Too. Late. At this point I'm thinking, "New York would be serving heads on a platter at the Monday morning 'Team meeting' ", but it was very clear that Orlando WAS NOT NYC, that I was NOT a priority, and that if I wanted the bowls to get to the bride before the wedding I would have to cancel my plans for lunch with Dewey's mom and sister and head on out to the Mall at Millennia to take care of "bidness" myself. So, I put on my favorite power-shopping outfit and headed down I-4. (For the record, The Mall at Millennia is the ONLY place I went all week where I didn't make a single wrong turn. Coincidence? I don't think so.)

My day at Millennia started off quite innocently. I planned to pick up the bowls at Tiffany's, then head to Bloomie's or somewhere to pick up some red jewelry, 'cause I decided AFTER I left my red jewelry at home that I wanted to wear my red shoes with my black and white suit for the wedding. In order to pull THAT off, I would need some red jewelry to make it look like I had planned it that way. Right? Of course.

So, I'm walking toward Tiffany's, minding my own business, and casually look up to see...Mecca! Oh. My. Gosh. It's MECCA, people! You KNOW how much I hate malls. But suddenly, before my eyes, in a shopping mall in the middle of MickeyWorld, stood Chanel. And Dior. And Coach. And BCBG. And Gucci. And Burberry. And Tiffany's. And there...just steps away from Tiffany's--Jimmy. Choo. A real, live, honest-to-goodness Jimmy Choo store.

As any good girl from Alabama, who's stuck in the frozen tundra, but who has been allowed to leave the state for good behavior would do, I averted my gaze, headed directly toward my destination and allowed the shock of finding Mecca on I-4 to sink in. For the next hour, I shopped for bowls, browsed the jewelry counter and chatted it up with the Tiffany's sales team. I did my best to avoid leaving the store, but I knew that I had to--eventually. I knew I was feeling weak, but I can't remember having ever had a REALLY low moment with a credit card--ever. So with renewed confidence in my ability to withstand torturous temptation, my honkin' big blue Tiffany's bag in hand, and my adorable Brighton mules (easy to slip off) on my feet, I headed out the door at Tiffany's and took a sharp left into Jimmy Choo.

Now, it goes without saying that my eyes would immediately gravitate toward anything pink. There are evidently LOTS of people who have the same weakness as I do, for no less than 25% of all of the shoes and handbags in Jimmy Choo were pink. Helpless against the gravitational pull of the classic lines, flirty straps, high heels and the scent of luscious PINK LEATHER, I went to the left and worked my way around the store--to the boots.

Just let me say this as a warning right now...'cause I'm your friend. And I don't want you to be caught unaware and unprepared the way I was. There is little doubt in my mind that the folks at Jimmy Choo pump a pheromone-esque chemical through the air vents in their stores that makes you totally incapable of resuming normal brain function once you step through their doors. As embarrassed and weak as I feel admitting this, I confess--I got stoned just breathing the air at Jimmy Choo.

I could've been arrested for "Shopping While Intoxicated". I mean, REALLY! Right off the bat, "DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! (**red lights flashing**)", I made a rookie mistake. I tried on the most expensive items FIRST! So wrong on SO many levels. I KNOW that you never try on the most expensive item first, 'cause it dulls your reasoning ability later on when you try on less expensive items that are still OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive. Nonetheless, off came the mules and on went the $800 boots. Ahhhh...the back zipper that lay perfectly flat and invisible. The tapered ankle that didn't bunch. The smell of them. The LOOK of them. Oh My Gosh! They were fantastic. And the HEELS! I was over 6' 1'' in those puppies! Can you imagine?

OK, well even in my pheromonally-inebriated state, I knew that those boots were out of my budget. But suddenly the $500-600 strappy's didn't seem so bad after all. I took a few of them for a test drive. I liked Arty, and Groom, and Glory, and Phil. But it was Edgar--in hot pink--on the sale table--who stole my heart (Edgar is on the second row, right, with the rhinestone circles). At $365, he was a shoe just MADE for walking out that door with me. And I just couldn't imagine leaving for home without him. Plus there was a fabulous bag--on the sale table. Heck, I could get the pocketbook AND Edgar for less than one pair of boots. It was a deal I couldn't pass up.

But first, I needed to call Dewey's parents to let them know that I wasn't going to be making it to their hotel for my afternoon visit after all. So I slipped Edgar off my foot, walked out into the Millennia corridor so as not to disturb the other intoxicated customers, and called Dewey's parents. His father answered the phone:

Me: Hey! It' me. I'm still at the Mall and I'm thinkin' I'm probably not going to make it back in time to visit before the wedding rehearsal. So I just didn't want y'all to be worried about me.
Dewey's Daddy: Sweetheart, you've been at the Mall for over two hours. Is everything okay?
Me: Oh yeah, it's GREAT! I just had no idea that the Mall had so many incredible stores! I'm in heaven. I can't leave. 'Cause I just found some shoes that I've really got to have--and I think I just found a purse to match. Did you know that there's a Jimmy Choo store here? And there are all these others stores that I need to visit....
Dewey's Daddy: Honey, can you tell me? Are there ANY female members of my family there with you right now? I just woke up from my nap and everyone is gone.
Me: Oh no. I'm alone.
Dewey's Daddy: Thank Goodness. OK. Now we need to get you out of there. Now!
Me: No really. It's good. I tried on the really expensive stuff, and I found a couple of pairs of shoes that I like. A lot. But in the end, the shoes that I really love were on the sale table. They're under $400! Can you believe it? (*pheromones starting to wear off slightly as I breathe in the fresher air outside the store--something didn't seem quite right about what I just said...*)
Dewey's Daddy (*wringing his hands, giving thanks to God that Dewey didn't listen to him all those years when he was trying to convince him to marry me*): OK, Sweetheart. Now do I have Hubby's number here with me? I'm thinking I may need some back-up to get you out of there. What's his number again?
Me: No, I mean...ummm...hmmm.... Yeah. I mean, I'm not ready to come back yet. I haven't gotten everything I needed to get. And that's why I called....
Dewey's Daddy: Did you get the gift straightened out?
Me: Yes.
Dewey's Daddy: OK, then don't you need to just come on back?
Me: (*silence*) I don't know. Do I?
Dewey's Daddy: Yes, Honey. You do.
Me: (*walking slowly back into Jimmy Choo--holding my breath--to grab my blue bag, my purse, and give a "thank you" wave to the salesperson (aka: The Enabler)*) OK, well, I'm going to walk down to Bloomingdales and grab some cheap ol' costume jewelry, then I'll be on my way back.
Dewey's Daddy: Are you sure you're going to be all right? You can call me if you need me.
Me: I know. Thanks....

I realized as I flipped my cell phone closed, that all of those times that I had been so "good" with my credit card weren't because I was so good at withstanding temptation. It was, quite simply, that I hadn't been shopping in the right stores. And so it was, that I left Jimmy Choo without the hot pink Edgars. And I walked past all of the other designer stores, window shopping as I passed--from a careful fresh-air distance of 2-3 feet.

I found some lovely red jewelry in about the 10th store I looked in (I'm thinkin' red is NOT a hot color this season), and I found a gorgeous black camisole with a built-in bra on sale at BCBG that I really needed. I didn't NEED Edgar. But I wanted him. Badly. And by golly, the next time I go shopping at Jimmy Choo, I'll be prepared--with my own cash. 'Cause most men don't fully appreciate the look, feel and smell of a really fabulous, comfortable, high-heeled shoe. But, take it from me, boys--Edgar at $365? Pheromones or no pheromones, that is SUCH a bargain....

Monday, February 07, 2005


  My Best Friend's Wedding, Part 1: Lost In Orlando

Wednesday: Having never gone to bed on Tuesday night, I was quite exhausted by the time I arrived in Orlando over an hour behind schedule. However, there was to be no rest for the weary, as my late arrival in Orlando signaled a seemingly catastrophic series of unfortunate events. In the end I missed my "meet-up" with friends, but I smiled and talked my way into a double upgrade on my rental car and found the After-hours innkeeper for the Eo Inn who let me know how to get into the hotel (the desk is closed and the hotel is locked up for the night at 7 pm)--optimistically assuming that I would eventually be able to find my way there in the first place!

As I was driving around Lost in Orlando, I stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few things I needed/wanted. I found FRESH raw oysters in their gourmet deli section (which had been closed for hours) and decided that I was not leaving the store without them. Fortunately, the manager agreed that it would be wrong to send me off without them, and I headed off to find The Eo-- armed with the knowledge that if I ever did, indeed, arrive at my destination, I would be feasting on a one-pound tub of FRESH oysters and saltines with cocktail sauce and fresh horseradish. YUM!

At about 10 pm, I walked into my lovely suite at the Eo (click on this link, then click Room Rates on the left side to see pictures. The bathroom pictured is just like mine, but my room and bed were bigger than this and had two huge velvet chairs with ottomans), changed into my Eo bathrobe, grabbed my oysters with the fixings, plopped myself onto the comfortable velvet chaise, and turned on the TV. Much to my delight, I was then reminded that in the East, Sex and the City comes on at 10pm! So I sat there in my robe, eating my oysters, watching "The Girls", contemplating the hour-long tub soak I would be enjoying after "dinner"--and basked in the perfect ending to an utterly imperfect day.

Thursday: Thursday morning I started my day on the phone with Scarlet, solving the problems of Blogger and, well, the entire blogging universe really, in two hours or less. Then Dewey's parents picked me up for lunch, and after spending the mandatory 30-45 minutes Lost in Orlando, we made it to McCormick and Schmick. Dewey's mother was as lovely and delightful as ever. His father was equally (and deliciously) indiscreet with the family stories.

So after sharing a wonderful seafood feast, many laughs and having heard several Dewey stories from the Pre-Me years that I feel certain were never meant for my ears, we headed back to the Eo where I picked up my car and headed to Hollywood Tan. Yes, ladies and gentlemen--I stood naked in an aluminum capsule wearing a shower cap and doing a disco-esque dance move (both arms up, right knee up, turn to the left and down. Now, both arms up, left knee up, turn to the right and down. Repeat.) that supposedly promoted even distribution of the brown grunge I paid those people $25 to spew all over my body. All I know is that if there was a hidden camera in that thing and my husband ever decides to run for public office again--well, let's just say: He needn't bother. That six seconds of footage would leave Dukakis' tank maneuver's in the dust.

After I left Hollywood Tan covered in brown grunge, I decided to go all out and have tips put on since I broke three nails to the quick the day before I left. All I have to say to THOSE people at the salon is "Find a new brand of glue" 'cause when the tips were on my fingers, they were gorgeous. But when I shook hands with someone and they pulled away with one of my nails stuck to their palm? NOT good.

But I headed back to the Eo to prepare for my "meetup" with Dewey, Dana, Dew's brother Peter and his wife, and some of Dew's friends from Charlotte, NC. feeling very well manicured and very orangey-brown. And yes. I wore The Skirt and The Boots out that night. And I got hit on by strange, drunk men (none of whom were in our group, thank goodness) all night long. So does that mean that the outfit was a success? Hmmmm.... I also totally ignored that pinky finger nail that someone was so thoughtful to put up on the table where its owner could retrieve it. I hid my left hand all night long, and then grabbed the nail from the table as I walked out the door. Aaarrggghhh...

With the exception of having to look at my fake nail laying on the table all night, the most disconcerting thing that happened? Dana greeted me when they walked in and thanked me for the great gift. So I started telling her how I had bowls that were similar and I had a hard time deciding which ones to get for her, and she can exchange them if she prefers a different style, etc. She stares at me blankly and says, "Bowls? What bowls? I haven't gotten any bowls. I got the Williams-Sonoma salad stuff--And I LOVE it! But there were bowls? 'Cause I didn't get any bowls." Yep. The Tiffany bowls that were supposed to be delivered on Monday had not yet arrived. And this knowledge set off a chain of events the next day...well, I'll tell you that story when we get there. But it involves two VERY important words. Jimmy. Choo. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, I sat by Dana the whole night. And I REALLY do like her. A lot. She is very sweet, very cool and most importantly, seems to tolerate me pretty well. I think that this whole friendship thing honestly could work with her. I never felt that way with any of the other "girlfriends", but Dewey got his act together on this one. I like her parents, too. Especially her step-mom, Patty. Tall Poppies? Mmm-hmm. Think so.

Next up: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Tiffany's...

Friday, February 04, 2005


  Tall Poppies: Tales From The Field

In this, the third and final installment of "Tall Poppy Days" this week, several Tall Poppies share their stories of Life as a Tall Poppy...

"The lights shining on my face create a glare that precludes me from focusing on the audience. The guitar begins the introduction to "Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys. As I raise the microphone to sing the first line, the lyrical meaning convicts my heart..." Read more of this inspired piece by Opiate Poppy (MuzikDude) at The Sound of Muzik today.

Mountain Poppy (Montannie) tells us how her career took a fascinating and lucrative turn for the best the day she chose to take a phone call to help a stranger instead of going to lunch.

Cooper (one of Two Poppies from Been There...) shares two stories that Tall Poppies will relate to. The first, "A Mother's Love" tells how her mother chose to "share the wealth" of recognition with her daughter--even though her mother had earned the praise on her own...

The second story, "Would It Kill Ya'..." is a lesson on patience and empathy that bears reading...and repeating.

And, finally, I hope you will go read Samira's post about what it's like to be a Tall Poppy in high school, titled "High School: NOT the End Of The World". As Invisible Poppy said, "This post should be required reading for all girls AND their mothers". Yeah...it's THAT good....

I want to thank everyone who contributed to these posts. You are all fabulous! See you Monday!

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