Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Boo Y'all

My mom and me, bewitching as usual, Halloween 1981.
I love this time of year. Halloween through Christmas is just a fabulous stretch of celebration which starts with candy and costumes (playing dress up and getting rewarded with junk food? I could have invented Halloween it's so me), moves on turkey and dressing and binge eating and shopping (again, I could have invented this me), and then we arrive at my Most Very Favorite of All Holidays, Christmas. (Sparkly decorations and parties and gifts and eggnog...I could have invented that holiday it's so me).

But back to Halloween. My mom is the one who really honed my fondness for this particular fete; her birthday is October 20 and she loves a good celebration as much as her daughter. Our house was always decorated to the Halloween hilt, we had pumpkins the size of snow tires, and we trick-or-treated with pillow cases our candy haul was so big. As a kid, I had a Halloween party every year complete with a frozen hand floating in the punch bowl, a hayride through a graveyard, and a showing of some horror movie that had at least one attendee sleeping with their parents afterward. And lest I forget the best part of Halloween for me...the costumes. Oh, the costumes!

As you can probably garner, I love dressing up for Halloween. In actuality, I love dressing up for any occasion, but on the 31st of October I can really gussy it up. Over the years, I've been Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Elvira, a mermaid, Wonder Woman--even Monica Lewinsky (a tacky, yet timely choice back in 1998). And because Clint really is a good sport, he has even gotten in on the costume fun over the years:

Tell me those costumes don't deserve a big handful of treats? If you find yourself looking for a good getup here at the last minute, let me suggest some out-of-the-box ideas for something scary. Why don't you go as a bathroom scale on a Monday morning--yikes! Is there anything more terrifying than an Ogilvie home perm *shivers up my spine*? Or maybe you want to really scare it up and go as the scoreboard at a Clemson football game (that one gets thousands of hearts racing and blood curdling). It's all in good fun, and don't you want to get in on some good fun?

When it comes to Halloween, my answer is pretty much always yes. Yes to the Monster Mash and the Thriller dance, yes to candy corn being considered a vegetable, yes to pumpkin flavored everything. From candy apples to haunted houses, I want in on all of it.

Now that I've confessed to being batty over all things All Hallows Eve, some of you may remember that last year I debated about whether to answer the door for the approximately one zillion trick-or-treaters that typically bombard our house. In the end, I did wind up treating every single one of those little sugar snatchers and a good time was had by all (well, except those of us trying to eat dinner and one very overstimulated little guard dog). This year, in a move that I think is pure genius, I'm leaving a bowl of candy on the front steps and heading to a friend's house for cocktails and marshmallow roasting. Now everyone's happy.

So put on your witch's hat, watch scary movies until you need your nightlight, and eat your weight in candy. It's a national holiday, so you're pretty much obligated. And one more thing:

Boo, y'all.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Belle Tolls!

What a year it has been! For Whom the Belle Tolls went up and running one year ago...Happy Birthday to the blog!

This past year, you've let me celebrate, ruminate, complain, brag, and vent. I've been to the Bahamas, to Dallas, and to the dentist. People on Craigslist were certifiably crazy, I learned that bowling is not my sport, my neighborhood garden club continued their snub, and I managed to nurse Clint through not one, not two, but three surgeries without trying to smother him even once. As my friend Dawn so perfectly put it when talking about playing nurse, "Remember the pillow goes under the head, not over the face."

By now you probably know that I am not a fan of beards or cell phones, but a lover of all things Clemson and a good fad diet. There's been talk about college football, life in the South, and the agony of shopping at Walmart. All year long, there has been love for the blog, hate for the blog (Crazy Cat Lady, if you're still reading, that's for you), and great chatter about the blog. The only thing worse than having people talk about you is not having people talk about you, so I have enjoyed every second of it.

The blog's Facebook page is up to over 300 likes (321, if you're counting--which I believe only my mom and I are, but there you have it), and last month Clint met a coworker for dinner and when he mentioned my name, lo and behold, Mr. Project Manager was a blog fan! Small world. I voted that guy get a big promotion, as he clearly showed a high level of intellect and keen judgment.

Thanks, everyone, for your stories, comments, and encouragement over the last year. Feel free to raise a cocktail, enjoy some cake, and maybe send a gift (I kid...but if you insist...). I hope the blog has taken it's "toll" on you this year in the best possible way.

Love you. Mean it.

The Belle of the Blog

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Technically, No

It would be fair to say that I am not what you would call a lover of technology. I prefer my three-ring binder day planner to an online calendar, I love going to the mailbox each day to check my snail mail, and my pulse races for real cards and paper invitations over e-sentiments. All this fancy, newfangled stuff is just more opportunity for something to break.

As a prime example, my car has sensors in the door handles. You touch the handle and, if the car senses you have the key with you, it locks. Grab the back part of the handle and the car automatically unlocks. Friday night, Clint was having trouble getting the very high-tech sensor to recognize that he just wanted to lock the car doors and get on with his grocery store pit stop. I pointed out that no one ever had problems like that with manual locks. Simpler is just better. You never see someone having a crazy time figuring out how to work a record player, now do you?

The cell phone I have been using (or not using, if you will) is five or six years old and it came free with the calling plan. I don't even think they make the model any more--LG Shine, anyone? I picked it purely because it had a mirrored surface and I could use it to apply lip gloss. That's the feature which impressed me most. My calling plan is the Twilight for Seniors package. I kid you not. I did not know this until Clint accidentally left the bill lying around a while back. He was afraid I might find it insulting; but I know my tech resistant ways generally put me in with the AARP crowd. At least it did until last week, when all that changed.

I don't, or didn't, text. My phone didn't even really have that capability, and receiving texts on the Senior Twilight plan costs $1.29 each. But we are headed to Clemson (see also: God's Country) this weekend, and football game weekends tend to turn into mini college reunions. In the past, when people said they would call or text me the day of the game to connect, I just gave them Clint's cell phone number and let him handle it. It seems he has grown tired of responding to my girlfriends' texts and having to hand over his phone every half hour or so for me to return calls. He can be pretty unreasonable that way; I think it's only child syndrome.

I don't own an iPad, and the iPod I have is a "shuffle" from 2008 that holds 100 songs, so I hardly think that counts. When it comes to Apple and all their fancy schmancy inventions, iDon't. The general population has become a trail of ants marching, with their iPhones held directly in front of their faces. Case in point: last week in San Francisco, a man on a commuter train held a gun in the air not once, but four times and the other passengers were all too consumed with their phones to even notice. I don't need a smartphone glued to my hip, beeping, binking, and buzzing all day. I am a housewife, after all, and there is rarely an instance where someone just has to get in touch with me immediately. As much as I hate to say it out loud, I am just not that important. Leave a message on my home answering machine, and I will call you when I get back from running errands.

But now, at my hubby's insistence, I am the reluctant owner of an iPhone. In protest, I tried to point out that Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty doesn't own any kind of cell phone, and I read that he has never even used a computer. Clint countered by reminding me that I am not a Duck Commander, and that occasionally it might be nice if someone wanted to reach me and my phone was not out in the console of my car.

While I don't like it love it the way everyone else seems to, I am making the best of the high-tech situation. I promptly ordered a gold glitter leopard print case for the thing--hey, accessorizing is important in any situation, never forget that. I have sent a grand total of three text messages in the last week, and let me tell you that at the speed I type, I might as well just drive over to wherever you are and have the conversation in person. You would think that I was a 300-pound man with big sausage fingers the way I hit every key on that phone except the one I actually mean to send. I still love you, pen and paper. You complete me.

Off we go to Clemson for the weekend, and my new leopard print phone will be in my purse, at the ready. Since Clint doesn't seem to want to fan me, feed me grapes, and do all my communicating for me, I'm going to be a big girl and send my own texts and everything. At least until I figure out how to get that Duck Commander title.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Boot Scootin' Cheapskate

You may be surprised to hear this from a girl who is easily distracted by pretty, shiny things, but I have become, as one of my oldest friends and my husband have both pointed out: cheap. Not as in cheap thrill, cheap date, or cheap trick, but rather frugal, thrifty, prudent. Believe me, I haven't always been that way; it started out as just an inclination to save money and stick to a budget, and like most of the things I do, I may have gotten a little carried away.

A few years ago, we found ourselves on a tight(er) budget. I am, after all, a housewife, so while the benefits of my job are fabulous, the pay is nonexistent. I started clipping coupons, comparing prices, signing up for freebies whenever possible, pinching pennies if you will. I deemed myself a bargain babe and after a few months of thriftiness, it became a natural habit. The thrill of scoring a good deal and seeing how much money we could save was addictive.

I reuse shopping bags, gift bags, and garbage bags. I wash Styrofoam plates, and I always ask for extra napkins and ketchup at the drive-thru so I can keep some on hand and not have to use my own supply. I buy generic almost everything--with a few exceptions like Duke's mayonnaise and Diet Coke (some things are worth every penny), and I am pretty darn savvy about what is an actual deal at the dollar store.

I remember as a kid saving allowance money to buy the most current awesome thing, and thinking that once I was an adult, I would have all the money I wanted (ah, the innocence of youth) and then I could have all the Swatch watches/Sebagos/Members Only jackets my little heart desired. Now that I have graduated to that 'adult' category, I find myself still wanting the most current awesome things, but wanting to pay what they would have cost back in 1992, when I was fourteen. Inflation can be so cruel.

Saturday night, I was up late waiting for my dear hubby to come home from a long road trip. I entertained myself by scouring the Internet for a pair of brown riding boots (we will not go into detail about the pair I currently own, which I proudly scored at a discount shoe warehouse last year for $59.99, which will not stay fastened and have been an absolute laughing stock with my family). Specifically, I was searching for a pair of designer boots I have been lusting after for close to two years. My eyes burned, my fingers cramped, my search history grew. I surfed, and surfed, and surfed.

Around 1:30 a.m., when Clint finally made it home, he came in to find me bleary eyed, frustrated, and in a state of exhausted despair. "Do you think that is a scam website? Because they have THE boots for 62% off the retail price, but for some reason, I can't get my order to go through!" He may or may not have confiscated our laptop in response.

I went to sleep that night dreaming of beautiful leather boots. In colors like "bourbon," "almond," and "luggage." Visions of outfits perfected by those boots danced through my head. (All of this could have been influenced and/or enhanced by a rather large dose of cherry Nyquil, but I digress). By Sunday morning, Clint could barely enjoy his Eggo waffles in peace without hearing about THE boots.

And then: super husband came to the rescue. He calculated how many times I would wear the highly coveted boots and reasoned that the price, broken down over that many wears, was not that ridiculous after all. He used my grandmother's old adage about having one nice thing rather than several cheap finds. Then he took me to the mall, the place where so many dreams come true for girls who love clothes like I do.

Operation Riding Boot was a hairy experience. We enter the store and search the shelves. The boot is not there. A salesgirl says she is certain they have it in stock, and we wait on pins and needles (well, one of us, anyway) until she returns with the very large box containing those gorgeous creatures. Did we know they are 25% off this weekend, she asks? My heart skips a beat. I zip up my sole mates and--horror of horrors--they are too tight. I don't want to admit it, but I am afraid that the way they are squeezing my calves will cause a blood clot and I will die the very first time I wear them, which will cause the cost-per-wear calculations to go right out the window.

Salesgirl searches for an eternity for a larger size, and comes up empty handed. I can barely stand this roller coaster of emotion. She says they can order them and ship them to our house, which we reluctantly agree upon. Salesgirl then brings out another style to try on for size, pauses in contemplation, returns to the stockroom once more, and comes out triumphant: she has found THE boots. In the right size--the one that will not cause clotting. Score! Clint turns down her offer of celebratory Coronas and champagne, pays the woman, and I exit the store with a bag the size of a refrigerator box and a smile that is practically the same size.

Once, when I was around four years old, my granddaddy took me to the toy store and bought me a little red wagon, already assembled. He then put me in that wagon and commenced to fill it with toys and candy until I was so giddy I could barely sit upright, and then he pulled me around the mall while I lived the best day a kid could imagine. This shoe shopping experience reminds me of that day. I suppose that when you get older, designer boots are the new red wagon.

I fell asleep last night staring at my new pair of boots, with a dreamy smile across my face. This cheapskate had a banner day, and with my new fabulous footwear, I will be the most stylish penny pincher at the bargain bins to boot.

Caution: objects may be even more awesome than they appear.