Friday, October 1, 2010

My Criminal Past

The door to my old mailbox from Agnes Scott College sits prominently on my bookcase, reminding me of the greatest criminal caper of my life.

When I visited Agnes Scott as a high school student, I looked around and thought, Yes. This is what a college campus is supposed to look like. It was beautiful, with its manicured landscaping and stately brick buildings. The college had just celebrated its first 100 years, and the buildings told the story. U.S. News and World Report declared that we had the Most Palatial Dorms. It was true. Wonderful high ceilings, enormous rooms and well-appointed parlors were part of the package that we called home. Did I mention most of the dorms had no air conditioning? Small price to pay. We all loved it.

For the first three years of my matriculation at ASC, the post office was located in the basement of one of those palatial dorms, Walters. The mailboxes were so charming, with their antique-looking doors sporting combination dials that used letters, not numbers, and only went from A to J. I never knew the combination to my box, nor did anyone know the combination to any of the boxes. They simply stood open. This was a testament to our Honor Code, which I am certain is one of the most revered by its students that you can find. If your box was accidentally slammed shut, you had to ask a post office employee to open it from the inside for you.

When I found out that the new student center was going to house the post office from my senior year forward, I was crushed that the old post office boxes would no longer be used. Instead, we would have modern, shiny, new boxes in our modern, shiny, new student center. One of my friends just happened to be an R.A. in Walters and had *a master key* for the building. After phone calls over the summer, hushed conversations in the dining hall, and secret planning behind dorm room doors that were rarely closed and never locked, the plan was made.

A small group of us stealthily entered the old post office one evening. Screwdrivers in hand, we took our old mailbox doors. Yes, we did it. They were simply going to be removed and used as scrap metal, so far as we knew. We couldn't let that happen to our pieces of ASC history. The screwdrivers didn't work, and it took some good old girl power and ingenuity to get the job done. I don't remember how we did it, but we all got our mailbox doors.

And I have mine. It's my most treasured possession from my college days. I love to hold it in my hands and remember those four years that changed me forever. The education I received was better than top-notch. The traditions of Black Cat, throwing newly-engaged girls into the pond, and choosing class mascots are forever burned on my brain. The friends I made there are forever cherished in my heart.

So, there's my confession. Lock me up and throw away the combination. I'll just get a post office worker to open the door from the inside.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hard on a Mother's Heart

My son's closet had become stacked and stuffed with boxes and bags of baby toys and clothes too small for him. It was time. Oh, how I hate this task. But we have a garage sale in two weeks, friends who are about to have a baby boy, and a consignment sale at my son's school in six weeks or so. It had to be done.

So I started a stack of baby clothes for the garage sale, a stack for our friends, and a stack for the consignment sale. Oh yes, and I also started a stack of things which I will continue to horde, because I could not part with them. Some of these latter-stack items included the wildly expensive Strasburg Children outfits he has worn to church and such. So gorgeous, and so John-John. These were the kinds of things I used to fantasize about dressing a child in before I had a child. But some of this stack also included, to my surprise, some not-so-fine items with which I just could not part. There were some pajamas which immediately flooded my brain with images of my tiny son wearing them, smiling and laughing. It was almost as if I were trying to put part of him, part of my little boy's childhood, on a stack of things to be sold for $1 each in my yard. Perfect strangers would carry them away, unaware of the memories they held in their hands.

My eyes became moist. I started sniffing. Then I just full-out cried. Tears streaming, mouth open, like Nancy Kerrigan grabbing her knee and yelling, "Why?! Why?!" In my head, I would say things like, This is what he had on when he took his first steps. or This was a hand-me-down from my cousin and he wore it all last summer. or I remember when he used to wear this sweater to Mother's Morning Out. And the craziest one - This is what he wore the night we went to the emergency room. I certainly don't want to memorialize that, but it's part of our story, as a family. To give away his clothes makes me feel like I'm giving away part of our story. No one who picks them up for a $1 in my front yard could ever know that they hold a piece of Conrad history in their hands.

I wanted to put it ALL back in the closet. But I took a deep breath, said a prayer for strength and wisdom, and managed to clean out more than I kept. Oh, it's hard. And even I don't understand why I kept some of the random things I did. Even now, I'm tempted to go back into my garage sale bags and just make sure there's nothing else I need to keep . . .

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Anger Management

Last December, my family and I moved into a brand new, beautiful house. Kudos to my husband for providing us with such a lovely house in a great neighborhood. We had an empty field next to us on one side at the time, which I knew would eventually become filled with other houses. That time has come. It just so happens that the lot directly adjacent to us is one of the last to be finished. They are still framing the house next door, hammering as I type this. I am truly not bothered by the construction, as it is temporary, and means we will have new neighbors in a few months. What fun! I do love to take baked goods to new neighbors and pleasantly confuse them with old-school Southern hospitality. No one expects it in this day and age. My son actually enjoys the construction, what with power tools, cement mixers, cranes and other fun equipment that he can watch in use from the kitchen window.

But on Friday, some of the workers (Brazilian, I believe) decided it would be okay to store bathtubs in our side yard. There was plenty of room on the lot where they are building, but they decided our nice, green grass was a better place to put the bathtubs. I didn't like their decision. But I decided to wait and see what they did about it on Saturday. I spent the morning doing volunteer work in a vegetable garden being cultivated to feed needy folks with an outfit called Fields to Families. Very dirty, sweaty and rewarding work. Had a blast.

Now, it must be a cultural difference, which is why I mention the nationality of these workers, but apparently they believe there is nothing wrong with trespassing. When I returned from my volunteer work, someone had delivered enormous roof-shaped trusses to MY front lawn. "Well, if we run out of room here, we'll just put it on the neighbor's lawn." is what they must have thought. This is beyond me. They continued to walk back and forth in my yard, even using a powersaw and nailgun right next to the corner of my house. And, to make matters worse, one of the tubs had been propped against the side of my house. In a fit of rage while the workers were away at lunch, I stormed into my side yard and yanked the tub down onto the ground. I got a fiberglass splinter in my thumb, which I suppose serves me right.

Unfortunately, no amount of phone calling or indignation could move these items until Monday morning. My husband speaks Spanish, which is similar enough to Portugese, and managed to communicate a simple message to them early Monday morning. I believe it went something like, "This is my property. I want all this stuff off of it." It was all moved by mid-morning. It's a good thing my husband handled it, and not me. And it's a good thing I don't know how to cuss in Portugese.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hodge Podge Home Decor

I recently called on my innermost female instincts. I embarked upon a task so daunting, that few women will attempt it anymore. But it's in our blood, in our very chromosomes.

I made drapes for my bedroom. We moved into our brand new house about 8 or 9 months ago, and decorating has been painfully slow, what with chasing a 2 year old around, starting a new business (, joining Junior League, being sick multiple times, you name it. I made some headway about 2 weeks ago, though, when I took my carefully selected, beautiful bolt of fabric out of the closet and said, "Today is the day." Well, ended up being more like 3 or 4 days, but that's beside the point. The point is, I DID IT! I got on my mother's sewing machine, and with some instruction from her, I made drapes for our three bedroom windows. They even hang from the rod with tabs and all . . . and that took me an extra half a day, at least. But deep down within, I felt useful. I felt resourceful. I felt that I was joining a club of sorts, and doing something that trillions of women have done before me (not to say that men can't sew, too, but . . . ). I really felt like a WOMAN! HEAR ME ROAR! I MADE CURTAINS! And then, I even hung them up myself, using Hubby's drill to put up the rods. Hubby was duly impressed, particularly after I told him how many hundreds of dollars I saved us by sewing them myself.

Now what shall I tackle next? It's hard to say. But what's really bothering me right now is the river of tin foil cascading from the bunny ears in the living room. Yes, we are dinosaurs with no cable. Neither Hubby nor I had cable when we got married, still don't want it, still don't have it. Now that we live in the country, this means extra hoop-jumping just to get the regular channels. We still simply don't get ABC, which means no "Dancing with the Stars." So our tv, which was a lovely housewarming gift from brothers in law and sisters in law, hangs on the wall with wires a-dangling beneath and connected to rabbit ears, which sit atop a stereo speaker on the adjacent bookshelf. That's where the tin foil comes in, cascading from said bunny ears halfway down the shelves. Yeah, you might be a redneck if . . .

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Heave Ho!

On Saturday, I relived one of my favorite childhood memories. I went out in Lake Murray on a pontoon boat and went swimming. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a lake house and pontoon boat there. Many a summer day was whiled away with me tracking back into the house, with its linoleum floors and telephone with a "party line," in my wet bathing suit and light sunburn. The house was sold when I was in college, around the my grandmother passed away. So until Saturday, it had been about 20 years since my last lake trip.
My best friend's family still has such a house on Lake Murray, and they very graciously hosted us Conrads for a day of lake fun. I can honestly say it was the most fun I have had in years. Even my husband's irrational fear of snakes, alligators and nature in general faded as he sat alone on the boat and watched us all bobbing and laughing in the water. (He's a city boy, bless his heart.) Soon, he was cannonballing over the side to join the fun.

With the requisite alternating activities of snacking and swimming, the day slipped away before we knew it. Our 2 year old son was slitty-eyed with exhaustion as we piled into the car to head home. We were about 20 minutes into the drive when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Everything my son had eaten that day, and I do mean everything, suddenly reappeared as we sat at a red light in Lexington. "Pull over! Pull over!" my husband cried. Why is it that we always think pulling over is going to somehow stop the throw-up process? Anyway, as I said, I was at a red light and hemmed in by cars on every side. I could only wait. I was certain I caught a glimpse of some peach cobbler from about a month ago.

We pulled into a gas station to mitigate the situation: change his clothes, clean out the car as much as possible, etc. The gas station, as luck would have it, did not sell Lysol. The car seat was wet, with no hope of becoming dry anytime soon. So we had to ride back home (another hour and 45 minuntes) with the windows cracked and my son in a soggy seat. About 30 miles from home, a torrential downpour descended upon us, so up went the windows. And thus we remained, SEALED, until we pulled into the garage. Showers for all, immediately upon entry into the house. My entry was delayed however, until I could scrub, Lysol, and baking soda-ize every inch of the back seat (and some of the front).

Even so, it was still a perfect day, and I will remember it for a long time. Thanks, Marian. :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Paper or plastic?

Paper, please . . . but not for environmental reasons. The smell of a paper grocery bag takes me back about thirty years. Suddenly, I am following my beloved grandfather out of his screened kitchen door. It squeaks and taps shut. We cross the pea gravel driveway into his vegetable garden. He picks okra, tomatoes, squash. I walk behind, dutifully carrying the paper grocery bag. He turns and drops the veggies in, one by one. He points to the ones that aren't ready to be picked yet, telling me that they are too small or too green. We will wait a day or two for them. We share a silly joke and weave up and down the rows. The sun beats down on my yellow head, and I shake the dirt from inside my sandals. Then we turn and head back into the house.

My grandfather just passed away in January, and I find myself stopping to inhale and ruminate every time I hold a paper bag.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Who's the boss?

As the summer draws to a close, it occurs to me that my son is actually starting preschool. This is not just Mother's Morning Out. It is actual preschool, and we have to buy school supplies! How exciting! It makes me wonder where the last two and a half years have gone. Time flies when you are happy. How disappointed would I have been to work 50 hour weeks (or more) during this precious time when he was little? September will mark three years since I left my job as an attorney. I am thankful beyond words for the time I have had at home with my son. Having begun to pursue my writing career has also made me begin to feel more complete as a human being. I have no doubt that I am finally doing what I am supposed to do with my life. Are you? What are your dreams?

In these uncertain economic times, the only "safe" option is working for yourself. Do what you WANT to do, and follow your dreams. Why spend your life working for someone else, helping them to become richer, when they could fire you in the blink of an eye? Is that stability? No, I submit that it is not. Be in charge of your own destiny. Take your own life into your hands, and don't depend on your boss to be there next month when you have to make your mortgage payment.

It's life. Go out there and do it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I'm on Twitter now! You can follow me @PerrinCConrad

I was reluctant at first. I didn't really understand the concept of "tweeting." But now that I have been introduced to it, I submit that this may be *better* than facebook. Why? Because of its brevity. It's brilliant. I don't spend hours and hours looking at pictures of people's children's birthday parties or trips to Disney. 140 characters. That's all you get. If you can't say it in 140 characters or less, you're out of luck. Love it, love it, love it. If you haven't tried Twitter, give it a whirl.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fanning the Flames

Yesterday, young Sam and I went to the Fire Museum with a friend of mine from high school and her two children. Using a stroller would be almost cruel in such a place, but Sam is only two, so how to control him? I decided to use the little puppy dog "leash" that we have for him so he could determine where we walked, but I would be able to yank him back from any potential danger. Needless to say, Sam was extremely excited to see all the old-timey fire trucks. When we walked in, he splayed his arms out in front of himself and made some noises I have never heard before. Of particular interest was the simulator, where you can "drive" the fire truck. Siren wailing, lights flashing, horn blowing, flipping every switch and pushing every button, he navigated the streets being projected on the inside of the windshield.

Meanwhile, my friend's three year old son had flashbacks from his last trip to the Fire Museum . . . he was frightened by the movie of a real fire that is shown in the small theater. He stood in the gift shop and cried almost the entire time.

The longer we were in the museum, the more keyed-up my son got. Before long, he darted away from me and was running around the perimeter of the place with his puppy dog leash trailing like a tail. I was chasing behind him in a most undignified manner. And the well-behaved group of children in their matching t-shirts from the North Charleston Rec Department looked on in shocked interest. You'd think they'd never seen a two year old on a leash before, gee whiz. Oh, I do enjoy being a spectacle. Not.

Sam was rounded up with the help of my friend, her six year old daughter, and the three year old, who had momentarily stopped crying. My son then scaled a platform under the auspices of going down a slide, with the help of the six year old. But once at the top, his true intentions became apparent. He snubbed the slide and tried to slide down the fireman pole (with me yelling for him to stop, once again, a spectacle) but was caught by the "tail" by my friend's helpful six year old who was trying to save his life. He dangled in the air for a moment with the leash suspending him in a fashion which I am sure was contrary to its design, and another mother who happened to be standing at the bottom lifted him down. Where was I during all this? First, I was running up the stairs to stop him from jumping, then I was running back down to catch him. Successful at neither. Leash and child back in hand, I walked toward the gift shop. Sam got himself tangled around my legs, just like a dog. My friend gestured toward her three year old, who had turned on the waterworks again. She said, "We can go anytime you're ready." "Yeah," I replied, "Let's go now."

No return trip to the Fire Museum is currently planned.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Random Compliment

This morning, I went into my 2 year old's room to get him up and dressed. Suddenly, he put his index finger on one side of his chin and said, "Mommy, I was finking . . ."
"Yes?" I asked, intrigued.
Then he put his finger up on one of my eyebrows and said, "Ya eyebwows wook weally gweat!"
This is good news, since I don't do a thing with them. I thanked him enthusiastically for the random compliment, and started my day with a smile and a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Go pay someone a random compliment today. You just might turn their day around.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Time Flies

Hey, everyone! Much has happened in the 6 months since I last posted. We are now (somewhat) settled into our beautiful new house. I have had 2 rounds of antibiotics and steroids for my mamma-jamma allergies. My son had a mystery virus with a really high fever (but is fine now). My brother-in-law moved to Charleston to take a new job here. My son also moved out of the crib and into the "big boy bed."

And, I have launched a new business! Please check out what I am doing here: