I took my dad on a date to the Clinton Center and we both loved it

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

This is a sponsored post written in conjunction with my role as a Social Ambassador for the Clinton Center.

If you’re from Arkansas and you travel at all, when people find out where you’re from, they will always ask you what you think of the Clintons. I happen to be a fan politically, but I’m also a huge fan of the Clinton Center, which not only houses the Clinton Presidential Library, but also temporary historical, educational, and cultural exhibits that change frequently. I’ve been there to see Legos, de la Renta gowns, Chihuly glass, and had to make several trips so Etta and Claire could check out the dinosaur exhibit that closed last fall. Having frequently paid to see the exhibits with my family, I was thrilled to be asked to be a Clinton Center Social Ambassador this year. This means my family gets a membership to the Center, and I am compensated to attend events and help spread the word about this amazing place that I love.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

My first event as an ambassador was on Saturday, in conjunction with their Coca-Cola: An American Original exhibit which is open until February 15. When I realized it was a Coca-Cola exhibit, I knew I had to bring my dad. He’s a Coca-Cola man the way you might have said Don Draper liked drinking whiskey– his fridge is always stocked with Cokes, which I swipe on my way out the door to enjoy on the hour drive home, a little treat I associate with him. He also collects a particular type of Coke bottle, and I knew he would enjoy the exhibit, which focuses on the 100th anniversary of the iconic Coke bottle, and the event, which involved an Antiques Roadshow-style appraisal of locals’ Coke collectibles with Ted Ryan, the director of Heritage Communications for Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

It wasn’t until we were on our way to the Clinton Center that I realized I can’t remember the last time my dad and I got to hang out, just the two of us. I loved getting to tour the exhibit with him, and he loved peppering Ted with questions about the history of Coca-Cola’s advertising art, represented by several Norman Rockwell originals on display. Dad wanted to know if Coke invented Santa Claus, and the answer was yes and no– they didn’t come up with the idea of Santa, but the American image of a rosy-cheeked, chubby, bearded old man in red and white was created by Coke artist Haddon Sundblom. If the Coca-Cola brand is one of the major things Coke sells– at one point, Ted said “All we make is syrup and advertising,” Santa’s brand also owes a lot to them.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center
The first iteration of the Coca-Cola polar bears, the iconic Barefoot Boy by Norman Rockwell, and Santa as portrayed by Sundblom.
Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center
I loved these WWII-era servicewomen with their Cokes.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the Collectors Convention, especially seeing the vast knowledge Ted carries in his head about the brand, its advertising, and Coca-Cola items. No matter what people brought up to show him, he was never stumped. We saw a pretzel bowl valued at $800, a metal spinner ad that used to sit atop a gas pump valued between $600-1,000, a 1961 Westinghouse Coke machine valued at $1,500, and a stamp holder from the early teens valued at $500, among many other things. My dad, sadly, learned the vintage bottles he collects aren’t worth very much, because literally billions were made.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

After the convention, we headed upstairs to check out the rest of the exhibit, which tells the story of how the Coke bottle became what it is today. We learned that the original design was to look like the pods of the coca plant, but it was slimmed down to fit into the mechanized bottling equipment. We also learned from Ted that the phrase “soda pop” came from early bottles for carbonated beverages– the cork was inside the bottle, and the carbonation pushed up on it to maintain the seal. In order to drink the beverage, you had to pop the cork down into the bottle. I particularly loved the vintage photographs of celebrities and presidents drinking from Coke bottles, and a series of pieces Andy Warhol did, inspired by the famous brand. I’d like to think Warhol would enjoy the fact that I busted out my selfie stick and subjected Dad to his first selfie in front of the Warhols.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center
Dad’s first selfie! He even almost smiled!

After we had finished checking everything out, my mom, sister, and daughters met up with us for lunch in the Clinton Center’s restaurant, Forty-Two (because President Clinton was the 42nd President). I don’t think many folks know what a lovely, family-friendly dining option Forty-Two is, but they have an excellent kids menu and high chairs, and we have dined there with our girls many times. Saturday was unseasonably warm and we got to sit out on their fabulous patio and watch cyclists and walkers pass up above us on the River Trail. As we ate, Claire asked my dad, “How was your date with my mommy?” “I’m still enjoying it,” he said. I’m so glad I got to take my dad to this exhibit, and might have to convince him to come along to the next one too, which I am told will be Olympics-themed to tie in with this summer’s Games.

Coca-Cola: An American Original closes February 15. Be sure to check it out before then! A great opportunity to do so would be Saturday, February 13, as they are hosting free Valentine’s Day family activities from 10am-2pm.

 

i have a seven year itch

Last week, my husband Jon and I celebrated 7 years of marriage, and in June, we marked 10 years of togetherness.

Everyone jokes about the 7 Year Itch. But I have it, y’all.

seven-year

Except…it’s on my finger.

First photo with my ring after we got engaged in 2006.
First photo with my ring after we got engaged in 2006.

You see, somewhere in the last year, I developed an allergy* to my white gold wedding rings. Sure, some skeevy dudes may say they’re “allergic” to their rings, when really they’re not wearing them so they can mac on chicks, but this is no lie. Wearing my rings has started to cause my finger to immediately break out into a red, bumpy, itchy rash. I figured out it was the gold because my silver stacking rings, a Valentine’s gift that I wear on my right hand, don’t cause the same problem.

“I’m allergic to my wedding rings,” I announced to my doctor hubby one day, showing him the rash. He asked if I meant symbolically or literally, but thank goodness, the only itch I’ve got is the one on my finger. I’m not itching to get out of our relationship or marriage at all.

And my best friend and hubby was handy in diagnosing my problem too. It turns out it’s fairly common for people to develop allergies to the nickel used as an alloy with the gold to make it strong enough to stand up to the wear and tear it gets as jewelry. But he’s seen enough nickel allergies to know I don’t have it, since nickel is also commonly used in the hardware on things like jeans, and I don’t develop a similar rash to the rivet on the waistband of my blue jeans. Also, the gold posts on my pearl earrings have started irritating my ears, too. So, I am forced to conclude, I’m having an issue with gold, not nickel.

I’ve taken to wearing one of my silver stacking bands on my left hand as a placeholder, but I’d really like to get back to wearing my rings again. I hear a temporary solution is to coat the ring in clear nail polish, and a permanent one is to get it plated with rhodium.

As for seven years, I’m happy to celebrate how far we’ve come. Becoming parents has truly been the hardest thing our partnership has endured, far more stressful than moving cross country, grief, and trauma. Still, there’s no one else I’d rather be raising my family and living alongside.

wedding

We celebrated lucky number seven with a little road trip to Texas, spending a night in a bed and breakfast in Dallas, checking out the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and the Dallas Museum of Art, and then continuing to Austin for LOTS of tacos, a visit to the LBJ library (thankfully for me, my husband indulges my political geekery), visiting with friends, seeing the bats, and eating some BBQ. It was a lovely getaway, and we’re super thankful that family took care of our kids and pets so we could get that time together.

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We stayed at the lovely Corinthian Bed and Breakfast in Dallas.
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Beautiful glass work by Dale Chihuly at the DMA.
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Visiting the LBJ library on the UT campus. He passed such an amazing amount of progressive policy!
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Pretty sure Jon wanted to keep the Jeep we rented for the trip.
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Stopped by Wendy Davis’ office, and even though she wasn’t in, some of her staff let me take a picture in her office. Big fan!

*Allergies can develop at any time, even after years of exposure without event to the allergen. This is why when people tell me they “aren’t allergic” to something like poison ivy, I always tell them, just wait! With enough exposures, you’ll eventually trigger a reaction!

Color Me…Bieber

Disclosure: The kind folks at Color Me Rad gave me a free spot in their colorful 5k, as well as a hat and a pair of socks. I was not required to post anything, and I haven’t even run the thing yet. Everything I’m about to say is 100% from me.

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I’ve come a long way in the last year. Just over 14 months ago, I had just birthed my two beautiful Bufflo Gals when I stopped breathing and wound up in the ICU on a ventilator. My official diagnosis was ultimately a congenital heart defect called left ventricle non-compaction syndrome, a defect in which the chamber of my heart that squeezes blood out into my body didn’t form correctly, so it doesn’t pump blood as efficiently as it should. This defect, which had never reared its head before, though I have had it since embryohood, apparently, was exacerbated by the stresses of twin pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, a c-section, and the fluids and blood I was given after surgery. Basically it was a perfect storm that landed me in congestive heart failure.

Still, over a year later, regularly taking my old man meds (seriously, I’m on a beta blocker and an ace inhibitor, the type of thing usually marketed to old men via commercials that feature things like fly fishing), and I’m doing great. My heart is functioning at a range that puts me into the “normal” zone. And as I keep up with two babies rapidly heading into toddlerhood, I’ve been thinking that I’m ready to be more active.

Enter my friend Kyran with a fun opportunity for some of us Little Rock bloggers to participate in a fun little thing called Color Me Rad. It’s a color run. It’s not a marathon, it’s not for a cause, it’s just for the joy of it. And for me, it’s a celebration marking an end to a year in which I considered myself sick, and a step into a life of health. I know I don’t have the stamina to run the whole thing at this point, but this is my kickoff. I plan to effing frolic, man, and I’m pleased to be doing this thing with the rest of team Rad News Bears: Kyran, Kerri, Amy, Sarabeth, Alison, Whitney, and Jacklyn.

If you’d like to join this little celebration, you can still sign up online for the Little Rock race through tonight, and after online registration closes tonight, you can sign up in person on Friday 10-7 at: Cardinal Health, 5426 Landers Road, Sherwood, AR 72117 (Next to the Tractor Supply Company).

Special bonus? I tried on my swag, and well, let’s just say I found my doppelganger:

bufflo and the biebs

window into my workplace

First, some back story: After 1.5 years at my job, I’m leaving next month because I’m moving. My boss, who is awesome, tells me every single day (even before we found out I was moving) what a great job I do and how sad he is that I’m leaving (proof that I’m not a total slacker, you guys!).  Also: this week, I got a brand spankin’ new 27-inch iMac in my office (replacing a 5 year old 17 inch iMac).  When it was installed, my boss and I had the following exchange:

Boss: “Isn’t that thing a little too big?”

Me: “Um, no! I’m going to have tons of windows, open all at once, and I won’t have to constantly minimize things! It’s gonna be great!”

Boss: “So really, what you’re telling me is, you’re going to be watching movies on that thing for your last month here.”

Me: “Yeah, basically.”

Back to the real story: So today, I’m sitting in my office watching this little YouTube video, which I found thanks to I Fry Mine in Butter:

Yep. Streisand and Celine Dion, circa 1997. Which, I find hilarious because it’s so cheesy and so 90s. Anyway, my boss walks in. Cue me trying to pause the video. It. will. not. pause. I finally hit mute, but the damage has been done.

Boss: “Whatcha doin’?”

Me: “Um, watching an awesomely cheesy video of Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand.”

Boss: *laughs loudly*

Me: *blushes furiously*

Boss: Well, come in here when you’re done, I need your help with something.

Usually, he enjoys teasing me mercilessly about almost everything, from whether or not I’m wholesome to the extent to which my shoes match my outfit (today he is rather amused that I’m wearing a blue dress, a green cardigan, and green suede sneakers with blue laces). Thankfully he exercised some restraint in the teasing over my embarrassing YouTube habits.

nightmares before Christmas

image via Flickr user daveynin

I promise I’m not a Grinch. Sure, sure, there were years that I didn’t allow people around me to decorate for Christmas until after December 16, my birthday, because I didn’t want Christmas stealing my thunder, but my mother really started that tradition, so you can hardly blame me for enforcing it.  I love putting up a Christmas tree.  I spent hours and hours and hours crafting ornaments out of origami last year.  I hung up our stockings on Sunday and now can’t stop staring at them. I get excited when eggnog shows up in stores, and I love a chance to make our family’s holiday staple, Russian Tea.  And I love Christmas music. Well, most of it.

Sure, there are some weird Christmas songs, including my sister’s favorite, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.” But one Christmas song is downright awful.  I go out of my way NOT to hear it. I’d probably run screaming out of a store in the midst of holiday shopping if it came on over the loudspeaker. In fact, just this morning as I drove Jon and myself to work, it started playing on the radio and I started yelling, “TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF RIGHT NOW!” I’m pretty sure this song makes little 7 pound 8 ounce baby Jesus cry.  And we all know, “little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” He cries when he hears this song, I’m sure of it. I know I sure do. And crying is really not what I want to do at Christmas, though it usually happens at some point, what with the family dysfunction and all.

This horrible song? You want to know what it is? Ok…

It’s “The Christmas Shoes.”  According to Wikipedia, The Christmas Shoes started out as an internet story (aka an email forward), and was adapted into a novel, a song, and a film starring that lady from Father of the Bride and Rob Lowe.  I guess the story is sweet enough, if you like a side of sobbing with your Christmas spirit, but it’s about a little poor boy trying to buy his dying mother a pair of shoes for Christmas.  One line that keeps getting repeated is “I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”  The only “meeting Jesus” I want to think about at Christmas is Shepherds and Wise Men meeting BABY Jesus. Not dead people meeting full-grown Jesus.  I’d rather hear the entire Chipmunks Christmas album on repeat for 24 hours straight than listen to the world’s saddest Christmas song even once.  This is why I’m not, under any circumstances, putting a YouTube video of this song on this post. Look it up at your own risk, and have some tissues handy.

But apparently some folks like their Christmas cheer to be tinged with depression and sadness and guilt. Just check out Glenn Beck’s latest bestseller, a Christmas book called “The Christmas Sweater” about a little boy whose mother DIES IN A FIERY CAR WRECK because the selfish little bastard doesn’t appreciate his hand-knit Christmas sweater.  Man, imagine reading that one to your kids on Christmas Eve. YOU BETTER BE GRATEFUL, KIDS, OR MOMMY WILL DIEEEEEEE.  Might as well play them “The Christmas Shoes” as a post-bedtime-story lullaby, then wait and see if the little brats dream of visions of sugar plums or wake up screaming in the night. “The Nightmare before Christmas” is less scary and more uplifting than Beck’s storybook or the world’s worst Christmas song.