Sunday, December 12, 2010

In The Land Of The Ridiculous

There are mornings when the best comedy on television is on the news. This week's milk through the nose moment came compliments of our head of homeland security, Janet Napolitano. Janet wants all of the country's best and brightest Wal-Mart shoppers on the lookout for terrorists in the aisles of their local discount superstore. And when one is spotted, one is to alert the specially trained, double secret ninja assassin Wal-Mart management team. Wait, WHAT? First of all, Ms. Napolitano, have you ever been to a Wal-Mart after dark? On second thought, have you ever been to a Wal-Mart at all? This is a place populated by the weird, the suspicious acting and the just plain crazy. This is where all aspects of society collide, where the normal and the abnormal rub elbows over low low discount prices and ultra cheap merchandise. We'd be better off looking for the meth makers buying large quantities of Sudafed or high school kids buying fifty bucks worth of stuff in an attempt to camouflage the box of condoms at the bottom of the pile. We're supposed to be putting our nation's safety and security in the hands of the Wal-Mart managers? That seems a bit like giving the nuclear missile codes to Barney Fife and any of the guys from "Jackass". "If you see something, say something." is the tag line for this undertaking...not quite as sexy as "just say no", but we'll take it. I'm having a hard time figuring out which of the suspicious people I'm supposed to be singling out here. I think the guy buying ammunition, bulk toilet paper and four cases of cheap beer might be a terrorist...oh wait, he's just going hunting. How about the woman with nine boxes of jello, an industrial size box of cereal and fourteen cans of hairspray? Wait, she's one of the "Jersey Shore" people. I can't decide who to turn in to the ninja assassin manager...let's report them ALL! That will make me more secure!

Speaking of security, the move to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell" died this week, despite the Pentagon itself releasing a report saying, in effect, that the soldiers in the trenches only really care if the guy or gal next to them can shoot straight, not if they ARE straight. But the gays aren't going to be protecting us anytime soon (at least as far as we know), don't you sleep better at night knowing that? We're fast being left behind by other countries, some of which may surprise you:

(CNN) --Fact-Check: Would the U.S. be alone in allowing gays to openly serve in the military?

According to the Palm Center, a University of California, Santa Barbara-based think tank that studies controversial public policy issues:

-- Twenty-five countries allowed military service by openly gay people as of June 2009.

-- They are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

Bottom line: The United States would not be alone in allowing gays to openly serve in the military. As of 2009, there are no fewer than 25 other countries that follow an open policy.

CNN's Diana Holden and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this fact check.

It seems to me these countries haven't imploded and it looks like they are doing okay. Let's follow Slovenia's example (wow, that's not something you hear every day!), shall we?

I watch the news daily, several times a day, and usually come away rather annoyed. The major news networks spent almost two full days on the fact that Prince William finally gave his girlfriend a ring. Are you seriously going to try and tell me that NOTHING else of relevance happened during that time? This is one of the pitfalls of the 24-hour news cycle, we must have something to talk about every minute of every day. No, we musn't. Our brains will not cease to function without a constant stream of information coming into them. I think the news channels should show a fish tank or waves rolling onto a beach unless there is really something of importance going on. I'm talking life changing, affecting us on a large scale kind of important, not what color of lipstick is hot this season. If I need to hoard water and canned goods, break into my aquarium video, otherwise, don't bother me, I'm watching the fish.

We've become addicted to information, it's like crack for us. Big news or small nuggets of information, we NEED it. CNN, MSNBC, Twitter, Facebook, and Reuters are our dealers. We've become like the serial daters we so loathed in highschool, flitting from one boy/girlfriend to the next without a breath in between, only we jump from information source to information source. Oh my gawd! We're media sluts! News tramps. Next thing you know, you're living in a cardboard box, selling pints of blood for a few minutes of wireless access from the coffee shop on the corner. You're breaking into your kids' computers for a quick hit of Twitter. You're hanging around wifi hot spots for a fix. But you tell yourself you can quit any time you want to, you don't have a problem, they don't understand! Wolf Blitzer has all the answers, he KNOWS.

Information overload? Maybe. But at least we KNOW. Time to go, I've been too long without CNN.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You're Going To Be Okay

After a year or so of upheaval, heartbreak and general suckiness, I would have thought I'd be in a sad and dark place right now. The past couple of years have included losing our house as a result of the general horribleness of the economy, moving into a house owned by a friend who sold it unexpectedly, prompting us to move twice in 18 months. I've seen the disintegration of two long time friendships and the destruction of a precious family relationship. I've had to pull my youngest son out of his school and put him in a new one because of relentless bullying, bad enough that he spent over a year in therapy. I went through a lengthy bout of depression that nearly crippled me. All this said, I'm feeling pretty good right now.

All of this trauma and heartache have taught me a few things that I'd like to share.
  • The bad things are eventually balanced by good things and you're going to be okay.
We lost our home, twice, but have ended up in the best possible house for us through creative thinking and mutual need. I found a house in my town (right around the corner from the last one we lived in) that had been for sale for almost two years. The owner took a job in another state and was getting no nibbles due to the horrid real estate market. With a defaulted loan on our record, we are out of luck, credit wise, for a while. They agreed to rent to us, knocking our rent payments off the principal if we choose to buy. Everybody wins. How often do you get to test drive a house?

  • Losing a relationship makes you appreciate those that remain, you're going to be okay.
Having a friend dump you or a family member cut you off is painful and heartbreaking, but I have looked closely at my surviving relationships and have truly come to savor and cherish them. I will protect and nurture them, closely guard them and make damn sure the people I love know I appreciate them. It's hard to lose someone and getting them back in your life may or may not be a good thing. However, I am also realizing that sometimes there are relationships that may be best left by the side of the road.

  • If you can laugh, and laugh hard, you're going to be okay.
The inspiration for this post came on a long and tiring day, feeling rather low and wrung out by things when something small and silly made me burst out laughing. The long, hard, run out of breath until you can't stop laughing kind of laugh. I love that kind of laughter, the kind that bubbles back to the surface once you've regained your composure. If you can laugh like that, things aren't as bad as you think they are.

  • If you can feel even a small sense of satisfaction, you're going to be okay.
I quit smoking in May, I've had one puff in 6 months and I take enormous satisfaction in that accomplishment. I also rewarded myself with a tattoo on my shoulder that, at first, was just a cool looking design the one-eyed tattoo guy and I came up with and now really represents this feeling to me. I can look at this and feel like I've done something right lately.

  • If you can take ownership of your life, good or bad, you're going to be okay.
I have one parenting goal, if I can accomplish this, I will have done my job right. I simply want my kids to own their lives, their actions and their choices. Good or bad, own it. I had one of those moments a year or so ago when I received an angry call from my youngest son's teacher. He demanded to know if, as according to my son, I thought he was irresponsible. I had a moment of opting to make Charlie into a liar or owning the statement that, indeed, I had made. I owned it and said that yes, I did think he was irresponsible. He was completely nonplussed and hasn't spoken to me directly since, but I felt pretty damn good because I took it on and didn't hide from my actions. I have come into my own over the past couple of years and I feel strong, powerful and in control even when it has seemed like the gods were taking a huge dump over my head.

  • If you break out of what has always been, you're going to be okay.
I spent a number of years allowing others to dictate who I am and how I perceive myself. I finally hit the reset button and stopped letting others decide how I saw myself. My only regret now is that I waited until my fourth decade to come into myself.

  • If you can find even a moment of joy in your day, you're going to be okay.
I don't care if it comes from finding a Tootsie Roll in your pocket, the last bloom in the garden before the snow flies or a stupid video on You Tube, there is something in every single day that's going to bring you that moment. Grab it, drink it in and let it carry you for a while.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

For Appearance's Sake

Not too long ago, my sister sent a link to a wonderful blog about body image and I have decided to run with that idea a little bit here. I have never been described as skinny, no one had ever suggest I eat a little more and the concept of single digit sizing is something I can only relate to shoes and ring sizes. I have long since accepted the fact that I will never be a size six and I resent the fact that the fashion industry has deemed size 10 models as "plus size". Screw you guys, we true plus size girls wipe the floor with size tens...they're sissies!

A few things to know about plus size girls:
  • We have boobs that REQUIRE bra wearing, but we would like them to be a little sexy, too (and we wonder why they even make A or B cup bras).
  • We don't appreciate catalogs that feature clothes for us, modeled by a size 10 girl. It's not real and doesn't show us what the clothing will look like on us.
  • Just because we have hips and butts, doesn't mean we want our pants and shorts to only feature drawstring or elastic waistbands.
  • Most of us shouldn't wear spaghetti strap anything, unless it's under something else.
  • We like pretty nightwear and undergarments too.
  • We're not so desperate that we'll sleep with you as a given thing, we have standards.
  • Some of us are comfortable with who and what we are, the rest of us are working on it.
  • Your beauty standards are not necessarily mine, get used to it.
Coming of age as a plus sized girl was a challenge, to be sure. I went to a private grade school that featured uniforms (jumpers with blouses or turtlenecks underneath and badly placed darts in the jumper) so flattering, especially for the girls who got boobs first. God forbid it become obvious that you were actually wearing a bra as that became the topic of much conversation and giggling. Finding yourself as one of the only curvy girls among a plethora of waif like stick figured creatures is difficult, at best. You spend a lot of time with your arms crossed over the offending chest, slouching becomes a new hobby and forget EVER running anywhere.

Some of us learn to simply accept our plus-ness, some fight it and join the skinny legions and some of us embrace it and become comfortable in our skin.

It took a while, but I've have gotten to the point that I am pretty damned comfortable the way I am. Does this mean I like to eat three boxes of cookies at one sitting? No. Does this mean I don't want to improve myself? Again, no. This means that I can look in the mirror and see what's beautiful and not dwell on the parts of me that are less than someone's idea of "perfect". I have come to realize I have dynamite hair (especially now that I have joined the straightener cult).

We girls with a little more than less tend to look a bit younger as our skin has the underpinning of flesh that keep it smooth and less wrinkly. Take a look at some of the super skinnies and check out their faces, in particular. Plus, since we weren't bikini people and did not do the sun goddess thing, we have avoided the leathery look that hits after a lifetime of tanning. We have great skin!

I have lately discovered wrap and faux wrap tops and am LOVING the rather spectacular cleavage they produce. So, may I add, does my beloved. Try THAT without a wonder bra, skinnies! When you have a great rack, V necks are your friend.

Celebrate, my plus sized, curvy, less wrinkly friends, we've got a whole lot going for us, in every way possible!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There's Danger There

With things like the Facebook phenomena going at full steam, I think we need to be careful. The line between our online and real lives has completely disappeared and there is really no difference anymore.

When we first sign up, we're inundated with friend requests and tend to accept them all. No one wants to be that guy with less than the requisite 400+ Facebook friends. What kind of antisocial loser are you anyway? After a while, we realize that having 537 Facebook friends leads to spending a lot of time reading posts that hold no interest whatsoever for you. Do we really care that the guy we rode the school bus with 25 years ago is having dog training problems? Is it crucial that we know the everyday comings and goings of the woman we chatted with for ten minutes at a mutual friends' party? Once upon a time, I would ask myself if I've had three face to face conversations with a person before clicking the "accept friend request" button. Lately, I have begun to fine tune a little bit and ask myself if I have had three conversations I have enjoyed with a person before clicking that little button. I figure, if we don't have much to talk about in person, chances are pretty good I'm not going to be terribly interested in your online updates.
Just because we have people in common does not mean we're going to have anything else in common. The simple fact that we both like someone does not make it automatic that we're going to like each other.

"De-friending" someone on Facebook may seem bloodless but it's not. Cutting someone out of your computer life is now the same as cutting someone out of your real life. It hurts just as badly, perhaps more because you don't have an argument, you don't really know when it happened, just that one day this person removes themselves from your life. To the de-friender, it's just a mouse click, to the de-friendee, it's a "I don't respect you enough to tell you to get the hell out of my life." It's still painful. Kicking people out of your life shouldn't be as easy as a mouse click, it should be hard, wrenching, tear-inducing and not done casually. Facebook has become the weapon of choice if you want to hurt someone, air dirty laundry, or just start a fight.

Before you de-friend someone, think if you'd look them in the eye and say "I am cutting you completely out of my life." before you click.

The concept of private thought has become a thing of the past. There is no such thing as an unpublished thought and we seem to forget that sometimes there are things that should stay inside your head, not out there for the world to see. Family squabbles used to be settled over a rip roaring, dish throwing, wake the neighbors shoutfest and then it was over, back to business. On Facebook, there is no such thing as a family fight because the whole world can watch and participate. Everyone has the chance to put their two cents in and something that starts out stupid and small becomes huge and uncontrollable and capable of destroying relationships. The old "with great power comes great responsibility" adage can come in to play here. Watch what you post, it's gonna bite you on the ass at some point.

Be careful out there.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Pursuit Continues

I have not abandoned my goal of achieving perfect happiness via well documented photo albums and Rubbermaid containers, I have simply allowed myself to become a bit sidetracked from time to time. The Zen bedroom is still the dream, though the path is a bit more windey than I imagined. I have rededicated myself to organizational nirvana (mainly because I quit smoking and this keeps me distracted). Taking a deep breath and going against my base instincts, I made the Sophie's Choice of housecleaning. I have disposed of ten years' worth of National Geographic magazines. I don't know why we are loath to get rid of these magazines in particular, I have no problem dumping Good Housekeeping or Newsweek, but something about NG stops me dead in my tracks. It seems so wrong to throw away, recycle, or otherwise reject these lovely, intelligent and so responsible pieces of current events. Deep breaths and rhythmic chanting got them into the recycling bins and off to the curb. No last minute waffling, no middle of the night rescues, they went and I felt only residual guilt. I did save all the maps, though. Small steps here, people!

The other items I struggle with throwing away or otherwise purging are books, keys (see early entries for reasons on keys), Christmas and birthday cards and dishes.

Books: There is something inherently wrong about throwing away books. We do everything in our power to avoid getting rid of them. The excuses are legitimate and wide ranging:
  • I'll read that one again.
  • I'm saving it for the kids.
  • It's a classic.
  • I loved it.
It's rather like pulling off a Band Aid, you gotta just grit your teeth, pull quickly and get it over with. There is no completely painless method, so you're going to have to man up and get the "Donate" boxes and the packing tape ready. It's best to do this in the company of a less passionate reader than you. My beloved is not a reader, so he's a good one. In exchange, I accompany him when it's time to get rid of useless tools, unknown electrical bits and non functional hardware.

We have already covered the key issue, never throw them because you will find you need them after the are rusting away in a landfill somewhere.

Christmas and Birthday cards, I have no idea why I always balk at throwing them away, even several months after the commemorated event.
  • The sender might stop by and see that their card is gone.
  • The sender put time and effort into picking the perfect card and I am obligated to appreciate that.
  • If I throw it away and the sender never sends me another one, I will have blithely tossed possibly their last written communication with me.
Last but not least, old sets of dishes. I have no earthly idea why I insist on keeping the previous set whenever I get a new set of dishes. I buy relatively inexpensive dishes because I like to switch up from time to time and not feeling like I'm wasting money. Plus, with the grace-impaired people that live in my house, cheap dishes and glassware are really the best idea. I have several partial sets of dishes packed carefully away in the basement, why I have no idea. But there they wait, someday, someone is going to want a set of dinnerware that's chipped and missing a soup bowl and two luncheon plates. When that day comes, I will be ready.

I have managed to get rid of a lot of stuff including:
  • the kids' baby tub (I think we're beyond needing it now)
  • 23 socks without mates (they're gone and not coming back and we have to accept it)
  • VHS tapes of Rugrats (I'll buy the DVDs if they ever come out)
  • 10 years worth of National Geographic (I had to go to confession afterward, and was absolved)
  • 5 decks of cards missing more than one card each (and none I could blend to complete one)
  • 4 board games with missing pieces (you can't really play mousetrap without the ladder or the cage part)
  • 37 items of clothing that no one in the house has worn in more than a year
  • a size 4T snowsuit (the youngest member of the household is now 11)
The fight continues, the Zen bedroom and organizational heaven are both possible...eventually. I will stay the course and fight the good fight and...oh look, new catalogs came in the mail today!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Agreed Part 2

An addendum, this from my friend Lisa. Nice to see it from both sides!

Dear childrens' sports people:

I am happy to be the best sports parent possible. I am excited to watch my child and want to help out as best I can. It is so wonderful to see my children learn a new skill and grow and I am so grateful there are people like you who are so dedicated and willing to make such a difference in my child's life. Having said that, please consider:

My child's sporting activity is not the only thing in his/her/our family's life. We have other children with other activities and we, our child's parent, actually have jobs and lives of our own. This may be difficult to process, but our child even attends school for many hours a day, which requires that he/she get to bed at a decent hour and may even have homework. Please try to avoid giving us less than 24 hours notice when there is a practice, game or scrimmage, or when our child needs a certain item like very specific socks that can only be purchased during the hours of 6 and 7 on the third Tuesday of the week with the new moon.

My child may not actually know how to play the sport you are coaching him/her in. He may come from a family of nerdy book-readers who neglected to play catch, shoot hoops, or kick balls with him/her from the day that he/she was born. He may never even watch sports on TV because his father is too busy watching Turner Classic Movies. Please remember, you are his/her only hope to feel successful in team athletics. His parents probably feel horrible that they have set him/her up to be outcasts, but that is why he/she is on the team in the first place. Please do not ignore him or her or decide from the beginning that he/she is not worth your investment. He/she is a sweet child and if you give him/her a chance, he/she may actually find his/her inner aggressiveness and kick some serious butt.

I would love to help out as a volunteer. Please don't make me coach. I tried that once and all the other parents yelled at me and made fun of my shoes. I tried to sell popcorn too, but the person doing the scheduling kept calling me at the last minute. (See first item.) I know you are super busy too, and you are also a volunteer, but I am just wondering if perhaps you would consider something like a calendar. You could figure out ahead of time when all the games are then let people sign up for different shifts. You could even put it online. Just a thought.

Finally, I promise not to abuse the authorities. I am so embarrassed when other parents mistreat refs and coaches. I just want to cheer our child and his/her team-mates. I don't even care who wins, as long as everyone has fun. Thanks for remembering that not all parents are rude, lazy, and unappreciative.

A nerdy Mom who quit t-ball halfway through the season and has never been comfortable with team sports but wants her kids to be.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


This special post comes from my brother in law, a dedicated parent and long-suffering official in a number of kids' athletics. He has generously assembled the following.

Any parent who enrolls his/her child in any kind of organized competitive activity must read, understand and sign off on the following document.

I,__________________ have read and understand and will adhere to the following. Failure to comply with any of the notations listed below will result in my immediate banishment from all my child’s activities/sports for a minimum of one year.

1.I will willingly volunteer to actively participate in any manner to help promote the love, comprehension and appreciation of the activities to which I have enrolled my child, no matter how crappy, demeaning or beneath me I consider the assignment.

a.This will include but not be limited to; fundraiser, assistant coach, time keeper, statistician, car pool organizer, game day site person, uniform washer, water boy, skate or shoe tying, tournament check-in person, phone list organizer, nose blowing/wiping, first aid kit holder, crowd control.

b.Under no circumstances will I ever carry my child’s equipment bag. I will not check to see that the bag is packed properly, all uniforms are pulled out for cleaning, that equipment is hung out for drying, that clean socks and under garments are packed appropriately for the activity. The only exception is if my child becomes injured and requires removal from the game for medical treatment.

c.I will bring my child to any practice or competition at the prescribed time with all of the required accessories. I will actually stop the car when I drop the child off. If I leave the area, I will ensure that a working contact number is left with a responsible adult who can find me. When the activity is over, I will be waiting for my child. Each additional minute another adult has to wait for you to get your sorry ass back to pick up your abandoned child, again, will cost you $10. This is not free day care. Bring your overpriced latte-shmatte to the game.

d.If the activity involves physical exertion, I will not drop him/her at the door so that he/she can then run around the rink/gym/center for 20 minutes screwing around with his/her friends when they are supposed to be getting ready. Park as far from the door as the site will allow.

e.There are 4 clearly defined roles for any activity; participant, spectator, official, coach. YOU GET TO BE ONLY ONE!!!! Deviation from your assigned role will result in your immediate expulsion from the event with a yearlong ban starting immediately.

2.If there is a nationally recognized body overseeing this activity and there are rules governing activity, I will contact the organization or local affiliate to obtain a copy of the rules.

a.I will read and study these rules. I will also enroll and pass the minimum official certification requirements for the activity/sport. You will be surprised what you don’t know.

b.I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER shout any of the following at the officials ever again. It confirms you are an ignorant blow hard.
i.Let ‘em play
ii.There are two teams out there
iii.That’s brutal
iv.Get in the game, Ref

3.Coaches will be treated with the respect earned by someone who has to put up with your untalented, snotty kid as well as your insistent ranting that he/she is guaranteed to be in The Show. Coaches: These people are almost universally unpaid volunteers because 99.9% of parents don’t follow 1. and 1.a above.

a.Coaches will coach, officials will officiate, and players will play. ‘Nuff said.

b.Coaches will attend and pass all required certifications. They will also enroll and pass the most extensive official testing requirements offered by the national governing body. Learn the damn rules!!!

c.Screaming at the official over any call or non-call will NEVER reverse it. They don’t care who wins. It only proves you are not living the code of sportsmanship which is supposed to be the foundation of any activity. Besides, you look like a jack ass while you are doing it.

d.I will express my dissatisfaction over a penalty call in a controlled adult manner. Doesn’t matter that Ray Charles could have seen the call better than the official.

e.I will remain in control of my emotions and actions as well as my staff and players. If I am out of control, they will be as well.

4.I accept the fact that my child will never be a professional athlete in any manner. This is an activity which will reveal and build character in a positive fashion.

5.The farther they advance within the ranks of the activity does not validate the job I have done as a parent. They may become a professional but you still stunk as a parent.

6.I will leave behind my “glory days”. This isn’t about me. I have had my time.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

No, You're Not

I have grown weary of misrepresentation, be it the promises of the ShamWow! (tm) or the claims of the wrinkle erasing cream guaranteed to take twenty-eight years off your earlobes. Just tell us who you are, what you do and why we should care. No puffery, no shameless bullshit, just tell me the truth.
Here are a few simple suggestions:

Radio Stations: Just because you have a copy of "Now That's What I Call The 70s!" and the Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits, you are not a classic rock station.

Consignment Stores: Three tie dyed shirts and your grandmother's collection of housecoats does not make you a vintage store.

'Antique' Shops: Just because it came out of someone's basement does not make it an antique!

Music Stores: It would be nice if you had actual music and not just posters of the bands whose music you're not selling. The other kind of music stores, a Clavinova does not really count as a piano. Don't say you sell pianos when you mean electronic equipment that can make piano sounds.

Any 'Used & Rare' Store: Books that are less than ten years old are not really rare, used frequently means broken or just plain ugly and someone other than you needs to find it worth the price you've marked.

"New And Improved" better be a damn sight better than it was before in someone other than the manufacturer's opinion. If you sold lots and lots of your product before, why on earth would you change it? Some of us appreciate "Old And Proven".

There is no such thing as a "Re-Grand Opening", 'nuff said.

New Releases should be less than six months old, Movie Gallery, I speak directly to you.

Something cannot be referred to as "completely redesigned from the ground up" if it resembles its predecessor in any way, shape or form.

Actors are not singers, models are not actors and talk show hosts are not experts on anything other than talk shows.

If you buy the majority of your clothes at WalMart, you're not wearing high fashion, so lose the attitude.

As discussed in earlier posts, if you're driving a minivan, you're no longer cool and have no street cred whatsoever, so lose the subwoofers in the Grand Caravan.

Not everyone should have their own clothing line, we're not all designers, so lose the pretentiousness.

Just because you wear your pants hanging halfway down your butt does not make your blond haired, blue eyed small town white boy ass "gangsta", pull up your pants and lose the delusion!

You're taking your first psychology class, stop analyzing me and lose the glasses, they don't have any lenses in them anyway.

Watching "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" does not make you skilled labor, lose the Sawzall and sit back down.

Even though you love "So You Think You Can Dance" doesn't mean you can, lose those ridiculous moves and order another beer.

Learn to spell if you're going to write anything anyone other than you is going to read, and I refer to Facebook statuses, text messages and signs you're going to wave at protests (teabaggers, you know what I'm talking about).

Whatever we think we are, we probably aren't. Maybe it's just better this way. I feel it's my duty to bring these things up once in a while.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Get Me A Blowtorch

I don't entirely understand the need for the over-packaging of every consumer product. How much is too much and how much of it is simply cruelty?

Charlie bought himself a new Nerf dart gun the other day and it very nearly took an act of God to get the damn thing out of the taped, wired, twist-tied cardboard prison in which it was encased. All the poor kid wanted to do was shoot suction cup capped foam darts at various targets positioned strategically around the house. What we did was spend nearly a half an hour wrestling with the diabolically designed packaging and plastic coated, quintuple knotted, kryptonite enhanced titanium based twisty ties. Several expletive laced declarations, three attempts with scissors, utility knife and wire cutters and a complete shredding of the surrounding cardboard later and the dart gun was finally freed from its prison. What was the point, exactly?

I noticed, on the same trip to get the dart gun, that the "big box" stores have taken to wrapping various items in the electronics area in a spiderwebby-looking security appliance. I'm talking about things like computers, printers and, for some reason, 48 inch flat panel televisions. These aren't really items that need to be chained together for security reasons, I'd love to see the shoplifter that could stick any of these items down their pants and smuggle them out of the store. Frankly, any shoplifter that could should get whatever they're stealing just for being able to make it out the door undetected. What, honestly, is the purpose behind binding these items together? It looked like an electronics version of "The Defiant Ones", they may not like each other, but are chained to each other and must work together to survive. I would think there would be a heck of a lot more sense in locking groups of ink cartridges or other spendy but small things to something heavy and immobile. I just don't see a whole lot of people with diaper bags big enough for a flat screen TV walking around the Target store.

Another store thing that vexes me more than a little is the need for every single store's driving compulsion to put extra stickers and tags on items. Everything that they stock has a barcode already printed on the package, why the need for the store to add another? I had to buy a new stockpot to cook the fifty pounds of potatoes my beloved hauled home the other night because mine had a crack in it. My nice new granite ware pot looked so pretty but for the large sticker on the side, a simple peel should solve that, right? NOPE! I ultimately had to employ roughly 50 squirts of Goo Gone, a scrubby and my fingernails to defeat the beastly adhesive...really? You needed industrial strength sticky on the stock pot? The practice of putting stickers on the front cover of books is another that NEEDS....TO....STOP....RIGHT....NOW. I am fully aware that I am buying this book at Barnes and Noble, I saw the sign when I came in, I see your name on the bag you put my purchase in and your name is printed on the receipt you gave me after I bought the book with the sticker with your name that you put into the bag printed with your name as I stand under the sign with your name on it. Stopit! Stopit! Stopit now! I get it, I'm in a Barnes-and-freaking-Noble! However, when I get home and go to wrap this book I bought as a gift, I'm going to spend twenty minutes painstakingly peeling the damn thing off the book millimeter by millimeter in order to avoid half destroying the pretty cover. Thank you, sticker guy. Seriously, we need to get this guy another gig.

CDs used to come packaged in a huge white plastic frame that only help from above would open, this was another weapon in the battle against shoplifters. I'm guessing once everyone started stealing their music digitally, CD stealing kind of lost its luster.

My youngest son just did a paper on reducing, reusing and recycling and it made me take another look at packaging. Cereal only comes in boxes for shipping and shelving reasons, although the bagged cereals seem to ship just fine. Why do garbage bags come in a box and not a bag? Why do purses come stuffed with paper? DVD cases come wrapped in shrink wrap AND have those impossible-to-remove stickers along the seams of the case, I would think one or the other would work just swell. Most toys have an unbelievable amount of superfluous crap wrapped around them and I'll never comprehend the logic behind that. Does Dora REALLY need that much protection from Tickle Me Elmo? Are Barbie and Ken going to commit unspeakable acts in the dream house without the prodigious amount of cardboard and plastic deemed necessary to keep them apart? Will the Autobots and Decepticons REALLY destroy the store if their plastic and wire containment units are compromised? I just don't think so.

Keep your plastic and use the stickers for unwanted hair removal, I'd like my purchases naked, please.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Secret Shame

I only have a couple of vices, mostly benign, but there is one of which we do not speak. It's time to come clean at last, time for my secret to be exposed, for the gloves to come off and for me to offer up my weakness for examination and, perhaps, cure. My secret shame is certain reality television shows. I don't watch the competition-y shows, I avoid "Survivor" like the plague, "The Apprentice" makes me break out in hives and I simply can't get excited about "The Biggest Loser". It the human foibles and weakness shows that have hooked me. I find myself watching some of these shows even though they disgust me, but at the same time, I can't look away. This morbid fascination has me firmly in its grip and, try as I might, I cannot break free.
"Toddlers And Tiaras" is a source of deepest shame for me, this horrible, vapid show draws me like a moth to a flame. Not only does this show illustrate the horrors of obsessive stage mothers that live vicariously through their children, but shows, in minute detail, just how far we've come in objectifying our daughters. The disturbing images range from the "flippers", fake teeth to cover the disfiguring horror of missing teeth in a seven year old, hairpieces that would send a televangelist into spasms of delight and spray tans administered to three year olds. The six year old girl, looking at her photo portfolio, asking her mother if they got the right pictures was odd. Then the mother pointed out the retouching involved, "See honey, those aren't your eyes because yours are kind of squinty." The mother of a three year old girl telling her daughter "Do good today and mommy will give you some love." I actually threw up in my mouth a little bit at that one. My mind goes down several paths while watching this parade of superficiality, the first is "What happens when these girls decide they don't want to do this anymore?" "What kind of damage are they doing to these children's skin and hair after spray tanning, heavy makeup and hair color starting at the age of two?" "When these girls are judged solely on their appearance starting as a toddler, how can you expect them to ever believe adages like 'beauty is only skin deep', don't judge a book by its cover' or 'everyone is beautiful on the inside'?" Yeah, they're really gonna buy that. The constant referring to these children as "a complete package" makes me squirm. The prizes for these events are usually less than $1000 and a rhinestone crown but the outlay for a pageant seems to run these parents around $3000 or so. One mother boasted about spending nearly $35,000 over the course of six months for her four year old to participate in various pageants. All I could think of was the college fund that girl could have had one day. But she'll be pretty, she won't need college to find a husband.
Another show that has sucked me in lately is "Hoarders". This show, while sad for the people involved, actually makes me feel better about myself. I can look around my house after an episode and feel pretty darn good about my housekeeping skills. One thing I've noticed, playing into my obsession with minutae, is that every single home they feature has at least one Target bag sitting out. My beloved says one could make a hell of a drinking game out of this show. Every time someone says "feces" you would do a shot, rotten food is worth two, the first one to spot the Target bag gets to make someone else drink and animal skeletons are a free for all. My eldest son once suggested playing "I Spy" during an episode, it got a little overwhelming after a while. I'm showing how grossly insensitive I can be here, but occasionally I wonder if these people aren't just slobs.
The other show I watch to give myself a little boost is "Supernanny". This is one show that actually causes me to shout at the television from time to time. These clueless, spineless, completely useless parents are begging for someone to come into and teach them how to say one simple word...say it with me here, "NO". Two little letters that wield enormous power. With great power comes great responsibility...NO. So much of what these parents are whining about is their own fault. "We always give in because if little ChloeSkylarIndigio doesn't get what she wants she might be MAD at us." "We don't say no because our darling HunterWhistlerBarrettBrowning might cry." Here's a thought, tough crap. When my eldest calls me a facist for taking his phone away, I'm glad he's getting the point. When my youngest storms off to his room after being grounded, I know he realizes he's in trouble and better damn well not do it again. When my eldest went through a door slamming phase at four years old, he got one warning, "Slam your door again and I'm taking it off the hinges." He looked me square in the eye and slammed it in my face, guess what I did? After a week without a bedroom door, fifteen years later, he's never slammed it once. My youngest picks up his Legos without being told after he suddenly saw his supply diminishing. Why? Because he was told that any Lego mom stepped on would go into the trash. Only took about a week and I haven't stepped on a Lego for roughly three years. This is simple and not rocket science. If my kids are well and truly pissed off at me at least twice a day, I'm really not doing very well here. I could have my own show, I'll call it "Stop Being A Doormat And Say NO For God's Sake"...too long? I'll come up with something shorter before I take it to the networks.
These are the shows that get me through until "Top Chef" and "America's Next Top Model" start up again.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stop SAYING That!

So a while ago, I came up with some words that just don't see enough useage. It's time for the flip side, there are words I am so tired of hearing, most of which make no real sense anyway. The word that peeves me the most right now is "staycation", this fancied-up term for "too broke to go anywhere good" is vapid and a feeble attempt to fool ourselves into thinking that it's really better this way. We're supposed to take singular joy in taking our two weeks of vacation time doing nothing other than hanging out at home and doing...what exactly? My beloved can't manage to be home on a weekend without entering some sort of trancelike state that causes him to clean or repair things that have needed it for ages. While productive, this really can't be what we want to be doing during those precious couple of weeks of paid time off. This trend of playing tourist in your hometown, while sweet, really only works when you live somewhere with actual stuff to do. If, like some of us, you live somewhere with limited venues, the appeal of a "staycation" is truly lost.
Another one that really needs to go away is"tweeting", this is something birds do. I have a hard time with the Twitter (tm) phenomena as a whole, but hearing about "tweets" on newscasts and such really kind of makes my brain sad. If I have an urge for stream of conciousness random thoughts, I'll read a little ee cummings. The Twitter (tm) thing really started to annoy me during the Obama inauguration. Here we are, witness to a bit of history, and every other idiot is "tweeting" about it instead of experiencing the event to the fullest and writing about it later. Digest, people! Let the magnitude of the moment sink in, ruminate, explore your feelings and reactions, then and only then should you share. This idea that ANYONE wants to know your every random, disconnected and inane reaction to every event in your life is narcissism taken to the Nth degree. I tire of celebrity "tweets", of politicians "tweeting" when they really should be paying attention during a debate or committee hearing. Guess what people, you're not really that crucial that we need to know your every thought at the moment you're thinking it. Give it a little time and give us something of more substance than 160 characters will allow.
Bromance? No, just no.
Anyone's job title involving the title "czar, tsar" or any other variation I don't know. Just for those who never paid attention in history class, czars never seem to have a good ending. Let's discuss the Romanov've all heard of the whole Russian revolution thing and the killing of the CZAR and his family? The word comes from Caesar and means emperor, king or supreme ruler. So we're giving people the title of "czar" and thinking what, exactly? Drug Czar, Education Czar, Bank Czar, Car Czar,Tweet Czar, I mean really, regular job titles aren't descriptive enough for us? Or do they think, by attaching a royal sounding title to someone is going to make the unwashed masses believe these are supreme beings that will bring order and justice to the chaos that surrounds us?
Friend as a verb. This is one that digs right into the exposed nerve endings of my English language freaky-ness. "Friend" is a NOUN, keep it that way! You can make, have or lose friends. You can become a friend. You can touch, hear, see, and on occasion, smell a friend. You can interact with your friend, but to "friend" someone is not possible. To friend, I friend, he friends, they friend, I am friending...nonononono! The same holds true for "unfriend". You can lose or alienate friends, as they are nouns, but to unfriend makes no sense. I blame Facebook (tm) for this one. Here is the meaning, according to Webster's dictionary: --noun. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. We call people friends, buddies, pals, chums, comrades, peeps (yeah, I'm going to leave that one), and I have never said "I'm going to chum him." First of all, that just sounds nasty and possibly illegal. "I uncomraded her yesterday." just sounds stupid.
Please, I beg of you, erase these trite and asinine phrases from your stored memory of the language and seek out crap that actually makes some sense!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trust Me, I'm An Expert

I love people who try to be experts, especially when I know they're full of crap. The other day at work (the wine store), this couple came in, and after exclaiming how our store is like a wine store in the cities (because they used to live in the cities, you know), proceeded to wander the wine section, offering their opinions loudly and rather sneeringly. At the same time, a woman came in, looking for a variety of stuff to serve at a party and, by her own admission, knowing next to nothing about wine. This was the opening the wanna-be hipster, wine conniseurs seemed to be waiting for. She was looking for a red wine for a relative rookie to red wines and didn't want anything too heavy and a little on the fruiter side. I pointed her toward the shiraz selections and went to ring up another customer while the hipsters informed her that shiraz is a sweet white wine. He goes on to rhapsodize about the various wines he likes (most of his descriptions are sadly and woefully wrong). After finishing with my checkout, I return to the now more befuddled than ever woman to sort her out. After assuring her that shiraz is indeed a red wine and a good fit for what she was looking for and helping with the rest of her quest, I return to ring up the hipsters' purchases (two cases of Keystone Light beer and three bottles of Boone's Farm). These people have nothing to be smug about, go sit down and get some taste. Shiraz woman even realized at that point these two are idioit and gave me one of the most incredulous looks I've ever seen. She may be a rookie wine drinker, but even she saw the irony here.
There are experts everywhere, just waiting for the world to recognize and laud their brilliance, just ask them. They're not afraid to treat others like complete idiots. They're willing to alienate the rest of the populace, waiting for the day everyone else finally reaches their level. They know it will happen, the world will see, millions will know and it will be proven without a doubt, they ARE smarter than everyone.
There are the parenting experts, those who throw dirty looks and sniffs of disapproval when your child bursts into tears at the grocery store. The children they might have someday would NEVER behave in such a manner because THEY already know how to raise perfect little darlings that will be be smarter, better behaved, perfectly groomed and cuter than the little beast you've produced.
The would-be foodies who think a fast food joint should be living up to the standard of a totally different kind of eatery. You're really going to whine about the glaring lack of Arugula on your salad shaker from McDonald's? I saw a commercial recently for Hardee's/Carl Jr's that featured Padma Lakshmi (a judge on Top Chef) having a passionate encounter with a thickbuger or some such thing. She NEVER gets to be snarky about a chef's lack of whateverness again. She sold her foodie cred for a thickburger!
I love to engage with those who think they're up on current events because they read the headlies on their Yahoo home page. Three lines of text when you hover your mouse over a headline do NOT give you any insight whatsoever! As a news junkie, I'm appalled at the number of people who think a headline or a 20-second sound bite is going to give you the information you need to have any sort of meaningful discussion on a topic. If you're going to argue about it, you better have read the ENTIRE article. Otherwise, you have to go sit in the corner with the wine hipsters.
Radio announcers who constantly mispronounce, misidentify or wrongly credit songs drive me completely mad. Having worked in that industry, I KNOW the songs that come into the studio are properly labeled and credited...this is how they sell records, people!
Just the advice for the day...before you pontificate on anything, make sure your information can withstand challenge or scrutiny. Because some of us thrive on taking you down!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

And Now For The Weather Redux

Given the recent bout of nastiness weather-wise lately, I felt it was time to address the inanity that is weather related news reporting. I absolutely LOVE watching the reporters out in the bitter cold, particularly those unused to dealing with this sort of thing. From the rather hapless guy reporting an inch of snow in Atlanta to the earnest, parka wearing tootsie shivering in New York, these people can make my day with a single sound bite.
The morning hostess on CNN made my Thursday when she reported, with particular emphasis, that Atlanta was experiencing its coldest temperatures in nearly a quarter of a DECADE! I wonder if there is anyone living that can remember back that far? She did, quite frantically, try to correct herself after the commercial break. This was actually funnier than the original gaffe. She forgot the golden rule of broadcasting, if you screw up, keep going like nothing ever happened. I know this from personal experience, as I once dropped the F bomb into a live mic at the small town AM radio station where I was working and continued on my merry way with a chirpy "And now for a final look at the weather..."
The goofball reporter telling us about the snow and ice in the south seemed oblivious to the rapidly growing pileup going on behind him. In the thirty or so seconds it took for him to do his bit, a car slid through the intersection behind him and bounced to a stop after hitting a light pole. A second or two later, a second, third and fourth car got into the act. After a slight pause in the action, with the reporter still plowing through his bit about the icy road conditions, three more cars enter the fray. It was a bit like watching lemmings go over a cliff.
The aforementioned parka clad tootsie was barely coherent through the shivers and chattering teeth, but nearly as entertaining. With the wind buffeting her from all sides, the faux fur of her hood sticking to the copious amount of lip gloss on her mouth, she determinedly told us all how brutally cold the single digits can be. Interestingly, her hair never moved, not a one.
Then I switched to my local news. Reporters in the hinterlands grew up with this sort of crap, they spent their youth shoveling out the driveway and pushing cars out of snowbanks. These guys and gals don't screw around with sissy fur-lined pseudo winter gear. They wear Carharts as part of their regular wardrobe, Uggs are scorned in favor of Sorels and the cute little useless berets that sit perkily on flawlessly coiffed hair are shunned, in their place is a heavy duty, real fur lined plaid Floyd R. Turbo (read bomber) hat. Appearance is nothing, these people are hardy. These reporters don't stand by the side of the road while the plows go by, they're driving the plow, one handed with the mic between their legs.
We all watch the weather reports while readying for the day, resigned to starting the car a half an hour before leaving the house, making sure the children are dressed in layers like Randy in "A Christmas Story", and praying they've gone to the bathroom after breakfast. We pay close attention to the forecast, take note of what's to come and then remember that they don't know what the hell they're talking about anyway.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How Could You Not Know That?!

There are certain things every single one of us MUST know about our mate/partner/lover or whoever we're going to be spending a huge chunk of our adult lives with. I have come up with the following:

3 Months Into Relationship:
-The names of at least two of their good friends.
-The name of their pet(s), or at least the species.
-Where they grew up, if not the specific neighborhood, the city and state, minimum!
-Where they work and a vague idea of what they do for a living.
-Their last name.

6 Months Into Relationship:
-The names of their parents and siblings.
-Their birthday.
-Their musical preferences (not all, but a good sampling)
-Whether or not they find farts or fart jokes funny.
-What kind of driver they are.
-If you can stand being around their friends for more than five minutes and they, yours?
-Can they cook anything other than toast and Spaghettios?
-Can you stand to watch them eat?

1 Year Into Relationship:
-The first names of most of their friends.
-The last name of their best friend and how they met.
-The majority of their food preferences (at least what they adore and detest).
-Their personal slob level and how it fits with your own.

Sometime Before Marriage or Living Together Full Time:
-The snore factor.
-All sleeping habits (bed hoggery, blanket theft, uncontrollable twitching, drooling, etc.)
-Bed made or unmade and does it matter?
-Bathroom etiquitte
-Seat position
-Toothpaste manipulation (cap left on or off, rolling, squeezing, etc).
-Wet towel treatment.
-Toilet paper replacement routine (do they or don't they?)
-Household stuff
-Do they step over something on the floor or pick it up?
-Are they a freak about certain weird things that you totally don't understand?
-Do the dishes pile up because someone else is going to do them?
-Do they have "collections" of things that are precious to them and all you see is crap?
-Does their mother still do their laundry/shopping/housework for them?
-Do they have a large household item beloved to them that you hate with a passion?
-Stuffed animal heads (I speak from experience here.)
-Disgusting chair/couch/waterbed
-Overwhelmingly large television/stereo/bar-type game table
-Every doll/teddy bear/cabbage patch kid they ever had as a child (run, boys, run!)
-Do you travel well together?
-Can you manage even a minor home improvement project together or must these things be done separately?

1 Year After Marriage/Moving In:
-Can they do laundry without shrinking all the sweaters to Barbie doll size?
-Do you still hate/like their friends?
-Do you still hate/love their pets?
-Do you still hate/love their family?
-Will the above change before one of you dies?
-What offenses merit witholding of affections.
-Whether the silent treatment is effective on the other person.
-How guilty do they have to feel before you can play them like a fiddle?

5 Years After Marriage/Moving In:
-If they like to be tickled and where.
-Everything that REALLY grosses them out/pisses them off/makes them laugh hysterically.
-All their musical preferences/movie faves and celebrity crushes.
-Whether they can change a diaper or clean up barf without throwing up.

10 Years In:
-You better know damn near everything or you really haven't been awake for ten years.

15 Years In:
-You would have killed them by now, so it must be love.

20 Years In:
-I'll let you know.