Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday Tirade

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it's officially the Christmas season.  With all the music, lights, decorations, candy canes, fruitcake, eggnog, crowded stores and bell ringers.  I can't stand any of it.  I'd prefer to skip the entire season.  Which of course isn't possible now that it starts before Halloween and doesn't end until President's Day, when your last, lazy neighbor finally takes down his annoying blinking lights that shine directly into your house.  Although sometimes that's Groundhog Day, Easter or Flag Day, depending on your neighborhood and whether you have an HOA or not.

I used to conceal my aversion to this holiday when my kids were little.  And I confess, it was kinda fun then.  Lying and bribing them to be good for a total stranger who'd break into our house in the middle of the night to leave them presents.  Plus, it got my kids to go to bed early at least one night out of the year and my husband and I could eat cookies on the couch, leaving crumbs everywhere, completely guilt free.  It was our job, actually.

But, now that my kids are older and their dreams are dashed because reindeer can't really fly and they realize they'll never get that horse or motorcycle on their Christmas list, I'm done pretending.  I'm done pretending Connie Francis doesn't sound like she's on Valium singing Baby's First Christmas.  Seriously, no one with an infant sounds that serene.  Not to start a rumor, but she had to be on drugs, there's no other explanation.  Pretending that fruitcake isn't vile.  I mean, it's all sweaty.  As a general rule, food should not be sweaty.  And who came up with drinking eggs?  Eggnog is just disgusting.   Even more disgusting if there's no actual rum in it.

I could go on about how much I hate Christmas, but I think you get the point.  And I do have another point to make.  I skip as much of Christmas as possible by taking my family on vacation and getting the hell out of the country each December.  The timing is really because all my kids have off school for almost 3 weeks, but it also conveniently helps me avoid some of this dreaded holiday season.  Mostly, decorating my house.  I don't put up a tree that would require the dog sitter to water it and clean up the fallen pine needles. So I can pass it off as a selfless act of kindness.  But, the truth is, I don't want to put up decorations only to come home from a long trip and have to take them down.  

Which is why I was shocked when two of my kids pulled out the Christmas decorations and started putting them up over Thanksgiving break.  "WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING?"  Ok, maybe that was a bit harsh for the petty crime of decorating for Christmas, but still, what were they thinking?  And my tirade didn't stop there.  "Who's gonna put all of this away when we get home?  Me, that's who!"  After they called me Scrooge, they explained how they'd take care of everything.  I've heard all this bullshit before.  Replace Christmas decorations with taking care of the dogs, for example.  Or really doing anything else in our house that doesn't get done without my constant nagging, which would be nothing.

I woke the next morning to find the Christmas lights were left on all night.  Of course they were.  "Why didn't you turn off the Christmas lights last night?" Oh, because they thought I was going to do that.  Me, the one who thinks it's impractical to go to the trouble to put up lights for a holiday we're not going to be home for.  I don't think so!  I also don't think anyone is going to remember the solemn vow that they made to pack Christmas away neatly in its boxes the way they found them when we get back from our trip.  In fact, I know they won't, because I'm psychic like that.  You know what makes Christmas feel so magical?  It's all the behind the scenes tirades that make the holiday actually happen.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Thanksgiving Tragedy

Ah, Thanksgiving, when my kids, who don't get along with each other, have an entire week off school to fight and complain that there's nothing to eat in our house, then leave dirty dishes to the contrary.  Which brings us to what Thanksgiving is really about, coming together as family and friends to nag the ones we love while trying desperately to overlook their really annoying qualities. All while being really thankful that Thanksgiving is only one day out of the year.

It all starts way before Thanksgiving.  With who you actually want to invite to stuff their face and drink cranberry margaritas with and those you don't, but are contractually obligated to invite, usually because you're related to them.  But, sometimes that obligation is your boss who started hinting at Halloween that he'd be eating a frozen burrito alone instead of turkey with all the fixings for the third year in a row.  And since you'd really like that Christmas bonus, it seems like an investment that could really pay off.

That's when the complicated planning involving math comes in.  How many people are coming, how many are ditching your house for other plans that came up and how many pounds of turkey and bottles of booze does that equate to?  And in the end does it even matter?  No.  But, you'll worry about it anyhow.  As you will every other detail.  Like should you clean the baseboards in your dining room?  I say no.  I'd prioritize taking potentially embarrassing things out of your medicine cabinet in the bathroom.  Because statistically,  at least one guest is likely to snoop in there while they're taking selfies in your bathroom.  Unless they're hiding from your drunk Uncle Ned.

Most people think the biggest tragedy on Thanksgiving is that something will go awry with the turkey.  It won't be cooked in time, cooked with the giblets intact, undercooked, overcooked, eaten by the dog while resting unattended, dropped on the floor or the carved by someone who cuts themselves with the electric knife and bleeds all over it.  But, the importance of the turkey is really a misnomer.  The booze is much more important and you can even buy the cheap ass vile Barefoot brand wine, no one even cares.  Because everyone will be so uncomfortable, dressed up in their Thanksgiving Day best, waiting for taboo topics of conversation to arise.  Worrying they're going to be the perpetrator.

Though you've briefed every guest individually on what not to talk about to whom this holiday season to try to maintain peace, it's inevitable.  Even if you make place cards on who sits where at the dinner table to try to keep the peace, the list of forbidden topics is too long and too seductive to avoid.  The most obvious verboten conversations are religion and politics.  But there's also food.  Don't start inquiring about how the host prepared the turkey and comment how your mom's method results in a juicier turkey.  Also, no one cares you're vegan, eat the dry, overcooked turkey and shut up already.  And don't use that to transition into how you do CrossFit to establish your superiority over every other guest at the table.   Or that your kid is an honor student while you pass around his gift wrapping fundraiser sign-up sheet for his fencing team that won the state competition for 8 years straight.  No one wants to hear anyone else brag.

But, no one wants to hear anyone else complain either.  Thanksgiving is not the place to lament you didn't get that promotion you thought you were a shoo in for.   Or your sciatica, psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis is acting up.  Don't grumble that you're still single.  It's just going to make the married couples start griping about how they hate their spouse's driving, sleeping habits and that they load the dishwasher wrong.  Which you've only had to hear about it for the last 15 Thanksgivings.  Which always transitions into complaining about how entitled and ungrateful kids are these days.  And how much better the world was back in the day.  Which is going to shift to stories of when they were an altar boy and Reaganomics.  Right back to religion and politics.

Thanksgiving is a time to pretend that everything's fine. 
While eating your feelings. 
Just like every other day.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

World Settles on New Currency

The United Nations Task Force on Trade and Development (UNTFTD) cites the current system of numerous and diverse currencies as a major contributor to current financial crises and worldwide economic downturn.  After briefly considering unifying global currency with the USD, the proposal was quashed.

"In uncertain times like these, especially now that Trump is President-elect of the United States and financial markets are volatile, choosing the USD as the new universal currency seemed risky.  Even though it's been the world reserve currency for years."  Dieter Hoffman, Chairman of the UNTFTD, explained.  He went on to say, " The fact that most of the world hates the US also made converting to USD an unpopular choice."  While the Euro, yen and even the Canadian dollar were considered, they were all rejected in favor of the popular option; social media likes.

"It just makes sense.  Social media likes have always been a reflection of power and influence on the population.   Which in turn translated to money.  This is just the next logical step."  Herman Bellevue, professor of economics at Trump University explained.  "Obviously, there will be a lot of wealthy cam girls on Instagram.  But, we expect that to Instatrickle down to redistribute income to the less photogenic."

Millennials had a huge influence on the decision, starting a petition for the Financification of Social Media on Snapchat, which quickly spread to YouTube and then Instagram.   They capitalized on their fluency in technology and pushed for a cashless financial system that would be more efficient, eco-friendly and wouldn't require them to do any complex mathematical conversions or log off social media and go outside.  Which is an especially timely concern if Trump revokes support of the Paris Climate Agreement, increasing pollution and thus, pollution related medical issues and health care costs.

"Of course math is still necessary", Gayle Tzitis a high school math teacher from Wisconsin championed the new currency.   "But these are easier computations.  Young people understand that 1 Instagram like is worth 100 Facebook likes depending on whether they accept their volatile Aunt Beverly's friend request.  They also know that they'll need to store up a minimum of five million YouTube or Twitter likes for retirement because social security will be extinct by the time they need it."
Having a financial system based on social media likes is accessible by most and almost equitable. Certainly, countries with the most wealth, like Qatar, for instance, are likely to stay that way.  While countries like Liberia will remain largely impoverished.  And North Korea, where social media is banned, will remain cut off from the rest of the world.  All of which help maintain financial stability worldwide by preserving the existing inequitable conditions.   Making social media likes and the status quo the new gold standard.

Monday, November 14, 2016

I'm a Killer

I am a cold blooded killer.  It's true.  Nothing is safe in my path.  Well, except kids.  And people in general.  I would include animals in this list.  Except I did brutally murder a guinea pig once.  Ok, it was more like involuntary manslaughter.  Don't leave your guinea pig outside in its playpen while you're cleaning its cage and then forget about it on a hot, sunny day.  Lesson learned.  In my defense, that wretched rodent was evil and bit my kids more than once.  So, it was more like karma.  Not like that excuses anything.  And it doesn't explain how I killed an innocent basil plant within a week of buying it.

But, by far, the things I brutally massacre the most are sweaters.  And the thing is, I love them.  I love them to death, apparently.  I love when the weather turns cold and I can snuggle up in a big chunky wool sweater.  One that makes me itch like I either have a severe and highly contagious skin condition or schizophrenia.  But bonus, sales clerks tend not to ask if I need help finding anything in stores, so it all works out.  Plus, I don't think they even care if I need help.  It's just a salutation, not an actual question.   Like, "How are you?"

Not that I'm shopping at stores that have sales people for sweaters.  Because my track record is so bad I  banned myself from buying new sweaters a long time ago.  Now, I only buy them at thrift stores.    I figure they're pre-shrunk and at $4 a pop (and if it's Thursday and they're half off, only $2), that's a steal.  Although if you calculate the mileage of a particular sweater before ruining it, that's about $2 per wear.  One dollar in the extreme rare occurrence that I get to wear it twice before destroying it.

Is there some kind of sweater care manual that I didn't get?  I mean I do know they all come with a tag on how to care for the sweater attached to it and all.  But, it's too small for me to read it and then I'm going to have to find my reading glasses and that's just way too much work.  Plus, more than likely it's going to tell me to hand wash it anyway.  Who does that?   So, I'll do what I always do.  Wash it in cold water in an overloaded washing machine because I have a family of six, four of which are teens.  Then I'll lay it flat to dry.  Ok, not actually flat, cause where do I have space for that? I don't.  So, I'll drape it over the half wall, a chair or hang it on a hanger.

Then, when the sweater is nice and dry, it has stiff peaks in the shoulders from the corners of the hanger.  It's also shrunk at least one full size making it a midriff baring crop sweater, which would have been cool in the 80's, but not so cool now that I'm a mom approaching 50.  Not only that, the sweater will have all those balls all over them.  Do you know how many years of my life I've shaved off trying to locate my sweater shaver?  Then after I do, I'll spend a good thirty minutes trying to get all those buggers off, which is clearly impossible, only for them to reappear the next time I wash it.

And there will be a next time.  With a new victim.  Well, not "new" so much as lightly used from Goodwill.   Which just means the money I spend on sweaters isn't actually wasted because it's going to a good cause.

Cause I'm a killer with really good intentions.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Apolitical Post About Books

I like to pick up a book with an open mind.  Not so open minded that I read just anything though.  I prefer books with weight and substance.  I want to read books that push my limits.  Ones that make me think and grow as a person.

There are two types of people in the world:  those who have to like the main character to like a book and those who don't.  I fall in the latter category.  Don't get me wrong, I prefer to be sympathetic to the main character.  It's a much easier, more enjoyable read that way.  When you have an unsympathetic main character, it's much more of a challenge.  Which makes you confront your core beliefs and why you chose to believe them in the first place.  Antagonism either strengthens your core values or it weakens them.  But, either way, it changes you.

After I've read a book and contemplated its content, I'll get on Goodreads to rate it.  That's when I'll read some of the reviews other people have posted about it.   If I loved the book, I'm always shocked to find people who despised it.  And if I hated it,  I'll be astonished to find people who adored it.  I don't usually write reviews publicly myself as I'm more of a private person. Although, sometimes I'll like what someone else wrote if I find that they've managed to put words to the thoughts I had floating around in my head while I read the book.  But, only if I find them constructive.

Because far too often, words can be unproductive and divisive.  Even though I abhor a book, I try to be respectful of the people who loved it enough to put it on the New York Times Best Seller list. Which doesn't change my stance at all, I will continue to love books that I think should've made the list.  But, instead of focusing on badmouthing the books I feel are unworthy, I will continue to champion for ones that I believe in my soul are.  After all, no book, whether beloved or detested, stays on the Best Seller list forever.  Eventually, they all get shelved.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Denigration of Upgrading

I didn't even want it.  We went to look at phones for my daughter, who did.  I just tagged along with her and my husband because we were following up shopping with lunch and a hike.  That and my husband wanted to ask why we had a Jump plan to upgrade phones on my account when I'm a technophobe who doesn't like change.  So, while I would normally sit in the car on my phone at the T-Mobile store, deleting posts I have over thought from my social media accounts, I was forced to actually go in.  Ugggggggghhhhhhhhh!

Turns out, we got a special plan on my phone only because I'm a well documented klutz and it provides the most insurance.  Oh, right...this totally makes sense.  I've already gotten two replacement phones this way.  And they had protective cases on them when I broke them.  I've also dropped my phone in the dogs' water bowl many, many times which is conveniently located just underneath where I charge my phone.  The last time my phone went for a swim, I couldn't make or receive phone calls.  For an introvert's introvert like me, it ranked up there among the best things that ever happened to me.  Until, it started working again 24 hours later. Dammmmmmmiiiiiiiiittttttttt!

My daughter picked out the color phone she wanted and was ridiculously excited, the way Millennials are about technology.  But, I'm a Generation Xer.  Technology when I was her age was a bottle of liquid paper you used to correct the errors on your typewritten book report you researched with a decade old encyclopedia, so you didn't have to retype the whole thing for one stupid typo.  Okay, several typos and a plethora of spacing issues.  The thing is, I actually knew how to spell back in the 80's before spell check.  It was a simpler time.  With only four channels full of worthless trash to watch on television.  With the exception of M*A*S*H, of course.

Then, all talk turns to me, as my husband and daughter try to convince me to upgrade my phone.  It has great sound quality my daughter says. This is not selling me. I don't even like when my phone rings, and I don't listen to music on it.  I admit, I don't even know how to download a song.  It has great photo resolution and more storage my husband says.  Since basically, all I do on my phone is take pictures and the only app I have is Instagram.  Plus, we're going on an exotic vacation overseas next month.  Which totally sells me.  Although, begrudgingly.

Because now, I'm going to have to remember passwords for stuff.  Like my e-mail.  I should probably keep a list of log-ins and passwords somewhere.  But, I don't.  Sometimes I write things down on a small random piece of paper that I lose.  Some people do crossword puzzles, play Sudoku or memory games on-line to stave off dementia, I just try to remember my passwords.  And I might already have Alzheimer's, because I never seem to remember them.  Then, I have to come up with a new password that's 10 characters long with two capitals, two symbols, two numbers and four random but meaningful letters in a sequence I'll remember.  Then, it'll be rejected for not being secure enough.  Which is kinda the story of my life.

When my new phone arrives in the mail and I finally get it all set up with the help of my teenagers who are fluent in technology, I get a tag on Instagram from someone who follows me to take and post a selfie.  Oh crap.  Because now I have a really great camera with a forty-something-nearing-fifty-something face.  Plus, now on Instagram you can zoom in on pictures.  So you can see pores, sun damage, zits, scowl lines, dark circles, gray hairs, rogue chin hairs, chapped lips and make-up mishaps with even more clarity.  So, essentially, I got a better phone so I could look even worse in photos.

This phone upgrade is denigrating my ego.  

Not only does my new phone make me look terrible. It also makes me sound like an idiot, putting words in my mouth by autocorrecting my texts.  No, no autocorrect, let me correct you, I typed exactly what I meant.  And I totally meant to misspell that word, you douchewad!  And don't suggest dumbass emojiis for me to include in my text, because I can't tell a smiley face from a frowning face without finding and putting my reading glasses on.  

PRETENTIOUS VIEWING RECOMMENDATION:  Black Mirror (Technology meets The Twilight Zone) on Netflix.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tales from the Dressing Room

I can't be the only person who dreads dressing rooms.  It's by far the worst part of the whole shopping experience.  And yes, I'm factoring in mustering up the energy to go shopping, forcing your unwilling kid to go with you to buy them pants, scouring the parking lot on a crowded Saturday at the mall and paying the outrageous bill for pants that fit your really skinny kid with really long legs into the equation.

I think it goes without saying that one only heads to the dressing room after thoroughly combing through the entire store for things to try on.  It's not somewhere you want to have to go twice, because it's not even somewhere you want to go once.  Somehow, my kids haven't learned this very basic shopping rule yet, even though I repeat it every time.

When you manage to find the fitting room way back in the bowels of the store, it is policed by a dressing room attendant.  You'll tell her you have six items and even space them out for her to see clearly there are indeed six.  But, she'll insist on touching all six of them while giving you the eye because you kinda look like a shoplifter.  And you know she's multitasking and also judging your selections.  "Really, she thinks she can pull that look off?  I don't think so.  That trend is way too young for her!"

There's a curious relationship between the stores that are expensive and the ones that are cheap and the condition of the dressing rooms.  Inexpensive stores like H&M tend to have tiny, bright, relatively clean dressing rooms.   Pleasant, except for the fact that there is a fabric shower curtain where a door should be.  And the fear of someone pulling back the curtain to reveal you in your underwear mid-change is worse than any horror movie.

Conversely, the pricey department stores, like Dillard's for example, tend to have large dressing rooms with carpet from the 80's in colors like mauve, with mysterious stains on it that looks like someone attempted a do-it-yourself clean-up from a bloody crime scene.  Combined that with the twenty articles of clothing with 20 more empty hangers strewn about it's very CSI-meets-Hoarders.   But, it gets worse.  Because it smells like feet.  Not just ordinary stinky feet, rotting feet like someone died there.  And it just might be the dressing room attendant, because you didn't even see her, you just walked right in.

That's when you look in the mirror.  And you look like a cadaver, with sallow skin and circles under your eyes so dark, Satan wants them back.  Is it the law that every fitting room in America be fitted with  fluorescent lights?  Because it just doesn't make any sense.  Nothing looks good under that light.  Except maybe pies in the display case at a diner.  Because pie.   But, people are best displayed in a dimly light room, with a slimming mirror and a diffuser burning lavender oil wouldn't hurt either.  Why has no one figured this out yet?

Inevitably, when you're ready to try on your selections you'll be wearing clothes that are a total pain in the ass to get off.  So, you'll try to take the fewest things off as possible.  I think I can slide my jeans off over my sneakers.  But chances are you can't.  And you'll spend more time figuring that out the hard way than it would have taken you to just untie, then retie, your sneakers.  Trust me on this.  If you're anything like me, when you do finally do get the item on, you'll hate it.  However, if it's an item you didn't come shopping for, don't need and have absolutely no occasion to wear it, then, of course, you'll love it.  Either way, you lose.

CLOSE-TO-THE-END-OF-THE-POST RANT:  You might even get stuck in a dress you tried on and can't get out of without asking for assistance.  Totally a true story.   Also, your size is completely subjective depending on the store.  Like, in H&M you will wear two sizes larger than you do in any other store.  It's not you, it's them and their warped European sense of proportions.  Contrary to popular belief, Swedish women won't keep you warm at night because they have no body fat, apparently.  After all this you'll need to console yourself with a pretzel dipped in butter or ice cream.  Depending on whether you're a sweet or salty person or if it's your time of month, in which case, it's both the pretzel and the ice cream.  Also, never try on clothes when you have your period.  It never ends well.  Ever.  

When you emerge from the dressing room the attendant will take your ticket clearly marked with the number of items you took in with you.  But, she won't count the clothes you came out with.  I mean call me old fashioned, but isn't that the entire point of the ticket?  I mean, what was the point of making me feel like a shoplifter on the way in, if I don't get to prove that I'm not on the way out?

Bottom Line: Save your sanity and shop on-line.
Try things on in a dimly light room with a bottle of wine, but not when you have your period.


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