Tales From the Dreadmill March 6, 2015

I have this theory….that someone should invent running tights with hair removing lasers in them, running shoes with pumice heel cups and electrolyte water with tooth bleach in it. Then, when I have to run every day, I can get all of the other miserable chick maintenance shit I have to do out of the way at the same time and emerge thin, hairless, and as smooth as a baby’s ass with a twinkling smile. Just saying…..

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A Weekend in NYC

I love New York City like a child loves a carnival. I await a trip there bouncing with anticipation and giddy elation. The second I arrive, I stare in wide eyed wonder at every little thing, trying to soak it in through my pores. I want every thing! I want to see every person, giggle at every freak, smell every aroma, eat every deep fried delicacy, get caught staring at lovers in dark corners, and tilt the whirl on every single wild ride. When it’s over though, and I’m out of tokens and tickets and pocket money, I’m glad to go home–hungover and ashamed at how much I ate and how flagrantly I overdid it–the fairground walk of shame.

Living in New York City would be like sleeping over at the fair. In the crowds and bustle of my temporary frenzy, I usually don’t notice how dirty the pathways are, how crooked and scary the carnies, how rickety and rusty the rides, but after dark, when it’s not just fun and games, I don’t really want to revel in the aftermath of every one else’s fun. The romance of the food, once so bright and appetizing, is an acrid burp when the streets are lined overnight with overstuffed garbage bags. The spinning streets turn from Valhalla to vertigo in a blurry moment when the empty comfort of a hotel room pales in comparison to the warmth of your own bed.

A Manhattan morning shows my alienness acutely. The fairgrounds give way to a fast moving stream of slash marks. Slender ebony-clad workers whisk by expressionless. You can tell that I am one apart. It’s the smiling, the eye contact, the general sunshine that comes from my pores–I’ve stayed too long at the revelry and my fresh faced friendliness, a welcome giggle in the whorl of the night, is an irritating dam in the flow of the everyday here so I seek refuge in the quarters of the city that have been set aside for visitors like me–with the art that loves me unconditionally, the landmarks who are impervious to my foreignness, and the cafes who grudgingly offer me a window seat for rude gawking.

When I’m home, all of my memories are fond, but this city will never rank among the ones where ‘strangers are always welcome’ or where everyone feels at home and I think that New York is alright with that. And so am I.

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Dear John (Berendt)–Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Dear John (Berendt),

This started as a letter to let you know why I was leaving you. Our torrid affair started innocently enough, after all, I love the movie version of our story. If I squint my eyes while watching and turn my head slightly, watching the entire procession like a freakishly nearsighted RCA Victor Nipper, I can almost imagine that the actor who plays you is the John Cusack of my adolescent fantasies. If I was going to have a little dalliance, it would damned well have a boozy, sweaty, speakeasy jazz soundtrack of John Mercer songs sung by Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall and Joe Williams woven like the buttery lattice crust of a pie through all of the gritty flashback worthy scenes and the film did not disappoint. Mmmmmm. Just reminiscing gives me tingles everywhere. I couldn’t imagine, with my adoration of the cinematic bijou, that the vade mecum might leave me wanting. I was lining up cigarettes for dramatic post coital use while the novel was downloading.

Our first few rendezvous, the chapters that I could steal away with while dinner was cooking and even in bed after my husband fell asleep, were soul deep satisfying. You charmed me time and again with witty repartee and a thesaurusesque quiver of words. Your original idea, it seemed, for the series of events that unfolded, differed largely from the version that I had pictured transpiring based on what had been sold to me in the romance of the theater, but I found myself swept up in it, not caring what the consequences might be of a plot diversion so steep that I might find myself mired in the uncertainty between what I was seeking and what was eventually found.

Then it happened, I’ll never forget the moment I looked at you and the bloom fell from the rose. The second paragraph of chapter eleven, you misused the word somnolent. As a person whom I would have allowed to get close to me, I know that you are familiar with my, let’s say, charming peccadilloes–my, um, adorable obsessions with all things sleep and linguistically acrobatic. You had to know that the hierarchy of rousability was an infatuation of mine with somnolence orbiting somewhere near the nucleus as the perfect word to describe the lush, pregnant second when my eyelids are slowly closing the doors on a beautiful rest. Using it to describe blooming springtime streets? Streets whose bulbs were burgeoning and petals erupting in the state of near and pressing wakefulness? It was as if you had called out another woman’s name in the cocoon of our amity!  Didn’t you know me at all? This was no mere slip up in verb tenses. I was so appalled, I wished for a second that I was reading a real book, as opposed to an electronic copy. Your misstep called for a good old fashioned tantrum induced book throwing! Simply huffing loudly and pressing the home key was a wide chasm from the literary equivalent of throwing a drink in your face.

It took me almost a week to think of forgiving you, but slowly, I started to work through my trust issues and see you again–on a limited basis at first, I mean, there was no way that I was going to let you back in my bath or my bed so soon after such a transgression, but short dates over coffee and quick snippets of conversation while I was waiting for water to boil or bread to rise quickly turned into my original irresponsibility of allowing you into my everyday life and, eventually, when my husband left for a week, back into my bed. Sigh.

Luckily, when given the chance, you returned to your original (though defiantly deviant from the flicker) charm and our romance was, well, I won’t say proceeding, because I don’t want to infer that we were getting anywhere near the level of trust previously attained, but there was, admittedly, a certain inertia.

There were tender memories. Your floral delivery of the word ecumenical in chapter 19 a particularly lovely spot of wistful generosity. Your willingness to leave the characters flawed, the voodoo unrequited, the landscape eternally lush, and the supporting actors vapid and silly was a gift to me.

Now that our relationship has run its natural course, it’s fair to say that an intrigue such as ours is both a success story and a cautionary tale for me. I take some fond memories and a hope that I’m getting closer to understanding the way of such things. This fling, this, liaison, if you will, was as inevitable as the passing of time. We were destined to meet. I was guaranteed to fall immediately in rapture with the cacophony of ideas it represented. Of all things, though, my frustration was the most inevitable and my disappointment was assured. If this entanglement had been a fire, I would say that it lit quickly, burned well, and used all its fuel before the logs were half burnt, forcing me to push bits of heated tinder at it trying to coax whatever heat I could.

When a journey like ours ends, I like to put friends like you into one of two categories–Maybe Again Someday and Lesson Learned. I’m afraid, despite the upsides of seeing you again in the future, I’m going to opt for the latter for now.  My lack of desire to see you again is in no way a negative reference to future aficionados.  Your abundant gifts are certainly noteworthy, it’s just that, for the first time in my life, I am forced to say, “I simply liked the movie better.”

Sincerely,

Pam

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Nordstrom and the “Lost Touch”

Nordstrom sent me an email just now telling me “The Ten Things I Need for Spring.”

I am sending this reply to the great interweb world because Nordies doesn’t like it when you ‘reply’ to their emails.

Dear Norders,

I am so delighted for your announcement of the change of seasons! As there is currently more than four feet of snow piled in my yard, I hope you’ll forgive my snark, but unless one of the ten things you’re offering me is ACTUALLY spring, I’m not all that interested. That being said, I have taken your suggestions for the ten “necessities” under consideration and I have come to the following conclusions-

1. Jumpsuits. Jumpsuits?! Listen, I’m an Amazon. There is no jumpsuit configuration that doesn’t make me look like Lurch at a seventies costume party with a camel toe. Also, unless this jumpsuit previously belonged to DB Cooper and is stuffed full of $100 bills, there’s no way I’m going to add in all of the additional required pee time for a grown up’s onesie. The actual potty issues aside (I haven’t gotten completely naked to pee since I was three, I’m not reverting now),what happens when I need to execute a drunken, late night, shielded by giggling girlfriends, alley pee? Just no.

2. Pointed toe flats. Ladies, we’ve decided that one more year of boring ballet shoes that make your thighs look heavy and do nothing for the appearance of your ass is just the thing. EXCEPT….all of those rounded toe shoes were making you far too comfortable. We’d like to make sure that you now look like a limping court jester with tree trunk legs. You’re welcome.

3. The timeless watch–unbeknownst to me, heirloom watches come from the costume jewelry department of Nordstrom. Who knew? First and foremost, if your watch doesn’t have Star Wars on it, I’m not interested. Second, who looks at a watch for the time anymore?

4. The footbed sandal. No joke, this is what fashion is now calling the Birkenstock. The original make your ass look like Fred Flintstone, don’t leave it in the sun, paint your toenails but still have man feet, comes in two colors–bulldyke and doesn’t give a shit old hippie high school teacher, Birkenstock. Now, I’m not saying I hate a Birkenstock, but calling it a “footbed sandal” and photographing it on the size 5 foot of a 16 year old fashion model in a Nordstrom ad DOES NOT MAKE IT PRETTY. It certainly isn’t a “must have” for spring.

5. The crisp shirt. This photo depicts a woman wearing a perfectly pressed white cotton shirt. I know for a fact that this is a cartoon and not a real photo and here’s why–you can’t see her bra in this photo. I have been on a lifelong quest to find the perfect white shirt that you can’t see my lingerie through. The conclusion? Can’t be done. Buy prettier bras. Second, there’s not a stain on that shirt. Every grown ass woman knows that you can’t wear a white shirt for longer than ten minutes without getting makeup, coffee, tomato sauce, whatever on it. The white shirt is a lie. In conclusion, the “crisp shirt” cannot be a springtime “must” because it “must” be ironed!! The last thing I want to do when the weather gets warm is stand over a steamy iron for shit’s sake?

6. The “Sport Oxford.” Yes, this just happened. A shoe manufacturer put a men’s dress Oxford shoe on a a white running shoe sole. Let me say this again–the powers that be at Nordstrom believe that, not only is it a good idea, but that it is a MUST for women to wear an uncomfortable, stiff, clumpy men’s dress shoe with a tennis shoe glued to the bottom of it. You know, for kickin’ it. I got a creep shiver so hard that one of my vertebrae snapped out and was cleverly caught in the waistband of my barbed wire thong panties (recommended by the same fashion forward designer as last spring’s must have).

7. The lightweight knit. There is a superb description of an item of clothing that seems so revolutionary and necessary that I was shocked, upon clicking on the link for “shop lightweight knits” to discover that Nordie recommends that I buy a sweater, yes, this is a new euphemism for “sweater.” Now you know.

8. The pleated skirt. Well, thank goodness I don’t have hips or thighs (cough) because pleated skirts are back. Forget that the only girls that make a pleated skirt look like a schoolgirl fantasy are school aged girls. Forget that when you take the skirt to the dry cleaners they will charge you a dollar per pleat to press it. Forget that if you are any height other than fashion model height you can’t lengthen or shorten a pleated skirt without making it look like a home ec project. Focus on the fact that every woman above a size zero looks like a fat sow in a pleated skirt. I’m hoping for the chance to wear one with my sport oxfords and repel all mammals with sight and some without sight whose dogs have taste.

9. The structured bag. Ladies, if you have thought all your adult life that putting all of your earthly belongings into a leather abyss that you hang from your neck could be vastly improved by adding an organizational paradigm to said abyss, you might think that your prayers have finally been answered. Wrong. When a designer decided to add ‘structure’ to a bag, they didn’t mean ‘infrastructure’. They simply meant that the sides of the bag would now be hard leather rather than soft. No compartments, no added pockets, no (and don’t steal this idea because it’s mine) feature where, upon opening the purse an LED light turns on like the refrigerator illuminating the contents so that you can find your MAC lipstick among the thirteen other lipsticks in the bottom of the cesspool, nope. Just stiff sides. For $1700.00.

10. The espadrille wedge. In case you are a straight man (um, why the hell did you just read all this shit about fashion, you weirdo) or a woman who has real world problems, an espadrille is a light, comfortable sandal shoe woven from hempy rope. It’s beauty lies in the simplistic facts that it weighs nothing, is as comfortable as a slipper and can be purchased at a flea market from a bin where you pick your size by trial and error and negotiate the price in either pesos or oranges. This spring, the fashion powers that be have determined that an espadrille should cost $200. They have also determined that it could be vastly improved by the addition of an inflexible platform and a SIX INCH HEEL. How do you attach a weightless rope shoe glued to a three pound step stool to your foot? Well with an uncomfortable metal chain fastener, of course. What could possibly be more necessary than that.

Since the marketing department at Nordstrom is obviously in a parallel universe where everything stupid is a “need,” I respectfully suggest that you hire a woman who lives here on Earth to amend your list and re-send.

Sincerely,

Pam

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Teenagers-my reward for surviving toilet training

This afternoon-
Me- Are you mocking me?
The Giant- Is there an honest answer to that question that won’t get me in trouble?
Me- Probably not.
The Giant- OK, then how about one that might preserve my dignity?
The Ginger- Don’t be stupid. Dignity is for families a lot less weird than ours. Try for self respect. You’ll probably still fall short, but it’s a more appropriate goal. (During this entire interjection, the Ginger never breaks pose–fast forwarding through the musical guest on the SNL recording)
The Giant- um, Mom, I love you? (Awkward one handed hug where I tuck neatly into his armpit)

Sigh.

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Treadmill Bleaching

Confession-I clean the treadmill with a bleach wipe before and after I use it. I know that this doesn’t seem like a weird trait. After all, we’re all supposed to do this, right? Except that I mean MY treadmill. The one in my guest room. The one that only me and my husband use.

Oddly, I will eat off that man’s fork. I will drink from his beer. I shower with him. We share a toilet. Leaving out the gross stuff that we do behind closed doors. . . But I CANNOT run if it gets into my head that I’m looking at his sweat. Ugh!

I have (unsuccessfully) tried to quietly hint that HE could wipe down the treadmill upon finishing–I place the tub of bleach wipes in varying and conspicuous locations, moving it each time so that he knows that I’ve used it, I’ve mentioned loudly that I need to remind myself to buy a trash can for that room, you know, for the used bleach wipes, I’ve left the used wipes in the cup holder. At this point, one of three things is happening. Either he has completely failed to notice my (ridiculously over the top) hints-this is a possibility he misses this shit all the time, he has noticed the hints but thinks it’s hilarious to torture me into throwing a temper tantrum-I think he goads me sometimes so that he can remain convinced of my crazy, or he has noticed and decided that it is weird to clean your own treadmill (please don’t let it be this, please).

I like to pretend that, if It all hit the fan, I could use this as grounds or justification, but I am pretty sure that this particular door is going to swing the other direction.  Sigh.

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Netflix and the Dreadmill

Damn you, Anthony Bourdain! Damn you, I say! Until this morning, I was perfectly content with my place in this world. I was fine with writing little travel books about weird America and with the idea that, if I was careful, lucky, and could finally adhere to a budget like a grown up, I might get to see all of Europe before I die, but now?! NOW?! Well, now, I. Must. Go. To. Myanmar.

I must eat chicken curry with fried chili peppers in peanut oil. I must eat fermented tea leaf salad. I must drink strong sweetened milky tea in a political hot bed of a chaotic tea shop. I must have fried baby birds from a Burmese street fair where the Ferris wheels are powered by flip flip wearing teenagers cantilevering like charming physics chimpanzees. You did it, Anthony, you finally broke me.

The most comforting part of the whole desire frenzying episode is the knowledge that there is Punk Rock, even in Myanmar. And that cool rockers -even Burmese rockers-love the Sex Pistols and HATE Creed. As it should be. The end.

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What I Really Wanted to Post

What if I felt very strongly about your religion? What if I felt that your religious beliefs were a disease of the soul–that living a life believing those lies and adhering to that stupidity was akin to slowly and painfully dying an agonizing death for 70 years and I voiced loudly that raising your children to lack spiritual autonomy and failing to expose them to all metaphysical options and allowing their freedom of divine choice was the worst kind of child abuse because it was an infection and crippling of the soul?

What if I was a different political affiliation from you? What if I thought that the validations for your political leanings were so idiotic that I didn’t even feel that it justified intelligent debate because your politics obviously demonstrated that you lacked the capacity? What if I petitioned the state for the removal of your children from your household because your incomprehensible political teachings were hobbling their minds leading to a lifetime of painful stupidity?

What if I believed that your religious and political freedom were the most infectious disease in my nation and I demonstrated, using valid arguments from proven sources, that the only possible outcome of allowing you those freedoms was the spread of your religion and the furthering of your politics like wildfire through the masses of other people as diseased and decrepit as you? What if I could show valid argument that living a life with the mental defects of your religion or your politics was worse than dying young of measles?

Would I vaccinate my family against the spread of such inhumanity? Yes. I would inoculate my loved ones by showing that a lack of bias is the foundation for the freedoms in this nation that I love. That you can’t champion freedoms only for the areas where you agree with the status quo.

Here’s the thing-I ACTUALLY AGREE WITH YOU, but I don’t agree with the methodology you are using. If someone’s unvaccinated child gets measles and almost dies, why would you put your finger in that wound and twist it? Measles are brought into the nation by unvaccinated carriers from other countries and spread through the unvaccinated population here. Why not make the argument for foreign traveller quarantine and vaccination? If you feel strongly about vaccination, vaccinate your children. I did. If you feel strongly that other people’s freedom of choice in parenting should be systematically eliminated in this nation, take a closer look at yourself first. Are your methods beyond reproach? Is your lifestyle? As for me, I will protect my family to the best of my ability with the most thorough medical care that I can and as for the rest? I’m going to quietly sit here in my little glass house and keep all of my stones in a tidy little pile. I WON’T tell you what to do or how to run your life. What I will do is say, out loud, once and for all, that I wish you wouldn’t “hate” on Facebook..

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Vaccinations and Parent Bashing

Parent bashing makes me sad.

I’m a vaccinator, but I know someone who isn’t and their reason is completely valid for their child.

In full disclosure, in addition to being a vaccinator, I’m also a spanker. I never Ferberized–true story, I held my babies every time they cried. I can say that I made my own baby food, primarily because I was too lazy for baby food so I mooshed up whatever the normal people were eating. Sometimes, I let my kids eat candy all day. I let them have soda with breakfast. I let them think that Engineering Competitions are a sport. This list could go on for days….

What I’m saying is this–parenting is HARD. Parents make hard choices based on a lot of different things–health, religion, nationality, and history just to name a few. Posting pictures of babies with measles on social media has about the same chance of changing a mother’s position on the issue of vaccination as posting photos of Jesus has of changing someone’s religion or posting information about your favorite sports team has of making someone else a fan.

I don’t criticize mothers who don’t nurse. I don’t wrinkle my nose if you bring your son to a restaurant with a cold. I never cared if you used cloth diapers or disposable. I don’t love it if you teach your kids to shoot guns, but I know that it’s none of my business. I think that vaccination is better. But it’s a big world out there and the best thing that I can do is protect my kids and try to support other parents in doing the same thing. Measles outbreaks are horrendous. All situations where children die unnecessarily and death can be prevented are a tragedy. I feel the same way about school shootings, poisoned formula, infected meat, house fires….. I think it heaps sorrow on top of tragedy, though, when we point fingers and tell other parents that we know better than they do how to raise their kids. I’m not saying that all the vaccination chatter isn’t true, I’m just saying that I don’t think it is very kind and I feel that social media isn’t the platform to try to make effective change in this arena.

Shit, I just got a splinter from my soapbox.

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When Harry Met Sally-1989-Revisited

I’ve decided to become a movie critic, but not for new movies that are released. I am going to rewatch the movies that I believe have ingrained something valuable in my psyche with fresh eyes and determine whether it is nostalgia that drives my love or whether they are actually imprint worthy. Do you think there is a paying job out there for me to review movies that are decades old?

As a nod to the movies of my formative years, I’m going to rate them on a scale of one to five Jake Ryans.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
In my memory, this is an adorable love story about two flawed individuals who are friends before they fall in love. I have always believed that the relationship was the star of the movie, not the characters. Having watched the film anew though, I have come to the realization that it is not Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal nor their quirky love story that is the star of this movie, but the soundtrack. Like all characters, the soundtrack has flaws (I cough and say, “Harry Conick” at the same time), but the use of Louis Armstrong and Ellington in smoothing transitions and time passages, the brilliant implementation of Bing Crosby and Ray Charles for seasonal nostalgia, and the robust and lively injections of the writings of Sampson, Goodman, Rodgers, Hammerstein, Berlin and the Gershwin brothers force the viewer to toe tap through a film that is now, unfortunately, going to join the ranks of, ” I used to love that movie!”

Crystal is believable. He is hilarious, smarmy, clever and equal parts mysoginistic ass hole and adorable cur. Completely adorable, he plans fun and interesting outings and, judging from his apartment, is pretty damned good at his job. Ryan is cute, I’ll grant that and, shit, I don’t know, charming, sort of? But she is DUMB. The character lacks a sense of humor, a sense of irony, a sense of adventure, hell, all sense! I think the character was written as adorably neurotic, but she came across as annoyingly nerve grating.

What does it say for the chemistry of two characters if the fake orgasm over a pastrami on rye is hotter than the actual sex scene? Awkward. That’s what. The entire movie is a “how to” for guys to recognize that the girl they are dating is a dud! She’s always ordering salads with the dressing on the side, she’s controlling, she’s frigid, she has boring sexual fantasies, she hates having sex on the kitchen floor, her room is full of penguin stuffed animals, if one of my guy friends was dating this girl, I’d pull him aside and quietly whisper, “run for your life!” This one is a horizontal line on the crazy/hot scale. The lynchpin of it all, the thing that lets you know that this is one of Nora Ephron’s wildest reaches, is that he fights for her in the end, thereby giving a glimmer of hope to all of the undatable women in the world that it is okay to be absolutely psychotic, because some man will fall for you exactly the way you are and celebrate a long life of monotonous, missionary neuroticism. Um, no?

In my gauzy memories of this film, my favorite scene was at the end, when Billy Crystal’s character tells Meg Ryan’s undeserving iridescent coral covered pout, “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” But, now that I am a grown up, I realize that I was wrong. A declaration of love like this (written by a woman who will die alone in her apartment and be eaten by her thirteen cats) is dumb. Any man who talks like that to you, ladies, will someday leave you for another man. A man loves the way you cook and the way you (enter any number of disgusting and sexually explicit acts that would get this post flagged and removed from social media). He might TOLERATE all that other stuff, but never love it.

Revised favorite scene–when the characters are laying in their perspective beds, watching the same movie, talking on the phone (maybe it’s the fact that I’m married to a man that’s always away from me, but I love that) and Crystal’s character is explaining the difference between high maintenance and low maintenance women. For the record, I am pretty sure that being high maintenance and charading as low maintenance is an art form. Then, he conjectures that he might be coming down with a twenty four hour tumor. And Ryan’s character doesn’t laugh. Bitch.

I was going to give the movie four Jake Ryans, because I love the music and I try to celebrate every film where Carrie Fisher is hot, but when I logged into iTunes to look at the album, the franchise sold the entirety of the score AS SUNG BY HARRY FRICKIN CONNICK JR!! Listen, I’m sure he’s lovely, but he’s no Louis Armstrong, that’s for sure.

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Ultra Mega Paper Trail

What kind of a shitshow is this country coming to, anyway?

This is the thought that I had this morning at the conclusion to a several months’ long internal diatribe of anger pointed at the marketing of household paper products. Has anyone else noticed that the paper products are getting out of hand? That you can’t even buy a “normal” sized roll of paper towels or toilet paper? You must choose between “Giant,” “Mega,” “Huge,” and the newest rendition of rolled paper ridiculous ever to clean a cartoon bear’s asshole, the “Ultra Mega” sized roll of toilet paper.

Never mind that these rolls of toilet paper DON’T ACTUALLY FIT ON THE TOILET PAPER HOLDER, never mind that the newest rendition of paper towel rolls convoke childhood memories of gas station bathrooms where the rolls of paper towels were the size of mid-west haystacks, pay NO attention to the paper man behind the curtain, folks.

Equally as appalling as the spurious size names concocted by the marketing departments of the paper manufacturers is the fact that, as a consumer, you never really know how much paper you are buying. It has recently been uncovered and widely publicized (recently by NPR, nonetheless) that while paper manufacturers are touting larger rolls, they are, in fact, selling you less paper! The cardboard centers of the paper towels and toilet paper rolls have been gradually widening over time and the rolls have been getting narrower (the historic “industry standard” for a square of toilet paper that is actually a square measuring 4.5 x 4.5 inches having shrunk slowly to the point where toilet paper rolls are now only 4 inches wide—a loss of more than 20% of the area of a square of toilet paper if my math is correct). While the rolls are taking up the same amount of space in the bottom of your shopping cart, you are, in fact, being sold more air, not more paper.

Paper towels and toilet paper are no longer marketed by showing the number of square feet or inches in a roll, but by showing a cartoon depiction of how many other dubiously modified “rolls” make up this new size of “roll”—for example, the “Gigantor” roll would be made up of three cartoon drawings of “Mega” rolls with puffy animation plus signs between them and a spectacular equal sign showing the “Gigantor” result of marketing math hell.

The true question here is whether the super sized paper clean up culture is created by our nations increased level of filth or laziness—how messy are people’s tushies? If you need an Ultra Mega roll of toilet tickets, should you consider a dietary alteration over a bathroom remodel that will accommodate a wider trundling of TP? If you have to borrow your neighbor’s truck to bring home paper towels from the store, is it time to reacquaint yourself with the concept of a rag? Or is it that we are trying to space out visits to the store to the point where we are willing to store a UHaul’s worth of paper in the eaves of our home in order to avoid shopping?

All I know is that I am going to have to take an Extra Strength Tylenol for this headache. . .

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Dinner– January 28

Subjects randomly covered at dinner tonight-
– GPA to potential and discrepancies in regards to honors geometry
– Causes for the fall of the USSR including mutually assured destruction (Adam’s History of Modern Warfare class is already shaping up to be a conversation starter)
– geosynchronous satellites, their function and handy inventions that they enable
– dangers of China’s ground to satellite missiles
– the fact that last year’s snow pants are conjoined in the leg in a way that has negative implications and causes them to be “space pants,” which is negative??

Dinner gave me a headache. I might make cocoa.

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In Defense of Men with “No Game”

I know the BEST single women. Women who, if I was inclined (and hadn’t been married for 18 years) I would absolutely date. Maybe marry. For years I’ve been an active participant in the folly of “pick on the guy who has no game.” Rolling my eyes with my single pals when a man clearly needs a shopping trip in this decade, giggling when a man stammers through a corny come on, laughing at desperate online dating fail-attempts, and joining in the sidelong judgy glance when a shy guy tries to edge into our group in an obvious play to indoctrinate through proximity.

Here’s the thing, though–I’m also a mom. Of two teenaged boys. As they grow to be men, I have to figure out, is it better to help them learn “game” or to let them find someone who will love them for exactly who they are? Who they are, by the way, is brilliant, polite, well mannered, chivalrous, funny, hard working, dedicated and adorable (but in kind of a kooky and interesting way) but man o man, they have absolutely NO game. I am watching it unfold awkwardly at their high school every day. The guys who are less quirky and more comfortable in their skin are already getting the girls who never look twice despite my sons’ attempts to walk next to them, engage them in a funny conversation, heck, just make eye contact. They’re still malleable enough to coach. They wear clothes that I pick, still care whether I think a movie or song is “cool,” and genuinely try to curtail behavior that I frown on. Should I, in addition to training them to cook, clean, drive, study and vote with their conscience be teaching them “game?”

I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve worried about it more than I probably should have lately because today, when my husband woke me with the standard method of quietly bringing me coffee in bed, I remembered something–I think that guys with NO GAME are BETTER than guys who have it! In observing friends who married guys like mine–It always seems that they work harder at relationships. They’re thankful for you. They’re not always “at practice,” if you know what I mean? These guys are usually self aware enough to know that they are a hot mess in this respect and they LISTEN to you in the hopes of catching on to what they should do next.

When I met my husband, he was everything I never wanted in a man. And he couldn’t even work up the nerve to ask me out. If online dating existed back then, he wouldn’t have looked twice at my profile and I would have scoffed at his. We were politically diametrically opposed, fiscally incompatible, our career trajectories were not even on the same chart, neither of us was even looking for a relationship, and halfway through our first date, we were both hooked. The chemistry that STILL sizzles whenever we’re in a room together might never have occurred if I hadn’t let my guard down that one time. I might have lived a life with a man who was everything I was looking for and nothing that I needed.

Then I think about my friends. I worry that I’ve aided and abetted the crime of judging a man based on his game. I wonder if, instead of laughing at online ice breaking attempts and seconding the immediate delete, should I have encouraged them to respond? To dig deeper? Instead of tightening ranks at the bar, should I have let the nervous guy become part of the conversation? By being an efficient wingman, was I pushing them away from the happiness that I stumbled into by accident?

So I’ve decided that my kids can live without “game.” Instead of teaching them the art of small talk and appropriate conversation, the skills of dressing to impress and thinning the herd, instead of coaching their game, I want to instill in them the idea that love isn’t something that you PLAY at. It’s something that you might stumble upon if you give more chances. Say yes to drinks. Have more first dates. Just because they live on the Internet and with a text message doesn’t mean that chemistry does. After all, if I had drawn the line at “game” all those years ago, I would have missed out on a man who dances with me in the kitchen every night and that, dear friends, would have been a true loss.

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Books as Oragami

Some books are origami. It’s a most interesting art I think, taking a finite, almost one dimensional thing and patiently folding it onto itself until it becomes something alive and intricate. Even more amazing about origami is that it is often not the folds that become a permanent part of the finished product that matter the most. Sometimes it is the lines that are left by the unfolding steps that make the biggest impact. These books, they build a little bird in your soul that never leaves.

Some books strive to be origami, but end up as balloon animals instead. The subject matter itself fails to have levity–interesting yes, but lacking in a timelessness and somehow hollow. Instead of detailed creases and deliberate pertinent folds in the plot, the book is built with twists upon twists. Sometimes, a turn is so awkward that my brain reacts in the same uncomfortable way it does when a balloon squeals with abused surprise. The finished product? Charming but short lived. A carnival treat, a delightful moment quickly forgotten. A fleeting good time.

I’ve been reading mostly the latter lately and I’m bored. I need a new crinkle in my soul that can only be gained by a perfect new read. I’m looking for suggestions, please. No limits–I like all genres (Except self help–there are enough voices in my head, thank you) and I should probably admit that I’m a serious bookaholic so pretty much all classic lit is already done. Maybe a great historical nonfiction? A story that is so incredulous that it aches that it’s true? An autobiography of a mind that I want to take up residence in for a day? I’d love some suggestions. I’m not allowed to go to the book store to browse for the same reason that I’m not allowed in the pound. I want all the lovelies. Thank you in advance.

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Blue

I’ve been feeling a little blue. Not TRULY sad, just a kind of elusive azure. You know, JUST opaque enough to be sky colored around the edges, but mostly just an opalescent wash for the rest? Then today, I got a present. In the mail. And it’s so beautiful, I’ve been crying all morning.

I know that those last three sentences should technically be one, and, at that, it is barely a sentence, but if you know me at all, you know that these are miracles. I am notoriously difficult to buy for. Really. Excruciating. I’m quirky to the point of downright weird and every thing that I own is a brick in the mortar of my eccentric cottage of a life. From my favorite wooden spoon (Amish, from an unexpected road trip I took with my mother in law) to the antique silk slips I have collected and worn as nightgowns since I was a teenager, it’s impossible to look at something that I own and gift me something like it. There’s just something too personal about everything in my closet of kook and to find that magic just existing in an object and expect it to get along with the witchcraft already woven into my life is, I’ve been told, a Herculean task. There’s no obsession to which my oddity doesn’t extend– I love Spider-Man and Bat Man, hate Superman and any super hero whose name ends in “girl.” I love Star Wars and James Bond and I hate Luke Skywalker and Roger Moore. With organic, local flour and butter, I bake my own bread, make my own protein bars and would never eat a store bought cookie, but I can’t pass a hot pretzel stand without buying a cheap, doughy salted mess and eating it while it burns my mouth. I can’t live in a room where the furniture matches, but I can’t leave the house in lingerie that doesn’t. I hate chocolate, unless I don’t on that particular day, and I am pretty sure that the world, in its wild unadulterated wonder is a personal gift to me each day, so I’m always surprised when someone gives me something that takes my breath away. Today it happened.

I’ve never mastered the grace of receiving a gift. I’m terrible at it. I hate to GIVE gifts, because I am so terrible at getting them, except that I love to wrap. Honestly, more than I love almost anything, I love to wrap a gift. Sometimes, when I’m wrapping holiday gifts, I have to physically resist the urge to wrap the sofa……and the dogs….and the ironing board…..But I digress…….

The point is, today I received a present and it washed away the blue I was wearing with a rainbowy wash so excruciatingly lovely with warm reds and yellows and oranges with purple sparkles! And I’m HAPPY. Just incandescent. That’s all.

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An Afternoon with a Sexy Italian (Cookbook)

I ordered a cookbook that I coveted from Amazon, but I elected to purchase a used book for one third the cost of new. It arrived in the mail just now and brought with it the sweet lovely smell of an Italian kitchen. When I thumbed through the pages, it fell open to precisely the recipe that instigated my purchase, having been referred to in a delightful memoir that I just finished about one man’s journey through the world in search of the perfect loaf of bread. The pages are coated with flour and there are coffee stains on the edges.

There was a list, in my head, of things that I would accomplish today, but it has just been thoughtlessly cast aside for the following to do list–1. Fresh pot of coffee. 2. Warm snuggle blanket. 3. The Italian Baker by Carol Field, cover to cover. Possibly the most delicious afternoon ever.

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Fakin’ Bakin’ Kind Bars

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I love Kind Bars. I hate paying $2.00 a piece for them, though, especially considering the fact that a teenage boy can eat three Kind Bars in one afternoon snack.  Also, I’m not too crazy about adding glucose and soy lecithin to my food, if I can get around it. Depending on the bar, you can also find glycerin, cane juice and gum acacia on the ingredients list. Yes, I can pronounce them. No, I don’t want to eat them while pretending that I’m treating my body well. So I make my own. I’m a girl that tries her best, but I have been known to slip and fall face first onto a street vendor hot dog, so I’m not throwing down a gauntlet here…..mostly it’s about the money. I can make fake Kind Bars at home for less than fifty cents each and the ones that I make at home only have the ingredients that I like–win/win.

The recipe for Fakin’ Bakin’ Kind Bars is extremely simple—

2 cups of chopped nuts
1 cup of seeds
2/3 cup of chopped dried fruit (this is negotiable—see Version 3 (The Giant’s Version)
½ cup of honey
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Really. That’s it. The fun and deliciousness happens when you make them your own. Today, I made three different versions of bars (I like to make ahead and they actually keep well for at least a month if you store them carefully). This ratio of ingredients makes 12 bars maybe a smidge bigger than the store bought ones. Note- I’m not a food blogger and I am NOT a photographer.  All photos are taken with my slightly greasy iphone.

Version 1– Cherry Ginger Pie Bars (modeled after my favorite cherry pie recipe that has crystallized ginger as an ingredient and is a mouth party. Plus, ginger is great for you, cherries have tons of vitamins and the walnuts–because they are softer and buttery–have a pie crusty texture to them-yay)

Walnut
Almond
Pumpkin Seed
Flax
Bing Cherry
Crystallized Ginger
Honey
Vanilla
Cinnamon

Version 2 – Sunshine Bars (the apricots and golden raisins keep me thinking of a great hike in Sonoma. The flavors are both warm and zesty)

Pecan
Almond
Sunflower Seed (I had to use pumpkin today because my kids found them in the pantry between grocery and baking day-bummer)
Flax
Golden raisins
Honey
Vanilla
Cinnamon

Version 3 – Giant Bars -My oldest son, The Giant,  does not eat dried fruit. Heck, The Giant doesn’t like any fruit, but dried is really not happening. This version proves how versatile the recipe is because, if you have the same number of cups of ingredients, it doesn’t matter what you add AND these are covered in chocolate. Getting The Giant to eat ANY food usually involves covering it in chocolate #greatparenting.

Almond
Cashew
Pumpkin Seed
Rolled Oats
Brown Rice Crispies
Honey
Vanilla
CHOCOLATE (I’ve usually got an emergency supply, I just melt up whatever is handy—chocolate bar, chocolate chips, old Easter candy. . . just kidding. There’s no such thing as old candy in this house)

Prep Work –

I use a lot of nuts. I toast them about once a month on a quiet morning and store them in labeled bags. I use toasted nuts for these protein bars, for homemade granola, to make nut butter, and to top oatmeal and salads. When I have bags of toasted nuts around and I know that I have to use them in a month, I tend to find all kinds of good reasons to cook with them. . . topping roasted veggies, ground into a stuffing for pork chops, thrown in some caramel corn on movie night, in cookies. . . o.k. I’ll stop now. For the purposes of a LESS crazy human, though, toast what you’ve got and put the rest in the food processor and make nut butter. You’ll be glad that you did and you’ll save the eight bucks a pound that Whole Foods thinks you should pay to use their food processor.

Simply put, I pour them in a skillet on the stove over medium heat, put on a great album, and turn them a little when they get brown. In case you are wondering, an even mix of Louis Armstrong, Joey Ramone and Spiderbait is the perfect nut toasting playlist.

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Why, no, none of my bowls match. And I’m okay with that.

To chop the nuts into the appropriate size, I put them in ziplock bags and beat the crap out of them with my meat tenderizer. It’s very relaxing. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

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My dinner table only has flowers the day after dinner guests bring them. Thought I would commemorate it.

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Assembly—

I use this giant salad bowl for just about every great home project that I do. I rise bread in it, make bath bombs in it, make Caesar salad in it and, on Sunday afternoons, I make protein bars in it. To say that I have gotten the $9.99 that I paid for it on clearance 15 years ago back in spades is an understatement.

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First, add nuts and seeds

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Chop and add fruit –I use a food processor-because I have one AND, I have teenagers that do the dishes. When I didn’t have a food processor, I chopped the fruit by hand and it was exactly the same. Don’t be kitchen shamed into buying one of these bad boys. If you want to read about why I have a food processor, click here. NOTE: The Giant’s version does not have fruit. Instead, I add crispies and oatmeal. Because I’m the world’s best mom, that’s why.

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Add salt

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Stir dry(ish) ingredients to blend

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Cook up the magic sticky in a saucepan, mix the honey, vanilla and whatever seasonings you feel are necessary. Cook until it comes to a boil and then boil for 30 seconds or so. Nope, not an exact science. I feel like cinnamon is always a good idea. I’ve used ginger, nutmeg, clove and I have friends who swear by turmeric. I haven’t jumped on the turmeric bandwagon yet, because it almost has the word tumor in it and I am sometimes emotionally 13 years old.

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Pour into dry ingredients and mix well. Don’t be shy. Sometimes you have to just stick your hands in there. I won’t judge.

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Spread on parchment lined baking sheet. If you are making just one batch of bars, you could use a small square pan or even a pie pan. I always thought that they would be interesting cut into little wedges. Parchment is very important. Do not think that cooking spray or aluminum foil will sub. This stuff is the stickiest shit on earth. No joke. This is coming from a girl who makes her own homemade marshmallows. USE PARCHMENT. I use an extra large cookie sheet because it is exactly 12 bars across. This monster is 14.5 inches by 20.5 inches.

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You can see that I repeat this step until I have all three varieties on the sheet or you can just stop now.   I guess that not everyone needs to feed two monster sized teenagers.

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Bake until brown. I have had this take anywhere from 10 minutes to 20 minutes depending on the number of batches that I am making. When they really start to smell caramel-y, I pull up on the parchment and take a look see.

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Cool until room temperature. Do not cool them in the refrigerator. You want them to be a little warm because it makes them easier to cut.

Cut and wrap. I wrap these in bits of parchment paper and then put them in little plastic bags labeled “Pretzel Bags” that I pick up at the craft store. Because I have a picky eater, I “label” the three different kinds of bars with pretty tape.   I have also been known to mark them with a Sharpie–some days I’m cuter than others.

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Chocolate Step (for The Giant’s Version and real chocolate lovers) In the top of a double boiler (who the hell are we kidding? The double boiler is really hard to wash. I use a bowl on a pot) melt chocolate and then using a rubber spatula, spread on the bottom of the bars. Allow to cool—I wrap the other bars while the chocolate sets.

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Also, because I am compulsive, if there is extra chocolate, I start a search of the kitchen for anything else that I can cover in brown deliciousness. Today, it was peanut butter cookies from the cookie jar.

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Enjoy!! Note: I store these in the walk in pantry EXACTLY at eye level—the same way that I store fruit in the refrigerator in the front and everything else in the back. I want my kids to consciously reach PAST them to get something less healthy. Usually, they choose the path of least resistance. And I love paving that path with homemade goodness.

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P.S.  Yes, I have both a Nut Bag (for making almond milk) and a beeswax sheet (for wrapping homemade sourdough).   I get it.   I’m a nutter.   But I’m retired.   What the heck else am I supposed to do all day?   Hugs. P

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Things that Died When I Turned 40

This New Year marks the beginning of a new decade for me. Skirting the risk of sounding morbid, it’s more about deaths this year, than resolutions for me. So, in taking stock of my life, here’s what I’ve laid peacefully to rest…

My willingness to apologize for the condition of my house.
Hey, this is what my house looks like today. If you don’t like it, get the hell out and drink someone else’s wine. My house is a reflection of my today and today, I am having a bad house day. Sometimes, I wake up and the stars align in a different way, but not today.

Giving a shit about brands.
Does that purse miraculously hold all your crap yet not hold all of your husband’s and kids’ crap? I love it. It’s lovely on you. Can you drive, eat, laugh and bend over in those jeans? I love them. Does the wine in that box make me tingly and giggly with a warm nose and you’re serving it on your couch? It’s my new favorite. I don’t care where you buy your clothes or whose name is on them. I like the YOU in them. I don’t care if the chicken you cooked is organic. I like that YOU’RE having dinner with me.

Remembering who owes me one.
Don’t care. Not even a little bit. I’ll offer to buy lunch when I’ve got spare cash. I expect that you would do the same, otherwise, let’s split it. No, I don’t care if you had an appetizer. Did I lend you a scarf once and you forgot to return it? Guess what? I don’t lend anything that I can’t live without. I forgot about it the second I saw the way it brought out the color in your eyes. Keeping score? Who’s got time to deal with that? This morning, there was one more eye wrinkle than yesterday. Apparently, I am dying over here.

Caring whether you are my friend.
I love my friends. And I’m using the word love here. They fill me with joy, verve, adventure and comfort. And if you don’t? Ain’t nobody got time for you, sweetie. Kiss off and be miserable and judgy somewhere else. I gave it up for good. Did I ruffle your feathers once and you’re still bad mouthing me all over town expecting me to grovel? Don’t hold your breath, sister, either put on your big girl panties and have it out with me or shut up and color. Your bitterness isn’t hurting me, I apparently either never noticed or I let it go eons ago. There’s no room in my heart for a grudge. I store memories of my children’s’ laughter in the place where I used to store grudges. They were evicted for non payment of happiness rent.

Going with the flow.
Guess what? I know what I like. And it’s not waiting around while someone else makes decisions for me. If no one in a group wants to pick a restaurant, decide what time to meet up, choose a bottle of wine or an appetizer to share. I elect myself. I can’t even count the number of waived off frustrated waiters, nights that I spent quieting my rumbling stomach while everyone was nice about picking a restaurant that everyone likes, or bored hungry hours waiting around while someone took a nap/four hours to get ready/had no sense of anything outside themselves. This is clearly a situation where I’m going to err on the side of that bad 80s poster with the ducklings–lead, follow, or get out of the way!

Jealousy.
Just dumb. I don’t covet anything that you have. I live the life I made, based on choices that were important to me. There’s nothing that I have–not even the ugly stuff–that I would trade for anyone else’s life. Not your thighs (which frankly look like they could use a cookie and a cocktail), not your house (in the end, it’s nice for you, but it’s just not “me”), and not your money (I know what I had to do to earn mine and those compromises were enough, thank you). I don’t know that the people in my life who are skinnier, cleaner, or richer than me are a drip happier so I’m done worrying about what they have that I don’t.

Figuring it out myself
When I was younger, I was resolved to do everything that every other woman could do–effortlessly and without struggle. What that meant was endless hours of Internet searches, library trips, and piles of saved magazines all over my life leading to two decades of trial and error cautiously hidden from public view. I don’t need to read Pinterest Fail boards, because I LIVED Pinterest fail boards. Somewhere along the road, I figured out that NOBODY has it all figured out. Each of the women that I know have a set of great skills and I am not afraid to ask them to show me. Be ready.

Picturesque Perfection
If you’ve been to my house and eaten food delightfully presented on colorful platters, seen my bookshelves adorned with lovely tchotchkes, and my coffee tables tastefully arranged with cerebral conversation starters, I’m sorry. I lied. Twenty minutes before you got there, I was picking dog hair out of the frosting and hiding dirty pots in the garage. I don’t smell good because I showered, I was too busy hiding my life from you so I had to take a whore’s bath in Jo Malone right before you rang the bell. My bookshelves are filled with trashy paperbacks, dust, and jigsaw puzzles that are missing pieces. My coffee tables are typically covered in laptops, cords, coffee stained wine coated magazines, pencil stubs and empty beer bottles. If you’ve seen adorable pictures of my family, sunny and smiling and clean, I lied there, too. My kids are exactly the same as everyone else’s–differently obnoxious at every phase, but this year, surly and awkward, smelly and embarrassed by me. It takes an act of congress to get a good picture. So, I’m done. If you come for dinner, I’m serving it in a pot. On a chipped plate, as nature intended. We’ll play poker (with tiddly winks, by the way, the chips are just for looks, we don’t like them) or Scattergories–the chess set was a souvenir, it doesn’t make us laugh, so we don’t use it. And in the morning, we’ll eat scrambled eggs and drink coffee on the couch while laughing at my collection of “poo face pictures”–snapshots of my kids being bored, irritated and just plain awful at various locations all over the planet–because that’s how I really roll.

Happy New Year.

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Geometry Fighting Fish

My kids were fighting in the dining room. I’m mean FIGHTING. They never fight. I mean, they’ll throw a barb or a finger poke every once in a while, but I haven’t heard them raise their voices at each other in almost a decade. I snuck up the basement stairs to see what the fuss was about and heard, “You CAN’T use that theorem unless you can prove that the side are CONGRUENT!!!” Then,”Shut up! Let me show you.” Then a pause. A long pause. Then a giggle….followed by another giggle….then the Ginger said, “You know, on a spiritual level I know that I should apologize to you, but I’m going to pass.” The giant Blonde one said, “Your spiritual acknowledgement is sufficient. For today.”

Dinner table follow up—-

Me–that was a pretty heated discussion you guys were having earlier.
Giant–yeah, we were almost torn apart by math.
Ginger–I couldn’t help it, you were being so obtuse.

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Police Shootings and Teenage Curiosity

I have vowed not to use social media as a forum for my political views, but as a platform for the reproduction of the Kodachrome vivid memories of my youth when I had the time and ability to be physically present with everyone that I adored. I seek to reproduce a time when I could sit at a table with my friends and hear them “comment” on my stories and show my “like” of their decisions with a hug. My friend list is purposely narrow. It is a list of people whose opinions COUNT when I ask for advice. AND, because politics are hard. Even with good friends, I’ve always kept politics to a three drink minimum. Then, if we disagree about something fundamental, we can both chalk it up to the booze. Politics are tough, and they’ve never been as tricky for me as right now, not because I am waffling in my political convictions, or because the political climate is any more heated right now than any other time before, but because the burgeoning intelligence and curiosity of the young men that I am raising has reached a frantic pitch.

How do you help your children see every side of an issue in a way that makes them hunger to find their own place? How do you tell young citizens, used to being fed everything–from food to decisions–in a pre-packaged, serving sized, instant gratification kind of way, that the real world is a gluttonous monster? How do you show them that contagious outrage is a virus to our society but that justified outrage is the hallmark of our freedom? How do you help your children LEARN their own political beliefs instead of regurgitating the ones that they hear on the news?

I don’t know. And it is the toughest parenting for me, to date. It would be so easy for me to tell them which side to pick and then justify it with the information that I know will make them take the same side as I have on an issue, but is that responsible parenting? I want to help them grow into intellectual citizens who make good, informed choices. Not my choices, but choices that I can be proud of.

So, what am I seeking with this post? Not politics. Honestly, if you want to talk about brutality or crime, voting or funding with me, I’ll warm up the barstool next to mine. I don’t want to do it here. Not because I can’t bring a dog to the fight, but because it’s a fight we should have when we can hug it out after. I guess that what I’m trying to do here is to say this–Because I know the hearts of so many true heroes, I choose to remember that their life is a life filled with choices. I’m trying every day to show my boys the value of a good choice and the dismal consequences of bad ones. I try to show them that doing your best is always a good choice and blaming others for a failure is never one. And I’m trying to show them that TRUE heroes and JUSTIFIED outrage are inside both of them and that they should strive to wield those weapons wisely.

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