Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gag Me With a Jelly Shoe

The 80’s are calling. And for reasons beyond my understanding, people are actually answering the phone.

I work on the campus of a major university. Day after day, more and more, I am seeing things that I thought…or hoped…I’d never have to see again. I can live with the way-too-big earrings. I can even live with the way-too-small jeans (on other people, that is). The wide, studded belts secured loosely around the outside of the oversized blouses are, well, nearly tolerable. But I saw something the other day that made my blood run chill. It’s almost too painful for me to type out loud.

That’s right, I saw a female student donning a pair of stirrup pants. Oh, the horror!

It’s been coming, slowly but surely. I honestly kept hoping, though, that maybe it wouldn’t really catch on. Perhaps someone would get hold of one of my high school yearbooks and see how dreadfully hideous we all were. Word would spread and this trend would be stopped cold, before anyone had a chance to even purchase a single pair of stirrup pants or jelly shoes or checkered Vans®.

Each of the decades has left its own fashion smudge on society. The 70’s brought us bell bottoms and platform shoes. I was a mere child in the 70’s, but I’m a big fan of any ensemble that creates the illusion of a smaller butt and longer legs. The 90’s were all about the grunge. Oddly enough, every girl wanted to dress like Kurt Cobain. The baggier your big, ripped flannel shirt, the better. This certainly wasn’t my favorite look, but you can’t dispute the value of such a low-maintenance style regimen. It was wash ‘n go, only better, because the “washing” step was completely eliminated. Just go. Many of us saved a lot of money on toothbrushes and shampoo in the 90’s.

But the 80’s. Oh, the 80’s. What was pretty about that decade? Nothing, I say. The bangs were big and sticky. The shirts were oversized. The pants were undersized. What’s most amusing and puzzling to me is that we spent a lot of time, energy and money just to achieve ugly. I primped and primped and primped some more with all the gel and the hairspray and the bright blue eye shadow. While that layer of lacquer was hardening, I’d spend several minutes working up a sweat trying to safety pin the sides of my pants to make them as tapered and unflattering as possible. After that, it was time for another lacquer application. All that work just to look like a "Thriller" extra.

Oh really, who am I kidding here? It comes down to this: My feelings about 80’s apparel are likely rooted somewhere in deep bitterness over the fact that there’s nothing in my size that can legally be called a “skinny jean.” In other words, if this throwback trend continues and my beloved bootcut pant becomes obsolete, I’ll be in a world of hurt. It’s muumuus and denim jumpers from here on out.

I’m not happy about that prospect, not one bit. The 80's may be calling, but the 90's brought us Caller ID. I'm using mine.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

If You're Happy and You Know It, Tease Your Hair

Being a relatively recent transplant to the state of Utah, I have to admit I am fascinated by so much of the culture here, particularly in Utah County, a.k.a. Utah Valley, a.k.a. Happy Valley. Incidentally, it took me about six months of living here before I even figured out that those three locations were one and the same.

Besides the religious influence, the food storage fanaticism, and the unusually high volume of anti-depressant consumption (I am not making that up--they don't call it Happy Valley for nothin'), there is one aspect of the culture in particular which greatly fascinates—no—puzzles me.

It’s the hair.

Can someone please tell me what is going on in Utah Coun….er…Utah Val…er…HAPPY VALLEY with all the hair teasing? Am I the only one who is alarmed by this epidemic? Everywhere I go—work, church, the mall, the grocery store—I see tiny, otherwise attractive women with hair taller and wider than the Wasatch Mountain range. Many unsettling thoughts run through my flat-haired head when I happen upon these 1960’s throwbacks. I wonder if any of these women have mirrors in their homes. I wonder if they have hefty chiropractor bills from all the top-heaviness. I wonder if it hurts when they bump into walls or get stuck in doorways. I wonder if their friends and husbands are too kind or just too afraid to ask them, “Are you really going out in public like that?” I wonder if they all have to drive convertibles or at least cars with sun roofs. I wonder if they have to stand so many feet away from the grill flames when they attend neighborhood barbecues, or if the neighbors are simply kind enough to make sure the fire department is on standby.

I always thought that the whole idea behind teasing and putting product in the hair was to create an “illusion” of body and volume. I guess I missed the issue of Cosmo that said sleek was out and coon cap was in. I really need to do better at keeping up with these beauty and fashion trends. When I think of the hours I’ve apparently wasted in the bathroom trying to achieve that combed, nest-free look, I feel positively embarrassed at my hairstyling ignorance.

Now don’t get me wrong. I mean to take nothing away from the women of Happy Valley. I’d venture to say that Utah County is home to some of the best-looking women on earth. As a whole, they are kind, intelligent, cheerful (see previous happy pills reference), service-minded, God-fearing, and family-loving. Truth be told, I had never seen so much perfect skin or so many perky backsides in my life until I relocated to this place. Not that I typically notice those things. Oh, nevermind.

So I just can’t figure out how it happened. Perhaps no one ever explained to some of them that “mop” is a figurative reference to hair, and not actually something to shoot for.

However it happened, however the line between beauty and birds’ nest was blurred, I refuse to give in to the pressure. I don’t care if everyone in Happy Valley is doing it. They’ll have to pry my flat-iron—and my happy pills—from my cold, dead hands.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

All that glitters is...pure eeevil!

I have a house full of children who are all, apparently, in the "creative" phases of life. They love to generate stuff, and lots of it. If it involves markers, crayons, paintbrushes, beads, fabric, or wood, my children (minus Lucas) are all over it like the mustard to the ham. Oh, and glue, too. Let's not forget the glue.

I'm not gonna lie. I won't be winning any mother-of-the-year awards any time soon. I don't love craft projects so much. When my oldest daughter screeched the words, "Mommy! I found the craft box in the garage!" the other day, I felt the acid churning in my stomach. I thought I had stacked an adequate number of empty boxes on top of it when we moved in 10 months ago. Guess not. Drat.

Our beloved, dreaded craft box contains all of the above mentioned items and then some, plus a bonus: GLITTER. I was going to use an exclamation point there, but that would indicate some excitement or enthusiasm on my part. I don't like glitter. To quote a flair button on a friend's Facebook page, "Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies." I don't feel the need to elaborate on that. It stands on its own.

In a world where I have approximately four to five hours every night at home to cook, do laundry, pick up toys, clean up messes, post to my blog (uh huh, that's a have-to), exercise, do dishes, give baths, help with homework, run errands, cuddle my kids, change diapers, and perform countless other not-so-trivial tasks, the sight of glitter tubes and paint containers emerging from the craft box is enough to send me straight to my room with an Ambien-laced cup of chamomile.


I reeeeeally want that mother-of-the-year award. This is my year. I can feel it.

So I fake the glitter love, for their sakes. I watch them work their sparkly magic, my countertops and floors acting as the unwilling canvas for their masterpieces. Some of it even ends up on the hundreds of sheets of plain white paper that they kipe from my printer.

Ever tried to extract glitter from linoleum? Or a five-year-old's scalp? Don't bother.


Wireless Woes

I wasn't given a writing assignment, per se, this time around. I just felt inspired by a recent real-life incident that annoyed the snot out of me. So here goes. Feedback welcome, as always.

Wireless Woes

I went to the car wash yesterday. I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was minding my own business. I only wanted my minivan cleaned, nothing more. I sat patiently while the work was done, sipping my diet soda and thumbing happily through the pages of a waiting area magazine, when “she” walked in.

You know who “she” is. You’ve been accosted by her at some point, either in the grocery store aisle, the line at the bank, or maybe even in the hushed lobby of a doctor’s office. She’s the one yammering into the air and making eye contact with, well, no one. You wonder to which of the forty people in the room she might be speaking. Nobody seems to be engaging her. You even wonder if she is talking to you. Then you see it, the tiny bud in her ear and the itty bitty hot pink phone in her hand. She’s chatting away with someone possibly hundreds of miles away. Not only is she not addressing anyone in the vicinity, she is tactlessly unaware that you or any of those other unfortunate people are even in the room. Nor does she care, for that matter. It gets better. When she was born, doctors discovered that she was missing a vital body part. That’s right; she was born without an indoor voice box. She’s loud. She’s boorish. And she “needed” to make a phone call. Right then. It couldn’t wait. The guy on the other end needed to know immediately that she wasn’t really up to much of anything.

I want more laws for people like her. Here in Utah, we already have cell phone laws in place, like the one that prohibits texting while driving. We all know this is a matter of public safety. Likewise, men and women with certain medical conditions-like the absence of an indoor voice box-should have their phone usage closely governed. This, too, is a matter of public safety. Yesterday, for example, as I sat with the other increasingly irked patrons in that small waiting area listening to one side-the LOUD side-of a totally unnecessary conversation, it was all I could do to keep from calmly walking over to her and making that bud a permanent part of her ear canal. My new law idea could prevent such an incident. Purchasing a cell phone shouldn’t be any easier than buying a gun these days, especially if you’re going to use your phone as a weapon for crimes against humanity. I want medical records queried and background checks performed before any store clerk carelessly hands over one more cell phone to a member of the general public.

Where did the manufacturers come up with the Bluetooth® moniker, anyway? Wouldn’t “BlackEye” or “PurpleShins” be a more fitting name for this device, since that is what many of us wish to administer to its users when we encounter them in public places? And speaking of manufacturers, they could do us all a favor by turning back the technological clock a few years. I recall the infancy stages of the cell phone, when they were all hand-held and the size and weight of a cinder block. I say we revisit the good old days of cumbersome phone designs and make it highly inconvenient for this woman and her minions to annoy us in our car washes.

Would it have been too much to ask of her to simply take her conversation-and her outdoor voice-outside? Of course, when I say “outside,” I mean Wyoming…or Canada.

I probably sound bitter…and intolerant…and slightly disposed to violence. Perhaps. But this isn’t about me. I’m not the bad guy here. I just wanted my car washed. After all, texting and driving in a filthy car can be extremely distracting. Safety first. That’s my motto.

Stairway to Heaven

This is actually a post from my personal blog, but it's one of my faves, so I'm including the link here. Why a link instead of copying/pasting here? It's too annoying to try and include the pics, and the pics are very important! Anyway, click here if you're in the mood for self deprecating humor.

Assigned topic: Mixed Veggies

So, this week's (actually given 3 weeks ago...oops) assignment was mixed veggies (again, thanks A LOT, Jon. I'm practically giddy with anticipation for the next topic).

I was stumped. Beyond stumped, really. So here's what I came up with. It ended up being more of an exercise in brainstorming for ideas than a writing skills practice. Here goes nuthin:

Most of us have them, those five or six or twenty cans of mixed vegetables staring at us each and every time we open the pantry in search of an easy side dish. We buy them because they’re cheap (for a reason), knowing full well that they’ll never see the light of day once we get them home and place them on the shelf. When it’s time to make dinner, we inevitably pass over them like the poor fat kid we’d never pick for our dodge ball team in the third grade. For those of us finally ready to free up some cupboard space and make room for edible food, the following is a list of the top ten alternative uses for those nasty little bits of jumbled up produce:

1. Who needs ipecac? Use them to induce vomiting in a child who’s ingested a toxic substance.
2. Sprinkle them evenly around the perimeter of your home and you’ve got cheap pest control.
3. Keep nothing but those mixed veggies in your kitchen and you’ll lose those extra pounds in no time, since you’ll completely lose your desire to eat.
4. Give the kids a fun craft project. Find some thread and a needle and transform those mixed gems into some lovely Christmas tree garland.
5. Dry them out and make jewelry.
6. Rice at weddings has been so overdone. Throw the veggies instead.
7. Buy a goat. They’ll eat anything.
8. Forget spanking. Consider the forced consumption of mixed veggies as an effective method of child discipline.
9. Put them in fruitcakes to give away during the holidays. Sure, it’s gross, but let’s get real. It’s fruitcake. Your friends and family will never eat it anyway.
10. Make soup for people you hate.

If none of these seem like viable options, you may need to resort to more extreme measures, such as cooking and eating your mixed veggies. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Writing Assignment: Door to door salesmen

Where’s the Beef?

In my little corner of the planet, there’s more to spring than chirping birds, sun-shiny days, and blossoming blossoms. Spring has its drawbacks, too. It is often ushered in by an unwelcome hint of partially-thawed meat and super-strength cleaning products that waft in the cool April breezes. Yes, in my neighborhood at least, the phrase “spring has sprung” can sound more like a grim warning than a joyful declaration.

During one warm, seemingly blissful afternoon in particular, my kids feverishly work on their math homework. I stand staring blankly into my open refrigerator, indecisive about the evening meal. Outside, children romp innocently in the grass of a nearby park. All of us are blissfully unaware of the evil that lurks just around the corner.

The doorbell rings and instantly my kids abandon their studies to run to the door. I, too, feel a twinge of excitement. Is it another friendly neighbor bearing a gift of baked goodies…or perhaps a potential playmate wanting to whisk one or more of my children away for an hour or so? I open the door and my excitement immediately gives way to horror. It’s a salesman—one of those door-to-door kind. The warm weather brings them out like it’s brought a trail of ants to my laundry room. I sprayed the ants with a toxic substance. They went away. Use of that tactic on a human (I use that term loosely here) could have some legal ramifications. I’ve been meaning to check into it.

His opening line to me is an inquiry as to whether or not my family eats meat. Faster than I can sarcastically reply with, “Duh, of course we…,” the man is standing—and perspiring—in my kitchen, with all of his wares laid out in their marbled glory on my counter like a buffet spread at an Atkins convention.

As he works his protein-peddling magic, I come dangerously close to buying more meat than my family could ever consume in a year. In what can only be described as a temporary onset of insanity, I agree to make a purchase; one so hefty that it actually requires me to pay in installments. He excitedly trots out the front door and across the street to gather up the necessary documents from his MeatMobile-slash-office. My heart begins to pound out of my chest. My palms sweat and my knees knock together.

What am I thinking? Who finances meat purchases from a 350-pound guy in a Datsun? How do I get out of this? Am I really about to sign my life away for a few bacon-wrapped filets and a hundred or so pre-made burger patties? My panic swells as he turns from his truck to make his way across the street once again. This is it. I’m trapped. No turning back now.

Then it happens.

As the unwitting peddler takes a few steps into the street, his giddiness over the possibility of a profit seems to distract his mind from the “look both ways” rule. Without warning, like a lead-footed answer to a prayer, a bakery truck driver speedily rounds the corner and makes minced meat out of my salesman. I stare in disbelief for a moment or two, morbidly amused at the irony of being saved from burger bankruptcy by a bun-wielding bread truck. Disaster averted. I return the checkbook to my purse and shut the door.

Now, kids, what shall we have for dinner? I suddenly have a taste for pot roast.

Writing Assignment: Waterfalls

I’m pretty sure I’m a boring mom.

No, my little angels haven’t flat-out told me so, but based on their typically unenthusiastic responses to the activities I select, it’s the only conclusion I can draw.

I brainstorm. I stew. I fret. I plan. I even Google, for crying out loud. And still I come up short.

Now, before anyone starts thinking I’ve raised a litter of whiney little ingrates, I should give my crew their due credit. The typical “family fun day” scenario typically goes something like this:

I announce our planned activity.

They giggle and clap and hop on one foot excitedly (That’s the grateful part. It ends there).

They cram into their car seats and seatbelts and complain about drive times and seating arrangements for the next fifteen minutes.

We arrive at our destination and pay the arm and leg necessary for five people to gain admission to ANYTHING.

They proceed to fight, yell, cry, spill, escape, and sometimes vomit. Yes, I said vomit.

When all’s said and done, the car ride scenario repeats, but with the addition of griping and moaning over their disappointment in the fact that our adventure was either too short, too long, or too lackluster.

Finally, we arrive home just in time for me to rush to my underwear drawer, dig out my private stash of Double Stuf Oreos, and retreat to a bubble bath for the next two…maybe five…hours (oh, if only).

Now, on a more pleasant note, I wish to state for the record that my efforts do not always fail so miserably. As a matter of fact, this story has a happy ending. Mother Nature helped me out on this one.

On this particular day, I did my usual planning and stewing and announcing. The kids did their usual giggling and clapping and hopping. I was hopeful, but based on past experiences, cautiously optimistic. We were headed to the mountains for a picnic lunch and some fresh air. These are things I enjoy just as much as the next girl, but mountain drives and national forests are just teeming with opportunities for the usual escaping and vomiting I mentioned earlier. Like I said: Cautiously. Optimistic.

The picnic was packed. The kiddies were belted in place. The tension was mounting. As we made our way bumpily up the side of the mountain, I was bracing myself for the impending ulcer-like symptoms which always seem to accompany me on our family “fun” days.

But then, as we rounded a bend on that winding, jagged, mountain road, something magical happened. From the back seat, an excited four year old yelped, “WATER!”

Then three other enthusiastic voices chimed in, “Where? Where? WHERE?”

It took me a moment, but I finally spotted the object of their giddiness. Alongside our jam-packed minivan, a small stream followed the road, until it wound around, crossed in front of us, and made a measly five-foot drop to the ground below, where it once again formed a stream on the opposite side of our path. We had found a waterfall! Our very own little Niagara Falls in the rough, dry mountains of southern Arizona!

We eventually made our way over to wade barefoot in the chilly stream waters. Suddenly the picnic lunch was forgotten. The quarrels over who rides shotgun were momentarily set aside. I could not believe it. These kids were actually satisfied. No, these kids were happy! After all the past money and energy seemingly wasted on movie tickets, pizza parties, and carnival rides, it turns out the best entertainment really can’t be bought…or even planned.

Later that afternoon, as I drove in silence with my satisfied little customers snoring in the back seats, I offered my silent gratitude to Mother Nature for coming to my rescue, saving me from a life sentence as the World’s Most Boring Mom (from one mom to another, thanks…I owe you one)!