Thursday, December 31, 2009

So Take a Look, It's in a Book

Hi, I am the Pantless Wonder and I am a book-aholic.

I read the way other people flip on the television for background noise. I read the way other people watch sports, surf the web, play video games, or drink. It’s my passion. You see, my “little black book” is probably a little different than yours. Mine is filled with book titles and authors. I read in the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedroom, and every room in between. I can read on trains, planes, but not, strangely in automobiles. I can read while holding a baby and bottle, while walking on the treadmill, or while taking a bath (where I usually prefer magazines). When I am feeling down or particularly scatter-brained, I just re-read something, usually Terry Pratchett or Sharon Shinn.

Am I a little obsessive? Well sure, aren’t you about your hobby? You see, my love of reading started early in life. I can tell you with authority that the best Christmas gift I ever received was an entire box of Three Investigators books when I was a child. And I don’t mean a piddly boxed set. No, my friends, I mean the entire 43 books of the series. It took my parents months to gather all the books (pre-Internet of course) and I had to wait until mid-afternoon Christmas Day to even open it because my dad worked that year. Oh my, but it was worth the wait. I remember being speechless. I also remember that it took me until mid-August to finish them all.

My husband shares in my obsession, but sadly, our taste in reading rarely overlaps. Our shared to-be read shelf never contains more than ten books. He reads fantasy, I read sci-fi. He reads Vince Flynn and David Balducci. I read Neil Gaiman and Stephen L. Carter. We are only bonded in non-fiction, where we occasionally share business or sports books. This means of course, that our shelves groan under the weight of many different genres, but it also means that neither one can get in trouble for spending too much on books. In our house, there is no such thing.

This year, I read 59 books. I kept track. That doesn’t count re-reads, of which there were at least a dozen. My goal was to finish my to-be-read shelf before 2010, but I still have World War Z to get through (a Christmas gift) and the new Pat Conroy, which I keep trying to read, but keep closing due to my allergic reaction to flowery prose. Here are my top five reads of 2009:

1. The Post-Birthday World – Lionel Shriver
2. Sing Them Home – Stephanie Kallos
3. Lamb – Christopher Moore
4. Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates (a re-read, but still fantastic)
5. American Wife – Curtis Sittenfeld

And to be fair, here are the first books I wish I hadn’t bothered with:

1. Lord John and the Hand of Devils – Diana Gabaldon
2. Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time – Rob Sheffield
3. Look Again – Lisa Scottoline
4. Coronado – Dennis Lehane
5. What Dreams May Come – Richard Matheson

So with another year about to begin, I will start another list, rip a new page off my Book Lovers Page-A-Day calendar, add more titles to my little black book, and try to find even more time to read than last year. We’ll see how that goes – those pesky kids keep getting in the way. If you find a good book, pass it along. I keep every book I’ve ever read, but I’ll pass along the info to the next book lover I meet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Adventures in Bargain Shopping

Christmas is over. The month of anticipation and shopping is past. The elf has been returned to the North Pole. The wrapping paper and boxes are in garbage bags, the toys are neatly put away in the playroom, the various videos from Santa and President Obama (no really!) have been deleted from my e-mail, and the Christmas movies will all get one more watching before being deleted from my DVR. Today, we are having a day of rest. We are not leaving the house. My son and I are wearing pajamas. My daughter is in a princess dress. Of course, she isn’t wearing one of the new ones Santa brought her, but her old tried and true Aurora dress, which I believe counts as her personal version of slumming it.

Why do I mention this? I set the scene today to explain why on Saturday, the day after Christmas, I went to Target to make a return. My thought process was simple – crowds vs. kids. Either I braved the crowds alone on Saturday, or I took the kids with me on Monday. Never having ventured to a store on the 26th, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

The first clue that I was in trouble came before I even entered the parking lot. There is one way into the shopping center containing Target, and it shares a stoplight with the adjacent mall. I naively thought that the backup was due to heavy mall traffic. Sadly, this was not the case. Picture a maze. There is one true path to get to the center, but many shortcuts and side paths that lead nowhere. Now, picture the maze filled with cars going in every direction and you’ll have the basic idea. So, I did what any sane individual would do and I headed for the service corridor behind the stores, bypassing the entire parking lot. Yes, I would up on the opposite end of the store from its one door, but since I am not actually the Wicked Witch of the West (despite the fear that I would inherit the hat from my mother) I don’t melt in the rain and just walked the rest of the way.

Now, considering the amount of cars outside, I expected an equivalent number of people inside. Strangely, this was not the case. Customer service was empty and I made my return with ease. But then it got weird. There wasn’t anyone actually in most of the store, excepting the electronics department. I walked around for a few minutes and only saw the same one guy on crutches looking for something to buy with his gift card. He was having a hell of a time. The aisles were stripped bare of any form of merchandise. Entire racks hung empty, entire rows of shelves were vacant. There wasn’t a sale to be had because there wasn’t any stuff to buy. Even the Christmas section was devoid of anything worth more than three dollars. But where were all the people? The parking lot was packed! What the hell was going on? I finally realized the truth – the aisles weren’t crowded because there was nothing to stop and look at, so people just kept wandering around. The entire store was a slow-moving mass of people with empty carts and empty hands. As long as I kept rotating around the departments at the same pace as the rest, we’d all just keep circling each other, distant moons and planets all in the same orbit.

Back in my car, on the far, far side of the store, near nothing and no one, I witnessed another strange phenomenon. Every minute or so (I sat and watched to be certain) a car would drive around the back of the store, never to return. I pondered the possibilities. Alien abduction? Black hole? Large package pick-up? Time warp? Police trap? My choice was simple – drive into the fray and spend the next hour moving inch by inch out of the parking lot, or take a leap of faith and follow the disappearing cars. I chose wisely. Turns out, someone had opened the gate to a neglected service road that led into a residential area and I was out and on my way within 60 seconds.

What have I learned from this experience? No return is worth the bewildering emptiness of a store that has everything having absolutely nothing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ho Ho Ho

This poem is copyrighted by Neil Gaiman. Written by him as a Christmas card many years ago. I have borrowed/appropriated/stolen it for your benefit. Enjoy and have a merry holiday.

Nicholas Was...

older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter. He wanted to die.

The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not actually working in the factories.

Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night. During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves' invisible gifts by its bedside. The children slept, frozen into time.

He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas. His punishment was harsher.




Monday, December 21, 2009

Blocking the Box

I live in the Northeast, and as such, we got our asses kicked by a snowstorm this weekend. Saturday was just a whiteout of snow and wind and Sunday was a day of shoveling, tubing, and snowman-making. Schools were on delay (or in the case of my daughter’s preschool, closed) today. I didn’t understand this until I tried to go to the grocery store. The roads are still really poorly cleaned of snow, lots of two lane roads are now one, or maybe one and a half lanes wide, and since there is snow on the ground, all standard rules of driving are suspended. Oh, didn’t you know about that last part? Well, I didn’t either, but it is the only reason I can come up with for all the incredibly stupid driving I witnessed.

On an average day, it takes me 10 minutes to get to the grocery store. Today, it took 30. The one section of road that is normally two lanes was indeed only one lane, but as that stretch is maybe 10 yards long before it opened up, it shouldn’t have caused such a backup. Once near the store, there was only one cleared road leading up to it – the longest, curliest, most circumspect road possible. So as I took in the scenery, I noticed the two rows of cars double-parked immediately by the front doors, the better to avoid actually having to find a spot and maybe get wet feet. There is a parking lot in hell reserved for those people and it is as far away from the entrance as possible.

Once my shopping was complete (made easier by the bribe of a Polly Pocket for good behavior for my oldest and the promise of a cookie for my youngest), I headed out of the lot. That is when all rules of driving were apparently suspended. Let me give you an example. At a four-way intersection, a huge pick-em-up truck decided that the best way to beat the yellow light was to pull into the box. Essentially, this person parked directly underneath the stoplight and blocked traffic in three separate directions all for the pleasure of moving up two feet. Of course, since her truck was the length of three normal cars, she actually managed to back up traffic for two full cycles, all while looking steadfastly ahead as if she couldn’t hear the horns. And oh, were the horns a’playing. It didn’t matter if a car was six back from the turn, or two lanes over, laying on the horn seemed to be the best course of action. It also didn’t matter if the person in front of the horn-blower was powerless to move, was also using a horn, or was slowly turning puce due to increased blood pressure. Let that horn blow.

Let me share another example. Did you know that a four-door black Cadillac could fit into the blind spot of a Subaru? It can if it is trying to make a left turn from the right lane and seems to think the best way to do so is to drive directly into my right quarter-panel. I would have been happy to move forward and make my own left turn if the guy in front of me hadn’t decided his best course of action was to take up two full lanes of traffic by parallel parking as a means of trying to get into a non-existent right lane. I won’t even discuss how many people actually ran the red light as it suited them or how many of them were in such a hurry to get out and about today that they were unable to clean off the top of their car, leaving me to get whammed by chunks of falling snow at regular intervals.

Would you like to know the worst part of driving among this crowd? I couldn’t curse at them! Nope, I had two impressionable youngsters in the car and their daddy already taught them how to flip someone the bird. Instead, I had to suffice with muttering as quietly as possible under my breath and the occasional groaning noise. It really wasn’t the same.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Assimilate This!

So I just finished reading this awesome article about why the spaceships in V are totally inaccurate, use too much energy, would be impossible to hide from our satellites, and would wreak complete havoc on our atmosphere. I love that someone took the time and energy to debunk the spaceships, not the concept of alien invasion, extraterrestrials in general, or even the plot of the show - just the spaceships. Even better, in the comments section, people offered explanations based on “facts” from Independence Day and Armageddon.

God, I love geeks.

And let me make this perfectly clear. I am one. I am a Trekkie. I am also a Browncoat. I know that 42 is always the answer. I know that if I weren’t a Muggle, I would be in Gryffindor. I know that Death is not a skeleton with a scythe but a Goth-girl with an Ankh. I know that vampires live in the Rue Royal, Sunnydale, Forks, and Bon Temps. I know that too many people ignore the laugh, but that’s about standards. I know who watches the watchmen and it is always Sam Vimes. I know that it can’t rain all the time, that there is no spoon, and that these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. I know to speak friend and enter and that “my precious” isn’t always an endearment. I know about the Knights who say Ni, that every sperm is sacred, and that it is just a little mint. I know that the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners and that death cannot stop true love.

I am also a Gleek. That didn’t really fit in with the above paragraph, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

You see, I am proud to let my geek flag fly. During this weekend’s shopathon, I bought exactly two things for myself and they were both from the comic book store. I love that there is a group of people in this world who speak Klingon and Elvish and that others use “Frak” as a curse word. Everybody needs a hobby, right? I mean, there is a guy out there who believes he is Peter Pan (and actually found his Tinkerbelle, which really does prove there is someone out there for everyone.) I have started more conversations with people about Spike v. Angel or Bill v. Eric than I ever have about the Pats v. Colts or the Yankees v. Red Socks. It’s a great big world out there and if I have some small way to connect myself to another human being, then why can’t it be about whether spaceships would destroy our atmosphere? I mean, what would you rather talk about at a party?

[On a side note, there is nothing better than when the actor within the fandom fully participates in and enjoys it. If I didn’t love Nathan Fillion before (and trust me, I truly did), I loved him even more when he wore his Captain Mal costume on Castle. And today, Mark Salling posted an adorable little ditty on YouTube about his time on Glee that truly captures the love of the show, even from within. Shiny.]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whistle While You Work

Yet another Sister-in-Law Shopathon is complete. Another year without tears, bloodshed, or declined credit cards, so I think it was a very good year indeed. We spent a grand total of 20 hours shopping and talked to a multitude of clerks in a variety of stores, and as always, we hit every turn on the bell curve of sales staff helpfulness.

Let me make something very clear – I do not believe the customer is always right. I worked in retail. I know customers are slow, stupid, inept creatures put on this earth to make life hell for those who really want a pristine store filled with carefully folded and placed merchandise. However, what I also know is that a store without customers is a closed store. A closed store does not need employees. So yes, while it sucks monkey testicles that you had to be in at 4am on a Saturday so that you could open at 6am for idiots like me and my SILs, actually attempting to shoot laser beams out of your eyes at us isn’t very good business sense. You know it is too damn early to shop, we know it is too damn early to shop – the fact of the matter is, you are open and we are shopping.

On the flip side, let’s talk about Brian at Lady Foot Locker. My happy foursome walked in looking to buy one pair of sneakers for under $100. We walked out an hour later with two pairs of sneakers (both much more expensive than originally planned) and four pairs of shoe inserts for a grand total of almost $250. Why? Well, because Brian took excellent care of us. He made sure we had our feet measured. He knew, off the top of his head, which exact shoe was best and which inserts, brands, and sizes were best for each of us. He was no-nonsense, kept us amused and entertained, juggled us and at least three other parties of equal size without batting an eye, and never once seemed less than pleased to be at work and helping us. Was he happy to be at work and waiting on four women punch-drunk with caffeine? Doubtful. But he never acted anything less than kind and professional. Kudos to you Brian and I’m sure all four will be back to your store in the future.

On the other hand, the list of stores we now avoid due to inept and rude sales staff grows every year. Last year Kate Spade got added to that list when their sales staff acted like handling a coupon was akin to touching rotting meat and argued with us over the validity of said coupon. This year, the staff at the Gap earned our ire by acting as if all the customers were getting in the way of their restocking. Um. Hi! Can you move your ridiculous sweater folding cart out of the way of the merchandise please? No? Really? Ok, well it looks like a bomb went off in your store – maybe you could say, put shit back where it belongs first, and then fold it all? No? Moron. Victoria’s Secret has been on my list for years. It only took one sales member to say to me, in the most degrading and obnoxious tone of voice you can imagine that, “we don’t carry (long pause while contemplating the absolute horror of my needed cup) that size.” Well thanks beyotch, but in a couple of years, when you are getting plastic surgery to try to make your rack even half my size, I’ll be the one laughing all the way to Cacique.

Work is a four letter word. But if too many customers walk out of your store saying “fuck” instead of “sold” then you really should find another form of employment.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We are Family

As I have previously mentioned, I really hate shopping. Unless I am possession of a BN gift card and am happily trolling the bargain bins from own personal computer, I find the whole process tedious.

However, one weekend per year, I throw caution to the wind and shop until I drop. This weekend is called the Sister-In-Law-Shopathon. We all wear festive holiday shirts, and keep each other hydrated, fed, and aware of the closest bathroom facilities. Coupons are shared and exchanged, lists are double-checked, and several “dibs” are placed on items for our shared mother- and father-in-law.

The participants are my three sisters-in-law, whom, for the sake of brevity we will refer to as A, B, and C (and because those actually are their initials). C is married to the oldest brother and has been in the family the longest. She is a DINK and my joy and pleasure during the shopping trip is to goad her into excess spending. I always up-sell her on a wallet to match a new purse, shoes to match a new suit, or really anything I can have the joy of purchasing without actually have to either pay for or use. B is my husband’s sister. She has very strong opinions about which stores are to be avoided. She is a very particular shopper and can spend an entire day looking for one item. I’m next on the family chain and I am routinely left outside of stores, the only woman in a crowd of disgruntled men. A is the youngest member of the family and married to the youngest brother. She gets into trouble every year for not writing a list, but she is also the calmest and the hardest to incite to violence.

Day one is spent at the largest mall on the East Coast. We arrive a few minutes before the first anchor store opens its doors, allowing us to secure the best parking spots. This first hour before the mall properly opens is not spent in vain. We beeline to the fragrance counter, where the other three sniff bottle after bottle while I stand as far away as possible and try to amuse myself. (I am violently allergic to fragrance, so if I get too close, my resemblance to another rotund, bright-eyed, and red-cheeked holiday fave is a bit too close for comfort). Then, we head, en masse, over to the men’s department where we turn into a circus act, throwing various shirts and ties through the air to find the perfect measurements and colors to suit a very picky brother-in-law.

Once the mall is open for business, we wander at will. I frequently argue for walking the mall in a calm and orderly fashion. I am always overruled. Instead, we hit stores based on how long we will spend in them (Sephora), how heavy their wares are (Yankee Candle), or if we actually need them (The Children’s Place) vs. just want to wander in and make cooing noises at their merchandise (Burberry). Papal Dispensations are given for visiting the same store twice, for visiting multiple versions of the same store, or for stopping to put our bags into our cars. There are more potty breaks than seem right by law, everyone always has a shopping buddy, we always break for a mid-morning snack, a mid-afternoon meal, and a mid-evening dessert, and well, I have to say, a good time is had by all. A always winds up with a bra on her head, B always winds up being threatened with violence if she doesn’t just pick already, I am always the one calling for violence, and C is the one who, left alone for any length of time, will buy a new purse. By the end of day one, we will have spent 12 to 14 hours shopping.

Day two is spent at the outlets. We move a bit more quickly due to the brisk outdoor weather and the broiling indoor stores. The first store of the day is always Coach. A crappy food court and questionable rest-rooms mean that we eat and drink less on day two, which leads directly to an increase in crabbiness. The shopping is more urgent as we all want to find everything on our list, unable to face the possibility of even thinking of stepping foot in a store before the New Year. We always plan on ending the day at Neiman Marcus Last Call, but this has yet to happen. Instead, we always end our trip at Harry & David, our arms heavy with Moose Munch and various boxes of sweets and nuts, trying desperately to summon the energy needed to actually drive home. The actual length in miles isn’t that far, but the mental acuity needed to operate a moving vehicle is difficult to summon. I once got lost – on a drive I have taken dozens upon dozens of times – missing turn after turn, because I had lost all ability to discern east from west.

This year’s SILS is mere days away and I am trying to summon all my energy and good will to build a reservoir to help me suffer through a day spent among the teeming masses. I will smile at sales help, laugh with my SILs, and do everything in my power to find everything on my list. And when it is over, I will take a long hot shower, climb into bed, and thank the Lord my God that I have such fantastic sisters-in-law and that I do not have to work retail.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Could Frame Thy Fearful Symmetry

So, as it turns out, Tiger Woods is not only an animal on the course, but in the bedroom as well. Women have been crawling out from under barstools to claim that, they too, have caught the tiger by the tail. This is scandalous why, exactly? Correct me if I’m wrong, but rich/powerful man cheating on the wife isn’t exactly shocking. It should be. It would be nice if we lived in a world where it was, but it isn’t.

Our dumb little golfer decided to hit it on a different green and got caught. He got into a fight with his wife and tried to drive while aggravated while his wife (allegedly) attacked the car with one of his very own golf clubs. The media got wind, all the inconsistencies added up, and lo and behold, we have a story. As always, everyone involved is at fault (with the possible exception of the wife), but instead of accepting blame, they are simply asking for privacy. I love it when they do that. Privacy is when you keep your club in the caddy, but when you start swinging balls at every hole on the course, you’re going to have a little company. But please, no questions.

Sure, the story does tarnish Tiger’s image, but I always heard he was something of an ass anyway, and was so tight with a dollar he squeaked. The only thing his (alleged) cheating truly affects is his own marriage and his own family. Hopefully, he used condoms, because those ugly green jackets aren’t going to offer much protection from his extracurricular wet-weather activities. Really, all we can do is sit back and watch the spin. As fast as women pop up, his lawyers are smacking them back down. It’s Whack-A Ho, the adult version. In a few weeks, his wife will appear on his arm sporting a diamond the size of a Fabergé egg as her very own “Hello World” moment and all will be right with their world. But before his little scandal fades into obscurity, I do hope he has learned some lessons and in case, he hasn’t, I have spelled them out for him.

Dear Tiger,
Women aren’t divots, you can’t just stomp them back down and hope no one notices that your turf is no longer pristine. Also, I am not intimately acquainted with the length of your driver (which apparently puts me in the minority), but your, ahem, long drives could miss the windmill at a mini-course and still attract the attention of all and sundry. Keep it in your golf bag. The type of woman who wants you to swing at her hole is only after the flag – she doesn’t care about par, or choice of club, she just wants the bragging rights. If you really need help handling your club, hire a caddy. And last but not least, marriage isn’t a “gimme” – your wife will notice if you stop aiming. Next time, you’ll be lucky if the only thing you lose is your balls.


P.S. – These pants are not coming off for you.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Dreamed a Dream

So I took my daughter to the see The Nutcracker this past weekend. I thought it would be a nice mother/daughter bonding activity and with her turning five, the time was right. My daughter believes that every outing requires a princess dress, so she was in her finest Snow White attire. I stuck to jeans and a sweater, but with a tiara to get into the spirit of the occasion.

The premise of the play is simple; a little girl falls asleep and dreams about her newest Christmas gift. But what kind of screwed up, psychedelic, Codeine-induced dream is this girl having?

Act I is as follows: there is a party, a guest arrives, does some magic, and presents the little girl of the house with a wooden nutcracker dressed as a soldier. In the production we saw, Drosselmeyer (the magician/funny uncle) brought three full-sized creatures to life to show off his mad magical skills, one of which was a gorilla. The gorilla then danced and fought a toy soldier over a marionette. This magical demonstration receives polite applause from those on stage. Um, are you people high? Is the eggnog spiked? Is there more than incense in the air? The toys just performed a pas de deux! Does this seem like a normal party trick?

Well, here is where things get even stranger. Clara falls asleep (or does she?) and finds herself surrounded by mice, which grow into ROUS’s for no apparent reason and, led by a Mouse King, attack. The Nutcracker comes to life and a battle ensues. Clara wounds the Mouse King with a shoe, the Nutcracker finishes him off with a knife, and the wooden solider magically turns into a prince. Again, in our production, things took a turn for the surreal as all the small soldiers ran back and forth across the stage waving teeny tiny bayonets. Warfare never looked so fun. Then at the end of the battle, this huge hunk of a man showing his gluteus maximus to maximum effect arrives to whisk Clara off to the land of Sugar Plum Fairies. Is that even legal?

Act II is where things really go off the rails. Basically, Clara sits on her fanny while various creatures and people dance for her. You try explaining what is happening during this act to a child. I dare you. Mine couldn’t get past the idea of a “Plumber Fairy.” I mean, the cast of characters for this act include the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Marzipan, and the Lamb corps, the Polichinelles, the Russians, and the Waltz of the Flowers. What on God’s great green and abundant earth is a Polichinelle? (Please don’t tell me. I looked it up. It still doesn’t make any sense.) During this act, every type of ethic stereotype is brought out, plus the added incongruity of women dancing with farm animals. (Our little dancing lambs were cute as pie and absolutely stole the show from the principal dancers who probably dream of serving them with a mint sauce and a nice Chianti.) Of course, my child called these the Mary Fairies and liked them best of all. There is dancing, there is more dancing, there is absolutely no plot, more dancing occurs, and then Clara wakes up.

The end.

Seriously, what the hell is this play about? Why is this poor child dreaming of vengeful rodents, men with Ken doll genitalia, and exotic dancers? Does this seem normal to you? If I had a dream like that, I’d be scared witless. If my child told me she had a dream like that, I’d take her to therapy. Upon leaving, my daughter asked to buy a Nutcracker for her brother. My guess? She wants to make sure the house is defended, but doesn’t want the damn thing to come to life in her room.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sounds of the Seasons

Did you ever wonder why all radio stations stop transmitting holiday music on noon of Christmas Day? It always seemed odd to me. When I was little, driving home from my aunt’s house, I would be overjoyed with my haul of gifts and wanted Christmas to last forever. As I grew older and actually had to give instead of just receive, my thoughts changed a bit. As my shopping grew from a mad dash on Christmas Eve, to a full weekend spent with my sisters-in-law, to a month of planning, lists, and making sure each kid got an equal amount spent on them, I have come to the realization that the reason Christmas music ends at noon is because everyone is completely and totally over it.

In my area, a local radio station began its all-holiday playlists a few weeks ago. Many of them will wait to follow suit until right before the holiday, giving all their radio personalities a few days off and making interns do all the work. However, most will start incorporating Christmas music into their regularly scheduled programming. This is the point where you realized how completely deranged and depressing songs about the season can be, especially if you listen to country music. Take your average country song, add in Jesus, multiply the number of deaths, disease, or abandonment, and subtract any sense of humor, and you have a country Christmas song. How on earth someone can sing about adopting an orphan or making sure a kid has enough money to buy his dying mom red shoes (um, kid, I’m not sure she’s going to need them where she is going, but I guess it is the thought that counts) is absolutely beyond me. If Grandma gets run over by a reindeer on a country station, you can bet the song talks about her funeral and how the family sat down to eat her last batch of biscuits with tears in their eyes. There is an actual song about unemployment and not being able to afford gifts. Boy, doesn’t that just fill you with joy and cheer?

I prefer my Christmas songs with a little less death and disillusionment. We are celebrating the birth of Santa and the retail world finally moving into the black, right? I want music that is harmonious with the sound of cash registers. (My husband does work for an e-retailer after all.) I want music that makes me shake my bells and helps my kids know that Christmas is a season of fun and laughter. As previously mentioned, I don’t shop on Black Friday (not until Matt Damon goes on sale at Walmart), so instead, I will hang out in my pajamas, bake cookies, and listen to my own Christmas playlist. And since it is the season of sharing, here is what I’ll be listening to this year. Feel free to share your own favorites as mine tends to be a little heavy on the Harry and a little light on anything sung in the past decade.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – The Christmas Caroler
Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
Gabriel’s Message – Sting
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayle Peevey
You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft
Christmas In Hollis – Run-DMZ
The Little Drummer Boy – Lou Rawls
The First Noel – Andy Williams
Linus & Lucy – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – B2K
Christmas in Sarajevo – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman – Barenaked Ladies
Frosty the Snowman – Harry Connick Jr.
The Happy Elf – Harry Connick Jr.
The Chanukah Song – Adam Sandler
I Pray on Christmas – Harry Connick Jr.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Bruce Springsteen
Opera of the Bells – Destiny’s Child
(It Must Have Been) Ole Santa Claus – Harry Connick Jr.
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Handel’s Messiah

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas

So, the official start of the Christmas season in my house is Black Friday. I do not shop, I decorate. My house is fully prepped and ready for Santa before December even starts. The year my daughter was born, all of my Christmas cards were pre-addressed and stamped before I went into the hospital! It’s a type of madness, I know, but my middle name is Noel for Christ’s sake (pun completely and totally intended), so really, I just can’t help myself.

However, even I was unprepared for the torrent of questions about Santa and Christmas that have been unleashed upon me by my almost five-year old. See, a few weeks ago, a friend shared the story of the Elf on the Shelf. Apparently, a little elf is sent from Santa into your house and essentially spies on your children, reporting back to the S-Man every night. The parent changes the location of the elf every day, further convincing the kids that he does indeed leave the house to file his report. The elf earns its wings, or hat, or ears or something if the kids are good. I’m not too clear on the details because, instead of spending $30 on Amazon for the book and accompanying elf, I unearthed a Care Bear in a Santa suit and decided it would do. So, like any good parent, I prepared my children for a month of tyranny and told them the elf would arrive after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, my daughter found him hiding in my pajama drawer and the elf (Santa Oopsie Bear) has begun his reign of terror a bit early. (Side note – a friend has a velvet Santa hanging in her dining room for this very purpose, but instead of scaring them one month per year, he’s there year round. It’s genius.)

Now, I am treated to hourly questions about the magic of Santa. Why does he land on the roof? How does he fly? Is the North Pole above the moon? Above the stars? Who gets presents? What does Santa do the rest of the year? What is coal? Why are there different Santas? What is an elf? How does Santa Oopsie Bear move around the house? How does he get to the North Pole and back while I am sleeping? What time does he leave? Does he get back before Daddy wakes up? Does he fly? Does he ride on a little sled? Does he take a helicopter? Will he be here every day? How does he watch us from different rooms? How does he know when we go to sleep? What happens after Christmas? Will he go to another family? Will we get a different elf next year? What does he tell Santa? How does he tell Santa because stuffed animals don’t talk? And on, and on, and on.

Then she asks the same questions again two hours later. This has been going on for three days.

My father tells a charming story of when my sister was very small, he got very angry with her and said that if she didn’t behave, he was going to set Santa on fire when he tried to come down the chimney. As you can imagine, this did not go over well. But now, as a parent myself, I can totally see how killing Santa seemed like a good idea. It is not even Thanksgiving and I am already knee-deep in reindeer poo. I simply can’t sustain this much good cheer. No one can. It’s unhealthy.

The worst part is that as I answer such important questions as how does Santa Oopsie Bear turn the doorknob and why don’t we just leave the front door open and unlocked on Christmas Eve – I actually have to remember what I say. If I mistakenly give a different answer the second, third, or fifteenth time the question is asked, then all hell breaks loose. It’s like Lost, if I get too detailed, I’ll just entangle myself five questions down the road. I have 32 days until Christmas and I’m not sure Santa Oopsie Bear is going to make it. There might be a tragic accident involving driving while drinking eggnog or a heartbreaking overdose of sugar cookies. I hear that white powder can kill you. He might accidentally get stuffed in a turkey or succumb to an allergic reaction to cranberries. I’m not sure, but it is possible only one of us will last through this Christmas season. The elf might be on the shelf, but it will be sitting next to an empty bottle of Jack.

Friday, November 20, 2009

ABsolutely Fabulous

I am way, way too tired to write a coherent blog post about my experience seeing New Moon last night. Suffice to say, a very good time was had by all, it was a very late night, and the sight of Jacob's rockin' bod will be rockin' my dreams for a very, very long time to come.

So, in the spirit of the upcoming holiday, here is my list of things that have happened in the last 12 hours that I am thankful for:

… my husband, who thought the whole idea of me going to see a midnight movie was hysterical and whose only request was that I make him brownies before I left

… J and J who happily picked me up

… Bahama Breeze, whose absolutely fantastic Chocolate Island dessert gave me the sugar rush needed to get through a very long night

… getting into our actual theater an hour early so we didn’t have to wait in a stifling hallway with hundreds of hormonal teenage girls and pre-menopausal women

… MM, whose cell phone picture got us through a momentary lull in conversation

… coffee, popcorn, and Junior Mints

… the lengthiest previews ever, which made us really appreciate when the movie finally started (at 12:40)

… the fact that the movie theater was trying to be environmentally friendly by drastically reducing any air flow or air conditioning during the length of the movie

… the lack of squealing when the movie actually started

… the absolutely dreadful acting on the part of Kristen Stewart, who apparently cannot force a tear and whose entire acting method is based on either blinking steadily or breathing heavily. She did occasionally look like she was passing a gallstone, so I should at least add that to her acting repertoire.

… Robert Pattinson’s hair, which was by far the most interesting thing about him in this movie

… Taylor Lautner’s abs

… the scene when Jacob first takes his shirt off

…the suspension of disbelief necessary to help me forget Jacob is only 17

… the scene where Jacob stands in the rain, half-naked, and shows off his extensive shoulders

… the CGI, which allowed the werewolves to look like real creatures by saving money on the sparkle effect (I could do better with Vaseline and glitter)

… the term “blue balls” which perfectly describes Jacob’s state of being for the entire movie

…the scenes in Italy, which allowed Edward to be shirtless and prove, once and for all, that Jacob’s six-pack is the true body to die for

… the women in the rows behind me, who could not stop themselves from moaning in pleasure whenever Jacob took his shirt off and who actually seemed disappointed when Bella chose Edward

… the rain, which woke me up quite nicely after the boiling hot theater

… the flat tire, which really made the night blog-worthy

… healthy self-esteem, which allowed me not to mind when people ignored my trying to wave down help while standing in the pouring rain wearing a Team Werewolf shirt so tight you couldn’t even see the W or the F

…the Cherry Hill police, who told me to call a tow truck (duh) and the AMC security who told me to call a cab (double duh)

… the woman who heard me beg for help and actually told her boyfriend to drive around the parking lots until they found me to offer assistance

… Evan Almighty, the best, most wonderful Good Samaritan ever, who gave us a lesson in how to fix a flat tire all while getting soaking wet in the middle of the night and was completely cheerful the entire time

… puppy pads, which soaked up most of the water in my jeans and saved my ruining J’s car

… my Fossil watch, which is miraculously still running after being immersed in water

… not getting pulled over on the way home since two out of the three women in the car were no longer wearing shirts

… the warm welcome from my daughter when I finally came home at 4am

… my husband turning on the heated blanket when I finally crawled into bed and who even cuddled up to the soaking, frozen mess that was his wife

… the two hours of sleep I did manage to achieve

… my hair still being wet when I woke up, saving me from taking a shower

… finding pair of dry sneakers on my way out the door

… the brownies my husband saved for me, thus giving me the energy to get to Mommy & Me

… a great night spent with friends, a good story, and the 38 minutes of screen time devoted to Jacob’s almost naked body

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bite Me!

The Twilight series is like a greasy meal after a night of drinking. For some, it is eaten quickly, it hits the spot, and it lingers in the system. For others, it is impossible to choke down and is pushed away quickly. Sadly, like much in life concerning food, I just can’t get enough of it.

I am a fan of vampires. I’ve read my Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, and even Elizabeth Kostova. I am obsessed with Buffy, liked Angel, love True Blood, and won’t watch The Vampire Diaries for love or money.

Let’s get something straight right off the bat – The Twilight vampires are the saddest, most ludicrous bunch of vampires ever. What the hell kind of vampire doesn’t drink blood? Only in the Pacific Northwest would you get a freaking vegetarian vampire. They also get to gallivant around during the day – as long as they aren’t in direct sunlight – at which point they sparkle. Yup. Sparkly vampires. Gag me with a stake. They are immortal, but choose to spend their unending years in high school. I guess they have never heard of homeschooling or college. These vampires even have superpowers, but only the touchy-feely ones.

The story itself isn’t very original. Boy meets girl, boy wants to eat girl, boy and girl fall in love. Edward is particularly intrigued by his inability to read Bella’s mind. Sadly for him, he never realizes it is because nothing much is going on inside of it. As for Bella, she never once thinks it is creepy that a centurgenarian is interested in a teenager. The second book introduced Jacob, a werewolf with a taste for depressed, suicidal brunettes. He and Bella become friends without benefits and the romantic triangle is set that will carry through the rest of the series.

It really is that simple. Oh sure, there are bad vampires, breakups, makeups, bloodshed, tears, and a fourth book that is so stupid and ridiculous that it will one day get its own post. And yet, the Twilight series has become a phenomenon. I could try to explain it, analyze it, and understand it, but I’d rather just enjoy it. It’s goofy fun. And tonight, I’ll be attending a midnight showing of New Moon to continue the saga of the lion falling in love with the lamb and millions of women falling in love with a scruffy Brit with a bathing problem. But I’ll tell you a secret; I’ll be wearing a Team Werewolf t-shirt, because Oz, well, Oz is my homeboy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chicken Little Saw a Pig

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate; that is the question.

I have discussed immunization with every one of my friends, every physician I know (regardless of their area of medicine), everyone who has an opinion, I have asked it of them. Well, everyone except my mom, who usually gets her information from a “teacher at school who knows someone who works in a doctor’s office and says . . . “

And why have I repeatedly pestered people about this topic – well because the media, as usual, has dropped the ball. It is way more fun to scare the tuna salad out of people with shock and “aw” stories. Take for example, the news story about the “Washington Redskins Cheerleader Seriously Crippled after Being Vaccinated.” It showed a young woman, in the prime of life, completely incapacitated. She could no longer walk forward, only backward. She could only talk normally while running. She claimed her rare disorder was brought about by her seasonal flu vaccination. Not even the HINI, just the seasonal shot.

But here’s the thing, none of the actual words in the headline were true.
Let’s parse the sentence, shall we? For starters, she wasn’t a Washington Redskins cheerleader. She was trying out for the team. That’s like saying I am the next American Idol because I sang in front of Simon once. So, the next part is that she was seriously crippled. Well, that’s a stumper. What constitutes being crippled? She participated in an 8k marathon, albeit while running backward, which seems like a rather, um, healthy thing to do (except the backward part, because that is just freaky.) She claimed that listening to Coldplay relieved her symptoms, but rap and techno made them worse. Well, that settles it then, a life lived only listening to Chris Martin but no Kanye, truly is a disability.

The last part of the sentence is the “gotcha” moment, “after being vaccinated.” She got the shot, she got sick, therefore, the shot made her sick. Generation Rescue immediately jumped on her bandwagon, using her as an example of why people should not get vaccinations. Save the cheerleader, save the world. (Really people, do you normally seek medical advice from former Playboy bunnies? Jenny McCarthy may have a heart, and does indeed have a healthy set of lungs, but that doesn’t mean she has a brain.)

But here is the really large problem with the above statement. She didn’t get sick from the shot. In fact, her illness wasn’t external, it was internal. It was in her head. And like any good faked illness, she was “cured” by a placebo. Was she intentionally faking? Probably not, but something caused her to believe she was so sick, she could no longer function. And then someone else made her believe they had a cure, so she was able to get better.

Obviously, good reporting would show that the link between the shots and her illness was negligible at best, imaginative at worst. But I don’t expect good reporting from Inside Edition, which is where the story ran nationally after it was picked up from its regional source. But then it went viral, at which point I do expect a better news source to come forward and point out the flaws, expose the facts, and uncover the truth. When Fox News is the only one willing to step up, you know there is a big, big problem. So how ‘bout next time, when the health of a nation is supposedly at risk, you don’t tell people that broken umbrellas may allow them to get wet, or that a little rain doesn't hurt anyone. Instead, you tell them to jump the hell onto the ark and ride to safety.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The List

It’s been a long, slow week. My husband has worked ridiculous hours (even for him), the kids are still recovering from their return to reality, and I have once again hit a wall in terms of dieting and exercising. What is a woman to do? My tub isn’t big enough for Calgon to take me away, but my imagination, it is boundless.

Let me explain, on season three of Friends, Ross and Rachel create the “Freebie List,” otherwise known as the one where they got to pick five different celebrities they could sleep with without it being considered cheating. My list is my screensaver. I take it very seriously. Realistically, I do understand that a hot, rich, celebrity will have no interest whatsoever in a medium-sized housewife from South Jersey, no matter how well she is stacked. However, I can dream, right? I have friends who keep their lists on their fridge, other friends who couldn’t come up with five celebrity names at gunpoint, and friends who have Robert Pattinson on their lists (and that man is in serious need of a bath). So, in descending order, here are my Top Five.

  1. Matt Damon. He’s been number one for years. Years. I don’t think he’s moved from his perch since Good Will Hunting. The more I read about him, the more I love him. And if you haven’t seen Sarah Silverman’s “I’m F’ing Matt Damon” video, then hie thee ho over to YouTube. If you cannot fall madly in lust with the man after watching it, then, well, I’m not sure we can be friends. Seriously.

  2. David Boreanaz. As the locals know, he is the son of weatherman Dave Roberts. As Joss fans know, he was Angel. And boy, what a yummy angel he was. Sure, he couldn’t act worth a damn in the early seasons, but he got better, especially when he was Angelus. On one of the first episodes of Bones, he walked into the room without a shirt and smiling and I kid you not, I must have rewound it a dozen times. Shirtless and smiling? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.

  3. Matthew McConaughey. Now, I realize that the man is a moron. I think he has been so stoned for so long that there isn’t much gray matter left. However, I have no interest in his mind, just his body. And if he does have to talk, at least he can do so in that soft southern accent. He’s best in his earlier roles in A Time to Kill or Contact (specifically the scenes in which he is wearing a sweater), but is still very easy on the eyes.

  4. Kiefer Sutherland. That voice. The gravel coated in velvet voice that issues forth from my television every other commercial. The voice alone puts him on my list. And while I realize that he’d have to stand on a box to reach eye level, I don’t plan on doing much standing with him, so in this case, size really doesn’t matter. He does have his issues. In I Trust You to Kill Me he did indeed attack a helpless Christmas tree while drunk out of his mind, but it really does just add to his charm.

  5. Boston Rob Mariano. I didn’t think twice about him during Survivor: Marquesas, but he did grab my attention during Survivor: All Stars. How do you not love a guy who is so charming, that even though everyone knew he lied, they all believed he wouldn’t lie to them! It was awesome. He treated “Am-buh” like gold, screwed Lex, and while he didn’t win the game, he did win the girl. I loved him on The Amazing Race, Amazing Race: All Stars, and Rob and Amber Get Married, which I will even publicly admit that I DVRd. I should also note that this is the one man on the list that my husband wants to veto.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are five other honorable mentions. They are only on the list because of a specific role or a specific moment, not just on general principle like the above five.

  • Johnny Depp. I have a photo of him taken by the paparazzi back when he was filming Pirates. He is standing on a yacht, shirtless; holding a glass of wine, with his face turned toward the sun, and just seems to be soaking up the moment. It’s decadent and divine.
  • Jon Bon Jovi. He did an episode of Crossroads with Sugarland and while they are performing, he watches Jennifer Nettles in a way that is not at all professional. In fact, he looks like he is about to lick her like a cream sickle. It almost made me wish I could sing.
  • Alexander Skarsgård. In his role as Eric, he is given the absolute worst clothing to wear. Flip flops and a green t-shirt? Track pants and a razor-back tee? On Eric, they are mouthwatering. And when he has nothing to wear, well, that’s another post entirely.
  • Harry Connick Jr. When he sings, he’s sexy. When he acts, not so much.
  • Mark Salling. My new boyfriend. He sings, he has a Mohawk, and while he plays a teenager on television, I am happy to report that in this case, 17 will not get you 20.

Who is on your list? Come on, I know you have one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Save the Date

Today is my eighth wedding anniversary. I married my darling husband in Falmouth, Massachusetts, at 5:30 pm in St. Elizabeth Seton church. There were many tears, a few averted fights, and, I believe I can safely say that a good time was had by all. While I can list all the things that made the day memorable, I will instead focus on why my husband is the best man ever – for me. Not for you – you can’t have him. He’s all mine.

We have a lot of inside jokes. On our honeymoon, a man fell off a barstool into the pool while calling for his wife. All these years later, we will still randomly call out “Terri” to each other. It is not uncommon for one of us to intone, “You choose poorly” or “We’ve gone plaid.” I can actually say, “Ok, I'll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time,” and he will know where I mean. I understand him even when he says entirely the wrong thing. For example, did I throw him off the escalator at Macy’s when he referred to my pregnant body as having “girth?” No, I did not. I wanted to, but it was easier to laugh instead; not as much lifting involved. Now, I’m sure you all have the same types of jokes with your significant other, but I don’t understand them. I just understand the ones I have with mine. And, “Hey, I have a great idea for a centerpiece,” will make me laugh out loud every time.

I know I should be more modest, but I have a great rack. And luckily for me, my husband is very appreciative of it. Given the choice between saving the ta-tas or saving the planet, my husband will bid adieu to the fishies before he’d ever say goodbye to the bubbies. He could care less if I wear makeup, heels, or a skirt. In fact, he recently told me the only side effect of my wearing heels is that I walk slower. Clean, fresh-smelling, and busty, that’s really all he asks for in his wife. As for him, I could care less if he shaves, only mention haircuts when it gets to the Hawk from Buck Rogers stage, and expect ties only at weddings and funerals.

And, while he has been known to bring home flowers for no reason and he is very free with endearments, my husband knows that real romance does not come in a Hallmark card. On bad days, it may arrive in the form of a Chik-Fil-A shake. On others, it may be a Diet Pepsi, an extra 20 minutes of sleep, emptying the dish washer, or turning on the heated blanket. In our house, romance is in the thoughtful little things, not the forced big ones. Tonight, he won’t be home til almost 10. I’ll have a little cake waiting and that’s all we’ll need. (Of course, if we hadn’t spent all weekend celebrating, I’d probably want more than a cake.)

Now, I could go on and on and on about all the goofy ways my husband is perfect for me, but I won’t. (Well, just a little: he’s an excellent father, a good man, and his snoring could wake the dead, yet it doesn’t wake me.) Instead, let’s just say that unless you are on his Top Five, I’ll fight you for him. Happy Anniversary sweetie and let’s have dozens and dozens more.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What I did on my Kid-Free Vacation

So, my children were gone for a five-day stay at Chez Pocono, where they were treated to gourmet meals, personal one-on-one attention, luxurious accommodations, and a bath/bed routine that is Olympian in length. They love going, their grandparents absolutely adore and worship them, and I got to spend some quality time both alone and with my husband.

Day 1
The first thing I did when my kids left? Slept. I crawled into bed and indulged myself with an afternoon nap, complete with a heated blanket. When I roused myself from my peaceful slumber, I immediately put on music and set to cleaning. To a SAHM, actually getting to clean without someone underfoot “helping” to sweep by scattering crumbs everywhere, “helping” to dust while knocking things over, and screaming in terror at the vacuum, is close to heaven. (Actual heaven would be getting someone else to clean for me). As an added bonus, I didn’t have to listen to Taylor Swift. I rocked out to songs from Glee (originals only, except for the completely overly enthusiastic cover of It’s My Life) and cleaned the toilets with joy. Loud, sing-along, joy. One lost World Series and a seriously depleted Halloween candy bowl later, and the day ended.

Day 2
I won’t even admit to what time I awoke for fear that several local friends will come to my window with pots and pans next time the kids leave town. After accomplishing several small chores, I indulged in something I have only seen in movies: I went to a coffee house to read a book. I ordered a gingerbread latte, extra whipped cream, found a chair by the window and settled in. Two hours later, I went home, poured myself a free beverage, sat on my own couch and continued reading. Survey says – home is better, and significantly less expensive. Come nightfall, I set out on the Tour of Toys, Part I (Shop Hard), with my husband. I ixnayed a tank, complete with several types of weapons, that would surely be useful in our war against the dust bunnies. He said no to anything with Bratz on it. Once home, my husband indulged himself by screaming full volume at the television. I left him to his armchair coaching (which must have worked because the final was 16-3, Hokies) and went to bed.

Day 3
Once again, I awoke so late in this time zone that I was wasn’t even early in the next one. I spent the day being highly unproductive. I dithered. I dallied. I putzed and I puttered. I might even have lollygagged. Eventually, I gave up on being industrious in any way and climbed into bed with my heated blanket and another book. When the husband arrived, we set off on the Tour of Toys, Part II (Shop Harder), and then went out to a delicious early anniversary dinner. Well, the anniversary part was early, dinner itself required almost a 90 minute wait and didn’t end til 11pm. But Iron Hill Brewery has excellent raspberry wheat beer that helped to pass the time.

Day 4
The first words I heard were, “Hon, FYI but it’s __ am!” And yes, my husband actually used the phrase FYI first thing in the morning. He was so amazed at the time that he lapsed into corporate speak in the bedroom. In the car, we actually got to listen to NPR! (I realize I should have spent the time having meaningful dialogue with my husband, but really, three whole podcasts of Wait! Wait! is too good to pass up). We then spent the day walking around Cape May, buying art, eating food samples, and giggling over how easy it all was without children. Hell, most of the stores didn’t even ALLOW strollers! Perfect weather, good food, good buys, and no whining. Really, is there anything better? We concluded the day with the Tour of Toys, Part III (Shop with a Vengeance), and a few episodes of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit.

Day 5
The honeymoon was over. A long, long list of necessary chores awaited us. The Tour of Toys, Part IV (Live Debt-Free or Shop Hard), gave us the final Christmas lists for Santa. My husband headed outdoors for his manly duty of leaves and grass while I headed indoors for my womanly duty of groceries and toiletries. Both of us would have preferred to watch Howie and Terry. But with T-minus three hours until my children arrived home, battered with lack of sleep, broken from all routine, and beastly from lack of discipline, there is no more time for play. My stay-cation has ended.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving to Greener Pastures

I grew up in New York. My state of birth has two football teams, two hockey teams, and two baseball teams. I don’t care enough about basketball to know if we have two of those or not. But growing up, sports had absolutely zero impact on my life. My father has never willingly watched a sporting event. My high school had sports, but I was in drama. My college had sports, but I was too busy drinking during Homecoming to notice. My best friend married a guy who was into sports and I mocked her. Then I met my husband and I was introduced to football.

I cut my teeth on Michael Vick and the Hokies. I learned the basics of the game by watching Beamer Ball. It was a slow indoctrination by a passionate fan. My husband once cheered so loudly, and so suddenly, that the sleeping cat jumped two feet off the couch and did a full rotation in the air before landing. Another time, when he was soothing my son to sleep during a game, he very carefully placed the baby on the couch, jumped up and down like a man possessed and then, as if nothing had happened, picked the baby back up and continued rocking him quietly.

When we moved to South Jersey, I was introduced to a football team with fans so violent that the Vet had a jail built right into it. These are people who once threw snowballs at Santa. When we dressed my daughter as an Eagles cheerleader during a Halloween when the team was on a losing streak, people talked smack to her and pretended they weren’t going to give her candy. She was two. Eagle’s fans are rabid, mean, and utterly devoted.

And I am very happy that they can now go back to their regularly scheduled programming of hating on McNabb and second-guessing Reid. All of this happy-go-cheery Phillies fandom has been very off-putting to me. The Eagles just spanked Eli Manning – again – and nary a word of it was spoken anywhere. Spanked! Manning! Again! No one cared. And worse, when the Phillies inevitably lost to the Yankees last night, I awoke to find a flurry of FB updates with “Good Job!” and “Wait til next year!” Are you f-ing kidding me? Atta boys are for dogs and small children. When a professional sports team whiffs it in the final games of the World F-ing Series ™, you don’t pat them on the back and tell them to try again – you rend clothing (preferably theirs) and scream for ousters, trades, and heads on platter (preferably tarnished). People are already talking about spring training, which truly does show that hope really is eternal. So please, I beg of you Philadelphia, learn a lesson from Star Trek and put your Phillies gear away. Nothing good ever comes from wearing a red shirt.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Taking Organic One Organ to Far

So, I was catching up on my stash of Time magazines during the interminable baseball game last night and came upon an article that caught my attention. It was demented and sad and shows just how far people can take a good idea and warp it past all recognition. The sex toy industry is now going green.

Yup, you read that right, the recycling movement has moved into the bedroom. Now, I am a proponent of doing anything you want in the bedroom, provided it is between two consenting adults. However, if both adults are stupid, then they shouldn’t be having sex and possibly diluting the gene pool with their offspring. If you want to save energy, light a damn candle. Don’t dim the lights hoping to diminish your electric bill. In fact, if you are worried about your electric bill during sex, then maybe you should just read a good book instead.

They article listed several items that would add to your sexual and environmental enjoyment. For example, you can purchase a cruelty-free whip. This is either the best example of an oxymoron or the best example of irony I have ever found in a magazine, I really can’t decide. Another item mentioned is the hand-crank vibrator. I am as DIY as the next person, but in such a case, surely it would be easier to just take matters into your own hands, as it were. The logistics of such a device are baffling. In fact, I can imagine few things less erotic than the image that calls to mind. It probably sounds like a cross between a pencil sharpener and a can opener, which just can’t be conducive to reaching your happy place (unless you are grooving to a mental image of Julia Child in a schoolmarm outfit).

Some things should not be reusable. Condoms are definitely high on that list. Luckily, while organic condoms are not meant to be recycled, they are vegan-friendly. These condoms “replace the dairy protein in latex condoms with cocoa powder.” According to the author, they don’t taste like chocolate, which just seems like a crying shame and the waste of a potential marketing goldmine.

You can also go green in your choice of birth control. The Catholic Church is now telling its believers that Natural Family Planning is organic because you aren’t adding chemicals to your body. The fact that by following this method, you could actually grow people in your body is beside the point. In fact, even the article states that the best way to save the planet is to have fewer children – but isn’t it more fun to say you are acting on behalf of the planet than to actually do so?

So, the next time you prepare to make love, consider if you are making the planet a better place first. And if the answer is no, direct your attention to Pyrex toys, which can be microwaved for added pleasure. Throw some popcorn in and you’ll even have post-coital snacks ready for half the energy usage. Now that’s putting the “O” into organic.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Walking Happy Meals

Now, as we have all learned from Buffy, Halloween is traditionally a quiet night for vampires and the supernatural community. It is far too commercial and crass for them. However, zombies are not aware of such regulations. In the spirit of keeping everyone safe, I have hereby completely plagiarized some basic knowledge to help keep you and yours alive during any All Hallows Eve based zombie attack.

1. First things first, choose the right weapon. It must become an extension of your body. The crossbow is recommended as the perfect silent killer, but nothing, I repeat, nothing, is more important than your primary firearm, preferably a semi-automatic rifle. Keep it clean. Keep it loaded. Keep it close.

2. Dress appropriately. Nothing has saved more lives than basic, tight clothing and closely cropped hair. Do not give the zombies anything to grab. Most forms of armor are completely ineffective or completely impractical. Kevlar covers can reduce the risk of zombie bites in close quarter situations, but should not be worn at all times.

3. Prepare your home. If you have not taken such basic steps as to build a ten-foot cinder block wall around your home, don’t worry, there is still hope. Simply climb up into the attic and demolish all staircases, creating an instant haven from the undead. Make sure you are well stocked with a variety of weapons and equipment, not to mention adequate food, water, and medicine.

4. On the move. If you do find yourself without a safe haven, then do everything possible to become invisible. Avoid detection at all costs. Circumvent urban areas and keep a destination in mind. Travel light. You will carry your hospital, armory, and storeroom on your back. If possible, acquire a motorcycle. It is by far the best choice for fleeing a zombie horde.

5. On the attack. Undead warfare should never be a solo mission. You need a disciplined, well-trained group, a well-defended home base, good communication, and an iron-clad plan of attack, defense, and escape. Know your terrain and remember, never, ever go off alone – this will only serve to get you killed and create one more zombie that must be annihilated.

Be safe. Be wary. Be prepared. An attack can occur at any time.

Note: My brothers-in-law are absolutely obsessed with zombies and surviving the zombie war. One has obtained zombie targets to help him hone his shooting skills and has fortifications in place to help him survive living in a zombie-infested world. The other frequently updates and practices his zombie readiness plan. All information included herein was actually underlined for me in The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, which was given to me as a Christmas gift by, you guessed it, one of my brothers-in-law. Luckily, they both enjoy a healthy sense of humor and realize that zombies are indeed, fiction, not fact. Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Broadway vs. Broad Street

As the Phillies and the Yankees get ready to play the World Series and I feel obligated to watch a series of games I have absolutely no interest in (beyond the singing of the National Anthem), I felt it was time to make my feelings on the subject clear.

You see, I’ve lived in a town where baseball is king. I lived in Boston and I lived there pre-2004. Opening day of the Red Sox season is practically a state-wide holiday. My husband I lived a short walk over the Charles and a few T-stops away from Fenway, so we became friendly with the Green Monster. We used to go to games the way other people went to the movies. During a summer when my husband travelled more than he was home, the sound of a baseball game on the TV was my constant companion and as soothing as a lullaby. I lived there when the Patriots’ won the Super Bowl and even then, when the team paraded down Beacon Street, there was more Red Sox merchandise on display than anything with the Flying Elvis on it.

The rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox is legendary. I have never attended an event in Boston where a sudden cheer of “Yankees Suck” didn’t roll through the crowd at least once. It did not matter the sport, the venue, the occasion, or the actual number of New Yorkers in attendance, if you were in Boston and you were in a crowd, someone would yell out “Yankees Suck” and everyone else would chime in for a few rounds.

Now with the “Amtrack” series starting (so called that by, well, Amtrack), I really couldn’t care less that my home team will win, I just want the Yankees to lose. But I am on a quest for the ultimate anti-Yankee t-shirt. Will I don a “Jesus Hates the Yankees” t-shirt? Well, no, most notably because the deity I worship is a bit busy with keeping the Four Horseman from taking over the world to worry about the World Series. Will I buy a “Phuck New York” tee?” Ah, no. I prefer my clothing to be spell-checked. But I am on the hunt for a shirt that aptly describes my overall ennui about the game itself while still describing my interest in the final outcome, and in the end, the classic “Yankees Suck” shirt might just have to do.

Monday, October 26, 2009

May the Schwartz Be With You

I now know why Princes Leia was such a bitch in Star Wars. It was the hair. I spent all day yesterday wearing that ridiculous bun hairstyle in a show of solidarity with my almost five-year old daughter (that almost is very important to her), and good god, but it hurt like hell. Yes, her costume came with a wig, but I knew it would wind up as a hairball at the bottom of the stroller by the end of the day, so I went old-school and bobby-pinned the buns to her head.

Let’s begin at the beginning. While looking through all of the costume catalogues that start arriving in mid-July, my daughter found the Star Wars page. She had already leafed past the requisite Disney Princess costumes when she spied Leia. My daughter immediately went into raptures that there was a princess out there who she didn’t know about! “This, she declared, “is what I am going to be for trick-or-treating.” But then, looking further on the page, she spied the Ewok costume and determined that this must be Leia’s pet, and therefore, the perfect costume for her two-year old brother. Poor kid, three years running and he hasn’t picked his own costume yet. Maybe next year.

I am part of the Star Wars generation. My first memory of ever being in a movie theater was hiding my eyes in terror when Vadar is revealed in Cloud City. I remember trying to dress as Leia as a child and crying because my sister was using black thread on my white costume. Once VCR’s became the norm in homes, my dad would pop in one of the three original movies the way other dads put on ESPN. (But he could never remember what order they should be watched in, so I had to put stickers with little numbers on them to help him out). I couldn’t even tell you if the movies or good or bad. They are so much part of my life that I have no ability to look at them objectively. I even slept out for tickets to Episode 1 and saw it twice within 24 hours on opening day. And while that movie and the other two following it were terrible, the actual experience of sleeping out was awesome. My now husband even joined in the all-night fun (minds out of the gutter, people) in an attempt to woo me. We watched light-saber fights and the original three movies off using pirated electricity from the movie theater. They kind theater managers even gave out bags of popcorn and water come morning.

So when my daughter decided to join in the fun, I knew I had to find a costume as well. Yeah, that didn’t work so well. For obvious reasons, Leia’s slave girl costume was out of the question. Queen Amidala’s costume was a bit ornate and the Padme costume was just bizarre. My husband has a Star Wars t-shirt and deemed that sufficient for his costume, but I was at a loss. So when the time came for the first of many Halloween outings, I decided to just go for the buns. They hurt. They are a bitch to do properly, and when you have a child with chin-length hair, almost impossible to do at all. She would up with little knobs on the top of her head, and I, well, I wound up with the mother of all headaches.

Anyway, so while neither child has ever seen a Star Wars movie and probably won’t for several years, I’m glad they are now part of the Rebel Alliance. Now, if only I could get my daughter to say, “May the Force be with You” instead of trick-or-treat, all will be right with the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Searching for Unicorns

Meg Wolitzer’s book, The Ten Year Nap, is filled with stay-at-home mothers who can’t seem to decide what they want in life, but can’t seem to stop complaining about how they aren’t achieving it. They all float along in bubbles of self-absorption and self-doubt. They cannot make a single decision for themselves. They are completely unable to operate without being told how.

When did strong and sensible SAHM become the modern-day equivalent of the unicorn? Why do female writers continue to perpetuate the notion that a woman who gives up her career is also giving up her brain? When did our options narrow down to either stay at home and be unhappy or go to work and be happy? Nothing in life is that simple. The author does a grave injustice to all women by putting complex and difficult choices into neat little boxes.

To add insult to injury, the author not only simplifies their inner lives, she can’t seem to fill in any real details about their outer lives. Characters live “outside Philadelphia” or in the “suburbs of New York City” as if there aren’t incredible distinctions between neighborhoods in the Delaware Valley or the tri-state area surrounding Manhattan. In fact, all locations and details have been fictionalized. Was the writer too lazy to do a Google search to even find the name of a legal software program? Even Stephanie Meyer put in enough effort to locate Forks on a map (though she never visited it and, well, if I start on that series, this post might never end). Lazy writing and lazy characters make me angry.

Am I taking a nap from my life as the title implies? Are you kidding me? I may not be actively living in the corporate world, but my days are filled. All the women I know realize that life is not simple, that choices can change, and that happiness is not an either/or option. When will female writers learn the same?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus Hate

I used to watch J&K+8. I found it interesting to see how an ordinary couple raised a horde of kids all by themselves. They had few friends, little family, and a limited income. They just wanted child number three and instead got three, four, five, six, seven, and eight. It was interesting to watch two ordinary people try to do ordinary things under extraordinary circumstances.

But then, things started to get a little strange. Friends and family disappeared from view. The parents worked less and less, but the family vacationed more and more. We were told that this was a happy family doing normal things, but it became harder to show it. The children got bigger, but didn’t seem to grow up. The parents got lots of things, but didn’t seem to get each other. There were rumblings that all wasn’t as it seemed, but surely, a couple who just celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary with a renewal of vows couldn’t be on the rocks, right? And then it all came tumbling down with one picture of Jon drunk, at a bar, with another woman. Spin, damage control, tabloids, paparazzi, talk shows, lather, rinse, repeat.

The truth of the matter – we were hoodwinked from the beginning. The babies weren’t a happy accident; they were the result of willful ignorance of fertility recommendations. The parents didn’t fall into the limelight; they very carefully sought it out. They weren’t overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers; instead, they created opportunities to capitalize on that kindness. How did we get taken in so completely?

In a word: editing. From the very beginning, Jon and Kate very carefully edited what they said to the public. From the very beginning, they bent and twisted the truth to suit their needs. Then TLC joined in the fun and brought professional editors into the mix. Lo and behold, we had captivating reality television, though it bore little to no resemblance to real life.

Now we have two people who seem to have no ability to self-edit at all. Maybe after years of living with the TLC bit in their mouth, they just can’t help but wag their tongues at anything that will listen. Maybe they were so tired of being gagged that they just can’t help but shout at the world, hear me, hear me. Or maybe it’s all just part of the show. Maybe they are so used to living a lie that they don’t even know their way back to the truth.

Ah, well. Jon & Kate Plus Eight the television show might be over, the family might be broken beyond repair, and the media may tire of reality television for good, but there is a bright light on the horizon. One day, it might be ten years from now, it might be 15, but one day, Mady Gosselin is going to write a book about all of this and I am absolutely going to read it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

All the News that is Fit to Post

Ah, CNN, when did you lose your way?

Let’s talk about Balloon Boy, shall we? First off, when the father of said child calls the local news outlet before he calls 911, your bullshit radar should start pinging. If I believe my child is in danger of falling out of a weather balloon, I don’t call Dave Roberts to ask for his help (unless, of course, he is going to send his son to offer a warm hug). When the child in question actually tells Larry King that his parents did it for “a show”, your bullshit radar should break and you should immediately stop covering the story. It wasn’t a story. It was a hoax and you completely and willingly bought into it to garner page views. Now, to cover your own ass, you have a lead story asking if it ok for local law enforcement to knowingly mislead. Mislead whom, exactly? The sheriff was pretty sure the parents created the situation and since they were the only ones with a vested interest in the health and welfare of the child, misleading the parents into providing enough information to uncover the truth seems like solid police work. Was the public misled into believing a child was actually in danger? Yes, but that is CNN’s own damn fault. You called a child who never actually set foot in a balloon the "Ballon Boy." Next time, do a little investigative journalism, try to uncover the actual facts, and then post the story based on solid reporting.

Another problem with CNN is its timeliness. When you stop posting hard news and start posting celebrity gossip, do try to keep up. Don’t be out scooped by Perez Hilton. Don’t let Gawker get an exclusive. Don’t add insult to injury by posting three-day old story in a place of honor on your news feed. Those that care about celebrity news will already know, and those that don’t will once again sigh and scroll down in search of something more interesting.

However, in the spirit of cooperation, let me offer five tips to make you a better news source:

1 – Quit with the damn videos. You aren’t YouTube. If I want to actually watch the news, I’ll turn on the TV.

2 – No one wants a t-shirt with the title of a news story on it. Not even if they are IN the news story.

3 – Please use your Breaking News banner wisely. Weather is not breaking news and you aren’t the weather channel. Ever since 9/11 you are the Boy Who Cried NEWS. Calm down.

4 – iReports. Why, when a dust storm made Sydney look like it had fallen into the Hellmouth, weren’t there official pictures from an international news source? The best you could do was an iReport? That's just lazy.

5 – And because it cannot be stressed enough – quit the “celebrity” coverage. Just because someone is on television does not mean what they do outside of my little black box is interesting. This is especially true of reality TV.

I will continue checking CNN daily, but I don't have high hopes. Instead, I'll read my Yahoo! news page with all its myriad sources and try to keep up with current events the old-fashioned way, by gossiping about it with friends and family.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In the Beginning

This blog is a test. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was a writer. Sure, we all were. Who didn't pen the occasional torrid poem to an unrequited love, the bitter ode to a parent, or doodle the words to a song on the back of a notebook? Words have power and back in the day, I used to try to harness that power for both good and evil. Then I went to grad school and realized that anyone claiming to be a “writer” was usually toiling in the back office of any number of publications, none of which were actually paying them for writing. I will admit to having grand dreams of penning the next Great American Novel, or even more importantly, the next New York Times bestseller. Then I grew up, got out in the world a bit, and realized the most creative writing I was attempting was on my résumé.

Many years passed and I found myself a bit adrift. At sea. Occasionally bored out of my mind. I started thinking about writing, but what? To whom? For what purpose? But then I realized that isn’t actually the point. I like to write because words get jumbled in my head and I can’t think straight until I shake them loose and sort them out on paper. I write better than I speak, and if that isn’t frightening, then I don’t know what is.

So, I’ll write. And maybe you will read it. And maybe you will chuckle, or nod in agreement, or shake your head, or roll your eyes. If you like it, maybe you will pass it on. That’s cool with me. The Internet is filled with millions of monkeys all pecking away trying to create Shakespeare. I’m just hoping for the occasional banana.

10 Reasons to Hate Disney

Top Ten Reasons to Avoid Disney Movies

1. Death. Seriously, what does the Mouse House have against parents anyway? Nemo’s mother, Simba’s father, and Tarzan’s parents all get killed on screen. Even Andy has a single mom. It is best not to even mention what happens to Bambi’s mother. Venison, anyone?

2. Violence. Bad guys in the Disney world are really bad. They try to overthrow royalty, topple governments, kill family members, are environmentally unfriendly, and are never, ever kind to animals. When our intrepid “hero/ine” commits murder at the end of the story to “save” the girl/boy, the world, etc., we are supposed to cheer. Um, yay? Gaston didn’t slip, he was dropped.

3. Sex. If you take your average princess and dress your child in her normal clothes, you would get arrested for child porn. You couldn’t see a belly button on I Dream of Jeanie yet you can practically see Jasmine’s areola.

4. Romance/Love. According to Disney, the road to a strong relationship is built on a foundation of deceit and poor communication. Belle shows all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome. Some of them never even have a conversation with their “true love.” Ariel is an actual fishwife! Methinks Eric is going to rue not finding that out beforehand.

5. Imagination. I want my daughter to think “outside the castle.” A fairy godmother doesn’t have to say “bippity boppity boo.” Sometimes they say things like, “I want you to believe in yourself, imagine good things, and moisturize.” (To Wong Foo).

6. Friendship. Oh sure, they all have some animal that has been anthropomorphized within an inch of its existence, but where are their actual girlfriends? They are all princesses, right? There should be a full court of people begging to be around them at all times. Instead, they all have some poor sad little fish or chipmunk to guide them.

7. Age. Most of the characters are children or teenagers. Excluding Gisele, I don’t think any of them are old enough to vote, let alone drink. So why are they so focused on getting married? It’s the Wonderful World of Disney, not the backwoods of Appalachia. Go to college, backpack through Europe, get a job. Trust me, you can have sex without marriage, give it a whirl.

8. Money. I want to find the guy who created the “Princesses” line and do horrible things to him. Then I want to show him to the guy who created the “Fairies” as an example. Tinkerbell is her name, damn it! She’s not a Tinker named Bell. If I wanted, I could have gotten married in an all-Disney wedding in Disney, decorate my house entirely in Disney colors, furniture, art, and textiles, and dress in only Disney clothing. That’s not a culture, that’s a cult.

9. Music. Yes, the tunes are catchy. I actually have That’s How You Know as my ringtone. My friends sang Under the Sea in lieu of Happy Birthday at my 16th birthday party. I created a Disney genre on iTunes and play it when I work. But real people do not burst into song in the middle of conversation. Animals do not sing. The world is not a Greek chorus ready to spring into harmony. The earlier you learn that, the better.

10. Life. Is the concept of “happily ever after” as warped anywhere as in the Disney canon? Uncle Walt will marry you faster than Elvis, but then what? You don’t think Cinderella or Aurora needed a little therapy? Aladdin has a pretty steep learning curve on running his kingdom and Belle has to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder for hers. It seems like little Nemo has a new stepmother to deal with and Woody has some 'splainin to do to Little Bo Peep. Life is hard, and while you may be able to whistle while you work, you certainly can’t expect the pigeons and rats to help.