Friday, September 16, 2016

Death by Dander

So I decided to commit murder this week.

Sure, admitting it outright on the Internet seems like a poor way to set up an alibi, but in my defense, I don’t actually think anyone is really going to die. The victim may be a bit stuffy, and maybe get a bit wheezy, but in general, a handful of over-the-counter meds and a strong door lock will probably be all the protection necessary to survive and live a long and healthy life.  

Whom am I trying to kill? My husband.

Why am I trying to kill him? My children asked me too. My son has spent years asking me in more roundabout ways and then actually spent quite a bit of time online researching the different ways in which my husband could be killed. My daughter doubled down and said that if her brother could kill Daddy, then she wanted to do it too.  

How am I trying to kill him? Slowly. Very slowly. One day at a time, a little bit by little bit so that he barely even notices.

Where will the crime take place? At home. Less fuss and muss and much easier to clean up in the quiet of the night.

What is the murder weapon? Cats.

Yes, my friends, I am killing my husband with cats. Two of them. And yes, getting pets when you have a family member who is allergic may seem like cruel and unusual punishment – but it’s not like I slipped them in through the back door when he wasn’t looking. There were multiple conversations about why we were getting pets, who was going to look after the pets, and what we were going to name the pets. I was firm that there would be two of them because I think it is mean to have a singular pet. Everyone should have someone to cuddle with and pets are no exception. Plus, I have two kids, so one for each.

Honestly, the names took the longest time. My husband wanted Starsky and Hutch. I wanted Statler and Waldorf. My son wanted Luke and Leia and my daughter wanted Xander and Willow. Multiple Hamilton characters were paired together. Peanut Butter and Jelly was rejected outright but Chewie and Han had some legs. For a short period of time, I was convinced Sparks McGee and Fluffer Nutter were the winning combo. Farty McFartFace was considered, but no one could come up with comparable joke for the second cat. Finally, one day on vacation in the Pocono mountains, while riding a boat around Lake Wallenpaupak, my brother-in-law had enough. “What about Kipp and Epply?” he asked. For those unfamiliar that would be two out of the three islands on the very lake on which we rocked. “Humph.” My entire family sat, stunned with the ease at which the answer had been presented. Winner!

So, one hot Saturday, I took Bubbles with me to the local Petco, where they present shelter animals for adoption. We were going to preview the selection so that the kids didn’t fall in love with something that bit or spit or had an extra tail or a gunshot wound. (You laugh, but my mother has brought home animals that fit those descriptions not once but three times.) And there, just waiting for us, were the atrociously named Mother Hen and Love Chicken. Some people really don’t take naming seriously. I dutifully filled out a questionnaire with such suspicious questions as “How do you discipline a cat?” and “Where will your cat sleep?” I wrote my best guesses (You don’t and wherever it wants), paid the nominal fee, and within an hour was the new servant of two cat masters.

My mother was prouder of the cat adoptions than she was the birth of her grandchildren. She has already given me cat beds, cat blankets, cat food, cat litter, cat magazines, cat books, cat calendars, and cat grooming supplies. The kids argued over who got to sleep with the cats until they realized cats are nocturnal and “sleep” was an adjective that does not describe listening to two kamikaze kittens race around the room knocking everything over, jumping up and down all night long and essentially behaving like crack addicts. My husband has already been spotting trying to get the damn things to sleep on his chest and I have amused myself by getting them bags of Halloween toys from the dollar store. There really is nothing like watching a cat roll blood-shot eyeballs around the floor to get into the holiday spirit.

The cats seem to appreciate their new home. There was little to no period of adjustment. From the moment we let them out of the cat carrier, they have followed us around the house happily. While they aren’t quite lap cats, they are lap-adjacent. Kipp, the three-month old kitten enjoys the rocket approach to locomotion and is already being referred to as the Sniper, as he is able to silently smack right into your ankles like a furry bullet when you least expect it. He’s a fast little beast and as he is too young for a collar, enjoys stealth maneuvers. Epply has a bell on her collar, which makes her easy to hear, but she also is the more vocal of the two and likes to meow or purr for attention. They also seem to be able to either pick locks or walk through walls because we keep closing bedroom doors at night and keep finding them inside the closed rooms come morning. Last night, I awoke to find a cat purring happily three inches from my face. The marital bedroom was supposed to be cat-free. No fur. No dander. No middle of the night barfing or coughing up of hairballs. An allergen-free space where my husband could breathe freely. But no, there was Eppily taking a bath right between the two of us while her son kept falling off the windowsills with loud crashes.

So yes, technically, getting cats with an allergic husband is probably not the best way to show my love for him. But it could be worse. I could have gotten a dog.   

Friday, August 5, 2016

Breaking the Curse

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I didn’t like it.

It actually breaks my heart to say that. I think J.K. Rowling is a master storyteller. I just think no one needed to tell this particular story.

Before I monologue about the current book, let me touch upon the series as a whole. Mistakes were made; the biggest mistake being the final chapter of the final book. Albus Severus is a dumb name. Does Ginny not have any dead family member she could have memorialized (cough Fred cough)? Couldn’t they have given them middle names that were family-based and allowed them the freedom to be their own people with original first names? I always felt that Harry should have understood that. I also think killing Fred was an enormous mistake. A far better story arc would have been killing Percy, newly returned to the family. His sacrifice, for the brothers who distrusted him the most, would have absolved him of all his sins. Instead, he comes back in the nick of time to watch Fred die in the most unflattering way possible. It is the most unnecessary death in the series. I’d even sub in Arthur Weasley – at least he would have died protecting his family and Molly had proven that she was more than strong enough to carry on without him, even though his loss would have broken her heart. Her sons, including the newly returned Percy, would have rallied around her admirably.

But, here we are, 17 years later once again and I’m still not happy.

The play reads like fan fiction. There, I said it. 






The big bad is Voldemort’s daughter? Really? REALLY? What is this, a Spanish telenova? Did Voldemort seem like he was the type to take lovers? Even with Bellatrix basically throwing herself on his wand, I’m pretty sure his phoenix feather was not rising to the occasion.

The problem with having children grow up is that all the wonders of childhood have to fade away in the face of cold, hard reality. I like to believe that after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry hid away in 12 Grimmauld Place with Kreacher to come to grips with all that he had survived. I’ll stipulate that he did eventually become an Auror, but only after trying a few other paths first. I believe that Hermione would have gotten hired into the Ministry of Magic version of the mailroom and feverishly worked her way up to the top. And I agree with the fact that Harry and Ginny would have gotten married. But Ron and Hermione? Not so much. Sure, they would have dated, but her insane drive to succeed would have been at odds with his working at Weasley Wizard Wheezes, helping to fill the Fred-shaped hole in George’s life (which should be a Percy-shaped hole, but I digress.) I think they would have eventually broken up, had an awkward patch, and then returned to being good friends.

Basically, they would have become adults in a world that was peaceful and quiet. No bad guys to fight. While Dark Magic still existed, it would have been the type that Harry could hunt down during work hours and still be home in time for evening tea. In short, they would grew up to be boring. And that’s okay. They lived happily ever after. After seven books, eight movies, and countless pages on Pottermore, I think they earned that much.  

But now, I have to live in a world where the delicate father/son relationship enjoyed by Harry and Dumbledore becomes overbaked, overdone, and overly dramatic. We had hundreds of pages to mourn Cedric Diggory. We did not need another story based around a character that was best memorialized as being “the spare.” He really wasn’t that interesting the first time around and proves to be even less so as a MacGuffin. All these years, all the ideas she could have turned into stories and this is the one Rowling chose? Dumbledore wept. (Oh yes, in this book Dumbledore is so akin to a god that his name is used as one. Kill me now.)

By far the largest disappointment is that this is a play and not a book. What made the entire series so wonderful were all the details. The books were rich bowls of cream that needed to be savored because there were so many small ingredients that added to the story. The play is soy milk. It will substitute in a pinch, but no one ever really craves it. They just drink it because it’s the only thing left in the fridge.  

Details that are missing include, say, the rest of the goddamn Potter children! This is Hogwarts! Any fan can name a handful of minor characters off the top of their heads. Superfans, like my nutter of a daughter, can name dozens and show you how their minor actions, reactions, and behaviors added to the overall story in some way. In the play, we get mention of James and Lily Potter with a few throwaway lines, but little more. And where are all the cousins? Friends of the family, such as Teddy and Victoire? I realize I sound ridiculous here, but a man they refer to as Uncle Neville is a professor at the school and he doesn’t even get a line. NOT ONE LINE!

May I be super nitpicky for a moment? Why is there still even a Slytherin house? Every single bad wizard or witch came out of Slytherin. During the Battle of Hogwarts, the entire house was sent away because they couldn’t be trusted. Voldemort was the heir of Slytherin! Just sort people in three houses and be done with it. Get rid of the common room and turn it into a pool. Or rename it and try to give it a new reputation. But the whole concept of the (stupidly named) Potter child being put into the (stupidly) still existing Slythering is, let’s be crystal clear, stupid.

Also, my daughter wanted to know if Albus and Scorpius were gay. Um, maybe? Or not? There was definitely subtext, but not any plain text, so I said I wasn’t sure, but for now they are just really good friends.  

I hope now that Rowling has gotten the Potter universe out of her system for good and can move on to make good art that focuses on different mediums. While her Robert Galbraith books aren’t perfect, I am looking forward to the next one and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them looks like a lot of fun. Until then, I hope that she leaves well enough alone. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

And the Thunder Rolls

I just wanted to let you all know that the nominations for Parent of the Year are no longer necessary and that I am, without dispute, the hands-down winner of that most dubious award.

Whatever dumb shit you did, said, or attempted in the Olympic marathon that is parenting will pale in comparison to what I did to my daughter this week.

I sent her to sleep away camp.

Oh sure, it’s good for her. It teachers her independence and bravery, forces her to make friends and try new things, and according to a new article published this week, will actually help her earn higher scores on her SATs.


Let me set the scene for you. My daughter refuses to open her bedroom windows. Ever. No matter the temperature, the weather forecast, and the time of year, she will not yield. If we open the windows while she is sleeping, she will most assuredly wake up and close them again. The sounds of nature are blocked at all costs. Not only does she have a fan to create white noise, but she also plays music all night long on top of it. As an infant in her crib, the very first thing she learned how to do was to smack her fat little foot into the music box attached to the slats to make it play. We could hear through the baby monitor every time she awoke because it was always followed by music. To this day, she has never slept without some form of music playing, whether it was a lullaby on repeat or Kidz Bop on her iPod.

The sound of the sea against the sand? The lake water lapping at the dock? Hates it. Rain pattering against the windows? Hates. It.


My daughter is deathly afraid of thunderstorms. She panics at the first sign of dark clouds and will start to cry at the first roll of thunder. If we are home, then she can stay relatively calm, but will opt to sleep under her brother’s bunk bed because she is worried about trees falling on her head. This is a kid who must see the weather report before any outdoor activity. In our house, our favorite weather people are spoken about as if they are our closest friends. “What did Adam [Joseph] say today?” Or, “What did JC [Severe Weather NJ] post?” I have multiple weather apps on my phone and when a storm approaches, my phone practically explodes with vibrations, noises, and alerts as multiple news outlets provide up-to-the moment updates on lightning strikes, rain levels, etc. We have found that knowing ahead of time helps her control her fear, because it allows her to control her location. Otherwise, she becomes the textbook example of a panic attack. Think I am exaggerating, feel free to ask any of my friends and family who have witnessed her losing her ever loving mind when a storm approaches.

How does this lead into my Parent of the Year award?

Because she spent her first night of camp out in the open while a thunderstorm raged around her.

I could not possibly have created a worse set of circumstances for her if I tried. When we took the tour of camp, and even when we dropped her off, the tent looked perfectly acceptable. Hot as hell, but I assumed there was some sort of flap that came up or down to allow air to enter. Well, I was right, in a way, in that the ENTIRE tent basically is lifted up and away so that the structure consists of nothing more than a ceiling, four poles, and a few beds covered in mosquito netting. Just going to sleep in that must have been an act of courage. The sounds of all those leaves, and animals, and wind must have been torture for her.

Then, in the middle of the night, when she had probably finally fallen into some sort of exhausted slumber, the first rumble of thunder hit. My daughter has superb hearing. Whisper the word “cookie” and she will come running from three rooms away. Say her name and she appears, like Voldemort, because she is desperately nosy and must always know what is being said about her. So trust me when I say that that when God knocked down a pin in his cosmic bowling game, my kid was wide awake. Out in the open. Surrounded by strangers. In the middle of a thunderstorm that she was not even aware was coming.  

I’m honestly surprised I didn’t get a call at 4am asking us to come get her.

When the second storm moved in 18 hours later, at the end of what must have been a very long first day, my husband and I watched the radar like it was our job. Was it going to hit her location? Sadly, the answer was yes. This time, the girls were all safely ensconced in the dining hall having a dance party. But they still had to walk back to their tents afterward, the pathways all mud and puddles, the bugs out in full force, using flashlights and head lamps to light the way. To go to sleep in a stifling tent, with absolutely no air flow, with wet feet and pants bottoms, hoping that yet ANOTHER storm didn’t rear its ugly head.

And still no phone call. 

See, the problem with the camps is that we can see her and contact her, but she can’t do the same to us. I can stalk her on camp Facebook page, which regularly posts pictures, and I can send her a daily e-mail that is printed out for her to read, but she cannot reply. I have no idea how she is holding up this week. I found out about the “floating tents” via Facebook. Did she enjoy getting chased by a counselor in a dragon costume? Or being blindfolded while she tried to untie a stuffed animal from a pole? Does she like making dragon snot? It’s all a mystery. I can follow what she is doing, but have no idea what she is thinking. The only thing I know is that she is still alive and even that is suspect since I haven’t seen her in any pictures since Wednesday.

She comes home today after another night of rain. Either she is cured of her fear or she will never go outside again. Regardless of which way the wind blows (as it were), I’m pretty sure her therapy bills for this week alone will rival those of her college tuition.

I’ll take my trophy now, thank you very much. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Adventure of a Lifetime

I’m too old for this shit.

That is what I said to myself as I unlocked my front door at 5am on a Monday morning after staying out all night at a concert.

Bubbles and Boobs were going to set out on yet another adventure. We couldn’t acquire tickets to Coldplay, her favorite band when they played in Philly, a stone’s throw from our homes, but she was able to get us two tickets for the Meadowlands up in North Jersey. (I refuse to call it Met Life Stadium. There is no romance in bank-named locations.) Worried about the traffic in that area, we decided to take the train. Drive 45 minutes to the train, ride for almost two hours, transfer trains, ride another 20 minutes and viola – we have arrived. We did, however, find it troubling that no one was on the trains with us. I mean, this was a sold out concert in a stadium that easily holds 50,000 people (that is lowballing the 82,000 max capacity due to certain sections being closed because they were behind the stage.) And the train from Secaucus to the Meadowlands was empty. Weird, right?
Upon exiting, we turn to the conductor and ask, “Coldplay is tonight, right?”

This man turned to us and says, “No, that was last night and tomorrow night. Tonight is soccer."

Dead. Silence.

Bubbles looks at me. I look at her. The conductor looks at both of us like we are idiots.

“Really?” I ask, in a dumbfounded, oh shit, voice.

“Nah.” He says, cracking himself up. Bastard.

Turns out, we were just really early and most people don’t show up ‘til right before the big act hits the stage. Upon arriving at security, the friendly guard checked our ticket. His face dropped. He looked at me and said, “This ticket is for last night’s show.”

“Really?” I ask, in a dumbfounded, oh shit, voice.

He turns to the guard standing next to him. “Check it out.” She nods, turns to us and says, “This ticket says the 16th. You had tickets for last night’s show.”

“REALLY?” Bubbles and I ask in unison.

“Nah.” They laugh, cracking themselves up. Bastards.

So there we were, four hours early, in 100-degree heat, with the average bottle of water going for $5 and seats five rows from the top. We were the concert equivalent of the early bird special. We were, in short, old.

We made do by making fun of other people. Yup. I’m like that. Never fear, body shapes themselves were off limits. I have no right to make fun of anyone on that score. But clothing choices? Totally up for mockery. Harem pants. A guy in a monkey outfit. Rompers! (Bubbles was for, I was against.) Women in super high heels were perplexing to us, as were the men in jeans and long-sleeves. (Much later in the evening, spied with our exhausted eyes a woman wearing a full length winter puffy coat. With sandals.)

Eventually, we scaled the stairs and made it to our perch. The show itself was fantastic. Bubbles is a huge fan, I am a casual fan, and both of us were very pleased with what we saw. I don’t know much about Chris Martin, but the man is in phenomenal shape. He ran up and down that stadium floor as if it were inches instead of yards, without every missing a beat in his songs. Every attendee was given wristbands that acted like coordinated glow sticks throughout the night. Michael J. Fox showed up to play Johnny B. Goode on the guitar and it was phenomenal. Overall, a great show.

But then we had to get home.

All those people we were worried weren’t on our train earlier? Yeah, we found them all. And then some. And then some more. Tens of thousands of people were herded like cattle into a huge pen to try to get on the train out of the Meadowlands. According to the crowd, we were actually experiencing the best case scenario in that we weren’t surrounded by tens of thousands of angry, drunk, freezing cold football fans but instead, mellow Millennial concert-goers. But it was hot, sticky, smelly, and chaotic. I reached a new level of friendship with Bubbles as we decided holding hands was really the only way to ensure we didn’t get separated.

Almost two hours after the concert ended, we finally made it to Secaucus. Thirty. Hungry. Sweaty. An hour after that, our train to Hamilton finally arrived. Still thirty. Still hungry. Even sweatier. Two hours after that, we finally arrived in Hamilton. I downed a bottle of hot water like it was a gift from God. After another 45 minutes of driving, we arrived in our town and into the only diner open at that ungodly hour. We snarfed down turkey clubs, drank copious amounts of liquids, and tried to ignore the episode of Law & Order screaming at us from the TV.

Finally, as the sun started to rise in the sky, I made my way into my house, into a hot shower, and into my bed.

Bubbles, the valiant warrior, actually made it through an entire day of parenting on two hours of sleep. I slept through til lunch and just hoped the kids didn’t kill each other while I snored. It was a long night, a great concert and a phenomenal story. But seriously, I’m way too old to do that again any time soon. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Room Where It Happened

I believe that many people underestimate the necessity of being able to read a room.  My mother, famously, is unable to do so. For example, the day I delivered my second child, I was in really bad shape. Not good. Dicey, I’d even go so far as to say. My son was whisked to the baby nursey while I stayed in recovery for a very long time. To this day, my husband and I do not know the length of time between delivering my son and actually meeting him for the first time and our best guess is several hours. I tell this part of the story not for sympathy, but to set the scene. So, I’m finally, finally being wheeled into a room. Finally, finally, I’m going to see the tiny little being that I made. My husband was walking alongside the gurney and my parents are hovering outside the door of the hospital room. I look like Death has come knocking and may still be lingering to see if anyone is home. (My MIL had a picture of me taken about an hour later, so trust me when I say, the only thing missing from my ensemble was a toe tag.)

And as I am being wheeled past, my mother turns to my husband, and says, “So, how’s work?”  

Honest to God, that actually happened.

The Internet is the room right now and the tone of it is hurt, sad, vengeful, and stupid. While my goal is to write a weekly blog that is entertaining, there aren’t a lot of laughs in the world right now. Every day, there is another terrorist attack, another shooting, another Trump story. We are splitting hairs over which lives matter most, who counts as a good guy vs. a bad guy, and what is actually a weapon. Let me give you a hint about that last one – if it can kill you, then it is a weapon. If you are using it to kill someone else, then it is a weapon. Good? Good.

Every time a celebrity dies, the world rushes as one to social media to be the first to say rest in peace. Now we are rushing to offer our thoughts and prayers. To what end? We are all, in some way, affected by the tragedies buffeting our nation and our world right now. I have never been to France, but I’ve been to Virginia Tech. We all bemoan what is happening, but what the hell are we doing about it? And if your answer is playing Pokemon Go, then good for you. If your answer is doing anything that involves being loving and kind and wonderful to the human race, then good for you. You are part of the solution. But if you are the dipshit coming up with hateful memes and splitting hairs about which guns, exactly, are the ones doing the shooting, then you, sir or madam, may go to Hell.

I want to talk about my severe case of Hamilaria. Or how my youngest SIL is trying to kill my husband with a kitten named Yoda. Or how I have embraced the concept of taking the summer off of errands and activities so much that my kids have dubbed me “Summer Mommy” and say I am much more fun than the regular one. I want to be lighthearted and silly, but it would be like introducing a fart joke into the Scottish play.

So, please, for the love of all things holey and stinky, can we PLEASE go a week without flying a flag at half-mast? I really want to put my happy pants on again.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I'd Build a Tree Fort In Our Yard

Once again, the Mega Millions is up to the absurd amount of half a billion dollars. This is an amount of money no one on earth actually needs unless they are single-handedly funding a space program or buying a small island country badly in need of infrastructure.

Asking people what they would do if they won such a large sum is one of my favorite questions. I actually did a Facebook poll once and someone answered, "Stonehenge." Here I thought I was being frivolous buying a Burberry purse, but no, he was going to buy one of the wonders of the world. He won.

After thinking it over obsessively for several years (whenever a big jackpot is up for grabs), this is what I think you should do if you win.

For starters, buy the ticket in one of those tiny corner stores that still exist in this country. They get a monetary prize for selling the ticket and I’d much rather see that money go to some hard-working individual just trying to run a business than a billion-dollar corporation that sells bucket-sized beverages. The other bonus of a mom and pop joint is that they don’t tend to have security cameras. The computer system that spits out the tickets knows the exact date, time, and location that ticket was sold. Match that to security footage and suddenly, grainy photos of your clueless mug are being circulated on YouTube before you even had time to check your numbers. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.

Next, call a lawyer and a financial planner. I'm lucky enough to know a few of each, and my hope is that since we are personal friends first, and my windfall, through fees, would become their windfall, that honesty would prevail. The signed ticket itself would have already gone into a secure safety deposit box in a random bank in a random town. Once you get all the legal details squared away, then wait. Every lottery system allows for a certain number of days to pass before you legally have to claim your winnings. Wait until the last Friday afternoon of that period of time. Much like celebrities announcing their divorces, the goal would be to bury the news story amid the mid-afternoon haze of weekend travel updates and weather reports.

Then, decide how you will take the payout. I would prefer to take the long-term installment plan to both get more money and to avoid any possibility of spending it all at once. I realize that many prefer the big buy-out, theorizing that they could manage their own money better, but if they were such adept money managers, they wouldn't need to win the jackpot in the first place. As time and history has proven over and over again, money does not buy class, taste, or intelligence. I like the idea of a big fat check getting deposited into my account on a yearly basis. It is an excellent life insurance policy as winnings do not automatically go to next of kin and my kids would need me alive to keep the money coming. Either way, I would wind up with more money than God, and really, what does he even need to buy? Even a yearly payment would allow for Scrooge McDuck-style shenanigans (though why anyone would want to roll around naked in something as dirty as money is a mystery.)
Then what? I say reboot and reset. Pay off all your debts. House, car, loans, school, bookies, etc. I have heard that it is better to keep your mortgage as a tax write-off, but that seems like a lot more work and allows for banks to collect a shit ton of interest, so I’ll skip that and just own my property outright.  

Oh, and let me be clear. All of this must be done in absolutely secrecy. Don’t post it, tweet it, or breathe a word about it to anyone excluding the people who will help you make the financial decisions. Telling even one person will be the equivalent of just having a few friends over when your parents are away. Suddenly, you are in the midst of a raging kegger except instead of reaching for a beer, people will be reaching for your Benjamins. Lottery winnings are found money. You don’t earn a winning ticket, which means everyone and their step brother’s half-sister’s cousin twice-removed on your grandfather’s side will expect a piece of the pie. This isn’t a credit card commercial. Every friend, casual acquaintance, one-night stand, and barista at your local coffee shop doesn’t need to know what’s in your wallet. The free mug or t-shirt you get from being a guest on the morning news programs or afternoon talk shows will cost you millions in lawyer fees as you suddenly make yourself a target for every con man in the country. Is meeting a B-list celebrity in the green room really worth it? Doubtful. This may be the biggest, most important secret of your life. Keep it!
If you have to go public, do it strategically. Once again, timing is key. Wait as long as humanly possible. Provide as little information as allowed by law. You don’t want bells, whistles, or giant checks that don’t even fit through the door. You don’t need an agent or a manager or head shots. You need to keep your head down and your mouth shut.   

Once you are in possession of more money you will ever need, sit on it. BUY NOTHING. Say your car dies. Buy the Mitsubishi instead of the Maybach. Short on bathrooms and storage space? Buy the bigger house, avoid the biggest mansion. Take small baby steps in spending so that, God forbid, if you are like 70 percent of lottery winners and blow through all your money in a few years, at least you’ll have the basic building blocks of your life still firmly in place.

You don’t need to rent out Disneyworld. Really. You don’t. Sure, spend the money on first-class airfare, the best hotel, book the tour guide that gets you to the front of all the lines, eat in the best restaurants, and buy all the souvenirs. This is true for any vacation; turn the dial to eleven, but don’t change the channel. I have always wanted to stay in one of those small, high-end, super classy hotels that go for thousands per night and have the best rooms, views, and amenities. However, I’m not high end or super classy and all the money in the world isn’t going to make me so. This is why I advise living the best version of your own life, and skip trying to live the life of someone who looks like you, but has a bigger bank account. I just want to up my threat count, not wake up in someone else’s bed.

Finally, after a year, when you have taken plenty of time to really think about what you want out of your life, start spending the money. Wisely. Slowly. If you can’t say no to friends and family over something as simple as who will host a holiday, then hire a group of trusted advisors, create a board of directors, and let them sort through the long line of charities, entrepreneurs, and charlatans looking for a benefactor, angel investor, and sucker. You were just given the opportunity to change your life and those around you – don’t ruin it. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your money, but I am saying that don’t lose your mind doing so.

In short, buy the purse. Just tell everyone it’s a knock-off. And if you do find yourself in possession of one of wonders of the world, don’t brag about it on Facebook. You’ll just look like an asshole. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Excuse Me While I Stop and Catch My Breath

I am a very lucky woman. God granted me two healthy and hardy children. They are emotionally, intellectually, and physically fit. They are well nourished and socially adept.

Both my husband and I am employed full time in jobs that allow us to maintain a solidly middle-class lifestyle without destroying our souls.

Our extended families are stable. We live in a safe neighborhood, with good schools, and are surrounded by a network of friends that are supportive and wonderful.

We live good lives.

Now that I have solidly covered my bases so that the gods do not strike me down, and you understand that I do realize how incredibly lucky I am to live my life, I am going to complain about it.

While I am not quite ahead of the game of life, I am at least able to keep pace. These last few months, not only have I fallen behind, I feel like I fell off the board entirely. This last year just kicked my ass. Instead of walking the line, I was holding onto the edge of it with my fingertips. There were entire weeks where at least one if not all four family members were not walking into the house until 8:30 pm, and of course, some still needed to be fed, or showered, or had leftover work to do. Our calendar app ruled our movements. My husband and I did not have conversations as much as we had short, informative meetings every morning where we discussed our schedules while brushing hair and putting on socks. Our evening entertainment was seeing who fell asleep first on the couch during whatever mindless television show we switched on in the background to help us switch off our brains.

I only have two kids. I only work until 2pm in a family-friendly company. I am happily married to a husband who is an active partner in raising our children. So, when I say that I felt like I was flailing, let me be clear in that I salute every single one of you who have moved beyond man-to-man coverage and have more kids than free hands. I salute every single one of you who are still in meeting when the kids are supposed to be on the various fields. Parents who face the choice of missing a school event or missing a paycheck, parents who are doing it on their own, and parents who have so much more to worry about than whether or not the kid will make the playoffs. While the media often plays up the “Mommy Wars” and tries to pit those of who “work” vs. those who don’t, I think we are all comrades in the same trenches. And I spent the last few months fighting for my life.

I think the difference this year is that there was a domino effect to every choice. If homework wasn’t done on time, then dinner wasn’t consumed quickly enough, then we were running late to point A, which made us late to point B, etc. Activities started earlier. Instead of playing and relaxing in the early afternoon, the kids were already prepping for the next event while I was already cooking dinner. How anyone can eat a full meal at 4:30 in the afternoon is a mystery that I am well on my way to solving because the alternative is eating at 9 at night and that way lies madness. The kids weren’t getting the downtime they needed to reboot, I was running on empty, and my husband was just running, trying to make it to the baseball game or dance pick up, or home in time for me to head out to a meeting. At least once, we high fived from our car windows, as one pulled in while the other rolled out. We discovered that the kids could be left alone in the house together for the short periods of time between when I had to be somewhere and he hadn’t quite made it home yet. We divided and conquered on weekends, usually splitting the family along gender lines for birthday parties and practices, competitions and games. We learned how to outsource – hiring a bi-monthly cleaning person, paying a caterer for my son’s First Communion party, using our Amazon Prime membership so much I expect the drivers know our address by heart.

The last week of school was also the last week of extracurricular activities. As I was just getting ready to take my first deep breath of summer, my car broke down. My last social engagement of the year was a freezer meal workshop where I was so mentally, physically, and emotionally fried that I spent the entire evening laughing inappropriately, mixing up all of the ingredients, and so heartily screwing up the meal-making process so much that I am pretty sure I have been black-listed from Tastefully Simple for life.   

I bet you all have similar stories. Yours may include travel, or illness, elder care or newborns. Mine isn’t going to change anytime soon. As the kids age, their extracurricular activities will increase as they get more homework, as they add on practices, as they spend more time with friends. The longer you work for a company, the more work you tend to take on so that bucket isn’t emptying anytime soon. I still want to go out with friends, to volunteer, to be active in my church, school, and community.

So what gives? What am I going to do differently this year that I didn’t do last year?


I am going to breathe. I am going to get off the internal guilt-ridden roller coaster of always putting aside what we want for what we need. I am going to try to look at the clock less and the sky more. Sure, life is going to get busier, but I need to enjoy the smaller moments within the bigger rush so that I actually enjoy my life instead of just survive it. There are always going to be errands that need to be run. Zombies probably still have errands (they just do them in slow motion). There will always be a book on the shelf, a shelf that needs to be rearranged, and arrangements that need to be made. I’ve already heard from people whose kids are long grown that I will miss these days of frenetic energy and they aren’t wrong. So for now, let’s all take a deep breath together and go down this rabbit hole with a smile. You never know what might be on the other side.   

Friday, June 24, 2016

Make it Work!

Every now and then, my beloved SIL sends me links that will amuse me. This one has been sitting in my inbox for a while, and I finally poked around on the site. It’s a clothing site. My youngest SIL has a fashion sense I would call “clothing.” She wears them. That’s about the end of it. She doesn’t look unkempt or fashionable. She doesn’t care either way. She’s got two young kids, a full time job, and not enough interest or time to care about clothing other than to ensure all her parts are covered appropriately.

So, when she sends me links to clothing, I know she doesn’t just want me to see an ironic t-shirt or a cute pair of shoes. She wants me to witness greatness. For example, picture a pair of leggings. Now take a pair of scissors and carefully cut the material from the knee up to about an inch below bikini line. Remove. This leaves you with a Daisy Duke-style shorts that are connected by a suspender to thigh-high tights, but all in the same cheap material. Sexy, eh? They essentially cut every woman at the exact worst point in their bodies, emphasizing all the meaty, jiggly, cellulose-ridden bits of thigh in patterns that are eye-catching only in that one look is all you will ever need. The official product title is “garter tights suspender leggings” but they are really nothing more than leg warmers with a pair of attached granny panties.

The same purveyor of clothing has other items that are equally baffling. There are velvet leggings with the knees cut out – the perfect pants for a lyrical interpretation of that 90s tune “Semi-Charmed Life.” There are also white lace leggings for the white trash wedding of your dreams. Truly, this website is a gift that keeps on giving.

Do you want a skin tight, super short dress covered in oversized pictures of prescription medicine? For the body conscious drug addict in your life, it is the perfect gift for the bargain price of $12.29.

Do you want to look like you are molting? Melting? Shedding? They have dresses that suit all of your needs.

How about a mono-kini? Which, in other words, is just a one-piece bathing suit cut all the way down to the belly button. Those tan lines have got to be interesting the next day.

Do you need a floral romper? The description alone is terrifying. The picture of a woman who looks like she is slowly being eaten alive by plants is even more so.

Do you want to wear what looks like a perfectly normal tunic dress until you turn sideways and realize that the seams have never been closed and that you are totally nekkid from the waist down? The model in this picture is styled with thigh-high boots, but no underwear. I don’t understand clothing that feels the need to air out naughty bits but cover knees and elbows.

How about a nude, netted bathing suit with bright yellow patches covering just your nipples and vagina, that is also, inexplicably cut like granny panties? Why use so much material to cover so little? It’s a mystery.

The strangest thing about this website is not that everything on it is cheap and vulgar; no, the strange thing is that there are actual lovely items of clothing for sale. It’s almost like perusing a junk shop and coming across Aladdin’s Lamp. Totally normal track pants are pictured next to sheer lingerie. A business ready pencil skirt is next to harem pants! From the clubhouse to da’ club, this site has just about everything and it is so random. Who is the target audience? What is their key demographic? Where are they wearing these garments?

Also a mystery, the person who is in charge of photography. There is a picture of a woman with a square waist. The fact that she is wearing an American flag bandeau top is less perplexing than the fact that she seems to be made of Lego. The models are almost all cut-off right above the chin. Not the neck, which would make sense, but ¼ of the way into their faces. My only guess as to why this particular editorial choice was made would be to cut out the guns that were being pointed at their heads in order to get them to put on the clothing. There are a beguiling range of sizes on this site, sizes zero to plus are all on display, but right next to each other! Totally flat-chested, with no hips, but legs that go on for days? That model is right next to the one with triple D’s, no waist, and hasn’t had a thigh gap since she was in diapers. I’d like to think it is because the website is trying to show that all bodies are beautiful, but I honestly think it is because the web designers are smoking whatever the purchasing agents couldn’t finish.

Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself. Share your favorite fashion choices.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pause and Reset

Once my reading challenge was over, I took a break from blogging. I felt like I was just another voice shouting into the wind. While there were many topics I wanted to discuss, rant about, rave about, etc., I wondered if, in this new toxic world of memes and ten-second judgments, if the blog was as extinct as the magazine.

And then I realized, “Who cares?”

If you don’t want to read it, don’t click on it. It’s just that simple. Why should my voice be silenced? What do the pundits of Fox News or the reality TV personalities or the hosts of the morning shows have on me? I’m smart. I’m well read. I’m well educated. I have a healthy sense of reality, a basic knowledge of politics, and an understanding of the human condition that is as good as, or better than, the average talking head.

Over the past few years, the 24/7 news cycle has become even shorter. To steal directly from an Internet meme, last week, we were grieving the loss of a Muslim and were terrified of the LGBT community. This week, we are grieving the loss of life in the LBGT community and are terrified of Muslims. Last month, a kid survived his interaction with a gorilla, so we victimized the parents and lionized the animal. This month, a kid did not survive his interaction with an alligator, so we victimized the animal and lionized the parents. (Yes, I know an alligator is a reptile, but the symmetry wouldn’t have worked as well.) There is no thoughtful conversation, long-form debate, or reasoned discussion. There is just blame, hatred, racism, and sexism. One woman is praised for calling out her rapist, another is blamed for calling out her abusive husband. The pure joy of Hamilton is tempered by the debacle that is Trump. The line between right and wrong, between good and evil is becoming one just massive gray space and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.

I’m tired of all the anger. I’m tired of the sadness. When my Game of Thrones discussion sub group on Facebook is more reasoned and thoughtful in its response to book vs. show plot points, then you know the rest of the world has lost the thread of how to hold a conversation.

I don’t want to be a troll. I don’t hate anyone because of their religion, politics, or sexuality. I choose to like or dislike you based entirely on how you behave as a human being and assholes come in all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds. And if you don’t like that, that’s cool with me.

My goal is to post every Friday.

Until then, let’s try not to have a reason to lower the flags to half mast, shall we?P 

Friday, February 26, 2016

At the Movies

So I’m going to the movies tonight. All the movies. All eight best picture nominees for this year. Does this mean that I am seeing the pinnacle of filmmaking for 2016? Not by a long shot.

First off, I’m pretty sure that people of color, ALL colors, did some damn fine acting this year. Don’t look for them on the Oscar ballot though. They aren’t on there. None of them. This is what happens when old white men who aren’t even required to see the movies, pick the movies. Weird, right?

Second, I’m pretty sure good movies were released all year long. However, old white men have really short attention spans, so all the Oscar contenders are released in December. So even though these movies and performances are supposed to be unforgettable, movie studios release them all at once, some of them only being released in a handful of theaters in NYC and LA just to qualify.

Third, don’t be fooled by some movie just seeming to catch the attention of the critics and sailing away on a flood of nominations. From the very beginning of the project, some movies are considered Oscar bait. Actors are given scripts encouraged to take on the role because it will get them an Oscar. Same for directors. Release dates are set based on being in primes position for award season. Movie articles are written about a movie’s award potential before they even started filming to draw attention to them.

Fourth, the award season is so similar to our current political process that it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump and Leo wind up on the same podium one day. This is a long slog where the nominee must appear on every talk show, press junket, and private screening so Academy voters can meet and greet their way to the podium. It is all about the hustle. Social media is scrubbed of all pictures of super models and yachts and replaced with wholesome pics of family and volunteerism. There are sound bites that are given over and over again as they work to stay on message promoting themselves and their movie. There are stories about actors who weren’t willing to spent months on the circuit, who didn’t want to curry favor – and they lost. You have to want it.

Fifth, they ALL want it. Ignore the stories about how they were sound asleep in their beds, in their tousled jammies, blissfully unaware that the nominations are being read. That is nonsense. Every actor or actress who even possibly might have a shot at the big show, is wide awake, fully dressed, and on speaker phone with their agent, manager, producer, director, hairdresser, and mom. Every quote about how the actor heard about the nomination is preselected and prescreened to offer whatever point of view they are trying to sell.

The biggest shell game going is that the Oscar nominations actually mean something. Think about it. How do you compare art? Different actors playing different parts in different movies? It isn’t just the difference between apples and oranges, it is the difference between apples and ducks and polka dots. Plus, it isn’t as if we are all watching a linear performance that hasn’t been altered by others. Can you compare actors on the stage? Probably. Stage presence, acting ability, range, etc., can all be witnessed first-hand. Give them all the same copy of the Scottish play and see what happens. Can they sing? Can they dance? You have two or three hours to really watch, analyze, and make your own decisions. The editing process takes that all away. Rumor has it that many a performance was saved in the cutting room. Insert the right musical cue here, cut away from the bad actor there, add in a voice over to fix the line there, swap scene one with scene 12, maybe trim that part, beef up this part, etc. Ta da!

However, does knowing all this stop me from watching the Academy awards year after year after year? Nope. Does it stop me from rooting for some actors and against others? Does noting that my ticket sales mean nothing, that my opinion means nothing, and that my demographic in particular, of young white women, is basically ignored entirely during the movie making process? Still nope.

What I know is that this weekend, I am going to put on comfy clothes and hide in a movie theater for three nights and two days abandoning my children and husband. I will eat all of my meals from the nearby Dollar Tree and I may or not wear supporting undergarments. I’m going to the movies. See you when I get back.