A Salute to the Miss Piggys of the World

Sometime during your working life, you’ve probably had a boring job or two. I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill mundane jobs – no, I’m talking about those jobs that are boring beyond all comprehension, jobs so mind-numbing that you spend your 8 hours desperately searching for the button that will inflate the emergency chute and let you slide to freedom. 

Years ago, I had one of those jobs and were it not for an unlikely heroine, I would only have lasted a week or so. This blog post is dedicated to her and to coworkers everywhere who somehow manage to make even the bleakest jobs marginally tolerable. 

The setting: An insurance company, way back in the Paleolithic era when each piece of paper had to be hand-fed into a microfiche machine. The job, part 1: sorting mountains of insurance claims and preparing them to be microfiched by removing all staples and paper clips. The job, part 2: the stacks of papers, having been duly microfiched, were returned for restapling. O-M-G.

 

The heroine: a young woman named Connie, 20 years old, round face, upturned nose, blonde Farah Fawcettish hairstyle – thus the Miss Piggy label. Connie made that excruciatingly boring job tolerable by regaling her coworkers with tales of her domestic adventures with her live-in boyfriend, Greg. While I’ve forgotten most of them, one story has stuck with me all these years. Connie, laughing and snorting so hard she could barely speak, told us how Greg liked to saunter naked through their apartment, his wristwatch dangling from a body part that was clearly not his wrist, announcing, “Hey, look what time it is!” At the end of each workday, Greg would pull into the parking lot in his pickup truck with gigantic tires. Connie, her movement constricted by a tight little skirt, would struggle to lift her foot high enough to reach the running board, but she always managed to heave herself into the truck, not gracefully, mind you, but with her own special flair.

Miss Piggy, aka Connie, wherever you (and Greg) are today, I thank you for helping me forget that I was temporarily wasting my expensive college education unstapling and restapling for 10 cents above minimum wage. To all the Miss Piggys of the working world, I salute you. You will never know how many lives you touched, how many coworkers were able to hang on to their last shred of sanity because of you. Finally, I wish a Miss Piggy for each of you currently enduring one of those agonizingly boring jobs.

The Post-Holiday Success Quiz

It has come to my attention that during this magical time of year, some people are suffering from Unrealistic Holiday Expectation Syndrome (UHES), marked by delusional expectations that are unattainable by anyone who is not a Stepford Wife. You fall into this category if any of the following applies to you: 

  • You believe you will get through the holiday season without gaining any weight.
  • You create a holiday menu that Martha Stewart would find ambitious.
  • You expect each gift you give will delight its recipient.
  • You believe your daughter will not spend the entire evening texting her friends about how lame her family is.
  • You expect your critical mother-in-law and/or snarky sister to sincerely compliment your hair, your outfit or your home.
  • You believe that somehow this year will be different and you will not have to explain to your children why Uncle Jim is passed out on your couch long after your other guests have gone home.
  • You believe that the thoughtfully chosen and beautifully wrapped gift of children’s classic stories will finally get your son to expand his reading repertoire beyond Captain Underpants and Sir Farts Alot

I’d like to help those of you who are suffering from UHES by offering a new definition of  holiday success. I invite you to take the following quiz by checking off which items apply to your most recent holiday gathering: 

  • No one fell and injured themselves on your icy front steps.
  • No one had chicken pox, strep throat or a virulent stomach virus.
  • No one got food poisoning from the not-quite-fully-cooked roast chicken.
  • No young child or pet swallowed a battery or small toy.
  • No one bought you an article of clothing that was 3 sizes too big.
  • No one over the age of 5 burst into tears and sobbed the night away.
  • Your Christmas tree made it through the holidays without erupting into a spectacular display of flames.
  • All members of your family with whom you were on speaking terms prior to the holiday remain on speaking terms afterwards. 

If you checked 4 or more of the above items, congratulations – your holiday was a success! If not, you have my sincere condolences, but for the safety of all concerned, please allow someone else to handle all holiday-related activities from now on.

Howdy, Neighbor

After spending all of my life in the vast sprawling suburbs of various cities in various states around the country, fate eventually plopped me into a small town. I was fully prepared for life without major shopping malls, less traffic, smaller schools and a less frenzied pace of life. 

What surprised me was the all-encompassing web of personal connections that infiltrates small town life. While people in the suburbs have overlapping circles of friends, family, coworkers and other groups, suburbia is a largely anonymous place. You may run into people you know while you’re out at the mall, the gym or the library, but most of your life is populated by an ebb and flow of people with whom you have no connection. It’s something I grew up with and was accustomed to, though I never really thought about before. 

Small towns are anything but anonymous. Before we even arrived, people knew we were coming, knew which house we were buying, knew about our children, and couldn’t wait to knock on our door bearing homemade goodies. Before I had even memorized our new phone number, the phone was ringing with people introducing themselves and offering to include our children in the activities their kids were involved in. Before I had even learned my way around town, the dry cleaner knew how much starch to put in my husband’s shirts and someone had called the town’s favorite dentist and gotten us “in” even though he never ever takes on new patients. 

At first, I was amazed and found it sort of entertaining. At times I found it disconcerting to know that people who were strangers to me knew all about my life. What I now understand is that small town neighborliness is genuine, and that the web of connections we all try so hard to build online exists in real life in America’s small towns. 

Here in Mount Airy, North Carolina, also known as Mayberry (yes, for real), the whole town turns out to cheer on the high school football team. We really do have a Main Street bustling with shoppers. We have local diners, each with its own contingent of regulars, and a 1920’s downtown movie theater restored to its original charm. We can pick up the phone and talk to the mayor, the school superintendent or the chief of police. 

Small town life is certainly not for everyone. But, for those of you caught up in the hectic pace of life in cities and suburbs around the country, we hope y’all will stop by for a visit sometime.  www.visitmayberry.com

Only 369 Shopping Days Til Christmas 2011

I know, I know, you’re still shopping for Christmas 2010. What if you could avoid the frenzied last minute battle at the mall and the extra money spent on next-day shipping from online stores? We want to help. As a public service, The Big Sheep Blog will give its readers an exclusive list of next year’s hottest must-have gifts. 

Remote Control Super Shopper Speedway: Players maneuver their mini remote controlled shopping carts around an obstacle course of crowded aisles, slow shoppers, and free food samples to be the first to reach the check-out line. 

Cozy Cell Phone Cottage: With more and more young children getting their own cell phones, the Cozy Cell Phone Cottage can help teach them the importance of regular charging. Your little chatterbox will love to tuck her cell phone into its little bed charging station each night. She can even use the Cozy Cottage closet to store her cell phone’s pajamas and clothes!  Multiple phones?  No problem – simply upgrade to the Cozy Cell Phone Castle, with room for up to 6 phones at once. (Cell phones and cell phone apparel sold separately.) 

Dora the Explorer GPS: Keep the whole family happy on those long car trips to Grandma’s house as your GPS gives bilingual directions in Dora the Explorer’s voice. When you reach your destination, sing along with Dora, “We did it, we did it…” 

The Cranium App: Who needs a computer, iPad or cell phone to stay on top of your critically important Facebook status? When implanted in the brain, this tiny electrode allows you to update your Facebook status just by thinking about it! Professional installation recommended. 

Wii Food Court: Virtually stuff your face by choosing items from a dozen different food court vendors from the comfort of your couch. The more calories you consume, the higher your score! 

What’s your prediction for next year’s hottest gifts?

Dumbfounded and Befuddled

For some time now, I’ve been bewildered by a number of pressing issues and I’m hoping you will be able to shed some light on them. 

1. While I haven’t seen a commercial for pet rocks since the 1970’s, ads for the Clapper (“Clap on! Clap off! Clap on! Clap off! THE CLAPPER!”) and chia pets (“ch, ch, ch, chia”) are still going strong.  Can you explain the apparent continuing popularity of these products? 

2. Why is it that members of the United States Congress believe it’s acceptable to behave in a manner that would cause any 6 year old to have to repeat first grade?  Let’s check their grades, shall we?

  •  Listens and follows directions: U (unsatisfactory)
  • Gets along well with others: U
  • Completes work in a timely manner: U
  • Treats classmates with respect: U
  •  Demonstrates age-appropriate understanding of basic math concepts: U 

3. Would somebody please explain the symbolism of the couple sitting side-by-side in two separate bathtubs in the Viagra commercials?  It seems counter-intuitive, to say the least. 

4. Do we really need studies to prove that eating junk food makes you fat, that women interrupt their sleep far more often than men to care for their babies, that high heels are bad for your back and knees, that constantly listening to loud music through earbuds can damage your hearing, and that children who eat breakfast perform better in school?     

5. Why would a seemingly competent architect like Mike Brady design a home that had one bathroom for 6 children? It’s a wonder that Marsha- Marsha- Marsha ever got ready for any of her dates. 

6. Why would anybody, anywhere, for any reason, choose to be part of a reality tv program?  (Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you Jersey housewives, hoarders, and families with more children than the old woman who lives in the shoe.) 

And finally, do you think I should watch less tv?

Shivering Counts as Exercise, Right?

Every morning as I drive my daughter to school, we pass the same man running the same route. We don’t know his name or anything else about him, but we call him Running Dude. Running Dude is a seriously dedicated runner. He’s out there no matter what the weather – hot, cold, rainy – he’s 100 percent consistent.  

There are plenty of runners, walkers and bike riders in our small town, but Running Dude stands alone (well, runs alone) in his resolve. He alone was running at 7:30 this morning in 17 degree weather and I have no doubt that he will be running tomorrow morning while the rest of us cower in our chilly homes, watching yet another wintery display of snow and freezing rain. 

Like Running Dude, I love a little fresh air and exercise. In fact, I have been known to take brisk walks so long as the temperature is somewhere between 50 and 75 degrees, I don’t have an impending deadline to meet, my favorite sweats are not in the wash, and the planets are in perfect alignment. During the frigid winter months, I console myself with the knowledge that like walking and running, shivering surely counts as exercise, albeit not quite so aerobic. 

Rock on, Running Dude.

Wonder Woman Takes a Fall

They walk among us everyday, usually unnoticed — women with enormously complicated lives, unending responsibilities, and precious little help. You probably know at least one of them. Perhaps you are one of these Wonder Women, though if you are, you’d likely deny it. 

I know a few WW, including one of my oldest and dearest friends. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call her Francesca. Francesca has had more than her fair share of drama and tragedy, but has managed to remain mostly sane, mostly functional, and exceedingly kind. She has multiple part time jobs, runs a small business on the side, cooks and bakes for business and for fun, knits handmade gifts, tends her own organic backyard garden, takes care of two fluffy cats and two large dogs, one of which is a certified therapy dog that she takes to visit kids in local hospitals. Francesca is also a single mom to a, well, let’s say, “strong-willed” teenage daughter. 

Francesca recently stumbled at home, one of those random falls that catch us by surprise when we’re just going about our business. She is now limping around with a badly bruised knee and is performing all of the above tasks with only partial use of her left hand and arm. Her schedule must somehow expand to encompass two hours of physical therapy a day. 

Oh, Francesca. When I think of you, as I do everyday, I marvel at your abilities and resilience, worry about your physical and emotional well-being, and wish that my magic wand was not on the fritz. Particularly at this busy time of year, those of us with less daunting lives thank you for putting our daily challenges into perspective. 

I’ve been thinking about how I can help Francesca in some small way, since we live hundreds of miles apart and stopping by with a steaming pot of homemade chicken soup seems a little impractical. I’m thinking that a new WW cape might be in order (one with airbag technology) or a cozy sling for her injured arm. Hey, Francesca, do you think you can teach me how to knit?