Read, If You Dare

WARNING: The following blog post may cause disturbing flashbacks for girls who attended middle school in the 1970s. Proceed with caution.  

Middle school is not a happy experience for most kids. On top of dealing with the physical and emotional changes of puberty, middle school is full of challenges. Learning your way around a new school, changing classes, figuring out how to open the lock on your locker, navigating the cliques of popular girls and mean girls, along with demanding teachers, mind-numbingly boring teachers, and the occasional teacher who seems to have risen from the black lagoon for the sole purpose of terrorizing students – it’s not a pretty place.  

But most horrifying of all was gym class, but not for the reasons you might assume. While I thoroughly hated every minute of teetering across the balance beam, “running” around the track, and other forced recreational pursuits, it was not the actual physical exercise that gives me nightmares to this day. No, it was, it was…sorry, let me get a grip here. 

Ok, I’m just going to say it – it was the gym suit and wearing it was mandatory. Let me describe it for those of you with nerves of steel. It was a one piece maroon colored romper of sorts that zipped up the front. It was sleeveless with elastic leg holes that landed about mid-thigh. Your mom had to stitch your name across the back so that each embarrassed girl could be properly identified by all those around her. Ugly? Yes. Unflattering? OMG, there are no words to describe its hideousness.

While I’ve worked hard to move past the G.S., it will always haunt me. Who designed this atrocity? Who decided it would be a good thing for awkward adolescent girls to wear it while engaging in activities they detest? I hope someday those questions will be answered and those responsible will be held accountable. Until then, I’ll try to put it behind me and be grateful that we’ve progressed enough so that today’s middle school girls can at least wear shorts and a tee shirt. Amen.

My Billion Dollar Idea

Did you happen to watch the TV show Shark Tank last week? The show involves would-be inventors and entrepreneurs who present their great ideas to a panel of bajillionaires, aka, the sharks, hoping to get one of them to invest. Often the ideas are stupid and the sharks simply send the dejected business owner slinking away, but sometimes someone has a cool idea and starts a feeding frenzy among the sharks. 

Last week, one of the sharks offered to buy a guy’s company outright for $4 million dollars. Gee whiz, he must have some incredible idea, right? You be the judge: this guy invented a product to help prevent people from breathing in germs, pollutants and allergens. It’s essentially a pair of small nostril-shaped bandaids that you stick over your nostrils. 

Four million dollars! Are you kidding me? If nostril stickers are worth $4 million, surely a lovely mesh bag that you wear over your head must be worth an easy billion. I’ll design a whole collection of head bags in breathable see-through fabric that filters out nasty stuff. They’ll come in all different sizes to accommodate heads and hairdos of all sizes, designer styles and colors, from denim to camouflage to jewel-encrusted one-of-a-kinds. You want in on this, don’t you?  

If the offer on the nostril product wasn’t astounding enough, another guy got a few sharks to invest in his novelty alarm clock that wakes people up with the smell of bacon. With this gadget, you must first pre-cook some bacon, then stick it in the back of  “clock,” which I assume is nothing more elaborate than a toaster oven in disguise set on a timer. Ten minutes before your set alarm time, the bacon clock begins to reheat the pre-cooked bacon, gently waking you with the aroma. 

Assuming you like the smell of bacon grease wafting over your face before you’re even out of bed, can we not foresee some problems with this, like grease fires, forgotten moldy bacon, and the possibility that ants and other pests might want in on the bacon party? What if you hit the snooze button and burn your bacon, setting off a smoke alarm or maybe even a sprinkler system? I do hope they put a warning label on this thing. “WARNING: this product may be hazardous to your health, safety, and especially your marriage. Use with extreme caution.” 

By the way, the nostril sticker guy turned down the offer. He opted to keep the company, but managed to get some of the other sharks to pony up about $200,000. Unbelievable.

How to Earn the Crappy Camper Award

Last night my husband and my son headed to a Boy Scout awards banquet, where scouts and scout leaders are recognized for their achievements. Now if I were going to create an award to honor the contributions of a caring adult scout leader, I’d give it a majestic name, something like the Mighty Lion Award. The real name for this award, however, is the Silver Beaver. I’m sure there must be a good reason for naming this distinguished award after a large destructive rodent, but if there’s any symbolism there, it eludes me. 

Aside from eating my fair share of Girl Scout cookies and sewing dozens of patches and badges on my kids’ scouting uniforms over the years, I admit that I’ve never been big into scouting. My first experience was joining Brownies in first or second grade. I went to my first Brownie meeting in the school library, decked out in the official uniform – little brown skirt and vest, little brown beanie. For the next hour, we glued macaroni onto construction paper. Bored and disillusioned, I never went back. 

When my son crossed over from cub scouts to boy scouts, we all went to the scout camp for the big bonfire ceremony and yes, we camped out overnight with other scouting families. I recall setting up the thin foam sleeping pad, which had about as much cushioning capability as a piece of toast, and the sleeping bag that narrows around the legs and feet, making me feel as if I’d been mummified alive. I recall trying (and failing) to find a sleeping position that did not involve rocks and roots embedded in my flesh. I remember the scout dad in a neighboring tent whose snoring reached decibels I did not think possible. And, I remember the pre-dawn trek to the bathroom, about half a mile away, my flashlight fading and my bladder screaming obscenities. 

There was also a girl scout jamboree I attended with my daughter and her troop, where hoards of girl scouts schlepped en masse to a girl scout camp for a day bursting with fun-filled activities! I could barely keep up with the lead-footed troop mom who was leading our minivan caravan, but somehow we made it. Immediately upon arriving, several girls, including my daughter, were bitten by fire ants and later another girl was stung by a bee. We took turns boating on the “lake,” which I now know is a euphemism for “big mud puddle.” Above all, we sweated. A lot. 

It is this sort of negativity and whiny attitude that earns one a Crappy Camper Award. Of course, the scouts would never use a term like that, so I’m going to name it the Shaggy Yak Award or maybe the Moaning Badger Award. I can’t wait to get my medal.

Please Use Your Inside Voice

If anyone ever sees me out at a hair salon and I’m SHOUTING personal information that should only be shared with a competent medical professional, please, I beg you, shoot me with a tranquilizer dart and drag me away. 

I know the concept of privacy has very little meaning anymore and that the boundaries of courtesy and good taste can be hard to find, but can we at least agree that if we must share personal information with one another in a public place, that we should do so using our inside voices?

 

There I was at the hair salon (and I use the term “salon” loosely, 1950’s beauty parlor might be more accurate), waiting to get my hair cut. An elderly lady came in and was greeted by one of the hair stylists like this: 

“YOU WERE AT THE DOCTOR’S LAST MONDAY, WEREN’T YOU? WE WERE THERE TOO, BUT THAT WAS IN THE AFTERNOON. HOW IS EVERYTHING? YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET NO BLOODWORK NO MORE, RIGHT?  JACK HAD TO GET HIS BLOODWORK DONE. IT’S BEEN AWHILE…OH, AND EARL’S GOTTA GO IN FOR A COLONOSCOPY TOMORROW…”  (I will spare you the portion of the conversation that led up to the revelation about Earl’s colonoscopy.) 

If you’re an aspiring beauty professional, consider the risks. Not only will you face back problems from standing on your feet all day and expose yourself to all kinds of chemical hair products, but after decades of carrying on conversations above the racket of multiple turbo hair dryers, you will likely lose your inside voice (and perhaps your common sense), dooming yourself to a life of screaming personal information for all the world to hear.   

For everyone else, if you happen to be getting your hair cut tomorrow, please let me know how Earl’s doing.

Nobody Told Me THAT

As I drove my daughter to her umpteenth orthodontist appointment this afternoon to find out why her new retainers were self-destructing, I thought about how much of my mom-life has been consumed with appointments like these – the pediatrician, the dentist, the orthodontist, the allergist, the eye doctor, the dermatologist, the orthopedist, and even the emergency room. I don’t recall anyone warning me that I would spend more cumulative time at these appointments than I did getting my college degree. Come to think of it, there’s a whole lot of stuff that nobody ever told the pre-mommy me, not that I would’ve listened, but still…

For starters, nobody told me that such tiny beings could exhaust me to the point where I barely knew my name. No one told me that I would have to bite my lip to keep from crying every time I took my babies in for their vaccinations. No one told me I would sit in the parking lot and weep uncontrollably the first time I dropped them off at pre-school. (For the record, I am not the weepy mushy sentimental type.) 

I was pretty well prepared for parenthood, with plenty of babysitting and camp counseloring under my belt, the usual stack of parenting prep books, and a general competence about handling real life. Still, nobody told me that potty training would prove to be as complex as negotiating a lasting middle east peace treaty, that it is possible for the Barney theme song to drive one to the very outer fringes of sanity, or that I would have to play endless rounds of I Spy that started with “I spy something white.” 

Sure, I’ve heard how the years fly by, but no one told me that becoming a parent will suck you into a time warp, where minutes with a screaming teething baby can feel like months, and years disappear instantaneously as you find yourself suddenly preparing to send your baby off to college. Sniff. Sniff. 

It’s probably a good thing nobody told me that.

Juxtaposition

There’s a guy who directs traffic in and out of the driveway of my daughter’s school at carpool times. He often wears a bright reflective vest over camouflage fatigues. A rather conflicted wardrobe choice, in my opinion. 

The contents of a recent issue of a popular woman’s magazine: “Optimize your brainpower with coffee and a doughnut!,” “Stop binge eating!,” “He can’t stop drinking,” “Host a beer-tasting party!” 

While watching Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, there were oodles of commercials for diet  programs. The assumption must be that the majority of Cupcake Wars viewers are fat, which may or may not be correct. The idea that anyone watching an hour of cupcake-centric TV is in a dieting frame of mind, however, is probably way off base.

 

Motivated by beautiful spring weather, people are emerging from their homes to get some exercise with a stroll along our lovely local greenway, chain smoking all the way. 

Kirstie Alley, Kendra Wilkinson, Ralph Macchio, Chelsea Kane, Sugar Ray Leonard, Petra Nemcova, Wendy Williams, Mike Catherwood, Romeo Miller, Hines Ward, Chris Jericho – this is the cast for the new season of Dancing with the Stars. I’d like to suggest a more appropriate title: Dancing with People Who Were Marginally Famous a Long Time Ago and/or People You’ve Never Heard Of Who Are Pretending to be Stars

On the current New York Times bestseller list for paperback nonfiction: Heaven is for Real and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Say What?

For those of you who may have been too busy with real life this past week to keep up with your favorite TV shows, I’ve painstakingly collected some of the week’s best TV quotes. Rather than bore you with the details of each show, most of which have no actual plots anyway, I’ve assembled them all in a fresh new way, a sort of jambalaya of words. Trust me, they make as much sense this way as they do in the context of their respective shows. Bon appetit!

 

“It didn’t take long for all hell to break lose.”

“This is my playpen.”

“Just don’t touch anything.”

“I’m not laughing. I think you’re a jerk.”

“She probably just had a little bit of plumping.”  (my personal favorite quote of the week)

“She might blow up after awhile.”

“That’s just gross.”

“Could it really happen?”

“You don’t want to be squirting people in Texas.”

“Experts are assuring us it’s harmless.”

“Kay is a stalker.”

“She likes unicorns.”

“She’s a thug in a cocktail dress.”

“Did she have some work done?”

“Actually, that’s a really good idea.”

“Mom, we’re in a stolen vehicle.”

“I’m sooo not perfect.”

“They smoke weed for lunch, dinner, midnight snack.”

“That can’t be a good sign.”

“Don’t judge.” 

There, now you’re all caught up.

Groundbreaking Study Proves the Obvious

As the woman who walked herself right into a fountain at a mall while texting so beautifully illustrated for us (Danger at the Mall), texting while walking is dangerous. But now a new cell phone danger has come to light – talking and crossing the street. Not only that, but one group is particularly at risk when engaging in this foolhardy multitasking behavior. 

Ok, think hard: Suppose someone is walking down the sidewalk, chatting on a cell phone. He or she comes to an intersection and needs to cross the street.  Who’s most likely to have difficulty safely crossing the street while continuing to talk, (A) a college student or (B) an elderly person?

If you guessed B, congratulations!  New research shows that talking on a cell phone while trying to cross the street may be particularly hazardous for older folks. Apparently, old people talking on cell phones take longer to begin crossing the street than younger people talking on cell phones AND are less likely to successfully cross within 30 seconds. Wow, isn’t that incredibly obvious! 

The study was a simulation, done with self-powered treadmills, video screens, and virtual reality goggles. Hey, that’s not distracting at all, right?  You’ll be relieved to know that no old people were harmed during this study. In fact, the geriatrics were no more likely to get hit by a virtual car than the college kids. Whew, that’s reassuring! 

Still, I’m not sure this study is fair or goes far enough. For instance, how would an old cell phone talker stack up against a mom cell phone talker who is pushing a crying toddler in a stroller while carrying three shopping bags, a sippy cup and an enormous diaper bag? How would the old cell phone talker fare against a young professional cell phone talker wearing four inch heels and walking two yapping Pomeranians, dressed in fashionable doggie sweaters, that stop to pee every two feet? 

I anxiously await the results of follow-up studies. No doubt they will also prove the obvious.

Lame Texter Alert

When I sent my very first text message ever last year, my son replied with, “It’s a miracle!” In the months since, I’ve sent AT LEAST 10 or 15 more. But despite that flurry of texting activity, I admit I’m still a novice. If I were to take a placement exam for texting school, I’d probably end up in kindergarten because of my inability to use punctuation, capitalization and numbers in my text messages.

 

It’s not that I’m technophobic or technologically incompetent (hey, kids, stop snickering!), I’m just a little slow to embrace every shiny new thing that comes along. When I finally make a technological leap, I like to do so with the instruction manual firmly strapped to my parachute. Written instructions are comforting and I’m reasonably competent at reading and following them. Unfortunately, I lack the high-powered electron microscope necessary to read the instruction booklet that came with my cell phone. 

Another get-up-to-speed approach would be to spend some time experimenting with my cell phone, navigating boldly around to see what happens, but I fear that I’ll accidentally connect to some intergalactic data stream and end up with a cell phone bill for billions of dollars. 

Thus, when confronted with a new cell phone challenge, I’m forced to rely on my instincts, as I did the other day. There I was, in the middle of composing a text message, when I got a call! At first I was paralyzed, but then instinct kicked in and in a split second, I had snapped the phone shut, losing both the call and the text message. Yes, I’m that lame.