Friday, May 30, 2008

6 Degrees of You Know Who, and the joys of small town life.

I grew up in a small town not far from where I live now. I really loved living and growing up there but for now I’m in love with the convenience, culture and opportunities that my larger city life affords.

We go back there to visit my parents quite often and when we do the conversation inevitably turns to town gossip. I enjoy a little gossip, however the majority of the time I have no idea who they’re talking about. Sure every once in a while I’ll know the person, after all I did grow up in that town, but I’m not good with names. I have cousins whose names I can’t remember - let alone some guy I’ve never met who lives in a town that I haven’t lived in for about 13 years.

Sometimes I just flat out say that I don’t know who it is. I tell them I have no clue, don’t recall or never did know them in the first place. Other times I like to play along, simply because it seems to bring them a strange sense of satisfaction. I call it the "6 degrees of You Know Who", similar to the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon but with no cinematic knowledge required:

Mom: “Did you hear about Ed Smith?”

Me: “I don’t know who Ed Smith is.”

Mom: “Oh you know who Ed is. He used to be married to that gal that had that little antique shop on 4th street. They’re divorced now.”

Me: “Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.”

Mom: “You remember, she used to sell Avon and they had a boy, what was his name? Joe? Jared?”

Dad: “I think it was Josh.”

Mom: “Yes, Josh. Was he ahead of you in school or behind you?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Mom: “ I think he was older than you. He played baseball I think.”

Me: “Was he a pitcher?”

Dad: “I think he played 3rd, but he might have pitched too. Do you remember him?”

Me: “No, I just always pay more attention to pitchers, they’re more glamorous, like the quarterbacks of baseball.”

Mom: “Oh. Well he just got married.”

Me: “Who? Ed or Josh?”

Mom: “Josh, the son.”

Me: “Oh yeah?”

Mom: “He married that gal, Teresa, that manages the convenient store on the north end of town.”

Me: “Uh huh.” (staring blankly)

Mom: “Oh you know, she used to be a cheerleader. She was in that bad car wreck her senior year with that other girl who was dating that kid in your class.”

Me: “What kid in my class?”

Mom: “Steve or something like that, used to play the trumpet. His sister was in 4-H with you.”

Me: “Oh, okay, yeah. Yeah, Steve. I remember Steve.” (At least I think I remember Steve or am I thinking of Sam? No Sam didn’t have a sister . . . They’re really excited that I remembered Steve so I’m going to go with it.)

Mom: “Well then you’ll remember that he dated that Anderson girl. Not the oldest, I think she was the youngest one.”

Me: “Yeah!” (I don’t remember anyone named Anderson but I’m not letting on)

Mom: “Remember she was in that terrible car wreck on prom night, broke her legs I think. Well this gal Teresa was with her and got hurt too. You remember that right?”

Me: “Yeah, of course.” (At this point I’m beginning to wonder if I was abducted by aliens at some point and the majority of my memories were removed for their research purposes because none of this is ringing a bell. I do remember a bright light in the cornfield when I was about 17 . .. )

Mom: “Yes! Well the other day Ed’s pickup was stolen right out of his driveway and . . . “

And then 10 minutes later we’re back on Ed, who I still don’t know and yet since I remembered the ex boyfriend of the high school friend of his new daughter-in-law it’s now assumed that I’ve known dear old Ed my entire life.

I used to find it really annoying and now I just go with it and I love it! It invokes such small town nostalgia. Sometimes I miss that small town feel. I miss that you can go into town and recognize the majority of the people on the street. Sure you might not know them well or even know their names, but you just might know that their wife’s daughter from her fist marriage just had a baby out of wedlock with that kid that used to get in trouble all the time for skateboarding on the courthouse steps and spray-painting the water tower. And if that doesn’t foster a sense of small town warmth and friendship then I don’t know what does!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Things I don't understand

There are a lot of things in this world that I don’t understand: terrorism, child abuse, people who honestly believe that global warming is not in any way linked to or caused by the excesses and pollutions of humanity. The list could go on and on but today I feel the need to highlight some of the more mundane daily things that I just can’t quite understand:

-My work pants have 2 buttons and 3 clasp closures on them and I don’t understand why? Does this make them more sophisticated than a normal pair of pants with just a button and a zipper? I mean, they’re pants – it’s not like they’re encasing 2 million in bearer bonds or the technical readouts of the death star – just my ass. Should it take me a full minute to get them undone when I have to take a piss?

-They can build a car that will tell you the outside temperature, the pressure in each of your tires, whether or not your oil is low and give you turn by turn directions to the nearest Baskin Robbins but they all come with the same old boring horns. I for one would like some horn options. Maybe a nice friendly “beep” to tell the gal in front of me that it’s time to stop applying her mascara and actually drive since the light turned green 5 seconds ago. How about a nice blaring “kiss my ass” sound for the jerk that cuts you off. Can I have some options here? How about making the horns customizable like your cell phone ring. That way when some hot guy in a convertible is staring wide eyed at my unbrushed hair and wondering if those are gummy bears or goldfish crackers whizzing past my head from the backseats, I could throw him a little “Don’t Ya wish your girlfriend was hot like me” horn action from my dingy mini van.

-There’s a show on Animal Planet called Groomer Has It. It’s like Project Runway or Design Star – for dog groomers. It’s not that I don’t understand the show, or don’t understand why desperate tv producers are still latching onto the tired yet successful reality show concept to fill the airwaves. What I don’t understand is why I can’t stop watching it. During the last episode I watched a contestant, in an effort to make an Ali- inspired egotistical speech said, “I groomed like a butterfly and ummm groomed like a bee.” On this show a loose tuft of fur on a groomed dog is gasp inducing – I mean it’s ridiculous and has no merit and yet I can’t stop watching it! I fear I’ve been brain washed. I think I may need professional help.

-Have you ever wondered what it would be like to steer a sheep? I haven’t, and yet it appears to me that many people have and in an attempt to experience that sensation, have encased their steering wheels in thick wooly covers. Now to me it seems like somewhat of a safety hazard to place an inch of synthetic fur between your hands and the device that keeps your vehicle under control at speeds of 70 +mph. I’m not one to judge though. Perhaps they’re preparing for one of those rodeo sideshow sheep riding events?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

80's CliffsNotes - Fads

Okay, I promise - this is the final installment of my 80's CliffsNotes series. Then I might find the energy to think up some original content.

There were tons of fads in the 80’s. Looking back, none of them made much sense but that just makes them all the more endearing.

Since the 80’s was all about music, you were nothing if you didn’t have a boom box. Now it was mostly rappers and breakdancers who carried them around on their shoulders down the street, but everyone had them because portable music was a must. Oh and they played these things called Cassette Tapes – you might have heard of them. You had to rewind them after you played them and take them out and flip them over to listen to the other side.

Hannah Montana is nothing more than a rip off of Jem. The best cartoon ever about a recording studio manager who was really a rock star in secret. All she had to do was press her gawdy star earring and BAM she was decked out in full pop star ensemble and ready to rock! Sure there were other great cartoons in the 80’s (The Smurfs, Rainbow Brite, Care Bears, My Little Pony) but nothing quite as great as Jem because it incorporated 80’s fashion and music and the MTV culture into animation.

Cabbage Patch kids were to the 80’s what Tickle me Elmo was to the 90’s. I think some parents actually died while wrestling each other for one of these

The Rubik’s cube was a very popular item in the 80’s and succeeded in making 99% of the population feel like complete idiots when they couldn’t solve it.

“The Wave” was born in the 80’s. At an 80’s sporting event you’d do the wave at least 10-20 times. Sure it got tedious after a while but you haven’t lived until you’ve been part of a sea of bodies working together to create one cool spectacle.

The 80’s had its share of phrases and popular words. The phrase “Where’s the Beef?” was made popular by a little old lady on a Wendy’s commercial. Surprisingly enough you can find a lot of situations in which to use that phrase and we did. “Not” and “Psyche” were also popular and were used quite frequently. For example: “Those boot cut jeans look great on her – NOT – she should so tight-roll those or she’ll be the laughing stock of the roller rink” or “I think 6 bracelets are enough on this one arm – PSYCHE – I’m so adding at least 10 more!”

Professional wrestling was really popular in the 80’s. We were all Hulkamaniacs back in the day when being a Hulkamaniac was cool. They didn’t bleed and they didn’t hit each other in the head with chairs, it was just good, clean, cheesy fun.

Monday, May 19, 2008

80's CliffsNotes continued - Fashion Edition

Here's the 2nd installment of my gift to my young friend who was denied the joy and pleasure of experiencing the 80's properly.
The most important thing you need to know about 80’s fashion is that we were perpetually trying to make ourselves into large upside down triangles. The point was to make our upper body as wide as possible through the use of shoulder pads and oversized T-shirts and then make our lower halves look as small as possible through the use of tight rolled jeans or leggings.

You could never have enough accessories. If you only had on 5 bracelets then you might as well not have any on at all. Earrings had to be either large hoops or of the colorful dangle variety – after all they had to be big to stand out in all of that hair.

Jeans were big in the 80’s. They were mostly high waisted and tapered at the leg therefore making them as unflattering as possible. If we found that they weren’t tapered enough at the leg we would employ the tight roll technique. Acid washed jeans were a big favorite as were jeans that were pre-ripped. If your parents were loaded enough they’d buy you the ones that came pre-ripped/torn from the store. Otherwise you’d have to try and artfully rip your own.

Slouch socks were a fashion must and would always match your shirt – not your pants. Preferably the were layered so that you could have at least 2 colors on. Another favorite was the slouch boot which was a high heeled boot with slouching leather around the ankle. All of these ankle options accentuated the tight leggings or tight rolled jeans.

T-shirts were preferably bright in color – usually neon and they were always worn big. If you felt you had too much fabric you could always use the T-shirt buckle or tie it at the waist. Sweatshirts were acceptable but only if the sleeves and neckline were cut out so that you could wear them off the side of your shoulder.

Don’t forget the leg warmers Everything about dancing was big in the 80’s. This included ballet leg warmers as well as tight leggings or the ever popular stirrup pants.. Aerobics was born in the 80’s and it was perfectly acceptable to wear spandex aerobic clothing anywhere and anytime. Sweatbands became high fashion!

Jelly shoes were all the rage, despite the fact that they wore holes through the flesh of your toes and made your feet sweat like crazy. Other popular footwear included high tops or any tennis shoe as long as it was fitted with neon laces.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

CliffsNotes - The 80's Hair and Makeup

One of my friends recently celebrated her 21st birthday - can you imagine?! I think I was 21 at some point but I can't quite remember what that was like.

Anyway, as much as I enjoy her youth and general naivetee, her lack of experience and knowledge with certain things was always a nuisance. I mean she actually turned to me once and said, "Who's Stevie Nicks?" It was a sad, sad day.

Not to mention the fact that she's unable to weigh in on important cultural debates - like how Jennifer Beal's character in Flashdance could possibly have time to train, walk and care for a pit bull while juggling welding, exotic dancing, training for a prestigious ballet school and sleeping with her boss.

So as part of her gift, my hubbie and I burned her some 80's hits compilation CD's and I worked up some 80's CliffsNotes for her on the subjects of Hair and Makeup, Fads, and Fashion.

I'm quite proud of them really and it finally hit me that it's ready content for the blog. So here you go. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane, or for you youngin's a small education on the greatest decade ever.

CliffsNotes - The 80's Hair and Makeup:

80's hair was either one of the following: Feathered, crimped, curled or teased. Whatever the style it had to be Big! The bigger the better. If you had trouble fitting your hairstyle through the doorway then you knew it was almost perfect! Once your style achieved the right height and width you had to keep it there with the use of either Rave or AquaNet hairspray. I believe that we unwittingly depleted 85% of the ozone layer in one decade alone. Not to mention that our hair was always in desperate need of a good V05 hot oil treatment from all that teasing and crimping.

Bangs were big - and I mean BIG. If you could get them to stand a full 12 inches off your head then you were automatically in the running for prom queen.

There were a variety of hair accessories in the 80's. The banana clip allowed a cascading flow of locks in the back and ample opportunity for large bangs in the front. Headbands were also popular but keep in mind that they never held the bangs back - Oh no they were used simply to offset the bangs
Scrunchies were a must have. Ponytails were worn off to the side and held with scrunchie that coordinated with your outfit. The great thing about scrunchies was that they were also useful as fashion accessories when you wore them on your wrist.

.As far as makeup in the 80’s: blue was king. Blue eyeshadow, blue eyeliner, blue mascara. The more blue the better - and we caked it on thick. It went from eyelid to eyebrow and often spilled out wide to the sides as well. Like everything else in the 80’s eyeliner and mascara were used in excess as well.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spit or swallow? The phlegm debate.

I have a cold – AGAIN – and this time around I’m experiencing some nice juicy coughs and a plethora of phlegm. Matt has come down with the cough as well and during our weekend of hacking and building snotty-tissue mountains I started to ruminate on the everlasting spit or swallow debate. And of course by this I mean whether or not you spit out the phlegm that you cough up or do you swallow it.

Matt is a spitter: hocking great mounds of mucus onto sidewalks or into wadded tissues – and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a swallower. I’ve always been a swallower and for years as a child I was berated for this and told that I was making myself even sicker for not spitting that phlegm out. “It’s just going to come right back if you swallow it – you have to spit it out.” my parents would say. And I believed them for several years and I made valiant efforts to spit. But I’m not a good spitter. It’s not a skill that comes naturally to me, and when I attempt to spit it usually ends up as an embarrassing and messy scene involving spittle trails on my chin and an ineffectual wad of saliva and mucus a mere 2 cm. from the toe of my shoe.

So for years I swallowed in shame. Convinced that I was making myself even more ill, until one day when I finally realized that it was all just a scam, a myth, an urban legend. Let’s think about it people: phlegm comes from your lungs, or more accurately from your trachea. When you cough it up it dislodges and lands in your throat or the back of your mouth. When you swallow it goes down your esophagus and into your stomach. Therefore it’s been cleared from your lungs and in effect you’ve accomplished the same goal as spitting. You’ve removed the phlegm from the trachea.

Why is there still this belief that if you swallow the phlegm that you’re somehow being unhealthy? Is it ignorance? A gross out factor? It seems that a lot of people think it’s gross to swallow phlegm. My question is, how is it any worse than spitting it out? The phlegm is inside my body anyway, and sure it’s nasty, but I’d rather swallow it quickly in a fraction of a second and allow my digestive track to dispose of it, than to have it travel over my tongue (and taste buds) and teeth and shoot it out between my lips.

I searched online for medical proof that swallowing phlegm was detrimental to your health and I found none. Everything that I found backed up my belief that it doesn’t matter whether you spit or swallow, just as long as you remove the phlegm from the trachea. And yet I ran across several message boards and question and answer sites where the same old adage, “if you swallow it, it will just come back” was repeated by the ignorant masses.

I’m thinking of starting some sort of public educational campaign. I need to stamp out the ignorance and let people know that it’s okay to swallow, though I’m not sure I’d get good reactions If I made posters that said “There’s no shame in swallowing!” or “You don’t have to spit – you can swallow!” and posted them up on Laundromat and YMCA cork boards.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Practical Shopping tips for the first time parent

The thing about most first-time parents is that they have no idea what they’re getting into. Sure they think they know, but then they’re also scared shitless and are inundated with magazines and books and advice and clever marketing strategies that keep them constantly overwhelmed. It’s this state of mind that most baby product manufacturers love. They love to create it and they love to take advantage of it, because if they can convince you that you NEED their product for the safety and well being of your child, they know you’re going to buy it, no matter how incredibly impractical and useless it is.

My best friend Shawna, a very informed and level headed first time parent, ran across such useless baby items when she was shopping for her child and she shared them with me for a good giggle. I’ve highlighted the most ridiculous down below and in the interest of public service, I’ve also listed some more practical alternatives for the first time parent.

Item #1:
Baby Care Timer

Price: $24.99
Product description: This unique timer takes the guesswork out of keeping baby comfy, cozy and happy. Large display shows the elapsed time since the last diaper change and feeding, how long baby has been awake/asleep.

Alternative product(s): andy clock you already have, common sense

Price: free
Product description: Want to meet all of your baby’s needs? Curious as to whether your baby is hungry, sleepy, wet, or soiled? Then try the advantages of common sense and the use of any timekeeping device.

If baby is unhappy then check its diaper. If the diaper is soiled, change it. Is baby hungry? Try to recall the last time you fed it, and even if you don’t recall then try to feed it. If it eats, then it’s hungry, if it doesn’t eat – it’s not hungry. Curious as to how long baby has been sleeping? Well it’s never long enough so don’t even bother keeping track. It’s never consistent either so even if you’ve timed every nap and they’ve all been 45 min. long, the one time that you want to take a long soak in the tub, the kid is only going to sleep for about 10 minutes or as long as it takes for you to get the water run and lower your exhausted ass into the tub and then it’s going to start wailing – guaranteed.

Item #2:

Portable Pacifier Cleanser.
Price: $16.99
Product Description: Dropped pacifiers are magnets for dirt and germs, and that is why Prince Lionheart invented this product! Just place your Baby's dirty pacifier in the spray shield and spritz the dirt away with clean water or antibacterial mouthwash. Unique design keeps clean and dirty water separated. Also great for cleaning Baby's face while you're on the go!

Alternative product(s): Your own mouth, your shirt, your hand/finger, a pacifier leash

Price: free/ .99 -$2.00

Pacifiers can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. However, they pale in comparison to shopping cart handles, toilet seats, restaurant floors, and the bottoms of shoes. These are all things that your child will put his/her mouth on once they reach the crawling/walking stage. It’s inevitable. So really it’s a good idea to expose them to as many germs as possible as an infant just to build up their resistance.

If the pacifier does become covered in some sort of visible dirt or other substance you have several options. You can wipe it on your shirt, or if moisture is required simply lick y our finger and then wipe off the nipple. It works like a charm. Remember that the 3 second rule applies to pacifiers as well as dropped food.

If you’re ultra concerned you may want to employ the use of a pacifier leash. A very inexpensive product that attaches the pacifier to the child’s outfit therefore removing the possibility of it falling on the floor. However this does not prevent the dog from licking it or an older sibling from pawing it excessively right after his fingers have taken a thorough and slimey journey through his nasal passages.

If dirt prevention is your aim rather than simple cleanup. Check out item #3 and its alternative.

Item #3

Mam pacifier keeper with nipple cover
Price: $4.99
Product description: The Sassy MAM Pacifier Keeper with Nipple Cover is designed to fit securely around nipple of baby's pacifier to keep it clean. Keeper can be attached to baby's garment making sure pacifier is always within reach.

Alternative product: cleavage
Price: Free/cost of a good plastic surgeon

Let's analyze item #3. That cover is only going to fit over certain brands/sizes of pacifiers and you’re going to lose it within the first 2 days of use anyway. Even if you manage to keep track of it, the inside of the nipple cover is probably going to get dirty and then you’ll just be encasing it in dirt and providing a safe/moist environment for bacteria to grow and breed.

Therefore I recommend my soon to be patented portable pacifier keeper: cleavage (see here for more details). The downside is that you need to have a decent breast size in order to have a sufficient sized cleavage pocket. If you’re only sporting an A or B cup then you’ll have to upgrade before this technique will work for you.

Item #4

Belle Baby Carrier

Price: $89.99
Product description: Adjustable Height, Adjustable Shoulder Straps• Features Waist Belt, Ergonomic Design, 4-Point Harness, Sleek 1-Piece Design, Dual Buckles, Locking Mechanism Indicator• Flexible Design, Reinforced Stitching, Ventilated Fabric, Adjustable Straps, Buckle Closure• Stain Resistant

Alternative product: Any baby carrier besides this one.

Baby carriers are fabulous things. I’m not going to discourage the use of this product in general. A good baby carrier should be comfortable, it should provide support for both you and the baby, and it should be covered in a fabric that does not suggest that the child you carry it in was conceived during a sordid S & M encounter. This thing looks like something you’d get at Frederick’s of Hollywood instead of Babies R’ Us.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Something I’ve always found fascinating is the link between smells and memories. It’s amazing how one whiff of a particular scent can conjure up such vivid recollections of events, places, people and emotion.

One of my grandmothers used to smoke like a chimney and yet she was a complete OCD neat freak so her house always had a very strong odor of cigarette smoke with a slight twang of cleaning supplies. I spent almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas there as a child so now when I enter a place that smells like it’s been marinating in smoke and lysol it invariably creates an image of my Grandmother in my mind, if even for just a split second. Which is slightly odd because it’s not really normal to be reminded of your grandmother when you enter a bar or the smoking section of a seedy restaurant/lounge.

My grandfather on my father’s side always smells of coffee and Old Spice and I love that combo. My Mother always smells like soap and this particularly lovely musky perfume she wears. She gave me a couple jackets the other day that she no longer wears and when I put them on I was surrounded with the scent of her and it was like I was a little girl snuggled in her arms again.It makes me wonder what fragrant memories I’m making for my children. Will artificial apple scent some day awaken fond memories of bath time with apple scented shampoo? Will the smoky scent of a campfire remind them of our evenings on the patio roasting marshmallows on our little fire pit? Will the scent of Quarter Pounders with cheese remind them of my “home cooking”?