Category Archives: Popular Culture

Hey Moms! Let’s Put On a Show!

After completing two trips to the high school and two trips to Target today, all before 9:30 a.m., I found myself in the car, singing, “This is just how I’d hoped my life would go!” I was being ironic. This kind of morning is not at all what I thought my life would be like, back when I was young and life was ripe with possibility. However, the experience did open my eyes a little. I have realized that what we need in this country right now is a musical devoted to the humorous and painful life of the at-home mom. I don’t have a title yet, but here are some titles for songs that I think would work:

Tears in the Dishwater

Morning Chardonnay

(When You Say Bland) You’d Better Mean Delicious

A Letter From the Teacher

A Small Dose of Prozac

There’s Poop Where?

Dog’s Haircut “What should I think, when the bill makes me blink, and I see the dog’s haircut cost more than mine?”

If God’s a Woman, She’s Got a Quirky Sense of Humor

I envision all music genres used here. “Tears” could be a ballad, “Chardonnay” kind of a boozy waltz. “Bland” I see as a  powerful rock anthem. I keep hearing “A Spoonful of Sugar” when I think “A Small Dose of Prozac,” so it is good that I won’t be writing these songs myself; I’d only get into trouble.  Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and their Hollywood-cast pals would put on a show to raise money to save something or get something…I don’t know the details; that was before my time. My point is our musical could raise money, maybe for therapy! Or a retreat that moms on the edge could take turns in. I’m flexible. I’ll help with the writing and the set design, and I don’t think we’ll have to worry about refreshments; someone will bring cookies or muffins. Are you in? What job do you want?

Technical Difficulties…Please Stand By

I have been working on an important post but it’s not done and I have to go pick up a kid, there’s shopping to do and dinner to cook (do we seriously have to eat every dang day?) and I just picked up a post from Word Press about how to enhance my blog with extra special tweet functionality! So I am setting the real post aside to vent a little about how I AM TRYING to keep up, but am STILL NEW to this tweeting business, not to mention that I still don’t KNOW what a blog pingback is or if it is a problem that I do it to myself once in awhile I think by accident but I’M NOT SURE? Here is how the super tweet post starts:

“As an update to our ever-popular Tweet embedding functionality we’re supporting Twitter’s new embed API to enable richer, better looking, and more functional Tweets inside your blog posts. To embed a Tweet just put a permalink to it on its own line or use our new shortcode that allows for extra formatting.”

To hell with that–what does that even MEAN? Are they MAKING FUN OF ME?  I think they are.

I helped my mom fix the volume on her laptop yesterday. At least she still thinks I am a techno rock star. Pbbbbthh.

Christmas Tree Complexity

Christmas Tree day started off with the High School Band fundraising pancake breakfast at the VFW, which, I am sorry to say, nobody wanted to go to. It is a fine event and supporting the youth and community is SO important, but as a family, we don’t tolerate potlucks and community meals well. I was dragging the family along when a donation would have made more sense because imposing awkward social experiences on reluctant children is a hobby of mine. To top it off, Mr. Wordtabulous had developed a “stomach ache” and couldn’t come with us. I just bet he has a stomach ache, I thought as I watched volunteers sweep by with carafes of coffee and trays of orange juice in little plastic cups. I felt guilty for not volunteering, which added to my social wrongfootedness as I greeted the band moms I know, but who intimidate me. There is a metaphoric mask I wear on these occasions, much like the mask you might remember from the cartoon The Jetsons, the one Jane Jetson wore on her early morning video phone chats to hide the fact that she hadn’t done her hair or makeup yet. My mask is supposed to hide the fact that I am not relaxed or comfortable and that I suspect the person I am speaking with thinks I am an utter doofus. In the cartoon, the woman with whom Jane video-chats sneezes and her mask flies off to reveal that she isn’t made up for the day either. I didn’t sneeze, but I could feel the mask cracking a little around the edges, and I think the other women saw it, too.  The music, the people, the place: what was probably cheerful and energetic for most of the other people there knocked me a little more off kilter. I hadn’t quite slipped off the shoulder of the road into the ‘bad day ditch,’  but I could feel things inching in that direction.

Leaving the VFW, with the strains of “Soul Man” escorting us on our way, I could have cut my losses. A reasonable woman would have said, “this is not your day to get a tree, honey; go home and read a book or take a nap.” But I had decided that Dec. 4th was Tree Day, and stubborn adherence to what has been decided, especially when it makes no sense at all, is an inherited insanity which I was not strong enough to overcome. Mr. W. was still claiming sick tummy, so it was up to me and the boys. We had decided to go back to an artificial tree after many years of Boy Scout tree sales and cut your own experiences. Still discombobulated from breakfast, we went to Menards’ Enchanted Forest, which I propose they rename Menards’ Enchanted Forest of the Damned. I like Menards, except for the fact that I can never find anything, including employees to help me find things. Enchanted Forest is basically an artificial tree lot, big enough to be found easily even in Menards. It had a pretty good variety of sizes and types of trees, which was where the decision became complicated. Pre-lit or standard? The boys voted pre-lit, openly voicing a preference to NEVER having to help me deck the tree with lights again. I don’t think it is unreasonable to try to space lights evenly, but evidently I am something of a Captain Bligh about it. 7 foot, which would fit nicely in the front room, or 9 foot, which would be lovely in the vaulted family room? Flocked or unflocked? Short or long needles? Hinged vs. hooked branches? I was feeling rushed, overwhelmed and burdened by my self-imposed need to make a decision without having done any research. Also, and here is the thing that was driving me right over the edge, there was a boombox nestled in the center of the trees, playing zippy synthesized Christmas carols at a nerve-scraping volume. That was bad enough, but in the background, you could still hear the more orchestral Christmas carols playing over the store’s sound system. The combination was unspeakable. After checking and re-checking the tree options I had to exit the Enchanted Forest to calm my auditory system and catch my breath. The boys were completely unphased by the noise, but nonplussed by my wild-eyed reaction to it. We had narrowed the choices down to two, but still needed to find out if the trees were available, which meant going back in and systematically checking fifty or so tags until the right boxes were found. I suggested that I might sneak into the copse of artificial trees, within which the demonic boombox was still spewing tin-can melodies and turn the thing off. Younger son looked down at me and calmly informed that if I did so, I would have to figure out where in the store was the furthest point away from Enchanted Forest and look for him there. I was lectured about the inadvisability of “turning off other people’s appliances,” and no rebuttal was allowed. My whole argument for bringing the boys along was that I wanted their advice and needed them to carry the tree for me (I can totally carry the tree, but was angling for some family teamwork.) Mutiny. Fine. I took a deep breath and we dove back into the Enchanted Forest. After some frantic sticker surfing, I gave up looking for option two and the boys grabbed the only one of our choices we could find, the 7 foot pre-lit Norfolk pine with hinged branches. Good-bye, Enchanted Forest. Of the Damned. Forever.

Home again, the boys disappeared upstairs into their respective digital worlds where I could hear them laughing, (and was that singing?) while I examined the four pieces that, assembled, would be our decorative Christmas masterpiece for years to come. Twenty minutes later I was in a fetal position on the floor reconsidering my enslavement to traditional cultural practices. Also being very self-pitying. The next try went better. I figured out that I had started with the wrong piece, which had made the whole thing unstable. Now it was stable, but heavy and pinchy on the fingers, and increasingly irritating. I grumpily assembled and decorated that tree in the meanest Christmas spirit since Scrooge. By MY MARTYRED SELF. I picked out the most meaningful ornaments for everyone in my unfeeling, unhelpful family. And…it is beautiful. False start aside, it took half the time to decorate because of the pre-installed lights, and there were no dead strands to deal with. It fits the space perfectly. I had to devise a prosthetic branch to brace my angel tree topper, which I ingeniously did out of a pencil and some sticky wax (a win!) Then I took a nap. Reset. My horrible children were wonderful again, and my faker husband really did turn out to have a stomach ache which lasted well into the next day, but he still managed to tell me what a good tree we picked and how nice it looks.

After 45 years of hopping back and forth from the dark side to the bright, you’d think I would have learned more about how illusory and temporary these lapses are. In some alternate universe I am serene and confidently living my life with gracious good sense through good times and bad. In this one it appears I am a more of a cautionary tale about the  hazards of unrealistic expectations and forgetting the point of Christmas: love and giving as exemplified by the life of Jesus. If this, or any other season is getting you down, I highly recommend prayerful meditation on the true value of  all the activity in your life. Since I didn’t do that, I can also suggest hanging in there and doing the best you can until you can get a nap, but try to get the prayerful meditation in too. Support the community, spend time with the people you love, revel a little, and give to the less fortunate. Also, back away from the ‘best Christmas ever’ ideal and remember you are loved even when you are imperfect. You are in good company.

 

It Isn’t All in the Packaging

Okay, I admit, I didn’t watch the whole thing. I’ve seen it before. If I was diligent I would have watched the whole production, but about ten minutes was really all I felt I needed to establish that this year was much like the others; please correct me if I am wrong. The Victoria’s Secret runway extravaganza was on last night, complete with wings, glitter, thigh-high stockings and boots, and lots of beautiful young women strutting in various stages of undress and impossibly tall shoes. Fantasies of costuming and flesh took their turns on the runway to the acclaim of the crowd. What are we selling here? I asked myself. Underwear? No. There were times when the VS garments were completely eclipsed by feathers or what have you. The superficial ideal of bodily perfection? Closer. Of course, what they were selling was the BRAND that could, in theory, help ordinary women achieve that type of fantastical perfection. For a price. Results not guaranteed.

Young models exulted backstage,  “This is every girl’s dream!” I guess that makeup and costuming, cheers and applause, lights and music, money and SO much attention is very appealing. I also believe the models work hard and suffer to get a place on the catwalk (the shoes ALONE, I can’t even imagine,) so they deserve some exhilaration on their big night. But I hope it isn’t every girls’ dream  to be a fantasy, an image of allure constructed for the purpose of promoting a product to consumers who are only interested in physicality. I’d want more for my daughters, if I had some. I’d want them to realize there is beauty outside the dimensions sported by the models, and that living for the spotlight leaves you empty, because eventually the spotlight moves on without you. I’d want them to know that if all your assets are physical, then your house is made of cards and doomed to fall. Also, look at those people in the audience, all jazzed to see young women in their nearly bare nakedness. Ladies, these are not your friends.

If it’s just a job, so be it. A job with a lot of fanfare and sacrifices and expectations. Good and bad. Maybe I don’t like what you are selling or how you go about it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to try. While you are up there, being ogled on the pedestal, just remember to be smart. Make good choices with your friends, your money and your health. With luck, they will all still be there for you when the spotlight moves on. The rest of us (the other 99%?) can use this opportunity to thoughtfully consider what real beauty means to us.

A Groupon Breakup?

My email inbox overfloweth. There is a lot of cool stuff in there: new post alerts for blogs I subscribe to, snappy back and forths from my friend, Kelly, important updates about stuff going on at school and with the family. I also get a staggering number of “deals of the day,” from the school, from amazon, and from Groupon, among others. In the interest of taking some sort of control in the areas of my life where I should reasonably expect to be able to do so, I decided to do some unsubscribing. This is what popped up after I ditched Groupon:

And yes, I did click “Punish Derrick.” Brilliant. I have to admit, I loved Groupon the most. Their deals have not saved me that much, and I actually lost money on one that expired (aarrrghhh!) but if you take the time to read their copy, they are very funny and that stuff is free, delivered just about daily on your email or smartphone. Almost makes me want to resubscribe…

Shiva & Hobbes

I learned on TV some time ago that Shiva is the name of the Hindu god of creation and destruction. As it was explained, nothing is created without something else being destroyed. It is an interesting concept and in many ways it makes sense: if you paint a picture, a blank canvas is obliterated. A black hole is formed when a star dies. A human being is born: the mother’s bladder control slips away. Well, not entirely, but I do miss sneezing with equanimity.

I watched a lot of TV recently after coming down with a crushing head cold. It hit right about the time my husband and I were going to the movie “Contagion.”  Mr. Wordtabulous chuckled while I repeatedly sneezed, blew my nose and probably freaked the other moviegoers out. I was pretty much a waste of space on the sofa for the next 24 hours as I alternatively napped and watched the boob tube. After a summer of “take it or leave it” television, I was sucked into the new premieres. It didn’t matter if I was interested or not, the show was on and I was slack-jawed before it. I started to feel better but didn’t return to my usual activity level. It was so much easier to find a seat on the couch and plug in rather than try to think of something to blog or work on revisions or research new query prospects. My initiative, self-respect and IQ were all dissolving, and what was being created in its place? I can’t think of a thing.

One of my favorite comic strips is Calvin & Hobbes. He is such a charming bundle of creativity and nihilism, kind of a mini-Shiva. In one of the strips that really stuck with me, Calvin says to Hobbes: “It says here, ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses.’…what do you suppose that means?” As Calvin and Hobbes walk away, the nearby television muses to itself, “…it means Karl Marx hadn’t seen anything yet…” Hmmm. Yet, if it weren’t for TV I wouldn’t know about Shiva or have been inspired to write this particular post, so how bad could it be? I could probably think this through a little more, but I gotta go–my show is on.

My Inner DJ

After Michael Jackson died, I woke up every day for two weeks with the song, “The Way You Make Me Feel” playing in my head. For about that same period of time last July I had a variety of Lady GaGa songs greeting me in the morning and, as I recall, “Pokerface” was the one I was most likely to hear. As clear and abrupt as a clock radio, my inner DJ was hard at work. I am most aware of my own personal disc jockey when I am riding my bicycle on my own. Unfortunately, DJ seems to have limited material to work with. For instance, on my most recent ride of 24 miles (good weather, nasty road conditions, gear-shifting problems, and some serious saddle soreness,) I was rockin’ out to KISS, “I Wanna Rock and Roll.” Which was fine for the first ten miles or so, because it has a good beat and I can pedal to it. But after ten miles, it started to get annoying. I made a request for anything else. Apparently in my head the flip side to that party classic is Loverboy’s “Everybody’s Workin’ For the Weekend.” Horrible. Much worse. I tried hitting my mental “shuffle” and what came up was “Life is a Highway,” (by Rascall Flatts not Tom Cochrane, no idea why) and “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. Not what I wanted, but better. However, every time I hit a hill and had to really put my head down and work, I’d lose control of the playlist and by the time I’d crested the climb, KISS was back and we were rock and rollin’ all night long and partying every day. 24 miles. That’s almost an hour and a half.

For five years I taught an indoor cycling (aka spinning) class, and to this day I still hear songs I like and try to calculate if they would work in a set and how I’d use it to joyfully and sadistically impose fitness on my spinners. None of the songs my inner DJ is playing on bike rides are songs I’d have picked for class, and I have a library of hundreds of songs I’ve used. It is as though when my adrenaline and endorphins are pumping my brain goes back to the primitive state it was in the 80’s. This may also explain why I have a hard time doing math immediately after a workout–I don’t think the math center in my brain really got going until the 90’s. Mr. Janish, my high school algebra teacher, would back me up on this. In the early morning my DJ likes pop music and big hair bands are the thing for punishing bike rides. I need to work on the repertoire. As much as I like the absolute quiet I work best in, I need to pull out the iPod or turn on the radio and replenish my inner library. What would you recommend?

I’m a Fan…of Pioneer Woman

I have a couple of new blog series (serieses?) I am considering doing. One is “I’m a Fan…” wherein I will tell you all about what I am finding worthy of shouting about these days, for instance, today’s topic: “Pioneer Woman Cooks.”  The other series would be “My Favorite Places” where I will share where I love to be and why. If you like the posts even a little bit, I need you to indicate that in one of two ways. The fast way is to click the “like” button at the bottom of the post. The slower but more creatively stimulating way is to leave a comment and share your thoughts on things or places you like, or whatever you feel inspired to say. If you really, really like it tell some (or all) of your friends to come visit, too.  If I don’t get much feedback, I’ll gather that I am blogging up the wrong tree and let it go. These will be series in the sense that there will be more than one post on the topic, but not in the sense that they will be back to back. I gotta go where the muse sends me (she can be very pushy–and fickle, but don’t tell her I said that.)

I am a fan of the blog “Pioneer Woman Cooks.”  at http://www.pioneerwoman.com. My friend Suzy turned me on to this and I am so thankful she did. Ree Drummond has this fantastic story about being a corporate city girl who ended up marrying a cowboy and living on a ranch in Oklahoma, where she has written cookbooks and is developing a cooking show. She also blogs about photography, home and garden stuff and home schooling, but I don’t follow it all because I don’t have time to read it. I can’t fathom how she has time to do it all AND photograph it AND blog about it. I still haven’t picked a color for my dining room. She’d have her whole ranch painted by now. Anyway, what I love about Ree is how self-effacing and funny she is while also being clever and seductive in the way of food lust. Even the recipes I would never want to make for myself (let alone the small, ungrateful troop of Philistines I call my family) I end up reading with longing. You may experience envy seeing her photos and reading what she is up to, but you will never begrudge her her life because you will come to believe (as I have,) that if you and she knew each other, you would be the best of friends. So to recap: Pioneer Woman, really good ideas, super fun reading, cooking, photography, home/garden, giggles.

You can click on a link to her blog to the right under Blogroll. Don’t forget to click “Like” if you liked this post, or leave a comment and tell me what you think of her, or what blog you love right now or whatever you want. Thanks for stopping in! ♥