Friday, May 27, 2011

This Week in F?&k You: Oprah

I actually meant to write this post on Wednesday. However, I took the day off on Wednesday to stay at home and play SAHM with Al. This was just following our graduation service that forced me to be here for 12 long, excruciating hours in heels and work appropriate LBD, trying to find something to talk to our provost and my boss about that did not include the words "That's what she said!" And well, I took the day off on Thursday too, to go out with my husband, eat a fucking barbecue sandwich that was the size of a dinner plate, see The Hangover Part II, and then wash it all down with a veritable vat of ice cream.

But here I am, sitting at work on a Friday and there is no one here but me, being as how I'm the girl who drew the short end of the stick having to show up on a Friday before a holiday. And while I was gone, they brought me a new computer, and yes I know this is a First World Problem and boo fuckin' hoo, but the screen is so big that it now hurts my neck to look at it. WAAAH. I'll reserve my table for one at Weenie Hut Junior's, please. ANYWAY, all of this is more than enough to make me a little stabby, especially since I had a convicted felon come in an ogle my cleavage for about 20 minutes today in this totally creepy, off putting way. MEN OF THE WORLD: WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT. DON'T THINK YOU ARE BEING SLY ABOUT IT. AND WHILE IT IS A LITTLE FLATTERING, ANYTHING OVER FIVE MINUTES IS CREEPY AS ALL SHIT AND DOES NOT MAKE ME WANT TO LET YOU MOTORBOAT ME. Just an FYI.

Now, many of you might like Oprah. Lord knows she has a shit ton of fans, and I don't begrudge her that. Lots of people and things that I don't like have a shit ton of fans, and without that, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night with the smug sense of elitist entitlement that allows me to dream about things like The Fleet Foxes and Tolstoy. But Oprah, to me, is insanely off-putting. Basically, she has made a career out of saying a lot of inspirational psycho-babble that basically amounts to her tooting her own horn in about 50 different octaves. BUY HER BOOKS! LISTEN TO HER DOCTOR! BUY THE FUCKING KEY LIME PIE THAT SHE LIKES TO EAT! All of this will make you a better person and give your life some sort of meaning that it didn't have this morning while you were snaking your drain and living some life cursed by normalcy! Oprah, despite her humble beginnings or whatever else I hear about anytime I dare to not toe the party-line on this subject, is a BRAND. She is not an inspiration, she is not your friend, she is not someone to emulate and aspire to be. She is a marketing gimmick in a poufy wig and overpriced shoes.

I don't understand why most people are sickened by the kind of brazen self-promotion that we see the Kardashians and other reality show stars participate in daily, but let Oprah by with that level and MORE. Folks, Oprah has a magazine that she puts herself on EVERY DAMN MONTH. The next time you say something snarky about one of the Kardashians and her fame hungriness, just remember that she is a product of this post-Oprah world, a world that encourages you to be your own biggest fan and act accordingly.

So, in short, I'm really pretty stoked that she won't be on TV anymore. I'm jazzed about a world where I don't walk into a bookstore and find myself accosted by whatever she's deemed worthy enough for her 1,000's of followers to read. I'm thrilled that I won't see clips where she's talking about the perfect weight loss plan, the perfect banana pudding, the perfect poop. You can laud her all you want to, but the way I see it, she's been lauding herself for years, so I think she's gotten enough.

This has been This Week in F&*K You. At this point, I'm off to begin my lovely summer holiday weekend. Hope you eat something from a grill and wear something delightfully airy, no matter where you are.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Take off those godforsaken yoga pants and come sit by me.

As many of you know, I get a bit tetchy when I hear other moms playing the martyr card. "I can't even shower, much less put on make-up!" "I have spit up on my shoulder and it has been there for two days!" "I wear yoga pants all the time because I'm a good mom and don't have time for fasteners on my clothing!" "WOE IS MOM."

Yet, it is usually these moms who update Facebook 3-4 times a day, posting pictures of their offspring doing something "adorable." Priorities, folks, it's all about 'em. And if looking your best is not your priority, fine. Photography is not mine. But please don't assume that those of us who choose to actually give a damn about how we look are selfish and/or not being a good parent.

*End rant.*

Anyway, when you are a mom, or rather, when you are a sentient, active being in this crazy, 24/7 mobile world of ours, children or no children, you definitely do not have time for make-up and hair routines like, say, you did when you were 13 and could spend an entire day putting perfect blue streaks in your hair and lining your unlined, bag-free eyes with glittery Hard Candy eyeliner. You need a few quick tricks to get you in and out of your bathroom in a hurry so you can prevent your child from spreading toothpaste all over the ottoman you lovingly have moved across the damn country twice because you like the thing, or, rather, getting there 30 seconds after the kid has done just that so you can admire her handy work. This is a list for that. And I would be oh so greatful if you could leave your tips in the comments--I know I could always use something new in the arsenal, and imagine others could as well.

1. Know what works for you. 7:30 on Wednesday morning is not time to try out the new glittery eye trend or bright red lipstick. Get a few basics and keep them. I am the world's worst for trying out every new marketing gimmick or product that passes through a magazine's hallowed pages, however, if I'm in a hurry, even I know better. Keep some of what works around at all times, just in case you having an inspiration-free day, or have to put your make-up on at your desk or while sitting on the couch, holding a baby and watching Max and Ruby. Here are my go to's:
Foundation: L'Oreal True Match
Blush: Nars Orgasm
Mascara: L'Oreal Voluminous (I always have a bit of DiorShow on hand for night time, but in a pinch, I love Voluminous, especially the new Carbon Black.)
Lipstick: Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick
Little sumthin' sumthin': Benefit Girl Meets Pearl

2. Hot FUCKING Rollers. (And I'm serious, whenever I say the word "roller," I think of nothing but The Oatmeal's hilariously apt Gay Roller, and I'm just sorry, but I can't keep a straight face. Heh. Straight face.) I used hot rollers in high school. Like a lot. I had this steam operated one, with little pink rollers, and you put the roller on top of this steam spurter and it made and steamy (that's what she said) and then you rolled it up and clamped it on. Anyone else have one of these? It was the SHIT. And when my hair was all nice and rolled, I let the little curls down, put my head between my knees and threw on an accordion headband and then threw my head back, stripper style and sprayed the shit out of that stuff with LA Looks aerosol spray. This made for a very, um, full look. Hey, it was the South, ya'll. I didn't know no better. But, folks, I'm here to tell you, hot rollers have changed. And I think lots of people use them. And not just in the lower South. And not just for beauty pageants, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Or, at least, that's what the ladies at Ulta told me when they sold me my set. Basically, these things give you Cosmo-model hair, but without having to use a curling iron, which, let's face it, sucks balls. And the volume lasts. Like 12 hour work day lasts. Like I-had-to-take-my-heels-off-but-my-hair-is-still-PADOW! lasts. Still not convinced? This set in particular heats up in about 85 seconds. So basically, you can plug it in, brush your hair a bit, maybe squeeze a zit, and you're ready to rock.

I have started washing my hair every other day, and using this on the day when it is unwashed. I do a blow-out the other day, but truthfully, it looks better on the day that I use the rollers, even though the blow-out takes about 3x longer for me to do, what with all the clips and the round brush and yada yada yada. With the rollers, I just put it up, do my 5 minute make-up, make the kid's breakfasts and lunches, convince Sam that no, his legs are not frozen, and yes, he can, in fact, walk, and then pull it down. And I get compliments on my "lovely hair." And people, my hair is not lovely. It is fucking blah. But with this stuff, I can definitely fake it.

3. Carry stuff with you. No one looks perfectly pulled together all damn day with no upkeep. This is where it is important to keep your tools at the ready. If you drive or have a commute, trick your car out. I personally keep two pairs of shoes in my car at all times--a pair of stilletto heels, and a pair of low-profile running shoes. That way I can change if need be and I don't look like a tool being the mom at the baseball field in heels. I also keep duplicates of my favorite make-up in a free bag I got from Clinique a couple of beauty bonus times ago. That way it is ready when I am--and I don't have to worry about leaving my favorite make-up in the car/at home when I need it. Also important--babies like to play with make-up. Not like put it on. They like to look at it, carry it around, chew on the end of a mascara tube. So multipurpose. Hellz yeah.

4. Dresses ya'll. Lots and lots of dresses. I am a very, VERY firm believer that you should get dressed everyday in something you would allow someone else to see you in, no matter your vocation. I know people disagree with me on this, and that's fine. But I personally do not know anyone's mental health that was helped by a wardrobe of yoga pants and stained t-shirts from college. Let's face it--you take a shower and get dressed, some little part of you feels better. And it is so so worth it. I've had three kids, ya'll, and I can only think of one day that I went without a shower and fresh change of clothes, and it was when Sam was in the Pediatric ICU and there was no shower attached to the room. But I totally get how putting on a pair of jeans can make you feel uncomfortable. Jeans, no matter how well they fit, are not the best things for laying around the house, especially if they are rigid or if you are doing a lot of bending and sitting (which all of us do around the house). But dresses are another thing all together. There are some amazing day dresses out there, a lot of which can be paired with leggings for a very cute sitting-around-the-house-waiting-on-something-awesome-to-happen look. Even better is the fact that you can find a lot of wrap styles that are convenient for nursing. The best part? If you are on a budget, buying one dress is cheaper than buying a shirt AND a pair of pants. When my husband figured this out one day, he gave very real thought about picking up a lovely frock at TJ Maxx under the guise of "If it worked for J. Edgar Hoover...."

5. "I guess the key is that it doesn't matter if you look like the 'before' picture, just act like you're the 'after' one." --Mindy Kaling via Twitter. Could never say it better, not in a million years.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Poverty Pasta Sauce

This past Saturday was my daughter's dance recital. She was very excited about this, as well she should have been, given all the work and time she has put into dance over the past year. And because she is my daughter, she knew that with an event such as this one, she would probably get her choice of meal from me before the show. That's just how I do things with the kids--which will probably be evidenced someday when they are all on the show Heavy and talking about how their mom rewarded them with food, thus crippling their lives forever and ever.

At first, Gabby wanted to go out. We were ok with that, but with the timing of things and the fact that driving to get to a decent restaurant would mean nothing fun, we tried to persuade her to eat something at home. It didn't take but just a second before her eyes twinkled and she said, "Oh, Mom. Make me that pasta sauce you used to make when I was little. The marinara from Williamsburg!"

I was shocked at first. Matt and I had promised her anything that we could get in our little town--I expected filet mignon (Gabby definitely knows her way around a nice cut of meat) or crabcakes or homemade pad thai, chock full of shrimp. But she was asking for homemade, long-simmered marinara. I enthusiastically said yes and went to the store for the ingredients.

And really, the pasta sauce is much, much more than just sauce. When Matt and I were in college, we had very little money, which I guess goes without saying. We got student loans to pay for rent, Matt worked a student job in the Modern Languages department, and I worked long hours in a coffee shop and waiting tables. On top of our regular bills, we paid for Gabby to attend a private preschool run by a W&M alum that was close to our apartment, and we had a host of student baby-sitters to watch Sam for the short times when neither Matt or I were home. We stretched every dollar as far as it could go. But there were definitely times when the dollars refused to stretch any farther. Times like when my brakes went out, or when we had to buy a new sofa or when our rent was raised. And every time that that happened, we would go into lockdown mode and I would make a pot of pasta sauce.

The pasta sauce would sit bubbling on the stove and we would remain amazingly optimistic. Of all the crazy shit that we have done in our lives together, that is what I am most proud of, I think. We would literally have no money to our names, but we would remain happy with our kids and our books and a big bowls of carbohydrates. Sometimes we would make the pot of sauce last a week until someone got paid, every meal some iteration on marinara. Mostly, it was eaten greedily with different shapes of pasta, but there was the odd time when I would make a pizza crust and cover it all with some kind of cheese left in the refrigerator. And there were late night sessions--Matt and myself baking bread and then dipping it happily into the sauce while we alternated between sips of 7-11 coffee and sips of Mountain Dew to keep ourselves awake to finish one last paper.

As I prepared the pasta sauce on Saturday and the smell filled the house, all of this came flooding back. And I thought of Gabby, so young during that time. We were so happy to have her all to ourselves, sleeping down the hall from us in her tiny bedroom with the Hello Kitty comforter. At the time, we wanted everything perfect for her. Hell, we still do, and find ourselves rushing around like mad trying to make sure that she has the right shorts, the perfect shoes, a perfectly balanced meal with no sugar and plenty of vegetables. But those times spent in that tiny apartment with the pasta sauce--this is what she remembers. The times when we were at our wit's end and facing a very uncertain future--somehow she remembers this with love and happiness.

I once read an article about a woman who had been a single mother to a son while struggling with clinical depression. She talked about how she remembered her child's early years with a kind of embarassment because she felt that, given her own struggles, she could not possibly have given him what he needed. When he was grown, she asked him what he remembered from those years, and he listed off a littany of happy stories about trips to the zoo, camping out in their living room together, trips to the grocery store. She was amazed that that is what he remembered. I felt the same way with Gabby on Saturday. Kids are amazing that way--they don't need perfection, they just need parents who adore them and try their best. Even when their best isn't that awesome.

Morgan's Poverty Pasta Sauce
Makes a blue ton. I'm thinking about 9 or 10 cups. This stuff also freezes very well.
1 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 onions, chopped
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup dry red wine (you can forego the wine if you are really in the soup, and I've done that. But it is really better with the wine, and there is always $3 Chuck.)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or just the standard kind you used before)
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (don't be tempted to leave this out. It will not make it that spicy, but it will give you a nice depth of flavor that is too awesome to leave out.)
6-8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 (28 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes (if you like it chunkier, feel free to use the regular dice)
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste

Heat the oil in a very large pot. Add the onions and cook until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Watch these because they can go from nicely golden to bitter black pretty quickly. Add the wine and cook for a minute or so. Then dump in all of the other ingredients. Wait on the sauce to come back to a boil and then turn it down and cover the pot. Let simmer for about 2 hours, stirring every now and then. Watch the texture--when it gets to what you like, take it off. It is your sauce after all!

On Saturday, I purchased all the tomatoes, a bottle of wine, some pasta, a big head of romaine, parmesan, and some Alexia garlic bread (that is divine, I should point out) all for the low, low price of $21. We ate this stuff all weekend, and having chicken parm tonight. So it stands the test of time! And the smell of the house while it is simmering....that is priceless.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dressing for the Rapture

You probably know by now, but the rapture is supposed to be tomorrow at 6:00, your local time. I have noticed from reading my Twitter and Facebook feeds that not a lot of people know what the Rapture actually is. As someone who spent the better part of her formative years attending a somewhat fundamentalist Baptist church, I know a lot about the Rapture. Basically because I know some people who have been looking forward to it the way you or I might look forward to a 90% off sale in the Nordstrom shoe department. My brother in law, for example, who attended Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (which--prepare to be angry--received $446 million in federal funds last year) has a thingie hanging off his rearview mirror that says "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned!" My brother in law lives for the Rapture; other things my brother in law lives for include Disney World and Pokemon.

As you probably have guessed, I don't expect to be ascending to high heavens on Saturday. I've lived a pretty decent life, I guess, but there's been a lot of premarital sex, and there's that whole "bleeding heart liberal" thing to contend with. My husband assures me, though, that if we see people starting to ascend in Asia (since 6:00 local time will happen there first), there is always time for us to repent of our sinful ways. And, well, his uncle is a preacher, so if worse comes to worse, Matt says he will call him and have him baptize us all in our bathtub. Matt has had a much better religious upbringing than I have and when the Bible category comes up in Jeopardy I know I'm screwed (I only attended the fundie church after we started dating, and only then as a way of seeing him), so he assures me that this will probably work, even if one has committed the mortal sin of having gone to Berkeley and voting for Nader. I, of course, have my doubts. But then again, I wouldn't be in the position of having to plan my outfits for the post apocalypse if I weren't somewhat doubtful by nature.

So without further adieu, I present to you "What to Wear As You Prepare to Be Engulfed by a Horrible Earthquake Fed by the Fire of Gay Pride."

1. First off, if you think you will in fact be ascending to heaven, congratulations. Please do not wear a dress. I usually advocate wearing dresses to everything because they are comfortable and always look acceptable. HOWEVER. You will be floating above us all as you make your exit to a land of paradise and gold streets. We don't want to see your underwear or your cellulite. There will be a lot of snarky people left on earth, and although you may be rising abovie it all (quite literally), I don't think you want to be the butt of a bunch of sinful jokes. Get it? BUTT of our jokes? See, that's what us sinners do. Make jokes. As our world burns around us.
2. Wear comfortable shoes. This could be your chance to get that huge flat screen or that iPad or those Louboutins. I mean, I'm not sure when the looting will commence, but I know I'm planning on hanging out in a Target tomorrow around 6:00, probably in the electronics section. And if you've ever been shopping on Black Friday, you know to be ready. And just think--all the good people will be gone. It will only be us heathens. Therefore, I'm wearing my Frye's which I think will only be helped in appearance by the blood of the unholy. And I'll be carrying a shank.
3. As we descend into a terror-filled existence marked by earthquakes, fires, pestilence, locusts and many, many gay men having sex on street corners, you may find that you no longer care about wearing make-up or counting calories. I would say that that is fine. However, this is also the time to live out your wildest fashion fantasies. Always wanted a B-52's style beehive and a pair of white go-go boots to wear to work? Now's your chance. Prepare accordingly. Me? I've always wanted a dressing gown, a pair of marabou lined mules and some winged eyeliner. When the shit really hits the fan, you'll find me gazing at myself in a mirror lovingly and imploring Zsa Zsa Gabor to eat her fucking heart out. Keep in mind other non-fashion related end-of-world wishes. For example, I will want to keep my jeans around because at some point, I plan on riding a miniature pony down my high school's main hallway while listening to Queen.
4. In the coming months, as supplies dwindle and the world is slowly devoured by chaos and thousands and thousands of aborted fetuses, I predict that DiorShow mascara and Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick will be considered currency. Once again, plan accordingly.
5. You may be reading this and thinking, "My God, Morgan. I'm worried enough about finding things to eat, much less wear!" In this case, I give you two words my friend: EDIBLE UNDERWEAR. Look into it. Actually, though, if you don't know what edible underwear is, nor have experienced it first hand, or hell, you don't have a pair hanging around that you are saving in case of apocalpyse, you might be one of the lucky who gets to eat dinner with your homeboy, J.C. tomorrow. In which case, MORE FOR ME.

I hope that the nearing apocalpyse finds you happy with your lot, whether you will be ascending or staying here to await your horrible, boil and canker sore infested fate. If you are around, I hope that we can meet-up. I'll be the girl trying to trade mascara for gas.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Futures I Thought I Might Have, Part II

I had originally not planned to write on this topic again for a while. Definitely not the day after writing the first post. However, yesterday I was tooling around on Facebook after work, trying to put off washing the dishes that just absolutely refuse to wash themselves, and a friend posted this great status message about albums that had influenced his life. He said that of all of them, Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins was the most influential. And I couldn't help but to agree.

I actually came at Siamese Dream from the backdoor, as some might say (some who are not as filthy minded as I am, because I am guffawing right now after having typed that). I actually remember the day that I first saw the Bullet with Butterfly Wings video on MTV (and yes, I am dating myself by saying that I remember whole summers spent watching music videos on TV!). It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I pretty much listened to anything at that point in my existence. I was 12, and had a nice selection of albums my parents liked--a lot of U2, Beatles, and a bit of Zeppelin--along with a few R&B/hip-hop albums that were popular with my friends. A boy in my class's brother had turned us both on to Nirvana, and I listened to that a bit, but I wasn't enamored with it, at least not until a year later when I became unable to fall asleep without listening to the Unplugged in NY album. However, I didn't really have a musical grounding of my own. But I knew I was changing. I had started to become more theatrical, a bit more artsy, forsaking the hard fought world of athletics and tomboyishness where I had never been very good or that convincing for the comfort of books and Moleskines. That summer day when I saw the Bullet video I realized that I was definitely on my way to something different. I called a friend at the time, Ashley, and told her that I liked it a lot. She replied that she hated that video--it was gross, and the guy was whiny. I made an excuse to get off the phone with her.

Within a week or so, I had purchased Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the great big old double album that cost all the allowance money I had ($30!) and forced me into summer Hell of having to put checks in order and do journal entries for my mom's accounting business to make more scratch (which sounds pretty benign reading it here, but you would not believe the paper cuts one gets putting checks in order old school style! OW!). By the time I had regained my finances, I had fallen deeply in love with Mellon Collie, and was back at the mall, ponying up for Siamese Dream.

I can still remember the first time I listened to it. I was sitting in my room, door closed. I had this great sound system, really I did, a Christmas gift from my mom who is a classical pianist and has always encouraged a lot of music in me, even after I woefully gave up the piano. I slid the cd in the changer and sat on this godawful white wicker chest that my mom had bought and nearly cut a finger off on when she tried to shorten its legs. I remember sitting there for a long time, the wicker making imprints on the backs of my legs, almost to the end of the record. I think I got up once, to repeat the song Soma, which was my favorite song ever for a very long time. I just sat and listened, and for someone who has been a total well of nervous, multi-tasking energy her whole life, this was remarkable. Remarkable enough that I still remember it 16 years later.

I'm not going to go into a whole lot of musical mumbo-jumbo about what the album was about or any of that. You can listen to it you want. You probably have already. And all that stuff is relative anyway--my FB friend said a lot of it yesterday and some of it resonated with me and some of it didn't. It is just a good album. And I wore that shit out. Being a 12 year old girl, and a slightly freakish one at that, made everything just make sense in one of those kooky, life altering ways. Siamese Dream became my mantra almost, a toehold in a world that I was starting to understand less and less.

And somewhere, in the middle of it all, I started to imagine my life and what I wanted it to be like, in this new, SPesque world. At this point, I had given up on overstuffed white couches and the color peach, and saw my future in black. Lots and lots of black. I remember imagining myself, railthin with dark eye make up and bleach blonde hair. I would live in New York, in an apartment with lots of brick and exposed pipes. I imagined myself wearing a lot of tank tops with black bra straps hanging out, since my mother absolutely hated seeing anyone's bra straps, even on the gross Jockey brand training bras that I had to wear. I would wear matte dark red Hard Candy lipstick and Hard Candy Sky nail polish (does anyone remember this stuff? I wore it so much my nails literally turned yellow from lack of oxygen.).

And most importantly, I would have an artistic boyfriend, a guitar player, with dark, curly hair (YES, I HAVE A TYPE, YA'LL.) and soulful eyes. We would not go to Cubs games, nor would we look at each other in an adoring way. No, we would look at each other in an "Imma gonna eat your soul" kinda way. We would both be in bands, but his would be vastly more popular. We would eat a lot of pasta (because at about 12 is when I first went to an Olive Garden) and we would read a lot of Poe. He would read Annabel Lee to me and make me cry. He would be wise, yet tortured, and we would talk a lot and really feel it all, you know?

Thinking back on this now is a bit disturbing, not the least because I'm pretty sure that the guy I imagined being so lovely as a 12 year old is someone who I would now think is a complete douche. In fact, I think I knew that guy in college--he took my Terrorism Lit class and used the word "existential" so much that I called him "Camus" in late night rant sessions with Matt. It is also disturbing because now, I have a 12 year old daughter. Gabby, probably a byproduct of the time that she is growing up, does not have the flair for the dark and dramatic that I had as a kid. She listens to a lot of Justin Bieber, and much to my chagrin, Ke$ha. She has a bubbliness, an unstoppable giggle and an "I'm so random!!!" worldview that speaks to having grown up watching Disney channel in the odd plastic world of 2000's era America (just for comparison's sake, one of my favorite shows as a kid was "Twin Peaks." God bless the maker of children's programming.).

I feel saddened, though, that at age 12, I was already more concerned with finding a guy in a famous band rather than imagining finding the great band myself. I don't know why I had that in me--I was the child of a single mother, a woman who seemingly effortlessly was an accomplished business owner as well as a great mom. I saw other women around me achieving. Yet, there I was, carving out an imaginary future attached to some douche with a guitar. Part of me says that this is just a product of being 12, an age where your heart rules a lot more than your head. But all of me wants so much more for Gabby, and is so frightened that she may think the same. I have to say though, that I am encouraged. I hear her say a lot of "I'm going to do that!" kind of things; she dreams of opening a cake bakery (like the guy on Cake Boss), of being a journalist, of writing magazine articles about food and travel. She may also have dreams of meeting some amazing cake guy, but really, I don't think so.

Looking back at this future that I imagined, I am inspired not to go sit in some squalid loft somewhere and write a woebegone play and wait for my artist boyfriend to come home. I am inspired to remind my daughters that they can do whatever they want, and they can do it on their own. And, well, I'm inspired to download Siamese Dream. And rock the fuck out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Futures I Thought I Might Have, Part I

If you've missed any updates on this blog and you've thought that perhaps it is because of the complete and utter Blogger meltdown, well, that has not been the case. It has been because yours truly has been embroiled in a good old fashioned existential crisis. And well, you know.

I won't get into that really, because it is not fun to try and figure out what you want out of life when you are an old lady like me. It is not fun to try to pick a place to move or to apply for jobs in other places or try to explain to your kids why your head might explode if you have to live many more months in our current place. Kids have not heard Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run," they have not read any Kerouac, they do not understand the beauty of a new place, of being able to eat a mothereffing curry without driving an hour and a half. There is a lot of talk of "broadening horizons" and "expanding worldviews" and other buzzwords, and it is enough to make you sick really. And in the middle of it, here I stand and I am sighing a lot and really wondering when it will be that the little fairy that is supposed to appear and tell you what you're supposed to do in life will make her entrance and put my mind at ease.

This morning I was driving to work and listening to NPR and really thinking about just how old I am, because, well, I was listening to NPR and actually giving a shit about this slum dwellers who are getting evicted from their homes in Thailand. But, moreover, these past few days and weeks, I've felt old. Like not rickety-back-old. Like practical and world weary and wizened. Like I-bought-a-Frappuccino-and-found-it-too-sweet old. However, after getting to work, I saw a link from the amazing site I'm Remembering about movies that were your favorites as a kid. And there it is--a description of the movie Rookie of the Year. My favoritest favorite movie ever. And a movie that I had forgotten existed because I lost that information somewhere around age 20 when I had to take this dumb anthropology class and do a report about these people who spoke click.

For those of you who lived poor, sad, depressed childhoods and did not see this movie, here is a rundown. There's a kid. And he absolutely sucks at little league baseball. He's the kid no one wants on their team, despite the fact that he is freaking HAWT, which no one in this movie realized, much to my 10 year old chagrin. Anyway, he has this horrible accident where he trips over a baseball and he does something crazy to his shoulder and ends up having to wear this truly bizarre cast that no kidding, a picture pops in my mind of whenever someone mentions Tommy Johns surgery. ANYWAY, after the cast comes off, it is revealed that he has now acquired the ability to throw a blazingly fast fastball, and VOILA. He goes to play for the Cubs. Now, if you know nothing about baseball, you're shaking your head right now. However, if you have seen the Cubs play in the last couple of years, you're thinking, "Yeah, I can totally see how they would need the services of a 12 year old." And after that point, hijinx ensue and the kid loses his magical fastball powers (and I'm sure that someday, that very line will be in the Biography of Aroldis Chapman), but he still manages to win a game because he's smart and it's Hollywood, baby! Fuck yeah!

Now, I'll just be honest and say that I haven't seen this movie since I was 12. So I'm quite sure that it is a big ole flaming pile of suck, and if you Netflix this shit based on my recommendation, well, it is your own damn fault. Why? Well, for starters, it was directed by Daniel Stern (oh, yes, that Daniel Stern. Marv from Home Alone), and while I'm sure he's a perfectly lovely human being, you don't see that name and think auteur. And well, it also stars Gary Fucking Busey. FOR REAL. I certainly didn't remember that little detail. Mostly because, when you are a 10 year old female, you don't give a shit about Gary Busey. All you care about is one Thomas Ian Nicholas. Who, at the time, was the finest piece of man-meat I had ever seen.

Just seeing the movie poster, from all those years before, took me back to that fateful summer. I saw this movie about three times. The first time, my mom took me and we went together. The next two times, she drove me to the mall while she did bookkeeping down the road, gave me some cash and I went in and saw it on my own. Ah, 1993. A simpler time when there wasn't a child molester lurking behind every corner that a terrorist wasn't already hiding out in. I'm pretty sure she gave me $20, and the rest of the money that I didn't spend on a movie ticket and some Sweet Tarts was spent on Big Bopper and Tiger Beat magazine which I bought just for the glossy pictures of Thomas Ian Nicholas.

And with those pictures, I engaged in some powerful fantasy. NOT THAT KIND. GOD. I WAS 10. And an immature 10. I remember imagining he and I, living together, watching baseball as 25 year olds (for some reason, as a kid, 25 was my age of fantasy). We would get into all the Cubs games for free, and Harry Caray would be there and when they sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," they would put the camera on us, singing, smiling, and being very much in love. We had both gone to Duke University for college and wore a lot of blue. My hair, in the 15 years between reality and fantasy, had gone from stick straight and dishwater brown to vivaciously curly and black. And I had a tan. I really think that when I was a kid, I was hoping that I would grown up and become Hispanic. I had changed my name to Dominique, which was the most wonderful name ever. I was a writer of children's books, and he was an actor/baseball player. We were very much in love, and had an interior decorator design our house. I imagined a big white couch and a lot of peach accents. Yes. Peach.

And here I am, three years past that line that I gave myself so many years ago. I don't really need to go into how short I have fallen of my preadolescent fantasy. I decided to check up on Mr. Nicholas and see how the years had been to him. IMDb tells me that he is still acting, although in not much that I have seen, and that he combines this with being a musician. Apparently, you can download his stuff on Amazon. A professional headshot taken of him is indeed, still hot. However, the other pictures, the various pics taken at events, are what got me. There was one where he was badly in need of a haircut, wearing a t-shirt under an unbuttoned shirt. He is smiling, and something in that picture--I just looked at it, and I thought, "Holy crap. He looks just like Matt when he was in grad school." I am thinking of a particular picture, Matt smiling in the California sun, Sather Gate at this back. This made me smile.

So yeah. I don't even know a freaking interior decorator, in fact, I don't think I've heard of anyone being one/using one outside of Sweet Valley High. But I look at the things I do have, and I can't help but feel I'm right on track. For what, I don't know. For something.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

So you want to have more, hot, steamy sex with Joe Mauer?

You guys! Joe Mauer is on the Disabled List, which means that his legs are covered in owies and boo-boos and he is totally not playing. That means a couple of things: 1) Justin Morneau (i.e., Canadian) is now the only reason to watch the Twins (which means there is no real reason to watch the Twins) and 2) It is time to pull out that sexy nurse costume you bought when you were 19 and get to work. Joe Mauer needs us now more than ever. Where are my Ace bandages? Anyone got any Kama Sutra brand massage oil?

Anyway, I've got two more product reviews that, yes, will allow you to live out your wildest fantasies with Joe Mauer. In fact, I talked to him this morning, and he was all like, "Hey girl. Get your tube of lip balm and your fashion tape and meet me at that Hilton down by the airport and we'll go over some video. And by "go over some video" I mean, reenact a lot of those Cinemax movies we all watched growing up. And by "growing up," I mean two weeks ago."

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen wrote about this stuff a couple of weeks ago, and I'll just say that her review is thorough and good and tells you what you need to know about this stuff. Basically, all I'm doing here by reviewing it again is telling you TO NOT PASS GO. TO NOT COLLECT $200. TO GO BUY THIS STUFF NOW. Really. It is that good. No, I'm not playing with you--quit looking at me like that. If you don't buy this stuff, you are an idiot. Why? Because it is the perfect lip color. PERFECT. I feel like I've been searching my whole life for this stuff, and now that we are together, it is like we are in a bad romantic comedy. There are trips to the park where we lay on the ground and it lays on my stomach and reads Pride and Prejudice and I play dreamily with its hair. There are Sunday mornings in bed with picturesque French toast and a crossword puzzle. You get the idea. We are in love, and I don't care who knows it.

I will change two things about Allie's review and say that I feel like it smells like this cherry lipbalm my grandmother used to make me wear as a kid. Like exactly. I think it was Chapstick brand, but I don't really remember. Also, she mentions wearing it on weekends. Honey, I am rockin' this EVERY DAMN DAY. I find myself reaching for it all the time, even on days when I had started out in something else. It is so easy to apply--at one's desk, shopping, at a little league game--that you can just do it all easy breezy like. And I love the look, even when it is a bit messy. Today, I am wearing full-on business stuff--oxford shirt, black pencil, need peep toes, simple silver jewelry. I did my eyes a bit darker and smudged the stuff on as I was driving down the road. And I adore it--a bit of whimsy, a bit of spring with the reserved oxford and black skirt.

My only issue with it is that I wish it were in a fancier tube. Like a gold gilded one with my initials spelled out in pave diamonds or something. Because the packaging doesn't even hint about how awesome it is. I was raving incoherently about it one day, and Matt picked it up, and was like, "Um, this? This is what you said you wanted to have babies with?" And I had to say yes. And that is when I think he realized that he really needs to get that patent for the Divorce App we've been planning.

Mauer verdict? Joe Mauer would fucking love this. You see, I see him as a guy who likes the natural, girl-next-door look (and with that, I'll get about 15 emails from strippers in the greater Minneapolis area who can tell me just the opposite). Joe Mauer likes the smell of soap, I think. So yeah, you put this on, and there is a 98% chance that you'll be seeing what's behind the gear. Give or take about 97%.

Hollywood Fashion Tape I've been reading for years about this stuff and how every woman should keep it in her bag, her desk drawer, etc. And I thought I'd buy it, and then I didn't, and well, I've survived this long. You know? I'd rather spend my money on non-fat-extra-hot-one-and-a-half-pump-caramel-macchiatos-with-extra-caramel. But one day I was out buying false eyelashes (more on that later), and I saw this at the register, and I thought, "Well, I wouldn't be myself if I didn't indulge my horrible ways with money," and I bought it. That same day, I was wearing this black dress with a cardigan over it and my Frye Harnesses. I actually love the fit on this dress (especially since I bought it straight from the ON rack and haven't tailored it at all), but at that point in my long day, my cleavage was starting to show more than normal. This is no knock on the dress. Ya'll, I could show cleavage in a crewneck t-shirt. I am totally THAT girl--just one millimeter away from total and complete inappropriateness at all times. So I pulled out the tape, and yes, taped the dress to my boobs. Ya'll, I'm not joshing you here--it made my dress look more expensive. Just that little extra oomph, a bit did something for it. And it didn't hurt or feel weird. I forgot it was there until I went to Target and wanted to try on something and saw it on my chest. I will say that trying on stuff made the tape...give a little, spurring this conversation with my cousin later on:

Me: It was really good meeting your boyfriend.
Cousin: Yeah, he's great. I have something important to ask you though....
Me: Yes, I really do think he's totally great! You guys are awesome! Give him a chance! Ignore what your parents say! Let him stay here and live in sin! Who cares what the world says! You deserve to be happy!
Cousin: Um, well, that's not what I, do you have tape on your boob?
Me: Oh. Yeah. I do. Like fashion tape. To hold my dress on.
Cousin: You need help keeping your dress on? Speaking of living in sin!

And I won't say exactly how we got to the next part of this conversation, but we ended up deciding that if we ran out of scrapbooking supplies for my grandmother's picture board at her funeral, we would use my boob tape to affix the pictures. (Note: It didn't come to that, but if it had, my grandmother would have approved.)

Fast forward to this morning. I wanted to wear my black pencil skirt. I shaved and moisturized and all of that. I put it on. WTF? The hem had fallen! Now, fallen hems are proof that there is a Satan, and he is not a cool Miltonic anti-hero Satan, but rather, a very, very bad guy. Especially since my favorite tailor (ahem, my 86 year old maternal grandmother) is out of town visiting her OTHER grandchildren who totally don't need her like I need her. What to do? I remembered the fashion tape, and ladies, I taped that shit up. And at first, I really didn't think it would work. It felt kind of weird on my legs, and I really thought it was falling over and over again. But it hasn't. It is fine. So, fashion tape, ya'll! The working woman's duct tape.

What say you, Mauer? Oh, it's a total necessity, he says. You're going to need it for all that bodice ripping at that airport Hilton later on. Wonder if it works on Twins jerseys?

Well played, Mauer, indeed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On Mothering

I actually meant to write a Mother's Day post on Friday but then this 80 year old professor got me on the phone and managed to sweet talk me into basically teaching him Internet 101 for about two hours. No, I'm not kidding. Thankfully, there will now be one less person using blinking Comic Sans on PowerPoint. You can thank me later.

This morning, I got the full Mother's Day experience when I logged on to Facebook. I generally try to make my weekends as internet-free as possible, given how much I am on during the week, both for work and play (a good deal of the courses that I help manage are online). My daughter even posted a Mother's Day wish for me on my wall, and I made her bring her iPod to me and show it to me because I was too lazy to actually log on. So this morning, I saw it all. Pictures of gifts, of smiling children, smug status messages about who got what and who loves who and all of that. There was even a round up from a SAHM that I know that said "Ok, Mother's Day is over. What did you get?" and about 15 comments listing everything from flowers to iPads.

My family does not make a big deal about Mother's Day, or Father's Day for that matter. Last year, Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game on that day, and I said that was my gift, along with a trip to see Iron Man 2 (loves me some Robert Downey Jr.). This year, I jokingly told Matt that all I wanted was a bucket of strawberries from our local farm and a six pack of Miller Lite. That's what I got. And yes, it was just as wonderful as you can imagine. I slept in a little and then made a strawberry rhubarb pie, prepared myself some salmon glazed with orange blossom honey from the Farmer's Market (the kids are not big fish fans, so I made them some chicken), roasted some of Spring's lovely asparagus, and sat around. I ordered some books off of Amazon. I watched some baseball and read a magazine. Sam made me a card that said "I love my mom more than I love pumpkin pie." I didn't do any laundry.

Being a mother is a thankless job. It is tiring and hard and sometimes you just need a break. Sometimes your kid starts working on a back tooth or something and decides that the only thing that will dull the pain is to nurse until your boob feels like it has been put in a vice (TMI?). Sometimes you have to take your kid to another beauty pageant where she will be the entertainment and you really think that if you had any state secrets, you'd talk under the circumstances. You worry about things like organic pasta rings and high fructose corn syrup and AP and what school system you should move your kids to. You stay up at night and you worry and you sleep fitfully and get up and do the whole thing all over again.

But then you see them grow and change and you see the smiles on their faces as they become people that you would like, were you to have met them in college, were you not their mom. You see their triumphs. You see them smile with their eyes and you understand what Tyra was talking about. You fall in love, a bit more everyday.

Mothering is its own gift, its own reward. And it lives not just for those who have given birth to a child, because I think we all know that birthing something does not make you a mother. Mothering lives in all of us, whether we are a parent ourselves or not. It lives in anyone who has cared for someone else, who has kissed a dirty knee, who has responded perfectly indignantly at a pre-teen's text, right on cue. It lives not just on a Sunday in May, but on every day. And it is rewarded, not just with flowers and earrings and cards, but with a world where people are not judged or bullied, made to feel inferior, pushed or ignored, bruised or bloodied.

So a happy belated Mother's Day to you all. I hope that the day treated you well, whether you are a Mom or not.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My First Styling Assignment

My grandmother passed away early Saturday morning. More than anything, we were relieved that her suffering is over. We had become the "Bless their Hearts" of the hospital, watching tearfully and patiently as her breathing slowed and faded away. It is something that I will never forget and that I hope will inspire both my family and all of you to get routinely tested for skin cancers.

I met my dad, stepmother, and uncle at the funeral home the next morning and we worked through the arrangements for the funeral. I am pretty sure that when I die, Matt will take my ashes in a Folger's can (a la The Big Lebowski) to Stinson Beach and let me fly and that will be it. But death for others in my tiny little Appalachian world is much more....ornate. In the middle of this, my dad managed to sign me up for writing the obituary ("You see, my daughter has an English degree. And I'm not sure what that means she can do, but I'm pretty sure that means she can write. So she'll do it.") and to buy a dress for my grandmother to wear to the hereafter.

So ya'll. I have now styled a dead person.

Now, my grandmother was feisty as a youth and just damned stubborn as an adult. She was picky about what she wore and liked things just so. As she damned well should have been, I say. So immediately, I felt this was a huge task--to find something that flattered her and made it so she wouldn't haunt my shit for the rest of forever. Because she would totally do that. And that's what I love about her. Add this to the fact that my grandmother had become a very large woman due to fluid retention and an inability to walk over the last three years. Oh, and the outfit had to have sleeves to hide spots left from her cancer. So basically, it was like coming to bat with an 0-2 count before I even left the dugout. For all you non-sports playing pansies out there, that means, IT SUCKED.

I was striking out all over the place at the mall. Plus size clothing options, especially in dresses, are few, and well, horrible. Basically everything I found was flowered like crazy and sleeveless. Is there an unwritten rule that larger ladies adore flowers? Was there a memo? I didn't get it. And there were a lot of these little short sleeved boleros to go along side that were pretty hideous. To all you plus sized ladies out there: I am so, so sorry. Let's all write hate letters and burn a size 4 slip dress in effigy.

Then, and I was getting really tired at this point, I went to the Dress Barn. Ya'll, I have made SOOO many bad jokes about the Dress Barn. Like for years now. Not a Christmas goes by that I don't tell Matt I am buying him a gift certificate from there. And we laugh, and I always say that in all of retaildom, there is not a worse named store than the Dress Barn. Seriously. The person who named that place deserves to be shamed. Publicly. Like in stocks. They should also be forced to watch E! for 24 straight hours and have Kris Kardashian's visage tatooed on their ankle. I have never been in there, but I imagined it to be full of those mid-length floral skirts with matching polyester jackets that I see people wear to church all the time. And that make me want to vomit.

But here I go into the Dress Barn. I am looking and I am thinking that I am going to strike out here as well. And then, I see it. A simple pink sheath. No adorning, no garish flowers. Just a lovely shade of pink, much like the rhododendrons that grow in front of my grandmother's living room window. I picked it up. And yes, it was sleeveless. So I go and find the manager and she blesses my heart a few times (this is the South, ya'll) and then helps me find a drapy, floaty three quarter length sleeve lacy/eyelet-y look white cardigan. I cried, she cried, and we put it all in a dress bag and I purchased it.

(And, I'll just cop to the fact that I bought a dress too--a black sheath with a small split neck detail and a skinny patent leather belt. So yes. I own a dress from the Dress Barn. But it was really, really cute, and I could wear it in a 6, and although I don't normally purchase things based on the size which yes, I know is inflated, I really needed that 6 that day, especially after a week where my BEST meals came from McDonald's. And if I can get my big honkin' boobs in anything fitted where I don't have to buy a larger size and then get it tailored at my waist, then I'm totally walking out with it, even if it came from Glenn Beck's Dresses and Tracts Emporium.)

So my grandmother is moving to the next life in a sheath dress and a cardigan. Thus, it is pretty obvious who did the styling, especially since I will be standing at the funeral tonight in a...sheath dress and a cardigan. I can just hear everyone now, "Oh, Joan looks good. But she would never wear that. Probably that weird girl done it. That one what went to school and wears the ugly shoes."

My grandmother was a feisty woman, a woman much too glamorous to ever have lived the life she lived in the place she lived it. There is a picture of her, standing in front of the house where she would live the rest of her life. She is wearing a pair of black capri pants and a silk shantung looking blouse with a huge collar. Her aunt had sent it to her from New York. That is how she got a lot of her clothes, I am told. She is standing with her hip cocked, and there is this look that says, "Bitch, please. You know I look good." I love it. That woman would have rocked a sheath.

And that woman lives, in my snarky tongue, in my laugh, in my son's bright blue eyes. My aunt told me a story yesterday that I have to share, a story that sums her up amazingly well. They were both sunning in the backyard one day, stretched out in lawn chairs (note: DO NOT DO THIS, LADIES. JERGEN'S SELF TANNER FTW). A man rolled down the road on a bicycle. My grandmother laughed loudly and turned to my aunt, who had only been married to my uncle for a short time and said, "Look at that fool. His shirt collar's starched stiffer than a groom's prick at a wedding."

I'll leave you with that. I wish I had been able to include things like this in her obituary, but I didn't because this is a churchgoing community, and well, you know. If you would like to read that (i.e., the more sanitized view of my grandmother), you can find it here.

Oh, one more bit of wisdom that she would want me to share with you: "If you are ever invited to a function, you better take more than a pone of cornbread, you jackass."