The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Category Archives for ‘Advice’

Project M.E.S.A. – An Open Letter

This is the letter I’m going to send to the principal of Red Mountain High School and the Mesa Public School District regarding Project M.E.S.A. (Mesa’s Education in Sexual Awareness):

Dear Mesa Public Schools Administrators,

I’m not generally the outraged letter-writing type. I come from a family of teachers and administrators and I know you people work hard, and for the most part put lots of thought into your leadership choices. I have been fairly happy with my own MPS education (Jordan Elementary, Hendrix Jr. High, Dobson High School) and that of my three sons (Zaharis Elementary and Mesa Academy).

That said, in reviewing the Red Mountain High School registration packet I was sent for my oldest son, who will be starting as a freshman in a couple of weeks, I came across the page describing the ‘Sex Ed’ program, Project M.E.S.A., and my head almost exploded.

project MESA

 

Apparently (at least according to this description), educating our kids about their sexuality has been reduced to a plea for abstinence? Oh, and scare tactics revolving around teen pregnancy and STDs?

Let’s break this down for just a minute:

Abstinence before marriage, while widely discussed and preached, is a lifestyle only a very small percentage of the population successfully lives. The large majority of Americans will have sex at some point before getting married (even if it’s only to the person he or she eventually marries). So I have to ask myself, why would the school district make the choice to not only recommend, but exclusively support (as the program is ‘abstinence only’) a lifestyle so far on the fringe of the community?

Because Red Mountain is a public school and there’s that whole “separation of church and state” thing, I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume the choice to subject the entire freshman population to this program is not based on religious reasons.  You guys wouldn’t try to indoctrinate my kid to fall in line with your personal religious beliefs, would you? Good.

Now that we’ve ruled that out, I can only guess you feel strongly our kids shouldn’t be having sex because it’s not safe. You know what dramatic, life-altering (and potentially life-ending) things can result from people having sex and you do NOT want that for the kids under your control. Kids having kids, kids getting STDs, kids feeling pressured into sex, YIKES. None of that sounds like anything you want them involved in, so you think the only thing to do is just tell them to stay completely away from it, right?

That, I can understand. We definitely don’t want our children exposed to anything potentially dangerous or in any way hazardous to their health. We need to protect them. They shouldn’t be around chemicals that could possibly catch fire or explode… except, you know, in Chemistry class. Where they’re taught which compounds are dangerous and how to properly handle them so as not to get injured. And we don’t let them put their bodies at risk by smashing them into other people… except on the football field, where they are given the proper equipment to minimize the risk of physical harm (which the school has deemed an acceptable downside to the benefit of physical activity and social interaction). Well, and we absolutely wouldn’t want to give kids access to a large, difficult to control weapon that kills thousands of people every year… I mean, except in Driver’s Ed.

Huh, so actually, I guess it’s our jobs as parents and teachers to educate our children about situations they’re likely to encounter that could potentially be dangerous or put them at risk, and help them understand how to navigate those situations in a mature, healthy and successful manner. Yet, apparently it’s been decided that even though we can all agree sex is something our kids are statistically likely to encounter sooner, rather than later (and almost definitely before marriage), the school stance is going to simply be: Don’t do it. It’s scary and you might ruin your life or die (which could totally also ruin your life). So you should just not do it and that’s all you need to know. 

I have to say, in my opinion, the biggest mistake of all of this isn’t the school dropping the ball on actually educating kids about how to have a healthy and safe sexual relationship (although it sucks. But, in theory, the parents should be capable of, and responsible for, conveying this information. Barring that, there’s always the internet). It’s not the flagrant waste of time and resources pulling the entire class of freshmen out for four days in a pointless attempt to shame them into not participating in an activity their bodies have been genetically hard-wired to do creates (although that is also horrifying).

The biggest mistake of this is it creates a wall of mistrust between us and our teens. They already think we’re old, weird, uncool and bad dressers. All trying to sell this fairy tale about how teens don’t have sex and people shouldn’t have sex until they’re married does is reinforce to our teens we’re not honest with them. They know everyone is having sex from TV, books, music, social media and just about every where they turn. They’re not stupid. They probably haven’t ever gotten over the whole Santa Claus ruse and now, here were are, lying to them again, not trusting them to make their own choices, just slapping their hands away from the cookie jar. What we’re doing is telling them they can’t come to us. They can’t talk to us about this scary and difficult topic they need our guidance on. We’re taking the control to parent and teach them out of our own hands and forcing them to find answers on their own.

It was my first inclination to rescind my parental permission for my son to attend this seminar, but I don’t want the poor kid to be the weirdo whose mom won’t let him take Sex-Ed. He’s intelligent and mature, and I know I can have a conversation with him to explain my disagreement with the stance the school has taken and open up a dialog between us regarding sex and any questions he may have. I trust him to recognize the error of the situation and resist any indoctrination I’m sure totally won’t be occurring (right?). Instead, I’m writing this letter to voice my unhappiness with the poor choices the school and the district have made in regard to Project M.E.S.A.

Let’s all take a deep breath and trust our kids just a little bit more. Shame and fear isn’t going to keep them out of trouble, but information and a relationship built on trust just might.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Newlin, mother of Bennett Tolar, Freshman, Red Mountain High School

How to Choose the Perfect Swimsuit For a Pool Party

Step 1: Gather every swimsuit in the store you could ever possibly want, even the hot yellow one-piece with side cut-outs. You never know, it might not make you look like a bratwurst being sautéed whose casing suddenly splits and guts spill out the side. Options are your friend.

Step 2: In the dressing room order the suits from Likely Horrifying to Might Not Hate Myself In It to increase your chances of ending on a positive note instead of walking out the store and directly into oncoming traffic.

Step 3: Do a rapid try-on of all of the suits and drop each into one of two piles you’ve designated, Let’s Never Speak of This and I Didn’t Throw Up When I Looked in the Mirror. When you get to the reversible corset-style bikini you were sure was going to be adorable, but somehow manages to mash the small amount of boobs you have down under the cups, while simultaneous shoving all of your fat into the space between the top and the bottom in a way you’ve only previously seen on PeopleofWalmart.com, briefly consider writing a nasty letter to the designer but decide it’s not worth your time. When you’re finished, kick the rejects under the door out into the communal dressing room space. The sales girl will understand. Ain’t nobody got time for properly rehanging suits that just humiliated you.

Step 4: Perform a second round of judging on the ones that have ‘made it to Vegas’, if you will. This time really make them perform. Give them the 360 degree treatment. Jog in place. Do a couple of downward-facing-dogs, if the dressing room permits. Get rid of anything with twee ruffles or patterns that just aren’t you. Narrow it down to the two best candidates.

Step 5: It’s going to come down to either the one that makes you feel sort of whorish, or the one that makes you feel kind of old; it always does. Try both on again and do your very best to look at yourself completely objectively. Imagine you saw you at the pool. Which of the swimsuit judgement trifecta would you lean over to your best friend and say: Damn, she’s slutty, Damn, she’s fat, or Damn, I wish I was her?

Step 6: Determine you’re fat, slutty and incapable of being objective.

Step 7: Spend 10 minutes taking a selfie in each suit and framing them side-by-side so you can text them to two friends for their opinions. Make sure to send it to friends who will:

1. Text you back immediately.

2. Be bitchy enough to point out that the suit color makes you look sallow.

3. Not sabotage you to make themselves look hotter when standing next to you.

Step 8: Once each friend has texted you back picking a different one, because they’re useless, make an executive choice based completely on what you had for lunch. If it was a salad, pick the slutty one. If it was a burger, go with the one with more coverage.

Step 9: When you’re in line to pay, send the selfie of the one you picked to your husband so he can reinforce your choice with the ‘HOTTT!!!’ he would send back even if you’d sent him a picture of you wearing the horrible corset one.

Step 10: When you get home, lock yourself in the bathroom and try on the winning suit again. Take selfies from every angle because you read that’s the way to get a more accurate view of  yourself. Wonder if you have that wrong because you’re still taking a picture of the reversed angle of yourself. Feel confused and sad about your understanding of the universe.

Step 11: Find several possibly symmetrical lumps on your abdominal region and try to decide if they’re ab muscles or bumpy fat pockets. Flex your stomach as hard as you can, then jiggle the top layer with your hands. Decide they’re probably fat.

Step 12: Flex your butt cheeks and observe your thigh dimples. Pinch your back fat. Smush your tummy together so your stretch marks look like dog jowls. Have a long inner-dialog about flaws making you human, how photo-shopping is ruining the self-image of society and that not being proud of your strong body is setting feminism back 50 years.

Step 13: Pull out the swimsuit you bought 5 years ago that someone once took a cute picture of you in. Wear that to the pool party. Never actually remove your cover-up.

You’re welcome.

Why Circus Class Is Better Than Your Dumb Workout Class

I feel like right now you’re sitting at your computer, thinking to yourself, I wonder just why it is Elizabeth Newlin loves circus class so much… Am I right? Is that what was just happening? I knew it. I’m kind of psychic like that. 

Well you’re in luck. My stupid pulled ab muscle is healing and I was able to actually attend class yesterday, so here for a little Monday quickie (because who doesn’t love a Monday quickie), I put together a list of the reasons I love (LOVE) circus class.

My Favorite Things About Circus Class

1. There’s no such thing as ‘too old’, ‘too young’, ‘too fat’ or ‘too weird’ in circus class.

It would probably be insulting for me to detail out examples of old, young, fat, and weird in my classes, so let’s just go with this: I’m mostly middle of the road in all areas. My blue hair and almost 36-ness barely ping the ‘old-weirdo’ scale. Regardless of our ages and size, we’re all there together, squeezing into lycra and trying to climb a rope.

2. There’s a general ‘suck it up’ mentality about pain.

Two weeks ago in trapeze class, our instructor, Lauren, told us to put the middle of our forearms on the bar and try to balance our weight on them. “It’s a good idea to work on your pain tolerance in this area,” she explained. Don’t worry, that will hurt a lot less when you kill the nerves in right there and Once you toughen your skin up you won’t get as many bruises are things we’re often told. Because, Dude, if you can’t be a badass, what circus will want you? And hey, being a badass is an important life skill.

3. It’s assumed you can fucking do it if you just try harder.

During one of the classes in my first few months, my beginning level teacher, Ximena, told me to start class with a climb to the top of the silks. At this point, climbing 20+ feet up in the air was an incredibly physically (and let’s face it, emotionally) depleting task that I hadn’t actually managed to complete before. That day, though, I dug deep and made it to the very top of the silks, before shakily and gracelessly sliding down, hand-under hand. At the bottom, Ximena turned around (she’d been helping someone else) and said, “I told you to climb to the top.” Dripping sweat and near tears, I replied, “I just did it! Didn’t you see?” To which she said, “Well do it again, then!” That day I nearly punched her, but I did manage to get halfway back up again. Now I can probably do it three times in a row before I’m so tired I need to punch anyone. It turns out it helps to have someone push you past your own imagined limits.

4. Muscles are a thing everyone is proud and envious of.

Yesterday in class, a friend, Rebekah, who’s been in my class since I started turned to me and said, “Every single person here has a ripped back. Have you noticed that? Even that 16 year old girl over there who just started this session has new definition in her back and shoulders.” I looked around and she was right. You don’t go to circus class as a ‘fitness class’. You go to learn awesome tricks and feel like a superstar. A rock hard body is apparently just an unavoidable byproduct.

5. The What are you doing… Can I try?-culture.

Because the people who come to circus class are there because they want to learn cool tricks, everyone is constantly teaching everyone else new things they figured out or learned. Yesterday after class I got to try out the globe:

circus globe

 

Now I just need a high-waisted sequin bikini, right?

Which brings me to number 6…

6. It’s all about the outfits.

This one doesn’t even need explanation, right?

star tights

 

OK, so now do you want to come to class with me???

Overcoming the Family Legacy – My Dream For Ben

Dear My Nearly-Highschooler Son,

It’s not that I don’t get it. I do. I know what you’re going through all too well:

You take a seat in class, determined this will be the day you turn over a new leaf. You’re going to listen and absorb new material. You’re going to pay attention and take notes. You reach into your bag and pull out a notebook. It’s halfway through the semester and the only pages with writing are from the ‘Classroom Rules’ you were required to copy down the first day of class. You have a sinking feeling it doesn’t matter if you start today because you’ve kind of already ruined this class. You wonder if maybe you should start fresh next semester.

No, you tell yourself. Any day can be the start of new, positive habits. You can pull this class up at least a little bit. It’s worth trying.

You reach into your bag for a pen to take notes and find 3 broken pencils, a yellow highlighter, a pen you know doesn’t work and a crumbling pack of gum, among the wads of paper. Floating near the top is the form to buy a yearbook they handed out weeks ago. Looks like it’s due tomorrow. Remember to tell mom to write a check, remember to tell mom to write a check, you meditate.

The teacher begins speaking. You still haven’t found a viable writing utensil. You could ask the girl in front of you if she has one for you to borrow. She always seems well prepared. Or you could take one of the broken pencils to the sharpener really quick. Either seems like it would be disruptive to the class. And what if the teacher rolls his eyes and says, Really? Now you’re taking notes? What could possibly be the point now? That’s what you’d say to you.

No, you decide, instead, to sit quietly and pay extremely close attention to what he’s saying so you can soak it all in, and as soon as there’s a break, you’ll grab a pen and write down everything you learned before you forget it.

By this point the teacher is a few sentences into his lecture. He started with a joke and now he’s reviewing some stuff you already know. He’s giving some background info that’s clearly not going to be on any kind of a test. Where is the meat? The learning? What exactly are you supposed to be getting out of this right now? Couldn’t he just cut to the chase already?

Your mind starts to drift. You think about the novel you’re halfway through reading. You hope something interesting happens at lunch with your friends. You wonder if you should try to speak to your girlfriend in public today or if it will just embarrass her because she’s so shy. You brush your hair out of your eyes and try to remember if you washed it today in the shower or forgot and that’s why it looks so greasy.

Twenty minutes later the teacher wants you to break into small groups to work on a project and you realize you didn’t hear a single word he said. It was probably all in the text, though, you console yourself.

Homework feels like pointless busy-work. You always seem to miss when the teachers give due dates. You constantly worry you’re supposed to be working on something, so rather than face your assignments, you lose yourself in a book or your friends. You can make it up on the test, anyway, you tell yourself.

Does that sound right? I remember being that student. I remember feeling primarily unmotivated and bored. I remember being completely off-track and behind so quick into the school year that it felt pointless to even try to catch up. Sure, I was underperforming, but that was kind of part of my charm.

I know you hear the stories about me (and your grandpa) and it feels like a family legacy you can’t overcome. You’re not even really sure you want to. Neither of us twirls a sign on a corner days and works the Arby’s drive-thru nights just to make ends meet because we failed 8th grade social studies, after all. It’s in your blood to be a little bit of a half-ass when it comes to school. You’re a third-generation under-achiever!

The thing I wish I could convey to you without just sounding like Your Mom, is, if I could, I would do it all over exactly opposite. Your grandpa and I tell stories and laugh about how we didn’t even go to most of our classes in college, but when it comes down to it, I really regret all the things I missed out on because I was screwing around.

Looking back, I feel certain I could have put a relatively minimal amount of work into generally paying attention during class and completing homework tasks without largely diminishing my social life. I’ve come to realize pretty little follow through with my classes likely would have been enough to keep my grades within a range I wouldn’t have had to constantly worry about my parents being pissed at me. I actually could have probably gotten away with a lot more shenanigans in high school than I did if I’d just done my homework and stayed off their radar a little bit more. If I’d read the books assigned in my English classes (instead of rereading horror novels I’d already practically memorized), not only would I likely have enjoyed them, but I’m confident I’d now understand 50% more of the references on The Simpsons.

If I’d kept attending that dance class I registered for in college, instead of dropping it the second week because it was all the way across campus and I was too busy eating 4 meals a day at the cafeteria, I might have continued dancing instead of taking almost a decade off. If I’d put some effort into the assignments for my creative writing classes rather than literally using my roommate’s fridge poetry kit 20 minutes before class to write my poem, I might have actually learned something and be further along in my writing dreams than 35 years old with a blog and mere aspirations of a novel.

It’s hard to see it at the time, but high school and college are this crazy fertile ground of opportunities and creative energy. They’re both places full of people who only want to help you learn and do awesome things. Once you get to real life, those opportunities are still there, but you have to look really hard for them and only after you’re exhausted from horribly boring things like supporting yourself and doing laundry.

It took me a long time to see where I went wrong on all of this. Like a really long time. I just wish for you (sofa king much) that you could know this truth a little bit sooner than I did; soon enough to take advantage of your giant brain and some of the opportunities it can afford you if you simply teach it a tiny bit of discipline.

It’s really all I want for you.

Love you much (even though you’re an enormous pain in my ass),

Mom

Your Wife is Like Your iPhone

WARNING: This is one of those that’s going to fall under the umbrella of “Super Sexist and Assuming But Sometimes True,” so if you’re going to be a baby about that you should probably skip it.

You know how sometimes you’re driving down the freeway, mind wandering from topic to topic (If peacocks mated with flamingos, their spawn would be the fashion models of birds, right? Just how many calories are in a spoonful of Nutella mixed with a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter? Is Neil Patrick Harris a total waste of a spot on my list of celebs I’m allowed to sleep with or is there a chance he’s bi?) and you’re struck by a brilliant lightning bolt of inspiration that can only be explained by a muse, The Hand of God or LSD?

Well it happened to me the other day. It was a brilliant epiphany, similar to when I figured out being a parent is like smelling your own farts. Only this time it was about the secret to a blissful marriage.

So without further ado, here it is:

Dear Men, Your wife is just like your iPhone. Treat her accordingly. 

See how simple and beautiful that is?? I know. Go forth and have a perfect marriage.

Oh. You need more details? Hmm. I thought it was kind of self-explanatory.

OK, so menfolk. You have your iPhone. At this point it’s like another arm. It has your email, your texts, your Twitter, your Words With Friends, that weird Secret app you can’t decide if it’s going to get cool or not, it pays your bills, it tells you how to get places, it takes your pictures, wakes you up and records your workouts. Occasionally people call you on it. It does your shit, right? You can’t function without it.

Your iPhone can do a really lot of things, but it has limitations. Specifically: its battery life. It carries with it a finite amount of power and you are constantly aware of this. When you turn it on to do anything, your eyes automatically flit up to the bar in the top right that tells you just how much juice you have left. When it starts to dip down into the 70% range, you get a little nervous. At 50% you mentally calculate how long until you’ll have access to a charger and start to cut back on your social media usage. If it ever gets down to 20% you consider asking strangers if they have a spare charger on them.

You know if your iPhone dies, you’ll be stuck. You’ll be cut off from all the things you’ve grown to depend on it for. And beyond that, when your iPhone gets low on battery, it starts to get a little janky. The maps function gets slow. Sometimes texts don’t want to go through. You can’t tell if your comment on Facebook actually posted, so you end up posting it three times in a row, which makes you look like a fucking weirdo who doesn’t really ‘get it’.

To keep all of this at bay, you keep a charger in your car and a cord at work. When you’re home, you keep it plugged in if possible. When you’re traveling, you keep a charger on you at all times, and when you’re killing time, waiting to get on a plane, you find a seat at the bar near an outlet so you can keep your iPhone charged while you have a beer. You want that baby to run at optimal performance at all times, so you keep it happy.

Now let’s talk about your wife. If you’ve been married more than a handful of years, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a little comfortable about things. Maybe you still make an effort to poop in the upstairs bathroom if you know your wife is hanging out downstairs, but beyond that life is stressful and complicated, and being nice takes effort. Some days you feel like you’re just doing the best you can to get through work and fight traffic to get home and pass out on the couch. Add in kids and/or working out and who has time for anything else? Occasionally you don’t even put a smile on your face and act happy to see her when you walk in the door.

So here’s the deal*, your wife has her own ‘feeling loved’ battery. (OK, you do, too.) Obviously, you depend on her for lots of things (companionship, shared household duties, childcare, comfort, sex, entertainment, etc) and if she gets completely empty, and stays that way for long enough, things get super fucked up. You’re definitely not getting laid, and you’re probably looking at a divorce or an affair-type situation that’s messy and awkward for everyone involved.

But it’s also possible you keep her consistently at about 20%. You’re just nice enough, or you make a grand gesture every once in awhile to keep her from getting completely empty, but she’s generally not functioning at optimal levels regarding you. She’s isn’t super motivated to make your favorite dinner. She’s cranky and distant. She buys that toilet paper she knows you hate just because it’s cheaper.

Plus, keeping her low runs the risk of something outside of your control depleting her final stash and her shutting completely down on you. As with technology, of course this always happens at the most inopportune moment. You get stuck in a meeting at work and are late meeting her to a dinner with friends. She’s pissed because she feels like you did it on purpose because you don’t really care about her, so you have an awkward, We’re not fighting, but really we are, conversation in front of everyone before going home to a blowout and ultimately, porn on your iPad (which is probably charged) and the couch.

Imagine, instead, you’d kept her at 100%. She would have only been mildly irritated, instead of taking it personally (dropping her down to 80%) and possibly even sympathetic to your long day at work. She might have ordered you your favorite cocktail so it was waiting when you got there and watched porn with you when you got home. At which point, you’d have a full enough ‘love battery’ because of how kind and understanding she’d been, to reciprocate and she’d bump right back up to 100%.

See, that’s the thing. If you’ve kept her on the low side, it probably will take some effort to get your wife fully charged (and it might even take some research on what sort of actions recharge her), but not only will keeping her charged be in your own best interest, but it will likely be much easier than you expected. Being nice sort of feeds on itself.

So, the point is, figure out what keeps your wife’s battery charged. Is it sitting next to her on the couch at night? Texting her during the day to say hi? Washing the bottles at night before going to bed so when she gets up in the morning they’re clean? Taking her car to get washed once a week? Planning a date once a month? Grabbing her ass in her yoga pants and telling her she looks hot? We’re all different, but it shouldn’t be that tough to figure out.

And then, keep her plugged in, and reap the rewards of a wife at optimal performance.

(OK, OK, this totally could have been gender neutral and women are just as culpable of not keeping their spouse plugged in. But I thought men would appreciate the technology angle! Or maybe it’s just my husband who’s OCD about plugging in his iPhone. And I’m super sexist. Sorry.)

*Full disclosure: Like the only relationship book I’ve ever read was that Love Languages one and I kind of totally buy into that shit. Part of this mentality comes from that. You should read it. It was good.

How To Have The Perfect Body

Yesterday I drove with a friend to circus class and we discussed eating healthy, working out and how the scale generally fucks with our heads. Like most people on this planet, I’ve spent an excessive amount of time wondering how to achieve The Perfect Body. I’ve tried diets, embraced various forms of exercise, considered plastic surgery. So far I have been unsuccessful (and too chicken to go under the knife). But, I did some serious thinking about all of this and I’m pretty sure I’ve got the whole thing figured out. I mean, really, it’s not that complicated to have The Perfect Body once you boil it down.

8 Steps to The Perfect Body –

  1. Hire someone to follow you around and hand you organic apple slices or cucumbers with lime juice and sea salt whenever you have a twinge of hunger. If this is prohibitively expensive, cancel your health insurance to pay for it. Having The Perfect Body is obviously an assurance of health. Same diff.
  2. Never clean your house. That shit takes time that could be spent perfecting your abs. You need to ask yourself if you’d rather look amazing in a swimsuit the 3 or 4 times a year you wear one, or walk down your hallway in the middle of the night without stepping on a Lego or in a damp spot of unknown origin. If the answer isn’t obvious, you’re not committed enough to the goal of The Perfect Body.
  3. Don’t engage with media depicting the human form. Don’t read fashion magazines, watch TV or visit The Chive. Having The Perfect Body is impossible to achieve or maintain, when you have access to pictures of other, Perfecter Bodies. Comparison is the enemy of the The Perfect Body. Live in a vacuum.
  4. Have your taste buds lasered off.  Don’t worry, it’s not weirder or more invasive than having silicone injected into your lips, and it won’t make you look like a duck. Late night ice cream is far easier to resist when it stops tasting like heaven, comfort and the feeling of being loved and starts tasting like snow.
  5. Only be friends and surround yourself with people who could accurately be described as ‘fluffy’. If any of them are smart and/or funny, you’re not going to have The Perfect Personality, but that’s not what we’re going for here.
  6. Be a vampire. Not having a reflection or appearing in photographs makes it nearly impossible to be aware of any impediments to The Perfect Body.
  7. Don’t have any kind of subjective pre-existing notions of beauty or physical perfection. How can you possibly have The Perfect Body if you grow up thinking it’s perfect to have flawlessly spherical kneecaps, when in fact yours are actually more oval? Duh, you can’t. You have to start with a clean slate. Ideally, be raised by wolves.
  8. Never (NEVER) look down when you’re at the beach in a bikini and you hunch over to eat a bite of an amazing beach chilidog with cheese. Just keep your eyes closed while enjoying your lunch. It’s literally impossible for your midsection to maintain perfection in a situation like this.

Or, failing all of that:

Eat real food. Veggies and lean meats, shit like that. Do your best to shop at the ends of the grocery store (where they keep the actual food) and stay mostly out of the middle. Sometimes (but only when it’s really worth it) eat delicious things that are horrible for you, like tater tots, hollandaise sauce and bacon blue cheese burgers.

Find a few things that involve movement and make your soul joyful. Hockey, rock climbing, long nature walks, strip teases – whatever they are, do them regularly. Train your body to do them better because it makes you feel awesome and strong.

Look in the mirror and be proud of your muscles, bones, blood and skin and what they can do. Be amazed they can lift you up and perform beautiful actions. Continue to feed your body things that will make it strong, happy and able to support you. Realize you do have The Perfect Body.

 

The Duck Dynasty Boycott Flow Chart

Yesterday, while watching the Duck Dynasty/Phil/GQ/A&E drama unfold on social media, I got really confused about whether or not it’s socially and politically acceptable for me to be watching Duck Dynasty. I mean, what does it really say about me as a person if I tune in?

So I decided to take a crack at a quick flow chart to help me navigate the complicated Duck Dynasty controversy and answer the question, Should I boycott the show? (click to enlarge):

duck dynasty corrected typo

And there you have it! The answer is simple. You’re welcome and Happy Friday!

How to tell where you are in Metro-Phoenix – The Flow Chart

Your company is transferring you to Arizona. You’ve been to Phoenix before. Twice. Once was in the winter and you got to play golf while it snowed back home. It was glorious. This won’t be so bad, you think. But then they fly you in to find somewhere to live. You’re shuttled to a Chili’s for dinner and then to a nondescript hotel. You wake up in the morning, and realize you have no idea where exactly you are. Are you actually IN Phoenix? Or are you in one of the seemingly endless suburbs? How do you even tell?

No worries, my dear, I’m here for you. Metro-Phoenix is a massive monster of suburbs. You know how The Blob just ate stuff and it all turned into more blob and he got bigger and bigger? That’s Phoenix right there, in a nutshell. It’s large and spread out and always growing. Suburbs glomming on to suburbs.

There are some distinct differences to the areas, however, so I’ve created a handy flow-chart for you to use to clear up the confusion and figure out exactly where you are at any given time. Click to enlarge it and start in the blue square with the rounded edges (specific descriptions of each area are provided below):

South Phoenix - Welcome to South Phoenix! It’s close to hiking at South Mountain, freeway access, the airport and a bunch of old car lots with barbed wire and stacks of tires. But if you stay away from Broadway, you won’t even notice those.

Fountain Hills – If you’re super rich and reclusive, this is a great place to buy a mansion on the side of a hill, hole up and enjoy the views.

Ahwatukee - No one’s really sure exactly what Ahwatukee is. It’s not a city (even though half the population is pretty sure it is) and it’s not a subdivision… it might be the Bermuda Triangle of Metro-Phoenix.

Apache Junction – The Old West is still alive and kicking out here. Most of the cowboys just live in mobile home communities and go to swap meets now.

Northeast Mesa – This area likes to think of itself as the poor man’s Fountain Hills, but it’s really the rich man’s Apache Junction.

Scottsdale - You’ve heard of Scottsdale, haven’t you? It’s everything you’ve heard.

North Scottsdale – North Scotts is pretty sure it’s better than Scottsdale. And everyone else.

Tempe - ASU is in Tempe. ASU with the kids with their loud music and short shorts and GET OFF MY LAWN.

Phoenix – There really is an actual place called Phoenix where people live. Unless you’re within spitting distance of the Biltmore Hotel, prepare to be unimpressed.

Mesa – All of the hipsters moved out of Scottsdale and Tempe when they got too mainstream and now they live in Mesa, wearing wolf t-shirts they bought on ebay and going to shows at Hollywood Alley.

Cen Pho - That’s how the cool kids refer to ‘Central Phoenix’. Although I’m pretty sure that fact that I’ve figured out what it means indicates it’s no longer cool. I’ve heard they have food trucks there. I feel like if the food trucks were really that awesome they’d drive to my house to bring me lunch.

Paradise Valley - They breed unicorns in Paradise Valley. But it has a magic door you can’t see. If you happen to accidentally stumble in, you have to make a choice to abandon your friends and family and live there forever in peaceful beauty or leave and never return again.

Surprise - They know they’re Westside and they’re proud of it. No really, they’re not even embarrassed that most people East of the avenues have never set foot in their city. They have the airforce base! It’s a benefit, not just a disclosure requirement!

Glendale - You’re probably there for a game. Or a concert, right?

Chandler - For awhile people in Chandler would go around saying, “Chandler is the new Scottsdale,” but it didn’t catch on, so now they’re going with, “People like it here.” That seems to be sticking.

Buckeye - I… have never been to Buckeye.

Maricopa - I heard they’re getting a Target soon.

Gilbert - They’ve got a dairy farm or three. And elementary schools. Lots of elementary schools.

San Tan Valley - It used to be called Queen Creek, but then everyone started saying, “OK, but do you mean Queen Creek… or QUEEN CREEK?” and it felt less offensive just to give it another name so people would stop referring to it with an exhausted tone of voice.

And that is absolutely everything you ever needed to know about Metro-Phoenix. You’re welcome.

Magical Unicorn Foreclosure Websites Where the Hidden Listings Live?

You: DUDE. WTF is up with the lack of inventory in the Metro Phoenix market right now?

Me: I know. It’s been really tight for a long time. And certain price ranges are nearly impossible to find a house in.

You: OK, but seriously. This is not alright. I’m ready to buy a house! I’m prequalified! I have like actual money to spend! But there are no houses coming on the market that fit my criteria! It’s sincerely upsetting. IT MAKES ME WANT TO TALK IN ALL CAPS.

Me: Simmer down there, buddy. No shouting. Take a deep breath. I totally get it. It’s an incredibly frustrating market for a lot of people.

You: AND THE GODDAMN INTEREST RATES!! Sorry, I mean, and the interest rates! Have crept up to like 4%! FOUR PERCENT!! My head is exploding!

Me: Um… yes, the interest rates are not going down. This is true. Although can we please acknowledge that 4% is still really amazing as far as interest rates go? Because when you get all stressed out and screamy about 4% it kind of makes me want to punch you in the face over the 6.25% I’m carrying on my mortgage. Just saying.

You: Sorry. Ok, yes, 4% is still pretty good. It’s just making me nervous they’re going to shoot up to 111% like tomorrow before I can even find a house to buy. It’s like every second that ticks by is costing me more and more money and when I think about it I just want to drink tequila straight from the bottle and cry.

Me: No, I can understand that anxiety. And the loss of control is not fun. You feel impotent.

You: Now wait a second here. I’m not sure what you’re implying, but I’m unfamiliar with that sensation.

Me: No one’s doubting that. I’m just saying I can empathize with your frustration.

You: So I know you have me set up on a search of the MLS and that it emails me automatically when anything comes on the market that fits my criteria, but I’m barely getting any emails and what if it’s broken or accidentally missing the perfect house?

Me: It’s unlikely to be broken, but it’s possible that there are houses that fall just outside of the bounds of your criteria that might still work for you. Do you want me to tweak the search?

You: No, I think I’ve got it as open as I’m willing to go, but I have been searching other sites…

Me: I’m sure you have. That’s also a super natural reaction. And you’re a go-getter who likes to have his fate in his own hands. Have you found any houses you want me to pull from the MLS?

You: Yes, these three: 123 Summit Place, 875 Barrow Drive and 666 Lucifer Way.

Me: OK, Summit and Barrow are both under contract. Lucifer closed escrow a month ago.

You: What? Why are they all showing as ‘active’ on sites like Zillow and Homes.com?

Me: Those sites actually pull data directly from the MLS, but they don’t do it instantaneously. Some of them only pull once a week. Also, the MLS currently has a category of listing called ‘UCB’ which stands for Under Contract – Backups, and this pulls in as ‘active’ on many sites. It means they’ve accepted an offer in first position, but they’re willing to hold other offers in backup, in the event the original offers falls out of escrow for some reason.

You: Oh.

Me: Sorry, Man. If you find any others, keep sending them to me. I know sometimes it helps stress levels to be actively searching, and there’s always a small chance a house you like might have been listed wrong on the MLS and not popping up on your search.

You: How about this one-

Foreclosure # 187915880, Mesa AZ, 85202
$133,100 | 3 br, 2 ba, 1,296 sqft

Me: Hm… it’s not enough information for me to pull… I need an address or a 7 digit MLS number… where did you find it?

You: On this website. I’ll send you the link. It says I need to register to get the address. Should I register? What if it’s like a special secret website with all of the houses that don’t get listed on the MLS? Maybe I’ve been missing out on all of these perfect houses this entire time! 

Me: Let’s take a second to think that through. The banks are kinda dumb, yes. But is there any way you can think of that a scenario where the banks with foreclosure properties to sell would benefit from making them exclusive to one website and difficult for the general public to find? Is it possible at all for it to be in the seller (the bank)’s best interest to decrease competition on the houses they’re trying to move by keeping them off the MLS?

You: No… I guess not.

Me: Many banks actually have guidelines in place that require their properties to be listed for a certain length of time before they will review offers just so they can get as many people in to view and compete over the house. This is the best way to ensure they will get the strongest offers.

You: That makes sense.

Me: But let’s take a look at this house you found and the website to see if we can figure out what’s going on.

You: Please. Because WHAT IF??

Me: OK, so I clicked on the link and this is what I see:

So we’ve got the picture of a cute house with a price of $133,100, a zip code and a square footage, but all of the rest of the info can only be obtained with a registration on the website.

I tried doing a search of the MLS of all active properties in that zip code priced between $130k and $140K, but I didn’t come up with anything that looks like that house.

Next I tried actually registering with the site. It turns out the registration requires a fee-based membership and a credit card number.

You: But all really good things cost something, right? So maybe this is one of those times it will be worth it to pay for the information?

Me: Let me try one more thing. I’m going to do a search of the zip code for all properties with that exact square footage that have sold in the last year.

You: So?

Me: Bingo.

It was a foreclosure that was listed in January of this year and sold for $153,000 on April 28th.

You: WHAT? So it sold over a month ago for $20K higher than it’s even saying on that stupid site?

Me: Apparently.

You: And I was thinking I needed to give them my credit card info so I could get more pictures! Those sneaky *&^%-^#^*(*& @#$!%^#&@ *&#$%@&*(%#@$.

Me: I just censored you because that was too filthy for even this website.

You: But so deserved.

Me: Agreed.

 

 

The Guide to Social Networking Sites According to Your Outfit

As I am a veritable bastion of knowledge, people often ask me things*. So I’ve decided to start an occasional advice column.

Dear Real Estate Tangent,

I was watching Jimmy Kimmel the other night and he just kept mentioning how huge this whole ‘social media’ thing is. Plus my grandma asked me the other day why she isn’t able to ‘friend’ me online. I’m not really a ‘tech-savvy’ person, but I feel like maybe it’s time for me to get involved in this whole internet networking thing. But here’s the problem; once I decided to join up, I realized there are like a billion of these social media networking websites! Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram? How should I know which to join? Where will I fit in? I feel like I’m having an identity crisis just trying to understand what Google+ is!

Sincerely,

Late to the party

Aw, Late, you’re pretty cute. I’m aware there are people like you out there, but every time I meet one of you who doesn’t ‘have the facebook’ I just kind of want to pinch your cheeks.

But hey, listen, I can totally help! In fact, the solution is pretty easy and I’ve even created a little visual guide for you to follow.

The first step is to go into the bathroom right now and stand in front of the full-length mirror. Try to observe yourself objectively. Now, just choose which one of these most closely resembles what you’re wearing:

1. Are you sporting a t-shirt that could either be interpreted as ironic or non-ironically ironic? Do you have on anything that could possibly be seen as hipster? Is there a superior look on your face because you ’get it’ even though most everyone else does not?

If so, you belong at Twitter! Soon you’ll be Chatting and Retweeting and Favoriting like crazy, with that smug smile firmly in place because you’re one of those who knows Twitter is where people are truly authentic (mostly because they know their Aunt Gina and their high school boyfriend probably aren’t reading everything they say).

2. Are you wearing a calf-length vintage skirt and a tanktop made of bamboo and dyed with vegetable dyes? Did you accessorize it with your grandmother’s pearl necklace adorned with a charm you made yourself? Do you have an apron over the whole thing because you’ve got special, gluten-free, two-ingredient snacks baking in the oven for your kids? Is your hair braided to the side and up the back in a Katniss-style you learned from watching a video on YouTube?

Congratulations, you belong at Pinterest! There you can find all kinds of other crafts and recipes and design ideas! In no time at all you’ll have an inferiority complex the size of Peru and be crippled by Too-Many-Ideas-Can’t-Start-A-Single-Project syndrome. Best of luck to you.

3. Are you wearing a businessy-type suit with dark lipstick and inexplicably tall heels**? Do people often remark on how ‘professional’ and ‘appropriate’ you are? When you stub your toe, do you hold in the ‘FUCK’ bursting to get out and instead mutter, ‘darn it’?

You definitely belong at LinkedIn. I don’t really know what they do over there, but I’m pretty sure it involves clean, professional language and I think stocks and bonds are involved. Or at the very least the online version of the Wall Street Journal. So… have… fun?

4. Are you wearing yoga pants that may or may not have been washed in the last week and a t-shirt that has holes in the bottom from leaning against the granite counter in your kitchen? Is your hair on it’s third day of not washing and you’re telling yourself it’s because you’re ‘training it’ to produce less oil but it’s really because you’ve been too lazy to get it wet and then have to dry it? Are you clutching a wine glass that holds half a bottle of wine if you fill it all the way to the top?

Yay! You belong at Facebook! But here’s the thing to remember; even though you actually look like the picture above, if you’re going to come to Facebook you must remember to project the idea that you look like the picture below at all times:

Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick. Everyone does.

5. Are you wearing an outfit you spent more than 25 minutes picking out this morning? Do you have the perfect accessories to tie the whole thing together? Could your shoes be described as ‘dramatic’? Did you just take a selfie to complete this quiz?

Oh, yes, my dear. You definitely belong on Instagram. Before you joined Instagram your outfits were almost wasted on the general public, but now you have a forum! The whole world can appreciate just how that one necklace really pulled that otherwise unremarkable outfit together. You’ve come home.

6. Are you wearing anything even close to this?

You, sweetheart, will fit in just fine over at MySpace. I have not a fucking clue what they do over there or how it works, but I’m pretty sure it’s wacky and vaguely NSFW.

7. Or… are you wearing a Snuggie?

Yes, darling, there’s even a place for you. Goodreads is where you want to land. It’s safe and warm and inviting over there for book-lovers of all sorts. If you’re single you might even connect with a blue-Snuggie wearing guy who likes to read Stephen King, too. Do they make two person Snuggies? They probably should.

So! That’s my guide to which social media site you should join based on what you’re wearing. I hope it was helpful. Send all your requests for advice to Homes@ElizabethNewlin.com.

PS – No one understands what Google+ is. So don’t actually even let that worry your pretty little head.

*Nope. They don’t. Just making shit up here.

**Dear Business Ladies, What is up with the inordinately slutty shoes you regularly pair with frumpy business suits? Is it an attempt to reclaim your femininity while fitting in in what has typically been a man’s world? How about just taking the shoulder pads out of your jackets? Or better yet, don’t wear suits, just wear cute outfits and act professionally. I feel like that would work and be less weird than dressing like a man from your knees to your neck and a stripper from your calves down.