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Category Archives for ‘Advice’

How to Catch the Halloween Spirit

Halloween is a pain in the ass. Pumpkin carving is messy and time-consuming and mostly just reminds you you’re terrible at arts and crafts. Your kids really only want to dress up as whatever costume comes with the biggest and most dangerous looking weapon. A trip to the Spirit store makes you feel like you’ve just exposed your children to the most degenerate elements of humanity: stripper slut from Sons of Anarchy costume around one corner and realistic looking human organs covered in red slime around the next. Sure, this is where you go to get the TMNT costume your five year old has been begging for, but it’s right next to a chainsaw dripping with blood. Also, watch where you step. You don’t want to accidentally activate the enormous animatronic spider that will jump out and kick off a lifetime of arachnophobia in your 3 year old. Add to all that the fact that brainstorming a costume for yourself that’s fun, not offensive and doesn’t have the word ‘sexy’ in the name seems futile. Oh, and finding candy wrappers in the laundry for weeks after you thought you eradicated the candy supply makes you want to strangle someone.

Yep, Halloween is kind of the worst. Except: it’s also totally the best. Don’t worry, it’s ok if you’ve gotten bogged down in the minutia and lost the Halloween spirit. It happens to the best of us. I’m here to help.

Five steps to remembering why you LOVE Halloween:

Step 1: Buy your favorite Halloween candy JUST FOR YOU. 

Remember when you were a kid and you had to just hope someone in your neighborhood wasn’t a cheap ass and would be handing out full Butterfingers? Well now you’re an adult and you can buy your own goddamn Butterfingers! And this time of year it’s seasonally acceptable to just have a bag of your favorites in your drawer at work. You’re not a fatty, you’re in training for the big day.

Step 2: Dig out pictures from Halloweens past and post them on social media.

This year is a particularly special Halloween because it falls on a Friday (which I read in a Meme only happens once every 777 years). So not only do we not have to worry about being hungover at work the next day, but the day before is Throwback Thursday! We can spend all day posting pictures like this:

Halloween TBT slutty WWW

 

And remembering when it was age-appropriate to dress like a slutty Wicked Witch of the West.

Step 3: Bust out the weird gothy accessories you occasionally randomly purchase.

Spiderweb fishnets you have no idea where you got?

spiderweb fishnets

 

This is the week to wear them!

Awesome skull scarf you once considered wearing to a funeral but then decided you’d be the only one who would think it was funny?

skull scarf

 

It’s totally not weird the week of Halloween!

(Don’t wear them together, though. Then you just look like you put on your slutty pirate costume a day early:

slutty pirate

 

It’s not ok.)

Step 4: Watch a marathon of Roseanne Halloween episodes on the TVLand channel.

This is one of the more important steps to regaining the Halloween spirit and is not to be missed. If you can watch three episodes of Roseanne, Dan, Jackie and the kids dressing up fantastically and elaborately and being assholes to each other and everyone around them in sadistically hilarious ways without feeling moved by the Halloween spirit to share it with everyone around you… well then you’re dead inside (and not in the cool, zombie way) and I can’t help you.

Step 5: Last, but not least, read this entire thread of scary stories.

I read half of them yesterday and the other half today while I was home alone. I had to take breaks because it started to be terrifying to go into the garage or upstairs by myself. It seemed clear there were like 80 ghosts hiding in both of those places. Even though we’re the original owners of this house.

Some of the stories are lame and some are horrifying. I think it makes them all so much more fascinating that they’re all told by people who believe what they’re telling implicitly (but I’m also kind of a voyeur).

I’m a fairly firm skeptic, so I don’t really have any spooky stories, but I do have in my possession the Ouija Board we used when we were 16 to contact the spirits in my BFF’s house. It’s possible we got in touch with River Phoenix once, after he ODed. I swear it wasn’t me pushing the pointer thing, despite the fact everyone suspected me. I think it might have been Amanda, though. I also one time did Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board at the 9th grade cheer sleepover and I was the person being lifted. I had my eyes closed the whole time as they chanted and felt them lift me off the ground. After a few minutes of the feverishly whispered chanting, I peeked, saw the ceiling inches from my face, screamed bloody murder and they dropped me. But I think that was physics, not poltergeists.

Those are my only paranormal experiences. But if you have any good ones, feel free to leave them in the comments. Even though I’ll be sure there was a logical explanation, I assure you they’ll make me check behind the shower curtain in the bathroom before I pee.

That should do it: Go forth and spread the Halloween cheer!!

Schizophrenic Intervention

Me: So, we need to talk.

Also Me: Uh oh… this sounds serious. It’s not about the drinking, is it? Because that’s totally under control. It’s not that I have to drink, it’s that I like to drink. Two totally different things.

Me: It’s not about the drinking. But dude, you sound like an intervention waiting to happen when you talk like that. Work on your rationalizations.

Also Me: OK, then what is it?

Me: I want to discuss your goals. I’ve been doing some thinking and I feel like you’ve lost sight of your dream.

Also Me: Which dream?

Me: Your single biggest  lifelong dream, dummy.

Also Me: Joining the circus? Cause I’m totally working on that, yo. It takes time.

Me: Not joining the circus! First of all, that’s an unrealistic fantasy and you know it. Secondly, it’s been your dream for like 10 minutes.

Also Me: At least 3 years-ish! And it hurts my feelings when you say it’s unrealistic.

Me: *Snort*

Also Me: My dream to have a threesome with Christian Slater and Winona Ryder on a croquet court?

Me: Not that one either. But I think you could potentially make it happen now. I’m pretty sure neither one of them is doing much right now.

Also Me: The one about breaking the Guinness World Book record for consecutive days napped?

Me: OH MY GOD, NO. Your dream from the time you were 6 years old to write novels! Hello??

Also Me: Oh, totally. You’re right, that is my lifelong dream. I forgot.

Me: See, that’s the thing. If writing a book is really something you want to do, it needs to be one of the main focuses of your life. Instead, you’ve mostly just been telling yourself for the last 30 years it’s something you’d be really good at if you just put your mind to it, and you’re totally gonna… one of these days.

Also Me: Well… I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m just really super busy right now. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I have three kids and this whole time-consuming real estate career-

Me: And a million working out hobbies. Plus you read a ton of Jezebel/Gawker articles and still manage to have time to drink wine and watch god knows how many MTV shows at night. You have time for what you want to do and you know it.

Also Me: I’m working up to it. I’ve been writing this blog fairly religiously for four years now. That’s progress.

Me: It was progress. You’ve learned a lot about voice, pacing and cutting fat from the story to get to the action. And you’ve still got lots more to learn. But you plateaued long ago. You’re paralyzed by the idea of long form.

Also Me: I think about it all the time. I have all these ideas, but I’m afraid I don’t know enough about perspective and point of view to even get started. What if I get going and commit all of this time and energy to a project and it sucks ass because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing? What if it turns out I’m not cut out to write novels at all and I have to completely rethink my entire identity? I know I’m the only one who thinks of me as an Eventual Novelist, but it’s a fairly ingrained state of mind. If I’m not ‘Meant to Write’, I’m not even sure who I am.

Me: You need to get over that and come to grips with the fact that it is going to suck ass.

Also Me: That’s super helpful. Now I totally want to devote a large chunk of my life to a project we all know is going to be terrible.

Me: When you started running, almost exactly three years ago, was it your goal to be the best runner? The fastest?

Also Me: No, I just wanted to be able to do it.

Me: Right. And it was super hard at first, right?

Also Me: Yes. I remember the first time I got through 2 miles in intervals of running and walking. I thought I was going to die. It felt like the supreme amount of effort.

Me: And is it easy now?

Also Me: No. It’s definitely easier than it was, but it’s still, for the most part, an enormous pain in my ass to get out of bed early and I spent nearly all of most runs try to talk myself into continuing. But now I know it will be worth it in the end, and that I don’t want to lose my momentum, so there’s way less mental work on the front end to convince myself it needs to be done.

Me: Because you’re the fastest? You’re the best at it?

Also Me: No. I’m not fast at all. I’m not the super shittiest at running, but I’m not going to win any race. The physical and mental benefits are just worth it. I feel good. I feel proud of myself for doing it. I enjoy participating in events. I like being strong. I like seeing muscles in my thighs. When I want to murder/suicide my family and myself, going for a run helps. It’s a reset. It’s an accomplishment.

Me: And now, according to Map My Run (which doesn’t track your treadmill miles and you didn’t even start using until a couple of years ago) you’ve run more than 1,400 miles. You’ve spent hundreds of hours at this thing you’re only moderately skilled at.

Writing a novel isn’t one of those things anyone is just born knowing how to do.

Also Me: But S.E. Hinton-

Me: Was like 15 when she wrote The Outsiders. Yes. Some people are prodigies, but if you think she didn’t put any work into that, that it didn’t kind of suck until it was edited, molded, shaped, then you’re kidding yourself.

You’re good at lots of things, but were you fantastic at any of them the first time you did them?

Also Me: No.

Me: Your first circus class was fun, but you couldn’t even climb halfway up the silks. You were sore for days. You’ve been working at it for almost a year and you’re still only getting to where you have the stamina to do much at all in the air.

Also Me: True.

Me: So what makes you think you can write a decent novel without sucking hard at it repeatedly before you figure shit out?

Also Me: That was excessively vulgar.

Me: You know what I meant.

Also Me: Yes. I know. You’re right. If I’m gonna do it, I gotta really do it. I have to stop being so afraid to fail.

Me: You need to embrace that you’re going to fail! You need to take it to bed with you at night and get all cuddly with it and maybe even let it get to second base. Failing is how you get to succeeding! Failing is the casting director you totally have to bang if you really want to be a big star.

Also Me: Now that’s just wrong.

Me: It’s possible I got going down a road and I crossed a line. I apologize.

Also Me: Accepted.

Me: What was that running goal you were tossing around in your head the other day?

Also Me: I was thinking about how many miles I average a week normally and thinking it might be cool to make a point to run 1000 miles in a year. I tend to run 12-15 miles a week, and that would require me to average almost 20 miles a week. Which would be a significant bump, but accomplishable, I think.

Me: OK, so just for the sake of round numbers, let’s say you average 10 minute miles.

Also Me: Yeah, that’s not too far off. In the winter I’m faster, but not a ton. Like I said, I’m not what you’d call fast.

Me: So we’re talking about 10,000 minutes devoted to running for the next year, right? Which is like 167 hours, yes? You feel like that’s more than you’re doing right now, but not a ton more.

Also Me: Yes.

Me: So what if, instead, you make it your goal to devote 10,000 minutes to your novel in the next year. 167 hours with no internet or distractions, only writing, broken up into 200 minutes a week. Four 50 minute sections. That’s palatable, right?

Also Me: I guess so… although it’s hard to get 50 minutes straight without a kid/husband/client/Jezebel article bothering me.

Me: Bullshit. You already do it 3-4 times a week when you run. They can’t bug you because you’re out. You just need to make it a priority. It’s a reasonably short amount of time, you just need to schedule it in and figure it out. You might have to get up early or stay up later. You might miss a night of TV or two. You’re going to have to muscle your way through it and convince yourself, minute by minute, word by word, at first, to keep going. But it will get easier. It will become habit. You’ll start to see progress and growth. You’ll feel the benefits. It will be easier to keep going. It won’t ever get easy, but it will be worth it.

Also Me: Fuck you. Fine. I guess that makes sense. When do I have to start?

Me: Now, dummy. This week. No time like the present.

 

 

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.