The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Yearly Archives for 2016

The Weekend I Read Basket Baby

In theory, I love a four day weekend. I am always convinced I will accomplish all of the things. I mean, how can I not, with four entire days at my disposal? Four days is plenty of time to do all the laundry, update my database, send holiday cards, reorganize the pantry, buy all the Christmas presents, lose five pounds, and reprioritize my goals in life.

This is what I actually got done this weekend:

1. I hennaed my hair. I figured out this summer that I’m allergic to one of the main ingredients in permanent hair dye. It turns out it isn’t normal to get blisters on the edges of your ears and the desire to scratch the skin off your scalp in your sleep for a week after you dye your hair. So hippie-washout-hair-color-that-takes-an-hour-under-a-plastic-bag-to-set-and-turns-a-little-pink-after-a-few-weeks it is!

2. I cured myself of a debilitating crouton addiction. Jason bought two bags of croutons for the dinner salad Saturday night because he usually buys one and I eat half of it while he’s making dinner and then the salad ends up slightly crouton-anemic. He thought if he just bought two and only let me near one, we’d have plenty. So I proceed to eat almost an entire bag of croutons by myself, because I’m like a goldfish who isn’t smart enough to know when to stop eating and given access to enough croutons I will just eat until I die. (Remember the gluttony scene in Seven? That’s what it would look like if I ever accidentally got trapped in a crouton factory.) But ever since I ate almost an entire bag, and then dinner on Saturday night, I can’t even look at the empty crouton bag without wanting to ralph. Apparently it’s like being forced to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in one sitting when you’re 15.

3. I watched all of the new Gilmore Girls episodes while high on half-doses of cold meds (I only ever take half because full doses of Dayquil make me fall asleep and full doses of Nyquil keep me awake. I’m a delicate, sensitive princess and I can totally feel that full dose down at the bottom of all those mattresses).

4. I read Basket Baby, by Kelli Donley.

Kelli is one of my oldest and dearest friends and I’m so proud to tell you that last week her publishing company sent me a gorgeous copy of her second. damn. novel. to read and promote. (You’re supposed to read the italicized words like Nathan Lane’s character in The Birdcage would, hand gestures included.) I mean seriously, how fucking amazing is that?

Let me tell you a little bit about Kell. My girlfriend, Kelli, has a plan to save the world, one act of kindness (and something she spent several hours hand-crafting just for you) at a time. When you need her, she’s always there with a baked good and a self-deprecating story to make you feel better about whatever specific misery you’re dealing with. She’s bright, dedicated, and always put together with a string of pearls or a bracelet of turquoise. Kell is one of those people who has a constant running list of things she intends to accomplish, and one by one, she checks those fuckers off. One foot in front of the other, one bite of elephant at a time, she tackles her goals with tireless ambition. Sometimes, when I have a project that seems too big, too cumbersome, too long-term to see a potential successful end, I remind myself if Kelli Donley was there, she’d divide it up in chunks, dig in and not give up until it was done.

One of Kell’s life goals (among Solving World Hunger, Baking a Flawless Souffle’, and Having a Bottle of Sauvignon Blanc Named After Her*) has always been to publish a novel. We’ve talked a million times about the struggles behind not only finding time and motivation to write, but the unlikeliness of the works to actually be published in this day and age. I have always been discouraged, but she, characteristically, marched forward, wrote one page after another, and toiled on. Kell has spent years on this project in writing groups, writing workshops, editing drafts, researching language and cultural details, pouring her heart and soul into telling her story. And hot damn if it hasn’t paid off. Basket Baby is available for purchase December 6, 2016, and she’s doing a book signing at Changing Hands in Tempe on December 9th. I’m seriously so proud of her hard work. She is, despite its cliche’, an inspiration to me.

Basket Baby is the story of a woman’s struggle to pull out of the dark pool of grief she finds herself drowning in after the stillbirth of her first child. The protagonist, Macy, a journalistic photographer, investigates the social castes of the Bolivian culture through the haze of her own loss, and tries to piece her own life back together in the process. A baby is left at a doorstep. A priest is befriended. Macy witnesses the duality of life’s beauty and its unrelenting tragedy in the rural communities she visits on her journey through the pain of her loss. Shit like that.**

You should buy Basket Baby. I knew nothing about Bolivia before I read it, and now I know at least five things. Also, my girlfriend, Kelli is beautiful and I don’t want to get too mushy or anything, but I love her and am really proud of her and what she has accomplished. (Although, it doesn’t have a single zombie in it and I feel like zombies are to stories like chocolate sauce is to ice cream: More is always better. Except that once when my sauce to ice cream ratio was like 3:1 and I made myself sick and couldn’t eat ice cream OR chocolate sauce for awhile. So maybe this story doesn’t need a zombie. What the fuck do I know?)



*I mean, if these aren’t specifically on her list I feel like they should be.

**WARNING: Not a professional book reviewerist.

Open Letter to My Friend Who Voted For Trump

Dear My Friend Who Voted for Trump,

I know you exist, as you make up roughly one out of two voters, though we haven’t discussed politics or our differing of opinions much. You know my stance, as a liberal atheist, because I’m not shy about what I post on social media, and I have a big mouth even in person, after a couple of glasses of wine. You have either also made your position clear, in a non-confrontational manner, on social media, or made a mental note not to engage me regarding your voting habits.

When we’re together, we talk about the things we do have in common. You also have a kid who flips bottles and makes you want to tie him up so he’ll stop. We’re both obsessed with Real Housewives, but only the Beverly Hills one (Erika Jayne FOREVER). I really want you to teach me your winged eyeliner technique. It’s not just superficial things we’ve related about, either. We’ve had long discussions about the importance of vaccinations. We’ve shared stories about the difficulties of marriage, relationships, and family dynamics. You listened when I needed someone to vent to about a fight with my mom. We had a conference call to discuss our one crazy friend’s MLM and how to gently tell her to shut it. When my cat went missing you sent me a heartfelt message expressing your sadness. When your grandma passed away I sent a flower arrangement.

I’ve spent most of today thinking about you.

At first I was angry and bitter. I mean, seriously, how could you? You put our country into the hands of Hitler dipped in Cheeto dust. You gave a man who bragged about sexual assault and said women who have abortions should receive criminal punishment the highest office in our nation. How much do you really hate women and minorities?

As the day wore on and the shock began to recede, confusion and despair set in. How can we possibly continue to be friends? On social media, you were proud, today. You were #blessed about the victory, and hopeful this will bring about the change you’ve been praying for for our country. The disparity between your reaction and mine sickened me. How could I be afraid the world is going to end at the hands of a madman, while you simultaneously rejoice in his leadership? Was I wrong about you all along? How could I ever have cared about you when you would put my gay friends in a position where they wished they’d stayed in the closet? My youngest son woke up this morning, and upon hearing the election results immediately worried for the safety of his best friends who live down the street, Roberto and Alejandro. “Didn’t Trump say he wants to kick Mexicans out of the country?” he asked us, and I wondered what you’d have said if you were standing there.

At one point I decided I would just need to cut ties. I’d root you out of my social network like a weed. I’d find you, and eliminate you from my diverse garden of flowers. It was the only way to maintain a healthy ecosystem, I told myself.

The thing is, though, this line of thinking is part of what got me blindsided by all of this in the first place. I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded individuals. Facebook does a good job in assisting this process. When I like a post, I see more posts similar to it. A person who I consistently affirm agreement with will more often show up in my feed. I read editorialized articles from news sources I know come from a similar perspective as me. I listen to Howard Stern on the radio in the car. I didn’t do any of this intentionally to insulate myself from other perspectives, but at some point, it started to seem like there were no other opinions. Everything coming in sounded right to me. How could anyone think or feel anything different?

But apparently, you, a person I care about and respect to one degree or another, do. You feel wildly different. And not just one of you, half of our country of you. Did you vote for Trump because you felt disrespected by the liberal media? Did you vote for him because you truly believe Secretary Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy? Did you feel like your way of living was in jeopardy and Trump was the only one looking out for you? Were you scared voting for Clinton would create a landslide in a political direction you’d couldn’t control that would take out everything you’d been raised to hold sacred?

These are questions I don’t know the answer to because I didn’t ask them. I didn’t engage you about your political concerns or beliefs. It seemed awkward, and potentially exhausting. I read things and talked to people who reaffirmed my own beliefs. It was simpler. And now here I am, shocked, horrified, and alienated from you.

When my third grader got home from school today I sat him down and we had a long talk about the election results. Because of his age and my misguided belief Trump was going to be a mere blip on our radar, I had protected Jonas from my concerns about his potential leadership and the character flaws I was witnessing. But now that he is to be our President for the next four years, I felt like it was important to share my worries with Jo and reiterate the importance of not being a bully and being kind to other people. “When you interact with people, you need to remind yourself we all come from a different perspective. It feels different to grow up white, black, asian, gay, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, man, woman, from the city, from the country, with strict parents, with hippie parents, and a million other factors. These things all make us think differently and live life from our own viewpoint. This is a good thing. It’s important to be sensitive to all people, from all backgrounds, and not assume you know what they’re like by any of these categorizations,” I told him. As the words were leaving my mouth, the irony of the situation did not escape me.

I don’t agree, even a little bit, with what you did. I’m still dismayed by the prospects for the future of our country, and disappointed by the choice you made. I don’t even know if I’m ready to talk to you right now about why you voted the way you did. But I do know that we’re all people, born and grown with a different perspective. I can’t know what made you feel how you did growing up any more than I did my black friend who grew up in our mostly white, Mesa, Arizona suburb. I mean, sure, it seems like she and I had similar influences, and you and I have similar interests, but at heart, our experiences and challenges are different. If I’m to consider myself respectful of all humans, it’s my duty to try to understand where you’ve come from in addition to her.

Going forward, I intend to shed my anger and dismay. Donald Trump, like it or not, will be our next President. I can only add my hope to the chorus for the continued progress of this country toward equal treatment of all humans, and do my best to support causes I think will further this goal. I hope, if nothing else, you’ll unite with me in this.

Your Friend,


Social Media Gaffes By Age Range

Navigating the ever-changing mores of social media can be treacherous for people of all ages. Should I use a filter on this selfie? If I like that photo will the poster think I’m a stalker? Is friending my neighbor hazardous to the harmony of our silent car-wave exchanges? Questions like these plague the comfort of our online relationships and fuel a virtual legion of lurkers, paralyzed by potential missteps, sentenced to a life of scrolling without interaction.

Don’t be a lurker. I’m here to help.

You can have a successful social media experience, without the embarrassments and humiliations we’ve all fallen victim to at some point in our online existence, if you simply avoid a few pitfalls. It’s important to realize the rules change as you enter new phases of your life. What’s socially appropriate online when you’re 16 is vastly different from what’s acceptable when you’re 38, I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you. I’ve compiled a (by no means comprehensive) list of the more common activities to avoid on social media, categorized by age range for easy accessibility. Just remember, don’t do this shit, and you’ll be fine! (Probably… unless you’re a total psycho.)


Teen social media embarrassments to avoid:

1. Posting anything on Facebook – Sure, you should have a Facebook account, I mean, you’re still human. And feel free to let your parents and other relatives friend you. And of course you should monitor their interactions just in case anything interesting happens, and so when your mom swears online you can reference the post later just so she knows you know. But never, EVER, post anything. Facebook posting is for the olds.

2. Not liking every post that comes through your feed on Instagram – Proper teen etiquette dictates that it is only polite to like. every. single. post. Wait, did you miss one? Go back and like it! Like them all. Every one.

3. Being snapchat friends with your parents – This one’s tricky because you don’t want to hurt the rents’ feelings (and they’re kind of sensitive). But over the age of 12 you also don’t want to be caught dead snapping with them. I suggest you approach this as a little bit of a long game. Once you turn 13, ease off on any and all snapping. Act like it’s a teen thing and you’re too cool for it now. Then, once it’s been a few weeks since you’ve snapped anything you can covertly unfriend your parents and they won’t even notice! After that you can go back to snapping all your random teen inappropriateness without them even knowing. Just don’t get so involved in your snaplyfe that you forget and mention a hilarious thing you snapped in front of them, because then the jig is up.

4. Not establishing a proper Youtube fan base by age 12 – I mean, if you’re going to have a hope of having a career as a Youtuber, you need to be proactive. My youngest is nine and he just got his first video camera to start his channel and I’m afraid he might have already missed the boat.

5. LOLing instead of LMAOing – I don’t need to tell you this, right? I mean no one under the age of 25 would ever even think about LOLing, right?


20s social media embarrassments to avoid:

1. Not vaguebooking vaguely enough – Sometimes you just want to vent that your life is hard. Sometimes you feel sad and like you’re not getting enough attention. Vaugebooking, when done correctly, is like a loud, dramatic sigh, so your boyfriend will pet your hair and tell you it’s going to be ok. It’s just a social cue that you need a little consoling. This can be slightly annoying to some people, but as long as you don’t abuse the privilege, you can get away with it. The problem comes into play when you want to call someone out for an offense, but you don’t have the guts to do it publicly, or the decorum to take care of your business in private like an adult. So instead, you post a long dramatic rant, simply omitting the names of the parties involved. This is annoying to EVERYONE. The people who know who you’re talking about can see the trainwreck speeding toward your life and are rolling the shit out of their eyes at you. The people who don’t know you well enough to know what you’re talking about are irritated they don’t understand the show. The people you’re posting about now feel vindicated in their own bad behavior because you’re acting like an asshole, too. Don’t do it, there’s just no benefit.

2. Posting anything but your best, most idyllic moments on Instagram – This is the place where 20-somethings #namaste and feel #blessed. Is your life not going great? Your outfit not perfect? Your trick not polished and gorgeous? Keep that shit off Instagram. Instagram is where people go to be inspired and feel bad about their own lives in comparison. Save it for Twitter.

3. Forgetting to block your new boss from all of your social media except LinkedIn – Despite the repeated real life examples the media loves to parade about in all their misery, you people seem slow on this particular uptake.


30s social media embarrassments to avoid:

1. Couple accounts – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, STOP IT. You and your spouse are not the same person.

2. Excessive use of all-caps and exclamation points – This is a bad habit that snowballs. Once you’ve used them for emphasis enough times, it starts to feel like writing normally sounds monotone or like you’re bored or even mad; sort of like replying to a text with “Ok.”. But don’t get sucked into that mindset. It’s possible to show emotion through words, and not just capitals, punctuation, and emojis. Learn to do this, because if you’re one of the people who fall into this trap, the rest of us just kind of think you’re shouty and possibly incontinent.

3. Sharing your actual political opinions anywhere but Twitter – It seems like maybe you should do this on Facebook, because you could potentially make a difference and change someone’s mind, but you can’t. You’re just making the people who already agreed with you nod their heads and everyone who doesn’t unfollow you. It’s just not a good venue for political discourse, unfortunately. Not that Twitter really is, but the rules of polite society are looser on Twitter.

4. Never posting anything but the positives – You know the rule about Instagram for the 20 somethings? It’s the opposite for the 30 and above set on Facebook. You’ve got to mix it up or you stop coming off as genuine. I’m not saying you should invent drama or misery if your life is really great right now, but let’s be honest, everyone has bad days. Just make sure you’re letting your social media accounts know your grass has weeds sometimes, too, so we don’t write you off as inauthentic.

5. Drunk Facebook messaging – I know it feels like you have a funny story you just really need to tell that girl you haven’t talked to since 5th grade, but if it’s actually funny and relevant, it will still be tomorrow when you’ve slept off the 3 shots of Tequila you did at your girls night out. Just don’t. You’re too old for this. You’ll regret it. (I always do.)


40s social media embarrassments to avoid:

1. Only posting what your MLM/business recommends – I’ve seen this behavior from 30 somethings, also, although it’s more likely to be the only things posted from the 40 something set. However old you are, remember, we became friends with you, or followed you, because we like you and think you’re interesting. We probably don’t give a shit about your MLM. We might tolerate a post or two if you do it right and it doesn’t feel completely canned, but if it’s all you post about, this is the quickest route to Unfollowville, as far as I’m concerned, even if I really love you as a person.

2. Over-professing spousal love – You’re not fooling anyone. We’ve all read the psychology articles revealing how studies show the people who are loudest about how much they love their spouse are the ones whose marriages are most fucked up. Even if that’s not the truth, it’s what we’re thinking. Or we’re thinking you’re annoying for being so happy all the goddamn time, because we’re basically bitter, terrible people. I’m sorry. Ish.


50s and 60s social media embarrassments to avoid:

1. Signing your Facebook comments – You’re not old enough to get away with this behavior yet. Get it together, man! Your granddaughter knows it’s you commenting “That was beautiful, sweetheart!” on the video of her chorale recital, because your NAME AND PROFILE PIC are next to your comment.

2. Over-liking of people’s posts you don’t really know and who aren’t age appropriate – It’s possible you’re just being supportive, but you’ve got to watch your tenor online, just like you do IRL. You know that older guy in the office who always hugs the female coworkers too long? You’re being that guy.

3. Getting scammed by fake accounts – Repeat after me: I will not accept friend requests from people with fewer than 3 mutual friends who I trust, and I will not accept friend requests from people who I know I’m already friends with, even if the request I’m getting has the person I know’s profile picture. 


70s+ social media embarrassments to avoid:

You get a pass! Your social media engagement is adorable and we’re just proud of you for participating. You can drunk message all you want, Grandma! (Dear My Grandma Jean, please drunk Facebook message me, it would be so great.) Your couple account is endearing (we know who’s actually posting to it, and let’s face it, you’ve been married 50 years, so you’ve put in enough time you can speak for each other). We even think it’s cute when you sign your posts. You’re allowed to only share positive things if you want. Or to vaguebook not so vaguely. I can’t wait until I’m 70 and then you’ll all really know how I feel. (Just kidding, you already do.)


Go forth now with these lessons and socialize on the internet with proper etiquette and without fear of online humiliation.

Why I’ll Never Miss a High School Reunion

My 20 year high school reunion is this fall. I realize this only happens to super old people, so clearly I’m experiencing an aggressive episode of Early Onset 20 Year High School Reunion. It’s really sad when this develops in someone still so young, right?

I was on the planning committee for the 10 year reunion. This was before Facebook, so I have PTSD from searching the phone book and having awkward telephone conversations with people who were less enthusiastic about reconnecting with old classmates than I was.

Hi, Sharon*?

Yes, this is she.

Hey!! This is Liz Tolar! Well, it’s Liz Newlin, now. Actually, I introduce myself as Elizabeth now, but you can totally still call me Liz. 

Um… OK?

You remember, me, right? I spent the night at your house at least twice in seventh grade… We pierced Julie’s* ears with your brother’s diabetic needles!

Sure. What’s this regarding?

Oh. Well, I’m on the 10 year reunion planning committee and I was just calling to get your mailing address so we could send you an invite to the reunion. It’s going to be great! We’re having it at Rustler’s Rooste, because we thought it sort of went with the westerny theme of having a mustang as our mascot-

OK, are you ready for my address?

Oh… yeah, go ahead. Do you think you’ll come?

I’m not sure. I’m an attorney in Baltimore now, and I have lots going on. But it’s fine if you want to send me the invite. 


So I’ve opted to be merely an attendant of the 20 year. Despite my unofficial status, I remain ardently enthusiastic about the event. I know what you’re going to say:

Uh, Liz. Reunions are lame. First of all, we have Facebook, now, so we don’t have to wait a decade to figure out if our 10th grade crush is still hot. Also, we keep in touch with anyone who’s important to us. We don’t need a random expensive party to hang out with our friends.

I get it. Reunions are not everyone’s thing. My sister and brother could not roll their eyes harder at the suggestion of attending any sort of a reunion associated with high school. I’m not trying to talk you out of your disinterest.

For me, though, reunions are not about catching up with my friends. I agree, I talk to them all online all the time now. Even if they live far away I’ve probably seen the video of them getting engaged and possibly an Instagram photo from the water birth of their first child in their backyard. If they’re local, we got pedicures last week and discussed school districts and why we haven’t murdered our husbands yet. I don’t need a reunion to keep up with the people who are important to me.

To me, reunions are like solving a riddle.

You have a favorite flower, right? Or even just a favorite plant? Let’s assume you’re not a sociopath and you do. Have you ever looked up what the seed of that flower or plant looks like? I just Googled a rose seed and a bird of paradise seed. The rose seeds are tiny, brown, and jagged. They could be mistaken for a pebble. The seed of a bird of paradise is black and round with an orange fuzzy hat on one end. They’re super cute and quirky.

Unless you’re a botanist or just a total know-it-all, if given a bucket of seeds of different types of flowers, you’d have no way to distinguish which seed would become which flower. They don’t look anything like they will eventually. You could guess, and maybe you’d get a few right (I feel like that bird of paradise seed has a little bit in common with it’s quirky eventual form), but for the most part, they don’t resemble what they will become in any way. The things we love about the flower, the vibrant colors, the texture of the petals, the large blossom with contrasting center, the intoxicating scent, etc, aren’t present at all in the original stages.

The people I went to high school (and elementary and Jr high) with are really the only group of people beyond my immediate family that I’ve gotten to see as seeds. I met them as a tiny, roundish, mostly neutral colored and unscented, object. By the time we got to high school, each was beginning to sprout and develop individual characteristics (some faster than others), but most were still fragile and careful to protect what was growing inside.

Now, 20 years later, we are an insane field of wildly different plants and flowers. The blooms are big and beautiful and fascinating (and some are batshit crazy). I love marveling at my guesses and judgements about what the seeds and sprouts I knew back then would turn out to be, and how generally wrong I was. Some of the sprouts that were so small and quiet back then turned into far more creative and brilliant flowers than I ever could have guessed. Some turned into a totally different flower than I would have predicted. Some of the plants I’ve never even heard of.

I guess the point is, I was emotionally invested in this group of seeds, so now I want to know what they all turned out like. And I want to see the field in person, not just perfectly staged online (although I have to admit some of my social media addiction is also fueled by this investment). I want to talk to the flowers and find out how their lives went and what their stories are. I want to remember sitting behind them in Spanish and thinking they were kind of a dick, but now hearing about how they are a pharmacist with two daughters they couldn’t love more.

Additionally, there is no more fertile soil for drama, gossip, awkwardness, inappropriate behavior, and drunken shenanigans than a high school reunion. And those are some of my favorite things. Hope to see you there!



*Names and personal details have been changed to protect the unenthusiastic.


38 is…

A constant battle between violently removing hair from certain places, and gluing, drawing it on, or chemically inducing it to grow in on others.

Occasionally asking myself just exactly what arrogance led me to believe, in my 20s, I was capable of bringing three (not just one or two, but three) children into the world without totally fucking them up. Like really; who do I think I am? What exactly was the plan for success here???

Still not making my bed.

Making a special trip to ULTA to buy dark brown hair spray to cover my aggressively grey roots between dye jobs, but continuing to shop in the Junior section at Target.

Being horrified about how close 38 is to 40, while simultaneously being aware in about 20 seconds I’m going to be 48, staring 50 in the eye, and wishing I could go back to 38 going on 40.

Realizing my stomach won’t ever be flat. The potential for that option has passed.

Giving fewer fucks. But still some.

Worrying more about getting injured that being dead.

Knowing that with selfies, it’s all angle and lighting; not just that everyone is prettier than me.

Peeing a little bit when I sneeze.

Not ready yet (if ever) to not have my parents for counsel on difficult decisions and situations.

Done saying “I’m too old to try that”, because fuck that noise.


Perspective on the Humiliation of a Bikini Wax

I walk in to the wax place and take a seat in the waiting area. There are two ladies who don’t seem to know each other checking out at the counter.

Receptionist to Lady 1: Would you like to make an appointment for next time?

Lady 1: No! That hurt like hell, why would I want to make another appointment?

Lady 2: You need to get a drink before you come, that helps.

Me (from the waiting chairs next to the checkout desk): I just had a margarita at the Mexican place down the street for that very reason.

Lady 2 (sitting down next to me): Did you really? That’s the way to do it.

Me: I did. It’s not really the pain that’s the problem so much that my normal girl quit and today I have to introduce a new human to my bikini area. It’s not that fun.

Lady 2: You’re right. That part is the worst. It’s the humiliation.

Me: Right?

Lady 2: Totally. You know, I had a humiliating incident recently. I mean, it was kind of a worst case scenario as far as embarrassment goes. It was… well it was actually mortifying.

Me: Please tell me the story! I need this right now. It would really help. I should have had two margaritas.

Lady 2: So I have a daughter who’s 20, and she’s pregnant. Her boyfriend is a doctor in the Marines, and it’s a good thing, it’s all fine. It’s actually good timing for them, but anyway, I haven’t met his family yet. They’re going to get married, but he just got back from being overseas. ANYWAY.

Me: Sure, got it.

Lady 2: So about three weeks ago I got sick. I thought it was that flu that was going around. I couldn’t keep anything down. I felt horrible. And I had this heat rash, up my thigh on the right side. It was awful.

Me: Yuck, that’s terrible.

Lady 2: Yeah, so it wouldn’t go away and I finally decided to go to the urgent care by my house.

Me: Ok…

Lady 2: So I go in and I’m describing all of my symptoms to this doctor and I tell him about the rash, and it turns out it’s shingles.

Me: Oh that’s awful! I’ve heard shingles can be really bad. And you can get that rash anywhere.

Lady 2: Yes! It’s so terrible. But like I said, I had the rash all up my thigh and over my hip. So the doctor needed to examine my whole business area to take a look at it.

Me: Horrifying.

Lady 2: I know, and as he’s down there, looking at my area, I glance at his name tag, and recognize the last name.

Me: Oh shit…

Lady 2: Yeah, my daughter’s boyfriend has a distinctive, uncommon last name. And his father is a doctor, too. So at that moment, I realized that my daughter’s boyfriend’s father, my soon to be co-grandparent of my first grandchild, was peering thoughtfully at my disgustingly rashy vagina.

Me (laughing so hard and loud the receptionists look up to see what we’re talking about): Wait, so he hadn’t recognized your last name?

Lady 2: No, my daughter and I have different last names.

Me (snort laughing so hard I’m tearing up): What did you do??

Lady 2: Well, I mean I felt like I had to tell him.

Me: RIGHT THEN?? While he was looking at your rashy business???

Lady 2: I was feverish. It seemed like the right time to introduce myself.

Me: Oh my god, that’s the best story I’ve ever heard in my life.

Waxer: Elizabeth? I’m ready for you.

Me: I think I can get through this now. I will be forever in your debt.

Lady 2: You’re welcome. If it helps someone, the experience wasn’t a total disaster, right?

Me: *laughing too hard to answer*

Thoughts on Marriage from MFB

I had drinks with My Friend Brody (MFB)* on Friday night. He’s one of my BFFs from church in high school (before some of us started worshipping satan**), but he moved to Wisconsin and then Illinois after high school, so I only see him every few years when he comes out to Arizona to visit his mom and stepdad.

MFB is kind of like a freight train. Once he gets started on a story or a rant, you have to hop on for the ride, because there’s no stopping his momentum, and any attempt will just get you run over. You don’t resent him for it, though, because he has good stories.

Friday night we got to talking about marriage. Generally speaking, I’m fascinated by other peoples’ perspectives and experiences regarding marriage. I’m constantly ruminating on questions like What makes a marriage successful? What causes a marriage to fail? What are realistic expectations of a marriage? Should I always like my spouse? Should I always love him? Is a lifelong commitment worth the challenges of committing for life, simply for the benefit of having a partner who is contractually obligated to have your back? Do people who say they loooovvveeee their sexy man on Facebook actually love him so much they feel uncontrollably compelled to announce it publicly, or are they mostly worried he’s sleeping with a coworker and think announcing their love via social media will remind him they’re going to cut his balls off if they find evidence, so he should stop?? So of course I was happy to let MFB rant about his married life to Jess, the woman who seems (from an old friend who’s met her a couple of times’ perspective) to have been created simply to be the perfect woman for MFB.

MFB: You know, people think my marriage is easy because my wife is a hot piece of ass. That’s bullshit, though. Marriage is hard work all the time. The fact that my wife is a hot piece of ass is completely irrelevant to the premise of my marriage. Sure, it was relevant 8 years ago, when we started dating, but now, it doesn’t matter. We have bills to pay together! We have kids to raise together! We have arguments to get through together! The fact that she’s a hot piece of ass doesn’t make any of those things easier.

(This was the condensed version of the rant. He probably said, “hot piece of ass”, “irrelevant”, and “premise” 12 times each during the entire thing. I wish I had it on video, because it was a work of art.)

Beyond my entertainment at his description of his wife, this concept that the fact that his wife was desirable didn’t impact their marriage disturbed me. I tend to assume at least part of why people get divorced is because one or both of them isn’t attracted to the other person any longer. Men “trade-up” to trophy wives after the one they married in their early 20s “lets herself go”, right? So logic follows that if you keep things high and tight and he still thinks you’re a “hot piece of ass”, life should run smoothly. I mean, if you can’t control the economy, the weather, or your children, at the very least you can hit the gym and figure out how to get really good at eyeliner to have some security that your marriage will continue to function, can’t you?

But I guess if that were true, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt would still be married. Like Baba Booey*** always says: For every hot chick, there’s a guy who’s sick of fucking her.

So of course I went home and had this conversation with Jason:

Me: I was discussing marriage with MFB tonight and he told me it’s irrelevant that his wife is a hot piece of ass. He said it doesn’t make his marriage easier. Like it doesn’t matter anymore that he’s attracted to her. It sort of bothered me and I’m not totally sure why. Do you think whether I am, or am not attractive is irrelevant to our marriage?

Jason: … uh… no? I mean, I definitely think you’re a hot piece of ass. Is that what you’re asking?

Me: No, I’m asking if whether I’m a hot piece of ass or not matters to you.

Jason: … … … I feel like this is one of those questions there is not a right answer to.

Me: I guess I kind of want it to be something you like about our marriage. Like you’re proud that you’re married to a hot chick or something. Which I suppose is fairly vain and pretty sexist, so if you don’t feel that way, I maybe need to get over myself. I’m just saying it seems like I work far too hard to stay attractive for it just to be irrelevant. Like why am I skipping donuts and french fries, and learning how to contour if it doesn’t matter?

Jason: When do you skip french fries?

Me: Probably a part of me also hopes you’ll continue to put up with my crazy if I continue to keep myself together, physically. Like I’m allowed to be a drama queen and occasionally run away with my circus friends if I keep up my end of the bargain and not let you see me putting on spanx or watch when I’m shaving my armpits. Which is also shallow and completely anti-feminist.

Jason: I feel like you’re overthinking all of this.

Me: You do definitely see me at my worst, though. You have watched me give birth three times. I couldn’t even watch me do that. Gross.

Jason (seeing this isn’t really a conversation I’m having with him, so much as myself, moving on to Instagram): Mmmhmm.

Me: Also, you’ve seen my dye my roots. That is not a good look while in progress. And you’re still married to me. I guess that’s the positive side of the lack of importance of physical attractiveness. If it was the most important thing, it would be far more work to hide the upkeep.

Jason (no longer paying any attention): I guess.

Me: I did think it was really adorable that he kept referring to her as a hot piece of ass like this was a completely indisputable fact. It was clear that even though he doesn’t think it causes their marriage to be perfect and easy, he firmly believes she’s a stone cold fox. Maybe MFB has it exactly right. I mean that’s really all anyone wants, don’t they? To possess physical beauty, but for it not to be the reason for our greatness? To be both a hot piece of ass, and loved for reasons completely irrelevant of this fact?

Jason: This is where I can change the subject and we can talk about that documentary on coffee I wanted to tell you about, right?

Me: Sure.


*I’m physically unable to mention him in conversation with Jason without using his full title. Merely “Brody” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

**I’m watching the current The Real World season and there’s this really great racist girl who is sure atheists worship satan, because she missed the part about how the whole point of being atheist is not believing in god-like figures. She’s the best.

***Howard Stern’s executive producer. I learn all my life lessons from The Howard Stern Show, obviously.

That Time We Went Camping

It’s not that I hate nature. I feel like nature actually has a lot of really great things to offer. It’s just that all of those beautiful and wondrous things are covered in dirt and bugs. Also I super love my bed. And showering. If sleeping in my own bed and taking extended scalding showers was an Olympic sport, I would win so hard they’d give me the bronze, silver, and gold. I would be the Michael Phelps of domestic comfort (but with fewer bongs and pictures of my junk).

Other things I care deeply about that tend not to exist in nature:

  • Wine glasses
  • Couches
  • TVs with DVRs full of a healthy mix of MTV reality and scripted shows*
  • Wifi
  • Outlets
  • Instagram

Plus, the last time I went camping I was 21 years old, 7 months pregnant, and still still in deep denial being knocked up was really going to have much of an effect on my life. Squatting in the woods with a giant belly to pee 47 times in 24 hours was what really started to hammer home that I was no longer the normal co-ed. I still sometimes have nightmares of that camping trip.

That said, we all have our burdens in this life, and one of mine is that Jonas was born a year and one week after the tragic and untimely death of Steve Irwin, and I feel confident his spirit was reincarnated into my kid’s skinny, asthmatic body. It’s not easy being the mother of a crocodile hunter.

So far, we’ve gotten away with letting Jonas roam the desert just outside our property line and regularly sleep in the backyard. Now that he’s eight and a half it seems almost inhumane to keep him constantly caged inside of the walls of civilization when really all he wants to do in life is raise birds so he can watch them construct a nest, use dirt for clothing, and learn to communicate with insects so he can persuade them to be his army and he their overlord.

Additionally, my brother-in-law, John, has been trying to convince us that no really, we’d totally like camping because it’s really fun and not at all terrible for pretty much the entirety of his marriage to my sister. A couple of weeks ago he gave me this spiel again when I was two and a half mimosas in to a beautiful Saturday and would have probably said, That sounds like a great idea! if he’d proposed hitchhiking to Cleveland to see a Metallica cover band. Day-drinking causes me to be very agreeable.

This is how, last Thursday, I ended up driving the Subaru up the side of a mountain on a single lane dirt road, half blind with dust and the sun, toward two nights of the first camping I’d done in 16 years.

I don’t want to paint this experience as a totally negative one. I know John really wanted it to be the trip that caused the epiphany The Newlins are camping folk, and it wasn’t entirely regrettable and unpleasant. So, I’m just gonna identify the parts of the camping trip as:

  • Stuff that didn’t suck
  • Camping lessons learned

Stuff That Didn’t Suck:

1. Even though the drive up was possibly more terrifying than one of those panic dreams where you are falling off  the cliff and never land, but you know you’re going to land and it’s going to be terrible, so you just continue in a state of unending horror for all eternity (or until you wake up, soaked in sweat), the actual campsite was lovely. We had views of Lake Roosevelt on one side, and some pretty down below place on the other. There were no other campers we saw during the 40 or so hours we were up there.

camping 2

camping 1

2. Camping food is delicious, especially if it’s a little burnt. I made breakfast burritos the night before we left and wrapped them in tinfoil. Even though the outer layer was almost charcoal when they came off the fire, they were possibly my favorite thing I’ve ever eaten. Also, the brats I preboiled and we roasted on skewers were amazing. The bacon John set on fire and almost burned down the forest with, was equally delicious.

camping 3


3. I really love dead trees, and there were several nearby that had been struck by lightning and were gorgeous.


4. Day-drinking is encouraged at camping. So are afternoon naps.

5. There weren’t any horrible flying bugs like mosquitos or gnats or anything.

Camping Lessons Learned:

1. Two non-superhuman adults is not sufficient for both setting up camp and properly supervising a 3 year old, a 5 year old, an 11 year old, and an 8 year old body that houses the spirit of Steve Irwin. While John and I were setting up the million tents required to house all of us, the boys discovered a nearby, recently used, campsite. In under 10 minutes they had collected enough small flammable material to stoke the improperly extinguished embers at the neighboring fire ring and built a full fire, which Gray used a shovel to scoop up and run over to our fire ring while the littler boys ran behind him and yelled, Look!! We built a fire!! 

Just to reinforce what occurred: As John and I looked up from the tent poles we were frustratedly trying to shove through fabric, my eleven year old son came running, full-bore, through the trees, carrying a shovel full of flames, with his long, golden hair trailing behind him, and his brother and cousins following with utter glee. It… was not a safe situation.

2. When left alone to “explore”, even in the middle of the wilderness with no sign of civilization, Jonas will somehow manage to discover and retrieve:

  • A shotgun shell
  • An intact bullet
  • Five metal canisters for a BB gun
  • A throwing knife stuck in a tree
  • An enormous bowie knife

camping 4 camping 5


So when the zombie apocalypse happens, make sure to align yourself with Jonas.

3. Peeing in the woods is legitimately terrible. Peeing in the woods in the middle of the night when it’s 35 degrees out and you’ve forgotten your glasses, and are too afraid to go out in the dark alone and blind, so you put your almost frozen contacts against your eyeballs before trudging out in the cold, to squat in the woods while trying simultaneously not to pee on your own feet and not to sit in a pile of ants is torture it should be illegal to subject prisoners of war to. Like I almost decided I should drink less wine the next night so I didn’t have to pee in the middle of the night; it was that bad.

4. When I was a teenager I read a book about a guy stuck in an avalanche. I think it was called Avalanche!, but I’m too lazy to try and find it. It was about how this guy was skiing and an avalanche buried him below like 5 feet of snow, but there was a hole at the top of where he got buried, so he didn’t die and he spent literal days trapped there under the snow like peeing on himself for warmth and eating the snow around him, etc. I don’t remember how he got out, but the point is, the dude had an insane will to live. He was like James Franco’s character in the movie where he cuts his own arm off (that was a real guy, right? Gross.)

At camping, I learned I do not have quite that voracious of a will to live in the face of cold. If my options are: A) Be super cold and miserable for days with little to no hope in sight, eating snow and telling myself to stay strong because there’s a chance someone will find me, and eventually getting rescued OR B) Chewing a hole in my own wrist to bleed out after 37 minutes of being kind of chilly just to end the misery, I gotta tell you, I’m probably going with B.

The first night at camping I spent the entire night (when I wasn’t stumbling around in the dark trying not to pee on myself) shivering in my stupid 35 degree rated sleeping bag. The next night, the wind picked up even harder than the night before, and I have to admit, knowing that eventually getting into my tent was not going to be warmer than sitting by the fire, where I was already a popsicle, may have worn down my will to live a little bit. It’s possible I threw a small tantrum, marched into my tent at 7:15PM with all of the extra blankets I could find, layered all of the jackets and socks I brought on my body and refused to come out until morning. It wasn’t my proudest moment. I really hate being cold.

Overall, the kids loved every minute. I loved some of the minutes. But more, I loved the minutes in the hot shower when I got home. I might go again, if it’s not so cold. Although, if it’s less cold, there will probably be bugs. So maybe I’ll let Jason take the boys and I’ll stay home with my couch and wine glasses, and MTV shows.


*Did anyone see the latest episode of Faking It? “I’m Switzerland. Cool, neutral, very expensive.” #Shaneismyfavoriteever #apropsofnothing

Can I Make a Back-up Offer?

Let’s talk real estate for a minute. (Yes, I still do that, when I’m not hanging upside down.)

Here’s the scenario: You’ve been home shopping forever. I have you set up on an auto-search for the MLS. It emails you daily when a new property that fits your criteria comes on the market. We’ve seen every single house that could possibly be a match for what you need and want (and 307 others). Nothing was right. Nothing was perfect. You’re stuck in a holding pattern until The Dream House comes on the market. You’re frustrated. You have good money you’re willing to spend! (Or at least good money a bank is willing to let you to spend.) You just need the right house.

So you do a little online perusing. You know most of the Zillows and Trulias and Realtor.coms pull their inventory from the MLS, but maybe, just maybe, there’s something out there that slipped through the cracks for some reason. There’s no harm in covering all of the bases, right?

After some extensive online searching, a miracle occurs. It turns out the perfect house does exist and you’ve unearthed it! It’s the unicorn house. It has an amazing yard, backs to no major roads, is single-level, in an excellent school district, has a walk-in pantry, a closet with an amazing shoe rack, and an in-ground trampoline! Wasting not an instant, you call me. It’s 11:17PM.

Me: Hello?


Me: Ok… well it’s dark right now. And I’ve had wine. Plus tonight is the finale of The Challenge and I’m watching The Shit They Should’ve Shown and folding laundry. But we can totally go tomorrow; what’s the address?

You (guiltily): Well, it’s not from the search. I know you hate Zillow, but I found it there…

Me: It’s not that I hate Zillow, it just is often misleading. But it’s fine. I totally get it. Everyone searches Zillow. Text me the address and I’ll pull it up and see what the story is.

You: OKGREATIKNOWTHISISTHEONEIHAVETOHAVEIT!!! I was looking at the pictures and I’m pretty sure the tree in the back is a special genetically engineered mimosa tree. I heard about them on NPR. And the floor in the kitchen is that new composite material made from the shavings of unicorn horns. And I’m sure this is the neighborhood I read that Santa visits first every year. I saw a rainbow earlier this week and I know for a fact it ended in the backyard of this house. This is the house!!!

Me: I understand. I would tell you not to get your hopes up too high before we’ve seen the house, but I think we’ve moved past that checkpoint.

You: I need to go. I’m going to paint my nails to match the interior color scheme of the house so I make a good impression on it tomorrow when we visit. I want everything to be perfect.

Me: Right. Sounds good.

0.4 seconds later my phone buzzes with the address of the most wonderful and magical house you’ve ever seen. What I didn’t tell you was that I’m pretty sure I know where this is going. Sure, it’s possible the house is 3 square feet under the required minimum we set up in the search, or a block outside of the search parameters. Probably, though, it’s under contract.

See, there’s a flaw in the system, at least here in the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing System (ARMLS). There are currently three statuses in ARMLS that will show up as ‘Active’ when pulled into any other system:

1. Active – Available for sale and no contract has currently been accepted.

2. UCB (Under Contract – Backups) – A contract has been accepted in first position and the seller is willing to consider holding offers in back-up position.

3. CCBS (Contract Contingent on Buyer Sale) – A contract has been accepted in first position, but it is contingent upon the sale and/or close of escrow of the buyer’s property, so there is either a first right of refusal clause in the contract that states the seller can continue to market for offers and if he gets something better give the buyer 24 hours to remove the contingency or he will cancel, or he is just marketing for backups because it’s a buyer situation that is statistically more likely to fall apart.

Additionally, although there is not currently a technical designation for this, many agents use the UCB designation on a short sale as an indication the seller has accepted an offer in first position, but the bank hasn’t approved this offer. Once the bank has approved the offer they change it to Pending to show it’s a more stable situation.

All of these cases show up on any of the searchable real estate websites as Active.

Me: So… your unicorn house is under contract.

You: WHAT???!! I can’t breathe… I think I’m dying.

Me: Get a paper bag. Try to think happy thoughts. The agent has it listed that it’s under contract but they’re accepting back up offers. So that’s why it’s showing that way on Zillow. But it’s been under contract for 3 weeks, so my guess is that it’s closing in a week or so.

You: NOOOOOOOOO. I drove by this morning and the next door neighbor was getting into his car. I’m pretty sure it was Ryan Gosling.

Me: I’m really sorry.

You: Ok, but if they’re accepting back up offers, than can I still see it? Because I want to do that. I want to write a back up offer! We will match whatever they have. So if that buyer backs out, then we’ll get the house! There’s still hope, right?

Me: Um… well… back up offers can be problematic. I’ll call and see.


Me: Hi, your listing with the mimosa tree-

Listing Agent: Yes, the one with the pot of gold on the side yard. It’s under contract.

Me: Yes, I know. I have a buyer who’d like to make a back up offer.

Listing Agent: Oh… well, we’re through the inspection period and the appraisal, soo…

Me: Ok, but you have it listed that you’re accepting back up offers, and my client would like to see it and write one.

Listing Agent: Um… well my sellers are actually packing to move. And they have 4 kids under the age of 5, so scheduling a showing right now might actually make them murder me.

Me: Why do you have it listed as UCB then?

Listing Agent: Well, I mean, back up offers can’t ever be a bad thing, right? I wanted to make sure I was still marketing the property as aggressively a possible for my sellers. We want to make sure all of our options are open.

Me: OK, so if we can’t see it, but my buyer still wants to write a backup offer, can you disclose the terms of the contract you accepted so we can match it or do better than it to have a contract suitable for your seller?

Listing Agent: Oh, I can’t disclose the terms of the contract until we’ve closed escrow. That would be showing our hand.

Me: Technically, you can if your seller consents to allow you to disclose. And if we don’t know what you’ve accepted, how can we write up something to match it?

Listing Agent: Let me talk to my seller and get back to you.

*10 Minutes Later*

Listing Agent: My seller has decided not to accept back up offers at this time. I’ve changed the listing to Pending. I will keep your information on file and contact you if anything happens to this buyer.

Me: Right. Thanks.


Me: *Relays conversation*

You: *Dies inside*

In summary: Back-up offers suck and UCB is stupid.

In a faster, more competitive market than we’re in right now, back-up offers can potentially be useful. If a seller gets 12 offers after 24 hours on the market, it might make sense to accept one and then accept another in back-up position, if two were similarly competitive. In 99% of situations, however, it makes more sense to go back on the open market if your buyer cancels or is unable to perform. Most of the successful agents I know keep a file of interested parties on listings that are currently under contract, and if it looks like things are going south, they contact the potential buyers/agents and let them know it’s time to put together their best offer. UCB is a silly, over-used, under-analyzed status that mostly makes buyers confused and allows agents who have listings under contract to continue to market the listing to gain new buyer leads.

Dear All Internet Real Estate Search Sites,

Figure out a better solution for this.

Love, Everyone in Arizona




If a Mom Puts Away a KitchenAid Mixer

Me (on hold with a short sale escalation representative to complain about a stagnant short sale): Why has the KitchenAid mixer been on the dining room table next to my computer for a month?

Also Me: Probably because the cupboard it usually goes in is messy right now because of the diet.

Me: What does the diet have to do with that cupboard?

Also Me: It’s also where we keep the ziplock bags. So now, because we’re packing food to take everywhere we go for the stupid diet, there are a bunch of necessary sizes of ziplock bags and they need to be easily accessible, which is difficult when the mixer is in the way.

Me: Oh. Well the other thing in that cupboard is that enormous bowl we got as a wedding present and have literally never used.

Also Me: That’s true. I was thinking it might be helpful for like really big salads in potlucks or something, someday.

Me: Yes, but we’ve taken salads to potlucks for like 25 people and never needed a bowl that big.

Also Me: Yeah, it’s probably more appropriate for bathing toddlers in.

Me: I’m going to pull that bowl out for the donation pile, quickly organize the ziplock bags, and put away the mixer. That will really start to clear off the dining room table. And it will only take a second!

Also Me: Great plan!

*2 hours and 45 minutes later*

Gray (walking in the door from school): Mom, what are you doing??!

Me: Well, I was just going to put away the mixer, but then I wanted to put some of the water bottles that had migrated into the mixer cupboard back into the one next to it, but it was over-flowing with tablecloths. Do you know how many tablecloths we have?

Gray: No…

Me: SEVENTEEN. Do you remember the last time we used a tablecloth?

Gray: Um, no.

Me: RIGHT. Because we never use them!

Gray: True.

Me: So I decided to take all of the tablecloths out of that cabinet and put them somewhere else because it’s not like they need to be easily accessible or anything, but then it turned out there was a whole bunch of heavy platters and whatnot on the top shelf of that cupboard and they’d actually broken the shelf fastener thingys out of the sides of the shelf, and the only things holding the shelf up were the tablecloths.

Gray: Yikes.

Me: Seriously. It was totally not a structurally sound situation. So I took everything out of that cupboard and got a hammer and fixed the shelf and put everything except the tablecloths and some random seasonal chachskis back in. But then I had to find a place to put the tablecloths.

Gray: Right…

Me: I thought I’d put them in the storage ottoman we have in the great room. You know, the one with the four compartments?

Gray: Oh yeah-

Me: But it turns out I’d shoved all of the paperwork from the kitchen counter that wasn’t trash into one of those compartments last time your grandma came to visit. And one of the compartments has like a whole bunch of probably scratched and useless DVDs-

Gray: I forgot about all the DVDs!

Me: And one compartment was stuffed with toys, dirty socks, magic tricks, and a fruit by the foot still in the wrapper.

Gray: Really? Where is it?

Me: It’s old and gross! You can’t eat it.

Gray: Oh.

Me: The last of the compartments was relatively empty.

Gray: I know. I cleaned it out a few months ago to make a place for Blue to sleep. He slept in it for hours.

Me: Yeah, but it turned out we had too many tablecloths for just one compartment. So I still had to clean one out. I opted for the toys because I couldn’t cope with the paperwork today.

Gray: Well that’s good. But it still doesn’t explain-

Me: So THEN, I needed to put away the pumpkin carving tools into the Halloween box, and the Christmas platters and cheese plate in the Christmas boxes out on the shelves in the garage.

Gray: Ok…

Me: While I was up on the ladder putting the stuff back in the boxes, I realized there were a whole bunch of boxes I haven’t looked in since we moved in, 7 years ago.

Gray: Ah, I see.

Me: And that’s where I found the roller blades!!! Who even knew I still had roller blades! Also, apparently I still have my wedding dress. So that’s good. I kind of thought it was lost.

Gray: It’s all starting to make more sense.