Things or topics I found interesting 27 years ago, and my feelings on them today

IMG_54571. Dinosaurs. I mean, I guess they’re all right. Addie is obsessed with them. She does this thing where she’ll ask you your favorite dinosaur, and if you say, like, triceratops or something, she sneers at you for being so basic and informs you that her favorite dinosaur is compsognathus, because of course.

2. Rocks, or racks. did have a weird rock-obsession for awhile, now that I think of it. I used to find what I believed to be quartz scattered all over the blacktop at my elementary school, and would shove it in anyone’s face who would listen, although thinking back on it now, it was probably just broken concrete. There may have been a rock polisher involved? Now if it says racks, then I don’t know what to say to that, because while my own rack is pretty spectacular, I don’t really spend much time perusing any others.

3. Unsolved mysterys. This is totally still true. Back in the day, this meant tuning in every Wednesday at 8 p.m. to catch Robert Stack on the show by the same name. If this show were still on now, I would watch the fuck out of it, even if it was just one long, unbroken shot of Robert Stack’s corpse reenacting alien abductions. Now, I get my fix from Dateline and 48 Hours, but it was never quite the same.

4. Cavepeople. I do actually spend more time thinking about cave people than most people probably do? But it always involves, like, really stupid things, like did they wipe themselves after they went to the bathroom? Or were they basically animals? When did they invent songs? Were they any good? Were they catchy?

5. Egipt. This might have sprung from the fact that every single year at Easter, my family watches The Ten Commandments, during which we mock it mercilessly the entire time. That movie, and the song “King Tut” by Steve Martin, are basically the only things I knew about Egypt at the time, and that pretty much holds true today.

6. How chalk is made. I call bullshit on this, there is no way I was interested in how chalk is made.

7. How school started. This is very broad. It might tie in to my cave people obsession? Like, at what point did they decide, fuck this, this cave is cold and dark and has bugs in it, so let’s educate our kids so they can move up to clay huts? I was very, very into school as a child, so I don’t think I was asking this out of any sort of malice. I probably just wanted to know who to thank, because I was a giant, giant nerd.

8. How computers work. I applaud my past self for even recognizing, in 1988, that computers were a thing. I did have computer lab at that age, but all it really was was the PAWS typing test, over and over and over again. But I am amazing at typing, so I guess it was all worth it in the end. Also, I still assume that computers work because there are tiny men inside filing away everything I type and quickly sketching copies of the pictures I upload. Obviously.

9. How felt was invented. What? No, get yourself together, kid!

10. How dominos were invented. Oh my God, you’re embarrassing me.

11. Fish. True that, fish are legit.

12. How fist fighting started. I don’t really know what I meant by this, but I think it’s a totally adroit question that I would actually like to see answered. Who was the first cave person to just pop another guy in the mouth with his fist? Did the other guy see it coming, like, at all? I’m assuming that my interest in this then is the same as it is today, which is that I have always secretly wanted someone to fistfight over me. “Boys, boys,” I would say, as two men pummeled each other with their fists. “You’re both handsome! Now, who can tell me how felt is made?”

The End

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The author at the age this list was written, very happy about something, probably fistfights.

The skin I’m in

As with most areas of my life, I have no idea what I’m doing with my skin. I mean, I understand why I have it– otherwise, all my internal organs and shit would just fall out, and that would be super gross– but I never exactly know what to do with it.

As a teen, I was under the impression that I was supposed to singe it into submission with Oxy and Clearasil, which I mixed with abandon. The girls on TV were all doing it, and I followed their lead, even though they were clearly completely spasmodic when it came to rinsing afterward:

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But in the end, all I got out of it was cystic acne and a very wet bathroom counter.

When I was in grad school, I scored a job as a receptionist at a day spa that sold fancy skincare items, which I sampled liberally whenever I was left alone in the reception area for more than 15 seconds. (I also waxed my own lip and gave myself paraffin hand treatments on the regular.) A few times, out of guilt for the massive amount of samples I had pilfered through the years more than anything else, I would use my employee discount to purchase a full-sized bottle of something or other, assuming that anything that cost $30 would give me the skin of an angel riding a unicorn into a double rainbow.

The spa ladies claimed they could see a difference. But the spa ladies also failed to notice when I accidentally waxed off half an eyebrow, so I don’t think they were looking very closely.

Right now, I’m in a natural products phase. For about a year, I washed exclusively with black African soap (which, I’m not gonna lie, makes me feel like a terrible person every time I say it? Even though that’s literally the name of the soap, and it really is black?), and moisturized with a Burt’s Bees face oil, because I figured all of the oil-removing things I had used in the past hadn’t worked, so why not slap more oil on there and just see what happens? And honestly, it was a pretty great combo, except for the fact that it left me smelling like the incense section at a head shop, and after awhile that can really wear a girl down.

So just recently, I bought my first Lush facial cleanser, and I have to say, I’m kind of addicted. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it comes in a pot, or that it really just looks like someone chewed up a bunch of almonds and spit them into a container, and then sprinkled some lavender over it all for good measure, or that I have to actually break chunks of it off to use it– actually, pretty much all of those things make it sound disgusting. But trust me, it’s super not.

I doubt it’s really going to do anything for my skin one way or another– honestly, at this point I don’t really think there’s anything out there that’s going to distract from the fact that I somehow have both acne and wrinkles and basically spend most of my time looking like I slept the night on a grease-soaked corduroy pillowcase– but it just smells so good, and it feels so fancy, like I’m part of an exclusive club that knows that face washes that come in a tube are so passé.

Although once this pot is gone, I might just try chewing up some almonds myself and cutting out the middle man.

I’m not sorry

Growing up, I had a great uncle who was a millionaire. He lived out of state and we only saw him every few years, so this relationship generally translated to terrifying dinners at restaurants without children’s menus and occasional dog-sitting for his two full-sized poodles, Spike and Spikeson, while he and my grandmother went for a swim in the hotel pool.

I honestly have no idea where my parents were during these dog-sitting rendezvouses—I can’t really imagine my grandma and great uncle willingly being like, “For sure, we would love to have this awkward pre-teen hang around while we catch up after years apart!” Chances are, I forced myself upon them, because I found my Uncle Jim super glamorous, not so much because of his money, but because he had written and published a book. It was a book about business, and it was self-published, but dammit, he was an author, which was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Along with the lead singer of The Bangles. And also Jem.

It was during one of these outings to the hotel that I remember having a very short conversation with Uncle Jim. I can’t even really remember what it was about, but I do remember him saying “You can’t make everyone happy all the time.”

To which I responded, with great dignity, “No. But I can try.

And I did. Try, I mean. I actually completely failed at the making everyone happy part. But no one can say I didn’t try.

I don’t know why or how I turned into such a people pleaser. I do enjoy making other people happy, but I also love basking in the knowledge that, for the most part, I am universally well liked. (There is, I should point out, about 10% of the population that has a violent reaction of hatred toward me, which I can’t really explain. Is it my awesomeness? Or do they just have the ability to see through my bullshit?) I feel confident that if I died right now, my tombstone would read “I liked her, she was nice.”

But trying to make everybody happy means often neglecting your own happiness, it turns out—a lesson I learned the same night as the conversation at the hotel, when, in an effort to impress my uncle, I ate a cow’s pancreas and nearly had a mental breakdown over its awfulness. It was a scene that would play out again and again during the course of my life, though usually with less pancreas. Other people’s happiness became what made me happy.

So for now, I’m going to try an experiment—I’m going to try to find out what actually makes me happy. I suspect it might be copious amounts of television and pizza? It’s definitely not pancreas. But whatever it is, I want to find it, and I want to worry less about whether what I’m doing is making other people happy.

(–she said, while secretly worrying that everyone was going to be offended when they read this, and assume it was about them, because that’s what she would do. But then she remembered that creepy Madonna video where she was covered in latex and wearing cornrows for some reason? And she allowed it to be her new anthem. For now. Along with “Milkshake,” by Kelis.)

Stitch Fix Fever

Except for the fox shoes incident, I have never really considered myself a fashionable person. I mean, I have definitely upgraded from my college days, when I routinely wore second-hand bowling shirts and my mother actually wrote a letter to my college paper, in which I had a column, begging the editors to help me find a way to be more stylish.

In the end, it was not the kindly but ultimately also sartorially-challenged staff of the Ashland University Collegian (listen, it was the late ’90s, mistakes were made by all) but my desire not to die alone, probably under a heap of used local softball team shirts, that caused me to update my style. Finally capturing and ultimately maintaining a boyfriend kept me mindful of my clothing choices, as I didn’t figure Ben would want to be seen in public with me in a pair of overalls and a hand-lettered T-shirt reading I CONQUERED THE BEAST OF INJUSTICE (I still have that t-shirt, actually, it’s pretty awesome).

But lately I’ve been feeling kind of blah, both inside and out, and it feels as though a makeover is in order. A haircut is basically out of the question, because when you have naturally curly hair, the only two options available to you are Long Insane Hair, or Pube-y Felicity Hair. So I am turning to Stitch Fix to see if I can breathe some much-needed life into my sad wardrobe.

In order to really connect with your Stitch Fix stylist, they ask you to take a good hard look at the clothes you have now, and ask you to pin clothes you would be interested in trying to your Pinterest wall. Up until now, I have used Pinterest only to find cross-stitch alphabets in which to write pithy sayings (my Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems cross-stitch is amazing), so I basically had to start at the beginning. So far, this is what I’ve learned:

  1. I have a lot of gray clothes. Like, a lot. Because apparently my subconscious wants to dress me up as an elephant. That’s a shit move, subconscious.
  2. I also have far too many of the following items:
    1. Striped shirts (I am an elephant pirate, apparently)
    2. Polka-dotted shirts
  3. I am currently a big fan of shirts with tiny prints of animals on them. Birds, rabbits, horses, I have them all. And I don’t plan on stopping until I become the twee manic pixie dream girl I have always imagined myself to be, even though manic pixie dream girls rarely work in insurance
  4. When all compiled together on a Pinterest board, it becomes apparent that my aesthetic is 1940’s Librarian
  5. I am all about the new tunic-and-leggings trend, as from the knees down, I have the body of a supermodel

My first Fix is scheduled to arrive on Saturday, so I’ll follow up with a review. I just assembled my pin board today, in a fit of ennui brought on by my umpteenth day in jeans and a polka-dotted sweater, so it might be too late for my stylist to use it when choosing my first fix. If she has to go by my initial profile alone, all she knows is that it is imperative that my bra straps not show in any shirts she sends, because apparently I was very concerned about that the day I set up my profile.

So if you see me wearing a bunch of gray striped turtlenecks over the next few days, you’ll know what happened.

Out of stock

I am beginning to suspect that Giant Eagle is using my Advantage Card to track my purchases and systematically eliminate all the things I buy on a regular basis.

First, it was just little things, things that could be chalked up to coincidence. Maybe they just stopped making Sweet BBQ Sun Chips? I mean, I guess it makes sense that I might have been the only person buying chicken jerky? Even though it’s delicious and way better for you than regular jerky, but whatever, I digress, it does sound sort of gross when you think about it.

But more and more, I find that the items that I needed to survive everyday life were disappearing off shelves. Oscar Mayer turkey bacon– gone. Stonyfield Farms blueberry yogurt– never to be seen again. My grocery store now sells no less than sixty varieties of nut butter, including powdered, cocoa pretzel, and bacon (which is probably pretty good, TBH), but you will never again be able to purchase prepared chicken or shelled pistachio nuts. (And yes, I know I can just man up and shell my own pistachios and prepare my own chicken, but THIS IS AMERICA AND I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO.)

At first, I tried to adjust. Fine, no more Oscar Mayer turkey bacon? I will eat this equally acceptable Jennie-O turkey bacon. I suppose this coconut creamer is an adequate replacement for my Almond Joy creamer. (It’s not.) But then Giant Eagle fought back, and eliminated those things, too.

The worst is when they take away something that my children like, because it’s really not possible to explain to a five-year-old that she’s never again going to taste the delectable goodness of FarmRich pepperoni pizza bites (and God help you if you attempt to replace them with Tostino’s Pizza Rolls, because she will KNOW, and her wrath will be fierce). Occasionally, I’ll find my old food comrades in another store, and when I do, I return home with a cart full of it, hoarding it like the apocalypse is at hand. I will most likely die almost immediately at the hands of zombies, but by God, I will do so with a jar of Mid’s meat sauce clutched against my chest.

I wonder if I could use this to my advantage. If I buy nothing but mayonnaise for the next few months, will they take all the mayonnaise off the shelves? Can I buy out the stock of the olive bar and get that shut down, too? I don’t really know what I’d do with gallons of mayonnaise and olives– probably barf uncontrollably until they’re removed from the premises– but there must be some benefit to this misfortune. And an antipasto-free shopping experience just might be worth it.

 

Quite the Week

Without going into details, I have been having what can only be described as Quite the Week.

It’s weeks like this that make me lay in bed awake at night, thinking of weeks past that I thought had gone poorly, and just laugh and laugh and laugh at my former self that thought her worst week was the week that she felt left out at a putt-putt golf outing, or the week she accidentally befriended a homeless person and then accidentally helped him commit a crime. (That actually happened. That week was also very intense.)

But the problem now is that, as I believe I have mentioned before but am too lazy to go back into my archives and link to, I have completely and totally lost the ability to relax. Never exactly a laid-back person to begin with, having children and a stressful job has pretty much rid me of all vestiges of the ability to just chill the fuck out.

I mean, I know what I am supposed to do, in theory– lay down! Read a book! Take a bath! Drink too much beer and stalk old friends on Facebook! But when I try to do those things, a very loud and persistent alarm immediately begins sounding in my head: WARNING! WARNING! LAUNDRY IS GOING UNFOLDED AND I GUESS YOU FORGOT YOUR EMPLOYEE REVIEWS WERE DUE TODAY WHAT IS YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM WHY ARE YOU LYING DOWN ARE YOU DYING BECAUSE YOU CAN NEVER LAY DOWN AGAIN UNTIL YOU DIE!

(I just now remembered when writing that review that my employee reviews really are due today. That’s distressing.)

I’m assuming I can’t be the only person who lost the ability to chillax upon entering adulthood. Otherwise, there would be no bitter, Type-A women to unthaw with ukulele music in romantic comedies. Is there anyone among you who found your way back to relaxation? Can you tell me the path? Do they sell wine on the path? Is wine the path?

The rolling garbage heap

I came to grips a long time ago with the fact that I’m not the kind of person who takes good care of her things. I don’t waterproof my boots or Scotchguard my furniture; the Dry Clean Only tag inside my shirts might as well just read “Wear Until Too Smelly Then Bury In Closet In Shame Forever.” For this reason, I never really spring for the expensive stuff—I had a Coach purse once that gave me extreme anxiety whenever I carried it, terrified that if I breathed on it the wrong way it would spontaneously disintegrate leaving behind a sad pile of sunglasses and Chick-Fil-A receipts that I would have to carry home in a Giant Eagle bag.

But no matter how frugal you are with your clothes and accessories, it’s basically impossible to cheap out on a car, so I have always tried to keep mine relatively tidy. I was never the type to spend hours detailing the inside with Q-Tips or anything, but I kept the dashboard clean, the carpets vacuumed. Sometimes I might have a dangly novelty air freshener in there to spruce the place up a bit. No one was ever super impressed by the inside of my car, but no one ever recoiled in horror.

Until I had kids.

Now, my car is basically a rolling garbage heap. There are gummies worked so deeply into the fibers of my floor mats that they have now officially logged more miles than the car’s previous owners. The floors are littered with French fries, Lego pieces, board books that literally no one ever wants to read until you dare to throw them away, at which point they are rescued from the donate pile and taken into the car to peruse once, and then you just escort them to and from your every destination for the rest of your life.  I tried adding a toy cubby between the car seats to hold it all, but that just served as a delightful dumping tool slash kooky hat.

To make matters worse, I made the rookie mistake of letting my children eat and drink in the car, leading to milk spills and the incorporeal funk that accompanies them after they inevitably spoil. In the summer months, my car routinely smells like the cow barn at the county fair, all earthy shit and rotten milk.

I try to fight back every few weeks, cleaning out all the old detritus and sadly wiping things down, but before I even manage to make it to the grocery store and back, a new unsharpened pencil, doll hat and copy of Ten Apples Up On Top materializes out of nowhere. Thankfully, the two car seats in the back mean I can basically never drive any other adults anywhere, but I live in fear of the impromptu work lunch where someone asks “can I just grab a ride with you?” NOT UNLESS YOU’RE WILLING TO SPEND TIME IN THE MOUTH OF HELL, LADY! Don’t mind the Goldfish crumbs.

When we finally get a new car, I’m thinking I’ll be smarter about it—no more food or drink, no more than one toy per rider. Or I may just ban the kids altogether and make them walk. I mean, we’re always getting on our kids to get more exercise, right? And besides, then maybe they’d finally stop wanting to bring that Rock Band drum set with them everywhere they went if they knew they had to carry it.

All snakes and no kittens

Because I am a sophisticated lady, one of my all-time favorite movies is Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from that movie—about bicycles, about perseverance, about the Alamo—but the one scene that has always stuck with me throughout my life is the scene in which Pee Wee encounters a pet store that’s on fire. One by one, he rescues each and every animal in the store, pausing momentarily in front of a tank full of snakes each time he exits. Finally, once all the cuter animals have been saved, he has no choice but to go back for the snakes.

pee wee

I no joke use this scene as a metaphor for my life at least once a week. And judging from the reaction I get every time, I am literally the only person on earth that has ever seen this movie, but trust me, guys, it is fucking hilarious, and it’s on Netflix right now, so go check it out and then come back.

I can wait.

Okay, you’re back? You loved it? You fully understand why a woman with a master’s degree would connect with this movie on such a deep level and use examples from it to relate to her every day life? I figured you would. You just get it.

Anyway, lately, I’ve been feeling like my life is all snakes and no kittens. It seems like I’ve done all the easy things already, and just left behind a squirming mass of bills to pay and birthday parties to plan and floors to somehow chisel dried raspberries off of and projects at work that require both dedication and a deadened soul.

And I know it all has to get done—snakes, kittens, all of it—and that it makes sense to just get the snakes out of the way first, but you guys, the pet store is burning down, and I do not want to waste time saving snakes if it means that a bunch of kittens are gonna die. So I go for kittens first every time, even though it means I inevitably fall prey to times like this, when all that’s left are the snakes.

How do you deal with situations like this? Are you the responsible type that will save the snakes first? If so, how do you feel knowing that there might be a bunch of dead kittens because of you? And fellow kitten-savers—how do you dig yourself out when all you have left is snakes?

Leave your responses in the comments—tell ‘em Large Marge sent you.

(You would get that joke if you had gone and watched the movie like I said. Liar.)

The Sleep Summit

While Ben was out of town last week, the girls evidently held a secret conference. I don’t know where I was—maybe on my 100th milk run of the evening, waylaid in the kitchen by an over-affectionate Coconut, who, unbeknownst to me, was acting under orders. The conference took place in Addie’s room. In attendance: Addie, Rosie, Chris and Martin Kratt, and seven thousand Shopkins.

Addie: I feel like maybe Mom has gotten a little too comfortable around here.

Rosie: I don’t know, I mean, I feel like we’ve done a good job slowly eroding her spirit, right, Chris?

Chris Kratt: TO THE CREATURE RESCUE!

Addie: Yeah, during waking hours. But then there are all those sweet, sweet hours after we go to bed when she has control of the house.

Rosie: I thought Mommy was a robot that turned off after we went to bed.

Addie: I used to think so, too, but then, one night, when I thought I could come to the kitchen and help myself to some mini-muffins, guess who was standing there, completely not a robot, and took the muffins from me?

Rosie: [Gasps audibly.]

Addie: So I’m telling you, we’ve gotta hit her where it hurts.

Rosie: The boobies?

Addie: No, her bed, moron. But also her boobies.

Shopkins: [Lay on floor, saying nothing, preparing to stab Mommy in the foot as soon as she dares enter the room after dark.]

And so it came to pass that every night for the past week, Addie and Rosie have come to sleep in bed with me at some point during the evening. Addie will generally wake me up to inform me that she has arrived; when questioned, she makes up an elaborate story about a bad dream involving a spider and glowing green eyes out her window and sometimes killer unicorns, which is pretty badass, because those guys would make amazing impaling machines. Rosie, on the other hand, sneaks in using ninja-like skills, wedging herself between Addie and me until we form a capital H.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to undo this—I assume there is some parenting book about how to get your children to sleep in their own beds, but I’ve gotta believe that their method involves me waking up repeatedly in the middle of the night, and I would really rather just end up relegated to eight inches of mattress at the very edge of the bed than deal with that noise. I just keep telling myself that eventually they would be caught dead than spend their evenings snuggled up with their mama.

Even if their idea of “snuggling” is really just “sleep-punching me in my boobies.”

Inside Edition: Bathtime

You know those adorable photos that every parent takes of their child or children in the bathtub, sporting a bubble beard and Cindy-Lou Who pointed hairdo? They give you the impression that bathtime is a time of great joy in any household, all golden light and laughter and cleanliness. But you know what? Those pictures perpetuate a pack of lies.

What the pictures don’t tell you is that immediately beforehand, the children in question spent ten minutes doing cannonballs into the cramped tub, threatening life, limb, and the integrity of your tile floor. They also fail to mention that one or both children will almost immediately pee into the bathwater as soon as they get in, a fact that they will proudly announce, and you will wish they hadn’t, because if you hadn’t physically known the pee was there, you wouldn’t have had any qualms about washing them with it. But instead, you have to drain the tub, leaving you with cold, angry, soapy, urine-dipped children who exact their revenge in the form of liberal pants-soakings as soon as you try to wash them.

I have tried everything to cut these things off at the pass. I have even gone so far as to bathe my children while basically naked, just to avoid the disgusting feeling of wet leggings and socks after my fifth consecutive tsunami of soapy bathtub cannonball water. But somehow, they always get me. Whether it’s a run-of-the-mill splashing, or the unceremonious dumping of an entire bottle of conditioner into the bathwater, or, once, a piece of installation art that required the use of every single one of my clean washcloths, pasted to the shower wall with toothpaste, bathtime never fails to serve as a harrowing reminder of my mortality.

Even the mere act of coercing my children into the bathtub must be on par with the talents of some of our nation’s top hostage negotiators. There is much begging, pleading, bargaining and threatening required to get them into the tub, and even more to get them out again. Generally, by the end of bath night, I find myself with a soaked bathroom floor, no towels to spare, and the enviable task of needing to arrange for Justin Bieber to play a concert in my backyard. With ponies.

Now, it’s true that when they finally emerge from the bathtub, smelling all good and looking so clean, they are basically at peak cuddliness, particularly when wrapped in their hooded owl or dinosaur towels. I love making little comb lines in their hair, and wrapping them up all tight in their towels and hustling them into their little pajamas. Maybe that’s the moment you’re trying to capture when you take that bathtime pic– that little bit of peace and comfort that comes with a clean kid. Which lasts exactly as long as it takes for you to slip on the giant puddle they leave on the bathroom floor, cursing society for requiring cleanliness and reminding yourself to invest in dry shampoo and baby wipes.