Safety Is No Accident

Some time ago, we unwrapped the many ways I felt blessed to still be alive—despite my parents’ lackluster effort on that front. Yes, they loved us and fed us and didn’t allow us to drink arsenic, but I think we can all agree there was some iffy judgment on their parts when it came to trampolines, nunchucks and furnace safety.

floorfurnace

We had a floor furnace similar to this. We three kids would sit around the firey-hot metal grates to warm up. It was so hot that if you stood on it, grate lines would melt into the soles of your shoes. So let me repeat, we’d sit around it in our non-flame retardant pajamas to get warm. Didn’t my parents ever worry that “warming up” would escalate into “catching fire?”

furnacefire

My imagination is overly vivid at times, but this is actually how I remember it.

Side Note: When the blazing fire pilot light would go out, I’d watch—in absolute horror—as my dad descended into the bowels of hell to re-ignite it. I was forever certain he would get blown up, and we’d be left with no Daddy and no heat.

As an adult, I can get around my parents “letting some things go,” but it’s harder to understand why our very schools and city parks were so negligent.

Times have changed in a major way. What use to pass muster—playgrounds, p.e. activities, safety measures—is somewhat mind-blowing.

Shall we head down that road?

Remember these scary-go-rounds?

merrygo

If not, let me tell you how these worked. A few kids would hop on, while a few other kids grabbed a led-poisoned pole, and ran in a circle until they reached top speeds. Once maximum speeds were attained, the runners could do one of two things.

They could either let go and watch the ensuing melee, or they could hoist themselves up to enjoy the ride. Unfortunately, a third option sometimes presented itself. Once in a while, a runner wouldn’t be able to let go, and he’d end up losing his footing and getting drug through gravel—and if he was extremely unlucky, a limb or two would get stuck under the death trap.

As for the gullible crew riding the giant sit-n-spin—well, their outcomes also ran the gamut. Generally, one or more kids would lose their grip and fly off (and I mean FLY.) The ones who were able to successfully battle inertia were either throwing up or getting pelted with other kids’ saliva and tears.

Thanks City.

Remember climbing ropes in p.e. class?

ropes

Well aren’t those images just adorable. A spotter? A mat? Assistance knots? A harness? Not one depiction in these lying images rings a bell in my mind.

I remember hardwood floors, a 40-foot rope and a lot of yelling. I do not remember being told what to do if I did made it to the top of the building to ring the bell. I do not remember any warnings about the ensuing rope burn caused by descending it like a fire pole. I do remember logging the memory in the category, “The moment I realized my childhood was over.”

Does this red rubber ball bring back memories? This was the kind of weapon we used in dodge ball.

dodge6

Cut to today’s cozy foam ones. You can pinch off pieces of these. The red rubber ones pinched off pieces of you.

Are you kidding me? I'd use that for a pillow.

Are you kidding me? I’d use that for a pillow.

This is how the boys looked when they took aim at you. In all fairness, it’s how I looked, too. I flat-out loved dodge ball and lived for days we got to play.

dodgeballthrowing

I’m not even sure it’s played in school anymore. If it is, I’d bet the farm the rules have changed. I’m quite certain there’s a heavy penalty for throwing today’s soft foam balls at an opponent’s face. You know what happened when you hit someone in the face when I was young?

They were out.

metalslide3

Some of you may be looking at this like it’s a photoshopped joke—saying, “I’ve never seen a slide that’s not red or yellow chunky plastic.”

When I was young, the slides did one thing all day—roasted themselves in the baking hot sun.

They were dangerously hot. They were also not regularly inspected. Some of them would have a split in the hand rails, which meant that if you were a nervous newbie—who slid down holding the sides—you could very easily end up with a laceration between your thumb and forefinger.

Yeah, too bad for you—they were painted with a color called “Tetanus Grey.”

You also had a pretty big decision to make, once at the top—and once you verified the surface temps of 150. If you pulled your knees up to your chin—to keep your calves and hammies from suffering second degree burns—you would descend at rates a 4th grader can’t successfully negotiate. Your landing would range from heroic, to one where your friends assessed your dislocated bone situation.

These teeter-totters—or see-saws, depending on where you grew up—look fairly harmless, right?

teetertotter

Well they are, if two well-intentioned, equally weighted kids play on them. Anything short of that left one or more participants nursing an injury. We used to add people to one end, if the other end had a “sturdy” occupant. I’m sure that would be grounds for juvie these days.

“She, she, she said she needed to add at least a first grader to her end so our weight would be even! She basically called me fat! Suspend her!”

Back then, evening out the ends was just basic street smarts. No harm, no foul.

We’d ride up and down forever—talking and laughing. These were good times with good teeter-totter friends. There were also some bad times, with bad teeter-totter friends-turned-foes.

About the meanest thing you could do to a partner was get to the bottom and jump off. It would send the high person crashing dramatically to the ground.

Juvie for that, too? Please. It wasn’t even worth mentioning to a parent, much less a teacher. It would be like saying, “Sara said she doesn’t like my shirt!” … “Yeah? And? Get back to your desk, you little snitch.”

scooter

Anyone remember these little gems? Was there anything better on God’s green earth than scooter-relay day?

Yes. Three things.

  1. Days when you didn’t get your baby fingers run over by Angie Brown’s scooter.
  2. Days when you didn’t get overzealous in your attempt to swim your arms faster, faster, faster—and catapult yourself chin-first into the germ-laden gym floor.
  3. Days when you didn’t get kicked in the teeth by Rodney Wheeless, who always took wide and wild left turns.

scooterracescooter2

How about tetherball? We spent countless hours on this fun, yet ill-conceived game. The chances of it going well were next to nil. You’d literally spike the ball, with all your might, directly toward your close opponent. Yes, the intent was to pass her head and wrap the ball around the pole—but more times than not, her timing had yet to develop, and she’d end up getting tattooed with the unnaturally hard tetherball.

tether_ball

Did any school officials ever consider that some little nugget might actually get the rope wrapped around his nugget head and choke to death? Doubtful.

Did you ever play on these guys? We did “cherry drops” from them.

monkeybars

We’d hang from our knees and start a swinging motion. We’d work back and forth until we were swinging high enough to let go and stick our landing. There was a 50% chance we’d land on our feet. There was a 100% chance our bars weren’t on a grassy playground—but on a concrete floor in the gym.

We were never once told to stop doing cherry drops.

grrr

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m so thankful I grew up when I did. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite the “dangers” and “life-threatening situations” and “abject negligence,” I feel like one of the blessed ones.

I love that back then, we were allowed to play, explore and simply figure things out. I also love that it was permissible to nail people in the face with red rubber balls. I could use more of that.

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Old School Parenting Prowess

My parents were extraordinary. They still are.

They were ahead of their time in so many ways.

Sure, we sat—or stood—anywhere in the car we wanted, but whatever, they got so many things right. They got them right without the luxury or convenience of the internet and a million how-tos at their fingertips.

1. My mom didn’t need an army of mommy bloggers to figure it out.

My mom stayed at home with all three of us—before going back to get her college degree and embark on a 25-year teaching career—without blogging about it or reading blogs about it. GASP! How did she make it through the school drop-off line or traverse the competitive world of child-rearing without the virtual company of 8 trillion mommy bloggers by her side? How did any of our milestones mean anything when they couldn’t be shared on Instagram or posted on Facebook? We’ll never know. But she did it like a B.O.S.S.

hairflip

2. They believed in lessons.

We got dropped off at the skating rink on weekend nights and picked up at midnight. One time when I was around 10 or 11, I had my brand new Nike kicks stolen from my locker. They were gone, period. End of story. Yes, my mom felt bad for me, but again they were gone. It sucked, but to my parents, the theft didn’t equate to a replacement pair, it equated to me learning to be more vigilant about prized possessions. You better believe I started double-checking the padlock after that.

Yes, my Nikes are gone, people.

Yes, Emma—MY NIKES ARE GONE.

3. My mom ROCKED nightly home-cooked meals—for well over a decade.

We also ate dinner at home every night. Yes, up until high school, the five of us ate my mom’s home-cooked meals, around the kitchen table, every night. I can’t imagine how she pulled it off—that many meals, that many years—but she did. I’m sure one thing that made it possible was that she (logically) cooked one meal, and we ate it. Up until my freshman year, I have only a few memories of dinner anywhere but our kitchen table. I also have next-to-no memories of bumming out over the meal put in front of me.

It was also really, REALLY good.

It was also really, REALLY good.

Well, there was that one night when my dad was exceptionally cranky and put down the edict that he was “the father of this family” and he’d “by-damn get the piece of fried chicken” he wanted. I believe it was a thigh, which now makes me wonder what the fuss was about. Who was putting up a fight over a thigh? It was super fine by me. We also always had a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s bread on the table—a far stretch from the artisan breads of today, but I loved it. My favorite thing (after watching my dad do this) was capping off supper with a scoop of mashed potatoes in a single folded up slice of bread—a mashed potato sandwich dessert if you will. Heaven!

Now, at restaurants, when the waiter says, “Did you save room for dessert? Maybe some flan or a sopapilla or cheesecake?” I’m just thinking, “Please say mashed potato sandwich, please say mashed potato sandwich.” I’m still waiting on that offering.

Side Note: My dad and I used to love to eat gross things, too. Pickled pigs feet, sardines in the can—we relished every moment of grossing out those around us. We still do.

Another Side Note That Deserves Its Own Post: My mom is the world’s best cook. This is not up for discussion. I’d pick one of her home-cooked meals over any food, any where. I got my love of cooking from her, and I consider it one of the greatest gifts.

And with food. Lots of food.

And with food. Lots of food.

4. They took responsibility for teaching us about God.

We didn’t really grow up in church, we sorta just had church at home. As kids of praying, steadfast believing parents, we learned all the important things that we still hold dear today.

But one awful night (I don’t remember what led to this), my parents told me—what I considered at the time—a huge lie. They said I should always put God before them, and … wait for the shocking news … love God more than I loved them. I felt like someone slapped me across my precious face. I’d never been so upset with them.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

As a little kid whose life still revolved around her parents, this made ZERO sense to me, and I wanted NO PART of it—not because I didn’t love God (I so did), but because my parents were my world. I devised a plan to disobey them, because it was simply something I could. not. would. not. do. I knew in my heart they’d gotten it all wrong. I almost felt bad for their misinterpretation of God’s will.

ALMOST—I was too disappointed in their careless mandate to empathize with them.

I knew that the God I trusted would never want to me to love Him more than my parents, so I decided I’d go along with them outwardly, nodding like it made perfect sense, but continue loving them #1 in my heart.

Fortunately, nothing bad came from my disobedience, and no one ever tested me. In my head, my defiance looked like this: choosing teams for dodge ball and picking my mom and dad over God—and then immediately getting struck in the head with lightning and my gravestone reading, “You picked the wrong rule to break.”

Side Note: I, of course, understand all of this now—but as a very little kid, I was appalled by my blasphemous, lying parents. I even remember where we were standing when they told me the lies. I also remember throwing myself face down on my pillow to cry it out—vowing in my heart I’d never love anyone more than my parents. This was, of course, before I laid eyes on Ricky Schroder.

I’d now like to lighten the mood by telling you that on our summer vacations, they’d make us virgin Tom Collins.

wiigswivel

5. We had wonderful traditions.

Speaking of vacations (and life in general), my mom was, and still is, the best of the best at creating traditions for our family. Her fingerprint is on everything that is real and wonderful about my family.

One of my favorite traditions growing up was our summer vacation down to Corpus Christi. The five of us would road trip (although when I was little, that didn’t have a name—it was just how you traveled) to Corpus. We’d leave in the wee hours of the morning and the kiddos would sleep in the car—all over the car. Floorboard, back window, across our parents laps. They probably would’ve let us sleep in the trunk if we’d asked. I doubt it, but I have nothing to base that doubt on.

Here was where the swoon came in. We’d start stirring in the late morning and wake up so happy when we saw we were well on our way—and then the realization that we were hungry would kick in, and we’d all start looking for a river bank or cool area for our lunch spot. My mom would break out the cooler of cold fried chicken, cheese, bread, pickles and bottled Coke. Nothing has EVER tasted so good in my life.

Then we’d crawl back into the car and play with our handheld games.

autobingo1

Side Note: I’m not gonna get on a soapbox about everything today’s kids “need” to “survive” a road trip—or the monsters we’re creating—I’m just going to say that I’m thankful beyond thankful that I grew up when I did, and learned how to entertain myself and just be happily alone in my thoughts.

We’d drive and drive, listening to The Beatles. We had a stack of 8-tracks in heavy rotation and it was pure bliss. No, I never did understand some of their lyrics (why is he a walrus? why is Lucy in the sky? Why’d Joe Joe think he was a woman?) but I never once tired of the music we grew up with.

Everything about our summer vacations to Corpus has stayed with me. The music, the stops for beef jerky and pickles, feeding the seagulls, looking for “butterfly” seashells to present to my mom as my promise of everlasting love.

I love you, Moma <3

I love you, Moma ❤

6. My dad guided us early and swiftly.

Me: Bye!
Daddy: Bye.
Me: See ya later, alligator!
Daddy: See ya later, alligator.
Me: After a while, crocodile!
Daddy: After a while crocodile.
Me: Soon, raccoon!
Daddy: No, Ma’am. I don’t want you saying that.
Me: Why?!
Daddy: Because it could be construed as racist slang and I won’t have you saying it. Alligators and crocodiles are plenty enough.

And that was that. I didn’t fully understand until he explained it further; but I knew not to ever say it again and knew why.

7. Their worth wasn’t tied to my athletic performance.

From the moment I set my eyes on the game of basketball, I was hooked. And one second after that realization, my parents found a way for it to be part of my life. They got me an outdoor hoop and they made arrangements for us to go play at a nearby community college gym.

I played all the time—every day and night, I shot baskets and played. That was all wonderful, but when they were truly ahead of their time was when I was on real teams. Never once, EVER, in a zillion games, did they ever show anger or disappointment in me. They were not those parents. This wasn’t as surprising coming from my mom—I think moms are naturally nurturing—but it was definitely more uncommon for dads to show nothing but support. And my dad was not a sugar-coating kind of guy. He was a “call it what it is” man. Yet, there he was, game after game with his arm around me—and a proud look on his face.

I have memory after memory of nothing but love and comfort after games, while nearby, I could hear snippets from disgusted, disappointed, furious parents railing on their kid. Don’t get me wrong, mine didn’t celebrate poor performances by any stretch—they just opted (way ahead of their time) to not take that route with me. Maybe it was because they knew I was extremely hard on myself and needed ZERO assistance in that department—I don’t know—but not ONCE? Not one chewing out session? Pretty impressive. I do know their worth wasn’t tied to my performance or success like seems to be the case so often these days … and that right there also puts them well ahead of their time.

No one but me can really know what their support did for me, or how it molded me—but it was a true and lasting gift. I can only imagine the damaging effect the opposite type of behavior has on kids. I’m glad I don’t know this firsthand.

nothankyou

8. They couldn’t care less about attachment parenting.

My parents gave us the perfect amount of “attachment parenting” vs. “cry-it-out.” In fact, one time I got my whole foot stuck in my bike spokes and my dad not only did NOT comfort me, but he was actually pretty mad about whatever carelessness led to my ankle being wrapped up in my wheel.

We consistently took off on our bikes, never to return until dusk—riding on hills and through terrain not cleared for children on Huffy bikes.

I have memories of taking off on foot or on the back of a bike of neighborhood friends and not seeing my parents for hours on end. Maybe whole days would pass—who knows?! I’m sure that’s wrong, but maybe my dad was OK with some suspect overnights if it meant peacefully getting the piece of chicken he wanted after a hard day at work?

9. They accepted life and its (occasional) unfair outcomes with grace.

In my preteen years, I used to compete in these “Hoop Shoot” contests. We’d basically shoot 25 free throws, within age brackets, and the winner would move on to sectionals, regionals and state. I won a lot of them and collected lots of cool trophies. People made a big deal about it because I was quite a little nugget and shot a men’s basketball (not the women’s size they have today) … and I was one of very few who actually shot it correctly, and not a granny shot.

Side Note: I was wholly unamused by the kids shooting granny shots. I cringed for them and wanted to point out how utterly embarrassing it was to be a nine-year old, still acting like a toddler. Come on—shoot the dang ball or go home and play with Barbie and Ken.

Anyway, one year I won the round that would take me to the big regional shootout—but found out a short while later, that I’d been placed in the wrong age bracket. I was disqualified. Nothing could be done. There were no do-overs or shuffling of winners.

While my parents and I were incredulous as we discussed the situation—and as it sunk in that it was just over for the year—no one threw a fit. I felt extremely disappointed, but nothing beyond that crossed my mind. My parents didn’t come unglued or “demand” anything of the sponsor. We all just kind of accepted the suckage of the situation.

They didn’t take me to Disneyland, in place of State, to soothe my disappointment. I might have gotten a Slurpee, but that was about it. What did happen was I kept practicing and I made it to State the following year. They even flew my whole family to the shootout in Austin.

suethem

10. They were the parents.

When we were growing up, directives like, “clean up your room,” “be home by dusk,” “put on your shoes” weren’t suggestions. They were orders that we obeyed, and when we didn’t, there were consequences. When we refused to do as we were told, there wasn’t some absurd discussion about it, like, “Why didn’t you mind me? Annnnnnna, didn’t I tell you to get dressed? Why didn’t you get dressed? Why are you disobeying me? Sigh, okay, go play.”

Oh. Hell. No. We didn’t engage in the bargaining and negotiating that’s so prevalent today. There was a very distinct line between the parents and kids—not the excruciatingly blurred lines of today. THANK GOODNESS.

And yes, we were spanked. With a hand, with a belt, with a ping-pong paddle and quite embarrassingly, with a flip-flop outside of Dairy Queen … for my “smart alec mouth.” So here’s the thing, we weren’t perfect kids. We absolutely disobeyed—but there were consequences for it.

If I got a lick at school, I got a lick at home. I didn’t get my mom rushing up to the school to question why I got in trouble for what I did—I just got in double trouble at home. This was a known and understood rule among pretty much all the kids we were in school with. And the truth is, I only got one lick during my school years, and it was for something quite benign … I ran from the back of the classroom to my seat in the front. But guess what? I got a lick and then got spanked at home.

And I didn’t run in class again.

True story—with each passing day, I’m more and more blown away by the job my parents did raising us. I read so many articles and blog posts about parenting and I just marvel at the fact that they did it without much help at all. I love that fact that they were ahead of their time in so many ways—and I hope, hope, hope we were fun kids to raise. I know I was pretty easy, because, as the third child, I put myself down for naps and changed my own diapers—but that’s a story for another day.

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(Still) Uniting In Fury

Usually, when people get all amped up and fearful over things like Ebola and public breastfeeding, I’m just over here scared to death of sending a text to the wrong person, or accidentally hitting “like” on a Facebook post I hate.

So while you’re searching for the perfect bumper sticker to properly illustrate your feelings about Hillary in 2016, I’m fighting a losing battle with Saran Wrap—and pretty ticked about it.

From the time I tear it off, to the time I place it over a dish, one of two irksome things happen. It either curls up on itself like the melting wicked witch of the West, or it attaches itself around my arms—refusing to let go. Neither is behavior I tolerate well. Maybe it just doesn’t like its lot in life? If it did, it would take pride in its work and pull off effortlessly against the perforated edge, and stay spread out—like a flying sheet—as it approached a dish.

Anyway, here we are, Uniting In Fury like we have a couple of other times, about things that make us madder than they should. Let’s get it.

If there is anything more maddening than a water hose that loses its flow because it kinks, then you better tell me what it is. For some reason, it sends me into a place of near-rage, and I literally have to tell myself I’m being filmed so I don’t act a fool as I drop the nozzle to go untangle the disaster. Sometimes I try to whip it up and down to unravel it from afar.

I’ve found success with this method approximately no times.

I genuinely—as in, really and truly—believe it’s God messing with me to lighten His load. I think He’s up there handling a lot of real serious, real heart-heavy stuff and just needs some comic relief—and picks me to shake-laugh at. He kinks the hose, stops the water flow, watches me try to whip it around before making the walk of shame to the knotted part, then doubles over in His throne snorting. Then I think he taps Jesus on the shoulder and says, “You gotta watch this” as He makes it flip around like a dancing snake and spray me.

Yes, Sir.

Yes, Sir.

Get as fired up as you want about our borders or having to press one for English—I’m saving my wrath for people who double-click links online. When someone who isn’t new to computers does this, I want to fall on a rusty sword. If you’re nodding along with me, then you don’t do this; if your head is cocked like a little Jack Russell Terrier, then maybe you’re guilty. Ssshhh, we don’t even have to talk about it—if you double-click links, instead of single clicking them like the Good Lord intended, just stop, and I won’t make any more trouble for you.

The alternative.

The alternative.

Do you ever think of something you want to Google and when you get the chance later, you can’t remember what it was? So frustrating! It never helps when someone close to you tries to help.

You: Crap. What did I say I was going to Google? Do you remember?
Someone: Weren’t you going to look up Neti pots?
You: No. I already did that—like a week ago.
Someone: Were you going to see if you were eligible for an iPhone upgrade?
You: No. I mentioned it earlier, in the car, when we were passing the new Whole Foods.
Someone: Oh. Hmm. Was it when we were wondering if owls mate for life?
You: No. I already know they do. Well, they get around a little, but only make baby owls with the same owl.
Someone: You’re making that up. I want to Google it. Remind me later.
You: Come onnnnn, what was it? You were there when I brought it up!
Someone: I’m not sure; I just remember you asking about the blood moons.
You: Yeah, but I wasn’t going to Google that. I’ll just ask my parents.
Someone: OK, well I can’t help you. I’m out of ideas.
You: Oh! It was that Taylor Swift song! I wanted to see if the “hella good hair” reference was Harry Styles! *does a little happy jig*
Someone: How do you survive life?

Side Note: Speaking of Google, it’s fun to play the Google game when you have friends or family over. Everyone has to pull out their smart phone and say what they Googled last—no matter how embarrassing (“embarrassing” includes, but is not limited to, things they should already know and things they shouldn’t care to know.)

It’s awesome to watch everyone pull it up and then see heads drop.
Me: OK, quick, we’ll start with Rob and move clockwise—go.
Rob: How tall is Miley Cyrus?
Candace: What’s God’s address?
Brian: Does a watched pot really never boil?
Laura: How do I use my super powers for good?
Leslie: How can I plug a USB cord in the right way the first time?
Jennifer: Are mice just baby rats?
Justin: Why can’t I do a pull up?
Mike: How do you spell bootylicious?
Jocelyn: Do owls get around in the off season?
Promise me you’ll play it next time you have company.

Oh my gosh, I get so mad when I click over to ESPN and they’re showing the World Series of Poker. Are you kidding me with this? HGTV doesn’t show people playing Candy Land. CNBC doesn’t show the World Series of Monopoly. Stop this madness. I’m not saying the World Series of Poker shouldn’t exist, necessarily, I’m just asking that it be on the Game Show Network … or another channel I never go to, so I don’t have to be mad when I’m snacking on Takis and in the mood for SportsCenter.

What is it about individual athletes that makes them think it’s OK to talk about their good performance like a total douche-canoe?  “Well, you know, I played amazing tennis today. And I’ve been playing incredible tennis for a few months now. I’m hitting the ball excellently and reading my opponent like a true master.”

emma

Whoa! Really? I just went from cheering you on to kind of wanting you to lose the next few. When you hear a post-game interview with a star from a team sport, it’s typically more like, “Well, I couldn’t have done what I did without my teammates, man. They got me the ball and also did their thing when I was in that 2nd quarter slump. Our coaches had us ready with an amazing game plan and we worked hard to execute it all week. I gotta give it up to the staff and my teammates, and thank God for this chance.”

Then, a golfer. “I’m just really one-of-a-kind. I’m swinging a great club and my trajectory is unmatched. I’m one of the greats and will remain unchallenged the rest of the year if I just play my game.” Now I’m wishing individual sports would also be shown on the GSN.

Do you know what angers me on the highway more than a forgotten blinker? When I see a motorcycle with those absurdly high handle bars.

Have you seen this tomfoolery?

Have you seen this tomfoolery?

Doesn’t it just make their already rough motorcycle life harder? Who wants to steer above their head? How quick is their reaction time when their hands are completely numb? Which reminds me … if you have this kind of motorcycle and I end up anywhere near you, I better see you shaking some circulation back into your extremities when we get to a red light. Oh, for the love of Lucy. Are you kidding me? The handle bars have a name? APE HANGERS? Excuse me while I go work off this rage.

This should help.

This should help.

Recently I found myself mad at my sister. I was having to take a lot of extra time to text her; because, for some mind-boggling reason, she requires full spelling and grammar accuracy in texts. I was telling her something really important and she wrote back, “Is there a reason why you’ve stopped capitalizing words?” I just stared, open-mouthed before responding, “I haven’t stopped capitalizing—I’m just typing fast!” I waited on a quick “jk!” back, but nope, she responded, “Uh, not true. Lately you’ve been texting like maybe you didn’t pass the language portion of the SAT.”

So now it takes me twice as long to construct texts to her liking. The only thing that will assuage my anger, concerning this rule of hers, is that now I know exactly how to get under her skin. “hey sis, i was wndring if i could take libby 2 a movie tmrw?” Boom, take that, Lady. “Not if you can’t take more pride in your written word.” Bang. Winner: Big Sis.

Moving on.

What. The. Blankety. Blank. is this disaster?

Why have prom mums gotten big enough for a casket?

Why have prom mums gotten big enough for a casket?

Maybe it’s not ideal that something that makes you happy, makes me mad, but we’ll just have to move on. I refuse to spend one more second trying to understand whyyy anyone wants a mum so big it has to be worn like an apron.

A second cousin to the mum fiasco is the sorority girl side-pose and the group shot with a front row of half-squatters.

This is not natural, people. I've gone my whole life without posing this way and it's worked out just fine.

This is not natural, people. I’ve gone my whole life without posing this way and it’s worked out just fine.

Peeing? Need to pee? What is this?!?!

Peeing? Need to pee? WHAT IS THIS?!?!

No, GUILTY PARTIES, it’s actually not necessary. I was in group pics for a few decades, where not one single solitary person pulled this crap—AND WE WERE ALL ACCOUNTED FOR. When I see these pics, my jaw tightens and I immediately imagine our forefathers seeing one and becoming awash in confusion, and then I feel sad about their confusion and extra mad at the girls who confused them.

I’m also not happy about the frequency with which I’m still seeing memes, status updates and tweets that end in “said no one ever.” It was semi-partially-a-tiny-bit OK for about four weeks. That time has come and gone, Folks. I feel the same about “at the end of the day.” I fully understand how easy it is to use this phrase, I just ask people to mix it up with, “when it’s all said and done” or maybe, I don’t know … silence. While we’re on this topic, I’ll go ahead and tell you that “just sayin’” is going to get its own blog post some day. Until then, please try to pull back on this one, as well.

Side Note: I got a text from my mom awhile back:
Promise me here and now that you’ll never use the “said no one ever” line.
Oh, don’t worry—I promise.
Thank you Sweetie. Sleep good. Ily

Now I can’t stop venting my anger.

Bad perfume angers me on its own; but, the fact that bad perfume is always worn too heavily—like she dunked herself in it and then re-applied it to each pulse point every hour—makes me want to twist up a wet towel and pop her with it. I don’t care if she’s 30 or 90, I’ll snap her good. It’s not maddening just because it’s not my kind of scent, it’s that the worst perfumes (and the ones worn like a cloak) actually make my stomach hurt like I’m sitting in traffic behind a diesel truck.

gag

I love Pinterest dearly, but I lose it when I’m trudging through a healthy eating week, and then happen upon some cheddar drop biscuits. Are you serious with this? Do you know what someone like me does to biscuits? Probably what someone like you does to warm cookies. It’s not for innocent eyes. I wish Pinterest would implement something similar to child safety settings, but for people trying to eat well. Then I don’t have to obliterate a healthy-eating run just because I scroll past some buffalo mac and cheese. We could also turn on the safe settings when we get back from vacation, and don’t want to see all the new places we have to wait another year to visit.

Last thing (for today) … there is something people say that makes me mad enough to tackle them—and lead with my helmet.

“I’m bored.”

Even typing it makes me see red. This response is not my own, but I wish it was because I love it so much. Someone once said, “You have seen none percent of this world—boredom is inconceivable.” And it truly is impossible for me, thus far in my life, to be bored. I’m never, ever bored. As long as I’ve got ears to hear, eyes to see and a voice to converse—and as long as there are books and food and loved ones—there isn’t a way in the world to be bored. I think I’d punish my child more for saying she’s bored than for using the F-word.

Just sayin’.

OK, let’s hear it. Y’all always have such funny things that get you worked up and mad. I want to hear them!

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter!

Would You Rather

I think I’m hard-wired to make a game out of nearly everything.

If Jocelyn asks me to grab a new roll of paper towels, I will, but only if she yells, “180! Set! Hike!” and I’m able to hike them across the kitchen. Like, why would anyone just hand over something they can hike?

I’m also not interested in dropping something in the trash when I can just as easily juke around a bit before executing a banana peel jump shot.

When I’m waiting in the ice machine line at work, I peruse the vending options to the left and make myself choose the three items I’d live on for one month, if I had to. I thoughtfully scan and ponder, immediately ruling out anything sweet (I’d rather eat a sock than a honeybun.) It never fails; I always pick pretzels, beef jerky and anything with “Flamin’” in the name.

Or these. I'd exchange vows with Takis if I lived in Vermont.

Or these. I’d exchange vows with Takis if I lived in Vermont.

Sometimes on my commute home from work, when my mind is wandering, I’ll tell myself that triplets will be on my doorstep and I have to figure their names out NOW. I’m not giving any of you free-loaders my ideas—you can name your own triplets—but I will tell you that my three cuties would not all share the same first letter.

I’ve found that others aren’t always as eager to play my random games.

“So which Property Brother would you pick?”
“For what?”
“I don’t know. Just in general.”
“But why?”
“Because I need to know.”
“Well you have to tell me what for because obviously I’d pick one for my realtor and the other for my builder.”
“Not for that! I mean, like, if you were gonna play Twister with Baby Oil.”
“Oh—Probably Drew.”

There is really no wrong answer here.

There is really no wrong answer here.

I also like to spend time thinking about whether I’d rather be an Olympian or a professional athlete—and what my specialty would be. A quarterback? Pitcher? Wide receiver? Golfer? Tennis player? Would I want to do the uneven bars? Synchronized diving? I weigh out the pros and cons of each, considering travel schedule, chance for failure, injury rate, income and possible endorsements.

Side Note: I also consider uniforms, and because female Olympic swimmers have been saddled with unflattering suits (and unsightly swim caps), I’ve ruled out trying to medal in the 400 butterfly.

Allison Schmitt is awesome—this gear is not.

Allison Schmitt is awesome—this gear is not.

It’s disappointing to play with someone who just blurts out an unthoughtful answer.

“NFL quarterback for sure!”
“Really? Have you considered all the hours of film you’ll need to watch of other teams? Will it bother you to snug your hands up to that big’ol booty 100x a game? Are you prepared to take the blame for the failures of an entire multimillion dollar organization?”
“Oh. Ok then, I guess golf.”
“Yeah? Are you sure? Are you willing to endure a lifetime of shoulder and hip issues once you make your millions?”

Side Note: Actually, now that I think about, maybe I’m the one who is disappointing to play with.

babynaya

My desire to play games goes back many years. I used to get my teammates—in high school and college—to pay me to eat concoctions at team meals. They could not believe what I’d ingest or how often they were swindled into handing over their money. They’d mix together Ketchup, sugar, salt, Dr. Pepper, ice cream and then dunk a half-eaten hamburger bun it in.

No problem. GULP. Pay up, Losers. I was very good at this game until about five years ago.

We had a big family dinner at our house, and one of the appetizers was shrimp cocktail. We arranged it on ice, in a circle, with a bowl of cocktail sauce in the center.

Everyone devoured the shrimp pretty early and then moved on to other foods. The night went on and right before everyone left, my dad said he’d give me $20 to take a big drink of the ice that had melted into water. I was like, “You’re going to PAY me to drink melted ice?”

I felt kinda bad for him, wondering why he was just wanting to give away money with no real pay-off for him. I chalked it up to him being less seasoned than I and just not knowing the scope of my capabilities—poor guy.

I moved the bowl of cocktail sauce, picked up the platter and tilted it to my mouth, still feeling sorry for my sweet dad who just didn’t get it.

I took a big swig and immediately started aggressively heave-gagging and fighting with all my might not to throw up the surprisingly warm and shockingly pungent FISH WATER. My eyes were running with tears and my dad—oh so victoriously—handed me $20.

I couldn’t eat shrimp until last year—and it’s still not a sure thing.

I thought my dad loved me.

I thought my dad loved me.

Most of my friends know that if we’re going to spend time together, there is going to be some game-playing. “Would You Rather” is a shoe-in because it can be big fun in its G-rated-niece-and-nephew-version or its X-rated-my-friends-are-perverted-perverts version.

“Hey Sweet Pea, would you rather have super lush, gorgeous hair, but it’s cobalt blue or two noses, but one is on your tummy?”

“Hey Dirty Bird, would you rather …”

Side Note: Ok, what I nearly wrote is not fit for upstanding citizens or a blogger whose mom teaches Sunday School.

Bonus Side Note: If we’re playing WYR and you answer “neither” to my question, you are dead to me.

My brother and I decided that people will do anything for the right amount of money. We, not very creatively, call this game “How Much.” The idea is that someone will hand you the exact amount of money you demand for a particular task or activity.

A couple of easy examples:

  • How much would it take for you to swim across that swamp at dusk?
  • How much would it take for you to get a tattoo on your shoulder—in comic sans font—that says, “Soaring On The Wings Of A Gluten-Free Diet?”

You can learn a WHOLE lot about people when playing this game—sometimes to the detriment of your once-high opinion of them.

Where you might demand $1,200 to reach into a garbage can and eat some tossed out french fries, your friend might wave it off like, “Oh please, I’d do it for twenty bucks—I’ve eaten stranger’s left-overs off a room service tray at the Hampton Inn.”

All I’m saying is, make sure your friendship is strong before you dive into “How Much.” You are likely to find people are much grosser—and way more sexually adventurous—than you once thought.

shock

Often times, in bigger work meetings, I try to decide who I’d pick as my conjoined twin (if I had to). My first thought is usually, “Uh, none of them.” Then I remind myself that I have to play the game or lose two fingers. Next thing I know, I’m staring a hole through Jake and wondering if he’d be handy around the house.

After the meeting:

Lauren: You were looking at me funny, were you wanting me to bring up our issues with the new system?
Me: The system? Oh, no, I was just wondering if being attached at the neck would hurt our friendship.
Lauren: Huh?

Playing games alone isn’t as much fun as playing with a close co-worker.

Me: (quietly and discreetly) Who, from that whole row, would you kiss—if you had to?
Co-worker: Ugh, I don’t know—gross! I don’t want to kiss any of them!
Me: Of course you don’t—none of us do—but you have to.
Co-worker: So, the row that Gina’s on?
Me: Yep.
Co-worker: Ugh, really? Why … why them?!
Me: Because this PowerPoint has about 90 hours left, so GO.
Co-worker: Grrr, I guess Craig.
Me: CRAIG?! Why?!
Co-worker: I don’t know, he seems tender.
Me: Tender? Gross. You’re not a porcelain figurine!
Co-worker: I don’t know—I guess he has nice lips.
Me: Oh. My. Gosh. You’re in love with Craig!
Co-worker: Well it’s not like I planned it—it’s news to me, too!

Honestly, I can’t imagine not finding ways to make each day more fun. Life is too short to not use your turn-around jumper to get socks into the dirty clothes hamper … or see if you can shave five minutes off your morning routine. Why go through a day without asking someone, “Would you rather have a hearse for a car or a tree house for a home?” Just don’t ask suggestive questions about Judge Judy or Bill Clinton unless you’re really prepared to hear the answer. (Please trust me on this one.)

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Wanna Play?

I’ve lived and breathed competitive sports for most of my life, but I’m surprisingly not that competitive.

Whoa! To those of you who know me and are yelling at the screen, hear me out. I love competing—games, sports, anything with an opponent (I also think smack-talk is a sport in and of itself. YES, even during board games.) It’s just that my favorite part of it all is the ride itself. I rarely get bent out of shape about losing, if the game’s been fun.

Side Note: I actually win a lot.

When I say I’m not overly competitive, I mean not in the way you hear about certain people—where you barely recognize them. You know, the ones who will stop at nothing to win even the most inane argument, like how many of Grisham’s books have “The” in the title? I mean really, if you have to Google it, then you didn’t win. Google won.

Google: 1
You And Anyone Searching For the Answer Anywhere But Their Brain Vault: 0.

I refuse to accept that the look of satisfaction on your face is because you were the fastest Googler. You’re better than that.

carrollstrut

I’ve heard many stories about people getting competitive with their workouts. Just regular fully grown adults who workout to stay fit. You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill, sneaking a peek at the screen of the person to my right and adjusting my speed so I’m running faster—because here is the thing:

1. We’re not actually racing. We’re on a conveyor belt that leads to a land called nowhere.
2. I don’t care, even in the slightest, what you’re doing.
3. Because this warrants repeating: We’re not racing.

Side Note: I could have stopped the original sentence after “You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill” because while I triple-love being active, I have to PLAY … racquetball, flag football, catch, tag, softball, in the pool … anything not in the monotonous family.

I laugh because sometimes Jocelyn will come home from a run and appear a little extra amped up as she guzzles water—telling me about the three people she beat. I cock my head, wondering if this calls for a high five or dap of some sort, but I’m too confused about why her run turned into a race at all. I usually think I’ll lay the conversation to rest by simply asking, “Did they know you were racing?” But she’ll catch her breath and reply with peaceful satisfaction, “No, but I did.”

See? I don’t have that need. I can’t fathom a day where I’d be on a run and thinking about anything other than how I’m going to make the torture stop. I wouldn’t even know who I passed or was getting passed by, because my one singular.laser.focus would be to get the suffering over with.

I know people (oh how I know people) who want to win everything … from games to arguments to how many shiny things they own. When I imagine that type of brain or outlook, it exhausts me. It must be so emotionally draining to feel the need to “win”—if we can even call reading a trilogy the quickest—winning.

competition

I’m trying to conjure up that existence and how it would feel if I “lost” at a few random things. I’m imagining:

  • Getting rip-roaring mad if my sister-in-law is able to open the jar of pickles I couldn’t. I’d huff around, saying under my breath, “Hmph, must be nice to have never fractured the thumb that helps you grip.”
  • Feeling completely defeated if I couldn’t swat the aggravating fly on the patio, but my dad could. “Yeah-yeah, go ahead and cheer him on, see if I care—he’s wayyy older than I am so he’s had more practice. Like, decades.”
  • Being livid if I can’t get my niece to stop crying but her mom can. “Whatever. That’s such an unfair advantage since you provided her an umbilical cord in your womb. Must be nice to have connections.”

I’m bone-tired just picturing it!

I mean, I have a healthy amount of drive, but it seems to stick close to me—living in and around my own personal goals. I rarely wonder how I can get what someone else has (unless it’s a big crock pot of buffalo chicken dip, then all bets are off because I WANTS.)

It's impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

It’s impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

But on the off-chance I do want what another person has … I don’t want to take it from them, I just want it, too.

  • Oh, you have a vacation home on the Italian Riviera? I hope to one day, too—do you have any advice?
  • Oh, you have a kegerator with perfectly cold, carbonated beer at the ready at all times? Where might I purchase this treasure?
  • Oh, you only have to visit your gynecologist once every three years? Is she taking new patients?

I’m much more competitive when it comes to team sports. I really love strategizing, working and winning as a team. I also like knowing that the losing team can pick each other up and have some help getting over the loss—unlike a tennis player or gymnast who loses and just has to sit there with her own stupid losing self.

tennis1

I never thought it was fun to beat someone one-on-one. Well wait, except tether ball. In elementary school, I was unstoppable and enjoyed the perks of tether stardom. But winning a dance off or Checkers made me feel no more good than bad. Even in racquetball, which I love, I prefer cutthroat or doubles, because it means 3-4 of us are playing—which cuts down on the awkwardness of winning or losing.

Winning is winning—we’ve all done it and it doesn’t suck. Losing is losing—we’ve all survived getting beat. But what I love is the journey … the game itself. Whether it’s a sport or a board game or air hockey, the most fun part to me is the process and every step leading up to the end. The outcome is relatively unimportant if it’s been fun.

Side Note: My sister does not feel this way and won’t hesitate to gain a suspicious advantage at every turn. And by gain a suspicious advantage, I mean cheat. Let me give you an example. Every Easter my fun, awesome parents have an adult Easter egg hunt for us “kids”, where they place gift cards in big plastic eggs and get our nieces and nephew to help hide them.

We’re quarantined during the hiding process, then let out and corralled until they say, “Go!” Well last time, right when the light was green and we bolted out, my sister “pantsed” me—putting me back a good 30 seconds and scarring my nephew for life.

I thought there was a lesson in all this for my sister, when I still scored iTunes, Home Depot and Amazon, but no … 4th of July weekend she was caught pinching our niece during 3-on-3 when we were one hoop away from winning.

Bottom line: I love sports, games, competing and playing. I enjoy winning but can handle losing if we’ve had a good time getting there, even if—especially if—I start out with no pants.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Game Day

I love sports. I’ve been involved in them since I was very little—played for fun, played on scholarship in college, coached for fun, coached in college as a profession. And I’m excited to watch the Superbowl Sunday—despite My Cowboys falling short this year.

But I’m here to talk about a different sport. Costco.

Costco

What’s that you say? Costco isn’t a sport? Oh sweet, sweet reader. When something necessitates all the requisite preparations—like carbo-loading, mental imagery and a proper game plan—it’s a sport. In fact, it’s a contact sport on weekends. Don’t get me started.

If you aren’t a Costco or Sam’s Club member and think this doesn’t apply to you, I implore you to stay, read and learn—as preparation for the day you do join the team. You will be ten steps ahead of the game, which will expedite your acceptance on our aisles.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a shopping partner, take a little time to assess each of your strengths and play to them.

Let me offer up a few examples.

Carts. It should not come as a surprise to any of you that my electrifying presence causes the cart to shock me from here to Kingdom Come; therefore, we’ve established that I’m never the official cart-pusher. Don’t be a hero—if you’re a sub par cart-operator—allow your Costco date to take on those duties. It will hasten your store visit and keep you pain-free and available to grab monstrous quantities of short-grain rice and Greek yogurt.

Checking out. Under no circumstances are you to opt for self-checkout if you’re not up to the task. What does that mean? It means that you and your shopping partner need to know who is passing and who is scanning. My assist skills are second to none, so I’ve proudly taken on that roll at self-checkout. I strategically hand the merchandise over in a way that makes it easy to scan. I’ve got the next item on deck as soon as the pass is complete.

I don’t look around, I don’t get distracted, I don’t coo at babies. I do my damn job. People are waiting and I’m not about to let them down. Even if the guy behind me is the joker who nearly back-ended my achilles by the protein bars—I still execute a speedy checkout.

Full disclosure: I’ve called an audible and steered us to a human cashier when I didn’t feel I was up to the task of getting us in and out of the checkout line. I don’t beat myself up or hang my head. I do take some time later to assess what led to the breakdown. It’s this kind of awareness and desire to always bring your A-game that separates the Costco JV squad from us Varsity Elites.

Newbies and unknowing veterans alike, please don’t hang around the food sample tables. It’s not a trough and you’re not a cow. Take your freebie and get moving. Don’t shuffle around as you take in the flavor and pretend to be contemplating a purchase. You know dang good and well what Parmesan croutons taste like. Accept your small meal and move along.

For the love of all that is good, go in with a list and a planned route. Mentally plot your path before you step through the doors. The more you roam aimlessly, getting distracted by shiny objects, the more you disrupt the flow of cart-traffic. If you see a 60-lb bag of mulch you can’t live without, you can deviate from the planned path—but try to keep these variances to a minimum.

And please, I plead with you, please maintain awareness. The carts are big and everyone is counting on you to maintain focus. You can’t just pause in the main aisles and look around nonchalantly. Take all the time you want on the product aisles—peruse the luggage or Clorox wipes at your leisure—just don’t hang out obliviously on the main thoroughfare.

I love Costco and all that it offers and how it simplifies my life—that’s why I’m speaking on its behalf, as well as its patrons. I know not everyone “gets” it and I can’t stand love the person who (like clockwork when anyone mentions it) says emphatically, “Yeah! Like I need 10 bottles of Ketchup!” M’kay, well maybe you don’t, Sweetpea, but the owner of a restaurant does. I know this is shocking, but they’re not catering JUST to you.

That’s the beauty of it—some people need dog food and olive oil, while others need diapers and king prawns. It’s the size of a football field for a reason.

And why wouldn’t you want to get things like paper towels and laundry detergent? Do you ever really foresee a time when you won’t outfit your bathroom with toilet paper? What is it about milk or bread that makes you think its place in your life will eventually run its course?

“Shampoo? Yeah, like we’ll need that in 2017, Suckas!!”

It’s not like I’m going to wake up in February and decide vitamins are for losers. And I’d much rather buy all these things a few times a year, rather than once every two weeks. No, thank you.

My sister loves to go in our pantry and say, “Sure you have enough green beans? You’re cuttin’ it pretty close with just 9 cans left.” She derives great joy from opening a cabinet and questioning if we have enough toilet paper to get us through winter.

I used to get semi-offended when the workers at the exit door checked our receipt against the items in our cart—as if we were thieves—until the day I accidentally shoplifted a $130 container of chlorine for the pool. YIKES. Thank you, Costco Constable, for ushering me back to the cashier but please stop looking at me like I’m Winona Ryder and Lindsay Lohan’s love child—it was an honest oversight.

The last point I’d like to touch on is the shopper who is spatially unaware. That’s fine if you’re snuggled up with your wife watching Stranger Things, but you need to get off my back at Costco. We’re not in the pit at a Rihanna concert or a crowded New York subway—we’re in a 150,000 square foot warehouse—back up.

I hope this has been an eye-opener for old and new Costco members. If you’re willing to put a little forethought and effort into it—and treat is as the sport it is—we’ll all get along so well. And one day (fingers crossed) we’ll all be on Varsity, buying in bulk and not stealing chlorine.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.