Holiday Shopping Advice For People Who Hate Shopping.

There are approximately 487 things on my current to-do list – all of which need to be done by Dec. 25th. My list is like a sea cucumber, which is neither as salty nor refreshing as its name suggests. My list is sea cucumber-like in that if you were to cut it up into a million tiny pieces, it would regenerate itself into a million tiny lists – each with 487 separate action items waiting to be checked off. It is formidable and daunting and I’ll admit, completely self-induced. But it’s December and this is the rigor we put ourselves through in the pursuit of Happy Holidays.

So because the Happy Holidays are beating down our doors with a flail, I’m gonna make this post short. I will not take up your precious time with rants or angry outbursts about how the holiday season turns people into crazed, stressed-out, lunatics who will bite your head off if you appear in any way to be interested in the same retail item that they are interested in. I won’t go on about complacent and hostile sales associates (I’m talking to you, Wal-Mart), or how every year the holidays seem bigger and more encompassing than the year before, especially when you celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. Instead, I will tell you a story. A shopping story – filled with some of the best, if not most practical, holiday shopping advice I’ve ever heard.

It was Black Friday so many years ago that I don’t think the term Black Friday had been coined yet.  I was shopping in downtown Chicago with my Dad and sister. Our tradition was to go to Water Tower Place and my Dad, being the mench that he is, would buy us each a present for no other reason than going with him to brave the crowds and because no one appreciates a good bargain like my Dad.

On this particular Black Friday, we were making our way through a jam-packed Marshall Fields. The store was so busy that in certain places we were forced to walk single file. I think it was snowing outside, which drew inside all the tourists usually content to stroll down Michigan Ave and sight-see. Tired, cranky shoppers wore, or worse held, their heavy winter jackets as they shimmied their way through narrow aisles packed with merchandise, much of it breakable. The store was hot as hell and people were mad and impatient and filled with bargain-hunting induced rage.

My Dad, sister, and I were on our way out of the store after successfully finding our just-because gift of the day. We shuffled single file through the Women’s Accessories department on the first floor filled with gloves, hats, earmuffs, and other baubles, following the tide downstream toward the exit. In the crowd coming upstream opposite us was a Mom with her son, who was probably about nine years old. The Mom looked tired but focused and was carrying at least five shopping bags. The boy looked positively shellacked with boredom. His posture, the all too familiar slumped-shoulders-jutted-out-chin combo, told us they’d been at it for a long time. As we came up upon this duo, I heard the boy asking his mom over and over, “Can we leave now?” “Can we just go?” “Pleeeeeeease, Mom, can we go home now?” The Mom was mostly ignoring him and reciting the things on her list she had yet to check off.

Just as we passed the boy, I saw him surreptitiously glance at one of the delicate looking trinkets displayed on the hip-height round table we were scooting past. He lightly touched his fingers upon the top of the nearest ceramic pretty and with a Mr. Burns-like expression on his face, muttered under his breath, “I should just break something, so they’ll throw us out of here…”

Probably no one in the entire store except the three of us heard him. And this observant-yet-sardonic nugget of wisdom made our entire experience worth the hassle. We laughed and laughed as we flowed along with the sea of shoppers out onto Michigan Ave and walked home, our spirits buoyed by the hilarious, jaded-misery of one nine-year old boy.

To this day, I cannot shop in a crowded store without thinking of that boy. His words of wisdom like an escape valve, always giving me hope that if things ever get to be too much, I could always just tip over the display of glass ornaments and end my holiday shopping agony. I haven’t done it yet, but then again there are still 5 shopping days left till Christmas and 486 things on my to-do list. (Write Blog is now crossed off.)

Happy Hanukkah and  Merry Christmas to all my fabulous readers out there! May this holiday season NOT make you want to get thrown out of anywhere. 🙂


And I said I wasn’t going to cry…

Hello All!

I’m adding a post mid-cycle (I usually post on Mondays) because the hilarious and insightful gal over at whatimeant2say nominated me for a blogging award called the 7×7 Award. I’ve never been nominated for an award before – seriously, I think this is the first time EVER – and I’m very excited about it! After all, I love nothing more than getting feedback, especially positive feedback, about my work (please reference the name of my blog).

Along with the 7×7 Award, which I like to think gives me Great Power, also comes Great Responsibility. Here’s how it works: When someone nominates you, you sort through your blog and pull out your favorite 7 posts in various categories (listed below). Then, you nominate 7 of your favorite blogs and recommend them to readers. It’s really all about sharing the blog-love.  Plus, it makes you feel a bit Oprah-like designating all of your favorite things from on-high, inevitably whipping people into such a frenzy that they will pepper spray anyone who gets in their way. But rest assured, these fab blogs are free and quantities are NOT limited. No pepper spray necessary.


The truth is, I’ve only been blogging since August therefore my list of blogs to choose from is a bit meager. But here are my top 7 picks in the categories of…

1. Most Popular: I’d have to pick Wile E Coyote for President in this category. Tip: If you want to have big search engines like Google and Yahoo! find your blog, just put the name of a beloved cartoon character in the title and watch the hits roll in. I get at least 10 – 20 hits on this one everyday from random sources. Gotta love piggybacking on the hard work and success of others!

2. Most Helpful: Why Candy Tastes Better When It’s Free (or Stolen From Your Children). Because let’s be honest, who can’t benefit from a little guidance when it comes to taking candy from a baby.

3. Most Underrated: At First I was Afraid, I was Petrified. I spent WAY too long re-writing the lyrics to I Will Survive to make them fit my first experience camping in 19 years. I thought it was kinda funny… though I’m not sure anyone else could hear the tune in the their heads as clearly as I did.

4. Most Controversial: Why Coffee is The Vampire of Hot Drinks. Wow. People love their coffee. You write one little post about how it is vile and disgusting and people jump all over you…

5.Most Beautiful: None of my blogs are traditionally beautiful. I wish I could make my own illustrations. Or take great pictures. Or even import great pictures. But the truth is that this is simply out of my comfort zone. I am a word-girl, plain and simple. But, as for the Most Beautiful sentiment… I’ll go with: How To Feel Righteous Everyday: A Cheater’s Guide

6. Most Prideworthy: I think I’d have to say You Can’t Have Two Fun Parents. I stole this idea from Modern Family and I really believe it to be true.

7. Most Succesful: Easy. That would be Liar, Liar, Mom Jeans on Fire. Second blog post ever, got picked for Freshly Pressed before I even knew what Freshly Pressed was. I think it got like 4,000 views or something. Still blows my mind!

Now for my Top 7 favorite blogs (really hard to pare this list down, but here goes…)

The Flying Chalupa

Ironic Mom

Wendi Aarons

Ann’s Rants


Gameday Style




Beyond Helicopter Parenting… How About Rickshaw, Limousine, and Ice Cream Truck Parenting?

We all know a Helicopter Parent when we see one. They’re the Moms and Dads obsessively bug spraying, sun-blocking, or hat-n-gloving their kids while shouting at them not to climb too high, swim too far out, or touch anything in the bathroom. However much we may judge these parents, (even when we see them in the mirror) we feel a sense of satisfaction being able to put a name to their neurosis. They are Helicopter Parents and we know this because a doctor and a parenting guru (Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay) coined this useful term in 1990. Since then, the expression has been firmly entrenched in our vocabulary.

As far as I’m concerned, Helicopter Parenting is the best kind of term – descriptive, memorable, fitting, and kind of funny. But it’s limited. It only describes one parenting style. And since most of us employ multiple parenting methods throughout the years, perhaps even throughout the day, I feel the list of parenting metaphors can and should be expanded. So, though I am neither a doctor nor a parenting guru, I’ve taken a crack at it myself.

See if you can identify your parenting style in the list below. Or tell me if you know of one I missed. I’d love to hear which kind of parent you are because hearing about other parents not being perfect makes me feel better about being so alarmingly far from it myself. Plus, I love comments on my blog. Plus, I’m just generally nosy.

So, Are You a…

Tandem Bicycle Parent: These parents attempt to get their children involved in the parenting process with questions like, “What do you think your punishment should be?” and “How much do you think you should get for allowance?” Much like the tandem bicycle itself, this kind of parenting sounds like it would be fun, but isn’t. If you choose to parent this way, keep in mind that although the tandem bike may have two sets of pedals, only one person can steer it.

Carnival Cruise Parent: These parents want to have fun! They either can’t find a babysitter or feel too guilty to leave the kids at home, so they bring them along wherever they go. The parents continue to behave exactly as they would if their children were not there, stopping occasionally to feed and briefly converse with their offspring – usually uttering the words, “Not now,” and “When I’m ready to go.”

Rickshaw Parent (also known as Field Plow and Dog Sled Parents): These parents like to take it easy. They are perfectly comfortable to sit back and direct their children from afar. They tell their kids to take out the trash, rake the leaves, and make dinner – all from the comfort of the couch. This kind of parenting works best under a fear-based regime and only until the children grow weary and stage the inevitable coup.

Express Train Parent: These parents are in a big hurry all the time. Their constant refrain is, “Let’s go! C’mon! Let’s go!” They get things done. Lots of things.  They never sit still. They never chill out. They are always in forward motion. Their children often resort to lollygagging in a passive-aggressive form of protest, often causing the Express Train Parent to go “off the rails.”

Ice Cream Truck Parent: Almost everyone is guilty of being one of these parents at least once in a while. Ice Cream Truck parents get their child to do what they want them to do by promising them a sweet treat if they comply. Effective. To be used sparingly. (Admission: My daughter will do almost anything for a Hershey’s Kiss, so in my house this technique is grossly overused.)

Limousine Parent: These parents want to make sure their kids arrive in style. They want it known that their children are special and deserve to stand out. Limousine parents needn’t know the direction they are going, because they’ve hired someone to know for them. They only need to pony up the dough and sit back and enjoy the ride. Be aware: Kids parented in this way may become driven by a lavish lifestyle, but not know how to get there on their own.

Motorcycle Side Car Parent: These parents have a wild side. They like their adrenaline rush and want their kids to like it too. They travel in the fast lane and take the kids along as they bob and weave their way on down the road. These parents love high speeds and high drama. Note: This can also work in reverse, where the child drives and the parent goes along for the ride. Either way, best to buckle up. It’s usually a bumpy ride.

Southwest Airlines Parent: These parents are on a budget and know how to have a good time. So what if they’re not super-organized? Who cares if occasionally they take off without all of their passengers? They are fun! They are wild. They compose funny raps and make wry, witty puns about safety and cleanliness. They may not be the most refined parents around, but they get the job done and do it with a smile.

VW Bug Parenting: These parents don’t believe personal space; they like to be super-close to their kids.

EuroRail Parent (aka, Tour Bus Parent): These parents want their kids to see it all, do it all, and experience it all. They take their children from museums to galleries to monuments (whether they like it or not). These parents have a constant talk-track going about what they are seeing and why it will improve their kids lives. Note: Kids generally absorb only 5 – 7% of this information. Even less when they have access to an iPhone or a Nintendo DS.

Bulldozer Parenting: These parents know where they want their children to go in life and they will flatten anyone who gets in their way (including the children themselves). Best to get out of the way when you see a Bulldozer parent if at all possible.

Slow-Boat-to-China Parents (aka, River Boat and Barge Parenting): These parents believe that kids grow up too darn fast these days. In many ways, they are the opposite of the Express Train parents. They believe that all good things come to those who wait and that homemade fun is the best kind of fun. Their children don’t watch TV, eat microwave meals, or play with electronic/tech based toys.

Private Jet Parents (aka, Maybach Parenting): These parents want their kid to know that they have a lot of money and that they aren’t afraid to spend it.

Four-Wheeler Parents: These parents are looking to recreate the kind of fun they remember having when they were kids. Often times, they are remembering things from when they were an older child. But in their zeal, Four Wheeler parents will forget this and attempt to relive all their childhood memories when junior is about five years too young. You see them with their one year olds at DoraLive! Or off for a hunting trip before the kid can even read. Or with their American Girl whose face has been colored on with a sharpie. (Note: A mutation of this kind of parent is the GoKart Parent, which is the deep-fried version of the Four Wheel Parent. They function the same way, but are frequently drawn to guns, roadside fireworks, and yes, GoKarts.)

Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet Parents: The worst kind of parents. These people have kids, but no one ever actually sees them parenting anybody.

Old is the New Black

Next weekend I will attend my 20th High School Reunion. Which seems weird to me because I feel like I was in high school was just yesterday. Ok, maybe not yesterday. Maybe the day before yesterday. Or possibly late last week. But it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s been 20 freaking years since I graduated. But it’s true.

This brings me face-to-face with the inescapable reality that I am no longer a young person. It doesn’t make me old-old, but it certainly rules out the possibility of me being objectively young. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know, I know. You’re only as old as you feel! Age is just a number! I get it – it’s passé to lament aging. Publicly. (However, in the privacy of your Dermatologist’s office, feel free.) We’re told to embrace each day as it comes because every day is a gift. It’s true. I know. Blah. When it comes to getting older, I feel – in the wise words that are my sister’s mantra – it is what it is.

It’s fine. I can accept getting older. Older is okay. Older has been good to me so far. Older has brought me a husband who will clean out the garage and rub my feet; two delicious children (metaphorically speaking, of course); and a peace with myself that I didn’t have in 1991 when I graduated high school. Nearly every aspect of my life is better now than it was 20 years ago.

So maybe I can’t eat pizza after 8 o’clock without needing an IV to flush the sodium out of my bloodstream. And maybe now I think twice whether or not those adorable leopard pumps would actually be comfortable? These are not things that really matter in life. The bottom line is that there is little about my youth to pine for – except, I suppose, youth itself. (And by my youth itself, mostly I mean my metabolism.)

To illustrate this point, I made a chart.

When I was Younger…

Now that I am Older…

I was insecure about my decisions, my skills, my possessions, my ideas, my relationships, my talents, my looks, etc.

I am confident on the good days; I forgive myself on the others.

I cared way too much what everybody thought about me all the time.

I realize that most people aren’t thinking about me at all. And they never were. And furthermore, who cares?

I had a coarse, frizzy brown mop on top of my head.

I have smooth, straight, blondish chemically fried, but infinitely more attractive hair.

I waited for people to ask me out on dates.

The love of my life is legally bound to date me forever.

I babysat other people’s children.

I have minions children of my own.

I had to share a car with my sister.

The minivan is mine, all mine.

I wondered what I would be when I grew up?

I know that the answer to that question comes in list form and can be added to daily.

I was a slave to grammar.

I. Write. The. Way. I. Want.

I had a killer metabolism.

Damn, I miss that.

This weekend at my reunion, I will be confronted with the physical and emotional manifestations of time reflected in my classmates faces. Just as they are in mine.  And I will try to remember this little list to ease the sting of being Older. After all, if I’m lucky, there’s a lot more where that came from.



Good Writing Reflects Clear Thinking

One of the most useful things I learned in Journalism School, I learned in the first fifteen minutes of my first class on the first day. The two Deans of the University of Missouri J-School stood at the bottom of the large lecture hall and tag-teamed a speech about the art and science of Journalism; the rigors and importance of its study. I remember shockingly little of what they said. I remember that one of the Deans was a lady with short red hair who wore a pantsuit. I remember I didn’t see her again until graduation. And I remember that she began her portion of the lecture with the simple truism, “Good writing reflects clear thinking.”

Over the years, I have referred back to this sentence more than any other piece of writing advice I received since. It has become my writing mantra. These words focus and tighten my work. They eliminate pages of unnecessary qualifiers and distracting tangents. They crystallize tedious, rambling diversions into concise, readable information. Good writing reflects clear thinking. I hear the Dean’s voice in my head; picture her in her beige pants suit pacing back and forth like some kind of smartly dressed caged tiger – full of pent-up insight and knowledge.

But this advice applies to more than just Journalism. As I write my first novel, this dictum serves as my talisman – sitting on my shoulder, strong and true in its own little pantsuit; a beacon of efficiency.  It reminds me that good writing is more than just stringing words together in a pleasing way. The words have to say something. They can’t simply be page-candy, there only to decorate and sound pretty. Even the most beautifully written prose must earn its keep by informing, enlightening, or advancing the story.

Here is how this all works in action: I write something. I read it over. If I decide it sucks (which I almost always do on the first pass), I repeat my mantra. Good writing reflects clear thinking. I re-read what I wrote. More often than not, the problem is not with the words themselves. The problem is I didn’t know what I wanted to say. It wasn’t clear to me –so how could it possibly be clear on the page? The words never stood a chance. I focus. I ask myself what I am trying to say in this sentence, this paragraph, this chapter. And if I am lucky enough to come up with an answer, the words follow – lining up like obedient soldiers doing their duty to ink and paper. The writing becomes strong, if not good, and we move on to the next battle.

Good writing reflects clear thinking. My arrogant 18 year-old self heard this and thought something banal like, “No duh.” But fortunately my sub-conscious knew better. It stored this little nugget in the depths of my brain until I was ready to understand that no amount of clever word play will make up for a writer’s ambivalence of purpose.

I pass this on with the hope that it helps other writers as much as it has helped me.

Andy Rooney, Blogger?

Andy Rooney, the veteran 60 Minutes commentator who passed away last week at the age of 92, didn’t write a blog. In fact, when asked what he thought about his employer, CBS’s blog, Rooney said, “I have never read the CBS Public Eye blog so I have no opinion. I’m trying to find out what blog means. It seems vastly over-rated as a communications tool.” Apparently, along with airlines, autographs, and modern art, Andy Rooney did not have much use for blogs.

And yet, I think we bloggers have a lot to learn from Mr. Rooney about our craft. His medium might have been television, but his weekly segment at the end of the 60 Minutes newsmagazine functioned very much like a blog. Each week, for 33 years, Mr. Rooney wrote an essay on a subject of his choosing. Sometimes, he wrote about serious issues like war, but more often than not, Mr. Rooney stuck to mundane issue in his life, usually something he found irritating like the high cost of movies, how much stuff people carry around, and how long it takes to shut down a computer.

His essays were candid, concise, and uniquely his own. He sometimes did small bits of research in the form of man-on-the-street interviews or taking informal polls of his friends, but his segment was not about traditional journalism. It was about expressing his views. It was one person connecting with other people by sharing his thoughts, feelings, and observations about some aspect of the common human experience. Apart from the fact that he did this aloud, and on network television, it seems a lot like a blog to me.

Mr. Rooney was an institution in American television. But had he been born a few decades later, I think it’s not only possible, but probable that his signature brand of curmudgeonly reflection would have been relegated to the network’s blog page. As far as I know, there is no other journalist/broadcaster/commentator who is given three whole minutes of precious primetime network air to pontificate, complain, ruminate, and otherwise kvetch about anything they choose. But there are many talented writers who are given coveted spots on a media organizations blog page (though most of the large media outlet blogs are reading more like magazines than traditional blogs these days).

Andy Rooney wrote lively, short, opinionated pieces designed to entertain, enlighten, and yes, sometimes enrage his audience. In doing so, he set the stage for those of us who have something on our mind and want share it. He proved that there is always a place for well-written, considered, and thoughtful contemplation. And he showed us that people like knowing there are other people out there thinking the same crazy thoughts that they think. All of these are the same reasons that blogs continue to survive, and even thrive in today’s media-saturated culture. And though he would most assuredly reject the title, I think Andy Rooney could possibly be considered the grandfather of the blog. Or perhaps its cantankerous uncle who comes to Thanksgiving and complains that the turkey is dry.

He will be missed.

Conquering The Beast

I’m afraid that I’m kind of a scaredy cat. I’m not paralyzed by fear –just generally wary, mostly of things having to do with high speeds, heights, the dark, and/or threat of mortal peril. I don’t walk around town wearing a helmet anything, but I am not what you would call a risk taker either. I’ve never ridden a roller coaster. I’ve never gone white water rafting. I’ve never been in a hot air balloon or a helicopter. I’ve never gone bungee jumping. Never gone sky diving, wind surfing, or even parasailing.

Most of the time this is okay with me. After all, somebody has to stay behind to hold the coats while everyone else is off riding the Screaming Death Loop.

But there is a part of me that wonders if I’m missing out by always taking the safe route.  As I get older, I find myself thinking that maybe only doing what feels safe and comfortable is kind of cop-out? Maybe it’s just plain boring? Maybe being so rigid when it comes to doing things outside of my comfort zone ends up limiting my range of experiences and therefore my enjoyment of life? Usually, I have these thoughts in brief snippets at times when my most perilous choice is between red or white.

But I was faced with such a choice this weekend while in Kansas City with three of my dearest friends for a girl’s weekend away. After dinner on Saturday night, the girls thought it would be fun to go to one of Kansas City’s famed haunted houses. The destination in question was The Beast, a four-story “open format” haunted house in which you have to find your way through an abandoned warehouse while being chased by werewolves, chainsaw wielding maniacs, and zombies who pop out of the darkness and scare the s*** out of you. The whole thing culminates at the exit, which is a four-story slide straight down.

I told them I would hold their coats.

The over-developed part of my brain that specializes in rationalizations told my friends (and myself for that matter), “It’s not that I’m scared to go – I just don’t want to go. I just don’t enjoy that kind of thing.”  I mean why would I want to do that when I could be sitting in a hotel lounge somewhere listening to music and sipping a cocktail, right? Being the good friends they are, they were going to let me sit it out. But then a funny thing happened. I started to want to go. I suppose it could have been peer pressure, but I don’t think that was it. It was more like disappointment in myself for wimping out, yet again.

So after having a drink at the bar, it was decided that all four of us would go together. We hopped in a cab to the sketchy part of town, paid the rather exorbitant entrance fee, and took on The Beast. We spent the next 45 minutes shuffling through the warehouse in our high heels (a rookie mistake) with all 8 of our arms linked together tighter than bark on a tree. The four of us screamed at the top of our lungs while gory, spooky creatures jumped out of the blackness and chased us through the winding, fog-machine-fog filled rooms.  We were all screaming, yelling, laughing, slightly sweating, and one of us (you know who you are) was cussing like a drunken sailor. We were, in other words, having a wonderful time.

After we conquered The Beast, we felt like rock stars. Never mind that as we left  we saw many of our fellow Beast Slayers being picked up by their moms in minivans. Never mind that it took nearly 20 minutes for my heart rate to come back to normal. I felt brave! Not just for getting through the haunted house without soiling myself, but because I didn’t let being afraid stop me from doing it. And I’m so glad I did it. It even made me feel a little righteous. I know it was only a haunted house. And I know most people have this experience by the time they are 14, but I always thought I was too chicken to do something like that. And that night, I wasn’t. It felt good.

Immediately upon leaving The Beast, we went out for a celebratory glass of champagne at a little piano bar called The Cigar Box, a throwback to the old lounges of back-in-the-day, complete with a crooner covering Frank Sinatra tunes while wearing a silk-shirt-and-smoking jacket combo and one of the worst toupees you’ve ever seen. We sat there for the rest of the night laughing about our experience with The Beast, feeling like we were kids again – blithe, fearless, and silly.

The best part was that in the end, The Beast wasn’t even the scariest thing we saw that night. That toupee was downright frightening.

How to Feel Righteous Everyday: A Cheater’s Guide

I will admit that I like feeling righteous. This is not to be confused with feeling self-righteous – which is to say, smug. Smugness is ugly and coarse and inelegant. But righteousness is above all that. To feel righteous is to feel conscientious, dutiful, virtuous, irreproachable – in short, Good.

But Good does not come cheap. Often times doing Good involves time and sacrifice. I have devised a system to get around all that. I have a list of Everyday Righteous Activities which, admittedly fall a bit short of the lofty heights of volunteering at soup kitchens or reading to disadvantaged youth, but still provide me a small sense of virtuosity, even if only for a couple of seconds. (The rule is: The smaller the act of Good, the shorter time you can spend feeling righteous about it.)

I do not pretend that these things will put me in contention for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I think you will agree that doing them is better than not doing them. And that is really the only qualification for inclusion on this list.

Everyday Righteous Activities:

  • Eating vegetables
  • Any form of exercise
  • Shaving my legs
  • Letting a car go in front of me in traffic
  • Not shopping
  • Any act of cleaning my home
  • Making a dinner in which no ingredients came out of a bag or box
  • Showering and washing my hair
  • Wearing something other than yoga pants
  • Not having dessert
  • Holding the door for the person behind me
  • Sewing on a button (or sewing of any kind)
  • Clipping my kids fingernails
  • Not going to Starbucks for my Iced Mocha
  • Slowing down, rather than gunning it, when approaching a yellow light
  • Eating soy products that pretend to be chicken or ground beef
  • Wearing shoes other than flip-flops or tennis shoes
  • Giving my dogs a bath
  • Recycling
  • Thinking about starting to compost
  • Reading a newspaper
  • Folding and putting away laundry on the same day
  • Eating fruit with the skin on
  • Using up the last of my hair products before buying new ones
  • Opting for soda water instead of diet soda
  • Putting a new roll of toilet paper on the thingy

Some might say that these things are nothing to feel special about. But I challenge those people to shift their paradigm: To believe that yes, you ARE a rock star because you cleaned behind your refrigerator. Or to feel proud of the fact that you got up, showered, and left the house. After all, you could have not done that, right? You could have sat on your ass eating canned cheese in your underwear all day. But you didn’t. You mowed the grass. You asked your mail carrier how her day was. You took your grocery cart to the cart-return and didn’t let it roll amuck. It may not be much, but there is some value in that.

The way I see it, my Everyday Righteous Activities are like my everyday clothing: Functional, comfortable, not-too-fancy, and easy to get away with. I also have my Good clothes, which I break out on special occasions; just like I do Good on a larger scale on special occasions, or at least as often as I can. But not everyday. Not everyone has the time everyday to engage in grand gestures of human kindness and/or public service (unless you are my father-in-law or Oprah.) For the rest of us mortals, I offer my list. Use it as a righteousness-patch – something to get you through until you have the time to dedicate yourself to something truly worthwhile.  And while you’re at it, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back for reading this blog. You deserve it.

You Can’t Have Two Fun Parents.

In every two-parent home, there is the “fun” parent and the one who makes sure things gets done. These roles are almost always mutually exclusive. The parent who makes a fort in the basement with 47 blankets and every chair in the house is not usually the one who nags the kids for three days to clean it up. The parent who ignores bedtime is not typically the one who spends the next day being screamed at and sobbed to by Junior Jeckel & Hyde. And the parent who allows the double scoop with sprinkles in a waffle cone after dinner, is almost never the one who cleans the barf off the carpet before the dog can eat it.

In perhaps the best pearl of wisdom ever to come out of network television, the Mom on ABC’s Modern Family explains to her young son that you can’t have two fun parents. “It’s a carnival,” she says, “You know that kid Liam who wears pajama pants to school and pays for everything with $100 bills? Two fun parents.” And she’s right. Someone’s got to be the one to say it’s time to go home. Someone has to reapply the sunscreen and get the tangles out. And someone has to be willing to take flack for doing all these things because not to would be a carnival – that is to say, a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

If you are the Fun parent, you likely live by the code, “What the hell?” You live in the moment. You don’t think too far ahead. You have a fairly high tolerance for noise and you don’t mind being late. You probably have low blood pressure.

If you are the Un-Fun parent, you’re motto is, “Not on my watch.” You are a planner. Your brain is ten steps ahead and can smell a meltdown hours before it happens. You look at most situations through the lens of “How likely is this to end us in the ER?” and/or “How much laundry will this create?” You are often referred to as “the fun police.”

In my family, I am the Fun Police. If you met my husband, you would understand why. He is naturally irreverent and silly and loud and was often compared to Jim Carrey when Jim Carrey was funny. Obviously, I never stood a chance. But I am okay with that. I’m okay with saying it’s time for bed in the middle of a movie, with refusing their requests for a fourth cookie, and with kicking them out of my bed in the hopes of sleeping more than four consecutive hours without being kicked in the groin. Because the thing no one tells you about being the Un-Fun parent, is you also get to be the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper may not be as sexy a role as being the Fun parent, but the Gatekeeper has something the Fun parent does not: Power. Dark, delicious, power. (Muhahaha…)

You know you have achieved Gatekeeper status when your daughter asks you if she can have an Oreo, when you’ve just heard your spouse say that she can. Or when your son says he can’t “just hop into the front seat” because Mom wouldn’t like that very much. That is power, my friends. And if you are a benevolent Gatekeeper, you use your power wisely. You back up your partner. You present a united front. You show your children that you are and your spouse are on the same page. Then, you privately rejoice in your small victory of being the one the kids fear more.

After all, just because you’re the un-fun parent, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself once in a while, right?

At first I was afraid. I was petrified…

This post is an update on my one from last week, A Camping We Must Go. Due to the numerous calls, emails, and texts I received asking me if I survived my weekend camping trip, I have written an answer to the tune of  Gloria Gaynor’s iconic anthem, I Will Survive. Since this is the one of the best ladies-who-kick-ass songs of all times, I felt it only fitting. (It was also fitting because camping made my hair look much like Ms. Gaynor’s on her 1978 album cover.) I hope you will be able to hear the music in your head as you read…

At first I was afraid.

I was petrified.

Kept thinking I could never learn

how to sleep outside.

I spent oh so many nights

just stressing out about the trip

Then I said, “Crap,

And I put on my baseball cap,

And then I camped.

I f*#!ing camped!

We made a fire and roasted s’mores; we hiked a trial and peed outdoors.

I should have changed my stupid shoes,

I should have left my flats at home,

If I’d have known for just one second,

just how far we’d hike and roam.


But yeah, we went!

We pitched a tent!

I didn’t even bitch and moan; I did not show my discontent.

Burnt food and bugs, they tried to make me say goodbye,

But did I crumble?

Did I lay down and die?

Oh, no not I!

I testified!

As long as I stayed cool and dry, I knew that I’d get by.

My next vacation,

I will spa.

But for now,

I say hurrah…

Because I camped,

I f*@!ing camped,

Hey, hey!!!!