Table Talk

Thanksgiving Turkey dinnerThanksgiving is a day of stress, even in the best of times, but Thanksgiving 2018 could take the cake. . . er . . pie. Dinner conversations have become landmines. Relationships are as strained as my jeans after five helpings of mashed potatoes. Families haven’t been this divided since the great Toilet Paper Orientation debate of 1954.

Here are just a few topics that could escalate your meal from a civil discussion to Grandpa throwing cranberry sauce into the ceiling fan: The national anthem–Kneeling v. standing; The Presidency–Trump v. a sane person; Women’s rights v. Rich White Men; Nazis v. Not Nazis; and the most contentious subject, Marvel v. DC.

Things are ugly, folks. People are tense.

There are marches and demonstrations covering every perceivable issue. Even asking someone their view on mayonnaise could spark a worldwide protest. So, what can we possibly talk about around the Thanksgiving table so we can still get presents on Christmas?

I gathered a group of unsuspecting family members to practice possible discussion topics. It didn’t go well.

Me to Grandson: Tell me about Fortnite.

Great Uncle Jack: What’s Fortnite?

Grandson: It’s an awesome video game!

Great Uncle Jack: That’s stupid, you namby-pamby! Do you know what my video game was? World War II!

So, I tried again.

Me: Elon Musk plans to take humans to the moon in 2023.

Second Cousin: The moon landing never happened. It’s a conspiracy to keep us docile.

Me: I don’t think it’s working.

Another effort.

Me: How about those sports?

Hubbie: Agents have ruined professional sports! Back in the day, athletes played the damn game. Now, it’s, “Oh, I need an extra $20 million before I can throw a pitch.”

Okay then. Next.

Me: What fun things should we do for Christmas?

Brother-in-law: We should stop pandering to the commercialism of a pagan holiday that has no foundation of truth. Might as well celebrate rocks.

I tried a different tactic.

Me: A delicious roast turkey sure sounds good.

Daughter: Do you know how turkeys are raised? It’s disgusting and inhuman.

Me: Turkeys aren’t human.

Daughter: You are dead to me.

I was almost out of ideas.

Me: What do you think about sweater vests?

Everyone: We hate them!

Well, that’s a start.

I’m worried most families will end up sitting quietly, heads down, creating volcanoes with the mashed potatoes and gravy, and making NO eye contact for the entirety of the meal. At least dessert shouldn’t be contentious. (Dessert: Hold my beer.)

There was a time when conversation was an art, a civilized form of speech. Someone started talking, then others respectfully chimed in with their opinions. Sometimes, discussions got heated, but it rarely became a knife fight. Or maybe I’ve just read to many Jane Austen novels where you had to actually pay attention to realize you’d been insulted.

Now everyone is insulted. All the time.

So. On Thanksgiving, let’s practice not being insulted. Let’s try hearing other people’s views without writing them out of the will. We don’t have to agree, but can we be kind?

And the correct answer is Marvel. It’s always Marvel.

Originally published in Iron County Today – http://ironcountytoday.com/columns/life-and-laughter-table-talk/

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Junk in the Trunk

arrangement-blackboard-candle-1449058Trunks are super useful. If you’re an elephant, they’re a necessity. If you want to change a tire, hide Christmas gifts or transport a body, trunks are invaluable. But I don’t understand the connection between trunks and Halloween. Why is trunk-or-treating a thing?

In the U.S., trick-or-treating started after WWII when children went door to door begging for food on Thanksgiving (not joking). Then they continued begging through Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and so on—so I guess someone decided to create a national begging celebration on Halloween.

This mass candy solicitation certainly worked for me for many years. Part of the thrill of trick-or-treating was leaving the familiar neighborhoods, searching for the families handing out full-size Butterfingers. We’d come home with pillowcases full of candy, after walking miles and miles through Murray, Utah.

Now, in our heavily-sanitized society, parents want to make sure their kids won’t be handed anything with sugar, soy, peanuts or gluten, or have to interact with neighbors they’ve never met—so trunk-or-treating was introduced.

I know some churches feel trunk-or-treating (Halloween tailgating) is a way to watch over kids while keeping demonic costumes to a minimum. In fact, kids are often encouraged to dress as bible characters.

(Side note: If I was forced to dress as a woman from the bible, I’d be Jael and I’d carry Sisera’s head with a nail shoved through his temple. But that’s just me. The Book of Revelations also has some pretty messed-up oddities. My daughters could easily have passed for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on any given day.)

blurred-background-bokeh-celebration-1426705Anyway. Part of growing up is being terrified all the time. Kids have so little control over their lives and, unfortunately, they learn early on that life can be scary and unpredictable.

As kids on Halloween, we got super scared, but we also knew that, deep down, we truly were safe. Visiting haunted houses made us feel brave. In our minds, going from house to house, asking strangers for candy, was akin to walking down a dark alley in New York City.

There was always one house on the block you were afraid to visit because it had strobe lights, shrieking screams, ghoulish laughter when you rang the bell and an unidentifiable zombie handing out treats with his bloody hands.

Even scarier was the house where the neighborhood witch resided. Lights turned off. No jack o’ lantern. You knew she was sitting in the dark, staring out her window, ready to cast spells on children who came to her door.

Additionally, my mom had me paranoid about eating any unwrapped candy, convinced my friend’s mom had dipped the open jawbreaker in bleach several times before handing it to me.

But really? How many people did you know that found a razor blade in their apple or received temporary tattoos laced with acid?

On November 1, when we woke up with piles of candy, stomach aches and Halloween make-up smeared on our pillows, we also felt we had survived something frightening—and imagined ourselves a little bit braver as we faced our lives.

But trunk-or-treating is not remotely scary, unless your trunk is part of a 1950s Cadillac hearse, complete with creaky coffin and a driver named Lurch. Maybe instead of meeting in church parking lots, we can stay in our homes and hand out candy as kids go door-to-door. I think that idea might just catch on.

Originally published in The Davis Clipper–Oct. 2015

 

Dressed to Kill

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Every autumn, as I reconstructed our home after three months of child infestation, my daughters settled into their school classes and thoughts turned to Halloween. More specifically, thoughts turned to Halloween costumes.

I’d load my girls into the minivan and we’d attack the pattern books at Joann fabric, looking for the perfect costumes. (These pattern books weighed approximately 450 lbs. and had to be moved carefully or they would fall off the narrow perch and crush your hip bones.)

Costumes ranged from Disney princesses to Death, and each outfit had to last for decades because they were worn all the time and handed down for generations. (For example, one daughter, dressed as Snow White, shredded the hem of her gown under the plastic tires of her Big Wheel. Her dress looked like Snow White had been attacked by a pack of very short raccoons. She still wore it every day.)

After finding the right pattern, we’d roam the aisles, looking for fabric that didn’t cost the equivalent of an actual Disney movie.

During my costume-making tenure, I created all of the Disney princesses, a cheerleader, Super Girl, a lion, a pumpkin and several witches. (Sidenote: A witch costume in 1990 consisted of a long black dress, a long black cape, long black hair, a black hat and a broomstick. Now a witch costume is a black miniskirt, fishnet stockings and a push-up bra. I have no idea how to fly a broom in that outfit.)

Speaking of slutty clothes, my daughters were often pushing the envelope when it came to modesty. According to my daughter, her belly dancer’s shirt was too long, so (when I wasn’t around) she rolled it up several times to display her 10-year-old abs, and the gypsy Esmeralda’s blouse kept “accidentally” falling off her shoulders.

Daughter number three used her Cinderella costume as a method of seduction as she walked up and down our driveway in her slappy plastic high heels, flirting with the men building the garage. Did I mention she was four?

During another Halloween, she wanted to be Darth Maul. I made her costume, painted her face, but refused to put horns on her head. She grew her own devil horns a few years later.

By Oct. 20, all my intentions to create the perfect Halloween costume for each daughter devolved into madness as I frantically sewed to have everything done for the school’s Halloween parade (which is now the Fall Festival).

My Singer sewing machine would be thrumming 24-hours a day as I slowly lost my mind. I’d throw boxes of cold cereal at them for dinner, while I shrieked, “I’m making these costumes because I love you. Now shut the hell up!”

Once Halloween was over, costumes went into a big box and were worn by my daughters and their friends all year. At any given moment, a girl wearing Beauty’s voluminous yellow ball gown would be chasing Super Girl through the living room, with a toddler-sized Jack-o’-lantern nipping at their heels.

My daughters have carried on the costume tradition. My grandchildren have been garden gnomes, Austin Powers, a unicorn, and even an 18-month-old Betty Boop. It makes my black Halloween heart smile.

Now, my Singer gathers dust and I haven’t looked through pattern books for years, but every October my fingers twitch and I fight the urge to take my girls to browse fabric aisles. I wonder what my husband is doing this weekend. He’d make a beautiful Disney princess.

 

Things We Forget

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There was a time, before we got all jaded and grumpy, that our main purpose was to have fun. As kids, we jumped out of bed every morning, eager to find the best ways to a) get candy, b) meet friends, c) watch cartoons and d) avoid chores at all costs.

We had it all figured out. Why did grown-ups make everything so difficult? Politics, manipulation and sociopathic behaviors were things we didn’t understand. (I still don’t understand.)

After life punches us in the face for several decades, we get out of bed a little slower and rarely find time for cartoons or candy. Friends become precious. Chores increase exponentially.

But maybe those 10-year-old versions of ourselves were right all along. Maybe we need to remember some basic rules about life that were totally obvious to us before we finished elementary school. These things are truths at any age.

  • Going to the bank is boring—unless there are those chain-attached pens you can play with
  • If you’re good at the store, you might get a Butterfinger
  • Going to the zoo sounds like a good idea, but it’s actually exhausting
  • Visiting grandma gets you spoiled
  • Sometimes you need to stay in bed all day reading a good book
  • Making friends is easy
  • Going to bed early is a punishment
  • It’s okay to cry when your feelings are hurt
  • Saturday morning cartoons are awesome
  • Spending an afternoon in the park is the best use of your time
  • A $20 bill makes you rich
  • When your friend is mean, it’s okay to tell them that wasn’t nice
  • It’s fun to be excited for birthdays and Christmas
  • Eating cold cereal for dinner is the best
  • Throwing a water balloon at your sister is thrilling
  • You never have to watch your carbs
  • Shoes aren’t always necessary
  • Cloud watching is not a waste of time

So how did we go from being fun-loving kidlets to cranky adults? When did we decide it was better to be busy than to have fun?

As with most terrible things, I blame the teenage years. Being 13 years old can be devastating. If you watch the movie Eighth Grade, be prepared for some serious junior high PTSD as a beautiful young girl destroys her own self-esteem with anxiety, junior high romance and pool parties. Seriously triggering.

Once we drag ourselves out of the primordial swamp of high school, we’ve become a little less trusting and optimistic. Then we double-down on our cynicism as we enter the workforce.

When you were in elementary school, dreaming about the time you’d be a grown up with your own car and the ability to eat ice cream after midnight, you never considered the possibility that working sucks. Sure, we saw our parents come home from work, down a bottle of gin and collapse on the couch like a bag of old pudding, but that was because they’d had SO MUCH FUN at work!

Something needs to change.

If you find yourself scowling at happiness, it’s time to check back with your inner fourth-grader and do something fun. Skip work and go hiking. Have an ice-cream sundae, without promising to jog later (because 10-year-olds don’t jog). Start a conversation with a stranger. Spend $20 on something entirely useless. Have Lucky Charms for dinner.

We need to remember, it’s fun to a) get candy, b) meet friends, c) watch cartoons and d) avoid chores at all costs. Life’s too short to grow old.

Originally published in Iron County Today–http://ironcountytoday.com/columns/life-laughter/things-we-forget/

Darth Vader/Donald Trump

I’ve sensed a disturbance in society. A dark shadowy figure looms across the country, demanding loyalty from all those around him. A powerful force instigates unrest, encourages outrage and hate, and challenges his followers to embrace their inner rage to find their true destiny.

This person could be Darth Vader. This person could be Donald Trump. The similarities are eerie. Ever since Trump assigned Jar Jar Binks to take over the Office of Silly Walks, I’ve noticed his connection to the Star Wars universe and his uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader.

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I’ll present the facts. You decide.

  • They both have helmet head
  • They both have a thing for the Space Force
  • They are both seduced by power
  • They both lead a staff of brainless clones
  • Both try to destroy those who rebel against them
  • They both surround themselves with wacky characters
  • They consider themselves the center of the universe

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(If you look very closely, you’ll see a black hole at the center of the universe. That’s Trump’s soul.)

  • They both love the sound of their own voice
  • They’ve either tried to boink or kill their daughters
  • They have a love for long, flowing capes and ties
  • Neither of them give a shit about endangered species
  • They both answer to a bigger bad guy
  • Neither understands sarcasm
  • They wear suits that demonstrate their inability to fit in with society
  • They both demonstrate personality disorders
  • They’re both proficient at swinging a lightsaber/golf club
  • The Death Star is powered with coal and is coated in Russian asbestos.
  • They both reconnected to their inner goodness and light. Wait. Only Vader has done that.  I guess Trump still has time. . .

Middle of the Night Musings

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It’s 3 a.m. I’m awake. Again.

My mind quivers like a raccoon on Red Bull, forcing me to think about a) Christmas shopping, b) the end of the world, c) my Halloween costume and d) wondering if I should throw Ringo the Dog outside because he’s been licking himself for hours.

I’m also hot. Temperature hot, not hot hot. I stick my foot outside the blankets to let the cool air brush across my toes. Sometimes Ringo will lick my toes if they’re left outside the covers.

I get chilly and wrap myself up in blankets like a middle-aged, insomniac burrito.

I engage meditation techniques. Inhale. Exhale. After eight seconds, my mind wanders to the state of the economy (dire). I wonder how I’ll survive as a homeless person. Will I die of cholera alone on the side of the road?

I’m hot again. I throw the blanket off because my fingernails are sweating. I carefully roll over, hoping not to wake Hubbie.

I start worrying about the diseases l could contract—like that brain-eating amoeba or Polyglandular Addison’s disease that causes instant death from sudden emotional distress. I could have that. I could be dying. Will my grandkids remember me if I die from Mad Cow disease?

Now I’m cold. I pull the covers up to my chin. Should I get a flu shot this year? What if a pandemic wipes out everyone who didn’t get a flu shot? Who will feed Ringo? Who will Tom marry after I’m dead?

I will not look at the clock. I look at the clock. 4:15.

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What was that noise? Could I call 911 before a burglar attacks me? Would he be mad that we don’t have anything worth stealing? What if we have a rat infestation? I pull my foot back into the safety of the covers.

Are my clothes outdated? What will technology be like in 20 years? Will my grandkids have to explain things to me? I need to stop eating sugar. I should start writing a diary. I REALLY need to fix my car’s tire. What if I forget and I my tire blows out on the freeway?

What if I never sleep again? What if I have a paralyzing illness caused by insomnia? What if I’m paralyzed when the zombies attack–and I can’t get away? I jerk awake and realize I’ve drifted into a dream/awake state. I look at the clock. 5:06.

I’m awake. Again.

Nonviolent Protest: A Primer

On Sunday, two dozen NFL teams demonstrated an act of nonviolent protest– and the country lost its shit.

During the national anthem (you know, that five-minute block of time when you stock up on nachos and beer), NFL players either took a knee on the field or locked arms with teammates to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick who has been taking a knee during the anthem to protest how America treats its minorities.

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“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

This totally legal, constitutionally recognized form of protest incensed our Commander in Chief so much that he Tweeted out a suggestion that NFL owners fire players who disrespect the anthem. Keep in mind, Mr. Trump has never actually read the Constitution, but ignorance is never an excuse for assholery.

Asking for equal rights is not a crime. The (mostly white) people who objected to this display seemed to forget that sometimes social change only happens when symbolic protests bring an issue to our attention.

NASCAR (pretty much the whitest sport in the U.S.) took a stand against the #TakeAKnee movement. NASCAR owners threatened to fire anyone who participated in the protest.

Richard Petty, co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, declared that “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

But that’s just it. The United States embraces nonviolent protests. Or at least we should.

Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., suffragettes, Henry David Thoreau and the Dalai Lama have all used the technique to gain attention. Even John Lennon peacefully protested the Vietnam War when he and Yoko Ono spent their honeymoon having a “Bed-In” at a hotel in Amsterdam. A Bed-In is definitely a peaceful movement I can get behind.

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(I’m going to nonviolently protest winter by staying in bed until May.)

These actions have nothing to do with disrespecting the flag,  dishonoring our military or cheapening our extremely long, difficult to sing national anthem. You don’t have to agree with the kneelers. You don’t even have to believe in their cause. But you DO have to respect their right to protest.