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/

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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. . .

Uncommon Courtesy

adult-bar-beer-1267244We’ve become an unpleasant people. All the commons, like courtesy, sense, knowledge and good, aren’t nearly as prevalent as they should be. But we’re Americans! We’re resilient! We survived New Coke and the Sony Betamax. We can definitely start using old-fashioned common courtesy. Making America Great Again should include some of the following:

Be Thoughtful

Being thoughtful doesn’t have to be inconvenient, like throwing your jacket on top of a mud puddle so I can cross without getting my dainty feet wet. (Disclaimer: I’ve never had dainty feet). Even small actions amp up your kindness cred.

Open doors, smile, give up your seat, wipe down the machines at the gym (you know who you are!!) or offer to carry a bag of groceries. Maybe thoughtfulness means doing something you’d rather not do, like play Yahtzee with your grandson 327 times in a row, watch golf with your husband or help a friend move.

Offer to buy a stranger’s coffee, remember important dates, use manners, write thank you cards and let someone go in front of you at Walmart. Watching their wary acceptance is pretty hilarious.

Shut up and Listen

Have you ever talked to someone and realized their eyes were more glazed than a Krispy Kreme conveyer belt? That means you’ve monopolized the conversation and it’s someone else’s turn to talk. (“Conversation” means two or more people exchanging ideas.)

We’re horrible listeners. We interrupt, interject with personal stories, refuse to make eye contact and try to keep that supercool thought in our brain so we can jump right in as soon as the speaker takes a breath.

Calm yourself. Listen to learn. If we already know everything, there’s absolutely no reason to pay attention to someone who’s talking to us. If you agreed with that last sentence, your wife is slowly poisoning you.

Put Down Your Damn Phone

We are WAY too invested in our cell phones. I’m not excluding myself. My husband and I often have this conversation:

Tom: Can you put down your phone and watch TV?

Me: I’m watching.

Tom: What just happened?

Me: The guy did that one thing to that other guy.

Tom: Hand me your phone.

Me: [Eye roll] Gees, you don’t understand.

Our discourteous cell phone behavior made headlines this spring after a cast member of Hamilton called out audience members in Salt Lake because they wouldn’t turn their phones off during the performance. Good grief! We’ve even irritated the Founding Fathers (again).

Leave your phone in your car, on your shelf or in your fish tank if you’re in a situation that requires decent human behavior.

Be Generous

Utahns are notoriously cheap. I mean seriously-perhaps-we-should-be-in-therapy cheap. I’ve had two daughters who worked in food services. They’ve shared horror stories of impolite guests, demanding drunks and overall poorly behaved people.

Come on, everyone. The wait staff survives off your chintzy tips. They usually make less than $3 an hour and when you tip $2.75 on a bill of $100, you are a villain.

Don’t be afraid to pry open that creaky, dusty wallet and tip your restaurant servers, hair stylists, pizza guy, Uber driver or dog walker.

 Let Drivers Merge for Cryin’ Out Loud

Nothing more needs to be said about this one. (You know who you are!!)

Every action we take builds or destroys a community. I don’t want to see common courtesy go the way of Freshen Up gum, dodo birds and our democracy. Let’s Make America Pleasant Again.

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

Top 5 Worst Things That Can Happen When You’re Camping

Everything about camping is wrong. There’s a reason we stopped living nomadic lifestyles and built homes for our families. By taking your family camping, you’re pushing back thousands of years of progress. Don’t be a progress hater.

If you insist on dragging your family through the wilderness, here are the top 5 worst things that will probably happen.

No cell service. Let’s say you’re playing Scattergories and your husband throws out a stupid word. You grab your phone to Google “Pandalicious” only to remember there is no service at the top of Mt. Crumpet. In that case, your phone becomes a weapon to throw at your husband’s head.

You have to poop. Every outhouse looks like a crime scene.  You know there’s some creepy ass poopophile who’s climbed into the latrine and is filming for his YouTube bowel movement channel.

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(This luxurious bathroom is filled with wasps but not filled with toilet paper.)

Bear maulings. According to BearSmart.com, if you happen upon a bear in the woods, “Identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone.” That’s because bears are super-civilized, we’re too stupid to acknowledge their advanced breeding.

Me (coming face-to-face with a bear): Hello, Mr. Bear. My name is Peri Kinder and I love your coat. Is that Chanel?

Bear: [rips my face off and uses my leg bones as chopsticks]

Camp Food. Outside dining is overly-romanticized. You picture your family sitting around the campfire eating Dutch Oven BBQ ribs, dinner rolls and apple crisp. In reality, it takes approximately 35 hours for a Dutch Oven to reach a heat high enough to cook  ramen noodles. You’ll be stuck with a diet of Cheetos, Oreos, trail mix and canned soup—if someone remembered to pack the can opener.

Wildlife. We covered the bear section, but we didn’t discuss squirrels, raccoons, otters, chipmunks, mice, rats, tarantulas, mountain lions, deer, moose, elk, frogs, turtles, owls, hawks, porcupines, foxes, badgers, potguts, moles and snakes. Each of these creatures hates you and will kill you with no provocation.

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(Isn’t he cute?? No. Don’t fall for it. He’ll eat your eyeballs like grapes.)

Summer Vacation Blues

I remember summer vacation. Used to be, the school bell rang and we’d dash from our seats like cheetahs chasing a tasty gazelle. We were free! Three months of laziness!

Now. Boo. The kids are out of school, enjoying three months of freedom they won’t appreciate–and us 9-to-5ers are trying not to cry as we look out our office windows at the sunshine and the joy and the warmth and the happiness going on without us.

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(I’ll never smile again.)

Something’s wrong with society. Well, that’s obvious, but something ELSE is wrong with society. Imagine how productive and enthused we’d be after a whole summer of playtime and rest!

So who do I petition to make this happen? My overlords didn’t even crack a smile at my suggestion. They’re obviously stone people who don’t remember being young and frivolous. They probably eat the full-sized shredded wheat blocks—with no sugar.

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(Shredded wheat in its natural habitat.)

Hear me out, dear overlords!

What if we just have the month of July off to romp and play? No one does business in July anyway! I’d wear shorts everyday, hike each morning, eat fresh foods from farmer’s markets, bask in the sunshine and spit watermelon seeds at my grandkids. I’m tearing up just thinking about it!

I’d come back to work in August, ready to hit it hard. Well. Now that I think about it. I probably wouldn’t. I’d spend August wishing I was still sitting by the pool, drinking margaritas and reading trashy novels.

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(This is where I want to die.)

Maybe it’s best I don’t have the summer off. Once I tasted that freedom, I’d only daydream away the hours, longing for a simple life where I could sleep in a hammock and live on grilled vegetables. But a gal can dream, dear overlords. You can’t take that from me.

Speak of the Devil

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As a child growing up in a strict Mormon household in the ‘70s, I spent most of my day trying not to unintentionally invite Satan into our home. It was a struggle because according to my mom there were hundreds of things we could do that would summon the Prince of Darkness to our doorstep.

I pictured him sitting on his throne in the lowest level of glory (Mormons don’t call it “hell”), receiving an elegant hand-written note that read, “You are cordially invited to live at the Stewart home because Peri’s sister listens to Metallica pretty much every day. Plus, Peri frequently forgets to say her prayers, she blackmailed her brother and she uses face cards to play Blackjack, betting Froot Loops and M&Ms.”

I spent most of my childhood deathly afraid.

Sunday school teachers would recount true stories of children who snuck into R-rated movies only to wake up in the middle of the night to find either Jesus sadly shaking his head or Satan leering and shaking his pitchfork. I didn’t watch an R-rated movie until I was 46.

In the 1970s, Ouija boards were all the rage. My mom warned us, in no uncertain terms, that playing with a Ouija board was guaranteed to beckon all sorts of demons. It didn’t help that I didn’t know Ouija was pronounced “WeeJee.” I thought I was playing Owja.

Once, my sister stayed home from church pretending to be sick and heard (cloven?) footsteps in the room above her. She swore off Ouija boards and Black Sabbath for a month or two before returning to her demonic ways.

My dad was no help. He frequently added to my levels of hellish anxiety, especially when I yelled for him in the middle of the night, certain I’d heard a demon growling under my bed.

He’d stumble into my room, look under the bed and say, “You’ll be fine as long as you stay in bed. If you have to get up, I hope you can run fast. You should probably keep your feet under the covers.”

Dad would go back to bed, leaving me absolutely terrified. So I’d wake up my sister so we could be terrified together.

On top of the constant fear of running into Satan, we had to avoid accidentally summoning Bloody Mary by saying her name three times or luring any number of evil spirits to our living room by watching “Fantasy Island.” I once caught my sister drawing pentagrams on her notebook and made my own version of holy water to exorcise any demons who might be lurking nearby.

When I turned 13, I was pretty sure I’d encouraged a poltergeist to take up residence in our home. There was suddenly lots of slamming doors, dishes flying through the air, vulgar language spewed during dinner and an overall evil atmosphere. Turns out it wasn’t a poltergeist, just me being 13.

Mom always said the devil didn’t have a tail and horns, but looked like an ordinary human. Occasionally, the Fuller Brush salesman would come to the door and I’d eye him with deep suspicion. Was it really a door-to-door salesman, or was it Satan trying to infiltrate our weak defenses.

At one point, I wished he would just show up so I could stop worrying about it. I imagined he’d knock on the door and, resigned, I’d let him in and tell him to find a place to sleep.

“But you can’t live under the bed,” I’d say. “It’s taken.”

Originally published in Iron County Today–http://ironcountytoday.com/columns/speak-of-the-devil/

Don’t Kill the Messenger

Back when Paleolithic man ruled the world, humans only learned what was happening outside their cave when another caveman rode into town on his velociraptor.

Soon, dinosaurs evolved into horses (duh, that’s just science) and traveling merchants shared stories and events as they roamed the country. They’d sit around campfires, making s’mores and spreading gossip. In cities, town criers walked the streets in ridiculous outfits, ringing bells and shouting information at passersby.

When Johannes Gutenberg mechanized the printing process, he started a revolution that led to books, newspapers and inexpensive bird cage lining. Town criers became journalists, people dedicated to the pursuit of truth, shining a light on injustice and living on hot coffee and cold pizza.

America’s Founding Fathers recognized the importance of the press, protecting free speech in the first amendment. Journalists were regarded as necessary vermin, an invaluable cog in the democratic process of checks and balances.

Distinguished reporters like Carl Bernstein, Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite took journalism to its apex before its Icarus-like plunge into the mud of “journalism” today.

With the introduction of the Internet Machine, news has changed. A flood of misinformation is available at our fingertips and anyone can post “news” and share it as reality. Your crazy Uncle Joe has the ability to post his conspiracy theories as fact, while negating facts as theories. (Yes, I’m talking to you, holocaust deniers and urine therapy adherents.)

As newspapers fold and journalists are fired, consumers must find their way in a wild wilderness, navigating blogs, podcasts, posts, tweets, forums and websites, searching for truth, justice and the American way.

On TV, Barbie and Ken dolls throw softball questions at politicians, making no effort to hide their biases. They’re like balloon bouquets; pretty to look at and fun for a while, but then they float creepily through your home, lurking in doorways and scaring the Skittles out of you at 3 a.m.

Sponsored content (advertorials) sneak their way into news broadcasts and articles, looking like journalism, but in reality they are just fancy ads. Usually, readers don’t even know. Journalists have become public relations specialists, crafting news instead of reporting it.

On top of all that, our president declared war on the press. The U.S. just ranked 45th on the World Press Freedom Index, coming in behind places like Bahari, Namibia and Sokovia. (Only one of those countries is real, but I’m presenting it as fact. Most readers don’t bother discovering the truth.)

Do reporters pick on Trump? Yes. Does he deserve it? Maybe not all the time. Maybe. But his anti-press pomposity further erodes the faith we’ve placed in our news agencies as his bellowing cry of “Fake news!” rings from media outlets.

Investigative journalists are an endangered species. It seems little vetting, research or fact-checking is being done. It’s more important to have the story first—even if it’s inaccurate.  Wikipedia isn’t research. (I know that, because I looked up journalism on Wikipedia and it said, “This is not a news source.”) Here are other things that aren’t news sources: Facebook, Twitter, hateful bloggers and venom-spewing talk show hosts.

In 2009, I wrote a column, grumbling about the sensationalizing of stories where a celebrity’s activities were treated as breaking news. (FYI: It’s not.) Things have only gone downhill since then.

There are many journalists still working hard to present the truth, but it’s getting harder to hear their voices over the screeching of velociraptors, the screaming of town criers and the bellicose rants of our leaders.

No news isn’t good news. No news is no news.

Originally published in Iron County Today–http://ironcountytoday.com/news/life-and-laughter-dont-kill-the-messenger/