Sunday, September 10, 2017

CIA Interrogation Techniques and Other Helpful Study Tips

Having just successfully booted yet another of my offspring out o' the house, I feel a need to do a series of posts about parenting boys through teens and into early adult years.  THIS however, would not just be a series of posts or even an entire book, but an entire ENCYCLOPEDIA series worth of posts.  So I'm gunna have to break it down a bit.

Part 1: Mangled Speech

Everyone loves how two and three year-olds wrestle with the truly complex task of verbal communication.  Think about it-- we expect our toddlers to accomplish in a few years what literally billions of years of evolution and development in the non-human animal kingdom has yet to accomplish.  Yes, yes, I know whales have complex communication systems and apes have learned ASL, but I'm saving my respect for the beastie or birdie that can tell decent Knock Knock joke.  So it's easily to be expected that a creature who has yet to manage not messing their pants might come up with beauties like "motowheezer" (lawn mower) or "wedgewant" (restaurant). 

When the confused conversicant is, however, of a double digit age, the mangling of words takes on an entirely new delightfulness.  It's generally not a massive mispronunciation of a few phonetic combinations or an added syllable, but a compete replacement of a word or phrase for one that is *almost* a synonym. But not.  

I give you "Driving To School Friday Morning."

My standard issue Mom Van is in the shop for a myriad of problems, all necessary for legal vehicle operation, none life-threatening.  Sadly.  (Except I really like not having a car payment and, as I said, it runs fine.  It just doesn't have a passenger side head light that can stay functional for more than two days or a passenger side brake like that works.  Not really decent excuses to buy a new car.  Dang it.) For this reason, we are taking the Kid Car to do morning school drop offs.  Kid Car has most recently been captained by the child who has just been booted out the door.  Owing to previous bootees not getting a car Freshman year of college, this Bootee was sent similarly un-vehicled on his way to pursue a higher education. This is not to say that said offspring took the time to clean up the Kid Car before handing it down to the next offspring.  Indeed, no, it appeared that Recent Bootee did all he could to turn the Kid Car into a full-fledged Rolling Landfill for the Future Bootee who will obtain his Learner's Permit next month.  Negotiations are being attempted at acquiring a less disgusting Kid Car.  These negotiations will fail.

Thus we were all performing our own separate archeological expeditions as we attempted to find the purported seats with which the Kid Car was said to have been equipped.  They were duly found, the worst of the garbage was lassoed and corralled into the trash can, (If you think vocabulary choices implying the trash was both alive and also moving vigorously enough on its own to require active collection are incorrect, you clearly do not have teens who drive.) and seats were taken.  As we made our way to the high school for the first drop off, further excavations were made of the items which had not immediately fallen out of the car when the doors were opened.

There was, on the dashboard, a full water bottle with a pencil in it.  It had been there all summer. I had seen it every time I had walked by the Kid Car on the way to the mailbox.  I cringed every time I saw it and told myself to unlock the car and remove the nasty looking water bottle.  Sadly, the lengthy journey across the driveway was much too long for my brain to remember a one-item to-do list and thus the Water Bottle au Pencil remained.  

As we were driving, we could not immediately throw it away.  It was therefore duly inspected.  The winner of Shot Gun gave it a look before the Back Seat claimed it.

"What the heck?"  A reasonable question.

"I have no idea, ask Jacob." I answer.

And thus the Back Seat snapped a pic of the item and sent it to his older brother via the marvel that is modern digital communication.  I expected either no answer or  something rude in response.

I was happily incorrect.

"It's a science experiment!" Back Seat exclaimed.


"Ya, he wants to see how long it takes for the pencil to completely dissolve.  Or if it even will dissolve."

Huh.  Well, I now understand why it was on the dash board where heat and sunlight could work most effectively.  I am impressed.  Still a bit grossed out, but definitely aglow in the renewed awareness that my child is not just the collection of bodily functions and hormones he appears to be.  Granted, it still falls in the category of "Let's see if we can make this gross thing happen" that fuels most all teen boy action, but still.  There does appear to be a brain in there.

Then Shot Gun asks, "So he's just water boarding a pencil."


"What?" I ask.

"He's water boarding a pencil.  You know, just seeing how much water he can get the pencil to soak up."  He says, with an air of "duh, Mom."

(Second Pause.)

"Water LOG.  He's water logging a pencil."

"Same thing."

Almost . . . but . . . no.  I am intrigued, however, by the idea of water boarding a pencil.  I can see it now . . . .

A group of frantic high school juniors are gathered in a dark basement, a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling.  Their eyes are blood shot from hours spent poring over Wikipedia pages and Spark Notes summaries.  Their hands are shaking from a week-long diet of Doritos and Monster drinks.  They are wearing smelly, wrinkled clothing because they have been up for two days straight, trying to cram an entire semester into 36 hours.  They are desperate and it has come to this.

In the midst of their frenetic, anxious circle is a table.  On that table is a popsicle stick held up by a couple of bent 3x5 cards pulled from an old Spanish vocab flash card set.  A Ticonderoga #2, dull and battered, is strapped to the popsicle stick with a frayed hair tie pulled from a pseudo man-bun one of the juniors has been trying to grow all year.

A female junior leans closer, her mouth open and her breath coming in short, ragged gasps.  A drop of sweat rolls down her temple as she pushes her glasses back up her nose.  She holds up a pipette, purloined from the AP Chemistry classroom.  It is full of water and her finger holds one end, stopping the fluid from rushing forth.

"You can see we're serious," her voice wavers.  "We KNOW you have the data we need."

"Do it now!" A short, plump student growls.  "Enough questions!"  She lifts in her inhaler and takes a sharp puff.

"But we don't have the information yet," another student wails, wringing his hands.  "I only have three pages done!  I NEED 800 MORE WORDS!!"  He pulls at his hair and grimaces with brace-adorned teeth.

"Calm down!" The pipette-wielder yells.  "Our friend Ticonderoga is smart," she continues in a calmer voice.  

The pencil says nothing.

"It knows tomorrow is the last day of the semester."  A tic starts to pulse under the student's left eye.  

Silence continues.

She raises her hand.  "It knows we are desperate and out of time."  

The pencil continues mute.

Her hand begins to shake.  "It knows WE know all good pencils have the secret of the Perfect Essay imbedded in their cores."  

There is no answer.

Her finger tenses.  "It WILL give us the correct answers for our scan trons!"

And she lifts her finger.

We'll be sure to let you know if the pencil gives up the goods.  Or dissolves.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

In Defense of the Mommy Hiking Sandals

As many of you may be aware, I recently went on a hike that left me . . . Wanting. Wanting better hiking shoes, a less dusty trail, more shade, less weight on my feet, and fewer years under my belt. And definitely fewer bees and Bionic Blind Women. (See "Today I Became An Old Woman" if you are either confused or intrigued. Or both.) It could have been very easy to blame the whole situation on my footwear, but the truth of the matter is that I could have been wearing custom-made trekkers from Ecco and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference. That trail kicked my trash.

Yet, I still feel I owe it to my awesome and super comfortable hiking sandals (yes, HIKING, even though they do have a teensy-weensy bit of heel to them) to demonstrate how adequate they are for the casual hike (a REAL casual hike, not the trail of torture the last hike proved to be). And so I proudly donned them as we set out to hike up Diamond Head.

For those of you unfamiliar with this hike, here are the spec's: it is a 1.6 mile loop, with a 560 foot elevation gain. In real words, this hike goes straight up hill for almost a mile then straight back down, via switchbacks ala Lombard Street. So it's short, but it's kind of a killer. There are about 374 steps to climb over two stretches. I am not making that up. (But I am using creative liberty.) And it's Hawaii, with no shade, but a decent breeze. So, hot and muggy, but some decent air movement.

Here's how it went down. I. Did. Not. Quit. Ta-Da!! Did my son and his friends stop a couple times to make sure I hadn't fallen off the hillside? Sure. Was I sweating like I'd sprung a leak through every square inch of my skin? You betcha. Did more than one (read: FOUR) hiker in a row look at me with concern and assure me I was "almost there!"? Indeed they did. But I made it! And guess what? So did my sandals. Thus I repeat, TA-DA!!

They did a great job. Portions of this hike are, in fact, paved. But most of it is not. Most of it is the rock hillside, carved or blasted or simply worn down, formed into a trail of sorts. It is anything but level and there are loose rocks everywhere. And my sandals handled all of it. Even the wretched staircases that went on forever. I mean really, how hard would it have been to add a couple "viewing platforms," even without any actual view to, um, view? It's not like I'm asking for an elevator, sheesh.

Yep, totally happy with my Mommy Hiking Sandals. And we have no need to mention the dozens of tiny little Japanese women who also hiked it successfully in every sort of non-hiking footwear including zipper-back gladiator sandals, strappy kitten heels, fur-lined bedroom slippers, or 3" bedazzled wedges while wearing a georgette dress and carrying a parasol. (You think I'm kidding. I have pictures.) Me and my sandals made it and that's all that matters.

(But seriously, I'd be willing to be you could get to the top of Mount Friggin' Everest and be all ready to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing one of the most challenging efforts humankind can make and there would be a pack of little Japanese women up at the top, in their kitten heels and sparkly flip flops, smiling and waving and wondering what all the fuss was about. Those women can do anything. And accessorize at the same time. Bring a brownie, dang it.)

All Hail The Spoon

As I wander through my 29th year (again), I pause and wonder (again) about the beauty of re-learning things I have previously learned.  I like to look at it this way rather than thinking of it as "crap I should have remembered the first eight times I learned it."  You know the sort -- "I'll definitely remember this particular spot where I am placing my reading glasses."  (No, you won't.). "I can hop right down off of this chair I've been standing on to fix a wall hanging."  (Only if you want to limp for a week.) And my all time favorite, "Eating a full hamburger, fries, and shake meal is a great American summer classic activity and will be perfectly fine just this once." (Seriously?  You couldn't even do this when you were teen without wanting to barf the rest of the day.)

There are some things that are a treat to re-learn, despite the posted evidence.  I recently had the opportunity to become reacquainted with one of the most useful gadgets of all time.  This item has always been in my arsenal of basic go-to tools, and in fact I have several in varying sizes, shapes, and materials.  I am referring to the great classic Wooden Spoon.

Here's how this awareness came about.  I was fortunate enough to go on a classic tropical vacation recently.  I had been looking forward to it (possibly unhealthily so) for several months.  I positively NEEDED to relax by a pool and think about nothing except whether I should have lunch now or in an hour.  Or both.  Finally vacation time came.  I was pretty sure someone had altered the space-time continuum to make sure an entire extra year of waiting got squeezed in between the weeks leading up to departure.  (But only into my Perceived Waiting Time.  My Actual Useful Time seemed to have been reciprocally shortened, leaving me scrambling to get everything necessary done before I could commence poolside daydreaming.  I believe scientists refer to this as the Theory of Relative Stress.  The equation looks something like PWT/AUT= Rainbow Circle of Death.

Anyway, finally I found myself on a lovely beach with nothing to do but hold down my beach towel and read my book.  I had dutifully applied sunscreen to any place that was easy to reach, and I figured 1) we wouldn't be there too long anyway 2) clouds were passing often enough and 3) I was pretty tan after summer activities as it was.  It will surprise absolutely no one to learn I absolutely fried the middle of my back due to being not "easy to reach" and me being "too stinkin' lazy." (I am quoting myself both times.) Initially, I knew I had a sunburn, but I was holding out hope it wouldn't be too bad.  But by bed time, I knew I was toast.  Literally.

Yep, that next morning, I could see by effort of craning my neck that I was an unpromising shade of red right through the middle of my back.  So now I had a dilemma.  I wasn't on vacation alone, I was with one of my sons and his two buddies for their senior trip.  Dealing with the location of this burn left me with something of a puzzle.  I wasn't adverse to having my son help apply sunscreen whilst I was wearing a swimsuit, but having him help me at other times was a bit awkward.  How to get that dang aloe evenly applied on my own after exiting the shower? Squirt it on a towel first and then rub the towel on my back?  That sounded like a new form of torture.  Spread it on a wall and then rub up against the wall?  Could be messy.  And expensive when the hotel ended up having to re-wallpaper the bathroom.  Probably not a good idea.  No, I needed a tool that could reach my back easily and apply whatever first aid I currently stood in need of.

So I roamed up and down the aisles of the little grocery store, ("Foodland.  Where I buy all my food.  And all my land."  Bonus points for identifying the mangled quote) trying to figure out what doodad would be my salvation.  And there, in the kitchen tools section, was my answer.  The standard, cheap, wooden spoon.  Long handle, nice smooth back to the spoon portion, and $2.  It was perfect.  And thus I spent the next three days, happily, if a bit wince-ingly, applying multiple layers of aloe and after sun lotions.  

The beginning of the third day proved to me yet again how helpful this classic implement truly is.  The itchy stage began.  The so-itchy-you-wish-you-were-Wolverine-so-you-could-pop-those-bad-boys-out-of-your-knuckles-and-get-some-serious-scratching-done stage.  The I-Am-Truly-Going-To-Lose-It stage.  Like all bad experiences, I had blocked this part of sun burn healing from my memory.  But the moment I felt the first crunchy twinge between my shoulder blades, it all came screaming back.  Once again, the spoon came to my rescue.  That lovely, long handle reached every scratchy spot.  Is there anything more satisfying than actually being able to scratch a spot that's been driving you nuts?  Especially when that one spot is, in fact, your entire back?  Ahh, thank you Wooden Spoon.

And as I thought happy, friendly thoughts about my wooden spoon, I recalled all the other terrific uses it has: 

When one's offspring has outgrown one's self and one's arm's reach, the Wooden Spoon is particularly effective at delivering smacks upside the head when said offspring thinks he is safely out of reach.  

When one is slightly below average height for a female human and one's kitchen cabinets are set at a height convenient for NBA players, Wooden Spoon comes once again to the rescue in the acquisition of pots and pans on the top shelves.  (This would once again prove the need for relearning patently obvious things.  I recently neglected to use the Wooden Spoon as I was attempting to put away my cast iron Dutch oven on a top shelf, apparently thinking I had Go-Go Gadget arms.  I do not.  I now have a new stove and a mild concussion.  All for want of using the Wooden Spoon.) 

Wooden Spoons have been critical in the rescue of lost favorite shirts behind the washing machine, in the manufacture of Cub Scout bows (needed an arrow to test the string's pull), and as a makeshift splint for "broken" wrists.  (It always amazes me how "broken" bones and "impending death" always seem to spontaneously resolve when chore/nap/bed time ends.  It could do our national healthcare system a world of good if we employed an army of gray-haired women to bake cookies in Emergency Departments or ICUs and have them declare "Yay, we're all done with chores!  Let's have cookies!" Every 45 minutes or so.  Think about all that miraculous curing.  It's a crime we haven't implemented this already.)

A Wooden Spoon is the perfect tool for testing the correct consistency for brioche dough (just enough flour to make a wooden spoon stand up), pulling an oven wire rack out of a hot oven when all of the oven mitts are AWOL, and reaching under the couch to get the remote.  (Unless you have the standard carnivorous couch that eats remotes and half of earring sets.  Then no spoon in the world can help you.  Sorry.)

And in a pinch, you could always stir some soup with it.  But wash the sunscreen off first.  All Hail The Wooden Spoon!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Letter of Complaint

Celestial Design Department
247365 Enlightenment Blvd
Nirvana, the Cosmos 77777-7777 

To the Head of the Celestial Design Department:

Despite Your lack of response to my previous Letter of Concern, dated July 20, 2012 (precisely FIVE years ago, ahem), which I am certain must have been mis-filed, owing to Your ever-reaching and all-encompassing To Do list, I find I compelled to write to You again.  I am most grieved to say this time I must file a full Letter of Complaint.

It has recently come to my attention that the potential auxiliary failures that can accompany the planned obsolescence of the Baby Factory System with its Plug & Play connectivity features are accurate, as written in the attached literature.  I have no quarrel with the pre-programmed closure of my BF.  In fact, this was a much-anticipated event that I looked forward to, at least once a month, for more than three decades.  

I must say that I am fully satisfied with the cessation of my BF.  Additionally, I must also include that while I have not actually enjoyed the attendant system malfunctions of Cooling System 1.0, which has caused Hot Flash (beta) to trigger, as well as Night Sweats 2.0, I was not unaware of these eventualities and fully expected these occurrences.  Likewise, owing to the fact that Basic Headache 1.0 and Migraine 2.0 have long since been installed in my OS, I accepted the onset of Hormone Migraine 3.0 with, I believe, near-angelic patience.  And a bulk-size bottle of Excedrin.

I will allow that I did not fully read the entire owner's manual regarding the shutdown of BF, although I was vaguely aware of the Fat Hoarding feature that switches on with the approaching programmed shutdown.  I will say, however, that I did not expect this feature to work quite so well and with such astounding speed and efficiency.  To that end, I would have to say "well done," except that I find the effectiveness of Your programming now requires me to purchase clothing with elastic waistbands and added spandex.  This is not a desired outcome.

Despite my new-found rotundity, I admit that all of these features have been operating as advertised.  They are not the cause of  my complaint.  My complaint is due entirely to the additional, reactive programs that were not made at all clear in the literature.  Specifically, I am referring to the parallel obsolescence of Basic Cogitation 1.0.  This is crap.  On what planet (specifically, this one) would any Enlightened Designer plan to have Basic Cogitation malfunction at any time during the normal progress of human life, let alone have it grind to a messy halt during the Teen Formative Phase that any Maternal Unit of a Male (or MUM) WILL have to navigate!  I specifically refer to Syracuse Male v.1999, Woodland Male v. 2002, and Woodland Male v. 2004.  

As Your Eminence is abundantly aware, all six models You opted to send me are the "ByzantineComplexity with added Intensity" version, despite my request for the "Gentle Genius" models.  To shut down the functioning of Basic Cogitation WHILE the last three models are STILL in the construction phase is pure madness!  And while I am certain Your Great Omniscence is fully aware that the v. 2004 still has many years of construction yet to go, please allow me to emphasize this crucial fact.  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO COMPLETE ASSEMBLY WITHOUT A FUNCTIONAL OPERATING SYSTEM?!

My subsequent research has indicated that this so-called "Fuzzy Thinking" is, in fact, a common side program that often runs alongside the de-escalation of the Baby Factory System.  My experiences with the parallel running of these two programs has frequently led  me to make upwards of twenty-three trips up and down the staircase to remember I am looking for my glasses.  It has led me to run across my house like my underwear is on fire to find a pencil so I can write down a crucial grocery item that I have so far forgotten at the store three times in a row.  It has caused me to stare blankly into my confused son's eyes as I strive, mid-arugment, to remember what the rest of the sentence I am hollering at him was supposed to be about.

To be clear, You expect me to engineer the critical completion phase of Teen Boy Development WITHOUT allowing a JailTime Malfunction or an EducationExplusion Virus Cascade to occur, despite not having a fully functional Basic Cogitation Program--never mind that the HigherProfundity and EsotericReasoning slots have been empty for so long the dust bunnies in there have all applied for AARP.  You must be kidding.

All I can conclude is that this engineering design work was done by a man.

Once again, thanking You in all your Eternalness for your attention to this matter.  Praying for your continued omniscienceness and illustriousivity.  


PS-- I'm not kidding.  Fix this or there will be . . . consequences . . . Just as soon as I remember why I walked upstairs . . .

Monday, July 17, 2017

Today I Became An Old Woman

Today I became an old woman.  Well, actually it was last Wednesday, but you get it.  Here's how it went down.  We are currently in Utah where the Davis Clan has gathered from the western half of the country for a family reunion.  Wednesday morning's schedule read: Hike to Waterfall.  Easy peasy.  I am a true child of the northwest, I was hiking before I could actually walk.  I guess we would call that being a Baby-Carrieree, rather than a hiker?  Who knows.  Anyway, people in the Pacific Northwest hike.  It's just what we do, and with good reason.  It's gorgeous there.  So, in summary, seeing "hike" on the activity agenda, knowing small children and non-hiking Texans would be involved, I was nothing but happy about our planned activity.  As my father-in-law had said the night before, "It's an easy two and a half miles, ok for kids."

We get to the trailhead.  I am wearing my hiking sandals.  They are super comfy, designed for outdoor activity, and it's already 80 degrees at 8 in the morning.  I think nothing about it.  A group of college kids who are obviously well-trained runners, set off before us, running the trail.  I think, well, if they're running it, it should at least be pretty level.  We finally get all the shoes tied and all the water bottles located.  We set off.

Everyone under thirty immediately zips ahead.  Honestly, it's like they're walking on one of those airport moving sidewalks.  Even my daughter, who is carrying her TWENTY-SEVEN POUND TODDLER on her back, just cruises along.  But she works out and is used to carting Little Miss around, so I feel nothing but joy in seeing my family enjoying the outdoors.  I notice, after the first thirty feet, that this trail seems to start off kinda steep, with a bunch of really large rocks in the way.  I think to myself, "They really oughta re-grade this trailhead and get rid of the rocks."  We hike on, but the steep part isn't ending.  And since it rains in Utah in the summer about as often as my boys remember to lift the seat, it's super dusty and I now have dusty dirt and tiny rocks filling my sandals.  I am annoyed but determined to let it go.  I am a PNW Girl, dang it.  A little dust does not bother me.

And the steep part STILL isn't ending.  And there are more big rocks in the trail.  Rocks you have to climb to get over.  And no shade.  And it's 5,000+ feet elevation on this trail.  I live at 54.  Not 54 hundred, 54 feet total.  My new hiking sandals really aren't doing it for me anymore, since they did not come with the Oxygen Tank accessory pack.  I do have water, which I am chugging.  Then I remember the college kids.  They must not be college kids, they must be, I don't know, Olympian Trail Runners in training.  They aren't fully human, I know that.

A quarter of a mile in, we pass a gate post and enter a wooded area.  SHADE.  I have never been so appreciative of shade.  Guess who else likes shade?  The bees.  And the horseflies.  But I AM A PNW GIRL, DANG IT!  I AM TOUGHER THAN THIS.  I DO NOT WHINE.  We hike on.  We cross a little stream with a lovely little bridge.  The moisture from the stream adds a greatly needed cooling effect to the nice little breeze running through the trees.  I can almost forget the half-pound of gritty dirt-sand between my toes.  And the trail is still going up.  It's got to level out soon, I keep telling myself.  A man and woman in their 60's or 70's pass us on their way back down.  He is hiking with walking stick.  They both have solidly gray hair and a lifetime of wrinkles.  They are sweaty, but making nice progress on their decent.  We make the appropriate pleasantries as they pass.  The trail MUST level out soon, if those two hiked all the way up.  As my FIL said, "easy, ok for kids." Maybe we are on the wrong trail?  But no, we pass a marker.  This is the right trail.  I'm wondering what kids he meant?  Then realize allllll the kids in our group are far, far ahead of me.  Ah.  Those kids.  And the old people we passed are . . . former stuntmen?  Gotta be.

We keep going up.  The rocks get bigger.  A few bona-fide rock slides are thrown, which require hands and feet scrambling.  And because I have hiked all my life and occasionally torture myself with exercise, I know distances.  I know we haven't even gone a mile, far short of the two and half miles each way on this trail of terror.  I am sweating like my skin is made of soaker-hose, I am gasping for air, I am feeling a bit dizzy.  And then, AND THEN, a friggin' bee stings me.

And I became an old woman.  I do not care anymore.  I don't care that I'm descended from women tough enough to pull their own wagons when the oxen dropped dead on the journey west.  I don't care I will draw down disgrace upon the name of Camp Woman if I turn around.  I don't care I might be in jeopardy of losing my PNW Girl Card if I turn around.  I genuinely DO. NOT. CARE. what anyone in the world will think of me if I quit. THIS HIKE IS DONE.

In this moment, I take my first step on to that trail of Old Womanhood I predict I will hike spectacularly well.  It is the trail of "NOPE."  Being polite in the face of a rude teen working fast food?  NOPE.  Wearing the less-comfortable pants because they look more stylish and young than the stretchy waist, "breathable-fabric" pair?  NOPE.  Skipping a second helping of dessert because it was bad enough that I had a first helping of dessert?  NOPE.  Powering on to the end of this hike because my pride requires me to hike till I'm dead?  N. O. P.  E.

With every particle of understanding and full assurance from me that I don't need help back, my husband smiles and hikes on with his brother.  I start down, with a great load off my back.  It is ok to turn around when you know you are truly out of your depth.  My legs are shaky and I actually do slip and fall on one vertical flat rock pretending to be part of the horizontal trail.  But I catch myself and I'm still very much at peace with my decision.  I don't even have to blame it on my footwear, which is now carrying between 2-4 pounds of dirt, depending on how often I stop to pry loose a rock.  I don't have to blame it on the elevation, even though that's definitely a factor.  I am simply out of shape.  Do I make motivated and determined plans and goals to work out and being running when I get home?  Nope.  Right now, I am ok with being out of shape.

My new found enlightenment gets a few checks as I walk back to the parking lot.   There's a bench in a small covered area near the start and I sit to rest.  Other hikers making their way back down begin to pass by as I wallow in my small pond of sweat, sucking in oxygen and really wishing there was a nice cool bed, or even a nice cool coffin, to lay down in.  I am OVER this hike.  But I take note as other hikers pass me by, people who made it to the top and back successfully, unlike the tub of goo I have become: a cub scout troop of approximately 117 eight year-old boys.  They are singing and laughing and waving their little troop flag. But that's ok, everyone knows kids run on atomic batteries.  Another group of Olympic trail runners.  Except they aren't Olympic trail runners.  They are freakin' high schoolers.  I know this because their coach keeps yelling out "Ogden High XC, this way!"  They basically spring through the entrance and out through the parking lot like they haven't just jauntily jogged up the Matterhorn.  But that's ok.  Again, teens are fueled by jet fuel and energy drinks.  A biker dude smoking a cigarette passes by with his floozy girlfriend.  He's hiking in biker boots and black leather, while she's wearing a bikini top, short shorts, and flip flops.  My new resolve not to care takes a serious hit here.  Dude is a bad version of the Marlboro man, the one who totally died from lung cancer.  But I let that pass on the grounds of "I'm choosing not to notice this."

And then a BLIND LADY passes me.  An abso-friggin-lutely BLIND LADY, with her service dog and pole, has made it up and back.  There is no possible way for me to overstate how truthful and serious I am being here.  A BLIND LADY.  And me with my two perfectly good eyes and unbroken legs didn't even make it half way.  I'm not sure I have ever felt so completely and literally laaaaaame.

The moment passes and I knew I truly had become an Old Woman because just like that, I didn't care.  Nope.  It's a lovely trail to be on, unlike the Trail of Death that apparently even blind people can scramble up.  The Old Woman Trail is flat, unpretentious, completely honest about bodily functions, and gives zero (bleeps).  It's whatever you need it to be.  I think I will greatly enjoy this hike.

And I also think I might have some oxygen deprivation happening.  I didn't need those brain cells anyway.

Monday, July 3, 2017


Quick post today, since it's Fourth of July tomorrow and I have to figure out how to get food, surf gear, and people all to and from the beach without losing anyone.  Really, no promises.

My thoughts on being an American.

I love being American like I love my kids.  They are everything, my whole world.  And yet I fully acknowledge they can be world class turd burgers.

That's pretty much America.  We are


And yet we are absolutely


Sometimes we are totally awesome and amazing.  Sometimes we are complete turd burgers.  But the fact that we are free and able to be and do either is the whole point.  If we weren't free to be jerks, we wouldn't be free to be whatever we do want to be, including amazing, brave, outspoken, full of integrity, kind, and loyal.  And we are most of those good things most of the time.  It ain't always pretty, but it usually is.  The possibility is always there to be more, to be better, to be amazing.  We stumble sometimes, but we keep trying.  I am always grateful to be American.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Toilets, Dating, Little Brothers

There’s nothing quite so beautiful like a clean toilet.

If you’ve lived with little boys, you know what I’m talking about. I’m obsessed with sparkling white toilets. To the point that when I’ve visited friends, if I use their bathroom and their toilet is dirty, I’ll clean it. I’m that neurotic about it.

Sometimes I talk about this with friends who didn’t grow up with little brothers or any brothers at all and they have no idea what I’m talking about. Sure, a clean toilet’s better than a dirty one, but…? Obviously they’ve never lived in a house where they regularly had to clean the toilet before they could use it. Their toilets were never permanently yellow-gray and sticky.

I’ve survived four little brothers (I’m the oldest and only girl) and sometimes people say to me, “Wow! You’re really prepared for marriage!” which is a horrifying thing to say to a single young woman. On my list of “Top 10 Things To Say To Guarantee Nina Becomes a Spinster,” it’s at least #3 and just barely above “women tend to marry men like their fathers” and “you’ll spend the rest of your life with them!”

Nobody ever qualifies this statement, so I’m left to stew in fear. Hopefully, they meant, “Wow! After four little brothers, living with anyone would be an improvement!” What I’m worried they meant was, “Wow! Your spirit has already been broken and you’re ready to live with a part-man, part-monkey beast that eats all your food, communicates in grunts, smells like a middle school locker room, and leaves dirty underwear lying around!” Excuse me while I look up directions to the nearest nunnery.

(WikiHow has an article on how to become a nun. Did you know that? I’ve looked it up many, many times. True, I’d have to be baptized a Catholic first, but there’s no part where you have to renounce your Mormon membership, and to be honest I think God understands these things.)

Whatever these well-intended people meant, they were right. Dealing with little brothers has prepared me for life. It makes up 80% of the reasons why I know I’ll be a great nurse - someone’s bleeding? No big deal. Clean it up and get on with life. Gotta change diapers on the elderly and clean them up? Also no big deal. It’s just the wrinklier version of stuff I’ve already seen. (Unfortunately, little brothers don’t prepare you for the older gentlemen who, uh, prefer female nurses to help them bathe and clean up. You’re already clean, sir, I’m not wiping you again. Let’s get your pants on. Ugh.)

Not only that, growing up with little bros has played into my dating life as well. Take, for instance, my one and only Tinder date: (I only lasted a week, so stop judging.)

He seemed nice enough on his profile, so when we met up at Jamba, things seemed ok at first. About twenty minutes in, I knew I wouldn’t date this guy ever. I try to give men a chance - say yes to the first date, don’t expect rainbows and butterflies, don’t judge them by first impressions, etc. But this guy was way too Utah-y for it to work. We didn’t have much in common and he was super Mormon (I’m not talking about core Mormon beliefs. I’m talking the unwritten, cultural rules that are stupid but everyone follows and then judges others for not following. YES THOSE GIRL’S SHORTS SHOW HER KNEES, AND WHO CARES, THEY’RE JUST KNEES, SHE IS NOT SEDUCING ANYONE WITH THOSE KNEECAPS, SO CALM DOWN, JANICE).

But he didn’t pick up on that. He thought I was great. I thought I wanted to be done with this date, and then I was going to go home and delete my Tinder. (I did.) I finished my smoothie. He finished his. I waited for us to get up and leave so I could go home. But he kept talking and talking. I lasted for maybe ten minutes of conversation while giving subtle signs I needed to go, like throwing away my smoothie, picking up my bag. He didn’t notice. I knew I needed to take drastic measures, so I subtly changed the conversation.

Him: So, what are your plans this summer? Are you going to visit your family?
Me; Nope. Which is a good thing, too, because my brothers poop.
Him: ?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Me: Yeah, I grew up with little brothers. It was so nice to go to college and live with girls, because maybe they’ll be gossipy or catty but at least they won’t poop on my stuff out of spite, you know?
Him: ……...I guess?
Me: Oh man, the stories I could tell.

So I started sharing random childhood stories about my brothers being weirdos when using the bathroom. I figured it’d freak him out, you know, make him think, ok, maybe not this one, she’s a little unbalanced, who talks about poop on a first date? But after being thrown for a few seconds, HE JOINED IN. That’s right. HE LIKED IT. He thought I was “down to earth” and “funny.” NO, MAN, I’M CRAZY. TAKE ME HOME. So I tried other topics. I shared my cockroach horror stories from my time spent in Houston. Unfortunately, he’d lived in Louisiana, and he had better ones. What finally got him to realize I was crazy, in the end, was my story about my job as a nude model. (Technically, I’ve never been a nude model, but that’s a story for another time.)

You might think that’s an extreme example. It’s not. It’s actually the third best date I’ve ever had. Not because I’ve only been on three dates, but because my dates are spectacularly bad.

A woman in my church who’s a theater professor at a nearby university wanted to set me up with one of her students. She got us free tickets to one of her plays (Noises Off, 100% recommend), and when the guy came to pick me up, he let me pick the music on the drive up and it turned out that we had the same taste in music. Pretty great so far, right?

So we’re asking get-to-know-you questions during the drive (the play was an hour away). We talked about where we’d grown up, school, favorite things to do, the usual. One of my favorite icebreaker questions is “What animal would you reincarnate as? So, I asked him.

Him:.....(long pause)....Well, I’d have to say anything that was cannibalistic.
Me: (laughter) I’ve never gotten that response before!
Me: (continuing to laugh because it was pretty funny)
Me: (looking over and not laughing anymore because I just realized that he hasn’t laughed at all.)
Me: Uh, that was a joke, right?
Him: No, I think cannibalism is actually really cool.*

So all I can think is, OF COURSE I would go on a date with a serial killer. Hey, there hasn’t been any news about girls going missing, or being eaten, so maybe he isn’t a murder. OH SWEET HOLY CHEEZE-ITS ABOVE, I’M GOING TO BE THE FIRST VICTIM. THEY WILL FIND MY BONES YEARS LATER, THE FLESH PICKED CLEAN OFF. THEY’LL IDENTIFY MY ROTTING SKELETON BY THE TEETHMARKS HE’LL LEAVE ON MY BONES.

Here’s the thing about brothers (well, this applies to siblings in general): you learn to fight. And you learn to fight and hurt them as quickly as possible, because you’ve maybe got only a few seconds before Mom separates you. So if you’re going to fight, and you’re both going to get in trouble, you might as well do as much damage as you can. Sure, maybe you’ll spend extra time in your room, but nothing can take away the smug satisfaction of knowing you won, and they’ve got the scratches and bruises to prove it. Saying sorry will not negate a black eye. And when you’re the oldest and only girl, and you have four boys under you, you have to maintain that pecking order at all times.

So I looked over at him and calmed down. He may have had thirty pounds on me, but I had two inches on him and I have grown up with brothers. I know how to fight, and I am excellent at fighting dirty. I am prepared. So instead of freaking out or texting 911 or sending up my last prayer to Heaven (ok, I will admit I was sending up a few choice words), I looked him over and assessed him for weak spots. He probably thought I was checking him out, but I was just mentally preparing myself to bite.

(Tangent: the next person to bug me about my love life is getting dragged along on my next date. This kind of crap happens regularly. We’re not gonna talk about the guy who wouldn’t shut up about his love for The Notebook, the guy who told me I was “cool” but he was gonna date this “cute girl” he really liked and if it didn’t work out he “might get back” to me, or the guy who already had a girlfriend.)

I guess those people are right, brothers really do prepare you for life in a different family. Arguably, they’ve prepared me to see men as gross, impulsive creatures that I’ll be stuck with forever, so thanks for that trauma. The good news is, if they can at least aim when they go to the bathroom, I think I can live with it. For now, I’m just glad my roommates don’t hold farting contests.

*These are direct quotes. They’re burned into my brain and will probably stay there for all of time. Unfortunately, dating therapy isn’t a thing.