Monday, December 9, 2019

A Holiday Plague and Magic Reindeer Food

Hello again, friends. I swear I haven’t forgotten or abandoned the blog. I’ve been incredibly busy. First there was Halloween, then my son’s fifth birthday, then I was a bridesmaid in a wedding (and host of the coordinating bachelorette party), then Thanksgiving. And in between the wedding and Thanksgiving, I happened to contract a nine-day plague that had me researching pine boxes to throw my carcass in and then letting Jesus take the wheel.  Even now, as I write this, I have a box of Kleenexes within reach. The thought of pine boxes has pretty much passed. But it remains an option. Oh, and the third season of the Crown dropped.
See?? BUSY.
And yet again, December has slammed into us with great force, like a toddler jumping onto the body of a sleeping parent. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love donning ridiculous leggings adorned with festive Christmas llamas, and bringing in tub after tub of decorations to deck the halls – both of them. In addition to (or better yet – in spite of) tuberculosis, or whatever this never-ending malady is, I’ve got the Christmas spirit. Just last night, when I went to put gas in my Jeep and I looked across the river and down upon our little city’s downtown, I teared up. I’m a crier. I cry at the high school marching bands during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Look how far they’ve come!” I sob, clutching my coffee-filled snowman mug between palms.
 I love our downtown at Christmas. There’s a sense of magic as all the holiday lights twinkle and sparkle in the darkness. The little Santa house is my favorite. A few years ago, as my family, bundled against the cold, stood outside waiting our turn, I noticed the family ahead of us had one very happy little boy. They tried to subdue his bouncing excitement, but with little success. Suddenly, the little boy jumped into his dad’s arms, and exclaimed, “Happy Christmas Day, Daddy!”
The little boy’s mother, turned to me, her eyes brimming with tears, and said: “We just adopted him.”
I never learned their names. The line shuffled forward at that moment, and I was only able to yell, “Merry Christmas!” to them, as they disappeared around the corner. But, I assure you, I will never forget that family. To this day, every time we pass by the Santa house, my husband says, “Happy Christmas Day!” And the tears well up in my eyes.
Being a mom, it’s up to me to create the Christmas magic. I follow some of the traditions we had when I was a kid. We set up Teddy’s little Christmas tree in his room. I get him special Christmas pjs to wear on Christmas Eve. And then there’s the Reindeer Food. Every morning of December 24rd, one of Santa’s little elves stealthily leaves a small pouch of Reindeer Food on our front stoop. Included are instructions to attract the reindeer so we know that our house will be visited by Santa that night. In all reality, it’s simply oatmeal and glitter. But it’s honestly one of my favorite holiday traditions. And it’s worth it to see my son’s face light up when that special Christmas Eve darkness falls, and he tramples out of the house, clad in just his pj’s and snow boots, flinging the Reindeer Food into the air.
Jared and I have our own little traditions. In continuation with something my family has always done, we watch White Christmas on Christmas Eve. And there’s a lot of Mexican food involved. Why Mexican food? Because guacamole and margaritas are life. Feliz Navidad!
Not all Christmases have been idyllic. Just with the normalcy of life, the happiness of the holidays each year ebbs and flows. There have been times in the past that I sent myself into an anxietal tizzy, sweeping up crumbs of holiday cheer from every corner, in hopes of creating the perfect Christmas. I’ve finally learned that there is no joy in that. The wonderful feeling of a perfect Christmas cannot be fearfully thrown together. A happy holiday just happens. A truly perfect Christmas happens organically. No matter how by the book you follow a tradition, or if you decorated the tree just right; the magic of a perfect Christmas is only conjured when you sit back, relax, and let the joy of the season envelop you.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Positives and Negatives of Expletives and Distraction

I have a foul mouth. Along with avoiding cheese and keeping my calorie intake under 2,000, it’s a daily struggle to keep the F word from slipping past my lips. For example, I had just cleaned up the family room and went to make myself a cup of tea in the Keurig, when I heard the gawd-awful sound of Legos clattering onto the freshly swept hardwood. I collapsed dramatically on the kitchen counter and facedown, screamed into the Formica abyss, “ARE YOU F%#$-ING KIDDING ME?!”
See? It’s a struggle. You must sympathize with me over the Legos. But here’s the thing: maybe it’s not that big of a deal. The swearing, I mean. You don’t have to worry about clapping your hands over your children’s ears, I can read a room. While at times I find it to be completely vulgar, inappropriate, and unnecessary, at other times, depending on the situation, a carefully curated curse word can evoke hilarious and completely relatable reactions from friends, family and bystanders. But most importantly, when needing to release some pent up emotional steam, it is oh-so-satisfying.
Contemplating the whys and wherefores of my penchant for uttering obscenities led me to think about other negative aspects of my persona.
I’ve been a card-carrying member of the ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) club since 5th grade. I used to take medication for it when I was in school. But I’ve learned to deal with it as an adult, I guess. I get easily distracted and it’s very hard for me to stay on task sometimes. And, if I’m not super interested in a subject, my ability to zone-out mid-conversation is prize-winning. I suppose it could be considered just a quirky personality trait.
The only time I was truly embarrassed about my ADD was in 8th grade. It was during band class, and I was frolicking about in my own little world when I should have been paying attention. Suddenly, our band director’s voice pierced through the fog, “ELLEN, DID YOU TAKE YOUR MEDICINE TODAY?!” I was so humiliated. I remember shooting my best friend a desperate look. I was half embarrassed and half terror-stricken that if my mother heard about this, she would literally rip my band director limb from limb. I didn’t tell my mom until adulthood. Her response was pretty much what I had expected. I did have to remind her that the band director in question wasn’t employed at that school anymore, and I didn’t know her forwarding address. And no, she couldn’t be fired for something that occurred in 2002.
No one talks about the positives of having ADD. I’m creative. Ideas come to me in a flash. I can start a conversation with just about anyone. I also can completely zone out when my husband watches wrestling or football and, choosing instead to read a complete novel. No interest = nonexistent when it comes to ADD.
My therapist says I need to work on oversharing. But here’s the other thing, I do keep things close to the chest. It just depends on what the subject. My political and social views are one thing I’m not too loud about. What’s the point? It just feels like screaming into the void anymore. But I have views and I have opinions. I have stomped for candidates, and I have donated my time and money to movements that I hold dear. But I don’t really share that stuff on social media. It only causes strife and pointless argument. And I’d rather share an on-point meme anyway.
I feel there are positive aspects to almost everything. I worry that I’m being too loud or overcompensating with humor. But I also could be breaking some invisible wall of tension for someone. I zone out to a clinical degree. On the up side, perhaps I’ll miss someone saying something offensive that would make me fume and obsess and stick with me for days? I swear too much. This could also be read as I speak with passion. I might make someone laugh. See? Silver linings.
Sometimes I feel like I’m performing. When meeting new people, I often overcompensate with humor and self-deprecation. It is impossible for me to be act coy or act stoic upon first introductions. Instead, I perform like I’m auditioning for SNL or filling in for Ellen (the famous one) on her day off. My only saving grace is that I don’t employ props. I hate props – unless you find yourself in need of a dirty joke as you’re picking out your produce, then I’m your girl. But here’s the thing, it’s automatic. I cannot help myself. When I’m completely extra during conversation, I’m just being myself. So what’s the point of giving a flying f . . . ing poop? If I make someone laugh and brighten their day, that’s awesome. If people think I’m loud and annoying? #*&! ‘em!

Friday, September 27, 2019

In a Van, Down by the River

Everyone has a first car. I did not. I had a van. Actually, it was my parents’ van. It was not a cool van. It was a 1992 maroon Dodge Plymouth mini-van. The interior was festooned with weird stains and there were numerous cigarette burns resulting from its brief stint as my brother-in-law’s vehicle at Miami University. The radio didn’t work, the heat was faulty, and it stalled out in the middle of intersections, possibly due to driver error. But she was mine and she held seven passengers. Her name was Pam. Pam the Van. When I was gifted Pam, my dad stood over me, sternly dangling the keys over my open hand. “This vehicle is for travel to school and school related activities. It is not, I repeat, it is not a party van and you are not to use it to haul your friends around. Now, repeat after me. I, Ellen Leah Kohart, do solemnly swear that I will not allow more than one passenger in this van at any time.”
I repeated the oath verbatim and grabbed the keys. Then I drove off and was immediately pulled over for rolling a stop. The keys and I enjoyed a week’s vacation from each other. And the oath was subsequently amended to “I, Ellen, will come to a complete stop at all intersections signs . . . Blah blah blah.”
To truly make Pam mine, I added SpongeBob decals to the back windows and adorned the rearview mirror with a set of dangling stuffed frog heads. The frog heads were my favorite, but now they would just remind me of green testicles.
Giving a 16-year-old the keys to a family vehicle is asking for trouble. I was a literal bus service for my friends. YES, I REMEMBER THE OATH. Despite my solemn vow, I packed my friends into every available crevice, nonetheless. I was the getaway driver for countless acts of debauchery.
My dad recalls the day my transportation provider status was blown.
“Before giving Ellen the keys to the van, I gave her the standard lecture on responsibility and also told her that I did not want the van used as a taxi or to provide bus service for all her friends. She assured me that it would never happen. Not 24-hours later, after picking Ellen’s younger sister from basketball practice in Paulding, we stopped at a red light located at the courthouse square. As we sat there waiting for the light to change, the van, jammed full of teenage girls, went sailing through the intersection. Although Ellen was at the wheel, her head was turned completely around, yakking at one of her backseat passengers. Her best friend Shannon spotted us sitting there and waved wildly through the window.
When she got home I met her before she could get out of the van where we had a rather animated discussion regarding the evening’s activities.”
Shannon converted Pam’s trunk into her own little mobile closet. I remember my mom coming in the house, with a pair of undies hanging off a stick. “Ellen, whose underwear are these?”
“They’re Shannon’s.”
“Why are Shannon’s underwear bunched up in the back of the van?”
“Because she keeps extra outfits in there for emergencies.” DUH, Mom.
I asked my friends what they remembered of the van, and here are their responses:
Amber: “I remember when we accidently went air-borne after you went over railroad tracks too fast. And I also remember you guys locking me in the built-in car seats because I was the only one who could fit in them.”
Shannon: “I remember that the middle of the steering wheel looked like a cat’s butt hole.”
As many times as we toilet papered the homes of classmates and teachers whom we felt had earned a comeuppance, the memory of one particular night comes to mind.
I grew up on a farm in the country. Deep in some woods near our house stood ol’ Kingery Cemetery. The cemetery was the oldest in the area and to get there we had to follow a treacherous old wagon path that wound up and down a hill. My dad usually took us there on bike rides, or he parked his truck on the road, and we hiked through the woods. Once, when my cousin, Zachary, and I were paired up for a leaf project in 7th grade, we decided that the best trees could be found in Kingery Cemetery. In my memory of the event, it was dark and ominous weather as we rode our bikes along the path into the woods. We reached the cemetery, beautifully overlooking the Auglaize River. As I started grabbing interesting leaves, Zachary called me over to the edge of the woods. A small burn pit was smoldering and a cast iron pot sat next to it. Then we heard a rustle in the trees. Friends, that is when I broke the land speed record. Dropping the handful of leaves, I sprinted to my bike much like the Roadrunner in the Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
As the years passed, as I recited the story to my friends, the events of that day swirled and twisted into a creepy tale in which I believe I added a ghostly girl in white who slowly appeared at the tree line as we stared at the smoldering burn pile. I don’t actually remember the true story. I spent too much time turning it into a worthwhile ghostly tale, now it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. I’m even starting to creep myself out now. Congrats.
As I told my friends yet again the Leaf Project Tale, it was suggested by one of them that we go investigate. At night. In the van. I agreed, although every alarm bell was jangling in my brain. As I have stated in the past, I prefer spooky and creepy at a safe distance. Preferably in a separate state. But, I had to keep face, and I was the only one with a van who could fit everyone. So a gaggle of girls, clad in black, stuffed themselves into that maroon van and set out on the half mile drive to the cemetery. It had begun to rain, and in all my nervousness, I’d forgotten that I had never been to the cemetery in anything bigger than a bicycle. Rain spattered the windshield as we passed the sign that read “Kingery Cemetery –Do Not Enter When Wet.” None of us saw it. We were all too busy laughing nervously or telling Natalie to shut up when she started making ghost noises.
The winding path was much narrower and steeper than I remembered, as I drove through the woods and to the top of the hill. I hit the gas as I swung Pam over the last bump. Rain was falling harder and harder and the cemetery loomed ominously as the van swung around the last turn, the headlights raking the black trees and pale gravestones. I put the van in park, and we all tied our hoodies around our faces to protect ourselves from the rain. As Natalie swung her door open, I remained buckled and seated firmly. “So, what’s our actual goal here? What do you guys want to accomplish with this?”
“Oh my GOD, Ellen. Get out of the van. Don’t be a baby.” Natalie said as she hopped out, straight into a muddy puddle.
“I don’t see Amber making any move for the door!” I retorted.
Amber finally unbuckled. “I was just making sure you were going. I’m going. I never said I wasn’t going!” With that, she followed Natalie into the dark.
Shannon and I sat quietly in the darkened van. “We have to go now. Come on.”
I hovered close to the van as everyone made their way around the cemetery, flashlights bobbing. “Ellen! This grave says Ellen K.! THAT’S YOU!” Natalie bellowed.
“I can see it from here, thanks! And I’m pretty sure that says Eileen.”
“Nope! It says Ellen!” Amber called after her. God damn it, Amber.
I trudged over to see for myself when Shannon yelped. She had found the remnants of the camp at the tree line. “She wasn’t lying!!! There’s a pan here! And an old coat!”
As if the weather was in agreement, there was a deafening crash of thunder and strike of lightening lit up the woods around us. We all screamed as the surrounding trees formed into an ever approaching army of ghost-like figures, just waiting to add us into their ranks. “OH MY GAAAAHHHHDDDD. WE’RE GONNA DIE!!!!” I screamed, as I ran through the muck back to the van.
Natalie sunk her foot into the mud as she tried to run after us. “Guys! Help! It’s like quicksand!” Shannon fell behind to help as Amber as I swan dove into the van. I stomped on it as mud-covered Shannon and Natalie tumbled into the back. I wrenched it into reverse, but nothing happened. The van wouldn’t move. “Oh my God. We’re stuck! We’re stuck and we’re going to die here!” I cried, hitting the gas harder and harder.
“Stop doing that! You’re making it worse!” Shannon screamed.
Natalie, already covered in mud, got out and examined the situation. She took her time getting back into the van. “Well??? What’s wrong with it?” I harshly inquired.
“We’re stuck. Duh.”
“THANK YOU, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS!” I shrieked, “You guys are going to have to push it out.”
“What do you mean, you guys??”
“Well I am obviously the driver. So, I should be the one to stay within the van. And this wasn’t my idea in the first place. I am but an innocent victim in all of this!”
I’ll leave out the part where Amber launched herself at me like a spider monkey. But as it would happen, I found myself outside in the rain again, shoving a 1992 Plymouth minivan out of a foot-deep mud hole, as Shannon hit the gas, splattering us all with grave dirt.
After many mud-covered attempts, while the deluge continued, we finally got the van out of the hole. Shannon didn’t slow down as the last members of the party sprinted to catch up and flung themselves into the open door. The van’s previously proven ability to go air-borne came in handy as we careened out of the woods, because as I looked back at the cemetery, I saw a girl, dressed in white, was standing at the tree line, waving goodbye. Or did I??? I honestly don’t remember.
The van would found herself in many more situations at the hands of a bunch of goofy teenage girls. When my sister moved to Chicago, she didn’t need a vehicle, so I got to drive her Pontiac Sunfire. It was the end of the line for Pam the Van. As excited as I was to have a new car to drive to school, I found myself missing the van. I missed being able to pile in a million girls after school. I missed being the go-to getaway car for adventures involving three mega packs of toilet paper and family sized boxes of potato flakes.
Years later, when I was looking for a mom car, Jared pulled up some minivans as options. I smiled sweetly, patted him on the back, and said, “Aw, hell no.”

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hobbitry- a Homebody's Tale

I’m a clinically diagnosed homebody. My friends and loved ones can tell you I’m less than pleasant on a road trip. Travel, though a necessity sometimes, gives me hives. I just prefer to be home. I must have been a hobbit in another life. Not one of the weird ones who embarked on an epic quest for a piece of friggin’ jewelry. I’m the one happily snapping peas in front of the ol’ hobbit hole and trying to convince her fuzzy-footed husband to repaint the hobbit domicile for the third time in a year.
With all this home-love, some might say that my house is over-decorated. I can’t help it. Empty walls cause me anxiety – and creative spark. I don’t see blank walls – to me they are a canvas waiting for embellishment.  Should an empty wall appear in my house, I don’t admire the negative space, in my head I’ve already painted it and hung up framed photos and objects de art.
My friend Kaleigh and I are opposites. But we’ve been best friends since we were 14. Where she is meticulous and patient, I’m impatient and impulsive. When she moved into a new house a couple years ago, she told me that she was afraid to commit to a paint color. She had pieces of art, but being afraid of making a mistake, it just leaned up against the wall for months. That’s okay. That’s Kaleigh. She’s organized and meticulous. She wants to know that the decision she makes is going to be the right one. I appreciate that about her. But every time I saw that the décor just sitting against the wall it stressed me out.
Kaleigh finally decorated her house. And it looks great. Very modern farmhouse. She even let me help finish her bedroom design. I considered it an honor. But it was probably her kind way of shutting me up and stopping the barrage of Pinterest pins I would send to her in droves. But she still admits that she's not so sure about her choice of paint color.
Decorating my home has always been very important to me. Maybe it’s because my mom always had our house artfully decorated. Our bedrooms always had a theme. From rabbits, to fairies and castles to Monet’s garden, everything had a theme. I always pay attention to how someone decorates. I learn things about them without them saying a word. My friend Shannon loves giraffes, and they adorn her bedroom. My friend Bridget loves the color navy, and she has awesome prints of local birds in her living room. Her kitchen would make Chrissy Tiegan jealous. My friend Megan is a vintage lover like me and decks her house in cool finds from local shops, and the treasure trove that is her back shed. She and her husband Stan live in his grandma’s old house. I admit, I’m jealous of the amount of milk glass she has discovered on the property. My other friend Meghan has amazing works of art all over her house that were painted by her great-grandmother. My sisters also each have their own style. Betsy is old world glamour with a little bit of Dolly Parton thrown in. Eve’s home is gorgeously decorated with elegant simplicity and Wedgewood blue.
I would describe my own style as . . . eclectic mayhem. I love bohemian accents and cozy corners. Keeping with my love of things hobbit-y, I love earthy tones of green, plum, charcoal and orange. I love stacks of books and a sleeping cat. I love florals and colorful pieces of art. None of my dishes match. And that’s the way I like it. I love natural elements and a bar cart stocked with wine. I love throw pillows. I love throw pillows so much that it’s become somewhat of a joke among my family and friends. I have them on every surface and shoved behind every bed. Comfort is not lacking in my home. I want my house to tell a story. The little brass figurine of a man I keep on my rattan book shelf? That was my grandfather’s. My coffee bar was my aunt’s old dresser.
I guess that’s why I over-decorate. I just enjoy surrounding myself with a visual history and it’s a representation of what’s going on in my head. I’ve got plans and ideas stuffed behind ideological beds in my brain. My entire subconscious is over-decorated. It’s who I am.

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Dash of Murder with a Sprinkle of Anxiety

It’s Friday the 13th which makes it the perfect day to reveal a deep, dark secret about myself. Well, it’s not really a secret from anyone who knows me, but I guarantee the deep and dark part. I am a murderino. What is a murderino, you ask? A murderino is a true crime junkie. One who looks at tales of murder and mayhem with the utmost fascination. The term murderino is also used to describe followers of the podcast, My Favorite Murder. My Favorite Murder or MFM, as I refer to it, is a true crime comedy podcast hosted by former Food Network host, Georgia Hardstark, and comedienne and comedy writer, Karen Kilgariff.
I adore these two women. They somehow take the dark and macabre genre of true crime and turn it into a platform for women’s rights and self-care. They crack jokes that cause me to literally LOL. Advocates for therapy and mental health, both Karen and Georgia are very open about their past struggles with drugs, alcohol, and eating disorders. They talk about the crime victims not only as a body in a scary story, but as real people. Or as Georgia refers to them, “sweet baby angels.” Stories of murdered sex workers are approached with the same heartfelt sympathy and respect as any other victim of a horrific crime. They are never treated as less than because of their situations.
Karen and Georgia have created a community that may have already been there, but it’s now united. And somehow have made it their own. I have turned many friends onto the podcast and been surprised to hear which friends were already followers. I got to see MFM live in Detroit a couple years ago with my friend Sally. We posted photos on social media, like any good lil’ Millennial. I was happily surprised to see that my old coworker, Desirae, was in attendance and also posted photos from the same show. An old cosmetology classmate, Tricia, reconnected with me after seeing that I was reading Georgia and Karen’s book, Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered. Look guys! Murder can bring people together!
Like most children, I was intrigued by the morose and murderous. But, I never quite outgrew that stage. That might explain why I have always been a very nervous person. My personalities make strange bedfellows. I love a good ghost story and will happily agree to go ghost hunting, then when we get there, I won’t get out of the car.
I remember sitting in a big wing-backed chair in my grandpa’s living room, skinned knees folded up to my chin, nose deep in a big, red leather bound book. The book was about the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The photos were black and white, and so blurry I had to put my face close to the pages. Being thus occupied, I didn’t notice my dad had approached and was looming over me, his tall figure casting a shadow over my little entranced state. “Ellen, what are you doing?” he asked.
I looked up and grinned a big toothless smile. “I’m trying to see the blood on this guy’s head.”
Well, that ended that. The book was quickly lifted from my grasp and hidden from my prying eyes. I probably ended up sleeping wedged in between two irritated parents that night. It’s okay, though. I still secretly dug out my mom’s old nursing books to look at photos of gun-shot wounds.
The curious thing is, as fascinated with true crime as I am, I’m an anxious mess. I walk through parking lots with my keys gripped between my fingers. I might keep a golf club under my side of the bed. I said I MIGHT. You don’t know if I actually do. I have given Teddy the stranger-danger talk so much that he told a little boy at his school he couldn’t play with him because he’s a stranger. He just didn’t know the kid’s name. We’re still working on the definition of stranger. Better safe than sorry.
I remind myself of self-defense moves if a creep gets handsy. Go for the balls, Ellen, just go for the balls. I will profess that a creep has never gotten handsy with me. Unless you count old boyfriends. AMMIRITE?! That’s a joke. Jared was my only real boyfriend. Unless you count getting my butt pinched at a basketball game in 7th grade by a boy. It was the most exhilarating moment in my 13 years. But I digress.
 As anxious and nervous as I am, my morbid fascination has not been quelled. I am filled with fun facts about serial killers. I can pepper in tidbits about Ted Bundy or Edmund Kemper into any conversation. I’m really fun at parties. And I’m either really good or really bad at changing subjects. “Speaking of parties; how much do you guys know about the Donner Party? You gonna eat that last bacon-wrapped shrimp? Eh? Eh?”
I once re-lined all my kitchen cabinets while listening to a nine hour-long podcast about Charles Manson and his cult. I might have gotten into trouble when I worked at the coffee shop because of this. Apparently questions about Charlie Manson’s failed music career are “not appropriate” for the trivia board. What?? It’s interesting!
I find no shame in my morbid curiosity. One might think I should spend my time filling my head with positive thoughts and happy vibes. And I do. But there’s a little back room, lit only by candlesticks, in the curiosity shop of my mind. It is there that dwells the murderous and macabre. This dimly lit library also holds the lyrics to Rapper’s Delight and the Golden Girls theme. I don’t have a category for everything and I have to put them somewhere.  

Friday, September 6, 2019

Lip Smackers and High Waists

I was a teen in the early 2000s. Every once in a while I get phantom whiffs of blueberry roll-on glitter and Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers. Jeans and velour track pants had waistlines that idled haphazardly around the pubic bone. The zippers were all of three inches long. I wasn’t the skinniest teen. So the low-rise movement didn’t do my husky figure any favors. My sisters diagnosed it as “receding butt-crack.” Don’t laugh. There are dozens of us. DOZ-ZENS. It really was the damn pants. I swear.
When my mother suggested I try jeans from the women’s department, I was aghast. I already had braces and boyishly short hair. Wear mom jeans with the iconic baggy butt and bosom-high waistband to school and I would have been verbally flogged. Not that I made savvy fashion choices of my own. I wore a SpongeBob Squarepants tee shirt with the eyes located right, well, figure it out. I attempted bright blue eyeshadow. I gelled my already short into a Sguiggy-like do that welded into a flaky helmet. To add to all that charm, I picked at it during class. It was a tough decade.
Fashion of the 2000s was obnoxious. Girls placed stickers in precarious locations on their hips. Once they achieved that lovely tanning booth hue, somewhere between saddle leather and Tang, their pelvic bones read, “Nobody’s Angel” or “Miss-Understood.” My favorite was the totally inappropriate Playboy Bunny sticker dispensed by the vending machine at the skating rink. My natural hips are located slightly lower than my nipples, so sticker tattoos were not really an option for me.
I have an old friend, Rachel.  Even in second grade she took life by the horns, grabbed it, and told it who was boss. When recalling those days it’s all too easy to picture her with a cigarette dangling from her lip and can of Bud Light clutched in her little hand. One day we were in high school home economics class together and I was debating whether to start tanning.
Like a wise old cowboy at the end of a bar, Rachel leaned back from her sewing machine. “You know what I always say, tanned fat looks better than white fat.”
My god, my 17-year-old mind thought, I should cross-stitch that onto a pillow.
Naturally, my view on tanning has changed since then. I’ve had too many little “anomalies” removed to even consider poking a toe into one of those UV coffins. And, thank God, my fashion choices have matured.
I would describe my style as, “self-aware.” I have never worn a romper or a jumpsuit because the result is a 5’3” tattooed toddler. Plus, I find a romper’s level of vulnerability in public restroom situations disconcerting. I am self-conscious about my flaws. I don’t like to show my upper arms or armpits. Point out a woman who likes to actively show off her pits, and your next deodorant stone is on me. And, like Queen Elizabeth’s knees, my navel will remain covered. I just started attempting the top-knot bun. Until my hair finally reached an acceptable length, if I tried to wear my hair up I resembled Madam Trunchbull from Matilda. Because contacts dry out my eyes, I wear thick framed glasses. I’ve chosen to call it a trademark. It’s The frames because I have always been mildly obsessed with Lisa Loeb.
This summer I purchased my first sun hat. I decided that a mommy-son pool party at my friend Meghan’s would be a perfect opportunity to premiere my new accessory. I kept asking my friends “Where do you summer?” as I sauntered around with a Bloody Mary like Sonya Morgan of Real Housewives on a yacht. Then, because the brim flopped over my eyes, I tripped over a deck chair, also much like Sonya Morgan.
Your personal style is everything you make it. I’m a plus sized girl. There’s no shame. I like my jeans tight and my shirts loose. I’m a perfect 14/16 in Lane Bryant. I’m an 18 or XXL in J Crew. I like a simple necklace, and basic studs in my ears. While I’ve thrown SpongeBob back into his pineapple, sometimes I still do a goofy graphic tee. I’m not big on heels because God gifted me with feet that will double as flippers if the glaciers continue melting at their current rate. My underwear waistband has risen with the sea levels.
I make an effort if I’m going to be seen in public. Sometimes I make myself look cute even if the farthest place I’m going is to the mailbox. I watch Queer Eye and take detailed notes on skin care and how to tuck in a t-shirt. I have finally accepted that I have curly hair. I have accepted my savior J Crew into my life. I love a good basic. I live in cardigans, V-necks, and skinny jeans. Ever since I decided to stop working and stay home, I treat my wardrobe as one would a newborn baby. Because I can’t afford to easily replace them, I softly sing, “Not While I’m Around,” from Sweeney Todd to my dry-clean only sweaters. I hum Bette Midler classics as I sway and pet my beloved wool plaid skirts. But, I live in the real world. A really real world where there are cat claws and sticky preschooler mitts, sauce splatters, and spilled wine. There is mother-effin’ slime.
Your style changes with the seasons and the years. If you want to change it up or try something new, DO IT. You’re never too old or too fat to try something that will boost your spirit and your confidence. Wear what’s comfortable and wear what makes you feel good.
But, if high-waisted jeans ever go out of style, I’m screwed. Actually, whatever patriarchal asshat who decides they are passé, is screwed. Women will collectively rise up, adjust those God blessed high waists and scream, “WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY BACK INTO THE NIGHT!” I might have used a quote from Independence Day. But you get my point.
Oh, and take a tip from me: everyone needs a good denim jacket!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Nostalgia and Weighted Blankets

We have reached the point where the stressors of modern life are all too apparent and triggering, and as a result, my generation craves nostalgia. I believe this is why shows like Stranger Things have gained so much popularity. I, for one, absolutely love Stranger Things. The music, the clothes, and the fantastical plot lines, like appeal of the retail dinosaur of our near past – an actual functioning mall –begs for older millennials and gen x-ers to curl up under their weighted blankets and through the foggy glass of time (or wine) recall their childhoods. I also adore the Lethal Weapon movies, and I looove every John Hughes movie ever made.
But there is another set of fabled tales that will always remain dear to me and most of my female peers. These stories shaped my childhood. Gather round, my children. For our story begins in a distant land called Stoneybrook, Connecticut.
Yep, I’m talking about the Babysitter’s Club. The Babysitter’s Club books, written by Ann M. Martin, followed a group of preteen best friends and their adventures babysitting around their hometown, of, yes, Stoneybrook, Connecticut. I. Was. Obsessed. Looking back, the books were ever so much more fictional that little preteen me could fathom. I mean, can you imagine leaving your infant child in your house alone, overnight with just a 12-year-old girl? My God. I’m already dialing CPS with shaking hands.
But I must mute my 32-year-old thinking from my 1998 thinking, when I, myself, was 12. My best friend Shannon, and I would ride our bikes with a tote bag full of BSC books clunking and bouncing on the back fender, to each other’s houses. Shannon’s house is one of the only houses I have never had to knock on the door to be let in. I always busted through the back door of the old farm house, grabbed a pop, and belly flopped onto her living room floor. I still do this. Just switch out the pop with beer.
Life has changed immensely since those days. Parents would never even consider letting their unattended 12- year-olds ride their bikes six miles to a friend’s house. Past an overgrown junkyard and a quarry. Yes, a quarry, like in Stranger Things. Now I won’t let Teddy leave unattended for three minutes in our backyard while I run into the house to pee. So, the entire premise of the Baby Sitter’s Club books has aged as well as Lil’ Kim. *I’m pausing while you google what Lil’ Kim looks like now . . . I mean, right??
To emphasis my point, let me share with you the plot of one of my favorite BSC books, Kristy and the Haunted Mansion. Kristy, BSC president and our favorite closeted lesbian, gets caught in a horrible storm with her youth softball team and her 17-year-old brother, Charlie. Their van breaks down, forcing them to take shelter overnight in a huge creepy mansion, run by an old caretaker. A bridge gets washed out, and they are stranded. Let’s break this down. Parents of the softball players, ages ranging four to ten, were completely ok with a 17 and 12-year-old taking their children home in a terrible storm, in a big ol’ stoner van with a faulty transmission. They can’t call home because its 1993, so parents are left with thinking the worst. Then these two pubescent idiots think that their only choice is put their lives in the hands of a 60-year-old hermit who lives in a shed? I’ve watched enough Dateline to know how this turns out.
I thought about doing a complete 2019 reboot of our favorite babysitters. Kristy would have met a girl, Ray, in college who would have shown her the ins and outs of her sexuality. They would have gotten married, adopted a couple dogs, and moved into a bungalow close to Kristy’s parents. Kristy teaches PE now and coaches the high school softball team. Ray sells soaps and organic cucumbers at the local farmer’s market.
I wanted to continue with other members of the BSC. Stacey, our favorite glamour girl and diabetic, would have moved back to New York City and gotten in with the Bravo crowd. She parties with Bethanny Frankel and takes the jitney to the Hamptons every weekend in the summer. She thinks Luanne Delesseps is trash. And so on and so forth. But after getting in deep about Dawn’s veganism and Green Party membership, I had to stop.
Why does everything need a 2019 reboot? I’m sick of reboots. Everything seems to have the life squeezed out of it anymore. Can’t we leave well enough alone? Just this weekend, I see that three more Disney movies are getting a reboot. I mean, the Lady and the Tramp?! Let’s just all watch an ASPCA commercial without changing the channel. Admit it. Not once have you heard Sarah McLaughlin’s entire spiel.
But, it all comes back to nostalgia and the lives we are leading now. What are we missing from the days of John Hughes movies and parachute pants? I think we all know. It’s innocence. It’s the innocent fun that came with watching The Goonies and Pretty in Pink. It’s the innocence of not being over exposed to stories of violence and cruelty. I’m completely aware that, just as now, terrible things happened back then. But there was distance. I could go into how we’re all being sucked into a dystopian worm hole through social media. But I won’t. On the opposite side of that spectrum, a natural act of kindness is now broadcast for all to see. I appreciate watching these bits of happiness, but why do they have to be filmed? Is it that without visual proof, we can’t believe it happened and that we so badly need to know we are still capable of kindness?
A millennium’s worth of moments of kindness have happened before us. There are no videos or photographic evidence of a woman sharing her bread ration with a child in a concentration camp. But, we know it happened.  I’m depressing you. And I didn’t even force you to watch an ASPCA commercial.
Instead of rereading some BSC books, and trying to recreate a lost part of my youth, I’ve decided to enjoy something that 2019 has to offer – start a new movement of original thought. I could read a new book, or watch an independent film, instead of re-watching Uncle Buck for the tenth time.
The past is in the past. Time moves on, no matter how much we lament years gone by. Here’s my challenge to you, friends. Create something new and original. Enjoy the creative work of someone you admire. Enjoy what today has to offer. As hard as it is to believe today, good things are happening. We have Lizzo as proof of this.