Saturday, December 20, 2008

I may be a big dork ...

...but I think this is hilarious.  Ben is the jolliest elf of them all!

~M


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Throw Me a Fricking (Holiday) Bone!

I have no children, and I refuse to send out cat-themed Christmas cards, so on Monday I shamed my brother and sister into participating in a Christmas picture.  The plan was to send out a Christmas card with a zany picture of the three of us cavorting merrily in Madison. ZANY AND CAVORTING, I SAY.  Ben gamely wedged a Santa hat on his head ... but he understandably drew the line at dangling a candy cane from his mouth.  

What follows are the disastrous  results of our photo shoot ...


Take 1: We probably should have stopped here, but I wanted Ben's Santa hat to be more visible.  Because I got Ben to wear a Santa hat.




Take 5: We switch locations, but this picture's out because Ben looks like he's going to kill someone.  Katie is still being a good sport ... my smile has begun to seem a bit forced.




Take 11.  I decide a change of angle is necessary- we need more ZANY.  This one might have been usable, but SOMEONE (Katie) over-zoomed.  




Take 15.  Ben refuses to feign good cheer any longer.  Things start to go downhill quickly after this.




Take 16.  Ben is thinking of how he could make my death look like an accident.  Katie's eyes have begun to glaze over.  I continue to beam inanely.




Take 17.  Ben expresses his displeasure while Katie fakes her own death.  I smile grimly while trying to make my throttle hold on Katie seem playful.




Take 20: Last picture.  Katie tackles Ben and myself, and the photo shoot ends in disarray.



Needless to say, we ended up going in a different direction with the cards.  Happy Holidays!

Love
M
B
K


Friday, December 5, 2008

Black Friday

The holiday spirit is upon us!  I know this for a fact because I saw roughly 500 people seize the holiday spirit and stuff it into their shopping carts at Best Buy at 6:00 am last Friday morning.  Nothing says “Happy Birthday Jesus” like season three of ALF on DVD (act surprised, Jon).

My family started participating in “Black Friday” five years ago.  That was the year several of my basketball teammates came to my house for Thanksgiving.  In an effort to make the girls feel more at home, Mom incorporated some of their family traditions into our holiday celebration.  While most of the requests were for favorite family recipes (Duncan family macaroni and cheese, mmmmmmmmm), Katy mentioned that she and her mom always went shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  At 5:00 am.  Well!  If the Bowens could rouse themselves out of bed at the butt crack of dawn, we certainly could. And so it began.

The first year we went out I didn’t buy anything except Fa-La-Lattes from Caribou Coffee.  Katy shopped while Mom and I milled around Best Buy and Target and sleepily stared at people wheeling cartloads of merchandise out to their cars.  I found a flyer at Best Buy that advertised inexpensive laptops, but when I asked a harried looking employee where I could find one he just stared at me.  It turned out that the line of detritus we had passed on our way into the store had been left by people who had been waiting in line all night to get their hands on the laptops.  I had a lot to learn.

Over the past few years I’ve learned the ins and outs of Black Friday.  I’ve learned that if I want a 72” flat screen TV for $300 then I have to be willing to sit on my butt in the cold for 9 hours.  I learned that other people are willing to sit on their butts in the cold for 9 hours.  I learned that JC Penny gives out free snow globes to their first thousand shoppers and that Borders has free coffee and mini-muffins.  I learned that I am unwilling to push elderly women out of the way in order to procure down comforters at 50% off, but I will shiv a child that gets between me and free coffee.  We all have our secret shame.

One thing that has proven true over the course of my families’ Black Friday excursions is that we are never fully committed to the frenzy of the event.  While other shoppers scour the stores with lists and coupons, we wander bemusedly from aisle to aisle, judging people and thumbing through stacks of picked over merchandise.  Before this tradition dies (please, please let it die) I’m going to try to do Black Friday the way God intended. Next year I’m going to wear a t-shirt that says JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON while I’m standing in line outside of JC Penney at 3:00 am.  I’d like my moral superiority to be blazingly apparent as I’m elbowing my way past other shoppers, hell bent on getting my hands on a commemorative snow globe.  Happy Holidays, suckers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Home: Day 1

I'm in St. Paul, Minnesota for the next 7 days. Woohoo!! Time to eat my weight in mint M&Ms and awkwardly converse with elementary school classmates of yore.  Inspired by my friend Jenn's Celebration of Silence project, I decided to do my own photo essay.  7 days at home, 7 images that mean "home" to me.  Happy holidays!

Love,
M







Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SC247's Siren Call

Confession: I haven't been to Scrabble Club 247 in over a month.  

The truth is, while I love a competitive word game as much as the next girl, I just can't muster up the energy or mental dexterity to play Scrabble for FOUR HOURS every Wednesday night.  Especially since I spend the 8 hours before that wrangling rug rats.  I'd get to SC247 and start spelling out animal noises.  What does a cow say? That's 'MOO' for 8 points, Gloria! Suck it!

So I haven't been going.  However, I haven't completely given up on SC247, and I'm happy to say that SC247 hasn't completely given up on me.  Just last week a fellow Scrabble-r invited me to go to a Jeopardy-watching party.  The e-mailed invitation hinted that "spontaneous Scrabble might break out afterward."  Then, today, I received the following e-mail from one of the club's founders.  Note the rampant sarcasm and intellectual disdain ... SC247 might be my kind of club after all.

Big break through!  Watch our club average score levitate soon!

The information in this Utube clip will certainly revolutionize club play across the United States and Canada.
Luckily, I found it before the other scrabble clubs have come across it....no way will Minnesota dominate Wisconsin evr again once our Club 247 players see the secrets this scrabble genius has unlocked here!  Swallow your pride, John O.... this guy
should write scrabble books!

Click on the link below.... and be ready for the jaw dropping conclusion!


RL

Scrabble shit talking!  I love it!


Love,
M

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Avenue Q

Sunday night ended with me leaning against a bar, drinking a beer and discussing the intricacies of breast augmentation with a drag queen named Veronica Cummings.

 The evening began much more innocently.  My sister K just turned 20, so B, K, and I celebrated by getting tickets to Avenue Q.  The show was so great!!  If Rent and Sesame Street were to meet and make sweet sweet love, Avenue Q would be their slightly off kilter progeny.  The musical stars puppets and live actors, and features such classic songs as "The Internet is for Porn," "It Sucks to Be Me," and, my personal favorite, "What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?" 

 The story follows Princeton, a recent college graduate, as he navigates his introduction to the “real world.”  We witness the na├»ve young puppet deal with issues common to many in their mid-twenties; the pain of crushed hopes and dreams, the pros and cons of casual sex, and the bitter shame of having to borrow rent money from your parents because it turns out your English degree only comes in handy when you can no longer afford toilet paper.  Tell it like it is, Princeton, tell it like it is.

Before the show started I ran into S and J, two people I recently met here in Madison.  S is the cousin of a good friend of mine.  A few weeks ago we got set up on a blind-friend-date, an event comparable to a blind-date in that it was complete with multiple wardrobe changes and palm sweat (at least on my end).  S brought her roommate J along when we met for drinks, and the three of us had a great time.  It turns out that J knew somebody that knew somebody that knew the cast of Avenue Q, so they invited me to go out for drinks with everyone after the show.  The practical, Miss Marie side of me said you're exhausted already and you have to work tomorrow and you're not particularly socially adept even at the best of times so don't go and be all awkward.  Party Marie told me to shut the hell up and say yes because it's not everyday that I get the chance to steal a fancy puppet.  So I agreed to go.

Let us sidetrack for a moment here to ponder the wonderful things that can come from saying yes.  I've made it a practice in my adult life to say yes as much as possible, especially to things that are outside of my comfort zone.  Want to sing karaoke? Yes. Want to be a part of this anti-war dance? Yes. Want to move to Australia without a job and no money and nowhere to live? Yes yes yes.  I've made it a practice to say yes when I can and then see where it gets me ... and while nobody ever again needs to hear me try to turn "Papa Loved Mama" into a ballad, "yes" has gotten me to some pretty great places.  

On Sunday it got me to Club 5, Madison's premier gay dance club.  While fog machines churned and disco balls spun, I learned the minutiae of puppetry from none other than Robert McClure, the actor behind Princeton's angst-filled journey.  He told us about puppet-camp, where stage actors were trained in the art of puppet manipulation.  "You'd figure the first step is opening their mouths so that it looks like they're talking," he said of the puppets.  "It's not!  The first step is drawing the puppet back, so that it looks like it's inhaling before it speaks ... there are millions of mannerisms to learn before you even get to talking."  

I learned puppeteering tips from Robert McClure, I drank Pepto-Bismol colored drinks with new friends, I danced to techno-remixes of old Cher hits ... I even got a high five from Lexy Fridell for a well timed Mariah Carey joke.  I had a weirdly wonderful time.

The night ended with me leaning against a bar, drinking a beer and discussing the intricacies of breast augmentation with a drag queen named Veronica Cummings.  "I want mine to look exactly like yours," she said.  "Can I feel them so that I know what consistency I'm going for?"

That, dear readers, is when I explored the benefits of saying "no."

~M

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Big Reveal

Here are Dad's costume concepts ... the excitement is palpable!!!

1) Chick Flick
2) Canada
3) Peninsula
4) Annapolis

TA-DAH!

Love
M

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

GOBAMA!

Last night B and I watched the elections results roll in from the comfort of our living room.  Rather than join the throngs of Madisonians celebrating in the streets, we camped out with some chinese food and a bottle of tequila.  We planned to take a shot every time Obama won a swing state.  The idea was that if Obama won we would be deliriously drunk and happy, and if he lost we'd be sober enough to make the 10 hour drive to Canada.  We abandoned that plan after Obama took the New England states so quickly; there's a fine line between tipsy jubilation and passing out before the victory speech.  

ABC was our station of choice for election coverage, both because that was what was on when we powered up the TV, and because my secret shame is that I think George Stephanopolous is a hottie.  The absolute joy and hope that I felt last night as I watched America elect Barak Obama as our next president in no way affected my ability to be snarky and judgmental with regard to the election coverage.  Though I enjoyed every flip of George's feathery hair, ABC let me with a few questions and comments ...

1) Why did Diane Sawyer stand up and walk around the studio every time the camera was on her?  Was she the only anchor who had pressing questions for the analysts? Was ABC using Diane Sawyer's sexy legs to boost their election night ratings?  If so, well played ABC, well played.

2)  Who the hell was in charge of making sure that the remote microphones worked?  Fire that guy. 

3) Thank you, John Berman, for your brilliant and succinct commentary.  "Iowa ... is a state."

4) Did anyone else hear Oprah making fun of crackheads?!?! "We will even take the drug addicts' vote."  Okay Oprah!  It's an exciting night, go on with your bad self and let the facade crumble!

5) Who told Sam Donaldson to play fast and loose with the metaphors?  
Sam: It isn't over until the fat lady sings ... 
*awkward pause*
Sam: Or until anyone ... sings ... anyone of any ... svelte ...
*music swells, ABC cuts to logo*
 
Later he started babbling about Jimmy Carter and vinegar with "sugar mixed into it."  His co-commentator just pursed his lips and looked embarrassed.

6) What freaking 9% of people thought that our economy was going in the right direction under the previous administration?  Who are you people?!?!? WHERE are you people?!?! I have some questions I need to ask, plus I need to borrow a few bucks.

That being said, I am so, so proud to have participated in the process that resulted in Barak Obama's election.  I am proud, I am hopeful, I am joyful, I am moved to tears by the promise that this man brings to our nation.  God bless.

Living in hope,
M

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween

Rather than dish out $50 for a slutty skeleton costume, I decided I would spend ZERO, count them, zero dollars this year and compile a costume from items in my closet and any cardboard B could scrounge up from Target.  I would like to dedicate the resulting magnificence to my mom, who once crafted a She-Ra crown for me out of rubber bands, cardboard, glitter and paste-on-jewels.  I loved that crown.



My Halloween, as usual, was two-fold in that I needed a costume for preschool, as well as one that I actually wanted to wear.  My preschool-appropriate butterfly actually came out pretty well ... I maintain that teachers of young children could change the world given enough cardboard, feathers and unfettered access to a hot glue gun.  I may have been a bit overzealous in my costume construction; by the time I finished my freaking wings it was 1:00 am and I had feather tufts spray glued to my face.  




For my non-work costume, I wanted to do something that reflected certain aspects of my personality, namely my totally lame sense of humor.  Last year I thought tying a pair of Doc Martens around my neck and going as a "pair-a-docs" would be the epitome of hilarity; that gives you a fair idea of what I was aiming for.  After B caught me perusing a website devoted to "Punny Costumes" and vowed he would never let me live it down, I decided to seek advice from our family's most consistent (if not constant) source of word-play.  Yes, I unleashed the beast and asked my dad to come up with some costumes.  Below are the illustrations of his ideas; they came in the mail yesterday.  I understood #1 and #2, but I couldn't figure out what the hell #3 was supposed to be.  B got it right away, much to his horror ... we have endless family arguments about who is going to inherit Dad's sense of humor.  I almost didn't post #4 because I think it's a new low, even for Dad.  I had to call him and beg him to explain, and even then I didn't really get it.  Any guesses? 

#1)  #2)



#3) #4)


I didn't use any of Dad's costume ideas due to budget and time constraints (how was I supposed to construct that pen-in-book contraption?), but I appreciated the effort.  I ended up going as "Not-invited,"  a costume that was cheap, semi-funny, and had the additional bonus of being easy to remove for baby-snuggling and beer drinking.  Happy Halloween!







~M

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rama-lama-lama, ka-dinga-da-dinga-dong

I’d like to send out a little thank you to all of the visitors that I’ve had in the past few weeks.  I am so blessed to have such a wonderful circle friends … your visits remind me of just how lucky I am.  It’s easier for me to live in a city where I hardly know anyone when I have so much love coming my way.  Thank you.

Love,

M

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meet Chairman Bob

This installment of Things That Keep Me Up at Night is brought to you by Copps Grocery, Roundy's Supermarkets Inc., and my fascination with minutiae.

I first noticed Chairman Bob last week while I was unloading my groceries after going shopping.  How odd, I thought as I lifted the first bag out of my car, there's a man on my grocery bag and he's ... is he? Yes, he's giving me the thumbs up.  After I got my groceries inside I examined my bags more closely and found out that the creepy man heartily endorsing my produce selection was Chairman Bob.  According to my grocery sac, "Roundy's products are approved for quality and signed by Chairman Bob himself."  After high tailing to the kitchen to ensure that my squash did not in fact bear Chairman Bob's signature, I decided to do some investigating.  Who the hell was this Chairman Bob? Why was he so chuffed with my purchases?  Who decided to run with an advertising campaign featuring a leering middle aged man displaying a forced gesture of goodwill?  I was determined to find out.

Lucky for me, Roundy's had anticipated my interest in all things Bob and printed a web address directly underneath his faux signature. meetchairmanbob.com told me all I needed to know.

Robert Mariano, a.k.a "Chairman Bob," is the CEO of Roundy's Supermarket Inc., one of the Midwest's largest and oldest grocers.  The group owns and operates grocery stores across the country under the Pick 'n Save, Copps, and Rainbow banners.  If you go to the website, Chairman Bob himself will tell you about the superior foods he personally endorses.  Nestled in a grove of orange trees, the Chairman gives it to us straight in a 5 minute interview.  He uses phrases like "taste profile" and confesses that "no less than 15 formulations" were rejected when they were developing Roundy's fresh bratwurst.  Towards the end of the interview we come to find out that Bob is nothing more than a med-school reject who clawed his way up the grocery sales ladder.  After not getting into medical school, Bob's first job out of college was as a "Food Service Salesman" at Oscar Mayer.  Sure Bob.  And my first job out of college was as a "Clothing Technician" for Steve and Barry's.  Bob ends his interview with the compelling statement "once you get food retail in your blood, you don't get it out."  WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, BOB? And can I catch this food retail from your carefully selected products? Because I'll sue.

In the end, all that I found out about Chairman Bob did nothing to alleviate how creeped out I was when I realized that he was staring staring staring at me from every one of my grocery bags.  I think a lot of it has to do with the blank expression on his face.  There's probably not a lot one can do with a plastic grocery sac as a medium, but his blank stare coupled with his upturned thumb make me uneasy.  I don't need your approval, Chairman Bob, so STOP LOOKING AT ME.

Love
M



Friday, October 17, 2008

Princess? Oh I'll Give You a Princess

One of the things that I think about constantly as a teacher of young children is the influence that I have on my student's lives.  For many of my kids, I'm the person they see most consistently outside of their immediate families.  In addition, most of my students are having their first "school" experience when they enter my classroom; it's a responsibility that I take pretty seriously.  One of the interesting aspects of teaching preschoolers is that a lot of the instruction I give them is social; my job is to "prepare them for kindergarten," which has more to do with appropriate peer interaction and socialization than academics.

My job is to socialize these kids.  Me, a woman whose most significant social outlet at present is my weekly Scrabble Club meeting.  When future generations experience a spike in social awkwardness and book lovin', I'll take full responsibility.

I try to be really respectful of where kids are coming from; what their families believe and what they might be learning at home.  When a conflict arises between what I'm trying to teach and what they've heard from their parents I can usually clear up any confusion by helping my students differentiate between "home rules" and "school rules."  Gun play is an area that benefits from this delineation; you may be able to play pretend with guns at home, but at school you can't "shoot" your classmates when they won't share.  Kids are surprisingly good at adhering to these boundaries once they're drawn.

There are some issues, however, where I believe that one of my duties as a teacher is to widen my student's horizons.  The societal enforcement of gender roles is something I feel strongly about, and something that I constantly take pains to subvert within my own classroom.  Highfalutin language aside, I'm creating a voting bloc of feminists, once princess-loving preschooler at a time.

I was never a princess kind of a girl.  I split my youth fairly evenly between playing sports and reading any book I could get my hands on.  The closest I ever came to wanting to be a princess was my preschool Halloween costume; I dressed up as She-Ra, Princess of Power.  If I'm going to be a princess, you had better fucking believe it's going to a be princess of power.  The enormous popularity of Disney and their all-powerful marketing department have combined to create a cult-princess following in the preschool crowd.  In addition to the princesses characters themselves, Disney in it's infinite wisdom has created all manner of Disney Princess products, a series of horrifying items ranging from dolls to CDs to a Disney Princess TV/DVD Combo.  There is nothing inherently wrong with being a princess, I suppose,  but my students aren't able to grasp Disney's half hearted attempts to empower its princesses.  Yes, Jasmine longs to experience life outside of the palace.  And yes, she is looking for a prince that loves her for herself an not just because she's a princess ... but all of that pales in comparison to her shiny clothes and pet tiger.  Plus she's weirdly thin and her overarching goal is to get married.  Woo-fucking-hoo.  My kids need real role female role models ... women who define success without reference to sexual relationships.  Women who go off on adventures and come home with treasure and unkempt hair.  Unfortunately, those types of role models are (literally) less sparkly than Disney princesses, and their dresses don't twirl as gracefully. Which is where Ms. Marie steps in.

The other day I was drawing with several of my three year-old students.  We had just finished listening to the Disney Princesses sing the ABCs, a CD "Susan" had brought from home.  Susan walked up to me with a crayon and paper and asked me to draw a princess for her to color.  So I drew a princess.  My princess was wearing jeans and holding a pumpkin (she had a crown on over her pony tail).  Susan was not happy.  "She not a princess," Susan said.  "She doesn't have a dress and she's not pretty."  So Susan and I had a conversation.  I explained to Susan that my princess was a pumpkin princess, and that she had to wear pants because she worked on a farm and her pigs stepped on her dress if she wore it to do chores.  I further explained that I thought my princess was pretty and that people think different things are pretty.  "I think spiders are pretty," I said, "do you think spiders are pretty?" Susan's answer was an emphatic "NO."  Then I told Susan that everyone could be the princess of something if they worked hard and were nice to people.  Susan seemed to buy it; we decided that she could be the princess of dancing and she spent the next 20 minutes drawing pictures of herself spinning in circles (with a crown on her head.)  I don't know if it will stick, but I did hear Susan telling some of the other girls that anyone could be a princess ... I count that as a successful lesson.

I drew other princesses throughout the day for myself and for other students; princesses of food, and gardens, and football, and a nice fat princess of baking, which inspired a whole different conversation (WHY IS SHE FAT!?!?!?!) I got inspired and drew my friend Greta as the Princess of Paint.  I think she'd be kind of a great role model for my kiddos.




Yours in princess power,
Marie

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Convo With a Preschooler


The conversation always goes a little something like this:

Small impressionable child: Ms. Marie? What's THAT?!?! (points to my wrist)

Ms. Marie: That's a tattoo.

Small impressionable child: Why did you draw on yourself?

Ms. Marie: I didn't.  A special kind of doctor put it on me.  Tattoos can only go on grownups.

Small impressionable child: (rubbing my tattoo furiously) IT'S NOT COMING OFF!

Ms. Marie: It doesn't come off.  It's there forever.

Small impressionable child: He made it with a marker?

Ms. Marie: He didn't use a marker. We never write with markers on our bodies, do we?

Small impressionable child: **solemnly shakes head**

Ms. Marie: Markers are for paper.

Small impressionable child: **solemnly nods head**

Ms. Marie:

Small impressionable child:

Ms. Marie: 

Small impressionable child:

Ms. Marie: Give me the marker please.

I like to think I'm expanding their horizons.  

~M

Friday, October 10, 2008

SC247 Goes Public

Another night at Scrabble Club 247, another lesson in humility.  One of the things that I've appreciated about SC247 is its relative anonymity.  You have to go in search of the club, the club does not come to you.  Only, every first Wednesday of the month, if you happen to be at Barnes and Nobles on the west side of Madison, the SC247 does come to you.

The first meeting that I went to was held in the basement of a local assisted living center; Attic Angels.  Nobody told me that Attic Angels was an old folk's home; for some reason I thought that it was an antique store.  I imagined that I would begin my foray into competitive Scrabble cozily ensconced in a Chippendale chair, surrounded by moldering first editions and an assortment of tchotchkes.  Instead I had to wend my way through a labyrinth of stairwells that smelled faintly of chamomile tea and Vicks Vaporub.  My journey ended in a room that was empty except for a few plastic folding tables and chairs; nothing to distract us from the task at hand.  Despite the lack of fine antique furniture, I was happy to be playing Scrabble in a room that could only be happened upon by confused octogenarians.  

The second meeting I attended took place at Covenant Presybeterian Church, where once again we were safely tucked away in the basement.  I spent SC247 meeting #2 kicking butt and dropping bingos*, once again secure in the knowledge that nobody would stumble into our meeting and discover my secret shame.

Which brings us to my third meeting.  Last Wednesday SC247 met on the upper level of the west side Barnes and Nobles.  When I arrived at SC247, instead of parking in a nearly empty lot next to my co-Scrabbler's Yugo, I had to park in the mall lot and carry my Scrabble box past gawking evening shoppers.  I held my head high as I walked into B&N and silently wished that I didn't own the gigantic, turn-table version of Scrabble.  Now, I love a good book store and could happily spend 4 hours browsing and reading books I would be embarrassed to display on my shelves.  Spending 4 hours sitting at a table playing Scrabble while B&N patrons walk past and judge me in whispered voices is another matter.  It was a long night.  

Public display aside, I whooped Gloria in my first game!  It was sort of anti-climactic (although I'll take the win).  Let's face it; at the end of the game, she's still a 90 year old woman who should be proud of the fact that she's coherent enough to string letters together, and I'm still a 27 year old woman who drives around with a turn-table version of Scrabble in her back seat.  Well played, Gloria, well played.

My next goal at Scrabble Club is to throw a little Marie flava' in the mix.  I'm going to try to work the phrase "hate the playa', not the game" into Scrabble convo.

~M

* A "bingo" in Scrabble is a word that uses all 7 of your tiles, thus earning you 50 bonus points.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Caption Challenge

Guess who learned how to shoot a rifle?  
  I call it "Why is she smiling?"

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bamboozled

Stop the presses!  Call the police!  Alert the Better Business Bureau!  

I've been bamboozled!  I've been hoodwinked and flim-flammed, duped, conned, and taken for a ride.  Chicanery has taken place.  

It happened just so:  on Saturday morning I headed to the mall, in search of a pair of work pants that don't make me look like I'm smuggling play-doh home with me at night.  The mall is never one of my favorite places to be, but on Saturday morning it becomes its own small circle of hell.  Families with screaming kids, bewildered elderly people, college students trying to bleed mom and dad dry before they head home from their weekend visit; these are your Saturday morning shoppers.  These people and me; still half asleep and fighting through the residual haze of a few too many vodka Redbulls.  

I got to the mall and began to wander aimlessly around, which is how I usually shop for pants.  I got a cup of coffee and sat on a bench near some fake palms.  I watched some kids run screaming by, and I smiled because they were not my responsibility.  I stared at my legs and cursed their length, a length I knew would cause me to reel from store to store, trying on pants that made me look as though I were unusually proud of my collection of socks.  I girded my loins and went to The Gap, where the assistant I spoke with told me that they only carried "normal" lengths in the store, but that other lengths could be ordered online.  I somehow managed to shuffle my gargantuan limbs out of the store, when it happened ...

I made eye contact with one of those kiosk salesmen.  You tell yourself it can't happen to you.  You tell yourself that you would do something different, something that wouldn't attract attention, something dismissive.  You practice kiosk safety by walking quickly and having your cell phone handy at all times.  You tell yourself these things, but the next thing you know some Italian man named Guillermo is strapping an herbal remedy pack to your back while he stares into your eyes and whispers "eet ees good for cir-coo-lation of the blued."

Since when do I have blood circulation problems?!?!  I let Guillermo wrap a hot, sweet smelling packet of herbs around my neck and all of a sudden I was standing in the middle of the East Towne Mall with this man rubbing my shoulders telling me that I looked "How do you say? No more of thee tension?  Ree-lax-ed?"  Then he told me that he would throw in the mint pillow for free and that it could be used to stop my "huzband" from "doing the snore."  Damn those sexy Italians with their mixed up words and adorable inability to grasp English idiom.  They get me every time.  

Guillermo's salsemanship didn't rely on sexiness alone.  He pulled out all of the stops, telling me that he would give me a discount because I was cute, and two free products because I work with kids.  My favorite part was when he told me that people in California bought his product in droves because people in California "know thee healing of thee flowers."

What?! People in California buy your little herb packets?  Then I'm sold.  I've always wanted to be like one of them ladies from Hollywood.

In the end I bought the Nature Creation Upper Body Reusable Hot/Moist/Cold Wrap both because I was hungover, and because Guillermo was sexy.  The man clearly took advantage of me; I demand a full refund!  And a pair of pants that reach my shoes.

~M

Friday, October 3, 2008

Miss Marie vs Party Marie

I love kids, and I love working with kids.  That being said, the line between "Miss Marie" and "Party Marie" (OK, "Party Marie" is a stretch, but go with it) is sometimes blurred in odd ways.  When I was a teacher in Iowa, for instance, I had a toddler car seat in my back seat.  I often come home with used kleenex in my pocket and graham cracker crumbs in my hair.  I know an embarrassing number of lyrics to Wiggles tunes, and I can sing the ABC's in 13 different voices.  These are all skills that come in handy in the workplace, and, once I have children of my own, I'm looking forward to being the goofiest mommy ever.  Sometimes, however, Miss Marie needs to take a rest and stop stepping on Party Marie's toes.  I don't have kids!  I'm a single young woman with 5 tattoos and a well developed tolerance for alcohol.  A working knowledge of breast pump technology isn't appropriate bar talk for someone in my situation.  Today I found myself making diaper rash cream recommendations to a parent, and  a little piece of Party Marie died.*  With all of that in mind, I bring you the Top Ten Things I'm Spending my Money on Instead of Diaper Rash Cream.

 Top Ten Things I'm Spending my Money on Instead of Diaper Rash Cream 

or Marie Asserts her Single, Childless Status in the Face of Her Job

10) Hookers and blow

9) Rated R movie tickets

8) Breakable, decorative objects that I plan to place at floor level around my apartment.

7) Porn.  The dirty kind that you have to throw away once you have kids because they'd be scarred if they stumbled across it.

6) Toys for my cat.

5) Another cat.

4) Frames for pictures of my cat.

3) The rights to the domain name cr8zcatl8d.com

2) Non-Wiggles, Disney, Raffi, etc. music.

1) Sexy clothes that will help me land a baby maker. Ahemm, I mean loving life partner.

 ~M


* Boudreaux's Butt Paste! It's the best!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fat Butt Pants

I started my new job yesterday; I'm working at a preschool as an "athletic specialist."  It's a private preschool, a fact which should be obvious given my job title.  I don't know of many public preschools that can afford to entitle their staff with made-up honorifics and a bonus package to match. In addition to my bonus package, I get benefits, overtime, and an hourly wage higher than the one I requested.  Chances are the school is a front for an illegal money laundering operation.  If so, they hired the right person.  I'm no whistle blower; I'm one ramen dinner away from being a lady of the night.

That being said, the job is fine, with the potential to be great.  I got hired to improve the little rug rats' large motor skills and to teach them how to be active and healthy.  So far I've been running around trying to meet all the teachers and get the lay of the land ... I've also been smelling babies.  That's the unspoken perk of the job, I get to huff baby whenever I want.  Have you ever smelled the back of a baby's neck?  Don't knock it until you've tried it.  

I've worked with children in a variety of settings over the course of my life.  This job varies from other experiences I've had in two significant ways.  The first one is the money issue, i.e. the fact that they have some.  The second is that I can't wear jeans.  One of my favorite things about working with kids, aside from seeing their little eyes light up when they find their bellybuttons for the first time, is that I get to wear jeans.  I'm a jeans and sweatshirt kind of girl, and I've chosen a line of work that embraces my lifestyle.  Why did you have to go and mess up a good thing, Fancy Pants Preschool?  Why on earth do I need to wear khakis while I'm changing poopy diapers?  Do you know how well poop shows up on khaki?  Really freaking well.  Finger paint? Ditto.

After wearing both pairs of non-jeans that I own, I headed to the store to buy some pants after work today.  I was not in the mood to shop, which is my excuse for coming home with fat butt brown pants.  While I admit that I need these pants in the short term, as in tomorrow, I am still disappointed in myself for giving up the fight.  Instead of upholding standards for preschool teachers everywhere, I'm throwing in the towel and embracing unflattering clothing in neutral colors.  I'm on a slippery slope - I might as well buy some sweater vests with Christmas flair and call it a day.  The next time I post a picture of myself I'll be wearing a muumuu and Keds.  

To top it all off, I had to skip Scrabble Club today so that I could go buy the damn pants.  Welcome to my world, darling readers.  I'm missing Scrabble Club to buy fat butt pants.  I need to go now.  I may have just shared too much.

Ha.
Love,
M

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

Know what’s been keeping me up at night lately?  My frickin’ cold, that’s what.  Every time I lay down I start coughing and drooling indiscriminately; it’s not conducive to sleep.  I admit that I’m a big baby when I’m sick (I can hear you all gasping with surprise).  I’m not proud of it, but I tend to be one of those people that mope around, the odd groan punctuating my quiet suffering.  I answer questions regarding my health in a voice that’s maybe a tad more hoarse than it needs to be … I’m pathetic.

Being sick always makes me wish I were a kid again.  When I was little and I got sick a whole series of wonderful things would happen.  I got to skip school and lay in my parent’s bed all day while I watched The Price is Right.  I got to spend the day with my dad; watching him draw in our dining room and bang around the kitchen making dinner.  I got to have my parents focus all of their attention on me, hopefully at the expense of my three younger siblings. 

Being sick as an adult is completely unrewarding.  It just means that I have to run errands and go to work in pissy mood.  At least I’ve got a roommate for this bout of sickness.  B is sick too, so he and I have spent the past few days feeling miserable together.  Right now we’re both wrapped up in blankets in our living room watching episodes of That '70's Show and drinking tea.  B says his favorite thing about being sick when he was little was definitely watching daytime TV: seeing Shining Time Station and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. 

When I got strep throat in second grade I managed to dig up a silver bell from somewhere.  I spent two weeks convalescing on our living room couch, ring-a-linging whenever I needed more orange juice.  That got old pretty quickly, and I’m not sure B would respond favorably if I started summoning him with a bell.  More later kiddos. I’m headed to bed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Bitch is Back

Since I knew what to expect, I was much less nervous for SC247 this week.  I had been working on my 2-letter words and I figured that, if nothing else, nobody was going to challenge me on "xa" again and make me look like a fool.  I psyched myself up for my second Scrabble Club experience by listening to angry country music on the drive over.  I can tell you right now that nobody else was blasting Alcohol and Ass when they pulled into the church parking lot.  That’s how I roll, Gloria. What now?!?!

My mental calisthenics paid off, my dear friends.  I won 2 of my 4 games!  It was glorious!  Ok, “glorious” is a bit of an overstatement … but I was excited to an embarrassing degree.  I won my first game 352 to 350.  My opponent was a young man who is also new to the club; he was not happy that I beat him.  Out of respect for his feelings I only did a small victory dance; more of a victory wiggle than anything else.

My other win was significant for several reasons.  Scrabble-wise I got a high score of 407 and laid “ganglia,” a bingo that earned me kudos from the expert players. I also overcame some personal hang-ups when I challenged the word “flaten.”  The elderly woman I was playing seemed flustered as she took her tiles off the board; no doubt Gloria had told her I was an easy mark.

I lost my other games in spectacular fashion, but I was satisfied with how the evening went.  I’m thinking about memorizing random, obscure bingos just to confuse people.  I won’t have a handle on the 3-letter words, but I’ll start dropping words like “quixotry” and “obiisms” and I’ll blow their minds.


~M

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cheese Daze


This past weekend I visited my cousin Kevin and his family in Monroe, Wisconsin.  I went to see my adorable cousin Zachary.  I went to spend a pleasant day with family.  I went because Monroe was hosting it's semi-annual Cheese Days.  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, it was everything you're hoping it would be.

Cheese Days has been a Monroe tradition since 1914.  I was going to provide a brief history of the genius behind a festival devoted solely to cheese, but the official Cheese Days website does it better than I ever could.  To wit:

Back in 1914, the concept of Cheese Days originated from the notion that if some little town in Illinois could have a festival commemorating sauerkraut, then a celebration based on cheese would be an even better idea.

A group of local businessmen planned the festivities in just nine days, driving a roadster through the city of Monroe to publicize the event. A hand-lettered sign attached to the vehicle proclaimed “FIRST CHEESE DAY COMMITTEE 1914 – WE STARTED SOMETHING!”

And did they ever.

Today we invite you to take part in Cheese Days 2008– where Old World tradition has generated an out-of-this-world celebration.*

That's actually the Cheese Days' slogan: "Old World tradition ... out-of-this-world celebration."  I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'll let it slide because on Sunday I spent 2 hours in a cheese-tasting tent with women in Swiss milkmaid costumes serving me cheeses beyond my wildest dreams.  There were spiced cheeses and fruit cheeses, cheeses for baking and cheeses for melting, cheeses in curd form and delicious little cheeses on a grill that you had to stand in line for but were totally worth the wait.  

Cheese consumption was just the beginning, my friends.  Cheese Days, like all respectable Wisconsin fests, offered a host of other events.  Among other things, there was a parade, live polka music, a yodeling competition, a kiddie tractor pull, and a series of cow milking contests.  After watching several heats of cow milking my competitive spirit was roused, so I entered the Open Amateur Cow Milking Contest.  Let it be known that cow milking is harder than it looks.  I asked the farmer handling my cow for some tips before the start of the competition and he told me to squeeze the cow's teat between my thumb and forefinger and to pull steadily.  Fine!  Not too hard!  The farmer was cute ... I figured after I was done milking his bessie he'd hand her off to someone else and we would split some deep fried cheese curds and fall in love.  Turns out that's not what happened.  Mr. Cute Farmer didn't have anything to say to me after my four minutes of milking were up, and I can't say that I blame him.  There were long stretches of time where no milk was coming out of my cow's teats ... I ended up with about an inch of milk in my pail.  As someone who has recently hunkered down to milk a cow, let me tell you that there is a fine line between milking a cow and fondling a cow.  And if no milk is forthcoming, you tell me why I've got my hands on that udder.

After my cow milking failure we walked over to the Dairy Education tent, where I quickly improved my spirits by correctly identifying 6 out of 6 breeds of cow.  I may not be able to milk one, but I know an Ayrshire from a mile away.  Kevin and I ended the day in fine Wisconsin fashion by drinking too much beer.  This was the first year that Cheese Days allowed open containers of beer on the main square and, let me just say, I wholeheartedly approve.  I don't know that I would have been able to polka quite so spiritedly if I hadn't been able to drink between songs.  Kevin and I spent the first part of the evening holed up in Bob's, a local bar with such a nasty reputation that it was practically empty, despite the presence of 30,000 out-of-town visitors.  Bob's was great!  They served several local beers from the New Glarus Brewing Company.  Kevin and I got soused on Laughing Trout lager and harassed a woman we saw wearing a hand crafted "I'm considering voting for the MILF" t-shirt.  After I referred to Palin in unkind terms in voice that was perhaps a bit loud, we decided to head outside to the main stage.

The main stage had hosted an array of performances throughout the day.  Yodelers had yodeled, tumblers had tumbled, and the New Glarus Swiss Miss Dancers had nearly caused a riot.  By the time Kevin and I made it outside at 10:30 pm, the Copper Box Band was in full polka swing.  All of the older folks (the people who in fact knew how to polka) were long gone.  In their place were scores of drunk young people hopping back and forth from one foot to another.  I ended my first Cheese Days polka-ing deliriously with my cousin Kevin, secure in the knowledge that I didn't look as awkward as the guy in the cut off Harley shirt next to me.

PS If you have time, I recommend taking a look at the official Cheese Days website.  It's pretty great.  While I was perusing the history link I came across some great events that took place during Cheese Days of yore.  I particularly would have liked to be at Cheese Days in 1940, when Mrs. William Chambers of Juda won the cow milking competition with nearly 20 pounds of milk in three minutes, and Turner Hall hosted a jitterbug contest. 

PPS I just read the Savage Love column in this week's Onion, where Mr. Savage refers to testicles as "scrabble bags." There's no way I'll be able to get that image out of my head before Scrabble Club tonight.

*I'm not up on my MLA regulations, but don't sue me, Cheese Days! I love you.  All quoted information can be found at http://www.cheesedays.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gracias

Many thanks to my friend Jenn for the heading! It took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out how to set up my blog ... a fancy header is way beyond me.  Thanks J.

~M

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Things That Keep Me Up At Night: 2




This weekend's Things That Keep Me Up At Night takes us back to the summer of 1994.  I was 13, fresh out of seventh grade and deeply, wistfully in love with the idea of being in love.  My friends and I spent that summer sleeping over at each other's houses, staying up for hours pouring over our junior high yearbooks and prank calling boys.  We were young and hopeful; we believed in true love and were sure that the epitome of romance was slow dancing to the Rockin' Hollywoods at the neighborhood 4th of July picnic.  

In the midst of all those raging hormones, my best friend Jenny and I discovered the movie Dirty Dancing.  I'll skip the plot synopsis, because if you haven't seen the movie then you're not going to understand the rest of this post anyway.  It's enough to say that the movie was about forbidden love, sex, and Patrick Swayze in a tight black tank top.  Jenny and I watched Dirty Dancing three times a day for a week straight.  We memorized details ranging from the license plate number on Johhny's car (SP2201) to the title of the book Robbie offers to lend Baby (The Fountainhead).  We analyzed scenes from the movie and endlessly debated whether or not Patrick Swayze is wearing underwear when he gets out of bed after Baby asks him if he's "had many women."  The fact that I can recall all of these details off the top of my head 14 years later is a testament to our devotion.  Please stop judging me.

The question born of this obsession is simple; is the summer camp where Dirty Dancing occurs a real place, and can I go there and fall in love?

The answers I found made me feel like an lovesick pre-teen all over again.  The summer camp, called Kellerman's in the movie, is wonderfully, stupendously real.  It's actually the Mountain Lake Resort and it's located in Pembroke, Virginia.  Not only can I go there and fall in love, the fine folks at the Mountain Lake Resort are fully prepared to help me live out my fantasy.  The resort has embraced its role in motion picture history and hosts Dirty Dancing Weekends several times a year.  For $460 Jenny and I could spend a weekend taking dance lessons, touring the grounds, and trouncing people in Dirty Dancing Trivia.  I assume the activities not listed on the itinerary include private staff dance parties and sexy time with a 34-year-old Patrick Swayze.

I was thrilled to find out that Kellerman's is a real place, but I'll never set foot in Pembroke, VA.  That wouldn't be fair to 13-year-old Marie.  There's no way that spending a carefully scripted weekend in Virginia could summon up the mystery and romance that I longed for when I was a girl.  For one thing, two days isn't enough time for me to seduce someone with my naive charm and learn how to fox trot.  Also, I have yet to meet the dance instructor that could hoist my 6ft tall frame gracefully above his head.

Still, it's nice to know that Kellerman's is a real place.  If nothing else, it makes my junior high romantic aspirations a little more tangible.

~M

Humble Pie

It is only now that I can talk about what happened Wednesday night.

To say that I lost every game of Scrabble that I played at Scrabble Club 247 would be an understatement.  To say that I got hosed by a series of elderly women; that would be closer to the truth.

Did you know that there are 101 2-letter words in the official Scrabble dictionary?  Did you know that every member of Scrabble Club 247 has them memorized?  In fact, the woman sitting next to me during my second game let it be known that she had finished memorizing her "threes" and was working on her "fours."  I thought that knowing fancy words like "hame" and "tisane" would get me in good with the Scrabble folk, but the members of SC247 couldn't have cared less about my eclectic vocabulary.  As soon as I revealed my average Scrabble score they handed me a cheat-sheet and ushered me away from the Experts' table.  

I played my introductory game against Richard, one of the founders of SC247.  The man couldn't have been nicer as he showed me that the namby-pamby Scrabble I had played with Grandma wasn't going to cut it anymore.  Tournament Scrabble is different from casual Scrabble in a number of terrifying ways.  First and foremost, you can challenge your opponents' words.  That means that when the 86 year old woman you are playing against lays the word "squod", you had better call bullshit.  Since "squod" isn't a word, she will have to remove it from the board and lose her turn.  On the other hand if your opponent plays the word "buqsha" and you challenge, you lose your turn, since everyone knows that's a word, you moron.  

Now, I know that some people play this way in their homes, but my family learned long ago that if you want dinner conversation to remain civil it's best to play friendly Scrabble.  With family harmony in mind, words that don't turn up in our battered 1982 edition of The Official Scrabble Dictionary are removed from the board, and players are allowed to retake their turns.  Playing with challenges is stressful!  The message behind a challenge, as far as I'm concerned, says one of two things to your opponent:  you are a big cheater pants, or you're a dumb ass who doesn't know his buqsha from his squod.  I'm uncomfortable with confrontation in almost any situation; sitting across from an old woman who's wearing a muumuu and telling her I think she's stupid isn't something I'm prepared to do.  Yet.  

The other big difference is that tournament Scrabble is timed.  At SC247 each player gets 25 minutes on their clock.  Games take a little over 50 minutes to play, though Expert players usually need much less time.  When I play Scrabble with my friends there is often a bottle of wine or three involved.  It takes a little longer to lay a word when your tiles are swimming in front of you.  My friend Jon and I used to play Scrabble while we were watching TV.  I had a turn during one of our games that took 45 minutes; we got distracted by a Cyndi Lauper concert and took a time out to have a dance party.

My final opponent on Wednesday night was Gloria, the oldest active member of SC247.  I sat at our board and waited as Gloria positioned her walker, then we began our game.  The three people I had played before Gloria had been very friendly; they gave me pointers and congratulated me when I made strategic plays.  Barb, my second opponent, brought me a chocolate chip cookie.  Gloria was having none of that.  Gloria studied the board and fingered her pearls silently between her turns.  We traded words and kept the score pretty even through the first half of the game.  I pulled ahead with "avidly" and was even entertaining heady thoughts of winning, when she laid "squod."  

I would hate to imply that anyone would play an illegal word in the hopes of taking advantage of a beginning player.  I would further hate to imply that an 80-something year old woman would use her apparent decrepitude to hoodwink people into underestimating her intellect.  What I will say is that when Gloria dropped "squod" I looked at her tremulous smile and I didn't challenge the word.  I never regained the lead, and Gloria beat me with a score of 305 to 239.  To add insult to injury Gloria couldn't seem to grasp the fact that she had won.  After we finished our game she congratulated me on winning; I told her she had won in the gentle voice I reserve for people who are losing their grip on reality.  

My foray into competitive Scrabble was humbling.  I walked in thinking that I would be competitive at the beginners level; I walked out thinking that old people are tricky and not to be trusted.  But I'm definitely going back.  I don't look forward  to staring across a Scrabble board into Gloria's steely gaze again, but I had a weirdly fantastic time.  I don't think that I'll ever finish memorizing the "threes" in the Scrabble dictionary ... I don't think that I'll ever start memorizing the "threes" in the Scrabble dictionary; but I'm all over the two-letter words.  My goal is to beat Gloria before she hits 90.

~M