Airing of Grievances

FestivusSo here we are again. It is that special time of year to gather with those we hold dear. A time to look back—another year older and hopefully wiser—and take stock. Yes once again, Festivus is upon us and we pause to reflect on the people near us and inform them of all of the ways they have disappointed us in the past year.

That’s right. You read correctly. Let the annual Airing of Grievances commence. I realize that some may think ill of me for keeping track of all of the ways I’ve been wronged in the previous 365 days… but honestly it is thanks to a cool app on my phone that I was able to keep track. Thank you technology!

It is simply called Grievance and it is a thing of beauty for those who enjoy fostering and nurturing a healthy grudge. All year long I can open it and enter said wrong-doings and then, on THIS day, December 23, Grievance lets me see the year in review. So in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share with you the Top 10 types of grievances I filed in 2013.

  1. Line Holder-Uppers. You know… People in line at the pharmacy, the post office, the retail checkout, Subway, or the grocery store… having scripts or postage or coupon codes explained to them in great detail by the store associate.
  2. The Media. For being SO obsessed with being the FIRST to break a story, that the information being disseminated is purely and entirely false.
  3. People who paint their ring fingers a different color… Because… why?
  4. Stick Figure Families. And the suburbanites who insist upon putting them in the lower left corner of the back window on their ginormous, consumptive SUV’s.
  5. Daylight Savings Time. For screwing with my sleep patterns and making me gruff, tired and totally intellectually annihilated for 2 whole weeks following the change.
  6.  The Starbucks Barista. For screwing up my order. ANY Starbucks Barista for screwing up my order… Ever. Because anything equivalent to caffeinated gold should be flawless. Every. Single. Time.
  7. My Doctor. For insisting upon insisting that I arrive 15 minutes ahead of my scheduled appointment time for supposed “paperwork” even though it’s already been filled out — but who isn’t even there yet himself.
  8. The Aflac Lady. For being a pusher by coming to my office to sell me additional insurance coverage and attempting to put the fear of God into me by casually tossing about words and phrases like “accidental death” and “dismemberment” and “unforeseen illness” or “unexpected tragic events”.
  9. The insurance company. For trying to use my migraines as a “preexisting condition” so as not pay my claims simply because I MENTION that I take medication for migraine when asked by ANY doctor what type of medications I am currently on.
  10. Fashion. For elevating “skinny jeans” to the level of MUST WEAR apparel so much so that boot cut is nearly impossible to find.

Happy Festivus everyone! I hope you’ve had a great one and please feel free to air your own grievances in the comments section to keep this blessed tradition alive!

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Our Barbies, Ourselves

Barbie125thCareerRetroWe’ve come a long way, baby. Or should I say Barbie has come a long way from the ill-proportioned, frighteningly well-endowed, bleach-blond beach bimbo she once was to her latest occupation: Engineer. You go girl!! You show the world that you can be ANYTHING you want to be! Plastic can be molded in a million different ways and clothes can be sewn to suit any proportions these days—real or imaginary. I, for one, find it refreshing to see that Barbie is made of stern enough stuff to conquer yet another male-dominated field.

I’ve long had a theory about Barbies and the girls who play with them. That being that who we are (or aspire to be)… was probably foreshadowed in our Barbie play. The notion grew out of a simple conversation I was having one day with two of my female co-workers. Somehow the topic of Barbie came up and all of us confirmed that we’d had at least one of them growing up. Naturally, the conversation turned to what we liked to do with our Barbies when we played with them…

JOANNA
I proudly admitted to the fact that all my Barbie wanted to do was HAVE FUN! She partied, she LOVED working on her tan and swimming in her pool (which was actually just our kitchen sink magically converted into a sparkling oasis in which Barbie could dive and swim… naked). MY Barbie would not be confined to the pre-determined dwellings crafted for her by Matel.

The Barbie mansion could not hold her. The Barbie RV was too cramped and not NEARLY luxurious enough… and so I constantly commandeered entire rooms in our house and created elaborate living spaces for her to inhabit. Thankfully my mother put up with this. I do seem to remember my poor dad trying to get to his office in our basement and having to ever-so-gingerly tip-toe around all the precariously placed pink and orange inflatable furniture.

My Barbie also did not do any work. Don’t ask me how she had any money… but she managed. She had A LOT of boyfriends. Perhaps they sponsored her. If she DID work, it was in a fashion boutique where she spent most of the time trying on the clothes instead of helping customers. In fact, looking back on it now, my Barbie was a little bitchy, somewhat lazy, completely self-absorbed and truth be told, probably a bit of a tramp.

AMANDA
One of my co-workers—let’s call her Amanda (names have been changed to protect the innocent)—had a much different interaction with her Barbie. Amanda’s Barbie was what I would call a little Worker Bee. Amanda dressed her in gray business suits and sent her to work in an office. All Amanda’s Barbie did was work. Amanda even cut up Barbie-sized squares of paper that she would feed into a miniature typewriter!! And all I could think of while she was telling me this was: She thought THIS was fun!?!?! How in the #@$% could this be fun??? But it was what Amanda liked to do with her Barbie.

When I inquired about possible boyfriends for her Barbie (I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Ken) she said that she didn’t have any Ken dolls. But she WOULD occasionally borrow her brother’s G.I. Joe doll and Joe, as if on a covert mission, would quote: “infiltrate the Barbie mansion.” Nice. It’s good to know that even Worker Bees like Amanda like to have fun. Even if it IS on the down-low, after a long, hard day at the office.

LISA
The other co-worker, let’s call her Lisa, technically HAD a Barbie to play with. But she didn’t really LIKE her Barbie all that much. Rather she tortured her Barbie from time to time. She would cut off all her hair, strip off all of her clothes, grab her by her teensy plastic foot and swing her around and around the room until she went flying into the wall.

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The most fascinating part of this colorful dialogue was the concept of our “Barbie play” amazingly hinting at the kind of women we’d each grown up to be. Thus my theory was born: What little girls do with their Barbies can offer a fairly accurate glimpse into the personalities of the women-in-waiting.

Now, I am NOT admitting to being a grown-up “bitchy, lazy, self-absorbed tramp”… though some may beg to differ. But I definitely DO like to have FUN above anything else. To me, work is a necessary evil and a means to much more important aspirations like partying, vacationing, shopping and working on my tan.

Some people, like Amanda, LIVE to work. And Amanda, to this day, remains one of the most devoted, hard-working employees I know. She put herself through school while working full time, earning not one but two degrees and has climbed the ladder in her organization. Most importantly, she is completely happy and fulfilled as that person.

Though I’ve lost track of Lisa over the years, when I knew her she was a dedicated athlete constantly railing against typical female stereotypes. She believed that women can do ANYTHING that men can do and to indicate otherwise got under her skin like nothing else. She valued fairness and equality in all walks of life and her work and leisure remained consistent with those beliefs. I doubt that she’s changed.

So perhaps it is a stretch, my theory. But I believe I’m on to something. If only I could find a generous benefactor to grant me the financial resources for the necessary research. I could quit my job and travel the globe interviewing women everywhere to obtain their stories. Naturally, this endeavor would require me to do quite a bit of socializing and patronizing lavish resorts along the way. I’d then publish my findings, resulting in a best-selling book, thus allowing me to fully retire before the age of 40… making way for nothing but F-U-N.

Merry Christmas! I Love You Thi$$$$ Much!

price tagsWell, it’s descended upon us again hasn’t it? The traditional, commercial Christmas is practically here. That magical time of year when we all gather together after rushing madly hither and yon in search of that perfect gift that lets our loved ones know just how very much we love them. Literally.

For example: “Here, Aunt Nancy… here’s a lovely plaid scarf. I know it’s wool and a little scratchy but it matches your eyes. Don’t you think? They did have cashmere, but you see… My love for you is not a cashmere kind of love. My love for you is a woolish kind of love. In fact, I love you around $11 worth.”

See what I mean? Without realizing it, we often divide those we care about into categories, defining our love for them by assigning dollar amounts. Now I know you might argue with me that it is all about budgeting and how can you possibly spend more on Cousin Stuart after dropping less than 20 on Aunt Nancy’s hideous scarf… but we ought to admit that on SOME level it is true.

The math goes a little something like this (Feel free to add a zero depending on which “percenter” you are)… There are those who fall into the $5 category. They are the ones most often occupying the fringes of our lives… Those we HAVE to see on a daily basis but would not necessarily interact with were we not forced to. And those we place into the $10 to $20 range… People with whom we choose to spend time but are not related. And then there’s family. Family eats up most of the budget either out of necessity, obligation or affection.

And this is where the real fun begins. You consider what THEY got YOU last year and thus what type of gift should be given this year. This sometimes breeds a healthy bout of one-up-man-ship or at the very least a breaking even. I’ve often wondered whether or not we should all just keep the $50 or $100 since we’re essentially handing it back and forth year after year. But what would be the fun in that?

Then I remember that it isn’t really about the money. The money is the necessary evil by which feel we must express our gratitude or love this time of year. It’s really all about recognition. Recognition of the people we COULD not or WOULD not live without whether they gave us a faulty, small kitchen appliance (with or without a warranty), a gift card to a place we hate, a too big pair of pajamas or a hideous pair of slippers last year.

Merry Christmas everyone! May you give and receive lots of love to and from your 5, 10, 20 and 50-dollar people this holiday season… no matter what form of currency it comes in.

…and to the Republic for which it stands…

TitleI was driving to work yesterday saying hateful things to my uncooperative hair, getting stopped at every, single red light and growing increasingly impatient as I secretly cursed the slow-moving guy in front of me for consulting his dashboard GPS on his EVERY move because he was clearly LOST… when I looked out my driver’s side window toward the shopping plaza across the street. On the corner I noticed the flag flying at half-staff and thought to myself with a lump suddenly lodged in my throat: “Oh. Yeah. That’s right.” And just like that, I remembered Sandy Hook. Suddenly none of my petty “issues” mattered AT ALL.

I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… people are deeply hurting. They are grieving instead of baking cookies and shopping and considering what to stuff inside the stockings. On the week before Christmas—a child’s most cherished holiday—parents are burying their babies instead of reading them stories and tucking them in for a brief winter’s nap. I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… a community is drowning in devastation as they grapple with the largest, most difficult questions anyone will ever ask.

The flag, flapping silently from it’s revised position only half-way up the pole, was a solid slap in the face forcing me to gain the proper perspective about something as minor as slow-moving traffic. Yet it was an even harsher reminder that so much of what I worry about on a regular basis is utterly futile. But there won’t always be a flag flying at half-staff to serve as such a wake-up call. Eventually the flag will be raised again as we attempt to move forward and the evening news will begin to cover something else.

And while we ought not remain mired in the darkness that so often spreads from unspeakable tragedy, it IS worth pausing to remember that whether we see the flag raised high with pride or lowered with respect in mourning… it’s fabric wraps all the way around us… All of usEvery day. And well, if we can remember that we’re collectively covered by the same cloth… maybe we can remember that this life is about so much more than ourselves. And maybe that’s a start.

Farewell, Family Christmas Letter

awkward-christmas-card-photosWe’re all aware that while constant connection due to social media is convenient and entertaining, there are many things that have been lost due to this advent of technology and instant, infinite contact. Some things have made me sad as I’ve watched them go… like actually sitting in the same room with someone and talking face to face. But other things?… Not so much. Some things, I was happy to see fall by the wayside. And in recent years, Christmas time has reminded me of one of those things. I am referring to the family Christmas letter. Remember those?

I used to hate them. Every year my mailbox would be jammed with fancy envelopes adorned with pictures of the baby Jesus and custom gold and silver embossed address labels. Inside were the letters… chocked full of bloated, flowery lies stories about the family and their annual exploits. These always included (but were NOT limited to) fancy vacations, costly household renovations or new real estate ventures, overachieving brats children and their exhausted utterly thrilled and proud parents.

Of course accompanying the letters were the perfectly-staged “family photos” — everyone gathered ‘round the hearth in matching turtleneck / sweater combos that had either holly leaves, reindeer or snowflakes embroidered on them. (See above photo for perfect specimen.) OR said family was seen sitting serenely on some beach somewhere in coordinating white linens and sandals.

However, admittedly so, before I hated them… I wrote them. I know… I realize this makes me a bit of a hypocrite and one of “those” people, but at least I’m admitting it. I’m not proud of it, but there was a period of time in the late nineties that I wrote a few of my own. What can I say? I was young and stupid and when I first struck out on my own, how else was I supposed to learn how to act like an adult if I didn’t copy everyone else?

So I’d compile a letter “fluffing” up the events of my life in kind. And being a graphic designer by trade, my letter had to LOOK killer. Thus, I usually chose a theme (yes I said theme) and began its “development” in June. Therefore assuring that nothing worthy of note would be excluded and I would have ample time to procure excellent photos to accompany my exaggerations ur… embellishments um… life events.

So, why did I stop? You may be wondering. I simply got tired of it. And like I mentioned at the beginning, I began to hate them. Sensing that I was, indeed, seeing through the entire charade, I grew weary of reading people’s letters. But even more so, I got tired of feeling the overwhelming need to create my own “utopian mirage” that for a mere 32 cents a piece (back then anyway) could be mailed directly to the residences of everyone I knew.

Family Christmas Letter season was like a printing and postal arms race. Who could cram more into their perfectly-printed letter by being the prettiest, happiest, richest, most-successful, most-fulfilled family IN ALL THE LAND!?! Just once I wanted to see someone compile a letter that was REAL. I never actually had the courage to BE that person… but it would have been so delightful to go to the mailbox and find something like this instead:

Dear Friends and Family,

This year has totally sucked. I hate my job. Bonuses were eliminated despite the fact that the workload has increased by 20 percent. Most weeks I work six, 10-hour days and get maybe four hours of uninterrupted sleep if I’m lucky. Little Larry is failing ALL of his classes and the school has begun tossing around words like “alternative learning programs” and “family intervention” and “expulsion for the betterment of the educational environment as a whole” — whatever THAT means. Our daughter Maude has contracted some sort of scalp fungus that has yet to be identified. My lovely wife Bunny has gained 30 pounds and I swear sometimes when I look at her I believe she is plotting my demise. I no longer eat her cooking.

We didn’t vacation this year due to the fact that the house is falling down around us. The roof is leaking, the bathroom tile is chipping, there is a strange greenish water spot spreading across the kitchen ceiling — the source of which I cannot find to save my life. Meanwhile I discovered asbestos in the attic while setting rat traps and no one will admit what or who caused a giant, smelly rust-colored stain on the living room rug. Unfortunately, none of it can be repaired anytime soon because financially, we are bust. We’ve run up 40K in credit card debt, Maude’s mystery fungus is bankrupting us and the car needs a new transmission.

Sadly, our beloved dog Walter died tragically in a Fourth of July fireworks incident gone horribly wrong and the kids are driving me crazy begging for a new puppy. However, there is one bright spot to report. September proved to be a better month when the lawsuit against me was dropped so long as I continue to adhere to the rules of the restraining order. So that’s a plus.

I’m not going to lie… I hope this letter finds you and yours to be just as miserable as we are.

Happy Holidays!

Sincerely,
The Sellers Family

What’s That Elf on the Shelf REALLY Up To?

So here we are again. It’s creeping up on Christmas and parents everywhere are creeping around their houses late into the night searching for just the right spot to place their creepy little elf for the kiddies to find come morning. Yes, that wicked ol’ Elf on the Shelf has sprung to life once again and being the hater that I am… I couldn’t help but devote some blog time to the miniature Freak Show.

Some of you may recall that I wrote a post about him and his meteoric rise to fame last Christmas when the tiny demon became a blip on my personal radar. In case you missed it and you’re interested, you can read that one here. I feel I did an adequate job of relaying my fear, disdain and general creeped-out-ed-ness for this convention so I don’t think it’s necessary to expound on that much more.

What I would like to point out is that while I knew I wasn’t the ONLY person who found the Elf on the Shelf to be the very incarnation of evil itself — I had no idea how popular fearing him had actually become. It seems that for every parent out there who adores inflicting him and his “magical powers” upon their child, there is someone else more sensible, someone more enlightened, someone… well… someone more like me.

These enlightened ones know this little guy is up to no good. They understand that beneath that tiny red suit beats a heart of pure darkness. And behind those rosy cheeks and piercing blue eyes lurks a monster waiting to be unleashed… in your home… after you’re all asleep.

I’ve compiled the following images from around the web as proof positive that he is not all he’s cracked up to be. The catchy tune, the cutesy animated commercial and the adorably designed, strategically marketed storybook and package is all a disguise. The plan? Get inside your home and gain your trust. The ultimate goal? Well, take a look for youself…

elf_tree lightself_artistelf_song elf_grandma elf_fluffy

Not to worry though parents—if you’ve been duped by the elf and his cleverly-hatched scheme, and he is, in fact, IN your house this very instance—there is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps your child is also an “enlightened one” like I mentioned earlier. And perhaps he or she will take matters into their own hands… like this one did…

elf_fire

Christmas Tree Mystery

stanley under treeTwas weeks before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… save for perhaps a large orange cat with a penchant for shiny red round things that dangle tauntingly from evergreen branches and roll wildly when he bats and chases them. Saturday morning—after meticulously positioning the tree skirt “just so” and adusting every last branch, twinkle light, bulb, miniature angel, teddy bear, snowman, santa and reindeer the night before—I awoke to discover an ornament missing from the tree. Thus far the crime scene clues include a slightly askew tree skirt, two vacant metal hooks embedded into the carpet, a random red bulb resting silently in the middle of the room and one “innocent” looking kitty peering out at me from between the brightly lit branches. Not sure I’ll be able to crack this one.