The Smoking Thanksgiving

Change is smokingturkehard especially when it comes to trying to “update” your holiday traditions.

Back in early October I made a momentous announcement to my family and like any announcement that would shake my husband and children to their very core I did it over Snapchat and text. Snapchat so they would actually read it, and text to date and time stamp it in case I ever needed to do the, “I told you this back in (insert date and time here) and here’s the text to prove it.”

As I feared my family took the “big news” like huge, whining babies. When I hit send on my proclamation that Thanksgiving would be “a-changing” there was a communal freak out. I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t have included my four-point plan for a Thanksgiving refresh with bullet points in the text, but I was proud of all the work I had put into it. Not to brag, but it was PowerPoint worthy.

The problem, of course, isn’t me. It’s my family. They are very averse to any change regarding the holidays. Good Lord, they still bring up, at least a couple of times a year, the horror of the Thanksgiving of 2005. The heinous act that was committed 13 years ago was that we went out to eat for Thanksgiving (first and last time) and it was – brace yourself for this unspeakable act – a buffet – deep breath – at a casino.

In my defense, we had just moved to Reno, Nevada and all the best restaurants were in the casinos and they advertised really scrumptious Thanksgiving menus. How was I, a recent transplant to the gambling state, to know that we would be seated in the overflow dining area situated amongst a valley of hundreds of slot machines.

This resulted in us being serenaded with the nonstop ping, ping, ping of the one arm bandits while being basted in cigarette smoke from the ardent casino patrons. The smoking was so ferocious that a nicotine cloud seemed to be lingering over the dessert section. The pumpkin pie tasted like it has been infused with tobacco juice.

I will confess it wasn’t very Martha Stewart-esque. It was more like how I would imagine Thanksgiving would be in hell, but I’m guessing there wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving in hell because, you know, it’s hell. What would you even be thankful for?

This one-time misstep has resulted in my family being very anti any changes in their holiday ritual. A couple of years ago I wanted to eat Thanksgiving at 6 pm instead of our customary 2 p.m. and you would have thought I told my kids I didn’t love them anymore. The angst was real.

This year, though, I thought things might be different. After all, everyone is a whole lot older and should be able to roll with change better. I was, of course, wrong. And here’s the kicker; all I wanted to do was elevate our dining ritual. It was just a couple of tweaks like replacing the sweet potato casserole that’s more mini marshmallows than actual vegetable with a yam soufflé, and RIP’ing the canned cranberry because nothing says gracious entertaining like a burgundy tube of goo tatted with rings from the can it was birthed out of.

I also wanted to buy the pies. This was the one that really elicited a protest. Apparently I’m living with such devout food connoisseurs that a store-bought pie is verboten. It’s hard to explain that level of devotion to “everything should be homemade” when you know your daughter is on a first name basis with the Taco Bell drive thru employees and got “depressed” when the nacho fries were no longer on the menu.

In the end I had no choice but to totally cave to their tyranny. In the spirit of family harmony and holiday traditions I’m keeping everything status quo. It’s basically self-preservation, because I don’t want to hear for the rest of my life how the turkey day of 2018 was the worst ever. I’ll reserve that distinction solely for the “Smoking Casino Thanksgiving.”

 

 

Dear Snarky – My Sister-in-Law is Pocketing Money Meant for Our Parents Christmas Gifts

Dear Snarky,problem

 I think my sister-in-law is stealing from the family. For the past couple of years, she has volunteered to be the person who buys my mom and dad their Christmas gift from all of us kids. There are six of us and we each chip in $200. So, that’s $1,200. The first year the gifts were good, as in they looked like we spent $1,200 on them, but then for the past two years the gifts have been really cheap. So, cheap, everyone but my brother (her husband), thinks my sister-in-law is pocketing at least half of the $1,200. Our solution last weekend was to tell her that I wanted a turn buying the gifts this Christmas but she got livid.

 So, my big mouth sister told her that we know she’s stealing. This sent my sister-in-law to mom crying about how she’s bullied by the family. Now my mom is angry at all of us and I’m kind of already over spending the holidays with anyone I’m related too.

 Is there any way we can patch this up so Christmas isn’t ruined?

 Signed, Not feeling It

Dear Not Feeling It,

To be totally honest I’m in awe that you and your siblings pony up $1,200 to spend on gifts for your parents. It makes my Bath and Body Works Scented Lotion set from my kids look really, really lame. But putting that aside I feel that the best solution would be for all the kids to start a new tradition of getting your parents individual presents. That way everyone oversees their own money and expenditures.

As for your sister-in-law, you and your siblings are going to have to apologize for accusing her of stealing. She might have been but there were a million better ways to solve that problem than just blurting it out. So, give her an apology and remember extended family relationships require finesse. Wait a minute I’ve just thought of the perfect present – family therapy – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky “Advice with an Attitude” 😉 send an email to snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com.

Dear Snarky – My Mother-In-Law Thought Helping Out After I Just Had a Baby Was Supposed to Be a Vacation

Dear Snarky,xmjr57fd2hwy

 I can’t believe the latest stunt my mother-in-law pulled. I just had my second baby (my first is only 18 months old) and my mother-in- law literally begged to come stay with us and help. I was hesitant because she’s not exactly grandmother of the year, but my husband said we should give his mom a chance to redeem herself. The entire two weeks she was here she did nothing except complain that she was bored and ask when were we going to “finally” do something fun. 

 Then after she left she posted on Facebook that it was the “worst vacation ever.” WTH? Who thinks offering to help your daughter-in-law after she just had a baby is going to be a vacation?

 I told my husband we are done with his mom and he thinks I’m being “postpartum overly emotional” Who’s right here?

 Signed, Not Happy

Dear Not Happy,

You know who needs to take a vacation? You, from your mother-in-law. Perhaps, she doesn’t need to be shunned for life, but you deserve the mental break from having to deal with that hot mess because anyone with a functioning brain stem knows that a “visit” to a house with a new baby and an 18-month-old is not going to be cocktails on the beach. 

Also, it sounds like your husband has some mommy issues and feels like he needs to defend her behavior – so, my condolences to you. Hopefully, as he matures into, what’s that word, oh yeah, a man he’ll wise up to his mother’s head games.

As for now, let your angry go. Your mother-in-law isn’t worth the emotional investment. You need to focus on the positives – your babies.

Oh No, She Didn’t

When a trip to Walmart results in deep thoughts about face creams and “jowl alerts.”

I am not a grandma. It’s important for mto say this because I just got an ego beat down at Walmart. Could I be a grandma? Sure. Could I be a grandmother to a 22-year-old? Yes, I mean biologically speaking, I guess I could be, but a lot of tumultuous twists and turns would have had to happen for that to take place. And for the record, Walmart should be a safe space concerning your appearance. You should be able to walk into any Walmart and as long as you’ve got on a bra you’re Miss America.

Imagine my shock when I was standing in a Walmart check-out line with some plastic hangers chatting up the woman behind me about moving kids into dorm rooms and seeing kids graduate college. You know, the whole cycle of life thing and then being asked, with a straight face if the 22-year-old “child” I had mentioned was my grandson.

This caught me so off guard I was, at first, rendered speechless. My immediate thought was, “Oh no, she didn’t.” I responded with a smile that I hoped conveyed that I thought she was mentally unbalanced for asking that question and responded with, “No, the 22-year-old is my oldest CHILD.”

This cretin, who looked to be in her late 30s, didn’t even seem embarrassed or even attempt to back pedal (and I wanted to see some first-rate backpedaling). She just shrugged her shoulders and crooned, “Oh, I would have thought grandmother.”

By this time, I was clutching my Walmart Mainstay 18 pack of plastic hangers with all my might because if I let go someone was going down. I channeled my mother, smiled back at her again and said, “Well, aren’t you sweet,” which is southern for “insert four letter word here” and then “you.”

Once I checked out I held my apparently very aged head high and did my best swagger walk out of Walmart. Unfortunately, I had hurt my knee a couple of days ago so it was more of a swagger stumble. At best, it was a Captain Hook – inspired peg leg pirate swagger. But, I still owned it. No one was going to age shame me and think I minded in the least.

When I got to my car I immediately did a thorough inspection of my face in the most unforgiving mirror known to man –   a rearview mirror on a sunny day – and concluded that perhaps it was time to do what I had been tenaciously avoiding. Yep, I had to admit that I needed to up my game and so I ventured to where no woman in the deep throes of advanced middle age wants to go – the department store makeup counter.

It’s not that I don’t like makeup or face creams. It’s just that I hate that the new sales tactic seems to be pointing out your flaws. One time I was told that I needed to be on “jowl alert.” Not just any jowl alert, mind you, but a “Defcon 2.” Ouch.

I also don’t appreciate being assaulted with dire predictions of “rapid advanced onset aging.”

Excuse me, that the only sunscreen in my childhood was Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil. No one had ever heard of SPF’s. If you had asked me what an SPF was back in the day I would have looked up from drinking a TAB while reading “Young Miss” magazine and responded with a “I dunno.”   

What happened to wooing the customer? I want to be told that I look amazing and with just a little dollop on of this and that I would be beyond stunning. Instead, I have to give myself a pep talk before I darken the Lancôme counter at Macy’s.

Hey, wait a minute. I think I’ve figured this whole “grandma” thing out. That lady at Walmart must work at a cosmetic counter. Come to think of it, she did have on a lot of eye shadow. Maybe her whole “grandma” statement was more of a sales pitch and less of an overview on my face.

That must be it and even if it’s not – that’s the story I’m going to go with.

The Brag-A-Thon

 

I think bragging could be an Olympic sport or maybe it could have its own Olympics because there’s so many different bragging disciplines. There’s everything from the well-known boisterous bragger, and then there’s the hard-core marathon bragger, plus the newest entry in the bragging universe the subtlest. I had an encounter with a subtle bragger recently and it was eye-opening and confusing.

The problem with the subtlest is, at first, you’re wondering if they’re bragging or just being a pal and imparting information you might need to know. Then you start picking up conversational cues and realize that you’re talking (Or listening because does a bragger every desire communication that features input from anyone else?) with a hard-core bragger who thinks they’re disguising their boasting.

This I have a big problem with mainly because I think the subtlest believes I’m an idiot and they’re pulling one over on me. I have more respect for the blow hard bragger who owns their obnoxiousness and lets their bluster flag fly.

I was delighted though to discover, thru trial and error, the subtlest’s Kryptonite. It’s never asking a question. This is because their bragging is disguised as informational so if you don’t ask a question, most especially a follow-up question, to their boasting it can shut them down.

I think of the subtlest as the humble bragger (which was all the rage several years ago) all grown up. The humble bragger is all about boasting under the pretense of humility. The subtlest has cast the faux humility aside and is now masking their bragging as informational.

What I don’t understand is this trend of camouflaging your bragging. Everybody brags, at least a little, and it’s okay. Being excited about an accomplishment feels good and if you’re not a perpetual bragger than I don’t think anyone minds. So, why the need to pretend that you’re above bragging while you basically brag your brains out?

I’ve thought about this and here’s what I’ve come up with. One, braggers think they’re smarter than the rest us and two, attempting to shroud your bragging lets you justify more bragging. It’s the bragging perfect storm. Plus, there are so many more forums today to unleash your bragging thanks to social media.

Back in the day bragging was a whole lot harder. I remember my mom telling me that in her prime they were only three places you could get a good brag in – at a neighborhood coffee get together, in the stands at a football game and church.

My mom called church the “holy grail” of bragging. She said after all that praying and singing most people felt like their soul was cleansed enough that it was “time to put the Good Book aside” and go the fellowship hall after Sunday service for a brag-a-thon. My mother, being a very private person, wasn’t big on bragging but she did enjoy listening to other people boost. She always said she learned something and she shared with me that “the people that bragged the most were hiding the most.”

Social media has proved that statement to be true. Today’s post of “deep, life affirming love” for having the “most amazing spouse ever” is tomorrow’s status change from “married” to “it’s complicated.”

All this bragging intrigue has prompted me to try to predict what will be the next new boasting maneuver and think I know what it is. Stealth bragging. I’ve already seen parents who “manage” their children’s social media write amazing things about themselves and then post it on their kid’s Instagram and Facebook accounts as if it has been written by their child.

I can only imagine what my mother would say about that.

MacGyver Mom

There are times in the parenting journey when you feel like you have taken up  a permanent residence in the innards of your child’s disesteem. Lucky for me, in regards to my daughter, I didn’t care – that much. Being a mature woman my teenager’s lack of shock and awe about the greatest that is me was quite frankly her loss. But, a part of me still craved her acknowledging, just the tiniest bit, that I was a-okay in the mom category.

I know I’m not the cool mom or the hot mom or my kid’s very best bestie because none of those roles interest me. I’m just a solid mom with no gushing adjective attached. But then something happened last week to change all that. My daughter had a life crisis and I swooped in and saved the day. I rescued her Apple AirPods.

For the technology, unaware Apple Airpods aren’t the name of a family pet or anything remotely human. The Airpods are miniscule little wireless headphones and if you’re a teenager they come in at number two, right behind the iPhone, as the most cherished thing in their world.

We were out-of-town when the tragedy happened. Like most cataclysmic events this one came out of nowhere. One second we were both exiting the car to go inside our hotel and then before I could say “make sure you throw away that Chipotle bag” an Airpod had vanished. One of the little buds had been swallowed whole by the interior of my car.

Well, to be more exact, as my daughter was disengaging one of the pods from her ear it fell out and got lodged in the no man’s land that is the seat belt thingamabob. In the part where you click in the seatbelt there’s a space that was just the right size to eat the Airpod. It was trapped, ensnared by plastic. We pounded, we went under the seat, over the seat, prodded and plied and yet the headphone remained imprisoned.

My daughter’s despair was at Defcon 1. She pleaded that we take the car to a mechanic and have the seat taken apart to free the headphone. I tried to explain that the labor expense of making that happen would equal the cost of about 10 Airpods. She then latched on to the idea of maybe, must maybe, going to buy new Airpods. This earned her a look that said – never going to happen.

Due to her distraught nature, I suggested she go up to the hotel room and mourn her Airpod in private, maybe start planning its memorial service, while I parked. What she didn’t know was that I was about to go full MacGyver on that car seat. I was getting that headphone out.

The big problem was I didn’t have any tools. So, I took a headband that was a piece of flexible metal covered in fabric and straightened it out. Then I got out a bra that fell out of a bag I had taken to Goodwill a couple of days earlier and using nail clippers cut out the underwire. Next, I attached the underwire to the metal of the headband and started the precision maneuvering needed to snake the wire into the crevice and release the headphone from its plastic grave. I felt like I was doing endoscopic surgey. It took about five minutes and required me hanging out of the backseat in a very unlady like fashion (ass in the air) but finally I freed that headphone!

When I delivered the amazing news of the successful rescue of the Airpod (via Snapchat, of course) there were literal tears of joy.

I, for one brief, shining moment was my teenager’s hero.

Furniture Shopping With My Husband -Perhaps My Worst Idea Ever

 

If someone gave me the choice of being stabbed in the cornea with a fondue fork or going furniture shopping with my husband, trust me I’d pick the fondue fork/cornea combination hands down.

I will confess that it was my bright idea to force (really more of a cajole) my husband into going with me to shop for a sectional sofa for our basement. But my intentions were pure. A sofa purchase requires a butts in seat experience and I wanted an extra pair of cheeks to help make the decision.

Granted, asking a man who purchases almost everything on-line to venture inside a furniture super store on a Saturday wasn’t one of my greatest hits, but it had to be done. And all was well until we got to the store and had to park about a mile away.

It appeared that a significant portion of the metro decided to go furniture shopping that day. The parking lot, which was big enough to house a sectional sofa for Godzilla and 1,000 of his closest friends, was at capacity. After we hiked in things got worse.

The store was like a maze. I, being a veteran shopper, decided we should tackle the furniture section in a counter-clockwise motion making concentric circles to ensure we saw everything. It was a masterful plan that seamlessly covered the entire area.

My husband disagreed. He just wanted to race walk through all the furniture in what I would call a very harried fashion with no rhyme or reason. I argued with him that his free form exploration of the furniture department would result in us, perhaps, missing out on seeing the “sectional of our dreams.”

My plaintive pleas made no impact on him because he just took off.  In the two, maybe three seconds I had spent being embarrassed that I actually said out loud, “the sectional of our dreams” he was gone, as in vanished.

I was so put out that I thought, “I’ll show him” and stuck to my genius plan of covering the area in concentric circles. As I perused sectionals I got madder and madder (Where was he and why wasn’t he answering my texts?) until I was distracted by the sight of four young children drinking cans of orange soda on a white couch. Those parents either have the most spill proof kids or like to gamble because just seeing it made me a nervous wreck. The mother in me was about to shout out “Be careful!” but then I spied my husband and I was off.

Where in the heck was he going? He was leaving the furniture department. Sure, it was jam-packed with humanity, but he needed to buck up. We had sectionals to sit on.

I followed him through the second level of the store, down an escalator and then to the very back of the first floor. He seemed very sure of where he was going, almost like he was pulled there by a force field. Then it all made sense. Of course, he has gone to the electronics department, specifically the huge televisions. When I caught up to him I said, “Um, these aren’t sectionals.” He smiled informing me that he decided the size of the sectional should be based on the width of the TV.

“Really,” I asked, “Is that that some sort of dude math?

“If it gets me out of the furniture department it is,” was his quick reply.

Spoiler alert. We didn’t get a sectional, but we are getting a new TV.

Dear Snarky – A DNA Test Ruined Our Family Reunion

Dear Snarky,

 My family reunion was a huge fiasco. My idiot cousin got one of those DNA tests and discovered that he had half siblings he didn’t know about. It looks like his dad, my uncle, cheated on his mom because one of those half siblings is my cousin’s age. 

He then thought it would a great idea to being his brand new two half siblings, who he had recently found and been in contact with, to the reunion and introduce them to the family. My uncle said he never even knew he had gotten their mother pregnant and was shocked. My aunt, his wife, got hysterical and we had to call 911 because we actually thought she has having a heart attack or seizure or both.

 Now, my cousin is asking for a family apology from everyone at the reunion for making his two newfound brothers feel so unwelcome. I think he’s the one who should apologize for putting everyone, including these new family members, in such a horrible spot.

 Signed, I need a Xanax.

Dear Xanax,

Your cousin needs his ass kicked. Make no mistake he was not motivated by kindness to his new kin. Nope. He used his two new bros as a weapon to shame and humiliate his father for having what amounts to a secret life. Mission accomplished there, but what he also did was put his mother in a horrendous situation and made his two half-brothers feel like they were part of a freak show at a carnival.

 If there’s any apologies to the family, it should be from your cousin. He needs to apologize to his new brothers for using them for his own messed up game and to his mother for humiliating her. As for his dad – the cheater – that’s a marital issue that everyone needs to stay out of. 

If I were those new family members I think I would go into hiding from your cousin because he sounds C-R-A-Z-Y!

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude  😉 please email snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com

 

Dear Snarky My Sister Doesn’t Give a Shit

Dear Snarky,

I’ve got a summer family feud brewing. My sister is doing some ridiculous thing called “free training” her bScreen Shot 2018-06-15 at 1.21.07 PMaby. This is when your baby never wears a diaper and just does his business anywhere. It’s supposed to be a gentler form of potty training. To each his own, but my problem is when my sister’s family stayed at my house over Memorial Day weekend and my “free training” nephew used not only my entire home as his bathroom, but he also pooped in the pool resulting in us having to do a shock treatment and making the pool unusable for most of the long weekend.

All of this made me dis-invite my sister and her family for July 4th. My sister is now furious and is accusing me of not respecting her parenting style.

I need to shut this down now. Any advice?

Signed, What’s Wrong with a Diaper?

Dear Diaper,

The only way to shut this down is to give in to your sister and I strongly suggest you don’t do that. Because here’s the deal – just because someone has a preferred parenting style doesn’t mean they can subject the rest of the world to it.

It is totally your sister’s own business if she doesn’t want to put a diaper on her son and let him view his home and yard as one great big toilet. It’s whole other box of Pampers if she feels it’s okay for her off spring to soil property outside of their home. Beyond the disgusting factor, which is off the charts high, it’s also a public health issue.

The fact that your sister thought it was okay to let her child defecate all over your home makes me think she’s about 10 kinds of crazy. Do not cave on this issue. Just tell her that you respect your home more than her parenting style.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Parenting Advice With an Attitude – please email snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com

Hair Raising Issues

I consider myself an assertive person. Give me a family member with an issue and I’m all over it. The two areas, though, where my assertiveness evaporates is any kind of monetary salary negotiations and my hair.

I know this combo is totally non-sequitur. So, let’s first get the whole money thing out of the way. For some reason money, in regards to me getting some, is my kryptonite. I can’t explain why in almost all other arenas of my life I’m a bull-dog, but when comes to asking for a raise I lose all my boldness. It’s freaky.

I have talked about this issue with a friend who has a degree in psychology, but is currently a pharmaceutical rep, and she thinks it’s because I’m insulted that I even have to quantify my worth. It should be a given that I’m fabulous and should be compensated accordingly. Yes, yes and yes, to all of the above.  Another friend, also with a psychology degree, who is now a realtor, told me it could be a result of me being uncomfortable putting a price tag on myself.

This makes perfect sense especially when I think about my childhood. I was raised in a southern home where you didn’t talk about money. It was considered uncouth. So, perhaps that’s the problem – southern manners keep me from self-advocating. Note to self: Work on this issue – asap.

Now onto my hair. My whole adult life I’ve been a coward about telling any stylist that I don’t like what they’ve done to my hair. I will sit in the salon chair and bold face lie after I’ve dropped 100 plus dollars on my mane and say, “Yeah, it looks great. Thanks.”

In reality, it looks horrible. So, horrible, I’m already doing hair math and calculating how many times I have to wash it with Head and Shoulders to get the hideous color out. Yep, that’s right I’ve endured that many bad salon treatments that I have it down to a science how to remove color. Spoiler alert, it’s equal parts dandruff shampoo and baking soda with a vinegar rinse.

The fact that I will pay money to get my hair done and then wuss out infuriates me. Why can’t I share that my desire was, in fact, not to look like the Bride of Frankenstein? Instead of being assertive I’m persuading myself that it’s not that bad. That, it’s only hair. It’s no big deal and maybe I’m just being overly vain.

I’m ecstatic to report that recently I had a breakthrough. I finally got the gumption to stand up for myself and my follicles. During my last hair appointment, I knew things had gone terribly wrong when the stylist removed the towel and my hair looked like the dirty water that’s left over in your shampoo vacuum – murky and of indeterminate shades of ick.

I gave myself the usual pep talk of “Just wait till it’s dry. I’m sure it will be fine,” but then something happened. Something came of my mouth that I had never heard before while sitting with wet hair in a salon. I asserted myself and muttered, “This looks bad, like really bad.”

The stylist assured me all was well as she started blow drying my hair and, of course, it wasn’t. I remained strong and proclaimed, “We’re going to need to fix this because my hair is now making me sad.”

It was liberating. I felt beautiful, minus my hair of course, and I was so proud. I had done it. I had finally asserted myself all over that hair salon. Now, all I need to do is work on that money issue and I’ll be golden which, ironically, is what I was going for with my hair color.