Writing Can Get Pretty Ugly

*Note:  I write a weekly opinion column for the Kansas City Star. Some of the stuff I muse about is a little more political in nature than I what share on this blog and by that I mean in the past I have written about education reform, health care etc. Because of this I get emails where people disagree with me, which is totally appropriate and welcome. This recent column was in regards to people who feel free to write to me about my looks – because that’s how you disagree with a woman right – by disparaging her appearance? Ugh. I’m sharing this column on my blog because I believe it has a message that will resonate with a lot of you.

 

I don’t get a ton of emails from readers of my Kansas City Star column hating on me but I get enough that I’ve been able to classify them into categories.

There’s the people that can’t grasp the concept of self-deprecating humor and therefore think I’m an idiot. There are the people that like to write me six paragraph emails on an almost weekly basis with the theme of, yep you guessed it, that I’m an idiot. There’s the people who disagree with me on a topic and use this as an excuse to take out all their life frustrations on me and then there’s my favorite – the people (all male based on their email signatures) that like to tell me an idiot AND that I’m unattractive.

These brings me a special joy because I’m in awe of how any man could have the hubris to believe that I care about their opinion in regards to my looks. As an advanced middle-aged female giving a hoot and holler about what any man thinks about my appearance ended about four decades ago.

How some dudes could conceive that telling me I’m unattractive or fat is going to be the coup de grace of my existence makes me laugh. Also, what makes these men presume womankind cares about their opinion on our looks?

Haven’t we as a society gotten past that just a wee bit? Sure, based on social media you could think that that answer to that question is a great big NO.

But don’t be fooled by all those filters and sexy posts by women on Instagram who are living the “like my post and link in bio” lifestyle. Most females today care more about than own judgment way more than what any guy thinks. Plus I think we’re raising girls today to have what I call self esteem swagger.

I’d like to believe that my father was a pioneer in this trend. Almost every day of my life he told me I was smart, beautiful and strong.

When I was in high school he drove me to school in the mornings and the entire seven-minute drive consisted of my dad telling me how amazing I was. It became a running joke between us. I called it “Dad’s morning pep talk.” He called it “telling it like it is.”

I would greet his soliloquy with rolled eyes and share that he was “full of it” but the man knew what he was doing. To this day if I’m having a crisis, large or small, I go back to what he told me on those drives to school.

This is why when men send me disparaging emails I feel sorrow and it’s not because they think I’m a “fatty” or “could use some work” but because based on my father and role model they’re failures as human beings.

I worry about any man who could write me, an aging female with no illusions about becoming an AARP super model, to call me out on my looks. What kind of man, husband, father are you that you can email a woman and attempt to tear her down by commenting on her appearance?

If you’re doing this to me, a total stranger, than how must you treat the women in your lives and what kind of damage are you doing to their mental health?

My dad’s name was Bob. I’d like to suggest that before you hit send on that next hate filled email you think about your legacy or as my husband likes to say during any big family decision ask yourself, “What would Bob do?”

 

 

 

Dear Snarky – I’m Being Shunned For Bringing Cupcakes to a School Party

Dear Snarky,

 I’m being shunned at my son’s elementary school due to having the “audacity” to bring mini chocolate cupcakes to the first grade Halloween party. I never received the link to the online sign up sheet for food and didn’t know that sweets were not allowed at the party. I only brought cupcakes because I didn’t want to show up empty handed.

 Now, the anti sugar Nazis are furious and suggesting that I’m a bad mother because I dared to bring a dessert to a Halloween party. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Halloween all about the sugar? Now, I’ve been told by the two room moms that I’m not allowed to volunteer or sign up for any party duties for the reminder of the school year.

 I cannot express how angry this makes me. What course of action do you think I should take because this is total bull shit?

 Signed, Cupcake Mom

Dear Cupcake,

You have to pick your battles. Ask yourself are cupcakes the hill you want to die on? If your child is only in the first grade you have a L-O-N-G time to spend with these mothers.

This means you can do two things. One, not volunteer at the rest of the parties but absolutely show up for your son or two take a stand so these moms know not to mess with you for the next 12 years and lord help me but I’m leaning towards this one because these moms need to simmer the hell down and learn to reign in their control issues. Their kid’s elementary school is not their personal fiefdom. #getalife.

Admittedly you should make sure moving forward that you’re up-to-date on your emails, apps, etc related to school events but you shouldn’t have to cower in fear around these mothers or kiss up to them because you dared to walk into the school bearing cupcakes. This means one thing – go over their heads. Yep, talk to the teacher the real boss of the classroom.

Explain what happened, express your desire to help out and ask if there is anything the teacher needs assistance with. Then resist the urge to tell the two room moms where they can shove their “no volunteer” edict and focus on making your child’s first grade year wonderful.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

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

The Dog Park

If I had to make a top 10 lisdog-humort of my favorite things in life my dogs would be on it. I know I should feel bad that one of my siblings wouldn’t make the list. I also know I should feel fiercely ashamed that Diet Coke would make the list before the aforementioned sibling, but here’s the thing: Diet Coke’s not crazy. I can’t really say that about my oldest brother.

But enough of my family drama let’s get back to dogs – wonderful, amazing dogs. I’m one of those people who if I was forced to choose would more often than not take the company of canines over people. They’re great listeners, non judgmental and don’t talk back. Does it get any better than that? I mean really, who cares how much they shed?

Recently, one of our beloved dogs passed away. Usually when we lose a dog our family tradition has been to have a period of mourning and reflection before getting a new addition to the family. Last month, my husband freelanced on that rule and while I was out-of-town adopted a dog. He assured me that “Tahoe”, a rescue beagle, was as mellow as they come. In fact, he described the dog as “totally chill.”

This stumped me a little because although I don’t know a lot about beagles I was pretty sure the word chill wasn’t an accurate description of the breed. When I got home Tahoe was indeed a most mellow fellow. We found out that next day this was because he had pneumonia. After a hefty vet bill and one week of recovery Tahoe’s personality was in full bloom.

The dog is gregarious and has never met a stranger. He also believes every animate and inanimate object adores him. A walk with Tahoe through the neighborhood feels like he’s campaigning for public office. I’m certain he could get out of the vote for, at the very least, County Commissioner. Due to his exuberant personality I thought he might enjoy the new dog park.

I took my son with me as backup in case Tahoe with acres to roam went, I don’t know, full wolf or something. Once we got inside the park and it was time to let our dog loose I felt like the theme song from Born Free should be playing.

For those you who not familiar with this almost fifty-year-old movie let me tell you all you need to know. A couple raises an abandoned lion cub and then when it grows up they have to release it back into the wild and many tears are shed as Born free, as free as the wind blows, As free as the grass grows, Born free to follow your heart plays over a montage of the lion bounding off into the open African Savannah. (As a child of the 70’s it’s doesn’t have the full boo hoo quality of say a Brian’s Song, but it’s close.)

As soon as Tahoe is leash-less he takes off like a Walmart shopper first in the door at a Black Friday sale. He even gives us an over the shoulder “so long suckers” look. I feared he was a goner. I knew using simple math that it would be quite a feat for him to jump the fence, but never being one to underestimate the brilliance and determination of the canine spirit I didn’t rule out some sort of elaborate tunnel system dug by the dogs, in shifts, when their humans weren’t looking.

I frantically tell my son to start running after Tahoe. He gives me the teenage “no way” eye roll. I quickly explain that I almost certain the dog is going AWOL. He shakes his head at me and matter-of-factly says, “Relax, no one, most especially our dogs, would ever want to leave you.”

I’m irrationally excited by this statement. It might be, perhaps, the best compliment I’ve ever received in my life, but before I can delve deeper for clarification and a chance to extrapolate on the praise (I mean it’s not like I get many accolades from my teenagers. I think the last nice thing my kids said to me was back in 2013 and it was that  “dinner was decent.”) Tahoe comes barreling back towards us like a soccer ball kicked by the love child of Thor and She-Hulk. My son smirks at me and simply says, “See, I told you he come right back.”

“Because I’m awesome right?”

“Well, maybe and it doesn’t hurt that you feed him steak.”

Not quite the continued declaration of my greatness I was looking for, but I’ll take it. If I want real devotion there’s always the superior mammal to turn to – dogs.

*Attention SnaScreen Shot 2014-12-29 at 11.01.47 PMrky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

Admit it – We’ve All Wanted to Escape From Our Family on Thanksgiving

Andthg_37 now for something to make me really unpopular . . . I’m going to confess that I don’t get what all the fuss is about regarding having to work on Thanksgiving. Right now, all of my social media newsfeeds are flush with what I’m going to call the “No Work Thanksgiving” movement.

Based on the fervent “likes”, “shares,” and “retweets” one would think working on Thanksgiving is a major societal problem of the 21st century. The thing that really makes me laugh is the sanctimonious chatter about how working on Thanksgiving is “robbing people of family time.” Yeah, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. And in the spirit of full disclosure I’ve worked many Thanksgivings and LOVED it! Like skipping out of the house, loving it. (I also loved the money because I really needed the money.)

Before you think I’m anti family (or anti my family) let’s examine the holiday. It’s not even a religious occasion. I would understand this level of outrage if, indeed, it was a holy day. But it’s a Federal holiday that came about in 1863, when, President Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in the month of November as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Okay, I will now concede that sounds religious, but really, how many people go to church on Thanksgiving?

And if you’re going to be angry about a holiday that’s gone full retail where’s the Fourth of July fury? That’s a huge day in American history, but no one cares that Victoria’s Secret dares to cheapen the birthday of this great country of ours with a “Let Freedom Ring” three thongs and a cheekster for $13 sale.

It’s also a day that requires hours of hard culinary labor. Anyone who says they don’t believe people should have to work on Thanksgiving must never have hosted the holiday at their home. Sure, the reward of toiling in the kitchen is grand and glorious. You, for doing all the pre meal prep, cooking and cleaning, get the thank you gift of gazing upon the wonder that is your Uncle T.J. stuffing his face at the speed of light so he resume his prone position on the couch to watch football.

As for the whole “robbing people of family time” argument let’s be honest here. Most of us don’t have fairy tale families where our Thanksgiving is 24-hour extended kin group hug. For a lot of us, a whole day consumed with a cornucopia of relatives, in a confined space, with no chance of escape, is akin to tip toeing barefoot through the hot coals of hell. Add in second cousins, who have been drinking alcohol since 10 a.m. and you have me volunteering to work every holiday. In fact, many times as I have been bolting for the door to get to work my husband has begged, “Please, please, take me with you.”

The “No Work Thanksgiving” moment doesn’t just focus its ire on the merchants that chose to be open on Turkey Day there’s also a heaping helping of disgust for folks who dare to shop on mashed potatoes with gravy Thursday. Lots of time is spent on social media dissing people camped outside a Best Buy to get a “bitching deal” on a TV that’s bigger than most people’s first homes.

Here’s my take on that. If you have a family member (or members) that has chosen standing outside a Best Buy instead of gracing your table for Thanksgiving you should be rejoicing, like Hallelujah chorus rejoicing, because you’ve been saved for spending an entire day with this level of nitwit. In fact, I would go so far as saying you need to write a thank you note to Best Buy for their awesome system of herding and corralling humans that don’t need to be free ranging it on Thanksgiving. It’s like having a babysitter for the ickier part of your family tree.

(Now, just to be fair, I must also defend the Best Buy campers. I’ve been told by some that they have a “great time waiting in line” and that it “beats the hell out of spending the day with family.”)

As for the folks that hit the malls and Target Thanksgiving evening all I have to say is you go girls (and men being forced against their will to Kohl’s for their fleece sale). Two years ago, I interviewed a group of woman, four sisters-in-laws, who were having a blast Target on Thanksgiving night. They didn’t really care about the shopping. For them it was all about taking a break from a surly mother-in-law and husbands who needed to up their game on the kid watching duty. Technically, they were family members spending time together. They just weren’t doing it at a table while passing Great Grandma Eunice’s sweet potato, cornflake, and marshmallow fluff casserole.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

Dear Snarky – Unwanted Parenting Advice

dear_snarky_logoDear Snarky,

I am this close to punching my sister-in-law! We just got back from a family reunion and all she did was correct every child’s behavior but her own. She even went so far as to pull up parenting books from Amazon on her phone telling us we should read them to “get our kids under control.” Meanwhile her 3 less than perfect children, when they weren’t bullying their cousins, were fighting with their parents.

It was awful. Please help me get this woman under control.

Signed, Family Feud

Dear Family,

 The only way to deal with someone who loves to dispense advice is to fight fire with fire. Sure, you could do the whole turn the other cheek thing, but all that will do is give your sister-in-law permission to keep on being the family authority of child rearing and who wants that?

 So, I suggest at the next family get together you come locked and loaded with your own advice. And just don’t resort to pulling up parenting books on your iPhone. That’s for amateurs. What you want to do is up the visual aid ante and come with handouts.

 That’s right girlfriend, load up your purse with print outs from the Internet on how to deal with kids who bully and parents who allow it. When your sister-in-law starts pointing out your kids’ faults you reach into your purse and say, “Hey I saw this and thought of you.”

 I can’t guarantee this will shut her down, but it will serve notice that two can play this game and you’re going to play it better.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com

Family Fight Night

447f5bbd03ab8d3b1bbb054fba6f9d77Dear Snarky,

I need your help. My new husband’s family is a hot mess. Any family event somehow turns into a competition. Sunday night we went to an Oscar party at my brother-in-law’s house and there was a betting sheet about who would win what. Everyone had to ante up $5 and then predict the winners. By the end of the night there were accusations of cheating, screaming and I was afraid two of my brothers-in-laws were going to punch each other out. Did I mention children were present for this? Another family member will be having a NCAA Basketball Bracket party in a couple of weeks and quite frankly I’m a little scared to go. Do you have any suggestions on how to survive my new family?

Signed, Terrified

Dear Terrified,

Here’s the bad news. You are not going to change this family dynamic. This is all they know and I’m going to guess they kind of like the whole rough and tumble of it all AND see nothing wrong with their behavior. Not to be too much like your husband’s family but I’d bet money if you suggest they bring it down a notch or maybe even have a family get together that doesn’t involve a wager they would think you had the problem not them.

So, here’s my suggestions: First, pick your family encounters very careful. Easter dinner – yes. Easter egg hunt – no because I can see a beat down over who found the most eggs AND I would steer clear of any invites that revolve around a sporting event. Also, if there’s a betting pool simply choose not to participate. Chances are there might be other extended family members and by that I mean those not related by DNA that will gladly follow your lead. Lastly, Buck Up. You’re going to need a backbone to take on and flourish with this bunch. 

If you have a question for Dear Snarky please email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com