Family Road Trips – Then & Now

As spring breaks begins and families hit the road all I can think about is how easy kids today have it in regards to traveling. Remember the days of yesteryear when there was no escaping your siblings and you were forced to listen to whatever your dad had turned up on the radio or (shudder) the John Denver 8 track your mom loved.

Today, my daughter gets in the car, immediately shoves her Apple AirPod’s into her ears and then proceeds to stare at her phone for the next 12 hours. It’s like she’s in her own private transport bubble.

In an attempt to scare 21st century kids into being extremely grateful for all their modern car conveniences I’ve compiled a list of the top 7 horrors I had to endure during my childhood road trips. Warning: This story contains frightening detail and may trigger a PTSD episode in anyone over 40.

1)You haven’t really lived until you’ve driven from Massachusetts to Florida in a 1970 Ford LTD Country Squire Station Wagon while riding backwards the entire 1,350 miles. Being the youngest my sister and I were always forced to sit in the 70’s version of the third row of seats which, for some reason, faced backwards. It was guaranteed to induce a vomiting episode at about mile maker 200. On the positive side, it was great training to be either a) A fighter pilot and/or b) A roller coaster enthusiast because five years of facing backwards while hauling down an interstate gives your crazy good motion sickness control skills.

2) Decades ago there was barely any freeway fast food so your mom packed every meal that you were going to eat in the car and while a tuna salad sandwich sounds good at noon eating one another one six hours later after it’s been steeped in the floor board juices is about as gross as it gets.

3) Who needs electronic devices when you can play license plate bingo for h-o-u-r-s? It’s an especially riveting game when it takes almost a full day to get out of the state of Texas and it’s an exotic sighting when you see a car with a license plate from Oklahoma.

4) Back in the day there wasn’t a QuikTrip on every corner and gas stations on the interstate weren’t as plentiful as they are now. This meant that potty breaks happened at “rest stops” which were part serial killer liar and breeding ground for Ebola. The worst were rest stops that didn’t have plumbing and instead used chemical toilets with signs on the front of the door that read “Beware of Bears.” This is why I learned to “hold it” for 20 hours and is probably also why I’m now susceptible to UTI infections.

5) I don’t know who invented the game Punch Buggy, but let’s call it what it really is – sanctioned abuse. Nothing says family bonding like siblings using seeing a Volkswagen on the highway as an excuse to throttle each other.

6) My dad in the 1970s was a man with plan. I believe one of his supreme pleasures in life was “making great time” while driving to a vacation location. This meant he hardly ever took his foot off the accelerator and if we had to make an “unscheduled” stop due to the call of nature, well his disappointment would permeate the vehicle like one of those bad tuna salad sandwiches.

7) The hands down worst road trip memory is doing all the above without air conditioning. Oh, yes, imagine hurling down Interstate 35 at 80 mph with the windows down, while riding backwards, eating a tuna sandwich, desperately needing to go the bathroom and getting punched in the arm by your brothers good times.

No really – good times.

Dear Snarky – My Sister’s “Poor Me” Act Ruined Our Family Vacay

Dear  Snarky,

 I have some advice for you – never travel with family. For over a year now we have been planning a Disney World trip for my parents 40th wedding anniversary. My parents said they would cover all the airfare and the hotel room charge but any expense beyond that you had to pay for.

 Well, of course, my deadbeat brother-in-law and cheap sister show up and say they have “no money.” We are standing outside the Magic Kingdom and can’t go in because they “need help” getting their tickets. They also “needed help” stuffing their faces at the park and at the end of the trip my mom tells me that my sister and her husband had a room service charge that was almost $500!

 They ruined the trip with their non-stop begging and “poor me” attitude. My parents, my husband and I, along with my two brothers had to take turns paying their way. Then, they have the gall to extend their trip and go off on a beach vacation of their own. So, they can’t pay any money for a Disney trip, but they can afford their own beach vacation. I was so furious I sent them a bill for what they owed everyone and now my mom is mad at me for “stirring things up.”

 I don’t feel like I did anything wrong. Did I?

 Signed, Not happy

Dear Not Happy,

 You did nothing wrong and I applaud the fact that you sent them an invoice and I hope you stamped payment due upon receipt in big red letters. The fact that no one has ever called them out on their B.S. is why they have zero problems taken advantage of family members. Not only did they mooch off you, but they did it in such a way that you couldn’t say no. Seriously, standing outside the park with no money – it’s calculated and downright diabolical. They knew, at the very least, that your mom would pay for their tickets. And then for them to go off on their own vacation after fleecing your parents and siblings – I have no words.

Here’s a hard truth – sometimes family members suck and don’t deserve your generosity. Trust me, it’s time for some tough love for this duo and the way I see it they’re lucky all they got was an invoice.

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude 😉 – email me at or PM on my Snarky FB page.

Why Is It Easier to Get An Opioid Than An Antibiotic?

Riddle me this – how come it’s easier to get a prescription for Vicodin than one for antibiotics? 

I’m serious. During this winter of the flu and other assorted maladies I heard people talking about trying to score a “Zpack (Zithromax) with such a sense of devout urgency that they sounded like an addict trying to hustle another fix. One friend who just knew, without a doubt, that she had strep recently shared her harrowing tale of doctor shopping for a Zpack. 

At first she played by the rules and went straight to her primary care doctor for an antibiotic prescription, but she was shut down. The doctor uttered that dreaded sentence we’ve all been told before – “It’s a viral infection and antibiotics won’t help.” Apparently, she flunked the rapid strep test. 

Undeterred and 100 percent convinced that the doctor was incorrect because in her words, “he didn’t do a throat culture” she went to her allergist and pretending she had a sinus infection asked if perhaps some antibiotics would do the trick. The allergist also said “no can do.” 

Finally, she was reduced to going to an “sketchy” Urgent Care that she said “made the DMV look like the Four Seasons.” The place also wouldn’t take her insurance and demanded payment up front before she was even given a clip board to fill out her health history. It was worth it though because $135 in cash later she finally secured the coveted Zpack.

Now, let’s contrast that travail with my most recent doctor foray. Two weeks ago, due to overestimating my brute strength, I jacked my left hip. It was so bad wearing underwear became optional. The act of lifting my foot to enough to get underwear on fell into the category of “never going to happen.” Due to the fact that my mobility was being severely hindered I decided to go to the doctor.  

When I got to the appointment I didn’t even have to disrobe and I had a chunky sweater on. All I did was indicate where the pain was and do some different body moves followed by yes, no, ouch and OUCH! The visit didn’t take long and before a medical professional could say, “you yanked some muscles around your hips and back” I was about to be given a pain prescription. I swiftly turned it down because I’m skeptical of extra strength Tylenol.

But as I slowly shuffled out of the doctor’s office I thought about how easy that was to get some hard-core opioid pain medication in a five-minute or less doctor’s appointment. It also got me back on my wisdom teeth rant. 

When my son got his wisdom teeth out he got a prescription for Vicodin. I asked the nurse why the RX was for so many pills. Wouldn’t you just do, say four, and if a kid had more pain than that a parent should call the oral surgeon’s office because there could be an infection? Why, just as a general rule, prescribe more than two dozen pills of a hard-core opiate to a 16-year-old? 

It turns out I was on to something because research from the Centers for Disease Control has shown that more half of the opioids prescribed for wisdom teeth removal go unused by the patient and I’ll let you conjecture what happens to a lot of those unused pills.

I have no problem with doctors following strict protocol for who does and does not warrant an antibiotic prescription because antibiotic resistant infections sound Zombie Apocalypse adjacent. What I don’t understand is why the medical community doesn’t use the same tenacity when it comes to prescribing opioids. It shouldn’t be harder to get Amoxicillin than OxyContin.

So Over It

I think there needs to be a national day of “step away from your computers and smartphones.” We can then use the time to take deep breaths and focus on not being so angry.

For at least two years I’ve been making excuses when people would comment about how mean everyone had gotten on social media. I would blame politics and say it’s making people crazy or worse filter less. Meanwhile, I’m hiding more and more “friends” so I don’t have to experience their meandering rage.

Today, I’m barely on social media (except for my beloved Snarky FB page)  because I’m over it. It’s like when Oreo’s came out with Double Stuffed. They were great, but after eating a sleeve (or two) I discovered I’m more of a chocolate wafer girl. All that filling was just too much. When it was just a dollop it seamlessly melded with the wafer, but once they doubled down the artificial flavor kicked into turbo mode and the Oreo acquired an aftertaste of “I don’t want it anymore.”

The same thing has happened with social media. I don’t want it anymore. It has unleashed the worst in people.

If that’s not depressing enough this blob of emboldened fury has slimed its way into all forms of communication where it seems more and more of us feel like we’ve been ordained to be the royal highness of jerkdom.

It took a neighborhood website to show me how bad things have gotten in the “I’m thinking it so I’m going to say it” department. One would surmise that a neighborhood website would be the place of somewhat civil communication. After all, you live in the same hood and a certain veneer of politeness ensures cul-de-sac harmony.

 It’s not like Facebook where people feel like they can make a hostile comment with nary a care because chances are slim to none that you’re going to ever have to experience any in person awkwardness resulting from that harsh rebuke you wrote on a former high school classmate’s page who now lives in New Jersey.

But your neighbors are a constant in your life. You see them while walking your dog or even getting your mail, which would make it kind of important to dial down the jerk or knee jerk reaction.

Sadly, an innocuous question left by a fellow neighbor about when the Christmas decorations were going to be removed from the entrance of the neighborhood turned into a flurry of erroneous comments about picking on the alleged volunteers who put up the wreaths to who goes to board meetings and how lame the HOA management company is.

It all made me very sad. How does one question get turned around into being about nagging volunteers and then become a dumping ground for neighborhood angst?

No one wants to problem solve anymore. The go to now is just to complain or what I think is even worse make comments that have zero basis in fact.

What’s happened to us?

A decade ago I don’t think this would have occurred. I believe we were still following the other golden rule – hiding our true feelings lest we hurt someone else’s. Now, it’s an open season on just spewing whatever thought pops in your brain. No care or concern is given to the consequences.

I would have thought that a neighborhood website for a small Kansas suburb would be something of a safe space. But it seems we’ve become a society of disgruntled fingers furiously typing away in any on-line forum with a comment section.

Retainer Challenged

There are two kinds of children. Those who lose their retainers and those who don’t. I happen to have one of each. My son, now 21, has never been retainer-less. Since he got his braces off six years ago he’s been diligent regarding all things retainer. I know this because I’ve never had to buy him a new retainer and his teeth still look straight as the day the braces came off.

Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about my daughter. She’s, to be kind, retainer challenged. The latest episode in “Where’s Bella’s Retainer” ended up with her hypothesizing that the dog ate it. Specifically, our beagle.

To be fair the beagle doesn’t have a discriminating palate, but I don’t see him chowing down on a retainer. He turns his nose up at a Milk Bones so I’m skeptical he found a wire and plastic apparatus appetizing. Also, in the TMI department I pick up his poop so I think I would notice the remnants of a retainer.

But because I’m either a bad mother or just a tired one that’s the story we took to the orthodontist. To the credit of the entire office no one yelled liar or even rolled an eye. I don’t know maybe replacing retainers is a huge money-maker. Perhaps it’s an orthodontist gold mine with a high volume and big mark-up that helps subsidies all those rubber bands they give out.

It also made me curious to what retainer excuses people in the smile business had heard. Maybe my daughter’s “my dog ate my retainer” didn’t even register on the scale of wacky orthodontics appliances stories. So, I decided to launch my own investigation. I was going to find out the most outlandish excuses ortho employees had heard about “How I lost my retainer.”

The third best retainer tale of woe I was told concerned a child who must have been a diligent retainer wearer because he had it in during a surf lesson and upon being hit by a “major wave” lost it in the majestic waters of the Pacific. Perhaps somewhere in the briny depths a baby shark is enjoying some free orthodontic work towards a more beautiful smile courtesy of this retainer.

Coming in at number two was my little brother ate it. This one totally surpasses dog – big time. It would also lead you to ask a follow-up question. As in did this necessitate a trip to the E.R.?

The number one most bizarre story was my retainer got flushed down the toilet. Hmm, this one seems like a stretch because not only would both parts of the retainer have to take a porcelain swim, but then you would have to flush.

I asked the veteran orthodontist sharing this if she inquired to the person telling her the story why upon noticing that you dropped your retainer in the toilet wouldn’t you fish it out and commence an industrial grade sterilization sequence. She smirked and said that she did indeed ask about this and was told “the retainer was disguised by number 2.” (Gag.)

Maybe there needs to be some sort of chip implanted in retainers so you can locate them with your phone. Seriously, someone develop that app asap. My daughter’s going to need it. I just texted her (with three mad face emojis and in all caps) that her dad and I had just bought her the last retainer on our dime. The next one’s on her.

Phone Free Or How I Survived 14 Hours Without My Cell and Lived to Tell the Tale

I lost my phone for 14 hours and I can honestly say it was a serene almost spa like experience. It didn’t start out that way, but in the end, I give being phone free two enthusiastic texting thumbs up.

My story begins on a frigid winter morning where the ice on your car windshield is thick and the heated seats inside your vehicle can’t get hot fast enough. I left my house for work in a harried, mild panic. The only way I wasn’t going to be late for my job is if I nixed my morning McDonald’s Diet Coke run. It was a “Sophia’s Choice” for me – and, of course, Diet Coke prevailed.

As I was sitting in the drive thru I was horrified to discover I was phone-less. I looked in my purse, in-between the seats and even under. Yep, I was a woman without a phone.

It wasn’t even eight o’clock in the morning yet, and I was faced with my second “Sophie’s Choice” of the day. Go home and get my phone thus ensuring a very tardy arrival to the office or go where I hadn’t been since 2003 – untethered to a mobile communication device.

I weighed the pros and cons primarily what would my family do if I wasn’t responding to their texts – because no one I live with ever uses their phone to have an actual oral conversation. Would they get concerned or even scared if I wasn’t sending them multiple kissing and winky faces along with the okay sign emojis during the day?

 I took a deep breath and made the hard decision that yes they would survive. It wouldn’t be easy because I day without emoji’s is like perennially existing with the sun trapped behind a jumbo puffy cloud. But I was going to make the brave choice. I wasn’t going home to get my phone. It was going to just be me and my wits. I was going solo.

The first thing I did when I got to my office was look up my husband’s office phone number. I had never memorized his cell number which means, of course, I didn’t’ know his office number. I then did something that almost scared me I had to use a land line. It was a weird to hold a phone receiver in one hand and then use the other to dial. It felt awkward and almost foreign.

When I called my husband, in a surprise to no one, he didn’t answer. So, I left a message that I would be phone-less all day and to text the kids that if they had an emergency (and by that, I mean they needed money or wanted to complain to me about something) that he would be their “go to” not me.

At the beginning of the day it was as if I had lost an appendage. I found myself reaching for my phone every few minutes.  I would think, oh, I need to check a text or I would want to go to one of my apps. It took at least an hour for it to register in my brain that my phone wasn’t with me.

By lunchtime though things had changed. I noticed I was getting at ton done at work. I had almost zero distractions and I felt like had a laser focus.

When mid afternoon hit I began to feel free, less weighed down without the tedium of everyone else’s existence. I didn’t know what was happening in the world and nor did I get to experience the time suck of a social media feed.

It was glorious. So much so, that when I was reunited with my phone I felt a little sad and realized that for all the wonder of having a palm size computer with you 24/7 there’s a tradeoff and it’s freedom.

Dear Snarky – A Nit Picky Co-Worker is Making Me Cray

Dear Snarky,

 There’s a woman at my office who is driving everyone crazy. She’s constantly correcting mistakes, some that I believe are imaginary, with our appearance. From telling us we have a little lint on our pants to food between our teeth or even a stray thread it’s pick, pick, pick all day.

I don’t even think she’s doing it to be nice. I think she’s doing it to be a critical witch and to undermine people’s confidence. Last week at a very important meeting she kept gesturing to me that something was on my face. It freaked me out and it turns nothing was wrong with my face.

 How do I shut her down? It’s gone way past just irritating and is starting to affect my job performance.

 Signed, Aggravated at Work

Dear Aggravated,

 Well, of course, the standard response is to talk to your human resource director, but I can see where, if not phrased right, you’ll be the that ones that sounds like you’re being hyper sensitive to a kind co-worker. So, here’s my suggestion.

 Just straight out tell this woman that while you appreciate her laser focus on your appearance, you’ve already lived that life as a teenager with your mother who would nit-pick every aspect of your being before you left the house, so as a grown woman you’re all good with just being free to have lint on your sweater and lipstick on your teeth.

 It’s the classic it’s not you it’s me – and it should work because who wants to be compared to a nagging mother. For sure, she’s going to slip up and correct something, but all you have to do is look at her and say – “Remember I’ve got that mom PTSD thing going on.” (Trust me, your mother won’t mind being being thrown under the bus because you’re never too old to use your mom as an excuse for just about anything.)

Dear Winter, You Suck

The Love is Gone

I’m so over it. Yes, I know a mere two months ago I was experiencing deep and profound feelings for winter, but now I’m ready to break up.

Talk about a season that has let me down. I feel like I’ve been cheated on. No, it’s worse than that. I’ve been lied to. It’s like if winter had a dating profile and it said it was beautiful to look at and its hobbies included snuggling and long walks with mittens in the park. Ugh.

None of this is true because this winter has been devoid of anything representing a picturesque snow-covered vista where the trees looked like they’ve been swirled in white chocolate and your yard resembles being sprayed with a giant can of Reddi-whip. What we’ve gotten in Kansas City is a winter that’s bitter and prone to fits of rage.

I’m not one to complain about cold weather. I’m all for it a solid winter. The first couple of hard freezes got me excited. I was like “Take that oak mites!” And I loved throwing extra blankets on the bed and settling in for binge watching “The Crown.”

I even adore snow, but what we’ve gotten so far has been snow’s lame cousin. It’s like the snow showed up for work, but only wants to do the bare minimum by creating some road havoc and then just lays around looking surly.  The snow hasn’t embraced making the city cozy. It’s totally been phoning it in.

To date we haven’t even had a decent snow day where I can stay in my pajamas all day and whip up some homemade cinnamon rolls. As for making a snowman – forget about it. Any snow we’ve had has been unsuitable for artistic expression.

And these sub-zero frigid temperatures, well now that’s just showing off. We get it. Winter is back in Kansas City. But, no one likes a season that mistakes dreary, sun challenged weather for climate swagger.

For the first time in my life I think I’m suffering from SAD – seasonal affective disorder. It feels like we’ve barely had any sunshine. I’ve got my entire family on vitamin D because I’m positive my Texas born children and husband are suffering from sunshine withdrawal.

 Then there’s all the little indignities that are starting to grate on me like always having a dirty car. For someone that’s not very graceful and lumbers into their car by the time I get to work it looks like I’ve rolled in road salt. (And yet for some reason I own a white wool coat. I guess hope springs eternal.)

To delve deeper into the coat issue I’m also sick of always having to wear one. First, you have the whole sleeve issue. If you just put your coat on without firmly grasping your sweater sleeve you feel like a T-Rex because your arm mobility has suddenly been compromised by about 50 percent. And then as you slide into your car if you don’t sit on your coat just right you’re getting a major case of claustrophobia because your outerwear is holding you hostage.

The winter I long for is a cold, but sun-kissed with bright blue skies and temperatures that don’t stray too often into the teens. And when it does snow it’s fluffy with just enough moisture so you can craft a snowman. The snow is also well-behaved and falls with enough vigor that school is cancelled for the day, but has the good manners to melt before it gets dirty.

We haven’t seen that winter. I don’t know where it went, but as far as I’m concerned I’m ready to be wooed by spring.

Dear Snarky – Help! I’m Crushing On My Contractor

Dear Snarky,

 Help, I think I’m developing feelings for my contractor. I’m happily married, or so I thought, but since we started doing some much-needed home improvement I find myself liking the guy doing the work. He’s funny and charming and I now come home for lunch to “check on how everything’s going” but I’m just using that as an excuse to hang out with him.

 I’m getting concerned. Do I tell my husband about this? I have no intention of taking my feelings any further. I’m just worried that I could feel this way about another guy.

 Signed, Confused

Dear Confused,

 Of course, you have a crush on your contractor he’s probably doing everything you’ve been nagging your husband to do for years and bonus he’s not being a huge grump about it. I don’t think there’s been a handy man, electrician, painter, tile guy, wood rot repairer or plumber that I haven’t felt all dreamy about. Why wouldn’t I? They show up and fix a problem or make something better and they seem to be listening to you. It’s just logical that you’re going to start feeling some strong emotions.

 But you need to get a hold of yourself and realize that you’re not falling in love with your contractor. You’re falling in love with your home improvements. If you want to tell your husband anything I suggest it’s confessing that you’re head over heels with how good your house is going to look. 

 Also, quit going home for lunch. You’re distracting your contractor from doing his job. Remember one of the reasons he’s being nice to you is because you’re his customer, not his friend or, ahem, girlfriend.

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude 😉 – email me at or PM on my Snarky FB page.

Hiding Out in My Car

Did you know that Americans consume 20% of their meals in their car? Instead of being disturbed by this nugget of information my response is yum.

I’ve had some of the best meals of my life behind the wheel. I’m not talking about fine dining, of course, but when you can hand off a teething infant to your husband, flee to your escape pod and enjoy a chicken sandwich with honey mustard from the Chick-fil-A drive thru where the only sound is you sucking down a chocolate shake it can be a luxurious dining experience.

My car is my safe space, my retreat, my very own tiny home. It’s where I go to hide – from my family. Yes, my kids are years past the teething stage, but I still, at times, sequester myself in my vehicle.

After a spring break trip last year where I, at times, felt like I was being held hostage on a hormone roller coaster called “Extreme Mood Swing” – come for the death-defying drops and stay for a G-force so intense you’ll need years of empty nesting to recover – I eagerly informed my brood that as soon as we arrived home I would be going to the grocery store.

I was gone four hours. Four blissful hours where I set in my car, reclined my seat back and read a book while enjoying a Culver’s butter burger with fries. I was so happy and content I didn’t even feel a smidge of shame when I went through the Culver’s drive thru again, two hours into my post vacation recoup, to get a cookie dough concrete. That meal ranks up there with one of the most delicious epicurean events of my existence.

The only down side of hiding out in my car is that sometimes I’m busted by my family.  After all these years they’ve only, kind of, caught on to the fact that my many trips to the store are in reality mental health breaks.

A couple of weeks ago, right before Christmas I was about to lose it. I still had gifts to buy, cookies to make, a freaking Secret Santa (Just why on the Secret Santa? Why don’t we call it what it really is? A week of buying crap from the Target five dollar bin for your co-worker) and a mother and brother-in-law in town. I had to make a run for it.

Under the auspices of needing gift wrap I bolted for my car and high tailed it to one of my top 10 happy places – the Freddy’s drive thru where I order a Chicago dog. Once I got my food, I pulled into a parking space, blasted my car’s butt heat, pulled up a book on my phone and settled in for time a renewal.

After about an hour I got the dreaded text “Where R U?” which meant is was time to return home. Two hours later the whole family piled into my car to look at Christmas lights and that’s when my lie was discovered.

My car reeked of Chicago dog. If smells had a rating it would have been at DEFCON 1. I had put the Freddy’s bag on the passenger seat, which also had its heater on, and I think that served as a turbo intensifier. It was as if I had a hot dog with extra onions aromatic diffuser in my car.

The Chicago dog odor prompted a flurry of questions from “Did you bring everyone Freddy’s? To “Is that you’ve been doing for the last hour?”

I felt duty bound to confess. So, I shared with my family that I did indeed a Chicago dog for lunch – eight hours ago.

Don’t judge. Every mother needs her secrets.