Dear Snarky – Help! My Co-Worker is Already Christmas Crazy

Dear Snarky,

 I have a co-worker who’s insane. She is pathologically obsessed with Christmas. On October 1 she decorated her cubicle, started burning some awful smelling pinecone scented candle and has some sort of plug in air freshener that reeks of candy cane. She also plays Christmas music non stop and every morning reminds all of us how many days there are until “Santa is here.” Prepare to be shocked because this woman isn’t some old lady. The psycho is still in her 20’s.

 I’m not the only one in the office that she’s annoying. Her Christmas B.S. is the topic of most conversations and not in a good way. Is there anyway to get this woman to calm the F down about the holidays?

 Signed, Turning Into a Scrooge

 Dear Scrooge,

 If this was a Hallmark movie your co-worker would be named Miss Merry Christmas and she would melt the heart of the office Scrooge and they would fall in love and live happily ever after OR Miss Merry Christmas would turn out to be the daughter of Santa Claus sent to your office to spread the joy of the season very, very, very early.

 But since this isn’t a movie here’s my advice that’s a lot less fun. One – I’m assuming you can’t go to H.R. and grumble about a co-worker’s holly jolly attitude but what you can do is complain about the scent explosion in the office. A lot of people are highly scent sensitive and that means the candle and the air freshener could be a health concern.

 Now on to the holiday music – quit sulking, grow up and ask her to turn it down and if you don’t have headphones put those on your Christmas list. All the other stuff from the cubicle holiday décor to the countdown till December 25 is, I feel, a way for this young woman to get some attention.

 I suggest instead of letting yourself get turbo annoyed, and I’m sure this is all very annoying, I’m not trying to downplay that, you could compliment her on her Christmas mojo and maybe she can be the office holiday party planner. I have no doubt it would be a rager. Perhaps all this young woman is looking for is validation. Give it to her and see if that helps her chill out.

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

The College Admission Dumpster Fire

Colleges need an overhaul. Let’s start with the expense. A four year degree from an in-state school can now cost more than $100,000. Once upon a time going to a public university in your home state made college affordable. I don’t see anything economical about a six figure tuition bill.

Another thing that needs a reset are the machinations kids and their parents feel they’re required to go through to increase  the chances of getting into a “good” college.

As I write this actress Felicity Huffman prisoner #77806-112 was just released from a federal correction facility in Northern California. Her crime was paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT score enhanced and I’m talking richly enhanced. According to documents filed in the case Huffman’s child’s score jumped a whopping 400 points above her PSAT performance. I don’t think this math problem is on the SAT but that works out to Huffman paying $37.50 per point.

At first glance change appears to be in the air. Earlier this month the ACT (a college admission standardized test) announced that in 2020 they will be introducing “scoring reforms” that will allow students to retake select parts of the test (English, math, reading, science or writing). In the past a student had to retake the entire test and couldn’t zero in on the one or two areas where they wanted to improve their score.

Based on my social media feeds there was parental jubilation that this change was happening. There were also people posting that if back in the day they had been allowed to only retake one section instead of the entire ACT they probably could have gotten close to a perfect score. (Please note I was not one of these people. I could have taken the math section 50 times and that score wouldn’t have budged much if at all.)

I was excited by this news for all the future test takers until I did more research and my head began to feel like it was going to explode. First, apparently there’s no limit on how many times you can take the test. Then there’s something called “super scoring” where you take the best score of each section you’ve retaken. When I got to the part about all the different scenarios on how to improve your score from paper testing vs. computer testing to something called “total focus recall” I was in pain.

That intensified when I read articles how the “scoring reforms” were all just a ploy by the ACT to make more money from the anticipated torrent of retesting. (Today it costs $68 to take the ACT. Add in another $52 for the writing test. No word yet from the ACT on how much they’re going to charge for “individual section retesting.”)

Educators were also pointing out that the ability to repeatedly retake sections of the ACT was going to hurt economically disadvantage students who can’t afford the cost of test taking to infinity and beyond. Several shrewd high school counselors fearlessly announced that it was just giving parents (Note they didn’t say students.) another tool to work the system.

After I took two Advil it made me glad my kids were out of the ACT and SAT game. It’s gotten crazy. When did the college process become so complicated? And are parents responsible for the craziness? It’s gotten to the point where parents act like their kid’s ACT score is also their parenting score?

The college process needs a reality check and it should start with telling kids that it should be less about where you go to college and more about what you do once you get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Snarky – How Do I Tell a Friend She Has an Instagram Filter Addiction?

Dear Snarky,

 Is there anyway to tell a really cute friend that she is over editing all her photos on social media? I get it we all edit our photos for Instagram but the goal is to look better not like a completely different person.

 She’s not been very successful dating and I’m totally sure it’s because once people see her in person they’re like “Who are you?” People have trouble getting past her image on social media compared to reality.

 My boyfriend has a cousin who I think would be perfect for her but I would like for him to see the real her not the layers of filters she is on Instagram. What is the nicest way to tell her that she needs to be herself more and lay off on all the fakeness?

 Signed, Insta Addict

 Dear Insta,

 You’ve come to the right place for advice. As the mother of a 19- year-old I know all about what I call “filter abuse.” I’ll see my daughter’s friends on Instagram and not even recognize them. That said, filter abuse is not limited to the young and already beautiful a lot of women my age seem to be going full Benjamin Button and by that I mean aging backwards on social media.

 Now, here’s a surprise for you – I think there is no shame in the filter game. Come on it’s social media. If people are too goofy to realize that a whole lot of photo editing is going on then I worry about their cognitive brain function. Seriously, if a guy is surprised someone looks a little different than their social media photos than consider him way too dumb to date.

Using myself as Exhibit A – please note this business photo that was taken of me. My skin hasn’t looked this smooth since I was five. I barely recognize myself with my wrinkles and my constant companion – “Lady Jowls – vanquished. Now, compare that to the real me and you have a case of filters gone mad. Do I apologize for this photo? No, because I’m assuming people are intelligent enough in 2019 to know that I’ve been attacked by a “healing brush.”

As for you – stay out of your friend’s business. How she wants to look on social media is none and I mean none of your concern. You are just going to stir up a whole lot of drama and hurt feelings and I’m hoping that wasn’t your intention all along.

 

A Psychological Study of School Pick Up and Drop Off

There are many things in this world that perplex me like how did jackfruit become a culinary trend? Have you tried cutting open a jackfruit? I swear brain surgery is probably less labor intensive and gooey.

The mystery of the jackfruit, though intriguing because I believe it has an alien back story, is no match in the bewilderment department for the enigma that is school drop off and pick up. Why is it so hard for parents to grasp the fundamentals of delivering and retrieving their kids to and from school?

I, with much gratitude, have not had to endure a school drop off and pick up line in three years. But, for my friends with younger children lately the school drop off rage has been intense. Because I fancy myself a social scientist  (not a busy body thank you very much) I decided to observe three school drop off lines at three separate schools.

My mission was to gauge if the situation has gotten worse since my school driving days or were these parents just being drama queens. I’ll honestly tell you I was totally thinking drama queens because there’s no way school pick up and drop off parental stupidity could have descended even lower. It was in the caverns of  of hell during my tenure and I was adamant that it had nowhere to go but up.

I was wrong.

Frankly, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m still a little shaken by the whole experiment. I think my biggest take away is that people’s reading comprehension skills have taken a serious hit.

That’s the only polite explanation I can come up with for a large swath of adults not understanding signage that plainly states “no parking,” “beginning of drop off/pick up line,” and “pull forward.” These are not even sentences but three and four word directives at a first grade reading level. Surely parents should be able to understand their meaning.

But to blame the whole school pick up/drop off quagmire solely on reading skills would be a mistake because the real issue is psychological. To fully understand the issue you have to probe a parent’s brain. Why, for instance, are some parents adamant about not pulling forward in the line?

In the name of scientific research I asked one mother who was not pulling up this question and she made a face while stating in a very unpleasant tone that she was waiting for her kids.

I queried back with, “But couldn’t you wait for your kids pulled up a little further in the line?” This earned me a window being rolled up in my face.

I didn’t blame her because I knew I had hit a nerve. Her car was perched almost perfectly in front of the school’s front doors and there was no way she was going to let her babies (full disclosure this happened at a middle school) walk any further than they had to.

Which takes us to another layer of a parent’s psychological make up. Why do we get our kids fitness trackers, $300 Apple watches and sign them up for loads of sports activities and then swoon at the thought of them having to walk more than 20 yards to the family car?

Armed with my research I went home and tried to formulate a reasonable explanation for the seemingly growing number of parents who freelance with the established school pick up/drop off protocol. The only thing I could come up with is that for some parents the “rules never apply to me” must be a family motto.

The best suggestion I have is that they get those feelings emblazoned on a bumper sticker so the rest of the parents know who to avoid every morning and afternoon.

(For more education on this topic I urge you to read this highly formative guide for the school drop off and pick up procedure https://snarkyinthesuburbs.com/2011/03/25/10-steps-to-a-successful-school-drop-off/)

Dear Snarky – My Mom Needs to Quit Wearing Sexy Halloween Costumes

Dear Snarky,

 I need help with my mother. I swear she thinks she’s Jennifer Lopez and by that I mean at 55 she is very proud of her body and loves to show it off. Every Halloween she goes all out with the sexy costumes. This Halloween she is wearing a costume that is a replica of the iconic dress J.Lo wore where she’s almost naked.

 My problem is she’s planning on wearing it to a Halloween party hosted by my boyfriend’s parents. I told her that costume was not appropriate for this kind of party and she told me I was just “jealous.”

 Seriously, she can’t show up to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time in a costume where she’s that exposed. How do I get her to wear something that at least covers her chest?

 Signed, Distressed Daughter

Dear Distressed,

First, let me say I’m not into body shaming nor am I the Fashion Police. In fact, the only style crimes that get me really ticked off are adults wearing P.J’s on a plane or people who wear shorts and flip flops to church weddings.

 As for your mother I’m afraid you’re not going to get her to wear a nun costume. I think the more you beg her to cover up the more she’s going to want to take the girls out. That said if I had a body that resembled Jennifer Lopez’s I might be inclined to be queen of the crop top.

 I suggest that perhaps the first time your boyfriend’s parents meet your parents is not at this party. Maybe you can schedule a coffee get together so their initial “how do you do” is with your mom wearing clothing and not a costume.

 Remember you’re not responsible for your mom’s behavior or life choices. At 55 years old how she dresses is her business and her business alone. Maybe she’s living her best life.

 As for your boyfriend’s parents if they’re going to judge you based on your mother’s Halloween costume then they have issues. #runaway

 Now as for that  jealous comment it sounds like your mother’s maternal instincts might need a refresh. Her quip was very unkind and leads me to believe that her entire self worth is tied up in her appearance and let me tell you as an aging female that totally sucks.

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

Hybrid Hysteria

I understand the beauty of a hybrid. When you take the best characteristics from one group and blend them with another, often incongruous, category you sometimes achieve genius. But more often than not these mismatches can be tragic fails.

This is because there are things that are so stellar in their own right that they don’t need to be conjoined with anything else. Barbecue is one of these categories that needs to be left alone. I almost cancelled by subscription to one of my favorite magazines when I saw a recipe for Italian style burnt end barbecue. Mon Dieu!

Hold on to your brisket sandwich because it gets worse. The recipe called for mixing chunky marinara sauce with barbecue sauce. Could anything be more wrong? The only thing these two sauces have in common is a tomato base after that they dramatically part company and need not to be reunited.

The whole thing is an affront to burnt ends. These juicy, yet crispy nuggets of beef don’t need to be insulted with any sauce. They stand alone and on their own merit. To even think about camouflaging their flavor profile with a canned sauce of marinara makes me weepy.

The worst offender in the hybrid game has to be in interior design where one of the latest buzzwords is “modern farmhouse.” The results I’ve seen on TV and in print make me wonder if any of these designers have ever been tractor adjacent or ventured through the front door of a farmhouse.

I say this because in real life a farm house doesn’t usually feature floor to ceiling glass windows that create a retractable wall, cathedral ceilings and stainless steel kitchen appliances big rough to hide multiple bodies or a steer that just won first place at the 4-H livestock competition.

In all these “modern farmhouses” I see nothing that resembles a home based in rural America unless you count the grapevine cotton wreath on the front door. How did the term even come into the descriptive palette?

A better name would be “Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal.” This immediately tells you that every wall of this large home will be covered in white shiplap and feature black accent colors in all of the home’s fixtures.

Can we take a moment now and discuss shiplap? Isn’t it closely related to paneling? The much hated paneling that you always see getting cursed at and mocked in design re-do’s just set at a different angle?

I guess it’s vertical paneling – bad, horizontal paneling – good. Some casino in Las Vegas needs to set the over-under on when shiplap will become just another bad paneling job.

Fashion is just as ridiculous with their mishmashes. Last week I was told that “ladies my age” (Please, can we not with this phrase?) look wonderful in “refined boho chic” ensembles.

I felt compelled to say something to the much younger human who proffered this statement. (It could be because I enjoy educating the youth or might have been because I was still steaming over the “my age” comment.) I began by explaining that boho is short for bohemian and nothing about the word lends itself to refinement. I also added that “ladies my age” don’t want to look like their mothers who were at Woodstock. Nor do we want to pay hundreds of dollars for that flashback to style crimes and egregious grooming choices.

I’m all for the joining of forces (and adjectives) to create something new or improved. But, sometimes we need to let quality stand alone in its majesty and sometimes we need to realize that mishmash is just a mistake with a trendy name.

Help Me! I’m a Halloween Hoarder

I consider myself an exemplary purger. Way before everyone hopped aboard the Marie Kondo declutter train I was the master (due to multiple moves) of “If I haven’t used or thought about an item in a year it’s bye-bye time.”

The one area though where I can be classified as having active hoarder tendencies is holiday decorations. And lest you think I’m writing this column way to earlier because Christmas is still 70 something days away let me be clear that when I say holiday I mean e-v-e-r-y holiday. From New Year’s Eve bling to a St. Patrick’s Day shamrock palooza I’ve got bins stuffed with holiday décor.

I have to admit that as I was dragging out multiple containers of Halloween decorations last week I was thinking that it might be time to perhaps talk to someone in the mental health profession. This thought intensified as I waited for my heart rate to return to normal after hefting eight large bins up my basement stairs. I knew then, without a doubt, it was time to do an inventory of what I was really using and what I was just saving.

It turns out I’m stockpiling a whole lot more decorations than I’m actually using. My bins are full of paper pumpkins drawn my kids when they were little and loads of Halloween cards they made. I tried to do what the declutter whisperers suggest and take pictures of items like this and then toss them but I rationalized that I would conquer that task later (as in probably never).

I also have saved every single trick-or-treat container my kids had ever used. I still have the monogrammed fabric Lillian Vernon treat bags I mailed ordered for them pre internet shopping.

This got me to wondering if Lillian Vernon is still around and surprise, surprise, not only is the website robust with items but on the landing page are the exact same bags (pumpkin and spider just in case you’re curious) that I ordered for my children at the beginning of the 21st century. I guess a classic never goes out of style.

Also, why would I want to part with these bags? I’m right now imagining my someday in the future beautiful grandchildren frolicking with them. In fact, my son’s Halloween bags are still in mint condition. This is because he never went trick-or-treating.

Trust me it wasn’t because the kid didn’t like candy. His decision was predicated on a math algorithm. At the age of four he told me that wearing a costume and handing out the candy was more fun. It took me years to discover that for every piece of candy my son gave out he kept two for himself. (I’m not surprised that he now works in the financial industry.)

Because the thought of departing with these items is so painful I decided to justify still keeping them by making these beauties a part of my Halloween decoration scheme. Let me just say there are times in everyone’s life when they will have moments of genius. My moment came when I turned old, no make that vintage, Halloween treat bags into holiday themed toilet paper holders.

I just wish you were in my house right now to behold the majesty of my bathrooms bearing monogrammed T.P. holders. I also think I’m on to something like something that could dethrone the queen of declutter. Ponder this thought for a moment – what if instead of savagely getting rid of your clutter you repurposed it?

Not only would it be good for the environment but every time you saw your repurposed gem it would make your heart happy because nothing says everlasting love like using your son’s vintage Halloween bag as a toilet paper container.

Dear Snarky – My Boss is Spying on Me With a Doggie Cam

Dear Snarky,

 I work for a very small company and my co-workers and I just discovered the owner is spying on us. She brings her dogs to work and has set up several treat dispensers around the office. The treat stations will throw out a dog biscuit from an app on her phone.

 Yesterday when the Xerox repair guy was there he told us that he has one of these treat dispensers and they have cameras where you can check in on your dog from – you guessed it – the app on your phone.

I always thought it was funny that a treat dispenser was in my cubicle and in another employee’s office that the boss doesn’t seem to like. There’s also one in the kitchen where people hang out. It now makes sense how our boss knows stuff that we didn’t tell her.

 Should we confront her about the spying or contact an attorney.

 Signed, Spy Cammed

Dear Spy Cammed,

 I’m not an attorney (Sadly watching hundreds of Law & Order episodes don’t count as a legal education.) so I don’t know what your rights are concerning office spying. I do know though that you need to confirm that you’re being spied on. I suggest saying something pretty random in front of the doggie cam and see if it gets a response.

 Next you need to have some fun with the doggie cams. I would randomly bark in the camera throughout the day or do an enthusiastic rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out” or “Secret Agent Man.” Basically do what you can to let your boss know that she’s been b-u-s-t-e-d.

Now onto less entertaining business – maybe it’s time to start looking for a new job. The whole spying on employees with doggie cams is super creepy. If this is what the office culture has disintegrated to I would be inclined to find an employer who wouldn’t stoop to this level of subterfuge.    

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

On Air and Scared

Never say never.

In my wildest dream there’s one thing I thought I would absolutely not be doing again and that’s co-hosting an hour-long live TV show. Back in the day, like way back in the day, being on morning television was my gig. As my kids grew older I gently segued to print journalism.

Three of my favorite things about working in print are that it’s primarily a Spanx, contour concealor and wrinkle filler foundation with space age polymers free environment. In other words I’m not sucking in my stomach or worried about smoothing out my crows feet while I type. It’s a lifestyle one can get used to.

So, when I was asked to do a brief vacation fill on KCTV’s Better Kansas City with Bill Hurrelbrink, who is one of my favorite people, I said a very enthusiastic yes please! I love the thrill of live TV and add in the amiable camaraderie of a morning show and I’m all in.

The reason I was scared is that doing live television is not easy. The challenging part is making it look effortless and it’s not like I’ve had a lot practice in that arena lately. Television can be unforgiving. It’s like your mother – it sees everything from your posture to your sincerity.

My initial challenge was making sure I was high definition TV ready. I was working in TV when high def cameras first debut and we would play a game called connect the pores. It was brutal. Now, I have more than pores to worry about. Today, I’m “stylin” some prominent wrinkles and no amount of make-up is going to camo those bad boys.

I was also a tad panicked about what to wear. Most of the females on TV favor the sleeveless dress. I, not blessed with arms of steel, (they’re more like arms of cookie dough) prefer to keep my upper limbs swathed in fabric. So, I decided to kick it old school and wear the most forgiving of clothing items ever – a blazer.

After I got passed the appearance conundrums it was time to open the floodgates on worrying about the twin terrors of the teleprompter and the IFB. The teleprompter masquerades as a very helpful friend but it can turn on you in a millisecond. One minute you’re besties. The next it’s having a tantrum, you’ve lost you place and don’t even know what you’re reading.

The teleprompter is why I started wearing clinical strength deodorant. There’s no sweat worse than the “I’m on live TV and I think the teleprompter is trying to tank my career” sweat.

The IFB (Interruptible Feedback) is another helper that takes some getting used to. It’s an earpiece where someone can talk to you while you’re on TV. I was excited to dig out mine yet worried. My last IFB was made twenty years ago. Basically, you have a mold taken of your ear so it fits securely.

My concerns were two-fold. I was dreading to find out if my ear had fatten up like the rest of my body in the last two decades and it wouldn’t fit. I was also worried that it would no longer be up to date. Thankfully, my ear was still in shape (I know that’s not really a thing but I enjoy telling myself that I have very svelte ears so let’s just leave it at that.) and it still worked. Yippee!

When it came time for me to go on TV I was surprisingly not nervous. It felt almost normal and was very akin to being a mother. You’ve got someone talking in your ear while you ask someone else a question. Then there’s someone else in front of you that also wants your attention and all you can do is hope for the best and pray nothing goes rogue.

So, yeah pretty much exactly like motherhood.

Dear Snarky – My Boyfriend is WAY Jealous of My Fantasy Football Skills

Dear Snarky,

 I have a problem with my boyfriend and it’s making me worry about our future together. He’s always been super competitive and now he’s angry with me because my fantasy football team is doing much better than his.

 Right now, I’m at the top of our league. I think he thought that I would be drafting players I thought were cute but I know a lot about football and don’t mess around.

 Now, he’s pouting and making rude comments about me and to me. The thing that really made me think about our relationship is that his mother pulled me aside and told me that if I want to keep her son happy I need to quit playing fantasy football.

 Is this just a weird thing my boyfriend has about football or do you think it goes deeper?

 Signed, Confused

 Dear Confused,

Every person has that one thing they’re a freak about. For example, I’m a little OCD about how the dishwasher is loaded. That said, I don’t mock family members for not doing it right. I just re-do when they’re not looking.

So maybe your boyfriend is a fantasy football freak but I think it goes deeper than that and you’re right for having warning bells going ding, ding, ding in your head.

First, you use the word angry to describe his feelings toward you and then you say he’s making rude comments and  – whoa – he ran to his mommy to make him feel better and to have her fix his hurt feelings. Are You Kidding Me?!!!

This guy sounds like a Mama’s boy with anger issues and I would run like the wind to get as far away from him as fast as you can. He’s bad news and trust me when I tell you can’t fix him, you can’t love him out of it and you’re not going to get him to change. All you can do is leave and not look back. You have to focus on the fundamentals in football and in relationships and this guy’s fundamentals are weak.