How are we supposed to take Curvy Barbie?

This weekend, I watched a story on the new Barbies.

Apparently, you can now get Barbie in sizes other than “bone thin and completely unrealistic.”

people-barbieAccording to Mattel, Barbie will now come in four different sizes, seven different skin colors, 20+ different eye and hair colors and, presumably, an inordinately large number of coordinating outfits and shoes, some of which you will even be able to find after you open the package.

There’s Tall Barbie, Petite Barbie and Curvy Barbie to go along with “regular” Barbie – still super model on crack thin with annoyingly perky boobs.

The new dolls are a response to concerns that Barbie promotes an unrealistic body image to girls and add to body issues.

And it only took 60 years – go figure.

As near as I can tell, Curvy Barbie consists of thunder thighs and small boobs. I would put her at about a size 12. Granted, I’m about as fashion conscious as a linebacker for the Houston Oilers, so I wouldn’t take my word for that.

Petite Barbie is just shorter with the same sized boobs and Tall Barbie is just Barbie after a few hours on a Medieval rack.

But the thing that struck me was that after the piece on Barbie was over a Weight Watcher’s commercial came on….starring Oprah.

Huh.

So, the goddess of the television, whom we’ve all watched struggle with her weight is now hawking Weight Watchers.

What does THAT say to girls about body image?

oprah-winfrey-weight-watchers-commercial__oPtFor most of the women I know, they related to Oprah because she wasn’t perfect. Oprah had curves. Oprah looked good despite her curves. Oprah succeeded in spite of her curves, not due to her lack of them. Oprah was, and still is, funny, savvy, smart and compassionate. No one looks at Oprah and says, “She would get so much farther in life if she’d just drop 10 pounds.”

Trust me, I’ve heard that in my life.

She was perfect because she WASN’T perfect.

And we all related to that.

But now, are we saying “not perfect” isn’t enough?

I know the commercial says we should want to find our “best” us, but damn… isn’t what they’re really saying is that the “you” that you are right now ISN’T your “best” you.

I wonder how that makes women who’ve identified with her for such a long time feel.

About the same time, a friend sent me the daily diet of California juice guru Amanda Chantal Bacon as published in Elle magazine.

Af285f930090179560c060802ef21f5fapparently, this female entrepreneur’s diet consists of mostly teas, peppered with the occasional zucchini ribbon, and a bevy of other ingredients of her own discovering like brain dust, vanilla mushroom protein, coryceps and activated cashews.

God knows, nothing is worse than eating those regular old, lazy, inert cashews.
Now, let’s not forget that this Bacon girl, whose name is only slightly ironic given her air-based diet, is the guru to the star whose mere existence makes the rest of us look pallid in comparison – Gwyneth Paltrow.

According to Goop, Paltrow’s … jeez, I don’t even know what the hell to call Goop… other than the only place I know where vapid blog posts about how you, you lowly earthly scum, can’t even boil an egg right, and need this web site to learn how to do it better than Martha Stewart, all while buying $5,000 juicers and $1,800 sweaters to go along with your $400 lip balm.

Anyway, apparently, Goop says G.P. went to Bacon in the throws of a “Brain Fog”, only to have Bacon sell her a full supply of $65 jars of Moon dust and some activated fermented sea vegetables to nibble on. Seems it not only cleared up her brain fog, but helped her extra sensory perception as well.

I swear, I really wish I were making this up.

So, Elle – a magazine whose media packet boasts that the majority of its readers are 18- to 49-year-old women who are, according to Robbie Meyers, editor-in-chief, “the first person to try something and she brings all of her friends along on her fantastic journey” – decides to publish a diet for a woman who believes in Cosmic provisions and preventing your body from having to actually chew anything as disgusting as, well, … food.

How does THIS help women’s body images?

How in the world is a fat doll supposed to help girls with their body image if everything around them says “Hey, it’s not enough to be thin, you need to live off air, and if you’re not skinny, you should be ashamed of yourself no matter how successful you are because it’s not your ‘best’ you”?

Why even worry about putting out a fat doll, at all?

Until everything else changes, nothing Curvy Barbie says to girls is going to make a bit of a difference – except to reinforce for girls who don’t fit into regular Barbie’s image that they’re somehow not as “good” as the original.

When I was a little girl, I had Barbie. I got the airplane for Christmas along with Barbie, Ken and Skipper. And Barbie’s horse. I distinctly remember Barbie pushing the serving cart around the plane while Skipper headed off on the horse to see what was going on with my Star Wars figures.

Barbie looked really pretty in her clothes, when I could get them on her. Although I have to admit she spent a lot of time sitting around looking pretty while I played with my science kit or my Dad’s microscope (with my hand-made slides of squooshed bugs, blood and the occasional booger).

apollo and starbuckShe always smiled politely while Skipper and I battled Darth Vader, or occasionally joined Captain Apollo and Lt. Starbuck in some attempt to outwit and evade the Cylons.

And I’m pretty sure even Skipper wasn’t around the day my friend Claire and I decided that all of the floors in my mom’s house were lava and the ottomans were our only way to get from room to room. Traveling down the stairs and into the hallway to the guest room on that ottoman is an adventure I will never forget.

Yeah…. Sorry Mom.

But still, for YEARS, I struggled with who I was, based on who I was not. I didn’t even LIKE Barbie and I STILL compared myself to her. I had a picture of what I thought were the perfect Barbie-esque thighs hanging next to my full-length mirror in my closet from the time I was in junior high until I graduated high school. As a matter of fact, they are still there.  As a swimmer and a curvy girl, I was never going to have that kind of thigh gap. But I still felt like that was what would make me popular/datable/attractive/successful/perfect.

I’m not Barbie. I’m not like the women I see on TV. Hell, I’m not even as skinny as “plus-sized” models!

And that’s okay.

Now.

It wasn’t okay for a long, long time. Truth be told, I still have trouble with it sometimes – breaking down in tears because I don’t look like what women who are not the butt of jokes and wisecracks are supposed look like.

I wonder what’s going to happen to those little girls who get curvy Barbie?

Are we still telling them at an early age “You’re just not measuring up, honey.”?

What are we telling girls if on the one hand we’re telling them “Here’s a doll that looks more like you,” and on the other telling them “You know, honey, being a successful multimedia mogul isn’t enough. You have to be thin too?” What are we telling them when we glorify a woman whose whose $700 a day diet has fewer calories than Gandhi lived on?

Why not just tell them it’s okay to be who they are and what they are?

Girls don’t need a doll to tell them they don’t look like other girls in school. Trust me, they know already.

And they don’t need idols telling them you can have everything, but it’s not enough if you’re not thin.

Girls need other women telling them to be who they want and be proud of who they are. And they need guys in their life telling them they like girls with curves too.

 

Copyright © Liz Carey 2016

Images remain the property of their respective owners.

Horror movie quandries

I’ve never really understood a few things about horror movies.

Really.

falling victimI mean, why is it that there is always a stupid girl who tries to run away and then falls? Obviously, it’s because they’re wearing heels while running, but who goes into the woods wearing high-heeled shoes?

Not a smart girl.

We don’t go into the woods. Period.

And why do these stupid girls always make the worst possible decisions when faced with a life threatening situations?

It’s like they are begging to be a victim.

“Oh, wow. I heard a weird noise in this crazy, desolate house we just happened to find on a rainy night… I think I’ll go in the basement and check it out.”

Who actually does that?

No one with a brain, that’s who.

chattanooga choo chooWhen my husband and I got married, we honeymooned across the Southeast. We spent our first night in a bed and breakfast in Lexington, Ky., then hit the Chattanooga Choo Choo to stay in one of their railroad cars. After that, we headed south through Huntsville, Alabama and stopped at Space Camp before hitting the local Piggly Wiggly and to grab something for dinner that night.

After that, we realized that our car’s taillights were out while driving to New Orleans on the Natchez Trace. At that moment, it really made sense to camp out and cook out.

Really.

It wasn’t until after we set up the tent, put our sleeping bag in place and organized all of the camping equipment that we got around to eating our crawfish dinner. It was dark. The sky was filled with stars and no sound. It was heaven.

Until we realized we were the only ones in the campground.

As the campfire started to ebb, I heard weird sounds. Surely, whatever was in the woods right behind us had caught the scent of our crawfish cooked over the open flame and wanted a little taste.

Apparently, the carcasses and shells of the little critters we had flung into the forest weren’t enough for them.

Which led me to announce to my new husband the only thing I knew to say.

“Honey, this is how people die,” I said. “This is the type of setting where the serial killer comes out of the woods and slaughters the unsuspecting couple and they don’t find their body for forever. I don’t want to rot away in a swamp somewhere and have no one finde us for decades ’til some kid decides to take a leak.”

So, we did what any sane couple would do – we up and moved.

I mean, we packed up everything, tent and all, and we got the HELL out of there.

If we hadn’t, we’d have been the anonymous couple in the horror movie that gets killed before the real cast shows up.

Isn’t that what anyone would do?

haunted disposalWhich leads me to my other horror movie question – why do movie producers continue to create this sense of foreboding and terror when people in an obviously haunted house reach into a kitchen drain with a garbage disposal in it?

Usually, up until that point, there hasn’t been a time when the ghosts have done anything physically threatening, but still the scene will cut away from a close-up on the distracted Mom, to a shot of her reaching into the drain to get a spoon or fallen wedding ring or  whatever is making that unnatural sound, and then immediately the scene cuts to an even closer shot of the gears of the disposal ready to spring to life and tear her hand to shreds, ostensibly pulling the her hand and the rest of her body into the great unknown.

Has this ever happened before?

Seriously, is there some supernatural phenomenon that I’m not aware of that helps ghost make disposals spring to life when they can’t even move a chair on command or be in the same room with more than one person?

It’s not a fear I understand completely.

Yesterday, I was quietly washing the dishes while everyone else in the house played video games or watched TV. When it finally came time to clear out the sink, like any other Mom, I shoved everything into the drain, turned on the water and flipped the disposal switch on with my foot (since it’s located under the sink).

For a few seconds, that disposal grinded and cranked and did whatever it is that disposals do.

Then, all of a sudden, it started making this weird clunking noise – like there was a spoon in it or something.

And, of course, I did what any other sane Mom would do, I leaned back and started to lift my foot to turn off the switch and see what was wrong. About that same time, something shot out of the disposal and landed about where my head would have been if I hadn’t.

It was a penny.

A mangled, sharp-edged, chewed up penny that had all the harbingers of death via copper. One cent of shrapnel delivered via electronic gears.

That thing could’ve sliced my ear off, or worse, taken an eye out!

And my house isn’t even haunted!!!

But did I peer into the disposal and see what was wrong? NO! Did I reach into it to investigate? NO? Did I hang around when it was making weird noises and wait for something ominous to happen? Uhm, NO!

I got the hell out of the way!!!

CorrodedGarbageDisposalWikimediaCommonsI’m still not sure how anyone can think of disposals as gears of death via spirits from the great beyond. Heck, they could be deadly without the help of electromagnetic frequencies and Great Aunt Tilda holding a grudge against your redecorating the house.

But just like the camp ground, if that thing starts making noises, I’m getting the heck out of Dodge.

Let the plumber get hacked to pieces for a change.

It’s what a smart girl would do.

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2016

Not so “Gaga” over the Golden Globes

Yesterday, my topic of choice for my blog was my family’s unnatural obsession with hoodies.

But then the Golden Globes happened.

gaga upset
Pensive Gaga

Or rather, Gaga happened.

It’s no coincidence that Gaga sounds a lot like “caca” in my mind.

Really.

As I normally do when I wake up on a Monday morning and don’t want to work, I was browsing through Facebook and saw people commenting on Lady Gaga winning the Golden Globe for “Best Actress in a Limited Series or Miniseries.”

Initially, I figured it was a joke and someone was pulling the Onion over our eyes.

But no, it was true… the Golden Globe went to a woman who destroyed a series.

Let me explain…. I am an American Horror Story fan. I love horror and I love the idea of something for grown ups on television that isn’t sappy, sarcastic or insipid.

But, this season’s American Horror Story? Not so much. In fact, I’m really looking forward to the finale this week just so I don’t feel compelled to spend any more time on it.

The first season of American Horror Story, I was hooked. I loved it. Wouldn’t miss a minute of it. Evan Peters, Jessica Lange and Zachary Quinto? Yes, please! Throw in some of that McDermott guy and I could sit there transfixed all day. With all the plot twists, shadowy figures, ghosts, suspicions and blackmail, I couldn’t wait for more.

But when the second season came around? Ehhhh. Not so much. Once we got to the sadist with mommy issues and the serial killing Santa Claus, I was pretty much done.

When the third season started, I was skeptical, but the coven, the New Orleans location, Delphine LaLaurie and Stevie Nicks pulled me back in. So too did season four, where I simultaneously felt sorry for killer clowns while finding my irrational clown heebee jeebies suddenly justified.

But this season?

gaga intrigued
Smoky Gag

Gaga me with a spoon.

Between the gratuitous sex and graphic drug use, the proliferation of blood during sex, the confusing and uninteresting plot line and the lack of any chemistry/dynamic tension/range of emotion from Gaga, Wes Bentley or Chloe Sivigny, I really didn’t want to watch it.

However, my 15-year-old son was watching it and I wanted to make sure that I was okay with him seeing whatever they decided to show.

To be completely honest, I almost didn’t let him watch it. The graphic drug use and sex were a little over the top for me. But he pointed out that everyone who did drugs died, so I relented.

Every week I slogged through it, waiting for it to get better.

But every week, it just got worse. Gaga awful, in fact.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

Let’s see if I can wrap up the plot in less than a 40-page dissertation….

gaga happy
Stoic love-sick Gaga

“Recovering alcoholic cop John stumbles into the Hotel Cortez while working diligently to solve a serial killer case and has a complete mental and emotional breakdown when he develops a relationship with a dead drug addict hooker with an insatiable desire for eternal love, Sally, who, in turn, introduces him to the true evil behind the hotel, a glamorous movie starlet turned vampire, the Countess, who has a love/hate relationship with clothing (on, off, on, off, on, off and covered in blood, on, off, on and covered in blood, off), and the sadistic murdering hotel owner and builder, J. P. March, who is madly in love with her. Along the way, the cop finds his missing six-year-old son, and when his soon-to-be-ex-wife finds out, she abandons John and her other child to be a vampire buffet for a flock of night-crawler Stepford children whose lives revolve around intravenous blood infusions, candy and video games, but not before she, a pediatric doctor, manages to infect an entire classroom of pre-teens and create a “lost boys meets lord of the flies” band of merciless killers.

Meanwhile, a black-plotation actress decides to seek her revenge on the Countess for something that happened 30 years before and finds herself locked in an abandoned area of the hotel waiting for the day she can attack her nemesis, while a cross-dressing receptionist and an aging female hotel manager (who gives new meaning to the term helicopter parent) join forces with her to rid the hotel of the Countess. Somewhere along the way, John has a complete break with reality and realizes he is the serial killer he sought and falls into the clutches of Sally, whose solution to her abandonment issues looks like something akin to the Human Centipede, only vertical.”

Whew…. And that’s just the highlights… seriously.

Again, here we go with the mommy issues with the over-protective mother, and the love triangles – only this time, we get to see the love triangles up close and personal-like in what I assume is the first graphic threesome ever broadcast in a limited run television series that involved a sewing needle. There were times I wasn’t sure if I was watching a television series or soft-core porn on Skin-emax.

And we got to see Lady Gaga.

gaga sad
“Look! I’m almost naked without my make-up” Gaga”

A lot of Lady Gaga… a lot of Lady Gaga covered with blood, with pasties, with long blonde hair… More of Lady Gaga than I personally ever wanted to see.

If her acting had been good, I probably wouldn’t have minded. But her onscreen emoting reminded me of lawn furniture in winter – the dressing may change, but it’s still the same uncomfortable chairs.

And, since her expression is the same whether she’s happy or sad, or excited, or mad, really it was kind of difficult to figure out why she was undressed in the first place. Did she think her hair was going to do her acting for her?

I finally realized that when she opened her mouth it was a sign she was really happy or really sad. It’s when her mouth was closed that she was pouty, promiscuous or petulant.

So, we’ve got a bad plot line, bad story and bad acting all of which left a bad taste in my mouth, and you’re going to give the worst actor in it a Golden Globe? What the ever-loving heck?

And I’m not the only one, I promise. Just a quick perusal of the web and Facebook and you can see, a lot of people weren’t happy with her getting the award.

None of us, of course, reacted like Leonardo DiCaprio, but then again, not many of us could pull off a cringe like that in a tux and still look dashing and debonair.

A lot of people that I saw weren’t happy that she was in American Horror Story in the first place. I can’t say I blame them.

I don’t watch a lot of television – shows with seasons like this are one of the reasons why – so I don’t have any clue whether any of the other nominees were any good. I’ve seen Kirsten Dunst in other things though and I know that she can at least act. I can’t imagine that all four of the rest of them were so bad that Gaga was the best of the crop.

Gaga said she always wanted to be an actress… as far as I can tell, she’s still wanting… in a lot of ways.

I hear she’s been asked to be in Season 6 of the series. I sure hope she figures out how to say “No.” Or if she can’t and ends up in the cast, at least maybe she can get some acting lessons from Jessica Lange. Are you listening Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk? Are you paying attention to the falling ratings – this season’s ratings looking worse than those of season one, and only doing marginally better than the dismal season two… trust me, it’s all Gaga-induced.

One thing’s for sure, if she’s a part of it, I doubt I’ll be watching… once you’ve found yourself watching a really beautiful train wreck, you find it’s a lot easier than you thought to look away from the next one.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2016

All images remain the property of their owners.

If you say you’re going to do something, do it

If it’s true that “what you do on the first of the year is what you’re going to do for the rest of the year,” I think I may be in trouble.

wpid-confusedSo far today, January 1, I’ve managed to clean, nap, cook and walk into another room four times, forgetting what I was there for and then working on something else, until I walked back into the kitchen and remembered what it was I intended to do originally.

This does not bode well.

In fact, it took me looking at the stove four times this afternoon before I realized that it wasn’t 4 p.m., but that the oven was on and cooking at 400°.

Does that mean for the rest of the year I’ll be dazed and confused, or that it will just take me longer to realize what I’ve actually been accomplishing?

I feel like I’m getting old and forgetful.

In my defense though, it’s been a long couple of weeks.

Really. Long.

There have been numerous holidays, lots of stuff going on, one huge party, a few set backs and disappointments and a ton of work commitments to get thru. It didn’t feel much like a vacation, even if I was “technically” off work.

Come to think of it, with 70° weather and rain, it didn’t feel much like Christmas either.

o-UNWINDING-facebookAt one point last week, I was given the opportunity, several actually, to walk away from a commitment. It would have been the easier thing to do. I would have disappointed others, but it would probably have been easier for me to just walk away from what I had said I was going to do.

Then, I thought about what my friend Steve has said to me before. “If you say you’re going to do something, do it.”

And that’s what I did. I kept my word. I, along with several others, threw a huge party and while it wasn’t the overwhelming success we thought it would be earlier this year, it was still a success.

Which got me thinking.

Maybe if I said that I was going to do something today, and then did it, it would be a better indication of what the rest of my year would be like.

As such, I’ve decided to start the year off right writing.

refashionistaInspired by my blogger girl crush, the Refashionista, I have started a challenge for myself. While she will do a post a day for 366 days (leap year, you know), I will do a post a week. That’s a big leap for someone who has not really posted anything since before Halloween.

I think I will do them on Mondays. I always hate Mondays, so maybe writing for myself on a Monday will make it easier for me to face them.

And I’m going to work on other things too.

I’m going to finish my cookbook for my sons – all of our family recipes, interspersed with some of my old columns, and a few of our old family stories. I want to have it ready to give to my oldest son if and when he moves out.

I’m going to seriously work on getting my children’s books published – starting with “My Little Zombie” for which I found an illustrator recently.

I’m going to focus on finishing my novels and getting down to the editing process.

I’m going to write about the Children of Clay – a project I’ve wanted to work on for almost a year now.

I’m going to write a history book about Anderson.

There’s also a lot to look forward to this year.

200020892-003

I’ll get my hip replaced in April or May. Little Mason will graduate in June. Max will start working  – if all goes well and the Hot Topic angels are smiling on him. And in October, Pints for the People will enter its fifth year of giving away money to charities.

That’s a lot of good stuff.

And I’ll write about it all.

One week at a time.

If I can remember what I’m supposed to be writing about when I go into my office, that is….

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2016

All images remain the property of their respective owners.

 

A mother’s curse

When I was 12 years old, my mother cursed me.

And I don’t mean she yelled profanities at me, I mean, she put a curse on me through my future progeny.

I remember the day clearly. I was home watching ZOOM! in the living room.

Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34
Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34

Remember ZOOM on PBS? It was an after-school show where kids did all sorts of fun stuff sent in by other kids. It was one of my favorite shows and identified me early on a dork of enormous proportions.

On this particular episode, they were capturing spider webs. In this scenario, clearly not intended for children without adult supervision, you took a piece of construction paper and placed it behind a spider web. From there you softly sprayed spray paint onto the web. What wasn’t web would show up on the construction paper as paint, leaving behind the design of the web in negative. Easy enough, right?

My sister was at work.

My mom was at work.

I was home alone, hoping to find something interesting to do.

“Well,” my little pre-teen brain said. “This looks like fun.”

pedal carSo, I went into the garage and got the only can of spray paint I could find. It was bright red. Fire engine red, in fact. I know it was fire engine red, because it was the same spray paint I used to paint the antique powder puff blue convertible pedal car my Dad had gotten me… I don’t recall mom or dad being too happy about my actions that time either.

Anyway, spray paint in hand, I went looking for construction paper.

One would think that the house of a kindergarten teacher, my mom, would be filled with construction paper in many different colors, but I couldn’t find any.

Granted, I was 12, so without it being in the open, on top of a stack of anything other than laundry and with a six-foot-tall neon sign saying “THIS IS THE CONSTRUCTION PAPER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!” pointing to it, I wasn’t likely to find it even if I tripped over it.

After more than six whole minutes of dedicated searching my pre-adolescent brain decided I didn’t need it. In fact, it came to the conclusion that in this activity, construction paper was like coconut in a cake, completely optional and most likely not at all necessary.

Armed with a spray paint can and an eagle eye for anything arachnid, I ran outside and searched the yard for spider webs to create art.

I didn’t see any webs on the grass and I didn’t find too many in the bushes and I didn’t notice any at all in the trees.

I did however find a number of them in the garage windows.

spraypaint11Let’s take a moment here to recap the ingredients in this particular activity – several spider webs, one can of red spray paint, one willful 12-year-old tom boy, several garage windows framed with white paint.

No matter how you mix it, it was a recipe for disaster.

When my mom came home, every window on her garage facing the street had little circles of red covering the corners of the window frame and onto the glass itself.

To say my mother was a more than just a little mad, would be like saying that Ghandi was on a low calorie diet for a while.

“Mary, what have you done?” she screamed.

As hard as it may be to believe, this wasn’t the first time I had heard those words.

“My windows, Lord Almighty, my garage windows!” she screamed. “What on earth possessed you to spray paint the garage windows??? What were you thinking?”

I looked at her incredulously.

momdaughter yell“They were they only ones with spider webs on them,” I replied matter of factly.

I’m pretty sure the fact that I didn’t say “duh!” is the reason I am still alive today.

Mom closed her eyes, grabbed her head in her hands and gathered together her wits. You could almost hear her counting to 10 in her head.

And then, it came.

“Mary Elizabeth Carey, I swear, one day I hope you have a child just like you,” she said.

There it was.

The curse.

The longest running curse in the history of womankind, bestowed at one time or another on every misbehaving kid on the planet by their mothers.

And it worked.

I have a child who is just like me.

When I was a kid, for a while I wanted to be an Olympic bicyclist, until the day I wiped out on gravel and ended up in the hospital with 22 stitches in my leg.

Boy jumping
Boy jumping

My youngest son, Max, was determined to be a super hero when he was five, and jumped off a slide to prove he could fly. When he landed successfully the first time, he decided to do it again to show his friend, and promptly fractured his foot on landing.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t find a brush one day, so I used one of those little pot holder loom thingies to comb my hair. The resulting rat’s nest of a tangle required an emergency visit to the stylist.

Max decided one day he didn’t like his bangs or his side burns, so he cut them himself, using a razor, leaving one inch stubble over his right ear and bangs slashed diagonally across his forehead. This also required an emergency trip to stylist and an entire summer growing out a crew cut.

When I was a kid, I wore my favorite red patent leather go-go boots until they were so tight that my second toe on both feet grew crooked because I wouldn’t let them go.

Max had one pair of pants that he would wear all the time. All. The. Time. until they could no longer be called “floods” or “highwaters,” as much as really long shorts which I had to steal from his room in order to throw them away.

When I was a kid, I would stay up late at night, reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries until my Dad came to tuck me in or I passed out asleep.

Max will sneak his way to reading Creepy Pasta and other things online on his Chromebook until the wee hours of the morning, or until I walk into his room at 1 in the morning and tell him it’s time to go to sleep.

I have a nasty habit of just walking off, away from the people I’m with, if I see something that interests me. When Max was little and we visited the zoo, as we often did, my husband, older son and I routinely took turns at “Max duty,” to make sure he didn’t walk away and end up figuring out a way to get into the giraffes cage or end up petting the Bengal tigers.

Now I understand what my Mom went through raising me.

I understand the sheer terror of wondering what your child is up to because the house suddenly goes quiet.

I understand the fear of not knowing whether or not you child will survive into adulthood even without the threat of you beating them to death.

I understand what kind of conflicted emotions she must have felt the day I accidentally sucked the gerbil into the vacuum cleaner trying to help out with the chores, or when I spilled India ink on her new carpet while drawing her a picture.

I’ve stood in her shoes.

It’s not exactly a true curse, and it’s not exactly a true blessing, but I think it’s a little of both.

581719_3662309190010_2038050352_nMothering any child had its heart-stopping moments. But having a child like me, helps me to see the world through my mom’s eyes for a while, and helps me to understand the world Max sees as well.

I hope that as Max grows into a man, that I can be like my mother was with me – patient (most of the time), willing to let me be me and understanding of her willful adventurous little girl.

Mom taught me a lot about letting your child be independent and responsible and capable of facing up to the consequences of their actions – especially if it involves stealing the family car for a joy ride at 14 and knocking over a basketball pole, something I pray Max never does.

And I hope I can be as firm as she was in her resolve to teach me how to be a better, calmer, more focused person. It’s a daily task, I’ve learned, that isn’t easy and forces you to look into your child’s hurt and confused eyes while you dole out punishment. She taught me how to do that, even if she never told me how hard it was.

How she did it alone, and without killing me, is beyond me.

Thanks to her, I think I turned out pretty good. And because of the things I learned from her, I think Max will turnout pretty good too. After all, he’s well into his teen years and he’s still alive, so… there’s hope.

It goes without my saying anything that one day Max will have a kid just like him.

And my mother and I will have given Max all the tools he needs by then to deal with the curse.

Hopefully, he will see it, as I do, as a blessing instead.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

Garden hose

It’s time to get the garden in, so naturally I made a beeline for my underwear drawer.

Gardener with Wooden Seedling TrayIt’s the same every year.

Well, okay, not every year.

There were those three or four years when the kids were younger and we lived on the river. A general disregard by my kids for anything that could be construed as a vegetable and the fact that floods don’t pay much attention to fencing, sort of made planting a garden a bad idea.

Not that we didn’t want to… we just didn’t have the time or money for that kind of failure.

This whole garden craze started when my dear husband and I were first married and moved into a house on a street in Cincinnati that easily could have been built in San Francisco. Clearly, the fact that our house was on land that could have been better described as vertical made it the perfect spot to build a raised bed garden.steep streets

Clearly.

With railroad ties and a truck full of dirt, we put in a little garden that held all the foods we would eat over the winter – tomatoes, corn, green peppers, eggplant and Brussels sprouts. And we put in a bed of herbs – basil, oregano, chives, peppermint and dill.

Let’s just say, I THOUGHT growing eggplant would be great, but I was wrong because once you grow them, you have to actually eat them. And I THOUGHT that two Brussels sprouts plants would produce enough buds to adequately feed two people, but I was wrong because it only produces enough Brussels sprouts to contemplate the correct spelling of “Brussels sprouts” on search engines when it becomes clear that bugs are eating more of them than you are.

And herbs? Here’s a tip – unless you really, really, really like the smell of dill, or the flavor of peppermint, don’t ever, EVER plant them directly into the ground because they will take over every available inch of ground they can find, from your garden well into the neighboring football field, if you let them. Even if you don’t let them, they will still do it and mock you for your feeble attempts to control them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the other hand, we had tomatoes and green peppers and corn!

I was so excited to go out and grab food that I had grown. I couldn’t wait to grab the tomatoes straight off the vine and plop a few ears of corn off the plants and into a big pot of boiling water.

But by the time I got around to it, they were gone.

I went outside and our harvest was no longer on the plants waiting for me to pick it. In fact, it was thumping along the back wall in a plastic bag, trailing two kids from our neighborhood who had come into our little backyard for a little vegetable buffet.

I suspect their mom sent them. Seriously, what kid steals vegetables?

Those little set backs didn’t stop us though. Most everywhere we went – from a row house in Newport, Ky., to a three-story mansion in the middle of Cincinnati, and here in our home in Anderson, SC – we planted a garden.

We were like the Johnny Appleseed of green vegetables and overgrown herb beds….

This past year, we had heirloom tomatoes, squash, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, carrots, radishes, basil, oregano, sage, parsley and even a few okra plants.

zukesOur tomatoes were great, as were the squash, but honestly, we just gave up on harvesting them after a while because we got tired of eating them. Do you have any idea how much an average zucchini plant produces? I would estimate it at about 728 bushels based on the number of plastic bags of zucchini I had in my freezer one year when I got the idea that if I harvested them and grated them, I could make something like zucchini bread with them later.

That was a teacher Christmas gift that went over well, I’m sure.

So, instead, we just left them there. The birds ate holes in the tomatoes. The squirrels ate the green peppers. Some other unknown entity ate the lettuce and carrots. After eating our fill, we left the rest for nature to consume. It was just too much work to worry with.

And then, there was the whole watering thing. Also, a lot like work.

We just not the type to water plants. I’m sure that our peace lilies, who have been with us for more than 16 years, tremble in fear every time we get the Christmas decorations out because they know that is the sign they’ll be coming inside, into the desert of our living room, until it gets warm outside. dead lilyOften, between December and February, I will walk by them and say to myself “Jeez, I really should water the plants,” but never actually do. It’s a wonder they haven’t gotten together and grown legs so they could strangle us in our sleep for forcing them through the torture of neglect.

When it came to the garden though, I wasn’t ever going to spend a fortune to end up with another failure. And what’s the point of spending a small fortune on a garden, if your desired result is to get something for almost nothing?

So, we came up with alternatives.

Need mulch? We use old clean cardboard boxes and newspapers.

Want an irrigation system? We poke holes in the bottoms of empty two-liter bottles and bury them in the ground near your most neediest plants to regulate a water supply that lasts for a few days.

Need plant supports? Well, … here’s where the underwear drawer comes in.

Our tomato plants are planted in front of an old trellis that I have had for more than 15 years. Tomato plants don’t generally take to being trained up a trellis and they’re pretty fragile, so tying them up can be problematic. Sometimes, even string can cut into the tender vines and leave you with nothing but a stem that’s beautiful on the bottom, but withered and bare on the top. The Solution? Old panty hose. They have just enough give in them to be supportive for the tomatoes while holding them in place.

tying-tomatoes-pantyhoseWhich means one of my first stops when setting out the garden is to rummage through my underwear drawer to find hose with runs and rips and tears in them. Since no pair seems to last for more than 378 seconds, happily, they aren’t hard to find.

I’ll be out buying plants and seeds this week. And I’ll be going through my underwear drawer.

But I’m pretty sure the kids next door won’t be stealing my tomatoes this year. They have a chicken coop.

Maybe we can trade veggies for eggs.

One more thing to store in old panty hose, I’m sure…

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

Why the Easter Bunny still visits our house

Even though my sons are 16 and 15, the Easter bunny still visits my house.

easter-basketGranted, the baskets aren’t as elaborate as they once were, but they are still full of chocolate bunnies, jellybeans and the occasional Peep.

This year, there was none of the plastic grass that clings to every living thing in the house, and it lacked its usual bevy of toys. But each one did include an envelope full of money, which is all my sons really wanted in the first place.

The solid chocolate break apart bunny was just a bonus.

After all, they’re teenagers and toys, candy, colored eggs and plastic doo dahs don’t do it for them as much as cold hard cash-ola.

Ever since they were born, they’ve been the recipients of gifts brought to them by anonymous mythical creatures who wish to buy their love through sweets and trinkets.

At the same time, we’ve spent their formative years telling them to beware of evil men in cars with lollipops and missing puppies who are waiting for the opportunity to kidnap them and of “stranger danger.”

No wonder this generation is completely screwed up.

Throughout their childhood, from the tooth fairy to the Big Guy himself (you know – Mr. Claus) to the Birthday Monsters, there seemed to be no end to the parade of mystical creatures bestowing gifts on my kids.

Sandra Boynton's Birthday Monsters
Sandra Boynton’s Birthday Monsters

Spoiler alert kids – Some of them are completely made up.

Take for instance, the Birthday Monsters.

When my guys were very little, every year on the night before their birthday, I read to them Sandra Boynton’s “The Birthday Monsters.”

In the story, a group of monsters comes to visit you and proceeds to celebrate your birthday by wrecking your house, opening your gifts and eating your cake, only to make it all perfect again before they leave.

Somewhere along the way, in our house, this turned into a tradition of waking up on one’s birthday morning to find presents on the kitchen table and eating birthday cake for breakfast.

All these early morning discoveries, of course, required a lot of late night basket decorating, stocking stuffing, quarter leaving and present wrapping on the part of one particular person in our household.

I remember one year talking online with a friend and asking them if they thought it would be okay if I left the boys alone in the house, since they were asleep upstairs, and ran to the store to grab more Easter candy for their baskets. They weren’t particularly enamored with the idea. I ended up filling some plastic eggs with spare change that year instead.

More spoiler alerts kids – now might be a good time to go watch a YouTube video or something.

My oldest son, Mason, figured it all out when he was 8 years old. He came to me and said “You’re the birthday monsters, aren’t you?”

Look! Mom has wings!
Look! Mom has wings!

I admitted that I was.

“That makes you the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny too, doesn’t it?” he asked.

I nodded my head.

“Oh… then that means,… hmmm,” he said. He knew it all.

“Just don’t tell your brother,” I said.

When my youngest son, Max, found out he was nearly 13. For years, he had been a believer, even to the point of ringing a Christmas bell around us (while we had to act like it was broken) to prove that the magic in it still worked.

Once the realization the Big Guy was just me, all the other night visitors fell into their appropriate places in history for Max. His belief suspended, he realized the myths for what they were.

“My whole life has been a lie,” he lamented.

I guess it never occurred to him before then that it was a little strange that every few months supernatural beings were breaking into our house, not to mention stalking us and keeping tabs on our behavior.

Of course, these mythical entities were great discipline tools. Mom had Santa’s cell phone number. She would let the tooth fairy know if one of those bicuspids didn’t exactly fall out on its own. And no one wanted to see what the Easter bunny would leave if he got an email telling him they weren’t picking up their room.

But now, those tricks don’t work. They know there will be an Easter basket on the kitchen table even if they fail to change their sheets and that their Christmas stockings will always be full of the little joys they never expect.

So why do these gifts keep appearing?

finger-pointingMaybe it’s because I want them to be my kids always. I want them to know that they are loved. I want there to be one moment every once in a while where I can still surprise them to make up for the all the times I’ve yelled at them about grades and jobs and dirty laundry.

Maybe it’s a chance to spoil them when I’m so hard on them the rest of the year.

Maybe it’s because I like carrying on a tradition we started and which will one day be carried down to their kids.

Maybe it’s because the gifts are so appreciated. Today, when they got up at the crack of noon, they both got their Easter baskets and began to immediately make plans for the cash. Soon thereafter, Max came in the living room and hugged me. Mason, in turn, got out of bed and kissed me on the forehead.

They liked the baskets, even if they’re not full of jellybeans and Reese’s pieces and Peeps.

Those are the parts of the basket the Easter bunny kept for herself…

 

Copyright (c) 2015 Liz Carey

White Girl Chic… at 40+

The other day my son told me I looked like a “white girl.”

I’m sure he meant that as a compliment.white girl

There I was in my oversized sweatshirt, leggings and Uggs, and my son was stunned.

“Yeah, you look really fresh,” he said. “You look like a white girl.”

The thing is, this is not a new look for me.

The leggings are somewhat permanent.

I typically spend all of my off time in my Momm-iform (Mom Uniform) which consists of leggings of some sort and a big shirt. Or a pair of jeans and a big shirt. Or leggings and a tank top and a big shirt. Or just a big shirt over a bathing suit…in the summer, of course.

I mean, seriously, I spend a lot of time in really big shirts.

But for some reason, now he thought I looked different. Maybe it was the Uggs. Maybe it was the haircut I’d just recently gotten, or the fact that my hair was back to blonde instead of whatever other color laced with grey that it used to be. Maybe it was because I had lost a few pounds.

For some reason, he thought I looked like a girl. Specifically, a white girl.

And here I was worried that my biggest fear growing older was to know when I slipped into the ever-feared aging blonde category…

Now picture this for a minute… we live in the South and the only time ANY girls around here put on Uggs is when the temperature bottoms out at 60. We pull out the sweatshirts when the temperatures hover around 50.

It was in the 40s. We were heading to the grocery store. And it was a Saturday. I was in my comfort element. I really wasn’t going for any style other than Mom-irrific.

leggings and scarfHere, on a typical day in the South, the momm-iform is more capris and a camp shirt over a tank top with flip flops or those $5 sneakers you buy at KMart, or even walking shorts and a twin sweater set. Well, March through November anyway… But this was February and the typical Momm-iform then is to throw on leggings, a turtleneck, thigh high boots, one terrific scarf and one of the three heavy sweater you actually own.

Face it, Northern ladies, we may suck at colder weather, but we’re just like you… only prettier… and better dressed.

Still, I don’t think most people look at me and immediately say “Oh, look! There’s someone who spent a year as PTA president! You can tell by her sweater set and perfectly groomed toenails!”

I’ve read other suburban moms saying that yoga pants and a tank top are their momm-iform. I don’t buy it, as many of these women look at if they are at the gym on an hourly basis, and at their hairdresser’s when they’re not, but… if that’s what they want us to believe, so be it.

Honestly though, my look hasn’t changed much since college – whether I was a mom or not.

Of course, what this all means is that when my son said that I looked like a “white girl,” the first thing that popped into my head was not that I looked any different, but .. what the
heck did he think that I looked like before?

Ghetto mom?

White trash professional?

The Goodwill wife?

By day, it’s true, I’m a mild mannered executive who tries diligently to marry comfort and style, but I usually fail miserably – mostly because I am not a fashionista at all. Heck, it’s kind of hard to be fashionable when you’re an overweight mother of two pushing the waning edge of your 40s.

Is there one of those Facebook posts out there that tells you what not to wear when you’re pushing 50 and don’t want to look like a high school trollop?

pajamasBut by night, I am a grime fighting super mom who regularly wears clothing inappropriate for stepping out of Cinderella’s basement, let alone picking up one’s kids in church parking lots. Which, of course, is what I usually wear when I pick my kids up in church parking lots.

I never actually get OUT of the car, but still… I’m pretty sure I’m the only one there at the mega church on a Wednesday evening in pajamas.

Even as I write this, I am in black and red plaid pajama bottoms, a black three-quarter sleeve shirt and a red hoodie sweatshirt. It’s a nice ensemble to go with my awesome fuzzy grey slippers. I might also add that it’s 7:30 and I probably won’t go to bed for another four hours.

But this is my comfort zone and this is where I get to wear what I want and be who want in whatever I want right?

mom and kidSo maybe I did used to look like something else to him. He sees me at my best and at my worst. He sees me when I’m getting ready for work. Usually, since he has better taste than me, he’s the one I ask whether or not I’ve been able to successfully pull an outfit together. And he’s seen me at my worst, which usually involves sagging gardening shorts and dirt-covered tank tops when I work in the yard.

Now he thinks I look like a girl.

This is a big change from a few years ago when I told him I could help him talk to his latest girlfriend and he responded, “What do you know about girls? You’re a mom!”

I guess, though, what I should take away from this is not what I used to look like, or what I look like now, but what I look to him.

Regardless of how whether it’s good or bad, how many 40++++ women can say their sons think they look like a girl?

At least one I can think of.winking mom

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

23 things only a child of the 70s will know

I was talking to a friend the other day when we got into a discussion of Star Wars.

All he knew was the remake.

For him, Greedo shot first and Han was just defending himself.

WRONG!!!!

The conversation reminded me that cultural differences can span just a few years.

The first time I realized this was in college. I was in my first summer of college and I was working at a fast food joint. During a heated debate, I piped up “Jane, you ignorant slut.” You would have thought I had actually meant to insult one of the girls in the room, despite the fact I was only talking to boys.

Another time, a friend of mine and I went to our first U2 concert. It was the Rattle and Hum tour and we were in floor seats at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. As was their tradition, U2 played Beatles music during the warm up. My friend and I were in college and were having the time of our lives when the girls in front of us asked us who the warm up music was.

“It’s the Beatles… you know? John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison?” we said.

This was about the time that George Harrison had a hit single “I’ve got my mind set on you” on the charts.

Stellar lyrics there, “I’ve got my mind set on you” repeated about seven million times. A little less thrilling than “Norwegian Wood” if you ask me.

“Oh! My! God!” the girls shrieked. “George Harrison was in a band? We have GOT to check them out.”

I’d never felt so old.

And later, as the oldest woman (at the ripe old age of 28) working at a local ISP (remember ISPs?), I was talking to one of the teen-ish guys working there who was excited to be seeing Star Wars in the movie theater for the first time. I didn’t get his excitement. I saw it in the movie theaters when I was 12… I think I sprouted my first grey hairs that day.

And now, I realize, there are just some things a child of the 70s, who went to college in the 80s, will know, that others just can’t begin to understand…

First things first…

  1. Han shot firsthan shot first
  2. Time travel required the Libyans
  3. Barney was the devilBarney+731895
  4. The coolest alternative music came from the British Isles and Athens, Georgia and was best heard on “97X… BAM! The future of Rock and Roll”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBGiU4usqqg
  5. Fonzie should never have jumped that shark. And no one cared whether or not Joanie loved Chachi

    Seriously, who water skis in a leather jacket????
    Seriously, who water skis in a leather jacket????
  6. Rutger Hauer was the most badass, scariest villain ever
  7. Rocks make good petsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. Mainstream rap started in new wave/punk rock with the insane tracks of Debbie Harry
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHCdS7O248g
  9. Conversations were just more intense when you stepped around the corner and wrapped yourself in the phone cord
  10. Hours spent in front of the radio with your tape recorder making a mix tape meant true love
  11. Bionics just can’t beat the Alien Bigfoot Alliance. And by the way, that cave was just damn scarythe-six-million-dollar-man-Bigfoot
  12. Before he was Joe Cool, Snoopy was a World War II flying ace
  13. Blue M&Ms used to be tanOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  14. Video games meant more when they cost one of your hard earned quarters
  15. Musicians just sang, actors just acted and everyone left politics to the politicians
  16. School lunches of pizza, corn and fruit with boxed milk were the bomb!pizza
  17. McGee always made Dr. Banner angry, cars could talk and Southern Sheriffs were always stupid. Oh, and no one ever got sued for portraying anyone as stupidrosco(1)
  18. Trapper Keepers and a new lunch box were necessary elements of going back to school.
  19. Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer, Bob Geldhof, Phil Collins and George Harrison were in bands. Some made it big with solo careers, I hear.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBAl9cchQac
  20. A car horn that played Dixie was THE cool thing to have
  21. Recipes came in cook books and on hand written note cards, snide remarks were made to one person at a time and comments on news stories required letters to the editor
  22. Weekday afternoons meant the Brady Bunch, Thunderbirds, and Gilligan’s Island reruns. Friday nights meant videos. Saturday mornings meant cartoons. And summer days meant being outside until Mom turned on the porch lights.gilligan
  23. Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Bosom Buddies and Facts of Life/Return of the Killer Tomato were all proof that embarrassing career moves CAN be overcome.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PShKWD2NKUE

My kids will never understand. Half of the people that I talk to everyday will never understand. But those of us who grew up on less than 10 television stations, Saturday Night Live, and a life without DVDs, OnDemand or email will get it.

And seriously, let’s get one thing straight.

Han definitely shot first.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

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