Saturday, December 29, 2012

Yuletide Bundling: Xanax for the Holidays

What a magical time we are experiencing!  Laughter, good will, and cheer abound!  For some of us, however, this bright and jolly juncture brings about a nasty mental health disorder called Traumatic Wassail Associative Syndrome (TWAS). Susceptibility indicators to TWAS include the propensity to procrastinate, normative disorganization, and being (and/or acting as) a blonde.   I, unfortunately, possess all of the precursors.  The holiday season bites me in the rosy-cheeked ass every year. Like a stealthy, jingling ninja it arrives, finding me on my sugar plum potty with my red and white striped tights still down around my knees. It pounces upon me and beats the ever loving Fah La shit out of me. For approximately twelve days, I run frantic. Open houses and luncheons consume my day planner. I have gifts for coworkers, friends, and family to buy and staff Christmas parties to plan. Shopping, decorating, wrapping, shopping, decorating, wrapping, to infinity. The season becomes a red and green blur. I ushered in the 2012 Post Christmas Epoch regaining consciousness behind the festive deer display in the front yard. My husband Tom said when he found me I was mumbling incoherently reindeer games, story telling elves, and naughty lists as he led me to the bed.  I slept for 12 hours. Okay, most of what I just said was a lie, but I did sleep for 12 hours.  Extreme fatigue is a classic symptom in the postictal stage of TWAS.

I am way too old to brave Chaotic Candy Cane Lane for yet another year, and I believe that my proclivity for TWAS can be managed with a few simple steps.  I have developed a plan; a sure fire approach to keeping the celebratory season in perspective and reduce the risk of full blown TWAS.  I am calling it Yuletide Bundling, patents pending. Simply stated, it’s multitasking on eggnog-flavored steroids. The course of action begins with an awareness of what must be done, grouping said assignments, memorizing the season’s to do list for immediate recall, and seizing opportunities to get several projects completed at once.  Below are three ways I am convinced Yuletide Bundling will make my 2013 Noel TWAS free.  Being the public servant that I am, I am sharing the brilliance with you, so you too can enjoy peace on earth in the upcoming year.

Absolute Merchandising Excursions

Why spend hours researching the perfect holiday photo idea, corralling screaming children and undisciplined relatives for the actual shoot? While you are shopping with your loved ones, find a beautifully decorated Christmas display in your favorite superstore, pose your kith and kin to hide price tags, whip out your cell phone, and voi-la!
Instant holiday greeting card! As you wait in the check out line, come up with a catchy, heartwarming salutation and group email it to family and friends. Shopping, greeting cards created and sent. Off, off and away, TWAS!

Hop, Stock, and Carol

As you event hustle, collect stocking stuffers. During the office holiday party, sneak into supply closet. Who wouldn't want colorful paper clips, binder clips, and packs of sticky notes on Christmas morning? Church plays are also a great place to gather little gifts. Everyone who attends gets a treat bag...duh. Bring your anorexic friends, and get extra bags of goodies!  Parades create new opportunities for gift gathering. Bring your eco-friendly shopping bag and fight those little kids for the thrown candy. Finally, give chore cards in stocking for Yule time clean up. Result: little Timmy gets a ream of paper, a pack of Juicy Fruit peppermint gum, candy canes with a hint of asphalt, and a card that says, "you have been selected to vacuum stray tinsel strands out of the carpet." In review, you attended the office party, a church play, and a parade, all while collecting free stocking stuffers. Not to mention the fact that you took care of subsequent festivities clean up, all while remaining friendly to the environment. TWAS be gone!

North Pole Parole

Use community service workers for exterior decorating. They need the hours, and you need the help.
It's a win-win. While you are all toasty and warm baking gingersnaps behind a locked door, workers decorate the largest tree in your front yard, hang garland from eave to eave, and create a rooftop winter wonderland.  You will most definitely take the top prize for the best holiday home in the neighborhood.  TWAS eradication!

I am so ready for TWAS-free Yule time celebrations 2013!  Bring it, Cringle!

A. Ballerina

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Grateful, albeit Guilt-Driven, November List of Blessings

I must admit, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for not participating in the November Virtual Gratitude Blitz (NVGB) of 2012.  It has been nice to learn all the things for which my Facebook friends are thankful.  Unfortunately, my nit picky nature led me to some glaring strategy gaffes in posts.  Those who posted long orations about God, family, and friends in the first few days had to get a little creative toward the month’s end.  Around mid November, I noticed the beginning of a downward spiral in the caliber of thankful posts…The topics of God and family during the first week digressed into parking spaces and clinical strength deodorant shortly after Veterans Day. I am certainly grateful for a place to park and fewer stinky people in this world, but I feel compelled to point out the obvious in an effort to promote restraint for the first days of NVGB 2013.  OKAY, OKAY… I am simply jealous of those who had the motivation and wherewithal to commit to such a monumental task.  So, to relieve my guilt, and admonish my tardiness in publishing my appreciation, I created two NVGB posts which are featured below.  They are mingled with seriousness and humor, and I pray, oh reader, you will appreciate both!!!!

 November 1st:  I am most grateful for God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus (both the adult and baby-in-the-manger versions); the forgiveness of sins I have committed afforded by Jesus and God’s Grace to cover those I will commit in the future, probably even in this blog.  I am thankful for my wonderful family and my awesome friends; beloved pets and all creatures here on Earth, great and small, as well as those living on other planets yet to be discovered. 

I am appreciative of Earth’s basically “clean” air, the change of seasons, and the freedom of living in this country; the ability to run, walk and talk; good health; the plants that give us oxygen to breathe; and the ability to work, buy stuff, and pay bills.  I am grateful for the sunshine, and the rain, snow, sleet and hail, and for tireless US Postal workers whom weather does not detour; my mailbox, and letters from friends; the ability my friends have to write and for me to read and the teachers who taught us to read and write, and for the public schools; for buses and cars and gasoline, for all fossil fuels, and for alternative fuels, for windmills and the State of Nebraska, corn, the Cornhuskers, and all college and professional sporting teams and events that give us the excitement of competition and betting opportunities. 

I am appreciative for Las Vegas, slot machines, free drinks in casinos, and the desert...and for camels; for Hump Day and Humpy Dumpy and all other nursery rhyme characters that made my childhood both happy and scary; for “fear” and all other God-given emotions to keep us safe, and the Techies that created emoticons to express them on our Smart phones. 

I am grateful for Alexander Graham Bell, graham crackers and S’mores; for phrases like “More is less,” and for Les Nessman, old sitcoms like WKRP in Cincinnati, and for the Turkey Drop Episode; and for turkey, as well as all other fowl (those birds that can fly and those that have purpose-less wings). 

I am thankful for the Purpose-Driven Life phenomena, and those who live it, for Cousin It, and that weird Hand the lives in a box, for Box O Wine, Advil for hangovers; for clothes hangers, and the ability to ponder why some people call them “coat” hangers, yet use them for all items of clothing without explanation. 

I am thankful for the myth and hope of wrinkle-free clothing, wrinkled noses, and the ability to smell.  I am grateful for Febreze, freebees, frisbees, and dogs that wear red handkerchiefs around their necks.  I am appreciative of Native American chiefs, pilgrims who stole their land, and, of course, Thanksgiving Day.

November 30:  I am grateful for the end of November. 

A. Ballerina





Monday, June 18, 2012

Mutant Mouse Eats My Snack Cakes...Bring It, Mick!

Friday evening, I was sitting on the couch enjoying quality time with Ben & Jerry and TLC's Randy to the Rescue, when I heard bags rattling in the kitchen.  At first, I thought nothing of it.  Being alone in the house is a rarity, and living with Paul and Wesley, well, bags are always rattling in the kitchen.  It took a few minutes for me to finish my frozen treat and to realize that I was the only known creature in the house capable of making that kind of noise…And it weren't me.  I went to investigate, like any 45-year-old, blonde, white woman would do in any given horror movie, armed only with an empty gourmet ice cream container and a spoon. The sound was coming from cabinet where the snacks, personalized stationery, and other sundries are kept. (I am not one celebrated for my organizational skills).  The Unknown Creature was either eating potato chips or penning a note to a friend.

I stood in front of the cabinet for some length of time thinking that given my professional level of crisis response skills, I should certainly be able to figure out what to do next. I couldn't. I then did what any strong, independent woman would do…I called my husband at work. The following conversation ensued:

Me:  Tom, there is something in the kitchen cabinet!

Tom:  It's one am.

Me:  It sounds huge!  I think it's eating chips.

Tom:  Open the cabinet and see what it is.  It's probably just a bug.

Me to myself:  Are you f*#kin’ kidding me?

Me:  No. I will not open the cabinet. And it is NOT a bug. I can't open the cabinet. 

Tom:  I am sure it's just a little field mouse, or something.  Just go to bed. I will deal with it in the morning.

Me:  No field mouse makes that kind of noise. And I can't sleep with a monster in the kitchen. And by morning it may have eaten the dogs.  Neither one can move very quickly.  Worse still, it may slink into the bedroom.

Tom:  Go to the bedroom, close the door, and put a towel underneath the door.

Me:  WHAT!?  You spent how many years in the military (and as a weapons specialist, no less), and that's all you got? Barricade myself in the bedroom and put a towel under the door?  Don't you have a flame thrower somewhere in the house?

Tom:  Angie, go to bed.  I will see you in the morning.

Me to a dial tone:  I hope you do see me, with all my limbs still attached.  By the way, my affairs are NOT in order, and YOU, dear husband, will have a hell of a time planning my funeral without my input.  I will haunt you if it is a tacky production!  Who am I kidding, I am going to haunt your ass anyway!

I thought about sleeping on the deck, or at a safer distance, in the yard.  I haven't actually slept in my yard before, well, at least not sober, but it was becoming more and more appealing as the sounds continued to get louder.

I finally gave up, and barricaded myself in the bedroom.  I turned the television volume up so I couldn't hear the savage beast dining in cupboard.  The dogs were on their own.  And, no, I did not put towels under the doors.  That would have been as pointless as locking the doors of a convertible with the top down.  I was certain that Mickey Mouse's Evil Twin, Mutant Mick, could easily gnaw through wood if he wanted me for dessert.

Tom arrived at 6:30 am, and lucky for him, I was still alive.  With his sharp detective skills, coupled with an advanced knowledge in the area of wildlife biology (of which I was previously unaware), he quickly surmised that the creature was, in fact, a small field mouse.  Tom had retraced the intruder's steps, examined the creature’s feces, and came to this conclusion. I remain unconvinced. And this is why...

Mutant Mick enjoyed a Little Debbie's Oatmeal Creme Pie. Below is the remnant of said snack cake, which I am entering as Exhibit 1.



A field mouse? This is a human sized bite, people. Tom Grant, AKA Marlin Perkins, also discovered droppings in the frying pan.  Mick must have made an omelet for breakfast before he left...Where were the dogs?!

So my Mouse Whisperer left for another work shift after his 15 minute investigation.  And, I returned to my bedroom prison. I began making a list of all the charges I had grounds for in both the civil and criminal arenas. This carb craving vector should be charged with the following:  breaking and entering into my home, taking me hostage, stealing my snack cakes; not to mention causing me undue stress, pain and suffering. Perhaps the vilest offense; however, is the fact that he disrespected me by crapping all over my kitchen counters. Feces, manure, dung, shit…it is not “droppings,” it is SHIT, Marlin, SHIT.

This is the end of my blog ranting entry, for I am too tired to carry on…It’s Monday, and Mick continues to elude capture. So, my plight persists. I now avoid the kitchen at all costs. Actually, I have always avoided the kitchen, but it’s for a really good reason now.

A. Ballerina

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Call of Duty Black Ops verses Hooterville Granny’s Poultry Massacre

Amongst my Rowdy Mom friends, there has been much discussion and debate over video games and said games’ influence on our pre-teen boys.  The pervasive, unspoken question is exactly how many hours does it take for a 10-year-old boy engaging in virtual violence to become a homicidal sociopath?  Like "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop,” the answer remains a mystery. The world may never know.  Apparently, every child, Tootsie Pop, and homicidal sociopath are different.

Rowdy discussions on electronic entertainment focus on what we did for fun as children, ‘cause we didn’t have Halo Reach, Call of Duty, Gears of War 3, Mortal Kombat, and Kill Zone 3 to play like our vitamin D deficient, muscle-atrophied, vampiric children.  It only seems logical that we should coax our children to do the same things that we did for fun as children, because we turned out so great.  None the Rowdy moms present as homicidal sociopaths, so I took a little survey…Amy played with baby dolls…how stereotypically sweet.  Melanie read inappropriate books…how fitting.  Renee rode her bike, and Angel swam and water skied.  Debbie, Christie, and Heather did not respond to my survey, so I am making shit up for them.   Debbie knitted shawls for the elderly, Christie played hide -n- seek with cute neighborhood boys, and Heather attended save the manatee rallies.  I built moss furniture in the pine thicket for my imaginary troll family.  Thus far, I am the one that should have the most sociopathic tendencies, given my delusions were present at age seven.     

Paying more attention to my son Wesley’s recreational habits, I began to question the influence M rated games had on his elementary school psyche.  He began to use terms like “strategic placement” in describing the positioning of the dogs’ food bowls at each end of the kitchen to avoid potential canine conflict.  He also referred to searching for the mate to a dirty sock in the chaos under his bed as a reconnaissance mission.

Even though my general approach to raising Wesley is inactive parenting, these new terms peppered into his 10-year old vocabulary gave me pause.  I made an exception to my low key style to avoid future holiday celebrations at Central Prison.  During Wesley’s next video-gaming binge,  I asked my son to take a break before he had a seizure.  He responds, “And do what?”  Thanks to my Rowdy moms, I had several options.  “You could ride your bike, read inappropriate books, or water ski.”  I received a flat affect, followed by an eye roll.  “Well, we could find some moss and build miniature furniture for make believe Teddy Troll’s family.”  “Really, mom?  Really?”

I gave up (or gave in), and asked my son Wesley to teach me to play Call of Duty Black Ops.  Why not meet the enemy?  Dance with the devil?  He handed me the X box controller, which resembled an alien death ray gun, I would imagine…if I knew an alien…and he was packing.  With multicolored knobs, keys labeled A, B, X, and Y, as well as various other gears, the controller was intimidating, to say the least.  When pressed in the right series, keys would signal characters to perform various tasks, ie--standing, jumping, and, yes, selecting a weapon and shooting.  Giving the endless sequences, I am sure baking cookies, and playing a sousaphone were probably options.   Hell, with the X and Y keys, a baby being made was not out of the question.  During my virgin voyage into the synthetic war zone, I couldn’t figure out how to stop shooting my own character’s feet and my health meter glowed red continuously.  Obviously, I sucked at the game, so I just watched Wes.  I became shamefully proud of Wesley’s gaming abilities, as he mowed down the enemy time and time again.  His tactile skills were awe inspiring…perhaps a career as a surgeon?  Truthfully, I saw little blood and gore, just random splatters that quickly dissipated.  Soon Wes completed the level, and said, “Okay, Mom.  I think I will go outside and ride my bike.”   Go figure.

I know my childhood experiences and activities shaped who I am today, as will Wesley’s.  I do have wonderful memories of growing up in Hooterville (Cousin Beth’s moniker for the geographic area encompassing North Carolina’s Lawsonville and Sandy Ridge proper, as well as surrounding boondocks).  I remember skipping to my grandparents’ house every weekday after school, making mud pies with Beth, having homemade ice cream on Sunday afternoons, and, yes, playing in mossy pine thickets. But there was a dark side to country living.  Truthfully, Hooterville wasn’t exactly rated E for Everyone.

Every week or so, there was at least one animal cut, shot, beheaded, or gutted somewhere on the farm.  From a partial pig hanging in the old house to various deer draped across the hoods of pick up trucks, carnage inundated our peaceful farm.  The stench of death permeated the rural air.  

I saw my loving, God-fearing grandmother murder chickens regularly.   She wrung their necks, hung upside down on the clothes line, then cut their heads off to let the blood drain from their bodies.  As far as assassin skill sets, I would put Grandma Hall up against Black Ops’ Alex Mason any day.  Actually, Grandma would be the premiere protagonist in a farm-based video game, the description of which would go something like this….

Hooterville Granny’s Poultry Massacre is a first-person game of farming mayhem. The player assumes the role of Grandma Mae Overby-Hall who can wield various weapons, of which two at a time can be carried; throw machetes, butcher knives, and pocket knives; and use other equipment, ie--a butter churn handle, tobacco stick, and a hoe as weapons. A player close enough to gilded swine can kill with one knife stick. The character can take three stances: standing (when dressing rabbits, canning at the stove), crouching (when slopping pigs, hoeing in the garden, collecting eggs from the hen house), or prone (when storing sweet potatoes under the bed for winter). Each affects rate of movement, accuracy, and stealth. The player can dive prone from a standing position when running after domestic fowl. The player can momentarily sprint but will then grow tired. The screen glows red to indicate damage to a player's health, which goes away after eating biscuits and rabbit gravy. When the character is within the stench radius of live swine, a marker indicates the direction of the pig next up for slaughter, helping the player effectively hurtle over the sty fence, wade through 6” feces, approach beast from behind, and slit its throat.  (Rubber boots are an optional, yet prized feature unlocked after achieving level 5 status).  Among the game's weapons are crossbows, a .22, a plow head, and ballistic knives, gut buckets, and the most powerful weapon, Old Testament scriptures from the King James Version of The Bible.  Unfortunately, the game does not allow players to turn down the blood to suit their needs.  There is no profanity used in Hooterville, ‘cause that just ain’t right.

So, is it so important that our kids have similar childhood experiences as we did to turn out as great as us?  Naw.  We just need balanced experiences:  A little virtual blood splatter, a bicycle ride around the neighborhood; a few murdered chickens, constructing a lichen divan.  Whether backwoods or virtual, brutality must be countered with humanity…or at the very least, a Tootsie Pop.  Wow, that’s a little deep for the Ballerina. 

A. Ballerina