Valentine’s Day: X’s and O’s and Oh-no’s

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Bry and Me

Over the years we tried buying gifts for one another. Typically, I’d get one of two things, a bouquet of red roses at three times the regular cost and dies almost immediately. Or a box of chocolates that I’d promise myself to eat one at a time, a day at a time, only to discover within three days, a heart-shaped box filled with shame, guilt, and empty brown candy wrappers.

As for presents for my husband, he’d get lingerie. I know how that sounds—stop picturing him in silky briefs—it’s not what I mean. Women don’t buy lingerie as Valentine gifts for themselves. Ever. We also don’t want it as a gift given to us. Ever.

Sexy underwear is a baffling business. Besides bras and panties (which can be fairly normal–comfortable even!), there are Bustiers, Corsets, Negligees, and some weird lacy-shear thing with an empire waist called the Baby Doll—huh?

For Valentine’s Day, the most popular items are sadomasochistic getups constructed of poking and bruising wires and lung collapsing seams with no less than fifty tiny spine-gouging eyehooks. And that’s just for the top portion of the ensemble.

When I was a kid, thongs were foam sandals one wore on the feet. They’d include a rigid piece of material to separate the big toe from everything else. They were hard to run in and even more impossible to ride a bike in. Despite the migration far north, thongs aren’t much different today than they were back then, as still just as limiting. Have you ever tried riding a bike in a thong? I have, for seven chafe-making miles. Horrible!

Another thing, until we are finally released from our lace and pleather Japanese finger trap, a two-man job, by the way, the costume has so much hardware, we can’t wear it under anything but an oversized coat of some kind or an old-school jogging suit—how sexy is that? Not very. Not for anyone.

This year, as is our tradition, Bry and I forgot about Valentine’s Day. Although we remembered last week, we were still unable to secure a table for tonight. Instead, we made a reservation at a restaurant we’d always wanted to try—Tiburon, a swanky, no kids-menu kind of place that’s intimidating to drive past. We decided to dine there last night—no muss, no fuss!

We got dressed up. We ate at a reasonable hour around 7:00. We held hands over a real tablecloth and tea lights. We talked. We laughed. We celebrated.

I guess my biggest gripe about Valentine’s Day is all the hype of what it’s supposed to be—it’s exhausting! I think next year, we’ll do it again, make plans according to what works for us, and wear what makes us—both of us—happy.

Cupcakes

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I miss bread. I miss homemade cookies. Cakes and cupcakes! It’s not that I’ve given up sugar, my issue is that the older I get, the more allergies I have. A year and a half ago I gave up gluten, and with that any baked good with a normal texture and taste. It’s fine, I do feel better without it. However, I want to eat something without the flavor falling flat. I want to bake—bake like I used to! I want to create something beautiful and delicious! I miss that.

Over the weekend, my husband wanted to make bread using whole-wheat flour minus any GMOs (genetically modified organisms) GMO’s are in everything! His thought was that perhaps my issue wasn’t gluten but overly modified ingredients. It worked! I ate bread—fresh out of the oven, nicely dense bread! A miracle!

Today, I tried making cupcakes with whole-wheat flour. The results? Total and utter failure!

The batter was like caulk and tasted like cardboard and paste. I added more vanilla extract and got a vanilla infused paste. I thought, maybe cooking the concoction would change it—or at least, help it. It did not. What’s worse the actual cake is beige—not golden tan, not toasted, but beige as in Band-aide colored. So, I continued, making a maple frosting—because wouldn’t a cupcake that’s monochromatic taste better? FYI it doesn’t. It also doesn’t make them look any better.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve tried using gluten-free flour—there’s some made with almonds or cashews and others made with garbanzo beans and tastes like copper pennies. I’ve gone through page after page on Pinterest and tried gluten-free recipes and have ordered gluten-free cupcakes at bakeries. No good. If it doesn’t have gluten, it’s gross—there’s nothing else to say.

In the grocery aisle, there are long sections stacked with gluten-free cookies and crackers. Have you tried them? When you eat a baked good, the response isn’t supposed to be, eh. And to add insult to injury, I found gluten-free crackers made out of beets. Beets! Would you eat crackers that tasted like pennies and were maroon? Not without having an “I dare you” attached, I’d imagine.

I know cupcakes aren’t the answer. I understand that eating junk and food that’s over processed is bad for you—but I realize that that’s the stuff that makes things taste good!

 

 

The Salt Line: Book Review

The Salt Line book coverPicture a dystopian world in the not so distant future where the population exists behind giant walls. It sounds like a President Trump ideal, but in Holly Goddard Jones’s novel, The Salt Line, walls are used to keep out the most dangerous threat to humanity—not illegal immigrants—but ticks.

Ticks are the reason for tightened security. They are the reason that large, segregated zones keep people from traveling from one area to the next. With one bite of a female tick, eggs implant into the bloodstream, and death is likely to follow. So why would a group of successful and wealthy people decide to risk it and venture out into a tick-filled wilderness? Why would they pay money to put themselves in danger? According to Jones, it’s because they can.

Within days of their journey, the group comes face to face with the deadly insects and discovers another peril—being kidnapped by a community living among the ticks.
For me, this book was a roller coaster ride—not of thrill or suspense, but because it oscillated between hair-pulling boredom and intriguing out-of-the-blue plot twists. Whenever I thought about giving up—that I was going to pull the plug and find something else to read—that’s when something staggering happened. That is not what a well-written book is supposed to do—a reader isn’t supposed to continue reading because the twists are so much better than the rest of the plot.

Although the novel starts out strong, following Edie, (an accidental Rock Star groupie whose backcountry trip is paid for by her B-list singer boyfriend), by the middle Edie fades into the scenery. For the rest of the book, the limelight goes to a mismatched duo, Marta, and Wes. Two villains are introduced; a mild-mannered older matriarch, June, and her adopted, lunatic daughter, (who is thirty-six-years-old but acts like a gun-wielding eight-year-old), Violet. And then, Edie reappears as a strong character again by the end. The character switch-ups Jones practices throughout the story is extreme, and I wasn’t able to enjoy, sympathize, or cheer for any one character because of it. By the end, I didn’t care who lived or who died.

I suspect that Jones is an excellent writer and know she has won many awards to prove it. My conclusion of this novel, however, is that it was meant to be better than it is.

I’ve linked this into my Book Bites Main Course category due to it’s length and subject matter.

 

 

So, We Meet Again, Again.

 

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Today, I was almost mowed down by Nicea DeGering. You know, the local television personality on Good Day Utah? I mean, it could have been her doppelgänger or sister—I’m always mistaken for my sister, Em. Of course, we both wear bug-eyed sunglasses and drive the same car, soo…

Anyway, I was navigating the endless maze of road construction heading to McDonald’s. I had to get into the left lane, but a massive GMC wouldn’t let me in nor would it allow me to slow down and go behind. The woman driving the mega SUV was steadily talking on her cell phone and kept in exact pace with me. I slowed down. I sped up. She mirrored my moves while simultaneously ignored me.

As I approached the road where McDonald’s is, the small car ahead of me sped up, and I was able to dodge into a spot. Still, the white GMC continued driving the same speed and was soon looming over me in my rear view mirror. That’s when I recognized who it was—or at least her twin.

I turned left. She turned left. I drove into the drive-through lane at McDonald’s. So did she. The whole time she was ordering, not once did her cell phone leave her ear. It was strange as well as surprising. I can’t drive, talk on my phone, and order all at the same time!

This is not my first run-in with the news reporter. Several years ago, when the gym, Life Time Fitness opened, I met her—kind of. One day I noticed a tall blond in the dressing room. We were both dressed, so it wasn’t like I was inappropriate when I approached her. I walked up to her and said hello. I told her I was a fan. The whole time she looked all around as if searching for someone to save her. I took the hint and turned around mid-sentence.

I returned to my locker and pretended to look through my bag. I saw her race passed me and out the exit. I waited a few minutes before leaving. That day, we both happened to take the same group fitness class. When I walked in the room, before the music started, I saw Nicea dart into the back corner. She pushed the woman accompanying her in front of her so I couldn’t see her anymore.

I felt terrible. I hadn’t meant to scare Nicea—for the life of me, I had no idea what I had done or said to make her fear me.

Typically, for a Zumba class, I take a spot as far away from the front of the room as possible, but that day, I couldn’t very well go to the back. Nope.

To my horror, the last remaining spot in the room was right smack in front of the instructor who, in the microphone attached to her head, made sure I knew I lacked dance ability.

“No honey, you’re doing it wrong,” she’d boom. I knew I was! I was too worried about offending the semi-celebrity in the back of the room to focus on a dance routine—that and that I’m not a great dancer anyway.

For weeks afterward, whenever Nicea and I saw each other at the gym, we’d run in the opposite direction. Soon I stopped going to that particular dance class. I also stopped going into the dressing room, at least for a while.

There have been a few more times where I’ve been at the same place at the same time as Nicea DeGering. Luckily, she doesn’t recognize me anymore!

 

 

 

 

The Boy in The Blue Trench Coat

 

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I saw him again, today, the boy in the blue trench coat. He is probably fifteen or sixteen-years old. He had on a camouflage hunter’s cap, the kind with flaps that lay over the ears.

The coat wasn’t purchased for him, evident from its enormous size—the way the epaulette straps extended over his arms. The way the sleeves hanged and the amount they bunched around the outsides of the pockets his hands were shoved into. The belt was knotted and cinched at the waist—although it was not purchased for him, he owned it now.

The boy’s chin was down, at a slightly descending angle. His eyes fixed to a few paces ahead. His shoulders rigid and pulled forward as if he were heading into a bitter wind or combat.

I was in the student loading and unloading zone at the school. My son had exited. The line of cars behind me swelled, urging me to move on. The boy went by me in a flash. It wasn’t the first time he had.

I’d seen the kid a few days ago. I was driving to pick my son up after school. My daughter was with me, and so was my dog. I was late. The stoplights were off forcing me to stop and start, stop and start, and then wait some more. It was cold. The sun was out.

In the distance, I saw a figure in a long dark coat sprinting through a field. The snow was deep. White ice like frosted glass coated the roads and sidewalks and he ran in the opposite direction.

We arrived at the school. We picked up my son, and we headed towards home. After a few miles, I saw the boy in the blue trench coat out of the corner of my eye, still sprinting, still speeding as if he had all the energy, and the air and ability in the world.

He dashed along a hilly trail that wove in and out next to the road. He ran and ran, fast and hard.

Gray jogging pants hanged below the coat hem grazing his calves. He wore tennis shoes. Bright red ears poked out on either side of his head. His hair was brown, crew cut on the sides and back and kept long on top. Loose strands jumped and bounced with each of his steps.

As we passed, I glanced in the rearview mirror. White puffed from his mouth making him look like a steam engine. His cheeks blotched ruddy. A giant smile spread wide across his face. He was running. He was running and fearless and constant. He was inspiration. He was music and poetry.

At the stoplight, the green arrow signaled us to turn left. The boy continued on the path that dodged to the right and disappeared.

I saw the boy in the navy blue trench coat, this morning, before the sun was fully up, among the swarm of teenagers wiping the sleep from their eyes, staggering into the orange brick building where school was to begin. He was different from the first time I saw him. He was drawn into himself. He was ready for a day of battle.

I wished they could see him, the way he was a few days ago, sprinting through the frozen world, speeding past the broken world, pushing beyond the humdrum, the teenaged politics, the dread of another day. Because if they saw him when he ran, it would change their lives forever.

A Chiweenie with Thumbs

 

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Zoey in the Princess Leia buns she despises!

I think my dog, Zoey, wishes she had thumbs. For now, she has wicked claws on either side of her two front paws that curl, as if she’s holstering daggers like an old-school Arabian warrior.

If Zoey had opposable thumbs, I think she’d drag a kitchen barstool over to the fridge and raid the meat and cheese drawer several times a day. She’d ransack the pantry and get her own snacks and treats without having to perform first.

With thumbs, Zoey could fix her sweaters when she steps wrong and misses an armhole. Sometimes this leaves her wearing what looks like a one-armed knitted toga or a black and white strapless, or even a skirt without a top, which is just plain scandalous. She wouldn’t be above stealing cashmere sweaters from my closet or anything else of mine that is toasty, soft, and warm like socks.

During the winter months, I don’t bathe her like I do when the sun is out. This results in long periods of uncleanliness and stench that embarrasses her.

She sits on my knees, head bowed, muzzle pointed at her chest, ears down, shaking and looking up at me. Her expression is of shame as if she’s thinking, “Look away! I stink! I’m a monster!”

Then I feel bad and take her to the kitchen sink. I fill it with warm soapy water. I place her inside and leave the faucet running on sprayer mode.

Zoey with thumbs would probably draw her own bath, filled with Epsom salts and essential oils—something along the lines of orange blossom and vanilla. She’d lean on the sides of the sink with her two front paws out, her bottom half submerged and watch out the kitchen window for birds on the backyard fence or mothers pushing strollers down the street. She wouldn’t wait until her body aroma overpowered us all.

I picture her with her own vanity set; a silver metal mirror and matching horsehair brush she’d keep on my dresser. She’d comb through her fur every night counting a hundred brushes from ears to tail before coiling up on the goose-down comforter she stole from my bed.

My dog suffers from thumb remorse. I bet she wishes she could drive the car and go from fast food restaurant to fast food restaurant—because that’s all I seem to do when I leave the house without her.

She’d drive a car and be meticulous about it, stopping at stoplights, staying the speed limit. She’d blast the heat, turn up the seat warmer and keep all the windows rolled down. I think she’d be a good driver, as long as teenage boys aren’t getting off a bus somewhere close where she could aim at them with the front of my car.

Zoey wouldn’t run errands though—no dropping off or picking my son up from school or stopping at the grocery store for a gallon of milk. She’d do what every typical lady of leisure in the suburbs does and go to Starbucks.

Instead of having to be tied to a metal table leg outside, Zoey would go inside Starbucks. She would order a Grande of nothing but whipped cream, and she’d sit at the round table in the corner—the one where two wall-sized windows butt together.

She’d sit with her back towards the rear of the store, and her head pointed at the entrance and watch through the glass for magpies and people on the streets. If my canine had thumbs, life would be sooo sweet!

 

 

 

 

 

Lost in Translation

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“1930’s TWO CHILDREN YOUNG” -gettyimages

An insurgency in the battle of the sexes has emerged in the form of sexual dominance (for most women, this is nothing new—no eyebrow raises from us.) Every headline on every news site and media outlet lists men in power thwarting yet another female subordinate in the workplace. As a result, a spill over into the dating scene is concluded as another form of sexual deviance against women, but is it?

I know while tackling this subject, I run the risk of being branded as anti-feminist, and my credibility questioned because I’ve been married forever and am out of the dating scene, but hear me out.

Recently, the comedian, Aziz Ansari (Parks and Rec, Master of None) was accused of sexual assault and misconduct while on a date last year. In reading about it on CNN.com, The Washington Post, and his date’s account on babe.net, I started to wonder if perhaps rape, specifically date rape, isn’t about power, but about something as simple as a miscommunication?

I’ve been aware of some sinister sounding statements going around about men, rape, and women. One goes something like this; It’s not if a woman will be raped, it’s when. The other gem is that parents need to teach their sons not to rape. Both statements leave me steaming because, A) both infer that every male in every part of the world is one giant, uncontrollable gland on the prowl. B) It assumes that rape is inevitable.

If either one of these ridiculous statements is true, then wouldn’t rape and being raped become just a right-of-passage, like getting your driver’s license and being old enough to vote?

In the past, rape was defined as a power trip; having control over another human being. However, this description has changed with the increase of date or acquaintance rape specifically across College campuses.

Now, date rape is seen as one-sided sexual gratification—and guess whose side it favors—but I think there’s more to it. I think it’s an issue of misunderstanding.

Most of us are familiar with a formula, that’s been thrown around for decades, “Communication is 93% nonverbal.”

A study at the University of Pennsylvania breaks it down to communication is 70% body language, 23% voice tone and inflection, and a mere 7% of actual words said”—which means there’s a lot of room for interpretation and here’s the rub.

With this principle in mind, let’s explore what this might look like from a couple of College Co-ed’s. Keep in mind, that I’m a married, forty-two-year-old woman, and also that I don’t condone everything that happens in this scenario, but for the sake of argument and a perspective change, bear with me!

Let’s take 70% body language: You, as a woman, show up for the date, or let him lead you to a back room at a party, or go with him to his apartment. You look sexy to him—it’s your hair, your makeup, what you’re wearing—you know you look good, you’ve spent a significant amount of time and energy ensuring that you do!

He offers you a drink for each of you to relax. You take it. He downs one, too. You start to kiss. You perhaps participate in going a bit further. To him, the two of you seem to be on the same page.

There may have been some shrugs he’s noticed—a couple of mumbles or a pull away, but there have been more clues as to your agreement, than to your disagreement, so far.

23% voice tone and inflection: To him, you are speaking differently now than you were in a crowd—and so is he. You’re quieter, speaking softer, and close, which may come across as added intimacy.

While kissing, sighs and moans transpire between the two of you. Perhaps, to him, you two are definitely on the same page. Maybe, at this point, you think you are, too.

7% spoken words: Neither of you is saying much. You are in the moment on the fast track to gratification for each of you.

But are you? Have you told him otherwise? Has he asked? How does a fun date night turn into a terrible rape night? What happened?

To further prove my point that date rape isn’t about a scary aggressive guy overtaking a weak and lost female, in most cases of acquaintance rape on campus, the perpetrator is seen as a “good kid.” He is working on his education. He doesn’t have priors or criminal records and is for the most part, not a repeat offender. He comes from a nice and secure family background and retains good grades.

His victim is also in the same boat. She has a good background, strong family ties, good grades, and a bright future. What went wrong? For starters, not enough verbal communication and secondly, allowing one person to call all the shots.

There seems to be a high expectation put on guys in the dating scene and very little liability put on the gal—I’m not saying that depending on how she’s dressed or acts, she’s asking for it—I’m saying the problem is she isn’t saying anything at all!

When it comes to dating, guys have to morph into Semiotic spies and master interpreters, speaking fluent body language, deciphering every blink of an eye, and nod of her head.

He has to be a human breath-o-lizer, too. He must know how much his love interest had to drink before she arrived. He must measure how much she should drink and judge whether or not it was too much for her to give consent (by the way, if he thinks she’s had too much and says anything, he risks being labeled as a weirdo-control freak).

Also, why is it that if a man has the equivalent amount of alcohol per body mass as the female has the assumption is he has full control over his faculties, but she doesn’t. How does that make sense? When it comes to sex, guys are opportunist, but rapists?

Why are we, brilliant, capable, modern women, giving up control to someone who smiles at us? Why, with how far we’ve come, how hard we’ve fought to climb the patriarch ladder when it comes to sex, we throw it all away? Isn’t that anti-feministic?

I don’t think it’s a matter of teaching our sons not to rape and teaching our daughters to have higher self-esteem. I believe it comes down to teaching respect for one another and being willing to express our desires, knowing that the other can handle it.

Our sons must learn that women are not gratification devices and our daughters need to learn they shouldn’t act like tools!

He needs to ask and wait for verbal confirmation and then be okay if he’s turned down. She needs to know what she’s comfortable with, give either verbal confirmation or very clear, verbal non-confirmation and then be okay her decision. It’s only then, with open dialogue and with firm and known expectations on both sides—where there is absolutely no worry of miscommunication—that women and men can be equals. Otherwise, what’s the point to any of it?