Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cleansing the house

Published May 25, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I remember writing a column four years ago detailing the ridiculous number of times I had moved in my life and resolving never to do it again. Then, knowing that packing up a house and moving on is something people do despite their best efforts to avoid it, I modified my resolution, stating that I would be willing to move again but only if we had become independently wealthy and could throw away everything in the house and just replace it in our new home.

Ah, the dreams of the deluded. I’m moving again, and somehow wealth, independent or otherwise, has not found me (yet). I can’t afford to get rid of everything I own, so I’m modifying my earlier plan and getting rid of everything I could live without. Easy enough, right?

Yeah, not so much. I’ve been calling this my “Confessions of a Reformed Packrat” column. Getting rid of the excess stuff in my house is a long, tedious, and often heartbreaking process. This task is where my nostalgic side does epic battle with my practical side, and my nostalgic side is skilled in the art of war...and guilt...and weepy histrionics over days gone by.

Case in point: My high school jacket with the letter I earned for winning at the district level in the one act play competition. It sits in a closet and is never worn. I can’t imagine a moment when I might need it. By all rights, it should be on its way to the thrift store. Of course, when I tried to send it there, the jacket looked at me in all its black and gold glory and said, “How can you even think of letting me go? You earned me! You acted your heart out in a male role because Shakespeare was a misogynist and only put three women in that play. Audiences laughed. They cried. They got extra credit in their English classes! Don’t do it, Sarah.”

The jacket is now boxed, saved less by its pleas for leniency than by my daughter’s hopes for a future Halloween costume. The experience left my practical side beaten and dazed for a moment, but it quickly rallied with a coup that was part ninja stealth, part girly cat fight.

A framed certificate from the International Thespian Society was the first thing to go. It was followed in quick succession by my solo/ensemble medals, two stuffed bears from Jr. High, a heart-shaped wall hanging I've kept in order to avoid offending someone I don't even like (did I type that out loud?), and about 10 years worth of unused scented candles that cause allergic reactions of epic proportions but are too sad looking to regift.

Then there was the closet full of clothes that haven’t fit me in years. Yeah, I’m that woman. I freely admit it. The eternal optimist in me says that I absolutely could fit into those clothes again if I really applied myself and found my motivation. The realist in me knows that I’ll never be motivated by clothes that are so out of style I wouldn’t wear them if I lost 100 pounds tomorrow. I’m no fashion plate by any means, but even I know the floral print dress with the puffy sleeves has seen better days. I didn't even send these fashion travesties to the thrift store. It was like "The Sound of Music" in my bedroom: "The poor didn't want these."

I'm hoping this skirmish between cluttery nostalgia and practicality bodes of good things in my future. I have no desire to descend back into packrat chaos in my new home. From now on, if I don't need it, I won't keep it. Period.

Of course, there will be a loophole in my new packrat free existence for wedding related nostalgia...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Published May 18, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I had a “situation” in my bathroom this morning that has become all too familiar to me. Faced with the task of starting a new roll of toilet paper, I found myself in a quandary, my type A personality at odds with the reality of toilet paper manufacturing. To nutshell it: there is no way to easily separate the edges of that first square of toilet paper from the rest of the roll.

Kind of a dumb thing to worry about, I guess, but those of you shaking your heads out there are probably rabid about which way the toilet paper is supposed to hang from the holder next to your toilet, so rabid in fact that your significant other is ready to hang YOU from the toilet paper holder, so lets hold off on throwing stones for the time being.

When faced with a fresh roll of toilet paper, I find myself in what I call a “Conspiracy of Stupid” situation. It is my belief that manufacturers everywhere are part of a vast (Right wing? Left wing? Wing ding?) conspiracy aimed at making the average American look and feel hopelessly incompetent. I haven’t pinned down the motive or the source, but the effect is most definitely there.

Think about it. Is there any reason the first square of toilet paper should be glued so tightly to the ones underneath? You may say the adhesive keeps the toilet paper from coming unrolled. I wonder how many rolls of toilet paper you’ve ever seen spontaneously unroll themselves after the initial squares have been torn away (in shreds…all over your hands…completely wasted) from the rest of the roll. In the absence of a two-year-old in the house, it just doesn’t happen. Somebody put that adhesive there to make us feel like we’re too stupid to function.

Don’t act like you haven’t been there. You’ve held that roll in your hand, delicately picking away at the edges of the quilted, two-ply, ultra soft, comfort padded piece of tissue you know will ultimately end up as confetti. You’ve thought to yourself, Come on, you idiot! It’s tissue! It’s not exactly sturdy material. You’re bigger than the toilet paper. Why can’t you just figure this out? You’re so stupid! Bam! Conspiracy of Stupid in action!

It’s not just toilet paper. I see the conspiracy at work at the kitchen table. What other reason can there be for cereal bags that are impossible to open? Freshness, you say? Bah! They shellac that stuff within an inch of its life to keep it from going soggy in milk. The bags are hard to open for one reason and one reason alone: to make you feel like a nincompoop when you look across your table at the remains of your would-be breakfast after it’s come bursting out of the bag you just tried to muscle open. (You’re feeling me here as you swipe away bits of corn flakes to read my column, aren’t you?)

There are more examples of the conspiracy’s influence. Those rows and rows of carts at the grocery store that won’t come apart. That pickle jar that just won’t open. That pen that has no conceivable way of operating. The car you just borrowed that has the windshield wiper control right where the headlight knob ought to be
I’m working tirelessly on finding the source of the stupid-making. Currently, I suspect some kind of cross promotional conspiracy between companies, e.g. the pickle jar company and the makers of those rubbery jar opener thingies. Like any good conspiracy theorist, however, I’m always keeping my mind open to government influence. Congress has plenty of reasons to keep the general populace feeling dumb, so they will never be completely ruled out.

When I dump my economic stimulus payment into a new business manufacturing adhesive-free toilet paper, the joke will be on them.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

When a Trekker marries a Jedi

Published May 11, 2008

St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Wedding prep is in high gear for this columnist. The big day is only a few weeks away, and we're almost ready. I have the dress and the flowers. He has his tux. We have decorations, invitations, live music, and a cake. Yeah, the cake...

Every bride knows the cake is only as good as its cake topper. Eschewing the traditional, stately bride and groom, my fiance and I have opted for action figures instead. The groom's place will be inhabited by a dashing Han Solo. The bride is a beautiful, Counselor Deanna Troi. Yeah...we're THAT couple. Isn't it great?

The action figures themselves speak to a potential conflict in an otherwise happy relationship. You see, best friends or not, we have always been "star crossed." He loves Star Wars. I love Star Trek. Starfleet, we have a problem.

Actually, saying he loves Star Wars is a slight understatement. He can detail the rise and fall of the empire, tell you where the name Coruscant came from and what happens to his beloved characters after "The Return of the Jedi," and he can expound (with frightening sincerity) upon the way the Force works in the real world. I think he's an insufferable nerd because of this.

I, on the other hand, can tell you the physiological differences between Vulcans and their Romulan cousins, talk for hours about the superiority of Jean Luc Picard to James T. Kirk, wish you a Happy Birthday in Klingon, and consider myself to have empathic powers no doubt linked to an ancestor from Betazed. He thinks there's no hope for a geek as obnoxious as I.

It's quite the cosmic conundrum. Can two people with such different views create a coequal and loving relationship? It's not potato/potahto here. We're talking about Roddenberry v. Lucas. 24th Century v. long, long ago and far, far away. The Prime Directive v. The Force. Yoda v. Mr. Spock. It's heavy stuff! Just what happens when a Trekkie marries a Jedi?

Well, they get action figures on their wedding cake, that's what. My friend, Amy, who baked said cake was actually willing to go much further than that. She pictured a dual colored masterpiece in black and gray, split right down the middle, the ultimate "meeting of the worlds" complete with miniature replicas of the Millennium Falcon and the Starship Enterprise. Amy is my favorite crazy person. I'm a nerd, but I wasn't quite ready to go that far.

Of course, researching sci-fi themed wedding cakes online has opened my eyes to a world of wacky people who make my fiance and me look downright boring. Picture R2D2 as a cake...storm trooper groomsmen...a Klingon groom complete with a prosthetic forehead and a Bajoran bride. The action figures aren't sounding nearly that weird anymore, are they? (Being the attention seeker I am, I'm considering calling Amy back and having her make that masterpiece after all.)

The jury is out as to whether or not we can find a way to see past our differences and identify a common ground. Both Star Wars and Star Trek occur in space. Both deal with the intricate diplomatic relations between cultures and species. Both enjoy large followings of devoted fans willing to risk public ridicule for the love of their fantasy worlds. We've decided to leave the choice between the two up to our friend, Paul, who is completely objective about such things and will be walking me down the aisle.

If he shows up dressed as Will "Number One" Riker, there will be balance in the universe. If he comes dressed as Chewbaca, there will be much suffering in the galaxy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Crying? Me?

Published May 4, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

My semester at college ended this past Wednesday, when I turned in my Psychology final exam and stepped out into the waning sunlight looking forward to an entire summer away from school. I managed not to cry until my third step away from the door. I managed to avoid outright sobbing until I made it to my car.

For those of you (probably of the male variety) wondering why in the world I would choose that moment to release a torrent of tears, I can only say I’m right there with you. I dreamed of that moment through every tedious hour of finals week. I saw myself breathing deep and greeting the world with a satisfied smile, perhaps even laughing aloud. Instead, I found myself hurrying to my car, racing the emotion at a breakneck pace and wondering what the heck was going on.

This kind of thing isn’t new for me. I am a bawl baby. I’ve known it since I got the title in the 4th grade. I am one of those lucky women who cries almost any time I experience intense emotion. It’s not an easy life, people. I cry when I’m sad, happy, angry, confused, relieved, and elated. It’s like some part of my brain has a short circuit that kicks my tear ducts into overdrive. All the while, I’m desperately trying to slam on the brakes.

Over the years, I’ve observed a number of tear reducing tactics among my high-strung female friends:

The Crane. In this anti-crying effort, a woman tips her head back and looks to the sky, willing her tears to team up with the force of gravity (and suction, apparently) and find their way back into the space behind her eyeballs. All that really happens is that the tears become evenly distributed over the surface of her eyes for a few seconds and then find their way out and down the sides of her face. However, onlookers may be fooled into thinking something is going on overhead, giving the teary-eyed woman a chance to surreptitiously swipe the tears away. Golden opportunity, my friends.

The Fan: You’ve all seen it, from beauty pageant winners to moms at church. A woman feels the tears coming and begins waving her hands in front of her face in some desperate attempt to dry her tears before they make contact with her skin. At least I think that’s what she’s doing. It draws much more attention to her emotional state, which kind of defeats the purpose. Of course, it may be a "Come here and support me, girls!" gesture, in which case, I guess I understand.

The Lie. With this one, you have to answer one question. Does crying in public bother you enough that you’re willing to sacrifice your integrity to keep your secret. My answer? Yeah ...sometimes. I’ve got a few tried and true standbys, and they work well for me. "Crying? Oh, no. It’s allergies." "These darned contacts. I guess it’s time for a new pair." "What? No, I was yawning...YAWNING! Aaaaauuuuoooooooowwwwwwwaaaaahhhhh. See? I’m totally yawning here."

The Surrender. Sometimes, the only way out is through. Sometimes, you just have to dig in and let it all out. I write this as if surrender is a choice. The truth is that no matter how much you try to hide what’s plainly written on your face, there will never, ever be a successful defense to a well timed, "Hey, are you okay?" Those are the magic words, folks. Say that to a woman on the verge and the waterworks will begin forthwith.

Someday, I might embrace my weepy nature and see it as a good thing. Maybe. I did once have a close friend tell me he’s always admired the way I can cry when I need to. I just want to get to the point where people are admiring how well I can STOP crying when I don’t want to. It’s a process, I guess...a salty, wet, embarrassing process that never ends!

No, really. I’m just yawning...