Sunday, August 30, 2009

You can be a scientist too!

Published August 30, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

It’s back to school time, and for me, that means back to research. Psychology may be a “soft science,” but it’s science, nonetheless. I’m currently gathering information as I try to decide what research I’d like to conduct in the next couple of years. Here are a few study subjects I’m considering.

Question: What purpose does it serve to place impulse buy items in the “10 Items or Less” checkout lane at the grocery store? I mean, if you have ten items and grab another, you’re no longer eligible to be in that lane.

Hypothesis: Grocery stores put impulse buy items in the “10 Items or Less” lane specifically to cause people to exceed the ten item limit, prompting them to leave the lane and reason, “Well, if I can’t get out of here quickly, and I have no limit on the number of items in my cart, I might as well fill my cart completely.”

Method: I will observe the behavior of shoppers in the Express Lane as they glance impulsively at gum and “As Seen on TV” appliances. I will glare at those who add these items to their carts and exceed the limit. If glaring doesn’t work, I will sigh in exasperation and make a passive aggressive comment to the person behind me. Shoppers who are sufficiently shamed into leaving the lane will be followed and their purchases tracked. This research began in the early 90s and is ongoing. Results are mixed.

Question: Where do all the socks, spoons, shoes, and gloves from my house go after I buy more?

Hypothesis: There are rips in the fabric of space and time which cause small items to be transported to the past and future and cause other small items to be transported into my home from the past and future.

Method: I will take a daily inventory of everything in my home and record all deficits and overages. I will then search family history archives for stories of spoons and ski caps inexplicably turning up in the families of my husband’s pioneer ancestors and give thanks for their good fortune. I will send a postdated letter via Western Union to the future owners of this house and ask them to return all children’s size 10 ½ shoes and socks to 2009. I will also let them know we have their rock collection, TV cords, useless remote controls, and what I believe is a small ray gun.

Question: Does going to class half naked improve your grades in college? I ask this because I see many women dressed this way in the classes I’m taking on campus this semester. Since I’ve managed my 3.9 GPA fully clothed, I can’t imagine less clothing would be to my advantage. (Yes, I know announcing my spectacular GPA is gratuitous and possibly arrogant. I offer no apologies.)

Hypothesis: Showing up to class half naked has a negative effect on grades.

Method: I will attend my classes in tank tops and hot pants for the duration of the semester and record any changes in my GPA. I predict my GPA will fall to 1.7 when I stop attending classes rather than perpetuate a crime on humanity.

Question: What are the long-term emotional effects of having a slow computer?

Hypothesis: Slow computers cause a slow descent into incurable madness.

Method: I will live my life and pray for my family.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Published August 23, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

There’s a new movie out in theaters that I believe no sane person would want to see. It’s titled, “Grace,” and it’s a horror flick that tells the story of a smelly, undead baby that attracts flies and has a thirst for blood. However, the movie is really about the lengths to which Grace’s mother will go to keep her little bundle of terror alive…or undead…or deadlive. I don’t really know how these things work.

I bring this up today because (many thousands of dollars of therapy behind me) I do consider myself a sane person. Somehow, despite this sanity, I have an almost overwhelming desire to fork over eight of my hard earned dollars to see the creepy baby and her crazy, murdering mom on the big screen.

And this is coming from someone who does NOT handle scary movies well. After my first viewing of “The Sixth Sense,” I had to sleep with the lights on for a week. Stephen King’s “It” made me swear off clowns, spiders, and bathroom sinks for much longer than was hygienically sound. I think I actually threw up after watching five minutes of Corpse Bride, and that was a kid movie!

So, if I possess my alleged sanity, and if I already know horror films cause problems up to and including vomiting, why in the world would I even consider watching this movie? The answer is simple. It’s because I’m walking at night again.

Ever since I was 11, I’ve enjoyed walking around outside in the dark all alone. At that age, it was an early morning paper route that had me pounding the pavement around my neighborhood at 5:30 am. As I got older, early morning hours were replaced by late night hours, but my enjoyment was the same. I just like being outside while everyone else in the world is asleep.

Everyone else in the world except the rapists, murderers, drug dealers, and psychotic maniacs, of course. Someone once told me I was very brave to take my late night walks all alone. No doubt this person was thinking of the aforementioned late night dangers. I don’t think bravery is the right concept here. On a scale of one to stupid, it’s downright imbecilic for a lone woman to walk around outside in the middle of the night.

Since the real dangers of this habit don’t seem to phase me in the least, I have resorted to scaring myself in other ways to keep myself safely and responsibly behind lock and key after hours. If I’m not afraid of murderers and muggers, perhaps zombies and vampires will keep me indoors. If I’m not willing to believe the first step in female self defense is to not walk around alone at night, then perhaps the full moon and a healthy fear of werewolves will do the trick.

It seems like “Grace” is my safety fallback this year. Sure, an undead baby isn’t on par with a fully grown vampire or zombie. I hear stinky little Grace isn’t the kind of horror movie baby who can get around on her own. It’s the crazy, devoted mother in the movie that I’m hoping will be enough to induce psychosomatic paralysis by 8 pm every day. After all, this is Utah, and there are devoted mothers of babies on every other block. It’s probable none of those babies only thrive on human blood, but that’s just not a chance I’m willing to take.

I just hope my husband doesn’t mind sleeping with the lights on.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cleaner living through mom's cooking

Published August 16, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

A few years ago, I wrote a column about a harrowing, three day standoff between my daughters and me over a messy bedroom. In said column, I stated there was no reward my daughters wanted more than not cleaning their room, and there was no consequence they feared more than cleaning their room. I thought this because I had tried everything I could think of.

Today? Allow me a moment of evil laughter: Muahahahahahahahahaha! (The better to muffle the sound of my hand repeatedly slapping my forehead.) Ladies and gentlemen, I have found it. I have discovered the secret. Incentive, thy name is Taco.

Well, it happened to be Taco a few months ago. Growing weary of the fight over the orderliness of the girls’ bedroom and annoyed with a seven year old who was conscientiously objecting to anything other than coloring, I told her she could pull her weight or find somewhere else to live. She shrugged her shoulders and went outside, followed by her nine year old sister who defected in sisterly solidarity with a very passionate shout of, “She’s just a kid! She can’t take care of herself!” They sat on the front steps of the house for about 15 minutes, discussing orphanages.

And then they smelled the tacos.

I’ve been a mother for nearly 13 years, and I’ve been a good cook for even longer. There’s nothing I love more than to hear my children scurrying to each other with excited cries of, “Mom’s making ________!” Whether I’m frying up tortilla chips or rolling out donuts or baking a batch of my hearty wheat bread, my family is putty in my hands when they smell my cooking.

I think I’ve avoided capitalizing on this love relationship out of some sense of honor, not wanting to sully my culinary creations with the sour taste of exploitation. I…was a moron.

With nary a scruple, I put this newfound knowledge to the test the other day, when a bedroom cleanup that should have taken an hour stretched into six, my girls alternately whining and moving messes around the room. I smiled an evil smile as I piled fruit and ice into my blender and heard my girls erupt into desperate shouting. “Smoothies! HURRY!” The smell of taco meat spurred them into even faster action. That room was finished in ten minutes.

I’ll admit it helps to have a 12 year old who cleans his room in 5 minutes flat in order to avoid missing an undue amount of Playstation time. He prances to their bedroom door and singsongs, “Dinner’s ready. If you don’t get out here soon, I get to eat yours.” At some point in the near future, he’ll probably sustain a concussion from the various objects that are thrown at his head. At this point, it’s a job he likes to do, and it gets them moving, so I’m willing to take the chance.

I’m happy to say the tacos and smoothies tasted as delicious as always, maybe even more so. I’ve now stopped slapping my head long enough to make a list of my most beloved recipes and pair those with my kids’ most dreaded chores.

On the menu today? Vacuuming, laundry, and yard work with a side of cinnamon rolls.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Published August 9, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the human desire to designate dates for the commemoration of the mundane. Some might remember a column in which I extolled the wonders of National Underwear Day. Others will recall that one of my dreams in life is to be the person who gets to designate the days. (If I were given that job, every day would be National Give Your Humor Columnist Chocolate Day, but I won’t be telling them that in the interview.)

While I don’t have that job, I’m still a National Fill in the Blank Day enthusiast, always on the lookout for a reason to celebrate something no one else would think to celebrate. The fact that these designations often lead to column ideas and to subsequent dollars in my pocket is merely a bonus.

Would you like to know what we’re celebrating this month? I thought you would. The last thing you want to do is miss the memo that it’s National Capri Pants Day and walk out of your house in jeans. Only slightly more embarrassing would be to dress in pink camouflage on National Purple Camouflage Day. I did that last year, and let’s just say there are still neighbors with whom I avoid eye contact.

According to an insightful list on www.holidayinsights.com, August is Admit You’re Happy Month! Come on, all you people in the throes of depression, August knows you’re really happy deep down, so why not drop the fa├žade and grin a little?

While you’re at it, you should smile all the way to your optometrist, because it’s also National Eye Exam Month. While you’re there, invite the kindly eye doctor out for a National Golf Month round of 18 holes and make him/her aware that it’s Romance Awareness Month. By next year, you could both be celebrating National Family Fun Month with a little National Catfish Month catch in the National Water Quality Month river while have a National Picnic Month meal with lots of Peach Month cobbler.

But I’m being too general. The real action is in the daily designations. For instance, today is Book Lover’s Day. If you’re not a book lover, please find some way, medical or otherwise, of knocking yourself unconscious until tomorrow: Lazy Day. Workaholics need not worry about tomorrow as they’re all still high from Work Like a Dog Day on the 5th and haven’t even noticed the passage of time.

I know I’ll be lighting a candle on Middle Child’s Day, August 12th, and venting my frustrations over my childhood in free verse, which I will save for August 18th: Bad Poetry Day. If I manage to stop wallowing in time (Come on, Sarah, admit you’re happy!), I’ll participate in Ride the Wind Day on the 23rd. I don’t know exactly how one rides the wind, but I’m hoping it doesn’t have anything to do with Vesuvius Day on the 24th.

I wonder if anyone bothered to notice that August 2nd was International Forgiveness Day and August 27th is Global Forgiveness Day. I’m not sure what to make of that. Perhaps the 2nd was the day people of all countries forgave each other and the 27th is the day people of all countries forgive the globe? “Earth, you’re not a true sphere…but…I forgive you.”

I’m more than a little concerned about Just Because Day, also on the 27th. You might see doting husbands buying their wives flowers “just because,” but I see an endless parade of sucker punches, wet willies, and atomic wedgies “just because.” It really could go either way, folks. This is what happens when you let someone else designate the days…

Just give me the chocolate, and everything will be all right.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Published August 2, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

The idea for today’s column comes from my dear sister-in-law, Mary, who suggested it over a month ago and has been waiting patiently to see her idea in print ever since. Thanks, Mary. I think chocolate is in order. You’re getting me some, right?

The topic Mary would like me to discuss today involves a fashion trend she finds annoying and, at times, disturbing. I’m talking about the practice of printing words across the rear ends of sweat pants and shorts.

You’ve seen them. Sometimes, they’re sparkly. Sometimes, they’re provocative. But they’re always eye catching, and “in your face,” drawing the eye to the derriere as if to say, “Hey, everyone! I speak from my butt! You should listen!” Never mind that when that area of the body usually speaks, it’s something nobody wants to hear.

There are more than a few problems with this cheeky (heh) fashion trend. Even if we ignore the blatant, “Look at my butt!” energy of it, I think most can conclude it’s just not a good idea.

Take, for instance, the provocative words that crop up on pants and shorts. I’ve seen more than a few bottoms emblazoned with a sparkly “SEXY” or a glittery “HOTTIE.” I do the same thing every time I see it. I take my eyes off the word and check out the woman to see how she compares. It’s not always favorable, and even when it is, I’m struck by how unsexy it is to declare your sexiness to the world in such a silly way. Wouldn’t a shimmering “JUDGE ME” or a loud “MY SELF ESTEEM IS BASED ON WHAT YOU THINK OF ME” have worked as well?

And what’s with the pants that say “JUICY?” Juicy? Really? Did I need to know that? What exactly do you want me to do with that information? I’m sure you meant it for the hot menfolk, but we frumpy moms of five can see it too, and we weren’t really looking for an invitation, you know?

Slightly less affronting, but annoying just the same, are the brand names that find their way onto backsides. I get that designers want to sell their apparel and need their labels visible in order to do so. I don’t understand why a girl would pay outrageous prices just to make her bottom into a billboard.

Okay, that’s not really true. I was a teenager once and remember the label mania. Somehow, it just seemed more sophisticated when the labels were small and unassuming, positioned politely next to belt loops or embroidered on a pocket. Sure, the label meant, “I have the right jeans, please accept me,” but at least it wasn’t, “I PAID $85 SO ABERCROMBIE COULD TAKE OWNERSHIP OF MY BUTT! LET ME BE IN YOUR GROUP! I HAVE NOTHING LEFT!”

If these sweat pants shoppers were really thinking, they’d make their keisters work for them. I bet the makers of Immodium and Preparation H would pay big bucks to put their brand names on people’s butts. I don’t think I need to point out the appropriateness of the placement either. Come on ladies, you could have your freelance fannies putting money in the bank. Come to think of it, I could use a little extra cash.

I’m just waiting for the Fiber One people to call me back.