Valentines and Self-Realization

The older I get, the more I realize that my mother was right after all. I am just like my Grandma Mooney.

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Grandma Mooney & the Case of the Vinegar Valentines

Valentine’s Day always reminds me of my Grandma Mooney (more specifically, she was my Great-Grandmother). That may seem odd to some people (to think of grandparents around a holiday meant for couples), but there’s a reason behind it.  She was actually quite a colorful character… and then some. And one of her favorite things to do centered round Valentine’s Day.

It’s not really observed much anymore, but back in the day people would give out what were called “vinegar valentines.” They were basically insult cards with a caricature drawing on the front and a small acidic poem on the back that tended to call people out as being either foolish, a spinster, a loser, etc. You get the idea. They were pretty unflattering for the recipient and not exactly the heartwarming valentines we give out now covered in hearts and roses. Grandma Mooney absolutely loved giving these out to so-called loved ones and friends.

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It was one of her favorite times of year because, while she may have been thinking these evil thoughts all year, now she was able to put those thoughts to paper. And let me tell you, she got serious pleasure out of poring over who would get what card. If memory serves they were sent out anonymously so the person receiving the snail mail insult couldn’t be sure who thought they were an idiot, but rest assured, someone out there in the world did. The ironic part is that Grandma Mooney would get super pissed if she ever got one. She sent them out by the bucketful but getting even one in return was blasphemous.

I wish I could’ve seen her face as she was picking out the cards and sending them out. It’s hard to picture without having seen it up close, but anytime Grandma Mooney was up to trouble, she’d laugh… not out loud… but sort of an internal laugh so that her massive bosom shook like jelly. Watching her go through her stash of valentines with an intensity more often seen in a tax auditor and the inevitable intervals of shaking as she came across just the perfect one for say… Georgie or Carlene… would’ve been a hoot. Although I’m just guessing that these two were among the lucky recipients.  Grandma Mooney always kept her list top-secret so no one could rat her out.

In truth, though, I almost wish more that I could’ve seen what she did when she opened up one that she had received. I’d be observing that from a very safe distance of course.  I mean, there’s just no sense in poking an already pissed off bear. Grandma Mooney would’ve made Sherlock Holmes proud though… because after receiving one of these heart to heart communiqués in the mail, she suddenly became a resolute and determined investigator, examining handwriting, postal stamps, and whatever else would give her a clue as to who sent it.  She’d wander around the house muttering names for a week as she narrowed down the list of suspects. And when she finally had that “eureka!” moment and was convinced she knew the perpetrator of this horrible crime, she immediately began planning the coming year’s list, editing it accordingly, and putting that person’s name in the top position. Ahh… it’s the simple joys that mean the most.

When I was young, my mother used to tell me that I was just like my Grandma Mooney. I’d take offense at that if I could only figure out how to argue the rationale. Admittedly, I can see the similarities — though not to the extremes of my enjoying sending anonymous insults. But I do share some of her ornery eccentricities. In some respects, it may seem like an awful comparison — but along with her cantankerous quirks, my grandmother had a heart of gold and took care of her family above all else. So I guess when all is said and done, I’m pretty happy to be compared to her.

 

Smarter than the Average Bear

We all know that proud, overly-sharing parent, the one who is amazed their child can do perfectly ordinary things.  “My daughter Marjorie can add up to ten!”  Your daughter Marjorie is in college, Karen.  “Look at little Timmy read this book!”  It’s a picture book, Barbara.

If you’re like me, you want to back-end every car sporting a “My Kid is an Honor Roll Student” bumper sticker, and you snicker at the “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Roll Student.”  I have a new bumper sticker:  My Super Smart Dog Bit Your Honor Roll Student.

If you ask me, there’s not enough focus on the truly smart animals in our lives.  Anyone who thinks animals can’t count has never tried to give three biscuits to a dog who is used to getting four at a time.  The internet abounds with videos of horses counting and even if it is a trick of clever training, the idea that a horse can be trained to appear to count is pretty freaking amazing.

Recently, a family member was gushing about her toddler who knew where the pretzels were kept in the house.  She even went so far as to surreptitiously record her child in this endeavor to share with the audience. This tiny human marvel could even open the pantry door and get the pretzel jar, but the act of unscrewing the tightly closed lid thwarted her adorably chubby little hands.

Awww, isn’t that cute.

My dog knows where the treats are.  He opens the kitchen cabinet, gets his treats, opens the box, and eats his fill. I will admit, he hasn’t quite grasped the idea that cleaning up after himself might be to his advantage. At the least, as I keep explaining to him, it would buy him some time before being found out. I had to put childproof locks on drawers and doors and everything in between to foil my cat, the ne’er-do-well, who is apparently a master locksmith and can open any barrier placed in front of her.  So long as she wants whatever is behind it, that is.  My friend shakes her head sadly when telling me about her German Shepherd who can unlock door handles, open the door, and go into any room she likes.  Baby gates? Pfftt. It’s like you’re not even trying. Cabinets and drawers and off-limit rooms are nothing to these animals, so while I think it’s adorable that your toddler can find the pretzels, I am holding my applause for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I know kids are smart.  Heck, I’ve had two kids raise and train me perfectly.  I just think it’s funny when over-effusive parents boast about ordinary milestones in a completely unironic way.  “Look, she’s only 144 months old and she can recite the alphabet!”

Yeah, Lois, very nice.  Can you hold the cat while I call the vet?  She opened my locked bedroom door, climbed a ladder, cracked my wall safe, and got into the treats that I thought were for sure out of reach this time.  And let me know if you’ve seen the dog, my car keys are missing, and I think he drove down the street to see that damn poodle. Again.

Don’t even get me started on that horse next door who keeps blowing the whistle on my trips to the refrigerator at night; I never should have gotten him binoculars for Christmas.

 

Sticking to Beauty

It’s unbelievable the lengths someone will go to for the sake of vanity.  Case in point?  This lady happily taping her neck to hide her throat wrinkles and wattles.

The inventor of this medical-grade neck wrinkle tape is no stranger to the beauty scene; she gave us the lip plumper (an adult lollipop with no flavors, basically).  She is apparently a grandmother of three at the age of sixty, so there’s that.

No offense to this beautiful lady, but there is no way this tape would work for me.  I superglue my fingers together every time I try to fix a vase, so I can’t imagine trying to tape my neck wattles in the back.

First, you know as well as I do that I would end up taping my hair to my neck.  Doesn’t matter how carefully I pull it back, it will end up taped to my shirt, my face, the mirror, and my dog.  And while this tape may not work on neck skin, I guarantee it will stick to anything and everything else. That’s just a given.

Second, I am well aware of my own luck.  The tape would blow out half-way through a presentation at work, setting my epic folds free in a glorious explosion of skin and fat … I can see the slow-motion capture on YouTube now.  My peers would be utterly transfixed and fascinated by my waving wattles; they couldn’t possibly be expected to take me seriously after that. The tape, under the super pressure I’d need to rein in my wrinkles, would slingshot across the room, taking out a few coffee cups on the way and smacking the new CEO square in the forehead.

Look, I’m all about women doing whatever they need to do to feel better about themselves, but neck tape?  Please, ladies, just say no to neck tape.

I agree that our necks can make us look much older than we are, so I proudly introduce my own invention:  wattle staples.  These can be used in any common stapler, and they aren’t just for neck wrinkles!  Got sagging boobs?  Staple ‘em.  Droopy butt?  Staple it!  And those obnoxious butterfly wings under your arms?  Staple those, too.  I have a staple for everything!  Defy your age, and gravity, by Stapling It! You know, I really should be on Shark Tank with all of my fantastic ideas. I’ve got entrepreneur stapled written all over my face.

OK, so the concept of taping your neck is actually not a new one. There are lots of other brands and uses, too.  Many stars have been taping body parts for years.  I applaud them for not going under the knife, but I am disappointed that they are setting the example for us common folk that aging is unnatural and evil.  It’s not.  I’ve earned every wrinkle, crease, and droop on my gloriously imperfect body. And so have you.

Come on, I mean, we have fake nails, fake boobs, fake butts, fake eyelashes, and even fake hair; now, we have neck tape to complete the package?  Yes, feeling good about yourself is important, but why aren’t we happy with ourselves to begin with?

I blame media for setting unrealistic beauty goals for women. Aging stars are displayed in all of their perfection, looking half their age, as beautiful and timeless as money can buy.  And make no mistake, money does buy youth.  Age-defying stars and models probably spend more money on time-stopping surgeries than most of us will ever invest in mortgages. Even those stars who want to age gracefully are often victims of post-photo shoot airbrushing because the editor of so-and-so magazine decided they didn’t want a naturally aging woman on their cover. God forbid. Hell, even those stars who are already flawless are routinely airbrushed to create a next-level completely unattainable vision of youth and beauty.

For the rest of us, thank God there is medical-grade neck tape!  Ladies (and some guys, too), do what you need to do to feel beautiful, it’s none of my business.  Frankly, though, spending $16 plus shipping and handling on neck tape is a little silly when you can get duct tape at the dollar store for fifty cents.  You’re welcome.

The Art of Gaming

I’ve talked about video games before. My kids played when they were younger, then in their teens, and still to this day. Their grandmother before them was a die-hard gamer. In addition to the strictly for fun or ‘feeding the rage-monster side of your personality’ class of games, there are science-y games, math games, even reading games, all of which help nurture a love for learning. My kids had them all … today, however, the educational games have decidedly progressed to the point that STEM camps and classrooms use them as a tool in an ever-growing instructional arsenal.  This is a good thing.  For the most part, though, parents – and adults in general, see video games as a waste of money, a waste of space, and a waste of time.

Before you tell your son or daughter to get off the computer, stop playing those useless games, and get a life, stop and consider: some people make a full-time living playing video games.  Between live streaming themselves on You Tube, testing out apps and games for the market, and competing in real-time challenges for pay, someone can make some pretty good scratch playing computer games.

It’s a shame, really, that you can’t add video gaming skills to a job resume.  Other than “annihilating your enemies,” and “driving the get-away car really fast,” video games teach kids valuable life lessons.  Don’t believe me?

Computer skills:  This is a no-brainer, but you need decent computer skills to excel in video gaming.  Many games have “mods,” for instance, which are modifications that the user can design and use in-game.   Games develop hand and eye coordination, and many kids can thank the gaming world for their ability to trouble shoot computer issues, type without looking at the keys, and think quickly on their feet.  Today’s kids are much more advanced in computer skills than their parents ever will be; ask any kid who has tried to walk their parent through using Skype, the latest iteration of Excel, or God help us all, PowerPoint.

Team Building and Leadership:   Parents may not be aware of this, but to excel in many video games the players need to join alliances and become team players to beat the challenges.  These kids are also learning the art of commitment and follow-through, even in a virtual world. A player’s online reputation is important to them; reliability and loyalty are valuable traits in a player.   Kids will develop pretty tight online friendships with teammates, and to them, meeting up to kill a troll in a game is as much a firm Friday night plan as going to the mall used to be for us parents but with a little more sorcery, swordplay, and bombing.

Problem Solving:  So how exactly does a fifteen-year-old raid an enemy camp, steal supplies, kill the leader and escape undetected?  This skill may not equate to real world experience; I’m pretty sure no boss will instruct an employee to break into a rival’s office, steal pens and staplers, and poison the air filtration system.  Still, these game quests teach kids to use logic and reasoning to solve complex issues – skills that can translate to any activity in the real world. Frankly, grocery shopping would be a lot more fun if we could add an element of video gaming to it.  Sneak up on fellow shoppers and take stuff out of their carts, joust in the aisle of the store, and barter for coins?  Yes, please!

Time Management:  In the video game world, many challenges revolve around time.  You may only have a set number of minutes to finish a quest, or you lose a life.  Imagine this in the real world; if you don’t get all of the items on your grocery list in a preset amount of time, your cart disappears, and you have to start all over again.  Personally, I’d love that.  It would take care of those lollygaggers in the produce aisle once and for all. I know, I know, I keep mentioning grocery stores … I’m hungry.  But seriously, in a dog-eat-dog business setting? Time is everything. Time management is a much-needed skill.

Thinking Ahead:  Video games today are far more complex than Space Invaders.  Older video games that we grew up on didn’t rely as heavily on fast thinking and planning; most of our games were luck and plain old good timing.  Today’s video games require luck, good timing, planning, logic, and thinking ahead.  Players need to consider their plans carefully, and they learn from prior defeats in similar quests.  They are constantly thinking, plotting, and planning.  These abilities are valuable in the job market as well as all-you-can-eat buffets.  Sorry, I’m still hungry.

Parents need to chill a little if they have a kid obsessed with online gaming.  Limit their onscreen times (duh), but don’t dampen their enthusiasm entirely.  After all, today’s kids didn’t invent obsessive hobbies.  Remember Saturday morning cartoons? Comic books? Rubik’s Cubes? Pac-Man? In fact, if you really want to look at it, our obsessions didn’t teach us a damn thing except that if you gulped cherries you became super charged, if you peel the stickers off the cube and stick them back on you could tell people you solved the cube, and the coyote will never catch that road runner no matter how many Acme products he buys.

Our kids may be obsessed and afraid of daylight, but they can take out a zombie with a slingshot and damn it, that’s a handy skill to have.

Circling back to that “driving the get-away car really fast” observation, check out this news story (click pic for the article) … See? Video games do pay off!

Midday Musings

Here I am … at my desk eating lunch — having come to the decision that venturing out in the 10 degree weather we’re currently experiencing just isn’t something I’m willing to do. At least not until my warm bed, accompanied by a steaming cup of spiked coffee with tons of whipped cream, is the destination.

So, as I’m sitting here with my cup of veggie Ramen, pondering my life’s path and the deeper meaning of the world around me, I’ve come to a personal realization that exemplifies the entirety of my frustration with the choices I’ve made thus far.

I’m getting tired of waking up and not being at the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anti-Social RVing

The other day, I was behind an RV on the freeway.  You know the kind, the super-duper shiny house-on-wheels, towing the family car behind it.  My first thought was, “That is a great way to travel for those who are too lazy to pack.”  My second thought was, “Don’t these stupid things have any speeds faster than 45 mph?”  My third thought was, “I could totally get behind this way of traveling, because hey, I’m too lazy to pack.”

My mind immediately wandered to joyous days on the highway, spent with my family and pets.  Oh, the places we would go!  The adventures we would have!  The people we would meet! Just me, my loved ones, and the open road. Especially with the weather we’ve been experiencing here … dismal, cold, and just enough snow to be annoying but not enough to be fun… it would be awesome to just pick up and go someplace warmer and sunny and much less work-y.

Then, I remembered.

I hate driving.  I hate wearing anything that doesn’t involve fuzzy slippers.  I hate people. I’m not fond of adventures.  If I’m not tuned in to social media at least hourly, I go certifiably insane.  I cannot parallel park my bicycle, much less one of these behemoths.  I hate driving in the rain or snow and at night; heck I hate driving on clear days, for that matter.  Not to mention, my loved ones and I would potentially hurt each other if we were confined to a large tuna can on wheels for hours at a time.

Now, I’m not saying this whole idea is out the window; it still seems more appealing than say, getting bamboo shoots through my eyeballs while gargling Spam juice and listening to Polka Hits as performed by Hip Hop artists.  Barely.

If I am going to be stuck in a rolling trashcan for hours and days, I fully expect some concessions.

I would need unlimited access to WiFi wherever I am.  New York to the desert and everywhere in between, I need a specialized WiFi connection.  I need all my bars, all the time, wherever I am.  My RV will be a rolling WiFi receiver.

Speaking of bars, yes, please.  A nice fully stocked bar to keep me sane on my journeys.  I can think of no better way to drive down the freeway than with a glass of wine in my cup-holder.  Oh.  Wait, that’s not right.  How about, I can think of no better way to ride down the freeway than with a glass of wine in my cup-holder and a chauffeur driving me?  Not just any chauffeur, but a chauffeur who knows better than to speak to me, look at me, make eye contact, or ask questions, lest my breathtakingly introverted awkwardness come to the fore. Maybe my special RV will have the driver’s seat fully encased in sound-proof steel.  Or, hey!  The cone of silence!

The chauffeur’s wife will be the RV maid.  For a ridiculously high sum (I mean, come on, I’m nothing if not generous), she gets to stay in a closet and come out when I am asleep, silently cleaning up behind me and making a fresh batch of waffles before joining her husband in the driver’s compartment cone of silence. She can double as the “polite one,” and engage in conversations with strangers at gas stations while I peep through the curtains and silently hate on everyone.

I would require all roadways to be clear of cars and traffic so that we can zip effortlessly through the landscapes with little to no interaction with civilized society at all.  My RV will be equipped with rocket launchers to ensure my path will always be clear … and fast.  No slow lanes for me.

The main thing keeping me from my Anti-Social RV road trip is money.  I mean, right? I can’t help but think a fully stocked bar, unlimited WiFi or Hotspot capabilities, a well-paid maid and chauffeur, and a rocket launcher might set me back a few dollars.  Suggestions on getting capital for my adventures are certainly welcome.

In the meantime, I will continue to make mean faces at the young child looking back at me through the frilly curtain in the back of this slow-moving RV. Hmmm. It seems I can be just as anti-social without the RV, after all.