Friday, March 29, 2013

I don't have a problem!

“I own 81 leather jackets, 75 pairs of boots, 41 pairs of leather pants, 32 pairs of haute couture jeans, 10 evening jackets, and 115 pairs of leather gloves.”  

So says Buzz Bissinger.  You know, the guy who wrote “Friday Night Lights.”  He confesses to spending $587,412.97 between 2010 and 2012.  On clothes!  Evidence of his shopping addiction.  No kidding.  He wrote about it in an essay published in GQ magazine this week.  He posed for a few pics as well. 

Bissinger says he keeps scrupulous records of his spending and has every expense category under control.  Except for the one, of course: Threads.  Leather, to be more precise.  Although I guess you can be “haute” without being leather. 

I can almost relate. 

Once, my friend who knows everything about clothing, shopping, dressing and accessorizing told me that I should color coordinate my closet to facilitate mixing and matching.  Hang blues with blues, greens with greens, and so on.   

So I did. 

That’s when I discovered I had 13 cream-colored sweaters!  V-necks, cable knits, turtlenecks, mock turtles, wrap-a-rounds.  Man, are they versatile!  

But honestly, that’s probably more about weak wardrobe awareness than shopping addiction.  Right?  

On the other hand, I do love me my sweaters.  And that ecru!  Oatmeal!  Crème brulee!  Goes with everything.  

Besides, I can stop whenever I want to.  

Anyway, by comparison, it’s mild, my affliction.  I was a classroom teacher in Oklahoma at the time I acquired those monochromatic multipurpose sweaters.  And I couldn’t get in that much trouble.  My 30-year, career financial plan did not enter the universe of $587K.  Those 13 sweaters probably represented a $300 expenditure over five years! 

Still, I have to admit such things can be problematic for a Costco shopper with a bad memory.  When in doubt I’ll just go ahead and pick up the item in question.  With big box packaging, it’s not long at all before one finds herself knee-deep in Q-tips and dental floss.  I keep the extra 3-packs of ketchup and mayo in the garage with the crates of OrvilleRedenbacher popcorn and Quaker oats.  Overflow paper products?  In the toolshed with the lawnmower and the surplus chardonnay. 

That’s different, anyway.  I’m not compulsive.  Like any Dust Bowl Okie, I don’t like to live too close to the bone. 

Nevertheless, I read an article on  “10 ways to escape a shopping addiction,” and found I’d already put one strategy into operation:  #8.  Find healthy alternatives.  

Not sure if the lip balm qualifies as a healthy alternative, though.  It is better than chapped lips, but I just counted 19 tubes of it in my make-up drawer.  I know, little waxy tubes of … wax don’t constitute actual make-up, but where else would I keep them?  Except in my jacket pockets, my desk drawer, the phone table, my purse, the toolbox, the cup holder of my car and of course, the clothes dryer.   

I just love the stuff.  Ever since Carmex added that little taste of what?  Menthol?  Eucalyptus?  Keeps a girl coming back.   

And what’s the harm?  Though the days of 79-cent Chap Stick are behind us.  It’s all flavored, tinted and scented specialty wax now; with added SPF it’s about $2.79 a pop.

My current favorite – Burt’s Bees Rejuvenating.  So smooth.  So worth it. 

And let’s see…19 @ $2.79 = $53.10, just about the price of a lovely, cream-colored cardigan.  

Do I seem defensive? 

When you feel overwhelmed by the urge to stockpile, says, go for a walk or do some other form of exercise.  This can take your mind off the urge until it passes. 

You’ll need a sturdy pair of walking shoes.  A pedometer is nice.  A visor, polarized sunglasses, a lightweight jacket.  And of course, your lip balm. 

So that idea backfired. 

Maybe I’ll try #9.  “Expand your possibilities,” it says.  Instead of using all that time to shop, I could volunteer in my community, spend more time with my family, go back to school, read lots of great books.   

That’s a lot of pressure.  Stressful.  Maybe I’ll start with a magazine.  

Hey, here’s a copy of GQ.  Oh man!  Look at this guy Bissinger!  He blew half a million bucks on leather pants!  Now he has a problem.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Take the 'A' train to Elite-town

Hey!  I’m elite!  Who says I’m not elite?! 

I’m elite, I tell ya!  By definition.  And I don’t mean MerriamWebster’s middle-of-the-road, everybody-gets-it definition.  I’m talking about the big time, high falootin’, scientific, cultural definition.  You know - the one from American Enterprise Institution’s Fellow, Charles Murray.  That’s right. 

According to Mr. Murray, even someone like me can live in can “elitist bubble” if she cannot identify the NASCAR driver pictured in his quiz about the culture gap in the United States.  Those NASCAR guys all look the same to me (Sorry, Danica!); so that’s a step on the elitist staircase. 

Ever see “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”  Me neither!  Step two!  I’m ascending toward elite-osity!   

Step 3:  I don’t hang out with people who smoke (unless they’re my friends and the patch just doesn’t work for them).  It turns out being a non-smoker is elite! 

Step 4:  All my friends made good grades, or at least they could have if they hadn’t gone anti-establishment and failed deliberately to get back at “the man.” 

This is so exciting!  After all those anxious years of yearning to be in, only to be sadly, awkwardly, gawkily out.  Painful memories linger!  So I was jazzed to stumble across Mr. Murray and his quiz.  

His measure of one’s residence in the “elite bubble” encompasses 25 questions to help determine a quizzee’s status by examining her activities.  He does this rather than calculating her earnings as do more traditional gauges of social status or preeminent elite-ness.   

For example Murray wants to know if you ever worked in a job where a part of your body hurt at the end of the day.  Duh!  I was a high school principal!  My brain hurt constantly!  That’s a pretty important body part.  AND my feet hurt too!   

But oops.  Pain in the anatomy gets chalked up on the non-elite side of the ledger. 

Evidently, the upper crust doesn’t relate to physical pain from work…hmmm. 

But I never worked on a factory floor, so I have that goin’ for me on the elite bubble point scale.   

What’s this?  Uh oh.  I’ve been fishing in the last five years.  Darn it!  I used bait, too!  A worm on a hook!  Yikes.  You can take the Okie out of the state, but she’ll never shake that hankerin’ for catfish.  Catch ‘em and skin ‘em; fry ‘em up with hushpuppies; add a red beer!  Now we’re talkin’! 

No fancy schmancy flies.  Catch and release?!  What’s the point? 

Oh…Methinks I doth digress too much.  I’ve wandered afield from the posh confines to which I aspire to become accustomed. 

Returning to Mr. Murray’s questionnaire, he wants to know if you have a close friend who’s an evangelical Christian, or a close friend with whom you have strong and wide-ranging political disagreements.  

Do I have to count family?  

‘Cause there’s my crazy “Uncle Earl” (name changed to protect the guilty).  When he learned how I voted in the 2012 election he called me a “sympathizer.”  And the last time I went to church with his family, the sermon was entitled “Satan Wants You Dead.”  

Decidedly non-elite.  

I don’t like this stupid survey anymore.  

I scored 12.  Middle of the pack.  Foot in both worlds kind of a deal.  Neither mainstream American nor elite American.  

Oh well.  Doesn’t matter.  I can hang out with the whoopti dos.  I can fit in.  I can blend.  I even get a little cocky with my adroit schmoozing.  

But inevitably I expose my non-elite side by lifting my Diet Coke when everyone else is ready to tilt stems on their Pinot. 

When I’m at the other end of the spectrum, family picnics can get a little icy.  My cousins don’t like it when I correct their grammar.  I guess elite people know how to keep their mouths shut.  You don’t see them rolling their eyes when someone shows up with a baby stroller and a six-pack of Bud Lite. 

So to heck with the elite bubble!  I’m happy here in my Lake Woebegone bubble, where all the women are strong; all the men are good looking; and all the children are above average.  No one to look down on and no snob left behind.
That’s my kind of elite.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bless the beasts

We have an abomination duck in our neighborhood.  Or goose.  Maybe he’s a goose. 

He’s tall and bulky like a goose.  White body.  Orange feet.  And a big green mallard head. 

When you first lay eyes on him, it’s a bit like watching “The Exorcist” for the first time:  that famous scene when Linda Blair’s head rotates ever so slowly.  All.  The way.  Around.   

Your brain does a double take and your reflex is to squint and turn away.  Nothing’s supposed to look like that.  It’s wrong on so many levels.  

But you must look again.  What IS that?  Ewww!  An abomination duck! 

Something funny’s going on in the barnyard.  A recombining of critters.  A reordering of genes. 

The other “regular” geese make no distinction, bless their ecumenical selves.  But no true mallards linger in the vicinity.  Perhaps someone’s feeling sheepish about the consequences of his behavior.  Not to mix metaphors.   

Ugh.  More creepiness. 

I had the same reaction when I watched a Big Think Big Idea video on that crazy contraption, the internet.  Some scientist talking about “de-extinction.” 

Stewart Brand, of the Revive and Restore Project, is working with ecologists and biologists all over the world to “de-extinct” the passenger pigeon, among other long departed species.  “The world misses them,” he says. 

So these brainiacs collected the DNA of the extinct passenger pigeon (that’s right, there’s a bunch of deceased passenger pigeon bodies complete with DNA in a hermetically sealed jar on Funk & Wagnall’s porch), and they’re combining it with the DNA of the passenger pigeon’s closest living relative, the band-tailed pigeon.   

And voila!  A “nearly perfect” hybrid version of that passenger pigeon we’ve been pining for since 1912.  The one that flew across the eastern seaboard in flocks a mile wide and 400 miles long, blackening the sky. 

I don’t know.  I wasn’t there to see that spectacle, so it’s probably unfair to refer to anything like, say, locusts, or guano.  As usual, I’m superficially informed, so maybe our ecosystem suffers from the passing of billions of squab.  You’d think so.  It hasn’t made headlines, that’s all. 

And somehow, “nearly perfect” evokes that skin-crawly sensation of a Stepford-ish creation fluttering around the lab, “better” than the original, but flawed in an invisible way that we only discover, to our horror, when thousands of them assemble on the swing set outside the schoolhouse in Bodega Bay.   

Seriously, should we be doing this?  I mean after all, you’ve seen “Jurassic Park,” right?  “The Island of Dr. Moreau”?  And what about the abomination duck? 

Clearly, these guys are not moviegoers.  Like Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman, they’re blithely tripping along reviving an array of long-dead creatures, piece-mealing them together using the brain of Abbey Normal. 

They’re reconstituting the beast of the southern wild!  Yes, really.  The aurochs of little Hushpuppy’s nightmares!  Coming soon to a bad dream near you.   

Oh, I’ll admit my bleeding little heart is torn over this whole concept.  I certainly don’t want ANY more species going extinct.  It’s wrong.  We must stop trampling across the planet like so many arrogant and thoughtless clods, oblivious to the harm we inflict. 

And of course there’s the guilt.  The heart-crushing devastating shame and self-reproach we carry when faced with our record of snuffing out beautiful, irreplaceable animals.  But that’s what makes each one precious, isn’t it?  Once they’re gone…  

Are we absolving ourselves of the theft when we restore a nearly perfect version of what we stole?  They’re saying that the beast, the aurochs, will be returned to its ecological role of turning barren landscapes to productive meadows.  So that’s good.   

But something internal recoils in the face of reanimation.  Mary Shelley and all.  We’re not supposed to be messing with THAT, are we? 

Even the audience watching Stewart Brand shifted uneasily in their seats, applauding tentatively, doing their best to support their guy.  But he’s starting to look like Christopher Lloyd and sound like Dr. Strangelove as he paces on stage in front of a giant screen, clicking through slides of mystic creatures and fantastic scenarios.  

Yeah, we have to atone for our sins.  But not so literally, please.  Remember “The Monkey’s Paw”?  We don’t get “overs.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Leave the details to me

I could be your virtual assistant. 

Come on…!  You know you want one.  And I’m ideal.  I’m cheap, for one thing.  And of course, I’m virtual. 

As a citizen of the 21st century, I do almost everything on my own personal to do list in a virtual manner.  That is to say, I execute virtually everything in cyberspace; meaning I accomplish virtually nothing in actual time and space.    

And for a nominal fee, I can do the same for you. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Personal Assistants manage all the bothersome bailiwicks that eat up the good humor of the harried.   

Virtual Assistants simply do it online!  They never meet their clients, communicating instead by email, instant message, or videoconference.  Virtual Assistants maintain an air of mystery, perhaps living continents away from their customers.  That’s perfect for me!  I can be enigmatic. 

Virtual Assistants might be students working their way through college, parents who want to work from home or older people (ahem!) who are semi-retired. 

So far, I meet all the stipulations:  I’m virtual, mature (!), and mysterious. 

Virtual Assistants work selflessly to unsnarl busy people's lives, taking on everything from scheduling their doctor's appointments and coordinating their calendars to finding them the perfect pair of pants.  Yeah, that’s me, me, me!   

I’m your invisible Man Friday.  Jeeves in the Ether.  I’m Miss Money-penny in the cloud.   

Let’s just run a test case:  Consider your hair appointments, for example.   

As an industrious person preoccupied with say, feeding the hungry, you cannot devote precious time to personal grooming.  But to your dismay, a glimpse in the mirror reveals white roots.  You rationalize that white is almost blonde and no one is likely to notice.  You consider going white.  Then your stomach growls.  Let it grow! 

Still you must soon acknowledge the sharp demarcation between one inch of white roots and your remaining yellow hair.  You consider the expense of professional coloring.  Pet your wallet.  Soothe it. 

You go to the beauty supply store and purchase the chemicals necessary to color your own hair.  Don’t forget the rubber gloves and gas mask.  Goop up.  Rinse.   

Finally, save money, if not face, with a no-appointment-necessary visit to Supercuts.  And voila!  All you need is a cheap pair of shoes to complete your nutty professor ambience. 

Please!  Let me help you with that.  It’s no biggy.  A day in the life.  I can arrange all those things for you. It’s effortless for me, therefore making me a natural for helping others.   

Of course, if you’re a no-nonsense, bottom line kind of person, just want to get the darned haircut, I can set that up for you too. 

Let’s say you’ve been putting off getting that membership at the gym.  I can do it for you.   

Ha ha ha!  I don’t mean I can procrastinate for you!  I’m pretty busy doing that for myself.  So many things not to do! 

No, I mean I can sign up at the gym for you.  Sure!  I’ll take care of all the pesky details.  Get your yoga mat and your stretchy pants.  Rent a locker and never use it.  Heck, for an added premium, I’ll even perspire some virtual sweat for you.  Say the word. 

I have a client now who says he doesn’t have time to socialize with his friends.  (OK.  I don’t really have a client.  Just run with me on this.) 

He doesn’t have time to call people, send cards, go out to lunch, you know, act like a caring human being.  So I do all that for him. 

He hands over his contact list and I hang out with his friends in virtual reality.  I ‘like’ their stuff on Facebook.  I ‘lol’ all over the place.  They think he’s the greatest, most attentive, thoughtful friend they hardly know.  Conversely, he is freed of the burden of interaction and involvement.  And I make a little dough. 

Win, win, WIN! 

Oh yeah, I’m all over this Virtual Assistant thing.   

I can charge by the hour or by the job.  Fleet rates.  Flat rates.  We can work out a payment plan so long as your genuine check is in the authentic mail.   

Otherwise I’ll have to crack your cybernetic kneecaps.


Friday, March 1, 2013

I do work from home, really!

I’m pumping iron right now. 

That’s right.  Here at my desk.  Between words. 

Fifteen reps.  Five-pound dumbbells.  Bicep curls, Baby.  Overhead punches.  Whooh!  Man!  That’s a workout. 

How do I do it, you might ask.  It’s just the kind of person I am.  A multi-tasker.  Master of time management and personal fitness.  Oh yeah. 

If you want to change your own slovenly ways and turn your torpid life around, you can find some great suggestions for this kind of efficiency online.   

To wit:  Keep exercise tubing in your desk drawer and use it while talking on the phone.  I’m unsure why I didn’t think of that myself.   

An element of caution is appropriate here.  I’ve learned that exercise tubes can be awkward in your desk.  They’re rubbery, and a little like those coiled-up cloth-covered snakes that spring out of a tube, freaking out the unsuspecting dupe who unscrews the lid, never anticipating that old gag.   

Just this morning I spilled coffee and carrot sticks all over the place when I opened the desk drawer and my exercise tubes surged at me like a nest of eels.  It was extremely unpleasant. 

My cat had her nose at the edge of the drawer just at that moment too since I keep her treats in there.  I’m sure she’s around here somewhere.   

I’ll bet you didn’t know you can tighten your flappy triceps right there at your computer.  Chair dips’ll do it!  Sure!   

Face outward, placing your palms on the seat of the chair behind you.  That’s right, behind you.  Now, feet flat on the floor.  Bend your knees.  Bend ‘em!  Now slowly bend your arms and lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.  Feel the burn!  And push yourself back up!  

Or just ooze yourself on down to the floor for a minute.  Then get up and try again.  Repeat 15 times. Easy peasy!   

I should warn you though, no matter how committed you are to eliminating those granny wings, don’t attempt these dips if your chair is on wheels.  Take my word. 

You know you can strengthen your core by standing on one leg while you brush your teeth, right?  I time myself according to the timer built into my fancy schmancy electric toothbrush, holding that flamingo pose for sixty seconds on each leg.   

Beginners should build up their balance on this one though.  One erratic wobble and you can wind up with your Sonicare sideways in your mouth and toothpaste in your ear. 

Tighten those buns by doing squats while you blow your hair dry.  That’s right, squats.  Hold that squat for as long as you can, then stand up and give your glutes 30 isometric squeezes.   

I beg your pardon.  Was that too graphic?  No time to be squeamish!  But if you’re getting ready to go to work, you’ll want to complete this move before you put on your pantyhose. 

I never just walk around the kitchen anymore.  No!  The dedicated multi-tasker never lets an opportunity pass to maximize the personal fitness moment.  When I’m putting away groceries, cooking or cleaning up, I only allow myself to lunge around the kitchen.  Didn’t you ever see Monty Python’s Minister of Silly Walks?  Super toned legs! 

If I have a few moments waiting for the coffee to brew – I have time to tone my hamstrings with jump squats.  I jump up and land in a squat position from the guest bedroom to the entry hall and back.   

Of course, to enhance your motivation and results, you must visualize the benefits of your workout!  I can just picture my…well, just picture your own body parts getting firmer and more toned as you go. 

Finally, you’ve earned a cool down.  Stretch out in your chair by opening your knees and folding your body over your thighs.  Let your head hang low towards your feet.  You’ll recognize this as the emergency (crash) landing pose advocated by the airlines; the one where you kiss your bum goodbye. 

One caveat is in order:  If you happen to be working from home for Yahoo!, be advised that President & CEO Marissa Mayer will not approve this regimen as legitimate use of company time.