Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Alternative, Accurate Titles for Just Dance

I've been doing the "Just Sweat" workouts with my daughter in the mornings. It's been a key way to deepen our relationship with each other through fitness and faceless, animated mannequins grooving to pop songs.

If you're unfamiliar, Just Sweat is the workout portion of the Just Dance game we have for our Xbox Kinect. You get to dance and get physical against trippy backgrounds. 

Just Sweat in the tropics! (JK you're in your basement.)

In contrast to the game portion of Just Dance where one mimics dance routines set to pop music, Just Sweat has one mimic important fitness moves like: not knowing what to do with your left leg and pantomiming being on fire. At least during the workout parts, you don't get a playback like in the dance segments. That's right, the game is recording you on video. You can watch a replay of your moves that makes you feel like your entire life is a lie. 

I've been enjoying these daily mommydaughter sweats for nearly two weeks. Two weeks. I assumed I'd get better at anticipating the game's moves by now.

Not so. 

This morning was no different—I struggled to remember to glance down at the prompts that show which move is on deck. I almost tripped. People farted. The steps aren’t getting more familiar, but the failure is. It's been like coming home if home were a place where you were always wrong and everyone had nicer, shinier spandex. Every day I'm transported to the early 90s when supermodel Cindy Crawford and kickboxer-ish Billy Blanks were on my screen, leading me to, if not better fitness, then a sprain, or maybe heart palpitations. In the 90s, I was always a step behind and a grapevine too late.
Rock Lobster. Mutant claw hands optional.

I feel exactly as behind, wrong-footed, and a little nauseated when I Just Don't Dance. You like that, I Just Don't Dance? It's the accurate description of what I do when I stand in front of the Xbox. In fact, “Just Don’t Dance” would be a better name for the game. Just Sit Down Already, would also work, as well as:

  • Just Try to Keep Up
  • Just Don't Throw Your Back Out
  • Just Stop, You're Embarrassing Yourself
  • Just Drop Out
  • Just Not Like That
  • Just Leave the Twerking to Miley
  • Just Don't Let Anyone See You Dong This
  • Just Remember You're Almost 40
  • Just Make It to the Shoulder Shake
  • Just Stand There if You Can't Do This Right
  • Just Fix That Wedgie
  • Just Don't Trip
  • Just Flail
  • Just Sing Along and Sway

Aerobics in Space: If I'm weightless, do I really need to exercise any more?
I'd quit you, Just Dance. I would. But your white-skinned, eyeless avatars and the trippy workout settings have got a hold on me. I'm not a dancer today, and I'm not likely to be one tomorrow, but maybe someday I will nail the moves to "Beauty and a Beat." It could happen. I did eventually conquer the master-level step aerobics move: the cha-cha turn. So, until my inevitable groin pull, let's agree to Just Don't Give-Up on Me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I'd call, but I used all myCharge to play Candy Crush #GIVEAWAY

I'm teaming up with Susan of Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva because I want you to WIN COOL STUFF. Do I do this because I'm saintly? If you say so.

The cool stuff is an iPad Mini and myCharge products. Susan told me about myCharge because I was complaining about the fact that when I need my phone to do important things like make phone calls and take selfies, it's nearly always out of juice because I was using it for even more important things like searching eBay for an Olaf costume that is in stock or less than the price of a black market kidney. (Don't even bother looking. But if you do, I will buy a size small for, well, a kidney.)

Then Susan told me about myCharge. Portable power for when you're powerless.

ENTER, kids. Maybe you win and iPad Mini and a myCharge device. Maybe you finally get to finish crushing that candy while Janie's in ballet class. Maybe the alternative is actually watching Janie do ballet. The kid's cute, I know. But there are only so many awkward pirouettes you can watch before you begin to slip into insanity.

myCharge Giveaway

To keep you charged and connected myCharge is giving 3 lucky winners each an iPad mini with a myCharge HUB 6000 portable charger.

HUB 6000 SPECS: The amazingly compact Hub 6000 features built-in cables and connectors for smartphones, tablets, e-readers and more. Get up to 27 hours of additional talk time for your devices, as well as integrated, quick-charge wall prongs. The Hub series is commonly known as the “Swiss Army Knife of portable power devices.

  myCharge HUB6000

Additionally, 40 winners will each receive an Energy Shot compact portable charger for their smartphones that delivers an additional boost when you need it most. They come in a variety of styles and can give you up to 10 hours of talk time! (Please note, smart phone not included in giveaway).

myCharge Energy Shot

For more information on products visit the myCharge website or follow them on Facebook. You can find myCharge products available at retailers such as Target and Kohl's.

Fill out the entry form below September 15, 2014 - October 15, 2014 for your chance to be one of 40 winners to receive an Energy Shot Charger (10 winners randomly selected each week) and one of 3 grand prize winners randomly selected on October 15, 2014 to receive one iPad Mini with a myCharge HUB 6000 portable charger. Entrants must be at least 18 years of age or older, must live in the United States and have a valid shipping address. See giveaway form for complete list of rules and details. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post from myCharge.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Opinions vs. Assholes

Sometimes I find myself obsessing over semantics, puns, language usage in general. 

And sometimes I write jokes about assholes. 

This post on In the Powder Room is the happy marriage of both. 

Here are three ways your dirtiest orafice and your deepest convicitons are not the same. Click the link to read the rest. And remember, sometimes your opinion actually is just like your poop maker, stinky. 

  • Not everyone has an opinion.
  • Not all opinions are crappy.
  • No one can smell the fruits of your opinions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm not gonna go anymore, the world's worst undergraduate philosophy #sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of APU as a sponsor of the BlogU conference.

It took me seven years to earn a four-year degree.

Hold your applause while we do some math. I completed my entire adolescent education in 13 years, from ages 5–17. It took me more than half of that time to get a BA in English.

I’d like to tell you I took so long because I had to work to support my family who, in a tragic turn of events, had to sell the farm and try like hell to make ends meet in a modest, but aging ranch home where myself and 12 siblings, plus one scrappy little dog, came together and turned our misfortune into the Great American Success Story (theatrical adaptation coming to theaters this Thanksgiving).

The truth is that I just couldn’t focus. I worked some and buried my father some and took only 12-credit semesters some. There were whole semesters that I opted to work fulltime at what should have been a part-time job. There were, later, whole summers that I crammed as many credits as possible into my course load so that I could finish before a decade slipped by. Sometime between stepping into my first class (French, oh la la! Sacre bleu! Zut alors! Fries!) and my father's death when I was 20 and my desire to earn money for things like gas, food, and course books—I forgot to take classes.

I was a paradox of sorts. Paradox is a word I learned in college. It means, roughly, "I’m trying to sound like I’m complicated and interesting." I was a bright student who preferred not to study. I'd hoped I was just "bored." It's a term that parents use to describe their underachieving, homework-ignoring children. "He's just bored in class! That’s all. If he were more challenged he'd do his times tables." But I was not bored. I was not that bright, either. I was just not ready to be a full time student.

I was the collegiate version of Office Space’s Peter Gibbons. I just wasn’t gonna go.

Turns out you still have to pay, even if you don’t play. And by play I mean research themes from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Which, I actually did do. It was Personal Finance I skipped out on, and thus all the school debt. As an English major I’m qualified to point out that is called "irony."

As a fully realized adult, I’m qualified to point out that life is not the linear course schedule traditional colleges would have us believe it to be. I probably shouldn't have gone to a traditional, bricks-and-mortar school at all. But it was the 90s and online learning was like self-tanning. It’s reputation was spotty and if you did it wrong you ended up with orange palms. (That’s what I heard.)

Now, though? If I had college to do over in this day, at this time? I'd take classes online. I could work and study. I could take a few classes at a time on my schedule, instead of what I opted to do, namely, sign up and pay for a full schedule but fail to attend class. 

If I could relive my co-ed days today, I might try some new-fangled distance learning. I might take American Public University’s diverse offerings so that I wouldn’t have to choose between working and learning, between ill-advised partying or 8 am classes. The truth is, with the advent of internet-based technology, virtual classrooms are keeping pace, sometimes even outpacing the traditional college experience.

But I can’t undo my damage. At least, not until I finish paying off the last of my Stafford Loan sometime in 2026. But you, yes, you in the Starbucks with the spotty Wi-Fi and the good part-time job or you with the kids and the unfinished degree or you with the entrepreneurial bent and the newly launched cupcake business (or whatever, I just like little cakes)—you can learn from my mistakes. Don’t feel like there’s only one way forward in your quest for a degree or a certificate or even a class that interests you. Think outside the brick box.

And never take a Friday class if you don’t have to. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

How Literal Descriptions of Movies Might Save My Marriage

I love movies. Which is to say, I love going to them when I have a babysitter. Which is to say I would go watch paint dry as long as I had a babysitter.

I could probably get a kind of contact high sniffing the paint, if nothing else.

When we do manage to get the babysitter settled, we hit the movies. This means that Tim and I are up on the newest releases, so long as you don't count the ones we missed.

The hardest part about movie date night is deciding what to see.

First, Tim has crap taste in movies. Usually. Not because he actually has crap taste, but because he's totally swayed by the movie marketing machine. "Wow! That looks awesome!" he might say about a futuristic film set in a subterranean village in which an Amazonian tribe of women have taken over and only one man still survives. It's the kind of film that only the Wanapuchee Star-Gazette has reviewed, "Better than soft porn! But with more talking!" Tim can't help it, he's just highly suggestible in terms of advertising. He is the target audience.

Second, I have a feeling that anything I suggest is immediately met with suspicion. It's not totally unwarranted. I tend to present the movies I want to see with only the attributes I think will appeal to Tim. "It's got Jennifer Lawrence in it! You know, from The Hunger Games movies? You loved her in those." This, I'll tell him. But I won't mention that she is playing a woman who lost half of her face in a terrible accident and that the entire movie takes place as a series of hallucinations she has while on high-dose pain meds.

So, here's where our tastes intersect.

It occurs to me that a literal description of movies might save our date night, if not our marriage. I don't want to someday break up my family because we can't decide which movie to see in 3D IMAX. If we took away the fluff—the marketing language and the Facebook likes—would we even go see movies at all? OR would we watch the paint dry somewhere, enjoying a shared buzz from Valspar eggshell in Bisque-It?

  • Godzilla: Angry lizard on growth hormones inspires people to band together to not die.
  • Noah: The Old Testament gets a 3D IMAX makeover.
  • 22 Jump Street: Grown men pose as teen boys but are really narcs and the audience suspends disbelief in order to enjoy TV nostalgia.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: A crew of humanoids, a vocabulary-limited tree, and a criminal raccoon save the galaxy while listening to hits from the 1970s.
  • Dawn of Planet of the Apes: Hyper-evolved apes fight humans decimated by a pandemic viral illness. Does not include sunrises.
  • Lego Movie: A commercial vehicle for children’s building blocks, Krazy Glue, and Will Ferrell. Plus a real toe-tapper that promotes happiness at all costs, despite an increasingly dark reality.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: A movie about mutants whose subtitle is so uninformative it may well have been created by a random arrangement of poetry word magnets. 
Until such time as movie synopses take this brutally honest approach, I'll just have to keep lying to my husband. "Love Is Strange? A critically lauded love story about two gay men finally becoming a family and then being forced apart? No, I'm sure it's a sci-fi popcorn movie, babe. It has Marisa Tomei in it. You loved her in My Cousin Vinny!"

Friday, August 8, 2014

Literal Descriptions of Pre-School TV Shows

I'm very happy to report that 100% of my children are no longer pre-schoolers. This means that Caillou is officially dead to me. Along with his friends Barney, Dora, and any other muppet/animated hellion whose theme songs have made it impossible for me to remember important things like what's on my grocery list or my children's birthdays. Do-do-do-do-do-December? Nope, that's my birthday. 

I've been wondering what an alien life form would think of some of our children's television programming. At face value, here's what some of these shows seems to be about.


A young boy with alopecia lives in a world with limited secondary colors and no tertiary colors. 


Encephalitis causes a young bilingual girl to have hallucinations featuring animals in footwear and inanimate objects that sing.


A sea sponge huffs helium and tries to befriend a cranky, squid-version of Kenny G. 


A T-Rex proves to be a friend and off-key singer who does not indulge his carnivorous nature by ingesting the small children he's been put in charge of.

Yo Gabba Gabba

A sex toy and his band of monster/robot friends come to life to sing about germs and trying new foods between snippets of 8-bit animations.

Clifford the Big Red Dog

Mutant dog with an atypical fur color befriends a young girl. Despite what must be ginormous poops, the community at large embraces his presence.

Imagination Movers

Grown men with a severely limited wardrobe live in a house with secret rooms. Sometimes they sing about it. 

Doc McStuffins

A young girl is largely isolated from interaction with other humans while maintaining an unlicensed medical practice for stuffed animals. 

The Backyardigans

Animals with pigmentation disorders are presumed orphaned, but have formed a backyard band whose imaginations are sometimes set to a Zydeco soundtrack.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

An Open Letter To the Babies of Hipsters

Dear Hipster Babies,

Welcome to life in a first world country! Only here do we write open letters to everything from Chelsea Clinton’s unborn baby to “That Barista Who Made Me a Misto Instead of a Caffè Americano.” That’s lesson one. Everyone loves an open letter!

But you’ll know all about that when you have your first Google internet implant that’s bound to be available in your lifetime. So let’s talk about the other things a hipster baby needs to know.  

Mustaches. Sorry about all the mustaches. Ironic facial hair on dogs, coffee mugs, and miniature finger tattoos have lead to the proliferation of 'stache-themed baby items. Mustache pacifier? It's a thing. And if your parents live somewhere like Portland, OR or Brooklyn, NY, you'll get one at your baby shower. 

You'll look cool sporting a binkie with a handlebar mustache though, because you'll have a name to match your level of sardonic suckling. Yes, hipster babies, your names will be either gender neutral or plucked from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Nothing goes better with your 'stachifier than an alpaca-hair blankie and the name Myrtle or Gatsby. Have fun at the independent coffee house where you'll meet up with Zelda and Jasper in your vintage pram that makes even Mary Poppins say, "Practically perfect in every way."

If your folks take the gender-neutral name route, then on paper some of your names will prompt people to wonder, “Is that a boy or a girl?” It’s all fine and good to choose Jane or Bob, but today’s babies are sporting the sweetest little genderless names, like Harper and Riley. If you're lucky, you'll be born to real envelope pushers. Maybe you'll be named Person or Human!

Because they love the idea of you so much, hipster parents want you to have a self-determined life. They want this badly enough that they may not even reveal your gender to anyone, including you. They don't want to box you into a stereotype predicated on the knowledge that you have or don't have a penis. That might limit your journey of self-discovery. It says a lot about your teachers, your classmates, and most especially your grandma and grandpa that they will all still love you a whole lot, even if they don’t know which public bathroom to take you to.  

If your parents are into the gender thing, great news! You’ll be feted before your arrival at a gender-reveal party! Put that in your mason jar and sip it! From your grandmother to everyone your mother ever meets during her entire pregnancy, and in those first few weeks after delivery when she still appears pregnant, everyone will want to know if you’re a boy or a girl so that they can start advising your parents about whether or not to circumcise you. 

The best way to share your gender, if Pinterest is any guide, is by baking a color-coded cake for your gender-reveal party guests. Will your cake be pink or blue on the inside? Or, will it be baby-shaped—disturbing not only because of its creepy realism, but also because someone will have to slice into the cake in the most gruesome dessert scene since 1950s Jell-O molds?

It's important that you understand what freedom means to hipsters, now that you're one of their offspring. Like the hippies who inform today's hipster philosophy, but with more emphasis on 401k savings and social media, your parents really want you to be free to be you, your own true self, as long as that means having a rooftop urban garden. 

For example, your parents might encourage freedom from pants. Yes, hipster parents might help you to use "elimination communication," which sounds like a deep and meaningful talk about how to thin your vintage lunch box collection, but is actually about not wearing diapers. Social scientists and your own grandparents may never understand why this is preferable to Pampers, but part of being a successful hipster is inscrutable and seemingly meaningful parenting decisions. 

Part of making your hipster way means redefining traditional roles. Maybe you'll have a stay-at-home-dad or a work-at-home-mom or a goat from whose milk your parents make and sell artisanal cheeses. Or, as is the case in the pricey cities where hipsters congregate, a stay-at-home grandma. After all, mom's setting up her found art exhibit at a studio in a neighbor's basement and dad's a recent grad and self-taught app designer, so free child-care from a woman who is paying for her own mother's assisted living expenses and your organic applesauce is all they can afford. 

We know that the world can seem like a scary place, an overwhelming and unpredictable place, a place with a lot of smartphones, but everyone here really does want the best for you. Even if these people can’t agree about whether you're better off in the charter public preschool or the progressive private preschool.

The thing to remember is that hipster parents just love their babies. We know because they arranged an elaborate save the date announcement for your placenta burial ceremony, which they inked on burlap with milk paint, then took a picture of it and put it on Instagram (Valencia filter) for their closest friends, many of whom they've never met in person. 

That’s also why they've signed you up for foreign language immersion starting in kindergarten and have already hired that kid who got accepted at every Ivy League university to start tutoring you when you turn seven.

So, welcome, Emory or Peyton or Wilma or Rufus! One of your parents sports a monocle and the other one likes it. 


Your fellows of the First World

*This originally appeared on my other blog.

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