This Generation Missing Out on Poison Oak and Skin Cancer

Right as there’s a trending video (actually an advertisement) showing some perfectly happy kids who say their favorite thing to do is play video games (the horror), my husband comes home from a hiking trip with a tick bite and some very tenacious poison oak. The parents in the advertisement talk about the good old days climbing trees and then look devastated when they hear that their kids prefer video games. All I know is that our trips to the ER with our daughter have always begun with the good old outdoors and that we’ve had a blast playing safe and triumphant Mario Kart races.

I remember growing up outdoors. I remember bee stings and bullies. I remember stepping in dog poop with my bare feet and sun exposure that I’ll likely pay for soon.

So folks, I’m not advertising anything, unlike the video with the despondent parents of gamers. I’m just saying (as my husband reapplies his Calamine lotion) that this generation of kids might not have a childhood like we had, but new is not bad. My daughter and her friends are smart, social, generous, and for the most part, poison oak free. And they’re happy.


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Interview Tips for the Rest of Us

I had my first real interview the other day. I’d read the tips — dress well, research the company, have questions — but here are some extra tips I came up with after my interview.

1. Pretend you’re not crazy.

My interview took place on the third floor. When I walked in, I immediately looked for the stairs because I have this “fear of entrapment” thing. (Different than claustrophobia, I learned from my friend Lance after telling him about the time I tried to pry open some elevator doors after being “stuck” for about 12 seconds.) The place I had my interview wasn’t a large building, so I was perplexed when I couldn’t find the staircase. I decided to ask one of the ground floor people.

Me: Hi, where are the stairs?

Lady: Hmm, I don’t know. Joe, do you know where the stairs are?

Joe: I don’t know.

Me (Incredulous): What are you guys going to do in an earthquake?

Joe: I never go on the other floors.

Lady to a man behind me: Hey Aaron, do you know where the stairs are?

Aaron: No.

Me: Hey, are you the Aaron I’m meeting at eleven?

Aaron (Looking scared of the crazy lady who asked what everyone was going to do in the event of an earthquake): Yes.

I should have just sucked it up and taken the freaking elevator in the first place. Which leads me to my second tip.

2. Your interview starts the second you enter the building.

That was one awkward elevator ride with Aaron. I should have had my game face on the moment I entered the building. Plus, I didn’t get to do my Wonder Woman pose in the stairwell. (See the TED Talk on this subject.)

3. Pretend you like yourself.

Aaron and Abby interviewed me. At least let’s pretend those are their names. Let’s also pretend that they work for a local radio station.

Aaron: And your creative writing skills?

Me: I think they’re good.

Abby (Trying to help me out): Your resume says you’ve won two writing contests?

Me: Oh. Yeah.

Crickets: Chirp.

Really. I said “Oh. Yeah.” And then nothing else. Did I even want this job? Also, when they asked what I knew about their station, I actually said “Not much.” Not much?! I had read every word on every page of their website. I knew more about “radio stations” in general than probably 99% of the population. Do I hate myself? Well, maybe a little, but this was the day to pretend otherwise.

4. Pretend you like other people.

After many short answers like the above, which always came after five seconds of my searching my brain for an answer that wouldn’t make me look stupid, I was asked, “What’s your biggest pet peeve related to other people?” And this is the question I answer almost before she’s done asking it?


Smooth. Great time to come alive. All my talk about how easy I was to work with was negated by my pet peeve fervor. How were they to know that I have my pet peeves listed, and that’s why my answer came to me so quickly? I could have at least told them that this was only third on my pet peeve list, the first two being gory commercials during family friendly TV shows, and leaf blowers.


On the way out, I found the stairs. I took them down, and I came out an ugly little door not in the lobby, but outside. When the door closed, I tried to open it, just out of curiosity. It was locked. I guess the stairs are for emergencies only. No offense to those who work there, but I still think it’s kind of funny that I discovered all this about the stairwell my first time in the building and no one else had ever been curious about whether a building in California had stairs.

I didn’t get the job. I had a good resume and great references. I read the interview tips. I had my pants pressed. I had a question prepared. My only desire now is that my lameness could maybe benefit you when you have an interview. Hide the phobias, pretend you like yourself and others, and for heaven’s sake, be ready to meet your interviewer on the first floor — even in the parking lot. I’m not going to lie. It was kind of my dream job. But at least I won’t have to take an elevator every day.


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I Hate Christmas Shopping

I hate Christmas shopping. Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas. I love the lights, the carols, the family, and who could forget that whole baby Jesus thing? I only hate the shopping.

I hate those little gifty books by the cash register that will sell thousands more copies than great works of literature. I hate that the employees look overworked, and that I’m partly to blame. I hate that I’m not crafty. If I were, I could avoid the stores altogether and spend five dollars on crap I found at a garage sale and make the freaking Mona Lisa like my sister.* I hate trying to spend about the same amount on each person, not to mention wondering how much they’re spending on me. I hate wondering if the receiver will like her gift, or whether I’ll be categorized as the well-meaning but lame aunt. I hate not being able to find the exact thing I want. Yes, you can usually find exactly what you want on the internet, but I gave up internet Christmas shopping after the SECOND time a gift never arrived. That reminds me, I hate that company (I won’t name them so they don’t sue me) that never sent me my dad’s window clings even though I ordered with time to spare and called them repeatedly, and I hate that one other company that delivered my Joshua Cripps calendar the following March, slightly crumpled. (Sorry I accused you of not sending it, Josh.)

I hate Christmas shopping so much that my favorite part about it is driving through the extra traffic and squeezing my big sedan into a compact spot and walking through the rain from the far reaches of the parking lot to get to the store. Say a prayer for me, Salvation Army bell-ringer, I’m goin in.

I hate Christmas shopping so much that it’s December 16th, and I haven’t started yet.

I hate Christmas shopping so much that I’m writing about how much I hate it instead of finishing a very important writing project.

I hate Christmas shopping so much that I’m considering putting a bow on my cat and giving her as a gift. (Actually, that would be a win-win.)

I hate Christmas shopping so much that if I’ve forgotten to hate something about it, I hope you will remind me so that I can hate it, too.

Merry Christmas!

* To be clear, my sister spends more than five dollars on my Christmas presents. I’m just saying, she is a genius with the crafts.


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What Men Miss at the Holidays

At first glance, the men might look lazy, sitting around the living room while the women cook in the kitchen. Legs crossed in the “I don’t have anywhere to go until the turkey’s ready” position, they’re watching football but talking about baseball, (have we learned to clone men yet? because the Giants could be amazing in twenty years with a field full of Buster Poseys.) But in the men’s defense, they’ve usually asked if they could help, and they’ve been shooed out of the kitchen, because the women have it under control.

Let’s face it. If the women wanted, they could poison a dish that they knew the kids would never touch and they knew themselves not to touch. They could take down all the men with one cooking “accident.” Okay, that might be too risky, but the women at least know whether the best part of the creamed vegetables will be on the edge of the dish or in the center, and which side dish will give you heartburn later if you eat too much.

So there’s the control, but mostly what I think the men are missing out on is the warmth of the kitchen, the laughter, the Christmas music, the satisfaction of working together to make the party happen. The sweet and garlicky smells mingling, the reminiscing, the throwing scraps to the dog, the unexpected pleasure of washing the dust off glasses that haven’t been used since this time last year. The tasting desserts “to make sure they’re just right,” the updates on everyone’s kids, neighbors, old flames, houseplants.

That’s where the real holiday happens. In the kitchen.

At least I think so. I’m the youngest grown-up daughter, but I’m out with the men.

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15 Things Every Band Teacher Will Encounter

So you’ve learned how to cue the clarinets while quieting the trumpets and making a mental note to remind the trombones about the B natural. Here’s what the credential program DIDN’T prepare you for.

1. The trumpet player who thinks it’s funny to play with his bell in his neighbor’s ear, even though you’ve explained that it can cause permanent hearing loss.
2. Vocal chord damage from yelling “F SHARP” over a full band playing. Several times a day.
3. Explaining why the abbreviation for ritardando is not funny.
4. Dented instruments, and arguments about who caused the dents.
5. Spit
6. Arriving at work only to find that your room will be used for the science fair today. But it’s okay! You can have the custodian’s closet! Just carry all those stands and drums over!
7. “Prodigies”
8. That sinking feeling when you realize that a clarinet player who’s been squeaking all year had a problem you should have seen on the first day.
9. Concerts minus a lead trumpet player who didn’t show up because he couldn’t find the right shirt/she got nervous/her parents forgot to come home from work to give her a ride.
10. The administration/other teachers forgetting to mention to you that the new student has a rap sheet.
11. More spit. This time a strange color.
12. No desks to get under during earthquake drill. Just say “We’re all screwed,” and keep rehearsing the Percy Grainger.
13. The kid who’s been just moving his fingers all year deciding to actually make sound at the concert.
14. The concert high.
15. Kids who are lucky they’re so cute.


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Since I Left Facebook

Before I tell you about the amazing thing that happened since I left Facebook, I’d like to explain why I left. I used to champion Facebook every chance I got. Every time one of my friends threatened to unplug, I’d remind them “You can reunite with old friends! You can ask how to unclog a drain! You can see who has a copy of Hunger Games to lend you!” All true, and I enjoyed all those benefits. So did I leave because Facebook is secretly spying on me, reporting me for my bad puns? No. Because I spent too much time on it? Maybe I should have, but no.

I left because I can’t keep my mouth shut, or rather, my fingers still. I can’t shut up when someone insults the president (oddly, not the president that took us into an unwinnable, unjustifiable war) or tells me that I don’t care about babies because I question the current immunization schedule, or says something subtly sexist, or misrepresents the Word of God. This is a humor blog, and for the sake of humor, I would love to tell you some of the gems of memes my friends have shared. But my first priority is to not insult anyone for the sake of humor.

I found myself, at least twice a day, with my heart literally pounding in anger against my ribs, and ain’t nobody got time for that. So I figured out how to delete my page, but just before I clicked, I realized that I need my page in order to reach the pages I maintain for other companies (duh.) Instead, I “unfollowed” (formerly “hid”) my friends and left in my feed only the pages that might tell me about important upcoming events, such as my church’s and my daughter’s school’s page. Can you guess what happened within two days? Someone posted to the school page that we needed to discuss the risks of our school’s unusually high immunization exemption numbers. And did I post a Hear This Well video of the mother of a vaccine injured boy? I think you know the answer. Sure as Bush took more vacation days than Obama I did.

At least these things happen less often now, though. Anyway, soon after I made my dramatic exit from Facebook to the dismay of about 8% of my friends, I realized that this might not be good for the release of my novella in a month or so. How will the ten people who bought my previous books hear of its availability? For a second, I thought about a one-time return to announce the book. But then I’d be one of those people. The ones who come on to advertise, but never comment on my witty statuses. And I’m stubborn, so I think I’ll stick to my promise. Who needs fifteen dollars and forty-four cents in royalties, anyway?

So what’s the amazing thing that happened after I left Facebook? Well (and I know, this is so amazing) what happened is nothing. Nothing has changed. The same people who didn’t change their minds when I argued before still haven’t changed their minds. The same people who loved me before (and yes some people are in both of these categories) still love me now. The only thing that has changed is now I don’t have to feel stupid when I see someone in real life and forget the major life change that I supposedly congratulated them on in a comment. Now I can honestly say I didn’t know. “Oh, didn’t you see it on Facebook?” No. No, I did not 🙂


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Preparing For Your New Puppy

Many articles have been written about preparing your home for your new puppy. Preparing for the chewing, the potty training, the socialization, the vet bills, the parvo-avoiding. But this article is not about preparing your home, it’s about preparing YOU.

My basset mix is ten years old, and something happened last night that made me think, “THIS is what people need to know about dogs before they get one. Not how to potty train or which dog food is healthiest.”

I went downstairs for a last cup of water before bed, saw the dog lying by the sliding glass door, and thought, “Look at me! For once I’m remembering to let the dog out, and he won’t bark and get me out of my cozy bed right when I’m finally dozing off.”

I slid the door open, and that dog, the one I wanted so badly ten years ago that I told my U2-loving-but-on-the-fence-about-a-dog husband that I’d name our dog Bono, gave me a look out of the corner of his eye that said he was not about to go out, and that I was inhumane to suggest it. We had a staredown. Me facing him boldly, straight on, and him still avoiding my direct gaze. “Fine,” I said. “But I better not hear you until morning.” I slammed the door shut and went to bed. And of course, what do I hear just as my creaky joints are finally starting to settle and my insomniac eyes are starting to close?


This happens all the time. My husband says I should teach Bono a lesson by not going down there, but my husband can sleep through a “woof” every five minutes.

I got up. Again.

Be prepared, that’s all I’m saying. A few more things I wasn’t prepared for:

1) Excitedly running to the door the first time Bono barked to go out to potty after about 14 months of unsuccessful training, only to have him run over to the couch where I’d set my dinner and eat my dinner instead of going out.

2) Leaning over to pick up his poop only to have him jump up and put his paws on my butt so that I stepped forward into his poop. (At least the poop was outside.)

3) Running around the neighborhood yelling “OFF! OFF!” after he escaped out the front door and bolted down the street jumping (in extreme friendliness) on frightened walkers.

And so, before you prepare yourself for the training and the vet bills, prepare yourself for the attitude of an infant and a teenager all rolled into one. Prepare yourself for the lack of sleep and the embarrassment. Prepare yourself for a Bono.


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