Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What Disturbed Me Most About The Hunger Games

I saw the Hunger Games with my two oldest daughters (ages 13 and 11), and 3 of their 13-year-old friends.

ALL of whom had read all the Hunger Games books and “liked” every possible Hunger Games-related page on Facebook, and had named themselves – and their entire class – after Hunger Games characters. And, of course, they were wearing various Hunger Games paraphernalia, from t-shirts reading “District 12 Tribute” to gold eyeliner.

We saw the movie the day it opened, March 23, which also happened to be Hope's 13th birthday.  Nothing disturbing there, except that I actually have a 13-year-old. A teenager. I swear I'm not old enough to have a teenage daughter, but here is evidence to the contrary.

The basic story line of the Hunger Games is somewhat disturbing: 2 kids from each of 12 oppressed districts are forced by the tyrannical Capitol to compete in a fight-to-the-death competition, with only one winner at the end. Not exactly a light-hearted movie, but I was up for the challenge. I figured it had to have some redeeming points about it, or the kids wouldn't like it so much.

It turned out to be quite a gripping movie (when I wasn't closing my eyes to avoid spastic-camera-induced motion sickness.) So gripping, in fact, that I ordered the books online the very next day because I really wanted to know what happened next, and I just knew there had to be a rebellion looming. They couldn't just sit back and let the Capitol keep being so tyrannical, could they???

I read all 3 books in less than a week, while we were up north during spring break.  I'm usually a short story / anything Dave Barry kind of girl.  I normally do not read novels – the last novel I can remember reading was Where the Red Fern Grows when I was in 4th grade, and I remember bawling my eyes out – but these completely captured my attention, so much in fact that I couldn't put them down!

So, even after I read the entire trilogy in less than a week, I went back and read little snippets of the books over and over again, to glean more details that I might have missed.

And then I looked on the web for discussions about the books.

I looked for information about the actors who played the characters in the Hunger Games.

I looked for any and all things Hunger Games.

I now have Hunger Games wallpaper on my laptop.


So, what is so disturbing, besides the fact that I'm totally obsessing over this movie? 


I have a crush on Peeta.

And I “liked” Josh Hutcherson on Facebook.

That's just not right. I mean, I'm old enough to be his mother much older sister. To have a crush on a book character is one thing. But to be crushing on a character. . . in a movie. . . .who is played by an actor. . . .who is only 19 years old. That just ain't right.

Damn you, Hunger Games for making me such a fanatic!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Top 10 Reasons I Want to Lose Weight

10.  I weigh as much now as I did when I was 9 months pregnant with Child #2.  That just ain't right.  You may remember that from this post. Somehow I just can't let that go.

9.  Having to hold my belly fat out of the way while I shave my legs. . . .well, that is just getting old.

8.  I used to be photogenic when I was younger.  I ran in front of the camera every time someone was snapping photos.  I worked on the yearbook staff, and I used to make sure that a disproportionate number of pictures of myself got into the yearbook.  Now, when I see a camera, I run in the other direction.  Kind of the like the women that Mark Gungor describes in this hilarious video.

One day, I will probably die.  And when that day comes, my kids will want to look back at pictures of me.  But there won't be any.  And they will just wonder, "Where the heck was Mom while we were raising ourselves?"

7.  I'm tired of having ZERO energy.  I'm pretty sure that has something to do with the fact that I'm lugging a zillion extra pounds around all the time.

6.  I'm regularly offended by the clothing in the "Women's" (aka Fat, Portly, Chubby, Large, Obese, etc.) section.  Those clothes look like they were designed in the 1950's for women who were roughly 87 years old.  Frumpy.  I would like to wear more stylish clothes before I really am 87.

5.  They also say you can find clothing to "accentuate" your shape.  There's apple-shaped, pear-shaped, banana-shaped, and hourglass-shaped.  So far I haven't seen clothing for the Michelin Man-shaped woman.

4.  I don't like how everything jiggles when I walk.  And when stand still.   And when I sit.  And when I breathe.

3.  I want my kids to eat better and feel better about themselves than I do.  So, I want to change the tide and become a positive influence on my kids.  Also, I'm jealous of my 13-year-old who has a shape I would kill for.  Is that bad?

2. I love to swim.  But I've noticed a strange phenomenon in the past few summers.  When I try to swim underwater, I find it extremely difficult to stay underwater.  I thought maybe I was becoming a weak swimmer.  But then the truth gradually came to me. . . .I couldn't stay under water because fat is buoyant.  With my spare tire, (see Michelin Man), it's like trying to swim with an inner tube around my waist.

1.  When I complain about being a fat, old lady, my husband consoles me with, "You're not old."

Monday, April 16, 2012


The very word elicits panic.

Creepy, crawly creatures with their eight lightning-fast legs.  Their multitudes of beady little eyes.  Their silent stalking.

I was driving my kids to school this windy morning.  The windshield was caked with leaves and pollen from last night's wind and rain.  I turned on the wipers and cleared most of it away, leaving an outline of crushed leaves outside the wipers' radius.

I began the drive, but this morning, I thought I'd pay attention to the little things I saw along the way.  The white and red striped awning hanging over Fabiano's candy store.  The jaywalkers in front of Sparrow Hospital. The girl running in the opposite direction of the approaching bus.  The train that stopped traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue, that first made us groan as we anticipated the long wait, and then made us laugh because it turned out to be one engine towing another engine backwards. That was it - two train cars and we were on our way again.

But I was completely unprepared for. . . .

The Spider.

As I slowed to a stop at the intersection of Penn & I496, I caught the quick motion near the top of the windshield. Surely it was some small leaf that finally broke away from the crud and was about to fly free. But I glanced up and a scream escaped my mouth. My children jumped in their seats.

A spider! Inside of my car. On the windshield. Right above me!

I slammed the car into PARK and started to get out and then realized. . . ."I'm still on Pennsylvania Ave.  I'm in the turn lane to get onto 496.  I can't abandon my vehicle, as much as I'd like to run away screaming.  I have to force myself to get back into the van."

My kids were shouting, "Mom, what's wrong???"  I managed to spit out the horrifying word, "sp...spii...spider!"  I quickly dug into my purse and grab a microfiber cloth and threw it at my daughter.  "If you see the spider, kill it!"  I didn't have any kleenex, so I would have to take my chances at having spider guts on the cloth usually reserved for cleaning my glasses.  Or the occasional nose blow.  (It's machine washable.)

I still had to drive, but I kept a very light touch on the steering wheel.  I fumbled for the mechanical switch and moved my seat back as far as it would go while still allowing me to reach the pedals.  I placed two fingers from my left hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and kept my right hand on the arm rest.  I had to minimize the opportunity for my fanged nemesis to drop down onto my body while I was driving.  If that happened, it would not be pretty.  I'm sure it would mean a fiery crash as I would undoubtedly lose complete control of myself and the vehicle.

I somehow made it to school while keeping my eyes glued to the top of the windshield.  I only used my peripheral vision to actually navigate traffic.  Not the method I would recommend, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

I came to a squealing halt in front of the school.  I jumped out and tried to locate FrankenSpider from the outside of the car.  Where was he hiding?  How could I flush him out and squash him before the drive home?  Unfortunately, it was dark and windy, so I couldn't detect his hiding place.

I quickly but carefully drove to Walgreens.  I went straight into the store and found the pest control section.  I found a product labeled Insect and Spider Barrier for $9.99.  I don't usually drop $10 on a moment's notice, but I would have paid any price to not have to re-enter my vehicle unarmed.

As I walked back to my van, I thought, "He could be anywhere."  I carefully opened the door, keeping vigilant watch for any falling arachnids.  Nothing.  I opened the bottle and started pumping the thick liquid along the top of the windshield where it meets the ceiling.  I was hoping Darth Spider would come out fighting so I could finish him off, but no such luck.  I felt confident that he was at least trapped in the ceiling upholstery, so I cautiously began the drive home.

Upon my arrival at home, I opened all the doors, sprayed more bug barrier goo into all the places where the ceiling meets the windows.  Still no spider.

I am hoping that today becomes hot enough that any creature trapped inside of a vehicle will perish.  And I hope I get to see his little dehydrated body when I get back into the van so I can be certain of his demise.

Otherwise, the showdown between my unworthy adversary and myself will have to wait for another day.  

I'll be ready, Spiderzilla.  I'll be ready.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Battle Scars

(Ok, I guess I need to explain this post, because I don't think many people "got it."  I used to work in the front office of my kids' school as the Office Administrator.  Recently, I moved to part-time position in the library.  This piece is NOT real - it is fiction, OK? It is satire.  I'm trying to exaggerate and be silly about it.  Ok, so stop wondering what drug I was on when I wrote it!)

Now that I am safe within the confines of the library, I feel that I can begin to divulge some of the challenges I faced on the frontlines of the front office.

Already, my security clearance has been downgraded.  I only have access to the library, the restroom, and the tiny kitchenette that serves as the staff lounge.  Fine by me, since some of the things that I witnessed inside of those other rooms will fuel my nightmares for the rest of my life.

Let me begin with one of the simpler tales.  As I sat at my post, I kept my eye warily on the door.  At any moment, I might be faced with questions that I was unprepared to answer, or even worse, questions that I did not want to answer.  But I kept my cool and continued on my mission to complete as much paperwork as possible within the 480 minutes that I was stationed at my post.

On this particular day, I was faced with the gargantuan task of placing too many confidential documents into a 3-ring-binder.  I reached into the compartment above my desk to retrieve said binder, and as my finger slid against the side of the binder in order to open it, I was stopped by the feeling of my skin splitting open.  This was no ordinary paper cut.  This was a binder cut.

I let out a small squeal and grabbed my finger.  I knew it was bad.  I frantically looked around for some kleenex to stop the bleeding.  (The bleeding that hadn't started yet, but I knew it would any minute.)  I didn't have the courage to look at the wound at first, but I was certain it had cut all the way to the bone.  I couldn't afford to pass out, so I kept the severity of the wound in the back of my head.  I started to realize that even the kleenex wasn't going to do the trick.

Then it dawned on me:  the bandaids!  I had a stash in my desk to hand out to children who occasionally need some comfort for their little scratches.  I yanked the drawer open, fumbled around until I secured a band-aid, and then tore it open so I could use it to pull my gaping pieces of flesh back together.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I managed to close the wound.  I was thankful that I still had my wits about me, and that it hadn't happened to one of my co-workers.  I doubt they would have been able to respond as quickly as I had.

I managed to return to work and finish my assignment, knowing that only a tiny piece of plastic was holding my damaged body together.

I faced that kind of peril every single day in that office.  Now you know why I had to get out.  I had to find a place that was more secure.  I am still in the building, but out of harm's way for the time being.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pretending to be Someone I'm Not

Mama Kat's Losin' It

I love Mama Kat's blog.  It promises hilarity every time!

Today, I'm choosing one of Mama Kat's writing prompts:  Write about a time when you pretended to be someone you weren't.

OK, this should be easy.

I pretend that I'm someone I'm not all the time.  I might be labeled delusional by the psychiatric community, but I don't care.  They can't catch me.

What I mean is, to make everyday life more exciting, I often pretend to be someone famous.  While I'm stumbling into the kitchen to make my coffee in the morning, I imagine the cameras are rolling and some deep-voiced male is narrating my every move:  what is it like to be Jen Yarrington?  She drinks ordinary coffee like everyone else, but there is something so "unordinary" about her.  She's humble, yet beautiful and successful.  Never mind the fact that I am 40-something, over 40-something pounds overweight, cut my own hair, had a pedicure in, let's see, December, I believe.  Oh, yeah, I'm not famous.  And it depends on what you mean by successful.  I've led quite the auspicious career as a school secretary for the last year and a half.

Sometimes when I'm driving, I will crank up the music and pretend I'm in a music video. And then I'll strut into the grocery store, imagining that another deep-voiced fellow is singing about how beautiful I am. And then I'll flip my hair provocatively while thumping melons.

I imagine that some day, Dave Barry himself will stumble across my blog and be so in awe by my writing that he immediately sets me up with a publisher and a publishing contract for the rest of  my life.

And then I get to be on the Dr. Phil show.  Maybe to discuss how I "used" to imagine that I was rich and famous, and now that I am and how does it feel?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Saleswoman from Hell

A few weeks ago, I had taken the day off from work to run some errands.  I had gone to lunch with a friend of mine, and when I returned, I was treated to this spectacle:  a woman I've never seen before was cleaning my carpet.  She had 6 or 8 black cloths lying on the floor, soiled with all the dust and filth she had successfully pulled out of our carpet.  My husband and his friend, who had joined him for lunch, were standing and watching helplessly as this woman barged into our house and proceeded to show them how much they needed a Kirby. 

I walked in, watched for about 2 minutes and then announced, "Well, you guys have fun.  I'm going to take a nap."  (Yes, it was a cheap attempt to extricate myself from the situation, but I wasn't the one who let her in the house.)   But Oh, no, Ms. Kirby was definitely of the sexist mindset that women do the majority of housecleaning, so she said, "Just wait, Jen, I'll be done in about 10 minutes.  I want you to see all the great things this Kirby does!"

Ten minutes became 45 minutes.  And she was still going.  She insisted on vacuuming my favorite chair, which really did not turn out much dirt.  I am happy to exist with that small amount of grime surrounding me - it's just enough to add a little cushion to favorite chair. I became increasingly frustrated at her audacity, especially when she demanded that I let her vacuum our mattress.  On our bed.  In our bedroom.  Disturbing.

On a side not, as Ms. Kirby was demonstrating her wares, she also managed to show us wares that we had no interest in buying, as her shirt was cut low and large and swooped down almost to the floor as she leaned over to change equipment.  We all diverted our eyes uncomfortably, especially my husband's lunch guest who happens to be a single, celibate man who has devoted his life to the Lord's service.

I have always been of the mindset that, if something works well, it is worth the money.   A Kirby makes sense because it not only pulls the dirt out of the carpet and the pad underneath, but it also preserves the life of your carpet.  (But, let's face it.  How many people want to keep the same carpet after 20 years?  If you chose that beautiful shade of chartreuse back in the 80's, you may just want a change by now.)  Even so, it makes sense to buy something that is worth the money, right?

However, we didn't happen to have $2300 lying around to purchase a Kirby that day.  Yes, you read that correctly - over 2 Grand for a Kirby.  So, of course, the nice lady offered us an affordable payment plan of $44/month.  Even so, I politely explained that since my husband is on disability and I am going to cut back on my work hours, we weren't able to make a financial commitment at that time, no matter how great the deal was.  So, she offered us the "6-month, no payments, no interest" plan.  This lady was just not getting it.  My husband is out of work.  Due to a stroke.  And we have 4 kids. She assured us - more than once - "well, the last thing I want to do is take food off the table", but she always followed that statement with a "but".  She also threw in a lame comment about earning so many points and she would be able to take a trip to Cancun.  Um, how exactly was that going to convince us to buy a Kirby?

Her last "but" was this phone call:  She wanted to call her manager so that we could talk to him and assure him that she did her job (i.e. so that he could give us a hard sell over the phone).  She hung up and said, "he's just going to come over."  Here is the truly creepy part:   About 3 minutes later, her manager showed up, which made me wonder where on earth he was hiding the entire time.  He was a large man, simple-looking man, well over 6 feet tall.  He ducked in through our doorway, and (I'm not usually a judgmental person), but my first thought was "serial killer."

So, tell me this.  Telemarketers are obnoxious enough.  Junk mail and spam are annoying.  But what gives someone the right to barge their way into your home and practically force you to buy something that you weren't really in the market for?

I may think highly of Kirby vacuum cleaners, but we finally convinced the sales team to leave without purchasing one.  In fact, I will probably never buy one, based on their horrible sales tactics.