Scent Schment

plastic-tree

What scent immediately fires up your nostrils and engages your brain in holiday reverie? Newly-cut pine? Peppermint?  The smell of fresh plastic symbolizes celebration to me. Childhood holidays meant re-assessing the year, the constant threat of Santa’s ambiguous list (what constituted naughty? Hiding the cookies in my bedroom? Or that kid who kicked dirt at everyone, but got a new bike every year? I never understood the criteria.) and hoping that somehow my violations had slipped by the ever-watchful eyes of the Elf Mafia.  No matter what the offense, the smell of fresh plastic in the dark of Christmas night assured me that good things were coming.

One especially significant plastic bouquet belonged to the folding Barbie House of my seventh year. I had wished for a three-story manse, one with an actual elevator and an extra bedroom for the occasional sleepover with Skipper, or Flatsy if the party went totally interspecies. My nostrils flared with the smell of “new” that night, as I laid in my bed imagining the great adventures in fine living ahead for my formerly homeless Malibu Barbie.

I awoke to a simple three-room cottage, consisting of a bedroom, kitchen and a mystery room of many uses. It was Barbie on a modest budget. There was, however, room for outdoor expansion, and eventually chez Barbie obtained a dining table, a refrigerator and an outdoor bathtub.  At the end of the day, the three sections of cozy living folded up neatly. Each night I would dream of new adventures, a clean slate each morning as I re-opened the case and started over.

Barbie had plenty of room for guests and even hosted a celebrity.  Truly Scrumptious, on temporary hiatus from her life in the movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang dropped by once for plastic steak. She didn’t seem at all disgusted to sit on the floor and politely left her one shoe by the fake door without complaint. barbie-home

The smell of fresh vinyl still gets me tingly. It’s about anticipation. More exciting than the act of gift opening is the plethora of possibilities in the dark of the night prior to gift giving. Close your eyes and imagine.

 

Stick Schmick

mug-o-lunch

I remember it well: Hopping once, then twice, stretching to reach the seat of my canary-yellow bike. I would pedal across the main highway through town and continue four blocks to the grocery store. Four long, windy blocks of complete independence. If I remembered my combination, (Once. It only happened once.) I would lock my bike after leaning it in front of their cart return.

Upon entering the store, I pushed the squeaky adults-only cart down every aisle; once, then twice. Every packaged item that wasn’t in our home cupboard was worthy of my attention: Hunt’s Snack Pack puddings, Korker’s Corn Twists, (crunchy, pre-Tostito snacking) and Mug-O-Lunch, the INSTANT “beef” noodle can- of- goodness; only ten minutes to boil the water, four minutes to cook and two seconds to sear the inside of your mouth. With a newly acquired paper route, I had at least fifty dollars each month burning a hole in my macramé purse and I wanted to try every single item.

By far the best test of my newfound monetary independence and expanding culinary pallete was the Food Stick.  Described sumptuously as, a “non-frozen, balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein,” it was the equivalent of today’s fruit leather, if it came in rod-form without the fruit or any discernable taste. It tasted like…chewy.  Astronauts ate them, we were told. Food Sticks came in three boxes: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. While they were three distinctly different colors, they shared one taste.

Imagining myself someday eating them on the moon colony, I savored each one. No canned vegetables or boiled meat in the moon kitchen. If we played our cards right, we would probably evolve beyond real food altogether. Just food sticks and other tubed items.

If I was feeling saucy, I would take the long way home – six blocks; my leftover food sticks tucked away in my pockets. It was so much more than box of artificial ingredients. It was the first chewy taste of freedom.

food-sticks

 

 

clog

Clog Schmog

Did anyone else have to wear those awful special-order shoes? The ones that came in one color, one style and one sad-looking, yellow box? It wasn’t even a fun day when they were picked up. The shoe salesman just kind of shook his head and went, “enjoy your functional footwear.”

Abruptly, junior high, bell bottoms and platform shoes walked into the room. The higher the platform, the more the cool oozed from every pore of your being. Proper foot alignment and common sense lost out to style and absurdity.  If your heel was so tall that you had to lean forward to walk, you were somebody. (Translation: those with good posture went to the bottom of the popularity scale.)

Not to be outdone, the clog offered the platform popularity with the additional, mid-winter, bare-naked heel appeal. Trudging through snow drifts and surprise rain storms was the perfect way to break in your brand new, clunky shoe obsession.  Tender heal skin and intact argyle socks were a distant memory.  The ripe scent of feet marinated in soggy clogs was a mark of stature.

These supposed works of Dutch culture were not entirely aerodynamic. In fact, when removed from the foot and placed in the hand of a diabolical sort, they made efficient brother-smackers and would today likely be classified as medieval weaponry. Law and Order missed a real opportunity to incorporate murder- by- clog in their story lines.

It’s hard to imagine now the noise level of the 70s. Cars sped down the road without mufflers. Boom boxes sat on shoulders, well – booming – without the aid of ear buds. We all clunked around on our high wooden shoes, just trying to make it down the street without leaning forward so far we fell on our hair- sprayed helmet. Life was loud and meaningful.

“How’s the new record player?” someone yelled from across the street.

“What?”

“Record player? With that fancy diamond needle?”

“Can’t hear you! I’m clog walking!”

Shoes today come in an incredible array of styles, fashions and noise levels. Shoe judgement starts long before the halls of junior high, with kids as young as four casting a reproachful eye at those non-blinking, generic things on someone else’s feet. Silently they glide, with no idea of the sacrifice we, the clog generation made for their benefit.

 

 

Schmake-up

make up

Has anyone had success with the Age Rewind Makeup? Does it rewind by decades, or is it more like wearing yesterday’s face? If I were to choose, the 80’s face would be my rewind decade of choice. There was no brow-shaping, lip plumping or face tightening cream. Just a thick surface of mud, over which blush and blue eyeshadow were applied. The piece de resistance was Bonnie Bell Dr. Pepper-Flavored Lip Smacker.

If you think about it, the process was somewhat similar to house painting. A general color scheme and plan of attack were developed, either by your local department store employee or for us rural folk, the Avon Lady.  After a week, the ten-step procedure was scrapped for something cheaper and more realistic. The property was thoroughly washed with hand soap and slathered in Noxema and then the real work began.

The spackling, Cover Girl Concealer, came in a tube similar to lipstick. Once this was applied to the walls…er…face, it was time for the base coat. Preferably something thick and orange that left an obvious line between your jaw and neckline. Held up against the packaging, the face and the actual color were as different as egg- shell and pebble- gray. That’s ok, because the accent color, a bold cheek- swoosh of ruby red (meant to mimic your natural (?) cheek hue) called blush was about to consume the face. For a time, we were instructed to apply it under the cheekbone, then on top.  Eventually most women just applied it as a solid four-inch highway of red, just to be safe.

Lifting the fur of youthfully- natural eyebrows out of the way, the eyelids were about to receive their due. A bright, blue shadow was applied with a tiny sponge that probably contained more germs than an infectious disease lab petri dish. From azure to cobalt, we were nothing if not inspired in our color scheme.

As with all good paint projects, the entire face had to be covered in sealant. In this case, it involved some kind of pressed powder, no doubt still lodged today in the recesses of our collective lungs. It all seemed so simple. Too bad there was an hour of hair work yet to be completed.

 

 

Schmuzak

grocery

There you were, at age fifteen, in the department store shopping for that absurdly small pair of jeans that you could still zip with a pair of pliers. This pair had fake rhinestones. That pair had orange swirlies, making your backside look impossibly small. If only you could decide…  in the end, (ha!) you would take neither. There was no possible way to make a decision with the ridiculously, ear-splittingly irritating sound they piped throughout the store.

At that time, it was a strange combination of familiar tunes and musical cottage cheese called, “muzak.” It was a sleepy, music-alternative meant to encourage you to concentrate more on shopping and less on lyrics. It was quick and painless, and by the time you got home, the discomfort of listening to non-music music was over.

Today, it is music embarrassingly plucked from the rock concerts and late-night rides of our youth. It is not uncommon to hear Def Leopard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” while perusing the sweetener alternatives. Wandering through Target, searching for feminine hygiene products is kind of the last place you need to hear, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” It’s gotten so unblinkingly common that you may even be humming along to “Highway to H@#” as you’re sitting on hold waiting to speak to your cable company.

We took seriously the sounds of our youth; only to be played during the endless drives down Main Street or while our parents were trying to sleep in the next bedroom. It didn’t matter if the lyrics made no sense: A park became a runny, melty cake when someone clearly mismeasured ingredients. Or it was caused by rain and suicidal thoughts – never clear.   It didn’t matter that many of those lyrics were unintelligible when we belted them into a hairbrush, (Blind-ed by the light, left out something by yada yada) they meant something to us.

That misguided teen who felt a lasting sting from having to endure bland tunes while purchasing Pop Rocks and Orange Crush are today responsible for the downfall of our musical dignity. Listening to our music on the internet is fine. Humming along to the oldies station, while somewhat humiliating, is also fine. Elton John in the mammogram dressing room has crossed a line.

Toasty Bit #5

toast[1]

This Toasty Bit comes from a blossoming writer named Laura Cataldi. She recently graduated from college with honors and is pursuing her master’s degree in the fall. Laura has faced more mountains in her young life than many of us combined. Kudos to you, Laura and thank you for your toasty bit of writing! -JK

One of my favorite quotes that floats around the internet goes something like this:

“Tell someone you love them today, because life is short, but SHOUT it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.”

While good for a laugh, I’ve come to realize that this quote also accurately sums up my experiences as a twenty-something. Perhaps one of the most frustrating and confusing things about being in my twenties has been the constant pressure to have my life figured out. Like everyone else, I was supposed to graduate high school knowing, without a doubt, what I wanted to do with my life. Advice from adults, however, was maddeningly contradictory. “Follow your dreams!” they said. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” Then the realists stepped in. “Gotta pay your bills. Flipping burgers will help you do that. A Liberal Arts degree probably won’t.” (Whoops.)

So, in the spirit of takin’ care of business, I started working at grocery stores or in other retail settings, just to make ends meet while I clawed my way to a degree that I wasn’t even certain I wanted, all the while being bombarded with more expectations. I was supposed to be building my credit. I was supposed to budget my minimum wage paychecks into paying rent, utilities, and food and have enough left over to save up for a downpayment on my first house. Perhaps it was just the bludgeon that is my personal anxieties, but I felt like the more people around me succeeded, the less I was doing to successfully adult. Because that’s what it’s all about: adulting. You’ve seen the memes. “Cried but did the thing anyway.” “When I was sixteen, I wanted my freedom. Now I’m twenty-six, and I want my mom to make my doctor’s appointments and buy me groceries for my birthday.” Being a young adult today is both terrifying and confusing. I’m hoping that hitting the big 3-0 will bring about the miraculous truths of life, because so far they’ve eluded me, and unlike everything else, I can’t purchase a clue from Amazon.

“Youth is wasted on the young,” they say. I’m inclined to agree, but that’s only because nobody ever told me how to make the most of this time. Some of my peers have it figured out, but as for me, I’m still trying to figure out a healthy balance. Should I pick up extra shifts, or binge-watch more Netflix? A successful adult would pick Option A. I, however, am only three seasons into Grey’s Anatomy, so….

Laura Cataldi

Dance Schmance

Your decade of birth determines not only your preference in style and music but also the Danceway you dance.

Do you have the predisposition to wiggle your rear like an excited pup every time your favorite song is on the radio? Chances have you learned your dance moves in the sixties. Do you feel the need to roll your arms in an upward motion and sway back and forth in the widest possible clothing? Point to the ceiling. Now the floor. Now the ceiling.  You child of the seventies, you.

Slide your feet across the floor as if it were a moon-like surface, or perhaps bang your hair against an invisible wall? Life was good in the eighties. If you have the urge to Macarena or squat-slide your balloon pants across the room in true Hammer style, welcome to the nineties. Beyond that decade, I confess I do not know what motivates your movements. There are some unexplained jerks that just defy logic.  I hope all of my 2000-and-beyond dancing friends have a good relationship with a chiropractor. Why? Umm… no reason.

No matter what your dance-decade preference, at some point your body dictates your movements. Those dance floor high kicks will at some point become more of toe-tap. The hip swirl will evolve into more of a suggestive head bob, willing those hips to follow along.  Those broad dance moves that once defined us are suddenly channeled into much smaller movements.

Look no further than any summer concert series. Rows of lawn chairs interspersed with blankets and gleeful toddlers contain many wishful dancers. The band begins playing a Beach Boys tune and immediately heads begin to bop. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the thoughts of those head boppers projected above us? Dances from every decade would appear. The wide, green lawn would suddenly become a crowded dance floor with booty shakers and sky-pointers dancing side by side.

The decades melt and we are all dancing together. In our heads. Keep those fingers moving.

 

 

Nap Schmap

sleep_child

It’s a vicious cycle, this sleep business. But there’s nothing like a good mid-afternoon drool-fest. Waking up slightly disoriented – is it evening? Tomorrow?  Or just fifteen minutes since you last looked at the clock? – makes the whole nap experience even better. It really caps off a pointless afternoon, one where you accomplished nothing because you were so grumpy and unreasonable that even your cat had to leave his usual squatting spot to get away from the thick, downer vibe permeating the air.

When you’ve finally pushed through the fog and repositioned every oddly-placed hair, (day-sleep makes hills and vales on your head that rock stars have tried to emulate for decades) you begin to run like a well-oiled machine. That box of “unknowns” sitting under your bed for two years? Gone. A four-course dinner of “whatever’s not moldy in the fridge” gourmet?  Fait accompli.  Course number five boxed brownies with an extra- sugary slathering of frosting and fruit (for health) on top? Sitting like a food photo on your freshly-cleaned counter.

Life is good. Until ten o’clock. You put on your pajamas, do your usual evening routine of brushing, flossing, smearing and pinning and hop into bed with that trashy novel you tell people you aren’t reading. Everything is going according to plan, until you turn out the light, roll over and realize, YOU’RE NOT THE LEAST BIT TIRED.

Surely that can’t be right. You were so sleepy you couldn’t keep your eyes open at 2pm. It was a good nap, not one of those time wasters you used when you couldn’t handle one more minute of real life. You didn’t drink caffeine, eat sugar (no one saw exactly what happened to the brownies) or bring your stresses to bed.

You go through all of the usual commercial sleep-inducers: Counting sheep? They are pretty boring until the cast of Twilight comes out of the woods and creates such a scene of carnage it will take four hours for you to stage the whole thing. Herbal tea? You drank six cups. Now when your eyelids are finally heavy, you’ll be too busy sitting on the toilet to actually get to sleep. Milk? A walk through the neighborhood in your pajamas?

It turns out that little favor you did your body has come back to bite. Hard. It will be past midnight before you find your sweet spot. Tomorrow will come, as it always does, at the same time. You’ll be a grumpy mess. Until 2 pm.

Chin Schmin

chin

The chin is a funny thing. It doesn’t matter much for most of our lives. Other than Jay Leno, there has never been a person I’ve heard of in my life whose chin had an impact on their career or social life. “Did you hear about Fern? She got fired from her job for chin-butting everyone in accounting,” or, “women just can’t resist Fred. He points that bulbous chin in a come-hither manner and they are putty in his hands.”

Up until this very moment, you haven’t given your chin any thought, unless it has become an unintended canvass for that smear of chocolate that you thought no one saw you eat but your significant other has so kindly pointed out.  There are personality types connected to chin shape, according to shifty internet sources: square chins are allegedly attached to stubborn people. Protruding chins mean a self- confident type. Rounded- chin people are deeply emotional. Long chins are for those who are loyal and easy-going. People with dimples in their chin are just confused.

There are books dedicated to the strength and elasticity of the chin. Twenty, goofy grimaces in varying awkward positions three times a day and your vaguely- rectangular lower jaw will return to its former, perfectly- square glory. You can even do them in the car, the book states. The ensuing road-rage that will occur when you grimace at the wrong person must be addressed in later chapters that I couldn’t read while performing the Look of Abject Horror exercise. Twenty times.

The chin does assume a position of importance in middle age when suddenly it becomes a compass for trendy reading glasses in search of the printed word. But for now, let’s just concentrate on those chin-ups. Who knows where they might lead you professionally. Or personally. Oooh, Frances – that chin! I’d swear it was sitting on the face of a twenty-five year-old!

 

Pants Schmants

extremely-high-waisted-pants

So your zen moment is pulling that elastic band to the under-boob position and snapping or tying things in place.  I’m going to give you permission, here and now, to embrace your style.  The only difference between this style and the one involving plyers and a firm mattress is that today you are wearing your clothes for comfort.  No one has the right to use the words, “mom jeans.” No one.

There was a time when dressing in a specific manner was expected. Riding on an airplane, for example, required your finest attire. Can you imagine being forced to buy special clothing today to eat your bag of peanuts stare longingly at the circulation-less hand you had to cram in between the seats?

Thankfully, now we have options in the transportation world, as well as in everyday life.

Find yourself below:

I wear the jeans I wore in high school because acid wash reminds me of rebellion and the Mc DLT.

I wear the anti-mom jean, keeping the waist band low in order to give my stomach that gentle sloping it deserves on the inevitable trip to my knees.

I wear cheap jeans. The kind that may vary by six sizes, depending on which third- world country proudly sewed two (or three) legs together.

I wear my daughter’s jeans.  Because you can’t.

I refuse to wear jeans because I don’t want to be in any of these categories. I wear middle-age pants. They are the same brand and style I have worn for twenty years. They have named that style after me and currently make these pants in basic black, soothing grey and terrific tangerine.

If you fit into one of these categories of some variation thereof, congratulations. You have reached pantopia. Now about that bra….