Friday, September 30, 2011

10 Things You'll Never Hear at Citizens Bank Park

As we prepare for October baseball, I am fairly certain you will never hear these words uttered at a home Phillies game:

  1. I sure wish they’d stop showing busty chicks on Fanavision.
  2. The food at the ballpark is a bargain!
  3. I hear Hunter Pence is a moron Mormon.
  4. We'd be in great shape if we only had some quality pitchers.
  5. That Freakin’ Angel Kim sure does get lousy seats.
  6. The Phanatic is the dumbest mascot ever.
  7. It's incredibly annoying when the Liberty Bell lights up and rings.
  8. I can’t believe we have to sit through another post season.
  9. I feel bad for the Mets.
  10. This winning thing is getting old.

Let's Go, Phillies! See you at the Park.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Give Us a Call When it's Your Turn

I am not the picture of tact or decorum. I also work in marketing. The two may be related, although Christian publishing doesn't really give my tackiness an opportunity to shine. Still, it takes a lot to offend me. There was that KY ad last year, and now, Arlington Family Services has won my yuck award.

When I saw the envelope in the mail with the return address of "Arlington Family Services," my first thought was that one of the kids had reported us for neglect. Most likely Ian since we left him at the soccer field on Sunday. (It was totally his fault). With my heart pounding and my blood pressure elevated, I opened the envelope to find...a letter from a funeral home/cemetery. This is what it said:
With the recent passing of your neighbor, Arlington Family Services would like to express our condolences. It is a sad time for all who know this family. They will need your support and prayers. 
We are grateful to our families that put their trust in us to perpetually care for their departed loved ones. 
Over the past 115 years, Arlington Cemetery has provided  a beautiful and tranquil place...We welcome our community to pay our facility a visit and see why our families feel such comfort knowing that their loved one is in good hands.

The problems with this letter are truly too numerous to mention, but I'll give it my best shot:
  1. What if I had no idea someone died? You could have at least told me who you were talking about.
  2. What if the person who died was my mortal enemy? Maybe his dog pooped on my lawn and his kid ran over my flowers and he kept me awake playing the bongo naked all hours of the night (or that might just be my Matthew McConaughey fantasy). In that case I would not want their condolences, I might want their congratulations.
  3. What if the family of the person who died are atheists or agnostics and don't believe in prayer? 
  4. "Their loved one is in good hands?" Yes, for us Christians, those hands are God's. If you don't believe in God or heaven, good hands don't matter either way. Dead is dead. Nothing you can do to improve upon this. Sorry if I'm unwilling to give Arlington Family Services credit for walking the deceased into the great hereafter. 
And then there is the sheer tackiness of using someone's death to promote your services. Yes, realtors regularly take advantage of a neighbor selling their home to promote themselves, but home sales are frequently a good thing, or at least they're rarely a terribly sad thing. The realtor may want you to know a neighbor is selling to help them find a buyer (which you might be happy to do, particularly if you don't like them--see #2 above), or they may want you to know they sold your neighbor's home which is a bit braggity, but might also bring you joy if you didn't like your neighbor (see #2 above). 

Frankly, I would have more respect for a notice that said:
"Your neighbor [name here] has passed away. We thought you would want to know so you can send a sympathy card. Or throw a party, depending on how you felt about them." 
The approach Arlington Family Services has taken is a turn off all the way around. It's not honest, it's not sympathetic, it's just yucky.

Disagree with me? I'd love to know how you can possibly justify this tacky approach to marketing you see it. Do tell.

P.S. Did I mention they included a business card? I'll be sure to hang that on my bulletin board so I know who to call when it's time to select the "good hands" to guide me into life eternal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scientists Identify Painful Maternal Condition

Scientists have made a not-so-astonishing discovery that they have termed "maternitis." For purposes of this blog, however, we will call it the mom-factor. Or "MF" for short (go ahead, add the "er" on there; you know you want to). Every mom has experienced this maddening condition. It starts out innocently enough, usually in the familiar setting of the home. It often looks something like this:
Mom and dad are in the house at the same time. They may even be in the same room. It's possible they are actually sitting next to each on the couch. 
Enter offspring in need.

And MF kicks in. When afflicted with maternitis, a child will lose sight of their father. Some sort of paternal eclipse occurs, a temporary blinding that leaves the child unable to recognize the man in the house as one of the individuals responsible for their very existence.

What transpires next is mysterious and upsetting and not for the faint of heart.

The child in need, like a heat-seeking missile, will always seek out mom.

Mom may be sitting at the table with Dad. She's surrounded by a dozen large books and furiously working on her doctoral dissertation. Dad is reading the sports section. As a result of maternitis, the child will immediately throw him/herself at mom with a request for help studying for a spelling quiz. Or he/she may ask why there are no clean cereal bowls. And apparently clean underwear are also in short supply. And only Mom can handle any of these requests.

Disturbingly, maternitis has also been known to attack when Mom is not at home. Say, for example, that she has been out  for the evening drinking with friends at a PTA meeting or charity function. Upon returning home around 10:00 p.m., one or more of her offspring announces he/she is "starving." It appears that, while blinded with MF, the child did not consider asking Dad for food. Had Mom not returned home in time, said child may have starved to death.

Unfortunately, maternitis does not only occur in the home. Consider these documented cases:
  • At the beach, Mom and Dad will both be catching up on their reading. Mom reading the latest guide to world peace; dad reading Calvin & Hobbes. Child will request Mom's assistance with sunscreen, castle building, and boogie boarding. Visions of dad have again been mysteriously blocked, not by the sun, but by MF.
  • While dad is driving during a 12-hour trip to a vacation destination, the children will require Mom's full attention and assistance in playing Travel Bingo, watching for state license plates, and finding the lost DS game, pencil, and friendship bracelet material. When Mom takes her turn behind the wheel, however, the children will rest/read/play nicely in the back seat allowing Dad to sleep or read in peace. 
  • At a sporting event, Mom is busy keeping score and evaluating player performance for her scouting report while Dad is drinking a beer and checking out the ball girl. Children will request that Mom purchases them a soda and cotton candy, and will then require mom to get them to the bathroom so they can be sick from too much sugar. Dad will request another beer.
While maternitis affects only children, scientists are researching the possibility that this condition is closely related to OMSE---Only Mom Sees It. This condition, which has been known to afflict both men (husbands, fathers, living partners) and children, results in vision problems that can persist indefinitely if not immediately treated. Testing for OMSE includes placing a dead body in the center of a room in the home and asking family members to walk through this space. If they step over the deceased, perhaps complaining of the stench, then there is a high probability of an OMSE diagnosis.

If you or someone you know appears to be the victim of a child or spouse with MF or OMSE, please consider seeking immediate medical attention. Doctors familiar with these conditions will immediately prescribe Mom with Xanax or other mind-numbing pharmaceutical.

Good luck, and God bless.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Read 'Em and Weep?

I work in publishing. I know how difficult it is to get published. I know it's even more difficult to actually sell significant copies of your book if you do get published. With more than 250,000 new titles being released every year (in the U.S. alone), standing out from the crowd is no easy task. That's partly why I have made no real attempt to write my own. That, and my friend Emily never set a time for me to work on it. (You'll recall I require external motivation.)

Right now I find myself in the interesting--and new--position of being asked to review someone's book. Not someone who is publishing with us (Judson Press). Not a friend. Not even a no-name author self-publishing his literary masterpiece. I have been sent an advance reader copy of a Christian fiction book from FaithWords, the Christian imprint of Hachette Book Group USA, a major U.S. publisher. The author is a blogger whose posts I really enjoy. This will be his second book. His first, also Christian fiction, did very well. 

Frankly, I was a little surprised to receive a review copy of his upcoming book. I did offer to participate in his blog tour, but figured with a blog titled "Freakin' Angels" and my let-it-all hang-out content, a Christian writer might stay away from a not-always-appropriate Christian like me. But they're gutsy at those big NYC publishing houses, so I received the book with a letter asking me for a review.

I have now spent a couple weeks reading this book and I'm about one-third of the way into it. And I don't love it. But I don't hate it either. Frankly, I don't care about it, and the opposite of love isn't hate but indifference. When your writing doesn't move readers in some way, they're not going to discuss it with others and word of mouth is the very best way to sell books.

I am frustrated and disappointed in this, my first book review experience. Here's an author whose blog posts never fail to inspire me and engage me emotionally and spiritually. But his book has left me cold. I don't particularly care for the characters. The writing is pretty average. The setting in no way appeals to me. It appears that his blog writing skills don't translate into equally compelling fiction.

Right now I'm sure some kind, considerate, and less critical soul is saying, "Maybe it's just not your style." "Maybe you're not the target audience." "Do you even like Christian fiction as a genre?" "Perhaps you'll like this book by the end so you shouldn't judge it so harshly now." Those are all legitimate points.

So here's my dilemma. Assuming I don't care for the book if/when I finish it. Do I:
  • Write an honest and objective review, highlighting the good, noting the weaknesses, acknowledging my biases?
  • Write a positive review only focusing on what was good about the book and who it will appeal to?
  • Not write a review at all?
No pressure, but I'm eagerly awaiting your advice...

Note: I purposely have not shared the name of the author or the title of the book. I want to first decide if I'm willing to be public about my feelings for it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

But then there was Elvis

After the loss of Snickers, Rob being down for the count for what felt like forever, and Ian struggling with an upper respiratory virus that caused him to miss four days from the first two weeks of school, I was sorely in need of a vacation. Or at least a mini-getaway. And Rob, knowing what a bitch bear I can be when I don't get enough me time, graciously (or perhaps eagerly) told  me to go. So on Friday evening I took off for Waretown, New Jersey, the latest hot spot for 40-something soccer moms. My goal for the next 24-hours was nothing but rest, relaxation, and a bit of boating and fishing with mom and dad.

Waretown Elvis
But then Elvis came to town.

When I called to let my parents know I'd be arriving later than anticipated, I knew I was in trouble when dad said, "We're at the Lighthouse Tavern. Elvis is here. We'll save you a seat." What? Save me a seat? It will be 10:00 p.m. That's my bedtime. This was supposed to be a quiet getaway involving a great deal of sleep. But leave it to Elvis to muck things up.

The Lighthouse Tavern in Waretown, NJ is your classic blue-collar bar with men and women of all ages, shapes, and styles. Women in acid-washed jeans and knee high suede boots show up with guys in offensive t-shirts and a great deal of ink. Pear-shaped 60-somethings hoot and holler and try to keep their hairspray soaked stylings away from open flames, and of course Norm has his own corner of the bar. A generously-sized take-out refrigerator holds six packs of Bud Light and Coors, Busch and Keystone Light. And if peach schnapps or a small bottle of whiskey is what you're looking for they have that for take out as well. The wood paneling is adorned with a generous helping of neon beer signs and NASCAR posters, and the televisions are all tuned to New York sports (despite being located closer to Philadelphia). A shuffleboard table and dart board round out the interior design. If you're looking for a great burger and a good time, the Lighthouse Tavern is the place to be.

Mom & Kim in black & white so you can't see Kim's beady red eyes
And tonight, Elvis was in the building. I had heard my parents talk about him for years but had never seen him myself. Regardless of my need for sleep, you just don't miss local Elvis. I put on my rally cap and my big girl panties and slid into the booth next to my mom who promptly ordered me a beer. When we weren't singing along with Elvis, my parents and I caught up on what's happening with my kids, my husband, my sister, and me. We checked out the sights and raised our eyebrows and had a few laughs at others' expense (we're mature that way). And when the regulars finally stopped hogging the shuffleboard table, I challenged dad to a game. And he commenced instructing me, correcting me, and basically kicking my ass in a 15-7 win. You'd be impressed to hear how often dad offers instruction/judgment evaluation correction/ass kicking, but that's another blog post.

"Samboogie" Nightcap
A night at the bar with mom and dad can only end one way. With a sambuca nightcap. Mom says I need to learn how to drink the stuff because I prefer to keep my distance from it. I think it's funny that my mom is encouraging me to bring new alcohol to my imbibing repertoire. But maybe next weekend I'll give it a try. Johnny Cash will be performing on Saturday night at the Lighthouse Tavern...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fire Up Your DVR and Get this Party Started!

Reality bites. Pets die. Backs hurt. Kids annoy. Couples fight. Clothes shrink. Computers crash. Faces wrinkle. Prayers go unanswered. For these reasons, I don't understand the appeal of reality programming. Either your reality is so blissful you need a dose of madness, or you watch that crap so you can feel better about your own life. Either way, I don't get it.

When I turn to Hollywood entertainment for my ticket out of Funkville, I look for a dreamy escape, something that will make me laugh, or sigh (a happy sigh), or simply put my brain to rest for a short period of time. I'm particularly fond of romantic comedy movies. They're the only films I routinely watch despite knowing the outcome before they start. Romantic comedies are the absolute opposite of reality.
Matt Bomer, sigh...
While rom-coms are my antidepressant of choice, given the increasing expense of movie tickets and popcorn, and the difficulty I seem to have finding friends to accompany me, I'm considering investing more of my time in television. Scripted television that has nothing to do with reality. Generally, I'm not much of a television watcher. I like Glee and White Collar (basically for that hottie Matt Bomer), and I confess to enjoying America's Next Top Model and Project Runway, but that's about it. Friends  recommend their favorite programs, but if I haven't seen a series from the beginning I can't be bothered to catch up. With a new fall television season rapidly approaching, however, I figured now would be the perfect time to set my DVR to record a bunch of crap from the vast wasteland some of the hot new shows.

Luckily, I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly (my guilty pleasure magazine) and on September 9 they came out with their Fall TV Preview issue. I did my research and came up with a top 10 list of mind candy. See what you think (these are in no particular order):

Whatever happened to Josh Lucas?
  1.  Up All Night with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett is a comedy about new parents and a boss from hell. You know, on second thought, that sounds more like a reality show...
  2. Hart of Dixie with Rachel Bilson is supposedly Gilmore Girls + Doc Hollywood + Sweet Home Alabama. If you throw in Josh Lucas from that Sweet Home AL movie, I'm sold! 
  3. Pan Am with Christina Ricci is described as "Mad Man meets Alias in a globe-trotting soap set in the 1960s." They will not show characters smoking (unlike Mad Men) which means it's definitely not a reality show.
  4. Person of Interest with Jim Caviezel creates a world where crimes can be seen before they are about to be committed.
  5. Broke Girls with two no name actresses is about a tough working class girl and a born-rich but brought-low girl as waitresses in Brooklyn. According to EW, they play off each other "with odd-couple sarcasm." You had me at sarcasm.
  6. Two and a Half Men with Ashton Kutcher. You had me at Ashton Kutcher. 
  7. A Gifted Man with Patrick Wilson is described as "an emotional and sometimes spiritual journey." I'll give it a shot. If it gets too heavy or sad, it may get the ax.
  8. Once Upon a Time with Ginnifer Goodwin is a fairy-tale drama in which a group of fairy-tale characters trapped in a Maine town are cursed into forgetting their true identities Love the premise!
  9. Homeland is about a POW who returns home from Iraq as a hero, but a CIA analyst (Claire Danes) thinks he may may actually be a secret terrorist. Of course, she's a "pill-popping, bed-hopping renegade" with credibility issues. What fun! How much do you want to bet the two of them hook up?
  10. Finally, if I get really desperate there's always The Playboy Club
Figured I should offer equal opportunity eye candy
After I watch these season premieres, I'll tell you which ones I think are likely to still be airing in three months. In the meantime, which series will you be tuning in to?

P.S. You may be thinking that ANTM and Project Runway are reality shows, but since they in no way reflect my reality, they don't count.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Not Fair

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Ian and I were preparing for his first day of preschool. Despite the enormity of what was occurring in our nation, or perhaps because of it, we proceeded to the nursery school at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church where similarly dazed parents put on brave smiles for each other and their little ones. It seems like a lifetime ago. It seems like only yesterday.

At age three, Ian was too young to be fully aware of the tragic events of that day, but at some point during his education, he and his classmates were taught that "terrorists attacked the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, and they had a third plane but it crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania." That's the condensed version as Ian has relayed it to me. Of course as adults we know that there are no words to adequately describe the atrocities of the attacks that forever changed the heart and soul of our nation.

If you've been a Freakin' Angels reader for awhile, you're undoubtedly aware of my parenting style. Or lack thereof, depending on your point of view. You may recall that I have confessed that I don't believe in hiding reality from children. I don't believe we should sugar-coat or minimize the bad while accentuating the good. And sometimes, I think the ugly reality is exactly what our kids need. Yesterday was one of those days.

As I dressed for church I watched the news coverage of the anniversary tributes to the victims of 9/11. And like the rest of America, my heart broke all over again for those who lost friends and loved ones, for those firefighters and EMTs who raced knowingly to their deaths in order to save lives, and for the heroes of Flight 93 who sacrificed themselves by taking down the plane that was headed to our nation's capitol. I was captivated and pained by the heartrending stories of survival, the tributes children paid to the fathers they never knew, and the songs sung in remembrance. I was reminded of the thousands of lives lost in the war on terror which essentially began on that fateful day.

And some terrible part of me wanted to force my children to sit in front of the television and watch and listen and know.

My children, like most of their peers, live in a land close to make believe. Whether it's the "pixels" they shoot at it in their video games, or the expectation of wishes routinely granted, their lives are blissfully unaware of evil, poverty, violence, tragedy, or hate. They are never burdened with more than a request to unload the dishwasher or take out the trash and to work hard in school.

So yes, I wanted my children to really know about 9/11/01. To feel just a bit of the hurt of 9/11/01. I wanted to drag them away from their games and distractions, sit them in front of the television, and make them understand what our nation was experiencing yesterday. But I couldn't do it. I knew that what I wanted was cruel, even for a "tell it to 'em straight" mom like me. I read the paper, went to church, said my prayers, and returned home to resume life as we know it.

But yesterday afternoon, those fateful words were spoken. I requested my child's assistance with an unpleasant task and the response was "It's not fair." Words that routinely flow from my children's lips the moment disappointment or displeasure introduces itself in their otherwise picture-perfect lives. And in my emotionally raw state, I lost it.
It's not fair? How dare you say it's not fair? It's not fair to go to work in the morning and not come home that night because a terrorist decided to fly a plane into your office building. It's not fair to never know your father because he died before your mother gave birth. It's not fair to pay the ultimate sacrifice while others go about their daily lives oblivious to the cost of freedom.
More emotion and anger than was deserved for the "it's not fair" infraction? Possibly. But truth be told, one of my greatest fears is not another terrorist attack, but rather that I will do wrong by my children and allow them to grow up with a sense of entitlement, a lack of compassion, and a failure to give back a portion of the gifts they have been so generously given.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back to School Preparation Analysis (aka, Why You Couldn't Go to the Movies with Me)

It has come to my attention that I should be getting ready for school.

This morning, in an effort to escape a dreary day of toilet cleaning, laundry folding, and catering to a sick kid (who damn well better be feeling fine for school tomorrow), I sent out an APB to my so-called friends in search of a date for a matinee showing of "Our Idiot Brother." In more than one instance, I got the lame excuse was told that they were too busy "getting ready for school tomorrow."

This either means:
  1. My friend(s) just didn't want to spend time with me and back-to-school preparations seemed like a legitimate excuse;
  2. My friend(s) wanted to spend time with their child(ren) as part of an end-of-summer last hurrah that I could in no way identify with;
  3. My friend(s) has serious organizational challenges and therefore requires a minimum of 12 hours prep for any activity involving more than brushing ones teeth
  4. I am up the creek without a paddle and bound to be completely overwhelmed at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning
I really don't think the correct answer is #4. In my eight years of back-to-school experience, getting ready has involved:
  • School supplies. This is generally done well in advance if your child nags you about it like mine does.  Even if you waited till the day before school, this should take an hour, tops. 
  • A backpack. Often part of the back to school supplies. Hint: Buy Land's End or L.L. Bean and the same backpack you had last year will be good to go. 
  • The back-to-school outfit. If you only have a son(s), this doesn't apply to you. With girls, back-to-school clothes shopping should definitely be done well ahead of time. If you waited till the last minute for this, I understand why you can't go to the movies, and I'm glad I'm not you. 
  • Signing papers. Regardless of all the technological advancements we have made in the past few decades, school administrative paperwork is still stuck in the dark ages. If you waited until today to tackle these forms, they should take you ten minutes. Longer if you actually read what you're signing and give serious consideration to emergency contacts.
  • Grocery shopping for school lunches. School lunch items should have been part of your regular shopping trip last week. If you want to go to the movies and have no school lunch food in the house, tell the kid(s) to buy what the cafeteria is serving tomorrow. I've heard great things about school lunches these days.
  • Making school lunches. Unless, God help you, you have seven school-age children, lunches should not take more than 15 minutes to make. Of course, I'm assuming you're not baking the bread, grinding the peanuts, and stomping the grapes yourself.

Based on this to-do list, as long as you didn't wait till today to buy the back-to-school outfit, "getting ready for back-to-school" should take no more than 80 minutes. 

Let's say you're a little more neurotic involved than I am. You might need to add time for:
  • Laying out clothes for your child to wear tomorrow. If you're still doing this, stop. Let the kid express him/herself, even if it means nothing matches. If you are a control freak/my sister must do this, it shouldn't require more than 10 minutes of your time. Or else your child has way too many clothes.
  • Bathing/showering. Even with time spent de-tangling Rapunzel's hair, I hope your child doesn't require more than 30 minutes in the bathroom. 
  • Parental self-preparation. Okay, let's say you need to iron your clothes (but who does that, besides Doug Fischer?), review your work itinerary, and make yourself a lunch (good for you, saving money that way), that's maybe an hour.
  • Devotions/prayer/quiet time. If you're upset about the little ones going off to school, get over it you may need some quiet time for reflection. You may want to look at photo albums and get misty-eyed over the good old days when they were still suckling at mother's breast. Don't do this for more than two hours, please, or we'll need to stage an intervention.
We'll take my 85 minutes and add a generous 220 minutes in case you're a little nutty. That comes to 305 minutes or roughly 5 hours. If you require five hour of prep time to get your kids on the bus in the morning, well, words just can't describe what advice I'd like to give you right now. I would, however, say you still could have spared two hours to go to the movies with me, especially since I'll be the one you'll call after the kids decide they'd rather die than be seen in public with you. 

 Just sayin'.

P.S. Never did go to the movies.