When the best words are 4-lettered (and your mom doesn’t approve)

My mother called me a few weeks ago to tell me she didn’t like the language used in a link I shared via Facebook yesterday. I believe her comments included “shocked” and “what would HER friends and relatives think?” Mind you, I’m 50 years old and connected to very few of her friends and relatives. I don’t do a lot on Facebook probably because I’m a reasonably private person but every once in a while I think there’s something that needs to be said or shared. Usually it’s pictures of baked goods I made. Occasionally it’s political.

Here’s my take on the whole thing: Facebook is social. But social isn’t all ice cream, unicorns and cat videos, you know? (Altho I love me some cat videos.) Sometimes you’re just pissed off about something and you spew that out socially too. Daily I hear people I know (and sometimes even like) say things I completely disagree with. And you know what? They have every right to say those things in the words that they choose.

Now here’s my right: I can either listen and respond, listen and move on or just ignore it. Whichever I choose to do, well, it’s up to me. Same thing goes to all of you. If you don’t like something someone shared or said or something someone else has said, then you’re free to ignore it. Nifty thing is Facebook allows you to ignore me or unfriend me entirely, too. Ahh the beauty of electronic friendship.

Censorship starts with the listener, not the writer. As a person who spends her days surrounded by words, I agree that any writer or speaker is free to say what he or she wants. I’ve even defended political candidates and nut-job pundits with this same argument. How we react to these thoughts as the audience, however, that’s what matters. And it’s going to be different for each of us because we all have our personal takes on just about any subject. Hopefully we all think about a subject, dig in and do a little research. Maybe we even get past the mechanics of the delivery, although that can be tough sometimes. If the words get in the way, then tune out.

I have yet to unfriend or hide someone because of their politics or social beliefs. It’s good to see what people are thinking and saying sometimes because if we rely on our own Google searches and media of choice for all of our news, we’ll just hear thoughts that preach to the choir – and how does that expand the mind? It’s also great to know that we’re not like everyone else in our thoughts and the ways we select to express ourselves. The world would be really dull if everyone were just like me (even I know I’m incredibly boring).

I try to teach my own children that words are a beautiful thing. Words have the ability to teach and express and evoke emotion in both the writer and the audience. They can affirm beliefs or change opinions. And sometimes even ones that aren’t “the best” words, aren’t pretty, sugarcoated or covered by a scared kitty cat meme deserve to be spoken and shared.

Ignorant son of a …

My son is a slacker. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s a boy or if it’s because he’s 14 or if it’s because of something we did wrong when raising him, but he’s always been this way. So last night, about 30 minute before I’d normally freak out about him not being in bed, he started working on homework that was probably due a week ago (why would a slacker do his homework, you ask – because his mother checked his grades).

He was working on an essay using the NPR theme, This I Believe, and he had half-assed it. His thoughts were scattered and unsupported. So we he got to the part of the assignment where one of his parents was to write a reflection based on what their student said in the essay, I told my son I couldn’t do that cuz he hadn’t said anything at all. So he fixed it.

His “belief” was that religion was the root of all evil and would eventually destroy society. Nothing surprising – both of my kids hate religion, likely a result of growing up in Utah. But what he was really getting at was ignorance. He mentioned in the essay a school mate who’s a flat-earther (WTF?), the ignorance that this kid spews, and how he (my son) doesn’t understand it. What my son missed, however, was the connection to his original thought: religion. And that the same ignorance that allows people to blindly buy stories that have no basis in reality (virgin birth anyone?) might also allow them to think you could fall off the side of the earth or that global warming isn’t real at all.

At 14, I couldn’t have taken that stand. I was brought up Catholic and forced to go to CCD like everyone else, learned the joys of skipping out early from mass (best if it was the Saturday afternoon folk mass). What I didn’t learn was to question what they were telling me. Full disclosure: I’m not sure I ever actually listened to what anyone was saying. But at age 14, I never really thought about the absurdity of a virgin birth, parting waters (Cecil B. DeMille, my favorite religion teacher, made it look so natural), resurrections and the like. I just nodded and kind of moved on to my own self-centered existence. Sometime after I stopped going to church, I came to realize these were all just fantastical stories with zero basis in reality, but it was never a conscious or conflicting effort.

Living in Utah, however, made me look at the ignorance associated with religion even more closely and realize that it’s never just tied to religion – it goes much deeper. Religion itself seems to require a willing suspension of disbelief. Tenets of most religions are laced with extra crazy talk and other-worldly locations and beings. For the thinking person, it seems like this would pose a challenge.

But who’s thinking?

We’ve become a society that demands instant answers – but really we’re not just looking for answers, we’re looking for a side to root for, a team to join. We pick a team that matches our opinions but we don’t spend a lot of time forming these any more. We just grab an opinion that kinda sounds good – especially if we trust the source. No reason to dig further. If it sounds convincing, it obviously is.

The irony to all of this is that it’s easier than ever to find all sides to an issue thanks to the internet. But we don’t look. Instead, we share the bias over social media, where it gets shared again and again and eventually no one knows where the thought came from. But most of us don’t bother to look it up, either.*

When was the last time you looked further into the facts that some friend dished out on Facebook? I’m as guilty as the next person of mistaking a shared claim for truth. Worst part: even when you do decide to search for the answer, you have to dig deeply, because odds are good your search results are skewed to reflect previous searches, which usually reflect your opinion. Yes, even Saint Google is preaching to the choir.

In truth, no message is ever truly objective (one of the things I remember from journalism classes in college). But years ago, audiences WOULD seek out all sides to an issue. Media outlets didn’t make me feel obligated to put quotation marks around the word “news” because they were truly attempting to report facts. Absolutely not the case any more.

I’d expect this from my son’s generation – the first to grow up with answers to everything imaginable fed to them in easily digestible bites. I’m appalled that my generation and the ones ahead of me are failing to look at the other side, too. We may be even worse offenders – older generations (45+) are the ones most likely to listen to the human equivalent of a bloated tic shovel volumes of bullshit into the airwaves. It’s so much easier to believe what you want to hear than to think for yourself, right? (FYI, millennials don’t get to skate by here blame-free: Fox News in 2015 was the top rated cable news outlet with viewers 25-54 [YIKES!] and the second highest rated cable channel with that demo overall. And here I thought everyone was watching Game of Thrones.)

My son’s essay eventually turned out okay and I was proud of him for being able to identify ignorance, even if he failed to apply it everywhere it fit.That will come in time – thinkers are by nature skeptics and he’s nothing if not skeptical of pretty much everything. As for his generation, eh, maybe there’s some hope there, too. If a self-centered, 14-year-old boy who readily tosses around penis jokes can pay enough attention to the world around him that he can spot ignorance and write about it, that’s gotta say something. Maybe when they’re my age, they’ll even be pissed off enough to do something more than blog about it, too.

*yes, I realize some people still like to look at all side of an issue and approach everything skeptically. Fortunately, since they’re mostly unemployed former journalists, they have all the time in the world to do this now.



You can have it all – but what are you going to do with it?

I realize now that I don’t want it all. Because if I had it all, I wouldn’t have time to do anything with it anyway.

And I’m serious about this. It’s just impossible as a woman or as any thinking, breathing, feeling human to have everything and do the right thing with all of it.

By everything, I mean all of the same old shit that every high-profile, highly successful 30- or 40-something-year-old woman and mother feels the need to write about and publish (and where do they find time to do that?). High-profile job, perfectly amazing and well-balanced kids, loving and supportive spouse, house, health, friends, social life. Unless you’re a crackhead, it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried. And I realize that to have what you want, you have to settle. Give a little, take a lot.

Now, in all fairness, I’m neither high-profile nor highly successful, but I do all right. I’ve never been the head of a company and, unless I create my own company (which, with two school-aged children at home and gobs of 8th-grade math homework to re-teach each night, I can’t find time to do), it’s probably not happening. Any time I could dream of giving to a C-Suite position is spent, well, dreaming, because a spare moment might mean a chance to catch up on sleep. Sort of.

Really, I wouldn’t care about what these delusional women who can’t seem to understand that there are two sides to any relationship (think about how 12 hour days affect kids, partners, even co-workers) says, but then some well-meaning dreamer shares another one of those annoying “I have it all and here’s how you can, too” blog posts with me and all of my suppressed annoyance wells up into a festering pile “NO YOU CAN’T” as soon as I read it.

The most recent one I read – written by a woman I kinda thought I respected until I learned that she’s in a field dependent upon analytics* but obviously can’t add – got me thinking tho. Maybe it’s not that these women can’t have everything they say they have, can’t do everything they say they do. Maybe it’s just that they have zero grasp on how much time they’re actually spending on any of these activities, how little attention they’re paying to everyone but themselves. And I’m, as usual, being a fool by telling the truth about what I do.

Here’s why I think I may be onto something – because I looked at what this woman said she had in terms of “it all” and I quite literally did the math. It doesn’t add up.

1. Company executive. The woman/author proclaimed that she’s working 60 hours per week. Let’s assume that takes place during only 5 days, so she’s working 12-hour days. To simplify calculations, I’m going to pretend she doesn’t take lunch and sits on her ass for 12 hours straight and has the worst case of secretary spread ever.

24 hours – 12 hours = 12 hours remaining

2. Commute. Not everyone has to commute to work but I know for a fact that this person does – her drive is 40+ minutes each way. For the sake of argument, I’ll say she only goes into the office an average of two days per week. That’s 2 hours 40 min per week or an average of 32 minutes a day. Maybe she drives fast – to keep calculations simple, I’ll just say she averages 30 minutes daily.

12 hours – 30 min = 11.5 hours remaining

3. Looking human. I’m not budging on this one. She works in an office, at least some of the time? Minimum 1 hour to get ready. I’m being generous. I don’t care if you wear sweats to work, you still have to shower, put on some semblance of makeup, brush your teeth, get rid of the rats’ nest in the back of your hair, drink coffee. Odds are good it takes longer on days she’s in the office than on days she’s not, which is why I’m sticking by an average of 1 hour day. Remember, sometimes even sweats look bad and you have to change.

11.5 hours – 1 hour = 10.5 hours remaining

4. Kids. Before you have sex, someone should warn you that, a.) if you conceive, eventually you’ll have to buy your child man shoes (unless he’s a girl and then she’ll be even more expensive), and b.) that kids suck up an enormous amount of time. Simply dragging their butts out of bed and then eventually convincing them to go back to bed later that same day can seem like a full time job – a really crappy one. But they also expect you to interact with them, be tortured at their extracurricular activities, help them with homework, be there for them (sort of – eventually they’re happiest when you’re not there). For the sake of argument, though, I’m going to assume that, just like her life, her children are perfect, so she doesn’t waste 30 minutes breaking up arguments, saves another 15 minutes or so because she doesn’t have to freak out about bad grades, only has to tell them once to brush their teeth, take a shower, and all that. She probably doesn’t have to race to the store with any of them to get the did-I mention-I have-a-project-due poster board and play-doh either (or maybe she has the most amazingly well-stocked craft cabinet ever). So, I’ll go easy on her – 20 min per day per kid (I’m laughing as I type this) – quality time in which she can ensure they’re dressed for school, have their backpacks packed, and help them on just one homework problem, maybe tuck them into bed, too. She’s off the hook for special school activities, sports and social lives. Since she claims to have three kids, that’s another hour checked off.

10.5 hours – 1 hour = 9.5 hours remaining

5. Spouse. Jesus, these things are worse than kids. Spouses are extremely time consuming. I have no idea how polygamists juggle more than one. But with a perfect life, you also get a perfect spouse (one that makes a huge paycheck and cleans up after himself. LOL – like those exist!). How about 15 min per day – enough time to kick his ass out of bed in the morning so you can get the whole thing to yourself and then tell him to have a good day. Granted the inevitable time she’ll spend with the divorce attorney will probably be pretty steep but that comes later, after the spouse realizes that she’s completely off her rocker with this “have it all” shit.

9.5 hours – 15 min = 9.25 hours remaining

6. Food. I’m adding this one because in this woman’s tell-all, she makes a point of saying that she loves to cook and it’s something she doesn’t forfeit in order to have it all. That’s good. I respect that. I do the same. Ninety+ percent of our food is completely from scratch. And it takes a fucking ton of time. You have to buy, plan, cook, serve, cleanup. Maybe the perfect spouse does all but the cooking and planning. Even so, you’ve still probably spent an hour making food on a daily basis, unless you’re a Rachel Ray devotee and consider canned foods mixed with something frozen a gourmet dining experience.

9.25 hours – 1 hour = 8.25 hours remaining

7. Exercise. Another thing she mentioned – she always gets her exercise in because she’s just a better person because of her 45 min. run. I agree – at least that I’m a better person if I exercise. So I cram it into my day, which means everything else gets moved around. More time pissed away! Yippee.

8.25 hours – 45 min = 7.5 hours remaining

8. All that other shit we do. In a perfect world, someone else pays the bills, cleans the house, pets the cat and feeds the dog, reads the mail, questions the neighbor, folds your laundry, talks to relatives, shops for everything, worries about the kids and gasses up the car. But even if you had the ability to pawn off all of these services, you still have to oversee how they’re being done (and ensure everyone you’re paying to do them actually gets paid). As someone who uses freelancers in my day job, I can tell you that you never reclaim 100% of your time by hiring out – and that goes for hiring out domestic tasks, too, even if you’re just getting a spouse or child to take them on. Plus, ask anyone with a maid who comes by on a weekly basis – on the night before, everyone in the house is straightening up stuff because the maid is coming. For most of the world, these tasks take time and a lot of it. It’s a guaranteed minimum of 1 hour per day.

7.5 hours – 1 hour = 6.5 hours remaining

9. Time to think. Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen. That’s why we commute and exercise – so 0 hours. Cuz thinking only happens if you’re multitasking.

6.5 hours – 0 hours = 6.5 hours remaining

10. Sleep. Oh yeah, there’s sleep to consider. Unless you’re cracked out, as I previously mentioned you might be, you probably need to rest. She has a little over 6 hours to do so. I can attest that’s not enough time but way more than I get on most weekdays so she’s probably good. Hopefully she doesn’t want to read anything tho or answer an email from a teacher. Then she’s the walking dead (wait, what if she wants to watch The Walking Dead? Shit, no time).

6.5 hours – 6.5 hours = 0 hours remaining

So maybe I’m wrong, maybe having it all is doable if you look at just the numbers. But there’s one more thing to factor in here: how having it all affects everyone around you. If you’re only spending 20 min per day with each child or 15 minutes with your spouse, what good are those relationships to anyone? If you’re really spending 12 hours per day working, are you a grumpy turd most  of the time as you see the best years of your life (which are any years you get to experience, right?) being pissed away working in some climate controlled environment? Do you have time to pursue things that you want to pursue or even think about the next chapter of your life, whatever that might be?


Which means somewhere you have to compromise. You either give up the dream of having a good relationship with your family, of getting to know your spouse (wait, what’s his name again?) and your kids, of being an amazing home chef with a discernible waistline, or you give up the idea of having a big, powerful job and take one that allows you to focus your attention elsewhere sometimes – even if the career you land in is just good enough. Or you spend more time at the dentist’s office because your teeth are all falling out because you no longer need to sleep, thanks to all the meth. Your dealer thanks you too.

More simply put, if you really want to have it all, you have to fuck at least part of it up. In which case is it really worth the pain in the ass of trying to have everything?

(BTW, if you’re insanely wealthy or really bad at math and don’t realize that you only worked 8 hours instead of the 12 it feels like you worked, it’s likely none of this will pertain to you. Sorry to waste your time.)

*What is the root of the word “analytics”? Yup, “anal.”



Why think?

“… This whole thing is just a symptom of a larger problem: There’s a growing anti-intellectual strain in this country, and it may be the beginning of the end of our informed democracy,” Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the Nightly Show, January 26, 2016.

We’re talking – my husband and I – about carbohydrates the other day as I make a piece of toast. It’s one of my favorite topics lately, ever since my spouse was guilted (by me) into signing up for a Fattest Loser competition at our local rec center. It’s a combination class and competition. The competition part was what really made me want him to join, not because he’s competitive but because he’d somehow let the other attendees down if he didn’t lose (they’re on teams). It’s his reports of what happens in the class that get me.

Carbohydrates keep working their way into our conversations because until he started this class, I had no idea how hated carbs were. Day 1 he learned that he should fast for three days to shock his body into losing weight. Crazy since I thought all you had to do was eat fewer calories than you burned off if you wanted to lose weight but I guess that’s why I’m not the teacher. Day 2, the message was “you have to give up carbs. Forever.”

I love carbs. I eat old person baby food (a.k.a. oatmeal) 3+ times per week because it tastes amazing when it’s loaded with butter and brown sugar and walnuts and because it doesn’t require thought or effort for chewing. I think pasta – not that nasty cardboard-y whole wheat stuff – is amazing and versatile and one of the best fast dinners you can put together. I make all our own bread with wild harvested yeast from a starter that’ll turn 10 this year. My kids find pastries and desserts they want to try and put the recipes in front of me because they know I’m a sucker and I’ll make anything that seems like a challenge.

I know I’m not alone. Besides it’s impossible to give up carbohydrates unless you eat nothing but straight fat and straight protein. While I’d adore an all-butter diet, it’s not really something you can live on. Eventually you’re going to eat a carb. And then what?

So the thought that someone would be dumb enough to tell a classroom full of diet-challenged students – people she’s trying to motivate into making long-term lifestyle changes – that they could never eat carbs again really gets to me. Because it’s not that simple, it’s not the truth, it’s doing nothing to educate them. And one day someone is going to do just a tiny bit of research and find out exactly how wrong she is.

Which brings me to the conversation with my spouse, which we have as I’m waiting for my toast to pop. “Did she tell people all carbs or just simple carbs?” I ask.

“All,” he says.

“Did she explain that carbohydrates like pasta and oatmeal in moderation and with other foods would be okay? That you don’t really give them up but you may want to limit them somewhat or focus on adding more fiber into the diet?”

“No,” he says.

“Did she go into any detail about how the body breaks down food, why she’s hell bent on people shunning all carbs at breakfast, even though you and I both know that’s ludicrous?”

“No,” he says. I ask why not. His response: “People wouldn’t understand. They don’t want to know.”

It’s shit like this that gets me because I’m positive that if people did know and didn’t just take messages they hear for granted and dug into a subject a little more deeply, they’d get it. They’d understand that it’s okay to have a bowl of grape nuts but mix them with fruit and they’d work to avoid too many processed foods and sugars. They’d understand that it’s because your body burns off the carbohydrates you take in as food first before it gets around to burning off the fat sitting on your thighs. And they’d understand more about why she’s saying “no carbs” and how wrong that oversimplification really is.

“People don’t want to know all of that. They just want to hear something easy,” he says. I’m appalled. I know he gets it – he’s a scientist and understands how the body metabolizes food, even if he doesn’t bother to feed his body the right stuff, which is how he landed in this Fattest Loser experiment anyway. But everyone wants to learn, right?

I’m even more appalled when he says that marketers are the problem. I’m a marketer. And I’m appalled because in some sense he’s right.

The first thing you learn as a marketing writer is to focus on the benefits, not the features. Because consumers don’t want to know what, they want to know why – or so we’re told. So if you have a notebook with a yellow cover that makes people smile, it’s not the yellow that you focus on – you focus on the fact that the notebook makes you happy. I’d never really thought about why we do that in marketing before but listening to what my spouse says, I realize that as sellers, we don’t think people want to be bogged down with details because that would require people to think, to weigh options and to come to the conclusion of what’s right for them on their own. We really need to cut to the chase and tell consumers what’s right for them BECAUSE WE KNOW SO MUCH BETTER THAN THEY DO. A cheery notebook. That’s what they need. Yellow? Who cares.

I bring up the Neil DeGrasse Tyson quote when I realize I’m part of the problem. “So really,” I say,”I’m the reason people believe Rush Limbaugh and Fox News rather than looking at the facts for themselves. I’ve been contributing to the problem I complain about repeatedly for 25+ years. Because I’ve been force-feeding them the details about how things will make them feel rather than letting them figure this out on their own.”

“Nah,” he says. “Most people just don’t want to think about the details regardless of what you say.”

“Does that mean they wouldn’t even think about issues if no one told them how to think? Be happy for no reason except that they weren’t burdened with knowing the truth about anything beyond their line of site?”

“Yeah,” he says. “It’d be like Provo.”

That makes me very sad. Because Provo, Utah, while beautiful, is one of the most fucked up places ever. Where people live in their own world that doesn’t extend beyond church and family and church again. If you smile, you’re happy. Blissfully ignorant.

My toasts pops just then and my son walks into the room, obviously called by the toaster.

“That for me?” he asks.

“No,” I tell him. “Besides, carbohydrates will make your penis fall off.” It’s a test. I want to see if he’s a thinker.

“No, that’s gluten. And it doesn’t make your penis fall off. It’ll shoot off from your body like a rocket.”

I had no idea.

“I learned that from Southpark,” he says.

K, I can buy that. It’s about as reasonable as Fox News or giving up carbohydrates for life. Thankfully, though, I don’t have a penis.

3 things people hate (a.k.a., what I learned this week)

Gotta love it when you learn something new.  This week, I learned three new things that people hate. Here they are.

  1. Carbohydrates. Really, when I started looking into this, a slice of toast in hand, I felt painfully out of touch. But it turns out that carbohydrates are the root of all evil. Headaches? Overweight? Can’t sleep? Falling behind on your car payment? Apparently carbohydrates are to blame. My favorite lesson learned is that if you eat carbohydrates in the a.m., your body eats those instead of burning off fat, so you should eat protein instead. But then doesn’t your body start feeding off the protein instead of the fat it could be burning?
  2. Hillary. I listened to a pretty incredible NPR story and found out just how much people hate Hillary. Turns out she’s planning to do all sorts of awful things – take away their guns, force them to have healthcare, continue building on what Obama has done. It’s just plain scary. And – YIKES – she regularly sports a vagina. I understand she has it with her at all times, even at those rallies. A valid opinion AND a vagina? She must be some sort of super villain. No wonder they’re scared. Why isn’t she home cooking pot roast?
  3. Anything at the Sundance Film Festival. Having lived in and around Park City, Utah, for more than 20 years, I know that hating film fest is an annual tradition (rightfully so if you’ve ever been to A-hole Foods in town). Those bastards show up, pump money into the economy, use buses and bring 10 days worth of artsy culture with them. While I’ve seen the hatred wane considerably in the past two decades, people finally got their acts together again sufficiently to start hating again this year. I even heard at least half a dozen residents dredge up the old PIB (people in black) acronym again. Ah, yes, good times. Sadly I once again decided to attend some of the films – which makes me a traitor. I should know that my true place is sitting behind a limo at a traffic light, cursing.