Tuesday, February 26, 2013

top ten Tuesday: simple pleasures.

With trying to plan a super awesome fantastic wedding (YOU GUYS THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY DECISIONS TO MAKE) and the grey Midwestern winter days, I can be a bit of a grump lately. That being said, it’s time for me to take a breath and appreciate some of the smaller things in life. They (don’t ask me who “they” are) say it’s the little things that make you happy, so for this top ten Tuesday, here are my top ten simple pleasures.

Burt’s Bees
There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need lip balm on them at all times, and people who don’t. I fall into the former category (obviously, or I wouldn’t have an entry dedicated to lip balm). They say (again with “they”) say that you can actually get addicted to lip balm, which I totally believe. My lips may not be chapped or dry, but if I don’t have access to lip balm, I won’t be able to think of anything but. (True story: I applied lip balm less than five minutes before writing this, and I already want more. Good thing I have some in my pocket.) However, not all lip balms are created equal. I was a Chapstick person all the way through junior high, but one day, my great uncle Burt brought me some Burt’s Bees. I don’t know if Uncle Burt used Burt’s Bees or if it was just because of the name. Either way, Uncle Burt introduced me to the brand, and my Burt’s Bees and I have been inseparable ever since. Even better: their flavors are fantastic. Pomegranate was my Burt’s Bees of choice for quite a while, but I’ve moved on to acai berry. I can hardly wait to try my next flavor (mango, I’m looking at you).

dresses and skirts with pockets
Partly (ok, mostly) because of my Burt’s Bees addition, I hate being without pockets. I work in a business casual environment, so most of my days are spent in dresses and skirts (because dress pants are THE WORST). But where shall I keep my Burt’s Bees? Luckily for me, one of my skirts and probably 60% of my dresses have pockets, and I love them all the more for it. Whoever decided to put pockets in dresses is a genius. Even the dress I’m wearing at my wedding reception has pockets… because I bet I’m still going to want Burt’s Bees on my wedding day!

fun socks
I’ve told you about my penchant for fun socks before, but I’ve just got to revisit the topic. I’ve been wearing nothing but patterned socks (save for the rare occasion when black dress socks are needed) for the better part of fifteen years. You’d be surprised at how quickly a neat pair of socks can liven up an outfit, plus matching socks after doing laundry is a billion times easier. I have quite a collection of socks, but some of the stand out as favorites: my crab socks and my candy corn socks come immediately to mind. As I write this, my socks are red damask (which sound a lot classier than they actually are). But seriously, if I had to wear plain white socks every day, I would be one sad lady.

a big stack of library books
Like the socks, I’ve already told you about how much I love libraries. When I was a kid, taking home a big stack of library books was the best thing EVER. I could pick out whatever I wanted (and it usually had to do with ghosts or Bigfoot or something weird), and my pile of books could keep me entertained for days. I would drag these books to the lake, to school, to restaurants… everywhere. When I lived in Denver, I couldn’t get a city library card without paying a $100 fee (I was an unpaid intern who worked part-time at the mall. $100? I DON’T THINK SO), so I had to be more creative. I a.) sat around the Denver Public library reading books until I got too hungry to stand it, b.) borrowed my uncle’s library card and visited the small suburban library near their house, and c.) scurried over to the downtown Barnes and Noble after work (“work” meaning “unpaid internship”) to try and score one of their tables. If I failed (the Barnes and Noble tables were highly sought-after), I’d be forced to sit in the Starbucks section, which meant I had to part with five of my precious dollars and buy a coffee beverage (on the bright side, that meant I could put off supper longer and spend more time reading). When I moved to Minneapolis (and was initially very poor), I was elated to find out that I could get a library card for no charge – I still held a South Dakota driver’s license, but that was fine as long as I could provide proof of a Hennepin county address, which I TOTALLY COULD. So big stacks of library books kept my moneyless self entertained for ages (and I have to say, the Hennepin county library system is AWESOME). When I moved to Sioux Falls, I got myself a library card that December… and a job at the library that February. Now, it’s my job to roam around the bookshelves all day, and I spend each and every lunch break plopped in a chair with a book. And if I finish my book? I’m still in the library, so all I have to do is wander out to the shelves and pick a new one. The possibilities are endless.

new shampoo or body wash
Some people find a shampoo brand and stick with it. I am not one of those people. Be it shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, makeup, or what have you, I seldom remain loyal to a cosmetics brand. If there’s one I really like, I’ll add it to a rotation, but it’s a rare occasion for me to buy it two times in a row. I like variety. When I go body wash shopping, I stand in that aisle and sniff absolutely everything. Sometimes, nothing that the body wash aisle has to offer is new and different enough, so I’ll end up with something tried and true. However, on occasion, there will be something new and fantastic-smelling on the shelves, and that’s what comes home with me. I tend to buy new body wash before the old body wash is used up, so the few weeks it takes to use up the old body wash are spent in agonizing anticipation (maybe “agonizing” is too strong, but you get the idea). The first day I use the new body wash/shampoo/whatever is always thrilling: will it make my skin glow? Will the shampoo make my hair lustrous and eliminate winter static electricity (FYI, all shampoo has failed to eliminate static electricity so far)? I don’t know, but when the day comes to use the new product for the first time, I’m always excited to find out!

not having to go grocery shopping
Note: not my actual cupboard. I've only ever
dreamed about cupboards this full.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but there is a direct correlation between how much you like to cook and how much you like to go to the grocery store. It should not surprise you, then, that since I do not enjoy cooking, I also do not enjoy the grocery store. My dislike for the grocery store is compounded by the fact that the place is usually a zoo. If you go at the wrong time, you risk loss of life and limb. I never enjoy grocery shopping, so that’s why NOT having to go is such a treat. I’m really good at putting it off until my cupboards are more or less bare, but if I run out of milk, it’s game over. I simply can’t go without milk, so that’s when I’ll brave the grocery store. But if I have plenty of milk (full cupboards are a bonus), that means that I don’t have to go to the grocery store. And that is wonderful.

casual Friday
I’ve bemoaned wearing tights and dress pants before, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to find out that dress clothes in general just are not my cup of tea. When I lived Minneapolis, I worked in an office whose sole redeeming quality was that you could wear jeans every single day. Nine times out of ten, I wore jeans to work, and it was fantastic. But then I got a real job (with insurance! whoa!) with a real dress code. Wearing business casual clothes certainly doesn’t kill me, but man, do I miss my jeans. That’s why I love casual Fridays. I can put on my trusty jeans (as long as there are no holes) and sneakers (which I also really miss during the week) and head to work. Working at the library has a really sweet hidden benefit as far as jeans go: if we have a holiday off on a day that’s not a Friday, we can wear jeans the day after. So you not only miss a day of business casual for the holiday itself, but you get an extra day with jeans. Example: we had President’s Day off, which was a Monday. That meant jeans on Tuesday AND casual Friday, so only TWO DAYS of dressing up for work! Hooray!

a fresh crossword puzzle
I love a good crossword puzzle. I don’t have a newspaper subscription, but I’ve seriously considered buying one just so I could have a daily crossword puzzle. (And yes, I know that you can buy crossword puzzle books, but I find those much less satisfying than the puzzles in the newspaper. I must be a snob.) When I worked at the coffeehouse in Morris, we used to get a couple of Star Tribunes every morning. If I worked the closing shift, I’d scout for the newspaper remnants before we threw them away – if I was lucky, the crossword puzzle would still be intact. I love the Star Tribune crosswords: they’re challenging enough to make you think, but easy enough to make you feel smart. The Brookings Register has a good puzzle, too: my dad, uncle Mike, and I can team up and get it done in less than four minutes. (I can tell you’re impressed.) Want to know the reason I finally got a smartphone? Not so I could have Facebook on my phone, or even the app where you whip your phone and it makes a whip-cracking noise (although that was probably the second most important reason). It was so I could have a crossword puzzle app on my phone, and my friends, I use it every single day.

crunching fall leaves
Fall is, hands down, my favorite season. I realize fall is an awfully long way away, but I spend all year looking forward to it. I love the fall colors, the crisp weather, the pumpkins, and Halloween! I originally wanted to get married in the fall, but now I’m kind of glad I’m not. James and I are getting married in the summer, so by the time fall 2013 rolls around, the wedding will be done and we can relax and fully enjoy fall. There are so many things I love about fall, but topping the list? Crunchy fall leaves. Nothing beats talking a walk on a lovely October afternoon and hearing the leaves crunch under your feet. I may be almost 26 years old, but I will still (and probably always) head out of my way to step on a particularly crunchy leaf. Some people never grow up.

getting mail
Few things are more exciting for me than receiving personal mail. Christmas card season is the best, and I look forward to my birthday mostly because I know I’ll get cards in the mail (that will be proudly displayed on my refrigerator until my next birthday). At the risk of sounding like an old person, I have to say that it’s kind of a pity that email has taken over. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good email. It’s fast, saves you a stamp, and you can attach a bazillion pictures without having to get them printed at Walgreen’s. However, for me, receiving an email will never hold the same thrill as getting a letter in the mail. When I was a kid (and before I had an email address), I would write all sorts of letters to my cousins in Colorado. Before I had a digital camera, I would mail big packets of pictures to my friend Sue in Connecticut. When my sister was in boot camp, I had a lot of fun sending her my wordy letters about what was going on in the outside world. In New Orleans, I sent tons of postcards. But now that I live in Sioux Falls and my life is officially boring, I don’t have much to mail. Now that I’m so used to typing out a quick email, it’s hard to find the time to sit down and write a letter. But you know what? I’d love to get back into the habit. Anyone want to be pen pals?!


As winter drags on and James’s and my wedding draws ever closer, let’s hope that these simple pleasures can get me through. If not, then I’m adding simple pleasure #11: a strong drink. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

let's talk about glasses.

I’ve had glasses for as long as I can remember. Specifically? Since I was five years old. I think I got my glasses within the first few weeks of kindergarten (a note from the teacher about me pitifully squinting at the blackboard comes to mind), and I certainly had them in time for school pictures. 
My cute phase lasted just long enough
for Lifetouch to take this photo.
Red has always been my favorite color, likely because my dad drilled the superiority of red tractors to green ones into his children from the day we were born. I picked out my first pair of glasses based solely on the flecks of red in their frames. No matter that they took up half my face: they were kind of sort of RED!

With this new pair of glasses, I discovered my one and only allergy: squishy nose pads. Glasses only come with the hard plastic nose pads now, but once upon a time, you could get these weird squishy ones that were supposed to be more comfortable. Within hours of getting my new glasses, the sides of my nose (right where the nose pads landed) became red and swollen. Back to the eye doctor we went. We traded the squishy nose pads for the hard plastic ones, and that was that. What a lame allergy.

I was the first kid in my class to get glasses, and it seemed like it took FOREVER for anyone else to join me in the nerd camp. My friends Sarah and Allison eventually were saddled with glasses, too, and I was so glad that I was no longer the only myopic dork in my circle of elementary school friends.

I think my early acquisition of glasses played a major part in me being really good at not losing stuff. Money meant almost nothing to me when I first got my glasses, but I understood that my responsibility for these wire frames was not to be taken lightly. In the very early days, I could wear my glasses to school and immediately remove them upon arriving home. When that was the case, I made sure I placed them somewhere I’d remember, but out of harm’s way. Sadly, it wasn’t long before my vision deteriorated enough for me to have to wear my glasses full-time. Poor vision and all, I still had swimming lessons and summers on Lake Poinsett and sleepovers and all sorts of potentially dangerous situations for my glasses, so I stored them carefully at all times, figuring that the loss of my glasses would result in the loss of the life and limb as well.

So I have yet to lose a pair of glasses (cheapy gas station sunglasses included). I have also yet to inflict real damage on a pair of glasses: if you remember from A Christmas Story, Ralphie sums it up perfectly when he says that “nothing brings such swift and terrible retribution on a kid as a pair of busted glasses.” I never experienced said retribution, but I was not about to find out. The only time my glasses sustained any harm was the time in PE when I got hit the face during dodgeball (reason number 252 why I hated PE, but that’s a story for another time).

Over the approximate two decades (holy shit, two decades?!) I have had corrective vision, I have had six pairs of glasses… many of them horribly dorky. I began, of course, with those kindergarten glasses that made me look like some sort of an insect. When I was eight or nine, I decided it was time for an upgrade and thusly switched to my round John Lennon glasses.
Seventh grade. On the bright side,
NO ONE looks cool in seventh
grade, so it's not just me.
I was totally jealous of my classmates and all their super-cool clip-on sunglasses, so I made sure my John Lennon glasses came equipped with clip-ons. They had the big bar across the top to hold them in place, and I thought I was really cool… until everyone else started getting contacts. I wasn’t ready to touch my own eyeballs on a daily basis, so when I was thirteen, I picked out a pair of blue frames with MAGNETIC clip-ons! YES, MAGNETIC! It didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off, and I was kicking myself for not taking my parents up on their offer of contacts sooner.
Ninth grade, and PS: WTF is going
on with my hair?!
Three years later, I was the proud owner of super-strength contact lenses. Life was SO GOOD! I could go swimming and still see what was going on, and I could wear real sunglasses for the first time in more than a decade. Plus, it was a whole lot easier to put on mascara… not that I wore mascara until well after I got contacts, but let’s just say that I never wore it with glasses because it was too hard to see what I was doing. Certainly not because I was just lazy and fairly apathetic about looking decent. Nope, I’m sure that wasn’t it.

 As you know, even if you have contacts, you need a pair of glasses around so you can see well enough not to crash into walls after you’ve taken your contacts out for the night. I kept my metallic blue frames until I was a freshman in college, at which point I upgraded to my first-ever pair of plastic frames. 
Circa 2006. Don't ask why I'm in James's coat.
How trendy was I? My old blue glasses were more like dark secret glasses that I hoped no one saw when I snuck to the shared dorm bathroom every morning, but with these new glasses, I could actually wear them in PUBLIC! That, of course, meant less wear-and-tear on my contacts. More importantly, it meant that I could get up just a tiny bit later and still make it to my 9.15 class. Go me.

I met my now-fiancée James on the very first day of college. He was one of those lucky souls blessed with decent vision, and he didn’t get glasses until the summer after our sophomore year. We weren’t dating at this point, but I’m pretty sure James’s glasses played a major role in us getting together. Turns out that a man in glasses is far preferable to a man without glasses in Calla World. I swooned. (A few years later, when James was toying with the idea of getting contacts, I practically begged him not to. Yes, it was pathetic, and no, he never got contacts.)

During my senior year of college, I asked for a new pair of glasses for Christmas – partly because I was ready for new frames, and partly because my time on my parents’ good insurance was running out. I selected a snappy pair of red frames (remember how I like red?). What I really wanted was a pair of glasses without frames at the bottom (picture), but my prescription is so strong that it just wasn’t possible. With such a strong prescription, the lenses have to be pretty thick (NERD ALERT), and my lenses are way too thick not to be held in at the bottoms. So I settled for a very thin wire holding my lenses in place, and I proceeded with looking like a librarian for four years.
We were walking home in a blizzard. Forgive my facial expression.
I got these new glasses over winter break, so they were pretty new when I returned to college for my final semester. I had been working at a little coffee shop since the beginning of the school year, and they were remarkably flexible with class schedules. That semester, my classes began at 1030 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 8am on Tuesdays and Thursdays – the only 8am class in my entire college career. My days were pretty full, as I was taking 20 credits, playing in the jazz and concert bands, working on-campus, and working for the newspaper, aka trying to squeeze every last bit of college experience out of my remaining semester before being thrown into the real world. Anyway, there wasn’t a lot of spare time for my coffee house job. My bosses scheduled me on evenings and weekends when they could, and they managed to find three shifts a week that were all mine: the opening shift on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I was to be at the coffee house at 6am to have it open for business by 7am, and I would stay there until 10 o’clock when it was time for me to make my way to class.

I have never been an early riser, so this was pretty tough on me. I wasn’t about to get up any earlier than I absolutely had to, so that meant I would forgo my contacts and wear glasses. I did the same for my 8am class. I would wear my glasses for the first part of every day and switch into my contacts when I had time to go home in between classes. Since I was in college and couldn’t go to bed on time like a responsible person, I spent most of my final semester being tired. Therefore, in my primitive brain, red glasses = tired. After that grueling semester, every time I wore my red glasses, I Pavlovian-dogged myself into being tired.

So that’s why I almost never wore those glasses outside of the house after 2009. Unless I was sick, I wore my contacts every day, whether I was going anywhere or not. Wearing those glasses out and about sort of made me feel less than presentable, like I had just rolled out of bed (as I did for so many of my coffee house shifts). Silly, yes, but that’s just how it was.

2013 rolled around, and I was ready for some new frames. I still don’t like to get up any earlier than I have to, and how delightful would it be not to have to put my contacts in once in a while? WAY delightful, that’s what it would be. So James and I headed to the mall, picked through the sale frames (as I didn’t want to spend more than a month’s rent on glasses, thank you very much), and settled on a pair that is less librarian, more awesome (and hopefully doesn’t teeter over into hipster territory).
I’ve had these frames for about a month now, and James is completely smitten with them. They’ve grown on me, thanks in no small part to their ability to hide how thick (NERD) my lenses are. Plus, I think they make me look smarter, and there are certainly days when I need all the help I can get.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

let's talk about The Notebook.

Valentine's Day is upon us. I have absolutely nothing against Valentine's Day: any holiday dedicated to eating candy is ok in my book. However, I'm not ok with the influx of chick flicks around this time of year. I've told you before about how I am not a romantic person, so chick flicks are never on my to-do list. Yet I'm going to review one of them for you.

As you may recall, the last movie review I wrote brought to light the greatest bad movie of all time (The Room, that is). Now, I am pleased to bring you the worst “good” movie of all time. Yes, folks, I’m talking about The Notebook.

If I so loathe movies such as this, you may wonder why I watched it in the first place. My friend Bob and I went to see it at the Bryant, SD movie theatre just to find out what all the fuss was about (and also because rural South Dakota is severely lacking in weekend activities for 17-year-olds who don't care for illegally obtained Bud Light). Bob and I both had a really tough time holding ourselves together... not because it was such a touching story and we couldn't contain our tears, but because it was so terrible that we had to do our best not to audibly gag. The rest of the theatre-goers must've been cut from a different cloth than us: I'm pretty sure Bob and I had the only dry eyes in the place. We stood up, declared our evening wasted, and went out to do bigger, better things. (Or maybe not, who knows.)

I realize that by proclaiming my feelings about The Notebook, I may put looks of disbelief and horror on many a female face. How could I not just adore such a beautiful love story? Please. It’s not that I’m cynical: just realistic.

Now, I refer to The Notebook as a “good” movie because it’s nowhere near the same league as The Room. The Notebook was made by a bunch of professionals, while The Room was basically some guy with a camera and a crazy idea. Unlike The Room, the acting in The Notebook is not particularly bad, and the plot more or less makes sense. So if all that other stuff is ok, what’s my problem with this movie?

First of all, let me mention that this movie is a long and painful 124 minutes. Who in their right mind would want to sit through a LOVE STORY that long? The plot is also a major deterrent. To put it simply, it makes me gag. I know I said that the plot makes sense, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible. It’s full to the brim of predictable “twists” that are supposed to warm your heart, but only produce excessive eye-rolling on my end. I’m going to give away some of the film’s aforementioned plot twists in this synopsis, so if you haven’t seen the movie/read the equally sappy book by Nicholas Sparks (and genuinely want to), I suggest you stop reading this article and acquire the movie/book. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Notebook is one of those films with parallel plots set in different time periods. We follow young Noah and Allie in the 1940s, and old Duke and Miss Hamilton in the present. Most of us can guess just what is up with that.

I’ll start with the youngsters. Of course, this part of the story is set primarily in the 1940s South, location and time period of all things romantic. Noah (played by Ryan Gosling - only redeemable by his presence in the "hey girl" meme)...
 ...is the poor-but-happy-and-of-course-very-handsome young man who can’t convince the rich-but-unhappy-but-he-wants-her-anyway Allie (Rachel McAdams - all full of oddly-placed moles and shrieking giggles) to go out with him. He does. They fall in love in approximately thirty seconds. He teaches her to be spontaneous and learn to relax. Allie’s rich parents don’t like him, so they send her away to somewhere rich people go.

All of this is very run-of-the-mill love story. After all, didn’t we see much of the same in Titanic?
They were WAY more interesting.
I must also mention that Noah is an insufferable cheeseball. Towards the beginning, he follows Allie around and spouts crap like “I had to be next to you,” “I was drawn to you,” and similar garbage. I don’t know about you, but this is certainly not the way to my heart. I’m sure that those who love and cherish this movie and all its pickup lines would disagree, but I’d say this is the way to a restraining order.

Anyway, back to the 1940s. So Allie’s at some fancy house in some fancy neighborhood on the East (where romantic things DON’T happen - that belongs in the South, you know). Noah writes her letters. Allie’s mother hides them. Noah joins the Army JUST IN TIME for World War II (primarily so girls could swoon over Ryan Gosling in a uniform). He comes back, buys a house (the SAME ONE that he and Allie ALMOST had an overemotional sex scene in years before - clever, huh?), fixes it up, sees Allie kissing some other guy, grows a beard, and becomes a hermit… like you do.

This “other guy” of Allie’s is some soldier she fixed up back in her Army nurse days. He’s rich = Allie’s parents love him = instant engagement. Allie finds a picture of Noah and his house (while she’s trying on her wedding dress, of course) and goes to visit him, and they have all sorts of good clean country fun (such as rowing a boat through goose-infested waters). Then: “WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE ME?!” “I WROTE YOU EVERY DAY!” Pause, then sex. Of course, Allie’s mother finds her. They chat. Mom had the same experience (loved poor, married rich). Mom gives Allie the wad of old letters. Allie chooses Noah.

Switch to the old people. Duke and Miss Hamilton are in a nursing home. They’re pals. He reads her the story of Allie and Noah. Turns out that the book is about THEM! OMG! Turns out Noah and Allie are in a nursing home and Allie has senile dementia. She wrote the story for Noah to read to her, and occasionally, she remembers what’s going on. So skip to the end of the movie. Noah sneaks out of his room and joins Allie in hers. She remembers him. They cuddle and then die. Yes, really.

So that’s the story of The Notebook in a rather large nutshell. A lot of stuff happens, that’s for sure. I can see how it appeals to some people - you just have to be the “right kind” of people. I am not the right kind.

Maybe I am a heartless jerk. But seriously, we’ve all seen this song and dance before. It’s the standard formula for tons of love movies, so why is this one so special? It must be the goose pond.
I wish they were man-eating geese.
The movie expects you to believe so much: money absolutely DOES NOT make you happy, good-looking cornballs like Noah just WON’T LET YOU GO no matter how mean you are, and true love never dies and conquers all - even senile dementia. But let me tell you, I’d much rather see it in a Disney movie. At least they have songs.

So happy Valentine's Day to each and every one of you! Now go out and watch a REAL love story.
That's what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bjorklundosophy, volume I.

Every family has their fair share of inside jokes. My family is certainly no exception. Over the years, we’ve (“we” being my mom, dad, brother, sister, and me) amassed quite a collection of them, most of them stemming from cribbage (behind mocking each other, cribbage is our second most popular family activity). Though most inside jokes tend to become stale, ours only get better with age. If they stick around long enough, they’re promoted from inside jokes to catchphrases. We’ve accumulated some really good ones, so for this top ten Tuesday, I’d like to share the ten best Tim/Brenda/Calla/Darrah/Mitch catchphrases. I hope you’re ready for this.

We kicked their ass!
An ass-kicking in progress.
This phrase is used primarily for cribbage victories, and the pronouns must be modified accordingly. However, “ass” never becomes “asses,” no matter how many asses are kicked in whatever game we’re playing. It’s a collective ass, I guess. We use this expression anytime a game is won, but we’re especially enthusiastic if it’s a narrow victory. This particular phrase is all about the inflection, which is a bit hard to describe. Next time you see me, I’ll happily give you a demo – bonus points if it’s while we’re playing a game and I actually kick your ass. However, unless it’s Trivial Pursuit we’re playing, chances are good that you’ll do the kicking.

My clothes are going out of style.
I have professed my family’s love for The Sandlot a number of times on this blog, and it holds as true today as it did all those other times I sang its praises (and you said, “she’s seriously talking about The Sandlot? AGAIN?!”). 
We all love The Sandlot for its many fine qualities, but we love it most for its quotability. While we all quote from The Sandlot pretty frequently, there is one quote that surpasses them all: “My clothes are going out of style!” We say this when someone is taking a particularly long time to do something, like put their coat on or make a move in cribbage. This one is a two-parter, though: if someone says “my clothes are going out of style” to you, you must respond with “they already are!” It’s Sandlot gold.

I’m not sure where this phrase came from, but we use it in response to someone who is complaining about something when the complaining is unmerited. For example, the five of us returned from a trip to Mexico not too long ago. My fiancée James remained in snowy South Dakota. When I came back, I was suffering from a terrible sunburn, and I was shedding my skin like a snake (gross, I know). When I whined about my sunburn – acquired in paradise while James languished in the chilly Midwest – James rightfully responded with “Boo-freakin-hoo.”

This exclamation originated with cribbage as well: if you had a particularly good hand, you would should, “Cha-CHING!” This phrase has since seeped over into everyday life, mostly in regards to unexpected money: you get a surprise refund check from the electric company, you say “Cha-CHING!” You win a dollar from a scratch card, you say “Cha-CHING!” You find a quarter on the ground, you say “Cha-CHING!” No amount is too small for our cha-chings.

KMA, as you’ve probably surmised, stands for “kiss my ass.” My family has no problem cursing at one another, but for some reason, that phrase has been immortalized as an acronym. Once again, we primarily use “KMA” for cribbage battles. When someone (cough DAD cough) gets particularly gloaty about a good cribbage hand, you look him dead in the eyes and say, “KMA.” It’s water off a duck, but still!

Son of a BITCH!
Much like “we kicked their ass,” this catchphrase is all about inflection. Remember that scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie gets the Little Orphan Annie secret decoder pin and has to lock himself in the bathroom to decode the super-secret message and it ends up saying “be sure to drink your Ovaltine”? And then he’s all disappointed and says “Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a BITCH!” We adopted that exact inflection from A Christmas Story, and it’s been serving us well for years.

Can you hear my hair turning white?
Nobody uses this phrase except for Dad, but he’s earned it over the years. My family loves to tell stories, especially when they’re at the expense of others, and especially ESPECIALLY when Dad’s the one on the receiving end of some grief. For example: the April Fool’s Day story (when I convinced my boyfriend whom no one liked to call Dad on April Fool’s Day and ask for my hand) is a tried-and-true classic, and we tell it any chance we get. The recollection of Dad spluttering and gasping like a dying fish while trying to let Hipster Boyfriend down easily is etched into our memories forever. Whenever anyone tells this story, Dad will look plaintively at the listener and say, “Can you hear my hair turning white?” Other stories that evoke this reaction include my creepy New Orleans landlord (where my roommate stuck a note under my door telling me to get out while I still can) and basically any story where his dumbass kids are doing something stupid (which happens more often that it should, probably).

Mom’s drunk again.
This is the newest addition to our list, but I have a really good feeling about it. We were in Cancun at the beginning of January, and aside from drinking mojitos, people-watching was our number-one hobby. Mitch, Dad, and I were floating around the pool one morning when we saw a 40-something woman – drink in hand – ask her 10-year-old son to hoist her out of the pool, as she was too drunk to do it herself (I know she was on vacation in Mexico, but seriously, it was only 10am). Her son dutifully lifted her out of the pool, and she proceeded to tip over onto her back like a turtle. Surprise, she couldn’t get up on her own, so her poor kid was summoned to scrape her off the ground and deposit her in a chair. I looked at Dad and Mitch and said, “That poor kid. ‘Mom’s drunk again.’” A few minutes later, the drunk mom’s male companion showed up, and they began some serious face-sucking… all while that kid sat nearby and looked like he was wishing for death. Of course, we were still watching all this, so Dad said, “Again, that poor kid… ‘Mom’s making out with her boyfriend again… where’s Dad when I need him?!’” This phrase traveled back to my own mother, who was definitely the least drunk mom at our resort. Anytime Mom said or did something goofy, we said, “Mom’s drunk again!” Of course, “Mom” can be exchanged for anyone doing something stupid, but it all started with some poor kid’s drunk mother.

Red flag!
These last two catchphrases are the Big Kahunas of the group, so pay attention. As you know, a red flag generally means stop what you’re doing. When we use the term “red flag,” we’re generally pointing out flaws in significant others. When our friends Chris and Rachel got married, Dad went so far as to craft tiny red flags out of red tape and toothpicks.
They loved the red flags!
There are really two kinds of red flags: the ones we talk about in front of your significant other, and the ones we don’t. James has collected more we-say-it-to-his-face red flags than anyone I know, so much that Mitch taped tiny red flags to James’s Christmas stocking this year. Some of James’s red flags have been temporary (he lost a red flag when he got rid of his Delta 88), and all the rest are minor enough that we’re not afraid to tell him about them (which I’m sure he totally appreciates). Everybody has red flags, even me (I know, I know, you thought I was perfect). Of course, our good qualities are the green flags, but those aren’t nearly as fun to talk about.

I’m not saying you ARE fat…
My friends, this is not only a top-ten catchphrase, but one of my family’s favorite Christmas stories of all time. It was Christmas (year?), and every year, my mom made a photo calendar for her mother: my grandma Lorraine. I love Grandma Lorraine to pieces, but she is not afraid to let you know just what she thinks. Out of all her children, my mom lives the closest, so she bears the brunt of Grandma’s sass. Anyway, Grandma got this photo calendar for Christmas, and Mom had included a picture of her and her niece, Alana. 
This picture is infamous.
Grandma took one look at that picture and said, “Brenda, you look fat in this picture.” My mom’s jaw dropped. “MOM!” she said incredulously. Grandma countered with, “I’m not saying you ARE fat; you just LOOK fat!” Everyone (save for Mom and Grandma) proceeded to die of laughter. This particular gem – courtesy of Grandma Lorraine – has kept us entertained for years, especially if someone sets themselves up by asking how they look. Mom thinks it’s funny now, and we love nothing more than to retell this story at Christmastime. Some families read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and others read about baby Jesus. We tell the story of how Mom isn’t fat; she just looks fat… and everyone is filled with Christmas spirit!


After this extra-special glimpse into my family dynamic, I bet you feel like a bona fide member of the family now. Bonus points if you use one (or all!) of these next time you see us!