Where the hampster wheel always turns

About Me

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Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

Growing Up

Friday, December 30, 2011

As our little family travelled home after our Christmas celebration I was marveling at how far we had come. I watched harried, stressed parents lug strollers, car seats, diaper bags, and a herd of infants and small children through the airport I was so grateful we had passed that stage. Each of our three children had packed and were pulling their OWN suitcase through the airport. It was an amazing feat, especially for the type of "vacation" we celebrated.

Because I was not in charge of picking, we travelled to glorious Yellowstone National Park, which was a not-so-glorious 12 degrees.

Unlike other vacations, because our children have grown into relatively independent people who manage their own poop, change their own clothes and occasionally brush their own teeth we transitioned from me managing five people, to me counseling five people and then letting them suffer the consequences of their inattention to that counsel. We did have a few exchanges that made me want to whap certain of them on the back of the head such as: "I didn't pack the thermal underwear you set out for me because I didn't think I needed it." and I don't want to wear that parka, it's not "cute."

Fortunately, 12 degrees had a way of getting my point across better than I did.

We survived the whole ordeal, I mean vacation, with all our limbs intact and no one suffering hypothermia - most importantly me.

And now, we were on our way back to sunny, warmer Arizona. As we readied for our flight I counseled the kids on how and what to pack and where to pack it. I admit, the whole travel "security" thing is absolutely ridiculous. Confiscating hair gel and tweezers, removing our shoes, patting down grandma... I have never felt so safe.

The kids has purchased some souvenirs of the trip: keychains, magnets, and a laser-engraved pocket knife with their name spelled correctly. In our family it's a rarity to find any pre-made item with our names on it. Despite the impossibility of Disneyland having a magnetic license plate with Aselin on it, I still spent my childhood searching every kiosk I passed. I had to settle for a vandalized Vaseline container with the V and the E colored in blue. Lest you slip into a state of unseemly jealousy because your only personalized childhood collectable did not contain an ancient, well-used container of V - aselin - E, I did also have a book my grandparents ordered with a giraffe named Nilesa (hold it up to a mirror) who got into mildly entertaining antics. Now I know you want to be me.

You can't.

Sad for you.

So back to the airport. I was watching these families try and navigate the very poorly designed security checkpoint laden like pediatric pack mules and I empathized as well as swelled with pride that we were passed that stage in life and my kids were all self sufficient and packed their own stuff. Unnamed child #2 was particularly conscientious and asked if they had to remove their ipod, camera and rechargers for them to inspect. Being the expert I am, I assured them those items could remain in their Buzz Lightyear carry-on backpack.

Going through the security station all five of us took off our jackets, de-shoed, removed computers, and somehow made it through the naked scanner (A side note, I don't believe a single thing they tell you about the naked scanner. The amount of radiation you're exposed to, the "fact" that they can't see who you are, store or send the images - dealing with the caliber of TSA worker I do believe they can't figure out how to do those things but I do not believe the capability does not exist) and were coming out the other side when the conveyor belt stopped. Uh oh.

A rather androgynous person's presence was requested by the scanner manner, and they poured over the screen pointing rather animatedly. With a unanimous nod, the conveyor was restarted and the "person" reached in and grabbed the Buzz Lightyear carry-on backpack asking aloud, "Whose is this?"

Poor Unnamed child #2 raises their hand and follows the "person" over to a searching station. I feel a little bad since maybe I'm not the expert I thought I was and they should have removed their ipod...oh who am I kidding. I didn't think that. I thought - this will be a good experience for them and I hope their grandparent's visit Salt Lake City federal prisons since it's a little out of my way.

The Buzz Lightyear carry-on backpack has the capacity of an average cantaloupe. It's a small bag, yet the search goes on, and on, and on. That kid had the thing PACKED. There was all kinds of gum, granola bars, trash, Yellowstone maps, Rubik's cubes

They stood there with the security guard saving all of us from terrorist Buzz Lightyear lovers. Finally, after all of us had completely re-robed, the violating item was discovered. A KNIFE!!!

I looked at the kid with the mother stinky eye and said, "WHAT??? We talked about packing knives through security - and really? A KNIFE???"

Unnamed Child #2 looked completely perplexed and embarrassed at the same time. They assured me they had completely forgotten about the knife their cousin had given them. In Unnamed Child #2's defense, the knife was smaller than my thumb and would have had trouble opening an envelope let alone taking over an airplane - but never fear, the friendly skies were safer that day as another kindle-reading absentminded teenager was prevented from traveling with a knife they didn't remember they had. Whew.

Don't tell anyone, but I did NOT turn off my cell phone for departure so I was ready to dial 911 in case any other hazardous dangers made it through the checkpoint.


Friday, December 23, 2011

It has been brought to my attention that some of my recent posts might be a little "stronger" than readers are used to. That was not the exact word that was used but I want to be gentle. We all know I cannot afford to offend even one of my four readers, and I certainly don't want to frighten anyone by letting them peek into my tiny brain so now, having felt like I purged my entire writer's block by venting a bit more "strongly" than usual, we will return to our normal programming.

Oh, and sorry I used the word crap.

OK, not really.

What I Learned Along the Way

Friday, December 16, 2011

I know it has been hard for everyone to miss, with all the fanfare and pageantry, but today I graduate from college.

This journey has been a long, convoluted road that started out with a plan, turned into a principle and ended up with me banging my head against a table.

Education in America has completely changed since I started my formal university education waaaay back in 1987. Heck, education in its current format would be completely unrecognizable to most of our founding fathers. Periodically I receive e-mail exams from the 1800's or early 1900's that no average American could pass today. Things that were considered basic skills not too long ago.

I think where we went wrong is offering "free" education to everyone. Education doesn't matter to most students anymore. Sit in any high school classroom and you will find a good half of them bored, unmotivated and uninterested. Lots of students can't meet basic standards and demonstrate basic skills. A high school diploma doesn't mean much in the real world anymore.

Because of that we all started going off to college. In my household it was assumed the kids (my sister and me) would go to college. So we did. I LOVED it, the whole college experience was created just for me. I had amazing instructors I can still remember even all these years later, and exhilarating moments of learning that can only be described as spiritual experiences. It was then I developed a cursory understanding and passion for quantum physics; I finally understood calculus; I learned basic writing skills I should have learned in high school and I got a bad grade in Public Speaking.

Then my plan was derailed and I had to drop out.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I return as an adult to the newfangled Online Education.

A vehicle where outdated material and inaccessible instructors ask students to regurgitate facts and ideas for a high price. No skills were honed, I was chastised more than once for trying to sound smart, and some of my political ideas - while requested by the assignment - did not mesh with the instructors and earned low marks. I suffered math classes with incorrect formulas, history classes with incorrect texts in the syllabus, instructors grading assignments against the wrong answer keys and a myriad of unacceptable and dare I say, unethical happenings.

I have pondered a couple of things in preparation for today.

Was it all worth it? Quite frankly, I don't know. What I received was not an enriching education. As of today I do have a piece of paper that may make it easier to get a job. So that is good and likely worth it.

What did I learn? I learned that we love to create bureaucracy. It doesn't matter where, but humans seem to make bureaucracy wherever they congregate. It defies logic, common sense and all of our preferences, but that doesn't seem to stop us. Over and over I heard, "you are right, but I can't do anything about it."

It doesn't seem to matter what we do, we set up organizations and then have people interface with the customer who have NO authority to do anything. The very last class I took was an economics class. For my final exam the school had a policy that all the assignments had to be graded before you could take the final. This was the course where they had been grading my assignments against the wrong answer key, so once I got that corrected, I was done with their arbitrary timeline.

Standing in the testing center requesting my final exam to a young student employee, we went the bureaucratic rounds. She finally, and I don't feel one bit bad about this, burst into tears and said she could get fired for requesting my final before the assignments were graded. I climbed up partway on the desk and with steam coming from my ears bullied my way through the stupid bureaucracy, took the exam, marched into the parking lot and burst into my own tears.

Sadly, even though this was the end of my University education, this will not be the end of my interface with stupidity. Every form of government, customer service, kid's schools - doesn't matter, someone has implemented rules the person talking to you can't get around. Rules to "protect you" that somehow have turned us all into people who completely understand the woman in front of us in line beating the clerk with her purse.

Hopefully I will get a few blog posts out of those beatings.

There Ought to be a Law

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recently my sister moved to Arizona. Not having lived by family before, I wasn't sure how this was going to work out. Much to her credit, she is not as weird as I remember from our childhood and has not wandered the streets topless or peed her pants once since arriving. (Both true stories from childhood that I may or may not have caused.)

So I have lived here 12 years and know about 15 people. Six of them acknowledge me when we accidentally run into each other in public. She has lived here a month and has a social calendar that would rival Halle Berry. She has had parties at her house and gone to parties every weekend and even some weeknights since she moved here. I can't say I'm jealous, because a) she's my little sister and that violates The Sibling Code and b) I don't really like parties much BUT one does like to be invited. Don't we?

Tuesday night, 'lil sis goes out to a cookie exchange. Who doesn't like a good cookie exchange. It's an excellent format for a party. Bring some of your yummy stuff and go home with a bunch of other people's good stuff. And it's EDIBLE! I'm all about free food.

Props to Sis because she generously figured out how to bring a guest, leave with extra platters of cookies and right after the party she delivered a giant platter of Christmas goodness to me! Gotta say, I would totally invite her to a party if I had one.

I'm looking over this gift from Heaven as it sits on my kitchen counter and I'm planning how I'm going to divvy up these delicacies among my family. You can probably guess that it is not going to be an equitable distribution. It's much more socialistic with me as the head dictator and the one with the greatest need.

I dictated to my minion that they were welcome to all the chocolate varieties - the chocolate chips, chocolate mallows, chocolate drizzles. Lest you get the wrong idea, and think I'm being magnanimous, I don't really like chocolate much. I was planning on having ALL the other cookies. The snicker doodles, gingerbread, pumpkin, and a divine looking fluffy sugar cookie with red sprinkles on top.

While this plan works with most of the fam, there are a few of them who would like to venture outside the chocolate parameters I have set and try a few other selections. This is highly frowned upon, especially before I have had a chance to peruse the non-chocolate stash I have amassed. I'm sitting in bed Wednesday night thinking about the platter of cookies, and think that if my children are anything like I was as a kid, they will try and get up in the middle of the night and eat all of my cookies. They would then blame it on each other and finally settle on the dog as the one who unwrapped the platter and ate only the non-chocolate cookies.

Of course, I can't fall victim to this plan; it would probably ruin Christmas. So without hearing so much as a clatter, I spring from my bed to consume sugar-matter.

Sorry, had to riff a little on 'Twas the Night.

Pattering down the hall toward the kitchen I get my heart set on the fluffy-looking sugar cookies. Turning on the oven light so I don't awaken anyone who might want to share, I peel back the plastic wrap and deeply inhale the cornucopia of freshly baked goodness.

I lift one of the fluffy-looking sugar cookies and it is so moist it crumbles a little to my touch. My heart skips a beat as I realize it's a delicate baked good, and I love it even more.

I break off a bite-sized piece and gently place it in my mouth, waiting for it's buttery goodness to melt into bliss...

...and then I gag, and choke a little and run to the sink to spit it out clawing at my tongue as it burns.

Not only is this cookie deceptive in its self-promotion, whoever made it should not be allowed to cook. Ever again. Ever.

Far from a fluffy, delicate sugar cookie, the baker - no, The Evil Poisoner - had put peppermint extract in the recipe. A whole cup. It was bitter with peppermint. So minty it was like 45 million Altoids were crushed up and put in one cookie. It was so unbelievably bad I was shocked at how bad it was. I'm typing with my pupils dilated and my mouth wide open I'm still so shocked.

Crushed, I bit the head off a gingerbread man and went to rebrush my teeth.

Fast forward to the next morning. I'm with my sister and say to her "Hey, did you try the cookie with the red sprinkles yet?"

She and her party-attending companion both made gagging motions and said they had thrown them out they were so bad. I mention that I had suffered neurological burns from the trauma of the poison peppermint cookie. We then started to talk about all the reactions people were having in the privacy of their own homes because of these horrible, awful, deceitful cookies. How if you fed one to a child they might have a seizure it was so spicy and bitter. I told my sister if I was ever in the presence of poison peppermint cookie baker that I wanted her pointed out. People need to be warned. She needs to be banned from potlucks, church socials and definitely cookie exchanges. Banned. She can bring napkins and watch the other people exchange cookies.


This is the stuff grudges are made of.

Normally this time of year, I do my very, very, very (sorry Mr. Heller former English teacher who disallowed the use of the word very in his class) best to avoid places where people go. Common, fun places most people love, like the mall. I do everything in my power to avoid the mall, especially now when all the rest of humanity is headed toward the mall.

I'm not so good with people, especially large, aimless, wandering crowds of people. They make me hyperventilate and get cranky because there is nothing efficient about mall people. (Sorry if you are a mall person, but I would still avoid you this time of year because if you are a mall person you are inefficient. )

So today, I need something at Target. Target is not the mall. It's a nicely laid out store where you can get in, get what you want and get out very quickly. Efficient people like Target. List people like Target.

Armed with my list I enter my local Target and sweep through the store in a efficiency fairy-like manner. People around me were impressed with my shopping efficiency; I think some of them wanted to be me.

I choose a lane to check out with a 20ish man-checker. Man-checkers totally get efficient shopping. They don't want to chat, they look at the people who have lined up in their lane and see each of us like items on a to-do list they want to check off as quickly as possible. Target man-checker may be my best choice this whole holiday shopping season.

As Target man-checker is working on the order in front of me I start to load my items on the conveyer belt. The problem with "the unload" is once you start, if they open up another lane you're out of luck. You have committed to your lane, and they take the person behind you. I don't worry. I'm in man-checker lane.

You think you know where this is going, don't you?

So as I'm unloading, a perky manager comes over and asks if she can take my hangers. My basket has a lot of clothes on hangers so of course I say yes. In my efficiency-calculating head this is going to work nicely, she will de-hang and I will unload and man-checker will fly through my order like a reindeer.

Perky manager loves my purchases. I cleaned out the clearance rack of boys clothes, and she feels the need to comment on every stinking one as she de-hangs it. She has positioned herself between me and the conveyer belt, and is de-hanging, oohing and ahhing, then neatly FOLDING each of my items. "Ooooh, a solid blue boy's t-shirt and it's only $2! This is fantastic!" Yep, I nod, but inside, I want to rip the hanger from her hand and beat her with it.

I'm trapped. I cannot get to the conveyer belt to unload the rest of my stuff. I cannot get the clothing away from her to de-hang on my own and for some unknown reason man-checker is standing there watching her. Not checking. Watching.

I look at the person behind me in line, who shakes her head at me knowingly. She knows, all my efficiency has been thwarted. Thwarted.

I give up unloading and move ahead of her hoping man-checker will GET TO WORK. It's then that I notice man-checker's wrist-to-elbow bandage wrapped arm. He looks at me and says, "I'm in a terrible amount of pain, sorry, I just needed to rest a moment."

What do you say to that? Man-up man-checker? No, I pretend I'm sympathetic, "What happened?"

"I really don't like to talk about it, but I severed three tendons."

Ahhh, of course. I pick the line with the "helpful" manager and the man-checker with the humiliating tendon severing accident.

Of course, then all I can think about is what sort of tendon accident is too embarrassing to talk about. My mind is aflurry. I'm guessing it involved a trampoline, other people man-checker's age and likely some alcohol. Maybe a skateboard, a trampoline, other man-checker friends and a lot of alcohol. Maybe fireworks, a skateboard, some homemade napalm, a trampoline, a switchblade, man-checker friends, a squirrel and a lot of alcohol and fire. I want to ask SOOO BADLY!!

But it's Christmas.

So I stand quietly in line, as severely injured man-checker tries awkwardly to check out each of my items and get them in a bag. It's so awkward, and he is mostly incapable, that I'm reaching over the counter and bagging my own stuff.

Meanwhile, manager is STILL commenting on my stuff, but to the lady behind me in line. When I notice this, and see that the lady is TOTALLY ignoring her by Facebooking on her phone, yet manager still goes on excitedly about the amazing clearance tshirt I found. I get the giggles.

Of course, both man-checker and manager think I'm laughing at them, which I am, but of course I am not going to admit because I may not be very smart but I'm not completely stupid. I think.

About 75 hours later I'm back safely in my minivan, slowly crossing "Target" off my list.

You Don't See That Everyday

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So the four of you that still check my blog with amazing dedication and regularity are to be commended. If there were a reward, you should totally get it, but I have no idea what kind of reward you should get because in all actuality you have a little streak of crazy in you.

Anyway, as you can tell, I have had a terrible case of writer's block. The writing process for me has traditionally been a conversation in my head I'm having with my imaginary reader. For years it has been a rather seamless endeavor, until this spring. Then, I had a deafening silence. Nothing to say. Certainly nothing interesting to say beyond a two-sentence Facebook post. This brevity has infused my life so deeply that this year I am not even writing the infamous Maloney Christmas letter. As Christmas letters go, I have to confess I have looked forward to it each year as I recap our average little family's foibles, mishaps and adventures. It is so irreverent, I have had people who don't even know us request to be on the list.

This year, I've got nothing. The absurd and interesting seemed to evade me all year.

Until today.

I looked out the window, through the pouring rain at my 9 month old puppy and she had shimmied like a monkey about 4 feet up a palm tree. It took me a second to wrap my brain around what I was seeing. Hugging the trunk of the tree with all fours, she clutched on, then slipped a little and fell backward into the surrounding bushes. She bounced back up onto her feet with such spring I could almost hear her say "I meant to do that!" as if she were looking around to see if anyone was watching.

My dog. Up a palm tree. In the rain. Of course.

Something inside me clicked and it was as if the Universe switched tracks, and all the uninteresting brushed aside and I had to tell you about the dog. Up a palm tree. In the rain.

I have no idea how to get her to do it again, but I think that is the fundamental component of the absurd. It doesn't repeat itself.

I do have confidence that the literal and metaphorical clouds have cleared and whether it's the dog, or the new teenage driver, or the myriad of eclectic that fills my life something interesting will happen tomorrow and I will need to tell you about it.