Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Facebook and the Temptations of a Teenage Boy

As a mom of a 13-year old boy, I find Facebook a sort of treasure chest that's waiting to open up a whole host of secret delights. Treasure or it could be a Pandora's Box couldn't it? I guess that's just the risk you take when you give your teens consent to set up their own Facebook accounts.

Denying a teenager a Facebook  account is denying them their social freedom and their way of staying in touch with their friends. (At least that was the one key argument that I heard before I relented and allowed Facebook.) I'm doing what I can to keep tabs on my kids and Facebook is just one tactic that I employ. I've heard about all of the evils of Facebook and the teenage set—cyber-bullying, inappropriate pictures that get posted, and comments lodged out into cyberspace that a kid wouldn't dare utter in a face-to-face conversation. I understand all of that and so far have not had much of a problem.

I've learned some interesting things about my teenage son via Facebook. This should come as no surprise to him because it is all out there on Facebook anyway. I think of it as a portal.

My son has a "Friend" who is a girl who happens to post on his Facebook page quite often. She thinks he is the "hottest guy alive!" Okay, maybe that's one relationship to keep an eye on. Sometimes I'll run across a random, but incredibly obnoxious, post slamming a least favorite teacher at school. That post must immediately be removed. Then there was the Facebook-driven rumor that started about having a Call of Duty (COD) X-Box gaming party during our Confirmation class one evening.  For those of you who don't know, COD is one of the most violent and expletive video games out there and not really a church friendly game. Needless to say I nixed the Confirmation COD party. Then there was the Facebook account that he set up for his 9-year old brother who was desperate for his own Facebook. Under the alias of Bob Huffle, the 9-year old's Facebook account was short-lived. I'm always the spoiler, but at least I'm a presence.

I've also learned that the true treasures of Facebook and teenage boys also lie in taking a peek at their "Friends" accounts. That's where you can really learn a lot about what is going on with your kid. It's not that he doesn't confide in me and I have resort to Facebook, it's just that there is a different side to him that appears on Facebook. I want to keep tabs on that side of him as well.

I do very regularly monitor his account and the account of his 15-year old sister. They are quite aware that I check up on them through Facebook; it's one of the criteria for having a Facebook page in the first place. No parental monitoring = no Facebook. I believe that parents who do not "Friend" their kids are just asking for trouble. Some teens may consider this "spying" on them. Yes, it is complete spying, but I do not have a problem with that. How else would I know that I'm the Mom of the "hottest guy alive!" I feel so honored.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My AVEDA Addiction

AVEDA then.
Never used the Clove stuff,
 but imagine the bottle reads Chamomile
The year is 1983. The place is the middle of nowhere Central Wisconsin. The girl is short, blonde, incredibly stylish on her limited "Sophomore in High School" budget, and desperate for a change to her horrible 80s hair. Enter AVEDA.

In not sure if AVEDA Concept Salons existed in Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1983 but my stylist Cindy first introduced me to AVEDA. At her Barbers Hair Salon she used and effectively hooked my teenage self on AVEDA Chamomile Shampoo and Conditioner. I can still remember the fragrant aroma of chamomile wafting out of that bottle of shampoo and the 1970s-era, signature brown AVEDA bottle with yellow flowers on it. I've been addicted ever since.

If you've ever used AVEDA products, the scent is what draws you in. Heavenly, serene, calming, earthy. Then you use the product and it works like a dream. You're hooked. And I don't mean it wears off or loses it's vitality after a few months. AVEDA products are keepers!

But wait, there's more. From the packaging to the product in bottle, it's environmentally friendly. People who know me know that I'm not an extreme "tree-hugger," but I do greatly respect companies that are green. AVEDA has been "green" long before the green movement ever gained momentum and global popularity. All of their products are plant-based, tested humanely, and safe. With the recent headlines about lead in most of the leading lipsticks on the market, I'm pleased to say that I can eat my lipstick if I choose. It's perfectly safe.

AVEDA now.
A selection from Christianna's AVEDA collection
I'm proud to admit that I've been loving my AVEDA products for over 30 years now and have no intention of stopping. There are very few brands out there that I consistently use and promote but AVEDA is clearly at the top of my list—a happy AVEDA addict from 1983 to 2013!

Monday, February 20, 2012

10 Reasons Why a Balmy Winter Really Isn't All That Bad

My snowless Minnesota
Being well aware of the impending snowstorm about to descend upon the Twin Cities, I'm reveling in the snow-free view from my window and a current temperature of 41°. Having lived through far too many sub-zero and snowy winters, I'm loving our crazy warm streak. Here are a few reasons to embrace an unusually balmy winter.

  1. No need to pull out the snowblower. Mine has sat quietly in the garage the entire winter. The kids do put the snow shovels to use when we get an inch or two.
  2. Less mess in the mudroom. I have no piles of sopping wet snow pants, soaked mittens, or snowy parkas hanging all over the mudroom. This means no piles of melted snow to dodge and eventually wipe up.
  3. No snow mountains to maneuver around. Since we've had only a mere 10 inches of snow all season and most of that has melted away, there are no towering mountains of snow on every street corner. If you've ever driven in the Upper Midwest in the dead of winter, you know what I mean. These mountains of piled up snow are nearly impossible to see around when you're driving.
  4. You can still ski. Downhill, not cross-country, and you must seek out a ski resort that makes decent snow. The snow at Afton Alps was spectacular yesterday, and who wouldn't love to go skiing when the thermometer is pushing 50°!
  5. Football games continue. The boys can still play football outside on the frozen tundra. Even though we have no snow cover, the ground remains solidly frozen and not muddy. As long as no one hits the ground too hard all is good.
  6. No loud snowmobiles cruising around. For those of you who love snowmobiling, yes the lack of snow does stink. But for those of us who don't enjoy the loud revving of snowmobile engines at all hours of the day and night, it's not so bad.
  7. No worries about your pick-up truck falling through the ice. Our warm winter temperatures and lack of snow have rendered the area lakes and ponds unsafe for cars or SUVs. Sorry to say, you'll just have to walk on out to your favorite ice fishing hole and leave your truck parked safely on shore.
  8. Keep those snow boots packed away. No snow or ice equals no need for those clunky heavy boots. Not quite sandal or flip flop season yet but who knows what next week may bring?
  9. The occasional inch or two will melt away. I'm hoping that this will be the case with our incoming snow later today. I must admit that I haven't minded missing out on my daily "shoveling off of the driveway" routine. 
  10. It's Minnesota. It's winter. It's WARM! But it's been consistently warm for months now. Yes at times I do miss the snow but not the cold. I'm thoroughly enjoying the 2012 Winter That Wasn't. I hope it holds through the start of baseball season in April.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Intimate Moment With the TSA

The standard blue latex exam gloves do make an appearance.
There is just nothing like a 6:45 am Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pat down to get your adrenaline going. Now that experience will wake you up, and it's much more stimulating than a cup of coffee!

Actually I have my son Jack to thank for my Friday morning TSA experience at the Minneapolis International Airport. He was the one who set off the random metal detector alarm. I haven't seen Jack so wide-eyed in a long time. We were both very relieved when the TSA agent said I could take his place for a pat down. My lucky day.

Here are a few things I learned from my TSA pat down that may help if you ever have a future TSA exploit:

  1. Time Really Doesn't Matter All That Much to a TSA Agent. They have all day and seem to enjoy taking their time. Obviously checking your watch, sighing loudly, urging the agent on, anxiously looking past security for your family. None of that helps.
  2. Send Everyone Else in Your Party On Ahead to Fetch Coffee. No sense everyone hanging around watching you get groped by a complete stranger in full public view. You'll appreciate that coffee afterwards.
  3. Don't Offer the TSA Your Shoes. If you happen to set off a random "Russian Roulette" alarm, the TSA will offer to run a test on one of your items. Offer a glove or your cell phone instead. They took my clogs. Of course they didn't pass the "scan" because I'd been walking all over the airport and the filthy parking lot. Failing the clog test set me up for the dreaded TSA pat down.
  4. Have a Sense of Humor, If You Can. Don't be upset that you're having a stranger touch you in intimate places in full view of all of the other travelers waiting in line at security. They will all be looking at you with this shocked and appalled look on their faces. Just smile and wave. They will instantly look away, secretly happy it's not them getting groped in public.
  5. Keep Any Snide Comments to Yourself. Goes without saying unless you want to end up detained in a little room instead of on your flight.
  6. Relax and Enjoy the Ride. There's really not much you can do about it except get yourself in deeper trouble by creating a scene. Let's just say that pat downs have changed a bit since my last pat down in 1988. At least they wear gloves in 2012!
I'd say the most annoying part of my TSA experience was the TSA agent's leisurely pace. She slowly snapped on those latex exam gloves, chatted to her TSA agent co-worker, and certainly took her time throughout the entire ordeal. I'm just relieved that the TSA decided to subject me to the humiliation of a public pat down instead of my young son. The TSA agent did proudly announce that they do routinely pat down kids. Nice. 

This irksome episode does make me wonder if we are really spending our scarce security funding wisely by patting down middle-aged Moms who clearly do not have an agenda to take down a 747. Maybe a better use of federal time and money would be tracking down REAL terrorists. I think I've proven that I'm not a threat to our national security; neither is 9-year old Jack. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sears Success—Front Loader From Hell Replaced

Sometimes I think that I have really bad karma when it comes to washing machines. This realization hit me as I frantically punched the buttons on my brand new Whirpool top loader. The SENSOR and POWER lights continued to flash, and the washer wouldn't run. All that was running though my head was: This cannot be happening again!

Of course this was an hour after the Sears installers left, taking my old, misbehaving top loader with them. The new Whirpool was all ready to go, and the installer put a tub cleaning pellet into the machine and started the cycle. As he left the house, he assured me that the tub clean cycle on this new washer would start after a few minutes of sensoring.

After 30 minutes of sensoring and flashing lights, I started pushing buttons and turning dials. I unplugged it and plugged it back in. I checked the water taps and flow. An "Ahh Ha" moment! One of the installers forgot to turn the water on. Turning the water on was a seemingly easy fix. With the water now back on, all of the lights on the machine continued flashing with no wash cycle starting. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Instead I did the logical thing and called the installers on their cell phone. They were none too pleased to come back to my house, but after a thorough check and pushing of buttons, they couldn't get it to work either! The main installer guy called Sears and proceeds to chat away in Spanish with customer service before handing the phone over to me. Sears has decided that my new machine is not operating properly (yes, I already knew that) and they will happily have this new machine hauled away and replaced with a new one. However they have no new machines available in my area for another 2 weeks! As you can imagine, I'm ready to scream into the phone NO (choose your expletive) WAY!!! Instead I calmly explain that this solution is completely UNACCEPTABLE. Sears decides to have my old demonic machine hauled back into the laundry room and reinstalled until a new one can be found, leaving the new (and now broken) Whirlpool washing machine out in the garage. Lucky me, two broken machines.

My washing machine installer friends are not at all happy about this solution as they now have to haul two machines up two flights of stairs. As I'm frantically searching for a 12-pack of beer to send along with them when they finish, the main installer calls for me. "Your new washing machine is now working, see!"

He's right. By some miracle it's started working! The miracle presents itself as water taps that were not turned fully on. Note to self . . . the next time you have a washing machine installed and they leave the house without turning the water supply back on, it is okay to turn the water on full throttle. So now everyone is joyeous—me, the washing machine installer guys, the kids and their friends who are watching this drama unfold—complete happiness.

Finally the conclusion to my front loader from hell story. In the end, Sears did the right thing. Although it took them 6 months and numerous wasted hours of repairs and phone calls, Sears ultimately did replace my old lemon front loader with a new high-quality top load washing machine! At last, my leaky and stinky machine is gone. I'm pleased to report that the new Whirpool top-loader is running like a dream without leaks, stains, or smells. End of story.

Out with the old LG lemon machine
In with the new

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tax Money at Play—Welfare Payments Going to Strip Clubs and Casinos

Imagine that you are a welfare recipient in Nevada. Let's say Las Vegas. The state of Nevada issues you an Electronic Benefits Transfer card (sort of like a debit card) that is loaded with cash that you are supposed to use for basic needs for you and your family. You know—food, shelter, and clothing. The necessities of life.

Instead of using your welfare debit card on feeding your family and paying the rent, you decide to spend a chunk of that money on gambling at a casino, booze, and a strip club thrown in for fun. Who will ever find out and if they find out, who is going to stop you from spending your welfare money on "adult" entertainment?

BUSTED!!! On Wednesday, the US House of Representative passed legislation preventing welfare recipients from spending their welfare benefits on alcohol, strip clubs, and gambling. This was lumped into a bill to extend a 2% cut in payroll taxes, but it worked. Believe it or not, 26 Members of Congress actually voted against this legislation. I'd love to hear their reasoning for supporting welfare money being spent on alcohol and strip clubs.

Isn't this sort of a no-brainer? I'm actually surprised this was even possible in the first place and that restrictions weren't already in place prohibiting welfare benefits from going toward "adult" entertainment. If you were on welfare, wouldn't you already feel guilty about taking taxpayer's money and make an honest effort to get yourself off of welfare?

Maybe for some, it's easier to stay on welfare and have US taxpayers fund your gambling habit.  If this is how the US welfare system operates, it's truly in dire need of a major overhaul. This piece of reform legislation is a step in the right direction.