Tag Archives: childhood

Birthdays are Weird

My birthday is in August, but don’t worry, I’m not going to write a post about everything I’ve learned or done in the past year. This is because a) I don’t remember what I did 10 minutes ago b) I write about enough crap on here c) I forgot the third reason.

See? I think I just proved my first point.

Anyway, even though I like celebrating everyone else’s birthday, I don’t like my birthday. It’s not because I hate getting older as much as I just don’t really like the hype or expectations.

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But when you overthink about it, birthdays are weird. People celebrate you for doing nothing more than pushing your way out of your mom’s lady parts after causing her heartburn and morning sickness for nine months.

That’s it.

You took a trip down the ol’ birth canal and voila! Every year from that point on, instead of honoring the woman whose loins you were ripped from, people buy you gifts and stand around baked goods covered in flames and sing to you awkwardly off key.

But with that said, my mom has always been awesome about making me feel special on my birthday.

Because it fell in the summer, my birthday served as an excuse to throw many large parties with copious amounts of friends, my large family and food. The crowds and hoopla gradually stopped as everyone grew up and away—or got tired of me—but the bits and pieces of birthdays gone by will always remain in my mind.

However, there were a few that were a little less than stellar.

Strike One

There was a Fiesta themed party complete with stereotypical sombreros and music, Mexican food and a piñata. While a piñata was good in theory, that theory flew out the window right about the time the piñata stick accidentally flew through the air and directly towards an inattentive neighbor lady.

Smarties and plastic jewelry did not fall out of the cut on her head. Our disappointment was profound.

Strike Two

Nothing fell out of the cut on my head a few years later when my presents were hid throughout our large backyard and I was blindfolded and forced to hunt for them on my hands and knees. A Frisbee was thrown from a great distance and managed to hit me square in the head. Being blindfolded and covered in grass burns, this was literally a blow to what dignity I had left.

We had cake. I forgave.

Strike Three

Then there was a year that the stars aligned and the Tigers were playing the California Angels at home on my birthday. I was convinced I was going to marry their first baseman—JT Snow. This was obviously a sign of our destined eternal bliss.

We drove the three hours to the game, where after a couple innings he came up to bat and hit a foul ball directly towards my dad. A great ending to this story would be that he made an effort, caught the ball and concluded the perfect birthday of his 10-year-old daughter.

Didn’t happen. We had cake. I had resentment.

But despite the few (literal) hits and misses, I have to say that I’ve had it pretty good. I don’t expect a marriage proposal or physical and emotional scarring this year, but I do expect applause when I enter the room and a tiara to wear.

In other words, treat it just like any other day.

What have been some of your birthday hits and misses?

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Ice Cream Trucks and Wino Wheels

Ahh…summer.

The sound of birds chirping, lawnmowers buzzing and music like “The Entertainer” coming from a janky 1980s model white van driven by a creepy older male trying to lure children to his vehicle in order to sell them sugar-laden treats.

Oh yes, the ice cream truck.

As a kid I can remember the siren song of summer and how we would run outside and try to chase after a moving vehicle in order to procure many of the same frozen treats found in our freezers.

But when you think about it, ice cream trucks were  “trendy” ahead of their time. It’s like some marketing genius thought, “Hey! Just thinking out loud here, but how about a food truck marketed only towards kids! Instead of food, it sells nothing but ice cream!”

Running with the idea, they decided to play kid-friendly music on repeat—including completely nonsensical songs like “La Cucaracha”—and drive by the houses right about the time harried parents are trying to convince their kids that eating the spinach on their plate will make them strong like Popeye.

(Popeye. Another theme song they used. Well-played, Ice Cream Man. Well-played.)

Because kids love anything related to sugar and instant gratification, the ice cream men decided to see just how much they could charge before the BBB got wind of their sleek operation.

A menu of carefully arranged the choices was painted on the side of the truck so that there are the plain popsicles or ice cream sandwiches that cost $2—known as “boring and stupid” by most children—and then, right next to them there are the ones shaped like Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse with candy eyes and sprinkles for $5.

In other words, the price parents would pay for a whole box of the things. Frozen food truck or wizard on wheels? You be the judge.

But I think they’re really missing another gold opportunity with this one. Apparently when you reach a certain age, it’s “inappropriate” to go running out of the house with a five-spot, pushing small children out of your way in an attempt to flag down the ice cream man for a Bomb Pop.

Who makes up these rules?

Anyway, what they need to do is have a second truck creep about 100 yards behind the ice cream truck. Only this time instead of serving ice cream and blasting “The Entertainer,” this truck serves iced adult beverages and streams Bon Jovi through speakers.

Think about it. Parents will LOVE to hear the ice cream man come down the street and happily let their kids spend $4 for a sherbet push-up if they are secure in the knowledge that a drive-by wine tasting is only a few minutes away.

These Wino Wheels could easily expand their reach by parking down the street from ice cream trucks at youth sporting events, making those outdoor soccer tournaments and softball games a little more tolerable after a swig of chardonnay or a beer.

Everyone can enjoy a cold one of choice.

Happy kids. Happy parents.

Cheers to that!

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Politically Correct Children’s Books & a Giveaway

It’s no secret that I love books, which is why I’m giving two away at the end of this post.

But some of the classics from when I was a kid would probably fall under the “not politically correct enough” category today, seeing as people have evolved to suck the fun out of everything.

So while I read these books and didn’t become the Unabomber, I thought it would be fun to take a cynical eye to some classics. And because I’m all about solutions, I will also propose a more “modern” take on the books.

Green Eggs and Ham

Summary: Sam I Am tries to peer pressure a friend into eating a potentially dangerous substance. (If you ever come across green ham, it’s probably horribly expired. Do not eat it!) While he initially resists, he eventually gives in and realizes it’s not as bad as he thought. So basically parents say drugs are bad, but if your friend likes it, then it’s good enough for you.

Suggestion: In this updated classic, Sam starts a food blog in which he details the merits of eating “green” eggs in the sense that they are eco-friendly, free-range organic eggs grown on a farm where chickens have spa days and sip Perrier. He shares a variety of healthy recipes focused on locally-sourced ingredients that win him fans and friends.

Frog & Toad are Friends

Summary: While this book claims “Frog and Toad are always there for each other—just as best friends should be,” Frog is often a terrible friend to Toad. Toad is embarrassed by his swimsuit, and Frog laughs at him with all the other animals. When they fly a kite, Frog just stands there with the string while Toad runs with the kite, getting constant abuse from other teasing animals. Thanks to Frog, Toad is trapped in a vicious cycle between narcissism and self-conscious insecurity.

Suggestion: Frog and Toad are “Friends,” just as Frog and Toad are “Together” in the sequel, if you know what I mean. Toad was just trying to be “fabulous” in the swimsuit incident and Frog was annoyed that Toad left the seat up at the lily pad again. These books follow in the steps of the first character to ever come out—Bi-curious George—and readers are shown that love and families can take many forms.

Cat In the Hat

Summary: A giant mutant cat shows up at the house while the mom is out and proceeds to touch and play with everything while the kids look on in terror. They try to get this strange intruder to leave without success, and the cat proceeds to release two “Things” that tear around the house, destroying everything. The cat cleans up the house in the end, but this encourages felonious behavior.

Suggestion: Seeing a cat show up at their house wearing a gigantic hat, the kids quickly whip out their iPads and start taping what they see. When the mother returns home, she finds they’ve posted a video to YouTube of the next Internet cat sensation that quickly goes more viral than Keyboard Cat ever did.

Cinderella

Summary: Girl, evil step-relatives, menial gender-stereotypical labor, geriatric godmother, pumpkin, prince, shoe.When the females of the town attend a ball for the chance to marry one man because he is rich royalty, a fairy swoops down, switches out Cinderella’s peasant garb and gives her glass slippers that DON’T EVEN FIT. She attends the ball, wins the heart of the prince and goes back to being “plain” at midnight.

Suggestion: Instead of women being portrayed as shallow, vindictive and sometimes helpless victims waiting to be rescued, in this version Cindy moves out, goes back to school and opens a fair-trade shoe company that produces only comfortable and practical footwear called “Fairy Footwear.” At a fundraiser for her non-profit dedicated to eliminating small rodent labor, she meets a young man who respects her for her brains and not her beauty.

And they all lived happily ever after.

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

I’m giving away a copy of both “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “Moms are Nuts” to one lucky U.S. resident. All you have to do is leave a comment about books–your favorite, the worst, a “politically correct” version of a classic, etc. by Tuesday, June 17. I’ll randomly pick a winner and notify them by email. Good luck!

I Love Not Camping

I originally published this a couple of years ago, but seeing as it’s almost “camping season” and no one is on the Internet this holiday weekend, it’s worth a rerun.

Spring has sprung, which means many people will be packing up to go camping in the coming weeks. I will not be one of them, as I do not camp.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the outdoors and worship the sun and nature. And while I’m not high-maintenance, I don’t find appeal in sleeping on the ground in a tent pretending I’m homeless.

But despite the tent aversion, I do have a bit of camping experience.

When I was younger we had a trailer up north that we spent a good deal of time at in the summer. It was a decent sized rig with a shower, small kitchen, deck, etc., but it was still a trailer.

I fished, shot my bow and arrow (not at anything living, at least not on purpose,) tore around on the 4-wheeler and hit the lake with the inflatable alligator before coming back to nighttime campfires, Cribbage games and attempts to attract bats by throwing random crap up in the air by the park lights.

I was young, and other than the fact that I rolled out of the top bunk of triple bunk beds—a bed rail was quickly installed—I had no real complaints. Now that I’m older and (questionably) wiser, I would have many complaints, which is why I don’t even attempt to pretend to want to camp.

Why someone would want to leave indoor plumbing and decent food and increase the likelihood of contracting mosquito malaria, dirt-covered food and being attacked by a baby deer in the woods is beyond me.*

*Of course, to each their own (disclaimer so campers don’t get pissed, although if they’re camping, they shouldn’t have access to Wi-Fi.)

But for those who enjoy camping and would like to recreate this experience at home, I have a few suggestions:

  • Hang your clothes over a wood fire to get that signature smell, the one that will hopefully cover up the other signature smell of musty dampness.
  • While you’re over the fire, singe your eyelashes and grab a hot poker to recreate the experience of starting the fire and attempting to roast anything with a metal stick.
  • Scald the skin on the roof of your mouth in an attempt to eat whatever it is you were trying to roast that didn’t fall into the flame.
  • Hover—a lot—and get used to swatting bugs with one hand while wiping with the other. This takes skill, which is why you will most likely find yourself pissing on your own leg (hey, you wanted to go camping.)
  • Pour sand directly into the bottom of your bathing suit and any exposed crack or opening in your body. If a lake is nearby, also include seaweed.
  • If you feel like getting fancy, spray yourself with a water bottle to recreate the (lack of) water pressure trailer showers provide. Forget about washing your hair (this is actually a positive in my book.)
  • Plant families of the loudest bugs on the planet in your backyard directly next to your window. If available, add in the mating calls of mystery creatures you’re sure are rabid and hunting you down.
  • Roll your meals in damp dirt.
  • Roll your clothes in damp dirt.
  • Roll yourself in damp dirt.

So for those of you starting your camping season soon, may the force be with you. I plan on working in the yard a bit, reading and enjoying the luxury of warm showers, good food I didn’t have to catch and a few good baseball games.

I love not camping.

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For Love of the Game

If you know me at all, you know that one thing I love is my baseball. Every year around this time I wax poetic about Opening Day, and this year will be no exception.

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But don’t worry.

Although I’m repeating myself, this post isn’t going to be filled with statistics and names or metaphors about the game that I’ve loved all my life. If you don’t love baseball, I won’t try and convince you. If you do love baseball, you don’t need me to tell you why.

But for me, it’s more than a game.

It is just a bat and a ball, but it can unite a city, a state, a family with one swing of that bat or one pitch of that ball. It can make grown men cry, and sometimes, even a 32-year-old woman who usually only cries for road kill and good food spilled on the floor.

It’s remembering summers by games that were played—the crack of the bat, the stitch on a ball, the smell of the grass in the field. It’s looking forward to spring training in the dead of winter when every other joy seems frozen beneath layers of ice and of snow—especially given the historically horrible winter that we’ve endured.

It’s being able to identify players by their batting stance or jersey number and feeling an instant connection with strangers wearing clothes with the old English “D” for my Detroit Tigers.

For me, it’s an escape.

Sports in general afford me the opportunity to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while and to spend time with others who take pleasure in enjoying a similar break. It’s a reminder that I can still feel excited about something when a lot of the time I’m just numb.

For me, it’s family.

It’s a 92-year-old woman who can’t always remember who I am, but who might tell me about a game in 1948 with a clarity time hasn’t stolen quite yet.

I know this year will be different.

Gram doesn’t understand the games on TV and can’t comprehend what we’re watching. Selfishly, this makes me sad because I feel like we lost our big “thing”—the talks about players, the gripes about calls, the excitement of recaps and scores.

Yet watching the game with her takes me right back to being sprawled on her living room floor as a kid, watching each game on mute while Ernie Harwell came through on the radio. (But not lying underneath the ceiling fan, as I was warned the goddamn thing would inevitably fall on me and crush me to death. Fuzzy memories.)

For me, it relates to everyday life.

The goal of every single hitter is to always make it back home. There are daily ups and downs, success and adversity. You can fail miserably one day and be the hero the next day. Slumps happen, but you have to let go of the past and look forward and remember the goal—and that you’re not in this thing by yourself.

It’s tradition and memories tied up with box scores and hopefulness mixed in with stats.

Sure, it’s a “pastime. ” But it’s my favorite way to pass that time.

Play ball.

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I Crap Glamour

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I actually cared how to coordinate clothes or correctly apply fancy makeup. Maybe I would have more friends or wind constantly blowing through my perfectly colored hair like it shows in all those commercials.

But then I remember that I’m the girl who went out in public with a Velcro roller stuck on her head, has blinded herself with liquid makeup applied directly to her eyeball and designates “good” T-shirts/jeans/yoga pants for when she needs to feel classy.

Basically, I just crap glamour.

It started early, as growing up I wasn’t what you would call a “girly girl” at all. My best friends were boys, but seeing as girls were around us as well, I carefully balanced stuffing my leotard with foam balls and coating my eyelids with glitter to lead “Get in Shape Girl” sessions in the yard with digging in the mud with a stick and baiting a hook for fishing.

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Although I did have a Marilyn moment or two early on.

I experimented with a variety of questionable “girly”-type things to try and fit in—a crimper, Electric Youth perfume, a Caboodle filled with plastic barrettes and scrunchies to match my colorful socks exposed under my stirrup pants and Jelly shoes—but once I got past the awkward years of 11 to 20, my interest started to fade even more.

Now if someone were to sweep me away and completely make me over, I probably wouldn’t object (as long as they didn’t abduct me near a meal time.)

However, I have no interest in learning how to do it myself—kind of like automotive repair or computer programming, but with more glitter and possibly more power tools.

I just don’t understand things like $25 mascara or dry shampoo. Isn’t spraying more crap in your hair instead of washing the other stuff out counterproductive? And I’m pretty sure if I went for a manicure, the tech would suggest amputation as the least laborious option.

Plus for me, it’s just not practical.

My real goal in life is not to always look fabulous, but rather to get through a meal without dropping food on my shirt or find the fabric softener sheet in my sleeve before someone else does. And I feel like high heels would clash with even my best yoga pants.

So for now, the paraffin hand treatment I get every time I spill the wax out of my Scentsy scented wax warmer and my vegetable steamer facial every night are good enough for me.

But if they make a Bump-It that promises to bump up my chest—not my hair—I  might just shell out the cash.

(Unmanicured fingers are crossed!)

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A Girl Has to Have Standards

It was the moment when he reached down into the console of his truck, picked out a used golf tee and started using it as a toothpick that I learned a) to always keep floss in my purse and b) that even though it means that waking up with hummus in my hair is the closest to breakfast in bed that I get, I was meant to be single.

I would like to think I’ve given the alternative a pretty fair shake — I did the dating scene for a while with the traditional hits and misses — but this particular incident was simply the dirt-covered toothpick that broke this camel’s back.

Plus, I have high standards.

Growing up my crushes always fell into one of two categories—completely unattainable or attainable but not interesting after I attained them.

This wasn’t an issue early on because it’s not like I had that many options. It took me a long time to grow into my nose and grow out my spiral perms, and while I had friends, I wasn’t the “cute” girl in the group.

I was instead the one that was left over and relegated to holding the sweaty hands of the left over boy at the school roller skating parties while Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” played in the background.

However, I wasn’t all that concerned with that scene, as I had much bigger plans.

I was a tomboy and decided early on that I was going to marry a professional athlete. The crush varied depending on the season, but it usually included me covering my walls with their posters and creating elaborate situations in my head in which I held down the fort at home while they traveled on the road for their games.

At no time did anything sexual enter these situations, as aside from putting my Barbies and G.I. Joe in compromising “mature” situations, those thoughts never crossed my mind.

It was simply an infatuation that ran from one player to the next before progressing into Sylvester Stallone through the “Rocky” years—all five films—and then any other action star or famous male with either an accent or a jersey.

I had more realistic crushes in school, of course.

This usually amounted to me reading into a Valentine (that they were required to give everyone in class) as a declaration of love, scribbling their name in my notebook and keeping a stash of assorted flavored Lip Smackers at the ready just in case.

In case of what? I didn’t know, but at least my lips would be strawberry fresh.

Naturally things changed once I got older and declared myself free of the sweaty-palmed rejects and delusions of nabbing a major league lover. As mentioned above, I did the dating thing and decided it wasn’t for me.

Now I’m sure Toothpick Boy was/is a fine companion for some germ-loving gal who doesn’t mind using dirty sports props to pick lettuce out of a molar, but I like my space. I like my freedom. I like knowing that dental procedures won’t be performed with dirt-covered plastic.

Of course, there might be exceptions.

I mean, Hot Gym Guy did say, “No thanks” when I offered to spot him as he was walking into the locker room, so there’s a chance that once the restraining order is lifted he might just give it a go!

But otherwise I’m happy just dating myself.

After all, I do have standards.

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A Priceless Holiday Season

The music, the decorations, the sale ads—the holidays are already here.

Like a lot of people, I sometimes find this time of year to be hard. Between the loss of family gatherings due to time and distance, the rampant and unnecessary consumerism, no holiday break, a dash of deep depression and a partridge in a pear tree, I would much rather just skip to January 2.

While I wrote a rant about my seasonal societal annoyances a couple of years ago, this will not be that post’s sequel. (Summary if you don’t want to click over: Practice an “attitude of gratitude” on a daily basis, not just when people gather around a bird carcass stuffed with stale bread and the creepy uncle makes jokes about being either a breast man or a leg man.)

This year is going to be different.

There won’t be a big family meal, and come Christmas there won’t be many—if any—gifts. Times are tight and money is even tighter, regardless of the date on the calendar.

I’ve never been bitter because we don’t have money for things, but I do get annoyed that others are so obsessed with those things. However, I get it. It’s easy to feel pressured to buy useless stuff, eat things that don’t make you feel good and stress about spending time with people you might not enjoy all that much.

But when that’s no longer an option, you learn a valuable lesson—be better, not bitter, and be thankful for all that you have.

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Or make foam turkeys and pretzel treats for the old people in the home.

It’s different when you’re a kid. The holidays are a magical time with no worries, only wonder. The fact that parents can take the time to create fun traditions and keep that magic alive is priceless, and something I keep with me now.

Growing up I was lucky enough to get those special gifts I asked for and the big ol’ family meals. Every holiday dozens of people in my big Polish family would be at my grandparent’s, crammed around tables full of food and conversation.

And while I might remember a few of the special gifts that I got, those “things” aren’t first on my mind.

What I remember much more are the things that we did and said, making the food that we ate and places we went every year. That’s what the holidays were, and that’s what they continue to be.

So this year with every Black Friday ad, every person complaining about “surviving the holidays” like it’s a terminal illness and the obsession with gathering “things,” I won’t roll my eyes and dish out perspective with each self-created drama they lament.

Instead I will remind them to focus on figuring out what holiday experiences are personally meaningful to them instead of getting sucked into events that leave them feeling empty and drained.

Instead of feeling burdened to buy gifts, connect to why the person they’re shopping for is special to them and how they want them to feel when they open the gifts. (There is no better feeling than finding the “perfect” gift, even if that gift is a card.)

Instead of debt, try donations. It’s something you never regret.

Instead of rushing around, stop and take in the sights and the smells of the season. Step back and ask, “What do I want to remember?” And if they have kids, “What do I want them to remember?”

So even though these weeks might be rough, I remember those things from above and know the season can always feel priceless. 

And for that—this year and always—I am truly rich and thankful.

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A Boobie Trap

Last week I overheard the neighbor kid say that he got to touch a boob, which got me thinking. First, he made it sound like a pretty big deal so I wondered if I should send a card or buy him a balloon or something to celebrate, but decided against it.

Second, what is the big deal with boobs?

Because I overshare, most of you know that I’m not exactly well-endowed and would just as soon go braless if it wasn’t for that little thing called the office and the awkwardness of “alert” nipples in cold conference rooms.

Side note: I hate, hate the word nipple. We need a new synonym for this, like “boob bulls eye” or “bust bumps” or something.

Anyway, while I got the small bump in the middle of my nose frommy grandma, I also got small bumps on my chest and not the titanic ta-tas that she has. In fact, I think my first memory of seeing actual boobs is with her.

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Every little girl needs a mullet and sock boobs.

I have this distinct memory of being on my grandma’s bathroom counter after she washed my feet in the sink. Apparently I’m a splasher because she had to change her shirt. She whipped it off, turned around and two swinging sacks large enough to alter the tides came flying around in her massive over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder.

Quickly looking down at my concave counterpart, it became clear to me that six kids and 60 years could do a lot to alter the female form.

I was both mortified and fascinated by the size of her fleshy pillows. I mean, I knew they were there before in the way I knew my grandpa had tiny bird legs and socks with the balls on the back. But to see those grand gazongas—if only as they passed in a busty blur—was quite a surprise.

After she changed her shirt, we went out to the line to hang her other shirt to dry. There—flying like a flag of fleshy freedom—were some of grandma’s bras. Big, huge white underwire numbers that could double as a hammock for a small child were clothes-pinned right next to the sheets and grandpa’s stained T-shirts on the line.

“So this is what I have to look forward to?” I wondered as I untangled myself from the now-semi-clean sheet I was “helping” to fold. “The rest of my life is going to be spent lugging around bowling balls in a bra that could house newborn squirrels? Won’t they get in the way of the fun things like baseball and teaching Get In Shape Girl on the front lawn to reluctant neighbor kids?”

Well, years later it’s become as clear as the slightly bumpy nose on my face that my cleavage is not a concern, as it doesn’t exist.

Some women might feel insecure about this, like they’re “less of a woman” because they don’t have huge honkers—or any at all. And while I admit that it would be nice to feel a bit more “gifted” in the breasticle area—if only to have something to catch the food that I drop—there are a million other things that I would rather feel insecure about.

I figure you get what you get, and what I got were more memories than mammories from Gram, one faithful bra in my dresser and a pervy neighborhood kid.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

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Why I’m Glad I Grew Up When I Did

Children of the ’80s and early ’90s had to endure the mental anguish of trying to manually untwist the insides of  a cassette tape, but all in all, I look back and think we were pretty damn lucky.

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Now: Pinterest and “vision boards”

Then: A bulletin board filled with color-coordinated push pins, pictures of teen heartthrobs, quotes created from random cutout letters that end up looking more like white trash ransom notes and school pictures of friends that perfectly captured their awkwardness. Speaking of which…

Now: Selfies (for the record, I have never taken a “selfie”)

Then: Cameras. People took pictures when something special happened, not when they ate breakfast. As kids, school picture day was a big deal with the most important decision being what “laser”-color background you wanted. You couldn’t wait to get the free black plastic comb so you could bend that sucker back and forth a few times until it got hot and brand the kid next to you with a touch.

And the anticipation of getting a roll of film developed really can’t be overstated.

Now: Jeggings and skinny jeans

Then: Stirrup pants and stonewashed jeans. Pants today are basically tights, which were something I loathed when forced to wear. Stirrup pants—they’ll stay in place forever!—and stonewashed jeans—they’ll hide any wear and tear!—were designed for function much more than fashion.

Now: Blogs

Then: Diaries, and god save anyone who tried to pick the flimsy lock and read the drama of trying to decide what color rubber bands to get in your braces. Thoughts were private and you didn’t WANT to share every detail of your day, mostly because like pictures taken of yourself in the bathroom—see above—you were aware that no one would care.

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Now: Politically correct “holiday” parties with “refreshments” from Costco or Whole Foods in which there is no trace of sugar, peanuts, lactose, gluten or fun.

Then: Actual Halloween/Valentine’s Day parties with room mothers who would bring in homemade goodies and roller skating parties with a “couples” skate when pre-teens with sweaty hands would shuffle across the rink together with Boyz II Men playing in the background.

Now: Reality TV

Then: The only real slime on TV came from “Double Dare” and we had actual TV shows with actors and a real TGIF lineup. I’m talking about Full House, The Cosby Show, Family Matters and Alf, that smart-mouthed, cat-murdering alien we loved.

Now: Smartphones and texting

Then: Landlines and notes. I remember dragging the cord into my room to have what I’m sure was a very important discussion about Punky Brewster or zits. Instead of texting and getting instantly rejected, we were forced to actually write notes, those of which an inordinate amount of time was spent folding into a specific shape for delivery.

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Plus, we knew how to spell and how to write—even cursive. OMG. LOL.

Now: Ecards

Then: Because computers were huge monstrosities with a four-color screen, use was relegated to games of Junior Jeopardy or Oregon Trail. While we eventually got Print Shop to make birthday cards and banners, hours were spent cutting out construction paper to create our own cards with scented markers we had to resist the urge to lick.

Also, the joy of getting a card in the mail also can’t be overstated.

Now: Kindles and iPads

Then: Scholastic book orders, Book-It and the smell of library book pages illicitly dog-eared and worn. It was fun to wait for the order or go to the store. True, Book-It rewarded kids for reading with a free personal pan pizza full of grease and devoid of veggies, but we all lived to tell—and read—the tale.

Plus unlike a Kindle, books don’t break when you drop them.

Now: Instant gratification

Then: Patience

Okay, maybe not patience, but we had to wait for our favorite songs to play on the radio, stand in a line without checking a phone and make up games or Mad Libs on car trips instead of watching a DVD on an iPad. We kept ourselves busy by creating things instead of relying on something else to keep us busy.

True, it might have involved law jarts and hypercolor T-shirts—Sweaty armpits? Show them off with your heat-sensitive teal shirt and hot pink pit stains!—but at least no one could take a picture on their phone and share it on Twitter.

Ugh, like, gag me with a spoon.

I’m glad I grew up when I did.

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