How Real Winners Turn March Madness Into a Billion Dollar Payday

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It’s that time of year again when the U.S. male population exists solely on pork rinds, queso, and Miller Light, worker productivity falls 3,000%, and people stop spitting on math majors.

“I just love March Madness!” Image via lifestyleet.com

That’s right, March Madness is here, and with it, your chance to skim a billion dollars right out of Warren Buffet’s polyester pants by creating a perfect NCAA tournament bracket.

Who needs a bitcoin when you have a million freaskishly huge bags of cash? Image via gstatic.com

Everyone knows that with the right guidance and a lot of tequila, a billion dollar bracket is yours for the making. Because Gemini Girl likes winners (and pretty people with shiny teeth) I’m here to show you a foolproof method to do something considered statistically impossible by everyone at Berkshire Hathaway, Yahoo, and His Emperorship, USSR Czar Vladimir Putin (er, I mean President of Russia and someday soon, the world).

“I pick Republic of Florida to win tourney, then I get on boat, invade nude beaches, and steal most happiest place on earth for Mother Russia!” Image via businessinsider.com

A Number’s Just a Number Until it’s a Winning Powerball Ticket

Everyone thinks bracket rankings are meaningful, but Gemini Girl says don’t believe the hype. Just because Florida’s only been to the tournament once (1 Florida) and Coastal Carolina’s been, like, sixteen times (16 Coastal Car.) doesn’t necessarily mean the Coastal Chanticleers should be in your final four. Why? Because their mascot is from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and everyone who took A.P. English knows that book blows. Any team represented by a Middle English rooster is a guaranteed first round loser, plus, the only mascot I’d ever put money on is Smeagol.

Smeagol invested his tourney winnings in Lebron James. Image via dailypicksandflicks.com

Never Underestimate the Well-Endowed Team

Not the cheerleaders, the school with serious cash on hand. Cheerleaders are athletes too so stop laughing.

They’re real, and they’re spectacular! Image via cracked.com

Anyway, everyone knows that in order to build a successful college basketball program, you have to provide recruits with a lot of Benzies, babes, and weed. Not every deep-pocket donor feels comfortable carpooling to the local strip club with a freshman phenom though, and that’s where an institution’s endowment really comes into play. According to Forbes magazine, Harvard has more money than the entire GDP of the USSR (we all know that’s exactly where Putin is going, so don’t be a hater).

“First I take Republic of Mickey Mouse then I sneak up lazy river to take capital of U.S.A…Las Vegas!” Image via businessinsider.com.

If you ask Gemini Girl, deep-pocket donors = recruit lap dances = Letters of Intent  = guaranteed Final Four appearance. Get it? All those math majors who think anyone cares about their groundbreaking algorithms can suck it. Combine Harvard’s greenbacks with the fact that they’ve appeared in the tournament twelve times (12 Harvard), and you’ve got a combo that’s screaming final four.

This dude loves throwing cash around at Juicy Lucy’s, but don’t tell the Tea Party I said so. Image via datingolders.com.

When in Doubt, Go to Your Happy Place

Sometimes the NCAA men’s selection committee throws everyone for a loop and chooses a team no one’s ever heard of, like Nebraska, probably because Warren Buffet paid them all off. A lot of people don’t realize it’s even a state, and since most guys I know cut geography in high school to go smoke weed with the freshman basketball phenom, things can get a little confusing when trying to make winning first round picks that include areas of the country which might not even be real.

Not a basketball phenom. Image via perezhilton.com

In order to maximize efficiency and minimize the likelihood of the dude in the cubicle next to you who wears a Dennis Rodman Bulls jersey to work, like, every day calling you a poser, use Gemini Girl’s Word Association Tool to make perfect first round tourney picks.

“I’m so Russdiculous!” Image via baconsports.com

Example 1

Memphis: Elvis

George Washington: Wig

Word Association Winner? Elvis

 Example 2

Oregon: Duck

BYU: Polygamy

Word Association Winner? Polygamy

Example 3

Colorado: Weed

Pittsburgh: Blah

Word Association Winner? Weed

“March whhaaattt?” Image via thejointshop.blogspot.com

It’s like, freakishly easy, right?

So there you have it. As soon as you gather all of your well-endowed friends at a random happy place to buy a winning lottery ticket you’re pretty much guaranteed a perfect tournament bracket. But please, don’t tell anyone that Gemini Girl gave you the winning edge. Tell everyone. Then cut me in on 15% of your pre-tax earnings and get me an autographed picture of Warren Buffet (but if you have to use the Word Association Winner tool in an either/or scenario, I’ll take the cash).

***

If you’d like to fill out a 2014 NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket and win $1,000,000,000, go here: How to fleece Warren Buffet!

If you’d like to find the closest strip club to your office, go here: Don’t tell my girlfriend!

If you think Nebraska is ground zero for paranormal activity, go here: Nebraska is for losers!

Some Thoughts on America’s Newest Slopestyle Skiing Stars

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I don’t know much about Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, or Nick Goepper other than what I’ve recently seen on TV, but in these games, populated by controversy and tinged in gray, I don’t really need to.

What I need is to remember why The Olympics, for more years than I can count, have inspired excellence in everyone from the occasional enthusiast to the lifelong athlete.

What I need is a human talisman (or three) to push me. One more rep. One more run. One more attempt to go somewhere, to get better, to reach a goal.

What I need is to believe that anything’s possible.

What I need are true role models for my children, three suddenly familiar faces smiling from a cereal box who possess an unscripted purity that can’t be calculated in an increasingly anonymous and murky digital world.

What I need is proof positive that you’re never out until you say so, and that victory is as close as you believe it to be.

What I need is to embrace second chances, to stand up when I fall down and try again.

What I need is to focus not on what I say, but what I do.

What I need is a reason to remember that any dream can come true with enough work, commitment, dedication, and sacrifice.

What I need is to unplug, tune in, and gather my family around to do something no one seems to value as much as they used to. The simple act of being together, cheering together, and yes, crying together as our flag flies high in the sky and three sets of tear-rimmed eyes smile up at the manifestation of everything they always knew could be.

What I need is to remember these names: Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, and Nick Goepper. They’ve achieved something that won’t necessarily define their lives, but will punctuate them in a rare consortium of color that few are ever able to see.

What I need to remember is simple. Life is good.

Image via gannett-cdn.com

How to Party Like A Pro This Holiday Season

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It’s that time of the year again when truckloads of invitations get dumped on the doorstep and you’re forced to ditch your Juicy sweats for spandex and a pair of sparkly shoes. Following are my tried and true tips to make this holiday season the most festive ever, especially if you’re new to the neighborhood or spend a lot of time in the garage whittling Star Wars figurines.

There are so many things wrong with this picture I don’t know where to begin. Image via blogspot.com.

1. When choosing which party to attend on any given night, steer clear of the District Attorney’s house. Nobody wants to hear that you lit it up with the county D.A., and by nobody I mean anyone who’s ever been the subject of a body cavity search or watched an episode of Breaking Bad. Partying with any law enforcement officer will make your friends feel sick and squeamish, especially the ones who accidentally forgot to pay child support for the last six years.

What do we have in here? Image via digitaljournal.com

2. Always take a posse to a holiday party, especially when the invitation has an ice luge on the cover. Generally speaking, people with enough money to blow on things like disposable sculptures don’t have a lot of friends because they’re too busy making enough money to blow on things like disposable sculptures. You’ll be doing the host a favor by bringing thrill seeking add-ons who’ll K.O. all the Finlandia in the house and yell “Hit that dawg!” at the top of their lungs every five minutes.

Some of us have happier holidays than others. Image via blogspot.com

3. Everyone has a creepy uncle who doesn’t get out of the house much because he’s too busy grooming his stuffed hamster collection. To cut back on those noxious fumes coming from the basement, send him over to the D.A.’s party with your regrets. By doing so, you’ll simultaneously perform a random act of kindness and keep your family’s name off the police scanner in 2014. It might be nice to tape a note on his back with his iPhone passcode just in case he gets lost or someone wants to do a random screenshot search.

That’s not my uncle. Image via kindofcreepy.com

4. When it’s time to carb load, skip the prime rib station and head straight to the host’s pantry. That’s where you’ll find the good stuff, like Funions, and the adult toys Santa plans to put in a secret stocking the kids have already found, taken pictures of, and Snapchatted around the entire middle school with the tag “My parents know how to party!”.

Guess what? The pic you just took on Snapchat is gonna be around a lot longer than 10 seconds. Image via businessinsider.com

5. It’s important to hydrate at holiday social events because the secret to getting asked back next year is to look really hot. To give your skin a soft, dewy glow, try supplementing Jager Bombs with a Michelob Ultra every now and again.  A 5:1 ratio is usually the perfect mix for me, but you might want to go something like 7:1 on account of all that excess hair.

On second thought, just stick with tequila. Image via clinicaladvisor.com

6. Everyone loves a party guest who commandeers the Kenny Loggins Christmas station and slips in a custom-made playlist, especially if the self-proclaimed mix master is wearing a lot of make-up and no pants.

Who says Miley Cyrus doesn’t make good choices? Image via media2.onsugar.com

7. When the party’s winding down and it’s time to go home? Everyone loves unexpected overnight guests, especially the ones who pass out on the ice luge. To make yourself a little more inconspicuous and give your host a holiday surprise in the morning, try crawling into the dog kennel. It’s cozy, padded, and if you happen to throw up a little while you’re in there? You and my creepy uncle will be the only ones who know.

Surprise! Image via theblaze.com

Happy Holidays from everyone at the Gemini Girl in a Random World staff, which is pretty much just me and my mom.

How To Put The “Me” In Just About Every Meal

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Thanksgiving is here, and while many aspiring at-home chefs dream of salt pigs, Crisco, and Paula Deen, I’m trying to decide how to kick my relatives out of the house so I can focus on the one holiday each year that really matters.

My Birthday.

Yum.

In order to plan the secret getaway my husband will surprise me with next June, I need time. And space. And solitude. I also need money, but I’m pretty much gonna leave that one up to him.

Since airfare is cheapest right around 5:00 p.m. (and a rainbow unicorn will clean the kitchen before everyone gets here in a few hours), I need to focus on avoiding a connection through O’Hare at the exact time every afternoon that I should be whipping up a wheatgrass shake, some raw calf liver, and a side of kimchee for my kids.

Yum.

Most mothers have a hard time prioritizing themselves over everyone else, but I’ve pretty much gotten it down, probably because I’m left handed. And a fast learner. And desperate.

Anyway, following is my six-step plan to put the focus where it should be on Thanksgiving and just about every other day of the year. Yourself. You can thank me later, preferably in American Express Travelers Cheques that are pretty much untraceable and can be used to upgrade my seats.

1. Decide, after nine years of looking at the same kitchen table, that it’s time for a change. Like Obamacare, claim your new table is meant to include everyone, even though it’s really just intended for the few citizens who can hack their way through a complex matrix of broken code and steal all your bitcoins. That’s right, angry Russian expats.

2. Refinish above-referenced sad piece of furniture with something that takes 30 days to cure. So what if you realize you can’t use it for a month only after you’ve slathered your table with it? It might contain asbestos, kryptonite, non-soluble gluten particles, or something equally hazardous to your family’s health. Don’t try to bend the rules and serve a meal on day 25.

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Come eat at my new table and prepare to die.

3. Find some big, androgynous, shiny, circlet-like decorations that could be Thanksgivingish but are probably some designer’s attempt at an Ambien-inspired joke. Place them right in the middle of the table, rendering it fully inoperable.

This could be a thought-provoking centerpiece or ground zero for your next garage sale.

This could be a thought-provoking centerpiece or ground zero for your next garage sale.

4. Tell the kids that if they touch your new, expensive table art you’ll take their phones. Just for fun, go a step further and tell them that if they touch anything belonging to you, you’ll erase all their apps. This should make it virtually impossible for them to Snapchat their friends about your secret stash of painkillers.

5. Accidentally misplace the keys to the refrigerator. That’s right. Don’t be a hater.

6. And on Thanksgiving, when everyone in America is running around trying to find the instructions to their infrared thermometers? Sit back, relax, and dream about my birthday, because when you have a table no one else can use, you’re pretty much relegated to a bottle of wine and a store-bought pie.

If you don’t know what a bitcoin is, go here, buy one, and send it to me for my birthday.

This is a Simple Story About Love

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All a mother wants, above and beyond anything else in life, is for her child to be happy. It’s a subliminal inclination fueled by emotion, like the echo of a throb…a primal instinct driven by that first, curious flutter in the womb.

And it never goes away.

My grandmother is no different from any other mother in this respect, even though her youngest was born with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Unable to breathe, my Aunt Micki was rushed to a nurse instead of Grandmother’s open arms while doctors worked to change Micki’s color from a pallid shade of blue to something that looked a little more like life.

Micki survived only to suffer her first seizure when she was nine months old. It was the earliest of many signs that something about her seemed different. Abnormal. Uncommon. Not right.

As months turned into years, “different” transitioned to “retarded,” a term loaded with so much meaning that it overflowed, creating a non-navigable chasm between Micki and other kids her age. Words can be transformative in both good ways and bad, and “retarded” became a life-size label that would shade just about everything she did, starting with the length of the bus she boarded for school.

Both Grandmother and Micki learned to move under a cloak of filtered light that could only throw shadows on the stolen glances and downcast eyes of the world at large. Yet in those everyday moments where growth can’t really be measured, the bond between mother and daughter grew.

Given enough time, life will teach you that the only thing you can count on is change. Yet Micki’s role never has. She is and always will be my grandmother’s constant companion. Not her retarded companion, just a loving daughter and friend.

When my mom left home for college, Micki stayed. When my uncle took the same path seven years later, Micki stayed. When my grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-one, Micki stayed.

We don’t use the word “retarded” anymore, or at least, we don’t admit it when we do. From my grandmother’s perspective, that word has always misrepresented her youngest child. If you ask, she’ll say Micki came into the world just the way she was supposed to be.

Today, at almost ninety-three, the time-honored light in Grandmother’s eyes is fading. She’s more feeble now than even a few years ago, and bones that used to bend under the weight of life now break. Yet she pauses and lingers longer than most because her remaining purpose sits beside her, quietly holding her hand. Theirs is silent proof that under the right conditions, the narrative of a love story can last forever.

My grandmother will tell you that she’s here today because of youngest child. Not her abnormal, uncommon, retarded child, but her sweet, loving, beautiful daughter.

She’s not a surgeon, or a star, or even that girl from high school you wish you still knew. Yet if you ask Micki if she’s happy, she’ll nod her head and reply, “Yes. Yes I am.”

You don’t have to ask Grandmother the same question. The answer is obvious in the way she looks at her daughter, without bias or pity or doubt. To a mother, a child is simply a child and love is just love. Micki is her life’s greatest gift. We should all be so lucky.

On October 5, 2010, President Obama signed legislation requiring the federal government to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in many areas of government. This measure, known as Rosa’s Law, strips the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education, and labor policy. According to the World Health Organization, about 15 percent of the world’s population — or 785 million people — has a significant physical or mental disability. 

For anyone accustomed to my attempts at more humorous, light-hearted posts, I’ll be back next week to talk about either what I found in my neighbor’s trash, or the time I spent in my version of prison, or both. These topics aren’t remotely related, but probably should be.

Why I’m Not Writing

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Why I’m Not Writing

In case anyone out there is wondering, I’m writing my first post in months about why I haven’t written a post in months.

It turns out that when you’re an unpaid writer creating content for millions of worldwide websters who surf the information superhighway in the middle of the night when they should probably be arguing with their spouse, there’s a lot that can get in the way of your craft. Like laundry. And in-laws. And naps.

My youngest enjoys doing laundry almost as much as me.

My youngest enjoys doing laundry almost as much as me.

But either Freud or my mom or maybe Donald Trump said good habits can be made in a matter of weeks, so I’m penning a post in an attempt to jumpstart my creative process or at least get a shot at a spot on the next Celebrity Apprentice. I sort of consider myself famous because have a lot of blog followers from India. It’s true so don’t be jealous. Or a hater. Hating on my international success overexposes your smile lines, which, according to Priscilla Presley, makes you look old. Priscilla prefers to look like a melty wax impression of herself, which is kind of cool if you’re into creepy Barbies.

I can’t move my face. Image via img.ibtimes.com

Reason Number One: I’m training for a half marathon

I said a half. Not a full. Running 26.2 miles is for crazy cyborgs with bionic heel strikes, like the ones who cut you off at Costco with a flatbed full of frozen kale, quinoa, and hemp seed right before they mow you down in the parking lot in their brand new Teslas en route to the neighborhood oxygen bar.

That’s my neighbor announcing her marathon finish time at last year’s community garage sale. Image via indiancarbikes.in

I’m not one of those people.

First of all, I like to eat real food, like bacon and Tang. Plus I drive the equivalent of a mobile meth lab, and by the time I pack up the trunk and ease into traffic, the marathoners have already supercharged their batteries, popped a heroine-like energy supplement, and are halfway up Pikes Peak. I’m not saying bionic people are addicts, but every marathoner likes to win, even if the side effects include an alkaline aftertaste and unsightly tooth decay.

This is where I like to cook.

This is where I like to cook.

I, on the other hand, am not in it to win it, but to log a respectable pace and skip the kids’ swim meet. Plus I could use a new t-shirt. Running takes time though, and like every girl of a certain age who drank formula as a baby instead of vitamin-enriched breast milk, I have to train. A lot.

Reason Number Two: I’m cleaning the house.

Anyone from India or maybe Sri Lanka who’s taken the time to read my posts knows I’ve never been a dog person. Until I got a dog, that is, and now I’m not so much a dog person as a my dog person. I’m a my dog person because my dog is awesome, and I really like fantastic things. Like tequila. Everyone who’s anyone in the canine industry knows my dog is bionic, and everyone who knows me will tell you I secretly wish I was bionic even though I’ll never admit it on account of all of those doped-up long distance runners.

I can’t move my face. Image via takethemagicstep.com

Anyway, my dog and I are pretty much a perfect match with one exception. He has a lot of hair. I don’t particularly like hair in inappropriate places which includes but isn’t limited to take out, hotel pillows, my chin, and Donald Trump. The presence of hair on any of the aforementioned surfaces should be illegal. Like redneck reality shows and Bruce Jenner.

I can’t move my face. Image via aceshowbiz.com

But because I respect the Bill of Rights and love my dog, I spend a lot of time cleaning. This attention to detail is better known as analosity, which I didn’t think was a word until I found it on urbandictionary.com. I’m pretty sure the definitions on urbandictionary are written by high-functioning OxyContin addicts who post unbelievable marathon finish times on Facebook for all those high school girls who beat them out for homecoming court to see, but I could be wrong.

Status Update: “Ran Chicago in 3:40 and smoked Dr. Oz. at the finish. Take that losers!” Image via jenx67.com

I thought I’d deal with a couple of shedding seasons and get right back to training for my race and loading up on glucosamine supplements at Costco. It turns out, however, that a shedding season, in dog years, is really all day for the rest of your life. Every dog person knows this, but since I’m a my dog person at heart and I ignore everyone who talks about canine bowel movement suppository brands at dinner parties when I just want to have a cocktail and chill, I’m pretty much screwed.

That's my leg.

That’s my leg.

Reason Number Three: The kids are out of school.

Anyone with children who might read this understands that after all the training, vacuuming, and sprinting from those crazy-eyed runners with fake teeth like Gary Busey (who doesn’t necessarily exercise but is probably connected to Bruce Jenner on Facebook), I have to feed my kids. Hence the trip to Costco that started this whole thing. This no-writing thing, that is.

I can’t move my face. Image via siO.twimg.com

So I may be back next week and I may not. It all depends on how I finish the race and whether or not my kids eat those roasted seaweed snacks I keep putting under their pillows at night. Time is cheap but college isn’t, and if I’m to ever have the bionic offspring I deserve? I’ve gotta start now.

 

Why The World Needs Heroes

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In the aftermath of a tragic moment, a hero can be born.

Heroes propel themselves from the ordinary to the extraordinary not in what they choose to do under ideal circumstances, but by what they can’t stomach avoiding in moments of immeasurable stress.

We need heroes when our world is shifted off its axis because they’re willing to pick up the pieces, no matter how crushed, damaged, or broken, and put them back together.

Heroes move while the rest of us sit mute in stunned silence. They do what others can only manage to watch. Heroes don’t have time to take pictures because they’re already working from inside the frame.

We need heroes because there is exponential strength in numbers.

If only for a moment, heroes ignore their ids and embrace their super-egos. They reject selfish and replace it with selfless. They sprint from the spotlight toward the trenches. They don’t think. They act.

We need heroes because they remind us that we’re all part of a tapestry much more rich and meaningful than the narrative of our individual lives.

Heroes don’t just rise to the occasion. They rewrite the rules.

We need heroes to inspire us. Generosity is contagious and grows without boundaries under the right conditions.

Heroes prove, by their humanitarian feats of kindness in the face of uncertainty, destruction, and death, that when the scale is tipped between good and evil, good always prevails.

We need heroes because they choose love over hate.

Heroes stand up for those who have fallen.

We need heroes because they are the living definition of patriotism and are the antidote to cowardice.

Heroes run to the places everyone else is trying to escape.

We need heroes because they make us believe in silver linings.

Heroes aren’t comic book characters pre-determined to walk the earth as Gods. They’re humans with flaws and frustrations. But in that moment when they choose to be something more? They engage. They are selfless. They serve. They overcome.

The world needs heroes because they remind us, in moments of bewilderment, confusion, and pain, that maybe, if confronted with an unexpected test of compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters, we could be heroes too.

If you would like to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, please contact the American Red Cross or The Salvation Army. Both organizations are providing much-needed support to survivors and first responders.

Gemini Girl on Hackers, Weight Loss, and The Ever-Changing Silhouette of Madonna’s Face

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Dear Friends and Family,

My email has been hacked twice in the past week. After studying the link sent repeatedly to my entire contact list, it seems some covert ring in Shanghai is under the impression I have considerable influence over anyone trying to lose a few pounds.

Based on my newly found infamy, I’d like to set the record straight.

1. I don’t believe in weight loss products.

2. I don’t think you need to lose weight.

3. If you think you need to lose weight, please don’t use any of the scams that Jack Dong, aka Wang Dong, aka, UglyGorilla, aka notorious member of the Chinese hacker group Pwned has sent you via my email account.

That’s the infamous hacker group Pwned. Just kidding, it’s Harvard’s 2013 graduating class. Just kidding, it’s Brad and Angelina’s home security detail. Image via rfa.org.

4. No one can lose twelve pounds in five days without sacrificing a couple of vital organs.

That’s your liver on diet pills. Just kidding, it’s the liver of the oldest goat on the planet. Just kidding, it’s Tom Cruise’s dinner. Image via path.upmc.edu.

5. If you drink more Slim Fast than water, feel free to replace a healthy regiment of weight lifting and running with these awesome alternatives: constipation, headaches, loose stools, gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, and intense hunger.

That’s Madonna after a 30-day Slim Fast cleanse. Just kidding, it’s Mike Tyson in drag. Just kidding, it’s your worst nightmare. Image via gstatic.com.

6. If you drink more tequila than Slim Fast, please check out this link: http://www.aa.org/.

7. Fasting is a great way to lose weight, as long as you believe that your 3:00 a.m. trip to kitchen to clear out the Cool Ranch Doritos, life-size chocolate Easter bunny, and an entire box of Saltines was just a dream.

That’s what I like to binge on late at night. Just kidding, it’s a culinary creation made from fish eggs, ramen, and bacon grease on Chopped. Just kidding, it’s a fetus. Image via dishola.com.

8. Avoid any diet plans containing the  words “clinical trial,” “Kardashian,” and “alkaline”.

9. There is no cream you can rub into your body to lose weight, unless it’s creamed gasoline, in which case weight loss will be pretty much confined to your top three layers of skin.

10. If you really want to lose weight, I highly recommend a mid-life crisis.

That's me, totally stressed because I somehow lost my Burberry credit card invite.

That’s me during a mid-life crisis. Just kidding, it’s me after discovering all the Cool Ranch Doritos are gone. Just kidding, it’s Mike Tyson.

My sincere apologies for any disruption or inconvenience my errant emails from Wang Dong have caused.

Stacie, aka Gemini Girl

Ode to An ’80s Tan

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It’s that time of year again, when families with an average of 1.86 children* and access to some type of motorized vehicle migrate south for a week of fun in the sun, or rather, hopefully not killing each other while suffocating under three layers of UVB protective clothing.

I can’t help but get a little nostalgic as I pack a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer, ear buds, and my candy cane shiv for the flight to Florida. Things were much simpler when I was a kid, and quite frankly, more tan.

I will cut you if you take the last Grey Goose orange vodka mini-bottle on the plane. Image via Flickr.com

Despite repeated warnings from the Surgeon General and my preternaturally aged hands, I love the sun. In my book? Tan is good, and every single white-bellied resident of Cleveland playing cornhole on the beach this spring proves my point (by the way, if you happen to be a Facebook Robber and are casing my house, good luck getting through the copious piles of laundry, Halloween candy wrappers, and discarded LIVESTRONG wristbands blocking all points of entry).

This is a cornhole tournament. On the beach. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Image via pressofatlanticcity.com

When I was young, we didn’t have enough money to fly the friendly skies, so we drove to Florida for spring break in The Grey Ghost, our family’s unaffectionate nickname for my dad’s sometimes air-conditioned, often not, Thunderbird. With a piece of masking tape cutting the back seat in half and delineating sides that dare not be crossed for fear of losing a limb, my brother and I played the license plate game to pass time, which pretty much sucked after about fifteen minutes because every single car headed south was from Ohio.

Things changed once we crossed the Georgia-Florida border, though. With empty bags of pork rinds at our feet and the wind in our hair, we knew we’d arrived at a mystical place filled with lightning bugs, fudgesicles, and an unusually large amount of seedy lounges advertising Elvis impersonators.

Is that a camel toe you’re wearing or are you just happy to see me? Image via zonamilitar.com.

We all piled into one room at a value-brand version of a Holidome, and Mom doled out the quarters she’d saved all year long so we could have whatever we wanted from the vending machines. Eating Taco flavored Doritos in bed while watching Saturday Night Live was nothing short of awesome, and as soon as I could see sunlight filtering through the curtains the next morning, I was out the door with my tube of Bain de Soleil, a Teen Beat magazine, and a dream.

This was my dream when I was a kid. In many ways, it still is.

Back then, a tan meant you were going somewhere in life, like the mall, to get an Orange Julius and some sweet new parachute pants. Now, being tan can still take you places, but it’s pretty much limited to your dermatologist’s office, usually for some minor outpatient surgery to get a spot of precancerous basal cell carcinoma removed from your nasal septum.

This too could be you if you stay in the sun too long or inhale a lot of recreational drugs. Image via 4.bp.blogspot.com.

Today, my family boards a plane to go on vacation, which is great, except for the aforementioned need to carry a concealed weapon that looks like a piece of half-eaten Christmas candy. And the ear buds that plug into something that, while providing entertainment, makes us more co-travelers than anything else. And the lines.

In response to an overwhelming cry for change (mostly from parents), the airline industry will now allow you to kennel your children and buy a seat for your dog.

Hence the nostalgia.

But the only thing you can count on in life is change, so like every other pasty mother I know, I’ve packed the SPF 300 and a little something just for me that’s stashed away in the recesses of my luggage. No. It isn’t a baggie filled with the medicinal marijuana you can now buy on every street corner in Colorado to enjoy with your Caramel Macchiato before a great day at the beach.

It’s a bottle of  Hawaiian Tropic Diamond Strength Dark Tan Accelerator.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Old habits die hard, and if youth is wasted on the young, I’m pre-qualified to appreciate every fine line coming my way.

*According to the 2000 Census, the average number of children in families was 1.86. Apparently, a child isn’t considered whole until it threatens to run away unless you lift the ban on smart phones after 9:00 p.m.

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Reading Between the Lines When Your Family Cares Enough to Send the Very Best

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Recently, I got this card from my husband and kids:

photo (21)

On the surface, you could read this as, “You’re an awesome Mom/Wife/Food Sanitation Expert/Cleaning Lady!”

Digging a little deeper though, there’s a hidden meaning behind each of their missives, one that involves birth order, timing, and various stages of psychological development.

Allow me to explain.

Scot, husband, age 43

Bergie,

You are the best wife + best mom in the world we love you so much!

Love,

Chez

Translation

I’m sorry the towel rack in our bathroom has been dangling from one side pretty much since we moved to Colorado, so I’ll use cute nicknames from when we dated 3,000 years ago with the hope that you’ll forgive the fact that I generally don’t do anything around the house anymore because I know if I let chores sit idle long enough you’ll do them for me. I used to think your erratic pre-menstrual hormones were scary, but wow can you handle a power drill like a pro when you’re mad!

I forgot the punctuation and capitalization rules I learned watching Schoolhouse Rock and used “+” instead of “and” because I’m tweeting about my fantasy football league with my dominant hand while I write your card with the one I use to pick wax out of my ears.

Can you make me a panini? All this tweeting and writing and soul-searching is making me hungry.

This is Scot's mustache era, circa December 20 - December 31 2012. I love posting pics of him that he doesn't want any of his co-workers to see.

This is Scot’s mustache era, circa December 20 – December 31, 2012. I love posting pics of him that he doesn’t want any of his co-workers to see.

Taylor, son, age 12

Mom,

You are the best mom ever. #1 on my list. I love you so much!

Taylor

Translation

Listen. I’m practically a teenager so I’m gonna pretty much copy what Dad said but change it a little so it doesn’t look like I cheated. It’s not that cheaters don’t prosper, look at Tiger Woods. It’s just that it sucks getting caught. Again, look at Tiger Woods.

Can I have an iPhone?

That “#1” thing was all mine so can I have $20.00?

Seriously, I started a crappy phone club at school and I’m the only member.

Since you’re already making one for Dad, can I have a panini?

Taylor will probably kill me for posting this pic, but he had a bad attitude last Saturday night when I took him out for a special mother-son dinner so he can suck it.

Taylor will kill me for posting this pic, but he had a bad attitude last Saturday night when we went out for a special mother-son dinner so he can suck it.

Grace, daughter, age 10

I love U

- Grace

Translation

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m the middle child and I’m way too busy to write. In fact, I’d be willing to bet all the money I’m stashing away in my piggy bank for an Ivy League education that you don’t even realize I’m around because I’m too busy absorbing and channeling the arguments between my older brother and younger sister, making dinner, refinishing the front entryway floor, and timing my sprint splits to train for the upcoming state swim meet.

I’m not really into paninis because I’ve just declared myself a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free vegan, so could you just whip me up a celery root smoothie while I work on some extra credit calculus problems so I can get a head start on my summer enrichment work?

It’s not fair that Taylor gets everything first because he’s oldest. I get straight As every quarter so if anyone’s getting an iPhone it’s me. Also I just finished alphabetizing the spice rack. You can thank me later.

That's Grace teaching our dog to follow commands in Mandarin.

That’s Grace teaching our dog to follow commands in Mandarin.

Essa, daughter, age 8

They diden’t leve me any room. E.

Translation

Being the youngest sucks.

I don’t care if I can’t spell. By the time I’m in high school the ghost of Steve Jobs will have invented a brain chip that will do everything for me so I can work on my tan.

I don’t care what Grace says about geophysics and I’m not wearing any more of her hand-me-downs. My style is totally Nicole Richie meets Kristen Stewart and she’s so Dakota Fanning.

I don’t care what Taylor says about his stupid iPhone because he’s stupid.

Can I have a panini, preferably with no crust, double cheese, hold the tomatoes? I’ll be in my room streaming “America’s Next Top Model” and pretty much raising myself.

Word.

Word.

So for those of you who recently got a seemingly sweet card from your family on a Hallmark-created holiday that looks and feels authentic? Look under the surface. It’s what you can’t see at first sight that will really trip you up if you’re not careful.

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