Saturday, January 02, 2010

VISIT THE NEW BLOG ADDRESS

Please direct your blog traffic over to amycates.wordpress.com. And be careful. No tailgating, no rubbernecking.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Movin' On Up . . .

. . . and not to the East Side. And maybe not to a deluxe apartment. But I am moving the blog and all its contents over to:

amycates.wordpress.com

Archiving two years' worth of posts will take lots of time and virtual cardboard boxes, so this one will remain right here for now, growing weedy and looking like the Addams Family's front yard. It will be like that one house in every neighborhood, where kids walk by at a fast clip and let misguided baseballs go unretrieved.

This will be Boo Radley's house.

As you travel over to the new site, please keep expectations low for the next week or two. Moving takes time, but I hope to make it worth your while and not a pain in the rear to remember where it is.

If you have subscribed to this blog via RSS feed, please note this feature is also available at the new place. I hope you use it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Things You Can Feed Your Dogs (a helpful reader service)

Editor's Note: Sorry for the month-long absence. I've been busy and preoccupied with 10 magazine articles and their deadlines, a nasty computer virus that TamiFlu couldn't cure (but that a $130 repair bill could), a chance encounter with Loretta Lynn's tour bus (a story for another day), general anesthesia, day-to-day living and the final round of college visits with my high school senior. So, cut me some slack and get to reading.


I'm no veterinarian, but I have compiled a list of go-to items that you can feed your dogs when your kids don't tell you that there is no dog food in the house and the bag has been nearly empty for three days but now it's completely empty and it's 7 a.m. and would somebody, please, stop that barking? (Note: These are individual options, not the makings of a buffet. For best results, one entree at a time, please.)

* Cheez-Its
* leftover Ramen noodles
* oatmeal (instant or slow-cooked)
* scrambled eggs
* the perimeter of the omelet that you didn't eat that morning because the texture is weird
* a hearty soup
* Chex Mix
* toast
* pancakes or waffles (no syrup)
* Ritz crackers
* a handful of salmon-flavored cat treats

For my protection, I've copied (and edited) the following warning/disclaimer from the Lipitor website, but I think it's equally helpful here, as it may prevent litigious threats or claims, which, frankly, I don't really need right now.

If you take LIPITOR (or Amy's advice for veterinarian patients and their owners), tell your doctor if you feel any new muscle pain or weakness . . . The most common side effects are gas, constipation, stomach pain and heartburn. They tend to be mild and often go away. Eventually.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Gwen, Scary American Girl Doll

First, they mocked the '70s. Now, they've marketed homelessness.

Who's running American Girl? Barbara Boxer?

That's it, American Girl LLC. My family has supported you long enough. We've opened our home to Kaya, Kit, Ruthie, Samantha, Molly, Josefina, Bitty Baby, a couple of baby twins, some doll that came with a surfboard and possibly another freeloader or two who has taken up space on a bed, in a doll crib (oh, yeah, we have that, too), on the den floor. We've lined bookshelves with books that have been read and reread ad nauseum. We've outfitted their makeshift and portable homes (Rubbermaid boxes) with an AG knockoff bathtub from Target, a canopy bed (they take turns sleeping) and enough hats to make the Queen Mother jealous. (And if that sounds like a lot of money spent on American Girl dolls and accessories, know that my daughters are smart enough to ask for these things from their grandmother. And I'm smart enough to let them.)
Your first wrong move, American Girl LLC, however, occurred this year when you "archived" Samantha Parkington, "a bright and compassionate girl." Samantha was our family's first American Girl, and she has served us well, keeping the other American Girls in line. Oh, sure, we've had our moments, when we have found her wearing inappropriate clothes better suited to the surfer girl, or hanging upside down from the edge of the bed. But all in all, she has maintained propriety and encouraged us to dream big and . . . well, to be nice.

And then you really pushed the envelope with the recent introduction of Julie and Ivy and their hippie 1970s ways, grouping the '70s with historical periods like the Revolutionary War and making moms of 11-year-olds feel mighty old. Bad move.

The latest American Girl to come on the scene (that's the '70s influence talking) is Gwen, Homeless American Girl. She is the doll who lives in the box she came in. All for the online retail price of $95+/-.


A quick click on americangirl.com, and Gwen can be your own Doll You Can Pity, your daughter's Doll Whose Sad Life Keeps You Up At Night, her Doll That Doesn't Come With Any Accessories, her Doll That Costs As Much As Any Other American Girl Doll But Whose Net Profits Don't Benefit Any Social Agency or Cause But That's OK Because This Is Capitalistic America And No One Should Apologize For That But Really? This Is Tacky.

This is not about sheltering your kids from issues. This is not about sugarcoating real life. This is about keeping things in perspective. When it comes to dolls, we prefer dreams, not nightmares. That's why Barbie has lasted so long. Would Mattel market a Homeless Barbie and a Deadbeat Dad Ken?

My youngest girls come up with their own sad tales. For free. They don't need a $100 doll to open their eyes and scare the, excuse me, crap out of them, fearing for their parents' marriage (see Julie, a fun-loving San Francisco girl who faces big changes) or whether they will have a home tomorrow (see Gwen; but don't try to find a description for Gwen because she's so unfortunate that she doesn't even have a description; she rides on Chrissa's coattails and arrives at your doorstep by UPS in an eyelet lace dress and a pink headband that doubles as a belt).

American Girl does a lot of things right; this just isn't one of them. Perhaps if the money made from the sale of Gwen dolls built a shelter for women and children or maybe a dozen or more Habitat homes, maybe there wouldn't be a backlash. Maybe Gwens would come flying off the shelves at the warehouse. Maybe the whole deal wouldn't seem so . . . icky.

If the setup were a little different, we would love for Gwen to join the menagerie of American Girl dolls here, where each day looks sort of like a Victorian frat party. Unkempt hair, missing shoes, tiny dishes all over the floor, all the tea you can drink.

And then Gwen wouldn't be homeless anymore.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welcome to Wal-Mart: Come As You Are

BusinessWeek, back in 2007, offered the following explanation of Wal-Mart's shift from its longstanding slogan "Always Low Prices" to "Save Money. Live Better."

"Always Low Prices,” was always a benign descriptive slogan that befitted the brand, the store and the mission. The addition of “Live Better” is obviously meant as a deal closer, conveying to the consumer, who may or may not be conflicted about shopping at Walmart, what they get out of those low prices.

It was a shrewd move on Wal-Mart's part, as the economy started circling the top of the toilet bowl the very next year, and next thing you know, Wal-Mart was on everyone's radar. People who had treated Wal-Mart with such disdain, never giving it a second thought, were suddenly clipping coupons and buying Faded Glory jeans. People who maybe had never considered the thrill of saving money were captivated by the allure of staying afloat while still . . . living better.

And to these people, the rest of us extended a hearty welcome.

"Come on in!" we said. "Join us for some popcorn chicken in the deli and the clearance rack in the bakery!" And they reacted as if they found the Holy Grail. We watched them on local news reports and read about their plight in the newspaper. "We're really having to cut back. We're clipping coupons and buying clothes at Wal-Mart instead of at the mall."

And all of us just smiled. Apparently, we were doing something right -- something noble -- all along. They wanted to be like us. We were smart AND popular. But THEN, they started looking around and asking themselves, "Where do all these people come from? Am I really shopping alongside this?"

Thanks to cell phones and this new shopping sector's heightened sense of awareness in our "Live Better" world, our inboxes and a certain website are filled with all sorts of images that we, frankly, have never really considered. And if we could be completely honest here? We're a little scared.

I've never given any thought to what I wear to Wal-Mart, and now I'm concerned I might end up on this site or as an e-mailed image.

I once drove to Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. after leaving the emergency room, carrying a list of supplies I needed for a condition that I won't go into. Wearing my husband's t-shirt, sleep pants, a hospital bracelet and Band-Aids on my arms, I placed a bottle of carbonated sodium-something-or other and various other recommended accoutrements on the conveyor belt. The clerk looked at my purchases, eyeballed me up and down, then asked, "You having a procedure?"

I just wiped my brow with my palm and said, "What makes you ask?"

This sort of thing doesn't happen at Nordstrom's.

But today, in 2009, would I feel safe entering Wal-Mart dressed like this? Not likely.

Maybe as we climb out of this recession, the newbies will be gone, and the fascination with Wal-Mart shoppers' clothing and hairstyles will fade and we can go back to our ways, undisturbed, unkempt, unafraid of being photographed.

Because true Wal-Mart shoppers don't give a flip about Living Better. We're more about . . . Come As You Are.

There. There's your new post-recession slogan, Wal-Mart ad agency. Come. As. You. Are.