Jennifer Has Opinions

Jennifer has opinions…and the occasional story…and so do her friends…and they're self-involved enough to share it all on the internet

Opinion #12: The Lion King

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with Simba, Nala, Timon, Pumba and Zazu lately. I mean, that list right there is proof of just how much time I’ve been spending with them- not only did I know the bird advisor’s name is Zazu, but I also knew how to spell it. That’s not the kind of thing known to a casual viewer of The Lion King. I, however, am not the casual viewer. I am the mother of a six-year-old. A six-year-old who always chooses The Lion King for her pre-bedtime television viewing. A six-year-old who loves Simba so much that my husband and I were willing to shell out money for orchestra seats when the musical came to town this week. Have I proven my Lion King street cred yet?

When, as an adult, you are forced to watch a Disney movie over and over and over again, your mind switches into emergency self-defense mode. It wants to protect you from cartoon hyenas signing “Be Prepared” being permanently imprinted in your brain, so it allows you to start over-thinking the movie. I am a natural over-thinker, so I totally leaned in to that situation, and I’ve developed a couple of observations. 

First of all, and this is such an obvious plot question that I can’t believe it took 42 viewings for it to occur to me, I would like to know what Timon and Pumba are running from. No, seriously. They pull Simba (who, granted, is pretty weak-minded, even for a cub) into their whole Hakuna Matata lifestyle, saying things like “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world!” Well, wait a minute. I know the movie’s run time can’t really exceed the attention span of an average kindergartener, but what happened? What separated these guys from the meerkat and warthog communities? And how did they find each other? Some backstory, please. I know there are hints that Pumba was too gassy for his community, but that appear to me to be some classic glossing over of the real issue. And there’s absolutely no mention of what went down with Timon. Inquiring minds want to know.

My other observation concerns Nala. Now, I know this is Disney and damsel in distress is their bread and butter, but still. I’m going to go there. So, Nala seems like a pretty bad ass lion in her own right. Way more bad ass than Simba, for sure. So my question is, why didn’t she organize some sort of lioness uprising against Scar and the hyenas? She would have been more than capable. And why was she so desperate for Simba to come along and save them all? I mean, Simba, of all animals. It’s too bad Nala didn’t have anyone in her life encouraging her to save herself. 

So, am I on my own here, or does anyone else find themselves watching The Lion King and coming up with questions of eternal significance, like are all baboons new age, or just Rafiki? I’d love to commiserate. I’d also love to get my six-year-old into The Cosby Show before you see similar posts on Brave, Cars, etc. (but not Sleeping Beauty. Never Sleeping Beauty. That’s my line in the sand),

Heartfelt Interlude: Pretty Little Girls

I needed to write this post because I have an 11-year-old niece who is very, very pretty. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’m close to my sister’s children. They live down the street, and I both love children and have none (though that will soon change, Ethiopian courts willing), so I’ve always been very involved in their lives. I love my niece, but I’m not being a doting aunt when I say she’s pretty. She is, quite objectively, beautiful. She is also, and I say this with love, one of the most typical middle school girls I’ve ever met. She takes pictures of herself all the time. Seriously, it’s a running joke in my family that you can’t put your phone down when she’s around, or when you pick it back up, it will be full of pictures of her. Which brings me to what prompted this post. Over the weekend, I walked down to my sister’s house to gossip about the rest of our family catch up. We were talking, and my beloved niece randomly picks up two pictures of herself from last Spring’s dance recital and brings them over for me to admire. They’re great pictures- easy when you’re a lovely little girl being photographed by an excellent photographer. I’d seen them before, many times. Still, she brought them to me, and I told her they were gorgeous. It was the truth, but here is what I wish I’d said:

Dear Pretty Little Girl (because this really isn’t just about my niece),

I love you, but I don’t need to see another photograph of you. Those photos are only proof that you’re a pretty girl- something I already know. That you’re pretty is only proof that genetics were kind to you. You neither earned your physical beauty, nor did you deserve it- no more than someone who is less beautiful either earned or deserved that. Being pretty is temporary and of all things you might be, it matters the least. So please, no more photos.

Because I love you, show me proof that you’re a smart girl. Show me that you can think for yourself and that you’re willing to learn from others. Show me that you can be trusted to make good decisions.

Because I love you, show me proof that you’re a tough girl. Show me that you don’t walk away from things that don’t come easily to you- it’s the worst kind of curse, never overcoming a challenge. Show me that when someone comes to your rescue, you pay attention to what they’re doing so that next time you can save yourself.

Because I love you, show me proof that you’re a kind girl. Show me that you treat everyone around you, regardless of how pretty they are, exactly as you would like to be treated. Show me that you see, really see, the people that everyone else looks past. Show me that you take the side of the weak and the ignored and that you do it without acting as though you’re doing them some huge favor.

I know that most of the messages you get from the world around you tell you that being smart and tough and kind aren’t nearly as important as being pretty and cool and popular. I’ve seen the tv shows too. Middle school isn’t so far in the past for me that I don’t remember the rules.

But because I love you, I’m asking that you listen to me instead. Hear me when I tell you that pretty might open a door or two, but that smart earns success. Pretty fades, but tough sees you through your entire life. Pretty barely matters, but kind can change the whole world.

All My Love,

Someone Who Wants the Best For & From You

Opinion #11: Stages of Grief

I was a social work major and as such became very familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her famed “stages of grief.” You know them too, even if you don’t realize it- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance…sound familiar?  Well, with all due respect to Ms. Kubler-Ross, I feel like I can define the stages more accurately:

Stage 1: Eat Nothing (See, there’s an upside! You’ll lose weight!)

Stage 2: Eat Everything (No big deal. Remember that just last week you were eating nothing. It’ll even out.)

Stage 3: Spend Money You Shouldn’t, Probably on Home Renovations (Money you shouldn’t, but not money you don’t have, okay? Let’s try not to spiral out of control.)

Stage 4: Scour the Radio, Desperately Searching for Call Me Maybe* (Because that damn song makes you smile. Look for it on the radio, but don’t download it onto your IPod. Have some self-respect.)

Stage 5: Plan a Trip…the More Ill-Advised the Better (Stroll the ancient streets of Damascus! Experience the excitement that is Ciudad Juarez during election season! Snorkel off the gorgeous shores of Somalia!!)

*If there’s a Call Me Maybe emergency and all of the radio stations are letting you down, don’t despair! This will do in a pinch:

Heartfelt Interlude: My Mom

There’s a story from my childhood that always goes over well at parties about how I came to believe that Steel Magnolias was a pornographic movie.  I must have been in middle school when I first heard of the film, and I remember asking my mom if I could see it.  I also remember her looking at me very seriously and saying, “No.  It’s very, very bad.”  I realize that in a lot of homes this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I didn’t come from a family that strictly regulated viewing material (and for what it’s worth, I graduated first in my high school class, never tried drugs, and grew up to lead a very productive life).  I was not used to being forbidden to see a movie. I jumped to the only conclusion that seemed possible- Steel Magnolias must be a porno.  Imagine my confusion a few years later when my cousins (who were great for teaching me things my mother didn’t want me to know) sat me down to watch Steel Magnolias. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Me (storming into the kitchen indignantly): Steel Magnolias isn’t porn!!!

Mom: Huh?

Me: You told me I couldn’t watch Steel Magnolias because it was porn!

Mom: I did not. I told you you couldn’t watch it because it was sad, and I remember what you were like after E.T. and My Girl.

Me: You lied and told me there was going to be a sequel to E.T. where E.T. came back for Elliot.

Mom: Exactly. That’s why you couldn’t watch Steel Magnolias. No way you’d buy the sequel thing again.

I feel this anecdote sums up who my mother is as both a person and a mother.  She is a really nice combination of tenderhearted and quirky.  She can’t bear to see people, especially children, hurting. So, when she saw her (slightly neurotic) little girl sobbing uncontrollably over the separation of a boy from his alien friend, she made up a story about a sequel…and she made a house rule against sad movies.

Because that’s who she is, my mom.  If she can spare you pain, she will. If she can make sure you get the piece of cake you want most by taking the piece that everyone else wants least, she’ll do that too.  My mother’s heart is both tender and generous.  She’s not the only person I know with those qualities, but she might be one of the only people I’ve known who is able to combine tenderhearted generosity with a complete lack of jealousy or bitterness.  My life has been easier than my mother’s.  I have gotten to do more and see more than her, but she has never been anything but so happy for me.

I can’t get the woman to come to my house just to watch a movie, but if I call and say, “Mama, can you help me clean the house?” She drops everything.  She takes all the worst jobs, and she does it happily.  It’s as though she can’t separate helping someone out and having fun.  She never, ever does that thing where she agrees to do you a favor, but then subtly lets you know how much she’s sacrificing to do it.  My mother isn’t a martyr.

Another characteristic of my mother’s generosity is that it is proactive.  She doesn’t wait for you to ask for help.  She also doesn’t exactly ask you if you need help- this might be a Southern thing, but it’s like she knows that if she asks, you’ll have to say no to be polite.  She just jumps in and does what needs to be done.

Now, I think there are fair arguments regarding the wisdom of this style of being and parenting.  When a parent gives like that, what’s to stop the children from becoming takers?  All I can say is that, in my case, watching my mother go through everyday life so selflessly humbled me.  It taught me to give and receive gracefully.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot after reading this blog. I loved the point the author makes about how gratitude should be learned at home and applied in the world.

I am lucky, because I am largely surrounded by people who are better than me.  I learn from them, and hopefully I become better as a result.  I know many good people, but when it comes to how to give, my mom will always be the standard.  And, on the eve of her birthday, I thought I should share my opinion that she is the very best one.

Opinion #10: Radio Stations

I don’t actually have an opinion about radio stations in general, mostly this is a post about how I think that there should be (at least in my local market) a radio station devoted solely to show tunes.  That’s right, show tunes.  Like this:

Or this:

Or best of all, this:

This is what I want to listen to in the car.  Not pop country. Not hilariously bad Christian. Not cleaned-up rap, and not Bruno Mars.  You already know where I stand on Coldplay.  I’m done with soft rock and classic rock and lesbian rock. If I have hear one more boring-ass song from some indie male songwriter that sounds just like all the other boring-ass songs from indie male songwriters, I’ll shove hot pokers into my ears.

I want Broadway.  I want it in my car, on shuffle (no cd’s), with advertisements (no iPod).  I want it without having to buy satellite radio or figure out Pandora or Spotify.  I want to be able to end every commute with jazz hands.  And because I am young-ish and American, I feel that I should be able to have what I want.

Anyone out there with me on this?  Sometimes a girl just wants to car-waltz.  Or better yet, car-dance-battle!




Opinion #9: Holiday Decorations

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, shall we?  Yes, I am talking about “holiday” decorations.  There.  Now you all know where I stand on The War on Christmas (obviously on the evil side, waiting for Santa to go down on a melting polar ice cap- global warming is one of our most powerful weapons).

But back to holiday decorations.  I freakin’ love holiday decorations.  Especially the outdoor ones- the gaudier the better.  I like ’em bright and loud, with no respect for thematic cohesion.  Seriously, give me an inflatable Santa gazing lovingly at the Baby Jesus, while an animatronic Little Drummer Boy plays and Rudolph hangs out in an igloo.  Have the whole thing lit by Diwali candles and a plastic menorah that blinks in time to “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas.”  I adore crap like that.  I mean, I don’t want it on my lawn, but I will pull over and smile with child-like delight if I drive by it on someone else’s.

Some of my fondest memories involve holiday decorations.  My grandpa was a District Chief on the Fire Department, and all the fire halls used to have a holiday decorating competition.  On Christmas night, Pop would gather up me and my cousins and drive us all over the city so we could vote on the ones we thought were best.  Several years ago, I had the pleasure of encountering one of those mixed North Pole/Bethlehem scenes while driving around a couple of Somali teenagers.  One of the girls said to me, “Jen-A-fer, Jesus I know, but who is this man?” She was referring to Santa Claus, and I was happy to explain.  Something must have gotten lost in transition, though, because Zahara didn’t understand until we drove by another tableau of Santa and his reindeer.  Then, in a voice that let me know everything had clicked, she exclaimed, “OH!  He has goats!”  I let it go at that, because I had already learned how much Somalis love goats.

I digress.  I just wanted to establish that I love holiday decorations before I gave you my opinion, which is this: Holiday decorations have a time (and a place too, but for my purpose, only the time is important).  That time is from the week of Thanksgiving  until the day after New Year’s. Personally, I put up the decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving and take them down around December 29th.  My mom has hers down by the 26th.  I’m cutting everyone else some slack, but they should be gone by now, people.  The moment has passed.  The holidays are over.  Your lingering lights and half-inflated yard Frosty no longer fill us with joy.  They are depressing, and January is depressing enough all on its own.

Do us all a favor and let go.

Heartfelt Interlude: Gratitude in Action

I can’t be all snark all the time.  I have my limits.  So, I hope you’ll forgive me for giving in to my more sincere impulses as we approach Thanksgiving.  If you’re like me, you’ll be spending the next several days in grocery stores and kitchens, preparing for the holiday meal.  While you are preparing, I would like for you to consider the families on the other side of the world affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa who are really and truly starving to death.  I won’t go on and on about it; I already did that here.  But I will ask you to do more than consider them.  I ask you to talk about them- to the point of obnoxiousness if that’s what it takes.  And I ask you to give to those who are helping them: UNICEF, ARC, UNHCR, and others.  Please.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Friends With Opinions Friday: The Kitchen By The Water Aerobics Ladies

None of my friends came forward with an opinion this Friday, so I decide to do something a little different.  On my lunch breaks, I swim laps at the community center across the street from my office.  Right before lap swim begins, water aerobics ends, so I always see the water aerobics ladies in the locker room before I go to the pool.  Now, these women are elderly, Southern and remnants of my neighborhood’s “old school”- meaning that they (like my family, actually) were here long before we got eight coffee shops and hipsters.  Let me just say that if any of these women knew how to use the internet they’d have a blog just like this one, because boy do they have opinions…which they share with me, as I have, at thirty-one years of age, become their “young person.”

I happen to like these ladies quite a bit, and I enjoy the way they present their opinions, even when I don’t agree with them.  They make me laugh, and they’re kinda who I want to be when I’m old enough to want to trade in lap swim for water aerobics.  So, I thought I’d share with you the opinions they offered me today.

1.  Don’t let men do the grocery shopping.  One woman was explaining that her husband called the other day, asking if she could help him fix up some chicken thighs, as he’d found a good price on them.  She went home expecting to make dinner, but instead she found packages of chicken thighs covering every surface in the kitchen.  She called everyone she knew, trying to find places to store all that chicken.  In the end, her husband went out and bought a deep freeze for the chicken he got such a good price on.  She turned to me and said, “Baby, don’t let your man do the shopping at your house.”  I’m all about gender equality- I mean, I kept my last name when we got married (Hey, that’s a big deal here)- but I have to admit she has a point.  My husband loves a deal…and dark meat.

2.  Don’t keep the window shades open in your kitchen or pantry.  The discussion of men and their love of buying in bulk moved on to how men always want to show off the great deals they receive, which, according to the water aerobics ladies, leads to your neighbors knowing what you’ve got in your kitchen and treating your house like a grocery store.  One lady was saying that she recently loaned a can of evaporated milk to her neighbor, causing her husband to grumble for 2 days about how the price of milk has gotten high and about how he doesn’t buy food for her to feed the whole street.  Finally she told him, “Well, Russell, if you wouldn’t leave all the blinds up in the pantry to show off all the food you buy on sale, we wouldn’t have this problem.”  Good point.  I don’t mind loaning out canned goods, but I hate drop-by visitors.  I’ll keep this advice on principle.

3.  You can’t fry a hen.  My grandmother was an amazing cook; so is my mother- especially if you love your vegetables (and, well, everything else) fried in bacon grease.  I am an okay cook.  My mother never seemed very confident in my abilities.  As I was growing up, I’d ask to help cook, and she would just give me a once over and say, “Stick to homework, Jenna. Leave the kitchen to me.”  When I graduated from college, my mom put together a book of all her recipes for me- so sweet.  One entry, however, is decidedly unhelpful.  Under “fried chicken” she wrote, “Just go buy it or come to my house for it. You have no business near a deep fryer.”  I think her assessment might be unfair, but I’ve always heeded her advice.  Fried chicken remains a mystery to me, so I am especially thankful to the water aerobics ladies for the final story they shared today: One of the women had just gotten married, and she asked her mama for a chicken to cook.  The mother gave it to her, and the lady put it in the grease to fry, but after a while she noticed it wasn’t cooking. *At this point all the water aerobics ladies started laughing, because they knew the punch line. I pretended to know and laughed too.* The woman called up her mama to tell her the chicken wouldn’t cook, and her mama told her, “Honey, that’s a hen.”  Turns out you can’t fry a hen.  Did you know that?  I didn’t, but I do now.  Thanks, water aerobics ladies.




Opinion #8: Coldplay

On Friday, I was sick.  Really sick.  Fever, chills, can’t-remember-driving-to-work sick.  So after about an hour at the office, I gathered the strength to walk back down the stairs to go home to my beloved TheraFlu.  I don’t know about y’all, but driving while sick always makes me a little more reflective.  It’s like my brain doesn’t have the energy to focus on the millions of things that are typically on my mind (the Arab Spring, why bad things happen to good people, the possibility of time travel, why more people don’t agree with me that The Snorks was the very best of Saturday morning cartoons, etc) and so it just hones in on all the little things around me.  Like the radio.

I am a lucky girl.  I live about two songs from work, if you’re the type to measure time and distance in such a manner.  Most days, I jump from radio station to radio station (or cd to cd) trying to find the best possible two songs to get me through my drive, eventually just giving in and turning it to NPR for the news.  But on Friday, I was trying to stay really focused on driving, so I just left the radio alone.  The song playing when I started the car was by Coldplay.  Understandable.  As it has been explained to me, people really enjoy Coldplay.  But then something weird happened.  The next song they played was a Coldplay song too.  Right there, in the span of my short drive home, the only two Coldplay songs I knew were played on the radio.  This was very unsettling to my poor, cold-ridden brain.  That’s not how the world works.  Radio stations don’t play back-to-back songs by the same “artist.”  At the time, and I’m playing the sick card here, it felt like something out of The Twilight Zone.

Here’s where it gets really weird: The second Coldplay song ended just as I was pulling up to my house.  The DJ came on the air and talked about the song, and she said that it was by some other band- not Coldplay at all.  Huh?  So once I parked, I googled the only line of lyrics I was able to remember from that first Coldplay song they played, and it turned out that WASN’T BY COLDPLAY EITHER!  I was so confused.  These songs were my only reference point for Coldplay, but they were by other bands that I’d never heard of.  Bands that, apparently like Coldplay, would like to try really hard to be the U2 of their generation.  I sat stunned for a moment like someone who’d had a little piece of her world thrown off its axis.  I decided that my next step should be to google Coldplay so that I could figure out what they really sound like.  But then…

It occurred to me that I had, in the midst of my sickness, been given a gift.  I am person who lives in the first world who has somehow managed to not know a real Coldplay song.  I have the privilege of not having any idea how the sound.  In my opinion, that’s a state of being worth holding on to (meaning you can post clips of the real Coldplay in the comments, but I won’t be clicking on them).

In the meantime, here’s one of the bands that I learned is not Coldplay:

Friends With Opinions Friday: Halloween By Kellye

*The opinions expressed in FWOPF are not necessarily shared by Jennifer (though this friend also happens to be my boss, so if you could all concur vehemently, that would be fantastic)*

A friend of mine posted on Facebook this week that she was earning a nasty reputation on her street because she made the non-costumed teenagers who showed up at her door on Halloween make an effort (sing a song, do a dance, or draw a picture with sidewalk chalk) in return for candy. I chuckled reading it because I know her, and I know she was serious. But then I started wondering, when did people start using Halloween as an excuse to hit people up for candy with nothing in return?

I know how Halloween’s supposed to work … I WAS a kid once! And every year, without fail, I put a lot of thought into what I would be, rushed home from school to get my costume on, faithfully tromped from house to house displaying myself as whatever character I had chosen, and politely held out my bag in order to receive my treat. There was an exchange you might have missed in this process … I dressed up to the entertainment of my candy-giving neighbors and they rewarded me for this effort.

When did this mutual exchange get tossed aside? Who said kids don’t have to work for their treats? Is October 31st now designated as “Free Candy Day’ on calendars?

And it’s not just teenagers who seem to have developed this skewed perception of Halloween. I watched with amazement one Halloween as a man and woman who were at least in their 40’s went door-to-door holding out their plastic Kroger bags and demanding candy … neither of them wearing costumes. And yet, there was absolutely no shame between them. They didn’t even try to hang with the kids and act like maybe they were collecting candy for a sick child who had to stay home. Heck no, they zipped right on past the groups of kids (who obviously couldn’t walk as fast because it was hard to see through their masks or their costumes were too long and got caught under their feet) and stood at doors all by themselves expecting something for nothing.

You know, I consider myself a fairly kind and giving person. I buy numerous copies of the little newspapers sold by the homeless folks; I can’t count how many packages of diapers I’ve bought though I’ve never had a baby of my own; I buy for “Angels” at Christmas, give to several charitable organizations, and try to help others through words, actions, or cash when possible. But if you want my candy, you’re gonna’ have to give me somethin’ in return! Halloween has rules!