Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Everything I Need to Know About Life...

...I Learned From Gomez*

1. Do your research.
2. Keep a positive mental attitude.
3. Wear deodorant.

* Not my son's real name.

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Open Letter To Verizon Wireless

Dear Verizon Wireless,

I am writing to request that you expand the selection of ringtones available for your cellular phones.

Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the breadth and depth of of your current array of choices. Without question, you offer more options than any other wireless carrier to the discerning consumer seeking ringtones by the recording artist Lupe Fiasco.

Allow me to compliment you as well on your astounding inventory of barnyard sounds. Who knew donkeys were so moody...and so vocal about it?

That being said, I must admit that I'm having some difficulty finding a ringtone that expresses my lifestyle while seamlessly integrating into my daily routine.

You see, I rarely "flood the game like a giant in a dwarf's shorts" (as Mr. Fiasco would say), and it's also been a while since I spent the day lazily roaming my back yard, munching grass and braying.

That's simply not, as they say, how I roll.

Therefore, in an effort to help expand your collection of available ringtones, I've made a list of sounds that I believe would be worthy additions and which would meet the needs of others like me who seek their own particular clarion by which to, you know, represent.

Proposed Additions to the Verizon Wireless
Selection of Ringtones

Gas-Powered Leaf Blower

Out-of-Balance Washing Machine

Tween Son's/Daughter's Bedroom Door Slamming

Haunted/Gurgling Powder Room Toilet

Shouts of Inappropriate Parent Coaching from Sidelines

Crinkling of Paper on a Doctor's Exam Table

Deep, Shuddering Sigh of Husband Preparing Tax Returns

Sizzle of Free "Sausage" Samples in Aisle 3

Woman Repeating the Phrase,
"Young man, this room is a sty!"

Chop-Chop of Police Helicopter Overhead

Screech of Unoiled Garage-Door Rollers

Series of Voices Inquiring,
"So, have you written anything I've heard of?"

I hope you find this list of suggestions useful in your efforts to capture the demographic of customers who are living large in their own, you know, medium-sized way.

Toodle Loo,

Anna Lefler

Attention, L.A.-Area Readers

I will be giving away two pairs of tickets to "Parenting Out Loud," a comedic stage show about the hi-jinks and general stickiness of being a parent (which also happens to be a fundraiser for a local school). The show is Sunday, October 2 @ 7:30 pm and you can find all the details here.

The giveaway will happen on my Facebook page on Tuesday, September 20 and you can enter until 7:00 pm Pacific Time.

The show features a fantastic lineup of funny folks including comedian and author Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. It's gonna be a great night!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Defense of Spongebob

Or - A Big, Steaming Squarepantsload

When I was growing up in Houston, the two local television stations ran children's programming in the weekday hours before school started.

Five days a week, I would get dressed, brush my teeth, then plop on our Early American sofa and stare at the black-and-white television on its metal cart until it was time to jump into my mom's Delta '88 and burn rubber to school.

My viewing choices during that time slot were practically infinite, as evidenced by the following exhaustive list:

* Batman (starring Adam West)
* The Three Stooges (starring the Three Stooges, duh)

Faced with this dizzying array of options, I opted for the Three Stooges every morning. That is, until my mom became concerned about the violence and generally disrespectful nature of the stooges' hi-jinks.

So she made a rule: I could only watch "The Three Stooges" every other day. In that way, she effectively reduced by a solid 50% my chances of being suspended from school for clamping someone's nose with pliers in wood shop or excessive nyuk-nyuk-nyuking in social studies.

[To this day, whenever I happen to see a Three Stooges clip, I immediately think, Wait - did I watch this yesterday? Am I allowed to see it today?]

All of which is to say that although I absorbed 3.2 gazillion hours of children's TV shows that didn't even pretend to communicate quantitative learning skills or encourage young viewers to max out their attention spans (don't even get me started on "The Banana Splits"), I have managed to obtain an education and hold down a few respectable jobs over the years.

I'm also proud to report that it has been at least six weeks since my last seltzer-bottle fight.

The Spongebob Experiment

So when I saw the trending topic "Spongebob Study" on Yahoo!, I had an inkling where it was headed.

And I was right: it was the Salem sponge trials all over again.

You can read the details of the study here, but in a nutshell, it goes something like this:

Researchers recently had three groups of 4-year-olds each perform a different task as follows:

Group 1 spent 9 minutes filling out an IRS 1040 Long Form quietly coloring with crayons.

Group 2
spent 9 minutes watching brown spots form on a banana "Caillou." (For those of you unfamiliar with the show, "Caillou" is a children's program that is so sedate...that within nine minutes it would have Mr. Rogers tugging at his eyebrow while chewing the elbow patch off his cardigan.)

Group 3
spent 9 minutes watching "Spongebob Squarepants."


Now, guess which group performed worst in immediate follow-up tests designed to measure focus and self-control - the children who colored or watched the slower-paced cartoon...OR...the children who watched the "frenetic" undersea adventures of the pants-wearing sponge?


Is It Me? (<---rhetorical question, btw)

Forgive me for asking what might be a stupid question, but since when is increasing focus and self-control the goal of kids' shows? I'm sorry, but I was always under the impression that the purpose of children's programming was to make kids laugh until they blew grape juice out of their noses.*

[*Note: I'm intentionally overlooking the time-honored tradition of hateful, heart-wrenching children's programs about lost puppies and the like, such as a horrific movie called "Clown" that was shown to us in third grade and which SCARRED ME TO THIS DAY.]

Anyway, my understanding was always that there was another home-based tool at parents' disposal that was shown to be quite effective in increasing focus and self-control. It was called CHORES.

Television, on the other hand, was the "fun" thing you got to do when you weren't supposed to be doing something useful like making your bed or tidying up outside by flipping all the dog doodie over the fence with a rake into the yard of the vacant house next door.

I'm No Scientist, But...

Setting aside the structure of this study which pits a brilliantly subversive kids' show against two other activities that, while they have their place, are total snoozes...

I have to wonder what the results of the experiment would have been if there had been a Group 4 that spent 9 minutes, say, being chased around the block by an older sibling with a beach towel tied around his or her shoulders, wielding a Super Soaker and screaming gibberish.

Or maybe a Group 5 that swiped their parents' satin bedspread, wrapped themselves in it and bobsledded down the stairs and across the front hall 23 times in 9 minutes.

If these two groups performed poorly on the above follow-up tests (and, compared to the sedative effect of the coloring/"Caillou" combination, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that they likely would), would we conclude that these activities had no value or were somehow detrimental to the children's development?

What about the value of laughing until you clutch your sides, eyes welling with involuntary tears, tongue hanging out, gasping for breath?

To quote a credit card company's popular advertising tag line, I would value this effect as "priceless."

Now, before you turn on that TV, take this rake and get out in the backyard. That doodie's not going to flip itself over the fence.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Style Tips for Trapezoids

Or, Learn to Love Your Curves Corners

You've likely seen articles in fashion magazines that discuss strategies for dressing your particular body contour to its most flattering effect.

These articles often categorize women's body dimensions into geometric shapes, such as the triangle, inverted triangle, rectangle, etc.

This is all well and good until you stand in front of the mirror in your drawers and realize that you're not quite a triangle...nor do you resemble a true rectangle (unless you are willing to spend most of your waking hours hunched over with your ear touching your shoulder, in which case only 50% of your bitchin' new earrings are ever going to see daylight).

Where, then, is the non-standard-shaped woman to turn for crucial fashion advice?


The LJKGW Guide to Advanced Fashion Geometry

The good news: This handy reference guide is sure to talk you down from any shape-related fashion precipice.

The bad news: There will be a quiz every Thursday.

Here we go!

Scalene Triangle

Let's hear it for asymmetry! After all, how many of us can say that all three of our sides are the same length? Not many. That's why it's essential to understand the fashion equation of the scalene triangle. The scalene is crying out to be accessorized. (Can you hear it?) Just look at that alluring point sticking out on the side and I know you'll be thinking what I'm thinking. That's right: bolo tie. Add to that a flowy canvas peasant skirt and denim shrug and you will be rocking all three (uneven) sides of awesome.


Two words: Clogs + Poncho. Just don't make the obvious mistake of pairing a webbed nylon belt with your quadrilateral figure because that only cuts your profile in half quarters thirds whatever pieces. No, the svelte sway of the poncho combined with the woodland whimsy of the clog will have tastemakers across town nodding with approval (and a tinge of envy) at the sly way you have showcased your quadrilateral chops.


Let's face it: no one pulls off a pantsuit like the rhombus-shaped woman. Whether it's comfy with sassy winged collars for a day of pumpkin-picking, or embellished with chic sailor buttons for brunch at the dog track, the rhombus/pantsuit combination is simply unbeatable. (Note: If you're thinking of doing anything like knotting a scarf at your throat, forget it. Rhomboidal women can't do jaunty. Just trust us on this.)

Irregular Pentagon

As you may know, the key to fashion is accentuating certain features while strategically drawing focus away from others. This is why the skilled, irregular-pentagon-shaped fashionista will always be seen wearing leg warmers - but only argyle ones. Add to that a knit cap or other form of stretchy head wrap and you've got yourself a stealth fashion package that will have observers scratching their heads for hours afterward wondering what exactly they did see when they ran into you at the hot dog rental stand.


The nonagon-shaped woman has an advantage over other women in that she can shop for clothes not only among the traditional clothing racks, but also in the table linens department. This comes in especially handy during the holiday season, when the variety of embellished table cloths on display present a chic alternative to the played-out Christmas sweater. During the rest of the year, the nonagon woman can rely on timeless pieces such as the Members Only jacket and quilted opera cape.


Ever fashion-forward, the trapezoid-shaped female most effectively pushes the envelope of style with a bold combination of scented felt hats and vibrantly patterned culottes. Only the most informed, however, understand the need for elbow-length fingerless gloves to take their look to the next level. Of course, one may not always have these particular items handy, in which case you should just wear jeans and a t-shirt. But no jorts!

We hope you find The LJKGW Guide to Fashion Geometry indispensable as you move through the style seasons to come. (Be advised that we will be adding new shapes to the Guide as soon as we learn them and depending on whether we get into Honors Geometry next semester.)

Last week, an essay of mine was published on for the first time. Although my original title was "Old School," it can be found there in the "Real Families" section under "Hell Is Other People's Children." As promised, the commenter community has proven itself to be quite, um...spirited. You gotta love the Internet, right?

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read it and [gulp] put in their two cents as well.