Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Complaint: Enlarged to Show Texture.

Yes, it’s another cereal post. (Get it?) (Sorry.) Seriously, we’ve already talked about the whole master of the obvious “serving suggestion” tag line. But what about “enlarged to show texture?” Not only does it sound downright dirty, but do you honestly believe that people will open the box and be pissed off that their Crispix™ is ever so slightly smaller in real life than it was in the pictures? Who is spending their time worrying about this?

It looks the same. It tastes the same. It’s just enlarged to show texture. Give people a shred of credit. If the size of your cereal is something that puts your knickers in a knot, you must be living a charmed life. There must have been some lawsuit/complaint/reality show about the disappointments of one’s Lucky Charms not measuring up to expectations that prompted this particular required label for so many cereals.

There’s some life lesson or metaphor or analogy (or possibly parable, though that may be stretching it) in here but I’ll be damned if I can find it. I spent the whole afternoon at the park with my kids and I’m beat. Let me know what you come up with.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Comment: Wise words from a small child

Tonight my daughter was hysterical. Why? She had pink hair, and it was being washed away in the bath. She was truly devastated that the tub water was pink, which meant that her hair was back to blonde.

Where did she get pink hair? From preschool. We were celebrating the Hindu holiday called Holi, which is all about bright colors and the triumph of good over evil. Colored powder is applied randomly to any visible body parts. Very cool. Very messy.

My daughter actually said, “I want to be pink. I don’t want to be normal.”

And I thought, wow, at age four she’s already figured that out. It took me so much longer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Complaint: Facebook = Fakebook

For a brief moment, I thought of going back to Facebook. But like an unhealthy relationship, I knew it would be a doomed affair. I’d end up getting sucked back into watching what other people are doing while I, doing absolutely nothing, yearned for a life I could actually have if I just stopped hanging around on fucking Facebook.

There was an article in The Week (last week) about Facebook, where various GenXers and even Boomers are saying it’s ideal for this age group, due to the fact that we/they have so many people from the past with whom to reconnect and “show off”. The argument against Facebook for teens is that when you’re young, you’re constantly reinventing yourself; how, they ask, do you do that when hundreds of your friends and acquaintances are watching 24/7? I personally have reinvented myself several times in the course of my life so far, and I could NOT have done it if I had been on Facebook. It’s just not a forgiving medium. And it’s forever. (One writer likened it to a high school reunion that never ended. Eek.)

Anyway, I went to sign in to my deactivated account just because I’m weak, and I practically had an anxiety attack, because it immediately welcomed me back, like a lover who will take you in and take advantage of you once you drop your inhibitions. I started panicking, and just immediately deactivated again.

And as you deactivate, for those of you not aware, Facebook does this pernicious little thing where it randomly shows four of your “friends” and says, “So and so will miss you!” “Such and Such will miss you!” “Are you SURE you want to go?”

Deactivate! Pull the trigger! Press the button! Eject! My real friends talk to me with their actual voices. Or email me with their news in more than one pithy sentence. They know how to find me if they want to. These people who will supposedly miss me? Won’t.

Besides, I’ve heard the new layout sucks and the status updates are endless and all psych-speaky.

Looks like I got out just in time.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Complaint: Ow, my head.

Okay, I haven’t been posting for the past few days, and here is why: migraine. At least that’s what I think it was. It was not a garden variety headache, it was a hurricane of a headache. It didn’t respond to mega doses of caffeine and Advil; it just ran its course and I’ve just come up for air today.

Wow, how do people cope with these things on a regular basis? I mean, there are plenty of people who get migraines frequently, and frankly, I’m surprised they can come out the other side and ever be pleasant again knowing they are under the power of this type of pain at any given moment.

Anyway, I was quite the grouch/bitch/swamp witch for two days and spent most of it lying in bed whining. Don’t I sound like a fun date?

So I’m okay now, but man. I have newfound respect for regular migraine sufferers who have to go through this. I mean, okay, it’s not the same kind of pain as drug-free childbirth, but it's close, and it lasts so much longer... Dang.

So I’m back in the saddle, so to speak.

Just wanted to post to let you know I’m still alive and kicking. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Comment: Urgh

There are some days when the best you can do is plow through them, stuff yourself stupid with chocolate and bread, and go to sleep early.

I'm with Scarlett O'Hara on this one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Complaint: More Disney Kvetching

The Disney Princess Phenomenon (DPP ™) is alive and well after my daughter’s fourth birthday. Did you know that Aurora a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty has violet eyes? Have you ever met anyone with violet eyes (who wasn’t using colored contacts, obvi)? How hard a beauty standard is that to attain when it rarely exists in nature? Talk about setting up girls and women for a fall. Every one of the princesses has shiny, glossy, LONG hair, except for Snow White; she was invented near on 80 years ago, so she has a different do. But they all have perfect skin and big boobs and no body fat. I bet they don’t even have to do crunches.

I caved and bought a magazine I don’t know that I’ve ever bought before: Shape, primarily because I’m obsessed with my belly fat. And apparently I’m not alone in that obsession, since most every magazine I saw at the checkout line aimed at women had at least two different headings about it. “Blast the brutal belly!” “Ab-tastic in five minutes a day!”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is on the cover of said magazine looking annoyingly buff at age 48. But then again, she probably has someone else cooking for her and taking care of her kids so she can take glorious runs and eat healthily. It’s her freakin’ job to look good. She doesn’t have to show off though, does she? (Apparently, yes.)

But I bought the magazine. Why? Stupidity? Naivete? Foolishness? All of the above.

Am I going to read any of it? Probably not. It’s the same principle as shopping for the person you want to be, as I wrote about many posts ago. But I bought it because I buy into the same old stupid perfect-perpetually-young-and-firm-female-body-ideal. Buying a magazine won’t change anything, but for five minutes, it feels like it will.

On an equally superficial but more positive note, I actually did wear one of my Cute Blouses two days ago, which made me, at least for the day, Cute Blouse Girl. I didn’t even spill anything on it. Yet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Question/Complaint: Et tu, Tom-Tom?

I feel so betrayed.

Something happened to my Tom-Tom and now it doesn’t work.

It won’t tell me where to go, how to get there, or what I should do next.

I am bereft.

This is a problem, as I can get lost in my own house. I’m seriously spatially-challenged.

And I had gotten so used to using my dear Tom-Tom, the little portable GPS that took me wherever I needed to go. Until today.

I had to go somewhere that I’ve actually been before. For most people, no GPS would be required. But as I said, I have issues. So I had to Yahoo Maps it and fuss around. I was in quite a lather before the appointment I had to get to today.

Luckily, I usually allow a fifteen-minute “lather cushion” when embarking on solo trips. Something is bound to fuss me up: the car not starting, forgetting my phone, saying goodbye (again) to the kids, having to pee. So I still arrived at my target destination (which, sadly, was not Target) (not that I’d need directions for THAT) in time for the person I was meeting to be running late anyway. Sigh.

But when I almost missed my turn on the way there, I was beside myself. I nudged myself into the correct lane just in time to piss off several cars’ worth of people and taking driving risks I would never normally take.

Because, you see, if I’d missed my turn, I’d have had no one to reroute me. Tom-Tom usually takes care of that for me, and since it wasn’t working, I had nothing. And as you can infer quite clearly from the paragraphs above, I am not good at rerouting.

Tom-Tom actually changed my life. Revolutionized it. I received it right before our family moved to a new city. Tom-Tom allowed me to drive to places I’d never have found on my own. (Did I mention I suck at reading maps, or was that implied already in the whole spatial challenge thing?)

I was so excited when Tom-Tom would take me and my kids places I’d never imagined. Suddenly I was a trailblazer: I could go to any park in the county. I could find Cold Stone Creameries miles from my home. I could be a carpool mom without embarrassment!

Because the beauty of Tom-Tom is that it doesn’t give you the bird’s eye views, as many GPS units do. It gives you the driver’s eye view, which is what all GPS units should do. (Why design these things for a bird? WTF?)

So I found a whole new world with my new best friend. And Tom-Tom really did become my friend. Or at the least, a companion. It has a menu of voices to suit one’s mood. Sometimes I have Jane, with her crisp, clipped British cadence. Other times I have Blandy, I mean, Mandy, the American. After awhile the Jane voice starts to make me feel like Mary Poppins is bossing me from the passenger seat.

I got to the point where I was talking to Tom-Tom. Mostly it was nicely, and more often than not, it was with gratitude, not irritation. (Although I admit to sometimes taking my road rage out on it with mild expletives. Or not so mild ones, when nobody else is in the car with me.)

And herein lies the paradox of the GPS. It’s a tool to help you navigate, but it obliterates any need or skills you may have in that area. So if you weren’t great at finding your way around town before you got Tom-Tom, you are permanently indentured to it, as I discovered today.

I have NO idea where I am when I’m using Tom-Tom, and I don’t need to. I just follow directions. So without guidance today, my anxiety spiked; I got sweaty, fussy and a mild case of road rage. And I had to follow my directions to the letter. Otherwise, I'd be SOL because I had no help fixing any mistakes I'd made. I'd have no idea where I was or how to get anywhere from there.

Quite a metaphor for life, no? I was without directions, without a compass, lost, and filled with panic and anxiety as a result. And I didn’t like it.

This is how Juliet and Sawyer felt before they ended up in the 70s. All those headaches, nosebleeds and bad fashions.

Tom-Tom, I will totally take you back, even though you abandoned me and left me adrift. Just come back, and I promise I won't swear at you.

As much.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Question: Who sends cash in the mail?

I mean, other than kindly older relatives who send you five dollars, that is. (A trend that is rapidly dying and being replaced by the simplicity and cheapicity of the dreaded e-card.)

I didn’t know people sent money anymore. Isn’t it illegal? Or at the very least, kind of dumb? I mean, today I nearly shredded some document from Neilsens and as I started to rip it, I noticed that there were ten dollars in it.

Yes, a fiver and five ones.

And I was about to recycle the whole damn thing.

So I read on. And found that a memory resurfaced, because the envelope came from Neilsens.

We used to get Neilsens ratings requests back in the day, too, but you didn’t get so much cash. Cost of living increases notwithstanding, ten bucks is nothing to sniff your nose at. In the olden days, you got two silver dollars or four fifty cent pieces, or something like that. I remember, because it felt like such a deal: watch TV and get paid!

What cracks me up is that we basically don’t have TV. Not one that has any stations. So the only TV we watch is online. But that still counts, apparently.

So I filled out their little anonymous survey, and the claim is, they will send $20 after they receive said survey. I don’t know if it’s going to bee a gift certificate, a tax credit, or cold hard cash, but if they sent it once, who knows? Maybe lightning will strike twice.


In other news, I have noticed that in spite of stressful goings-on in my household, I am less lonely and less anxious since quitting Facebook. I’m still in touch with the people I was already in touch with anyway, just by slightly different means. Most people, I’m sure, haven’t even noticed that I’ve disappeared. I can feel the neuroses falling left and right.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Comment: Finger Wagging and Thumb Biting

Today a woman wagged her finger at me. She didn’t just hold it up, she wagged it. It’s been a long time since someone has wagged their finger at me.

Why do we make this gesture? To make someone else feel ashamed, bad, guilty or stupid.

But I felt none of those. I felt amused.

Because my deep transgression, apparently, was stopping my car and then going before she stopped and went. To be fair, it was probably her turn to go, and I probably screwed up (definitely, in her eyes). But come on, finger wagging? And she also made quite a disapproving face for further emphasis, designed I’m sure to remind me that I’m a freaking idiot AND inconsiderate.

But it just didn't really bother me.

Finger wagging is kind of a lost art. I imagine Dick and Jane getting fingers wagged at them in the 50s when they misbehaved; I didn’t even know people did that anymore! But wag they do.

Physical gestures are hilarious. Back in Romeo and Juliet’s day, it was considered really insulting to bite on the end of your thumb in front of someone. From what I can gather, it was like giving the middle finger to someone. (Why the middle finger? It would be so much easier if we used the index finger. And why is the thumb all “well done” and “great job”? That really blows for the rest of the fingers.)

In the opening scene of R&J, the rival gangs Montague and Capulet get into all sorts of mischief because one of them bites their thumb at the other. The observing dude says, “Do you bite your thumb at ME, sir?” And the thumb-biter is all, “No sir, but I do BITE MY THUMB,” just to totally mess with the guy’s head. And we all know what happened after that.

And of course hand gestures vary by culture. You really have to watch out for different customs or you could deeply piss someone off. And you might just be chewing on a hangnail at the time.

What is your favorite gesture? Which one do you use most frequently?

My husband and I made one up, to signify “whatever”. It’s an ASL W, then you flip the fingers and make a non-ASL E with the same three fingers.

Feel free to go viral with that. It’s only a trendlet now, but with your help it could make Entertainment Weekly, or one of those hipster CW shows the kids watch.

Make my pop culture dreams come true and have Robert Pattinson start using it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Comment: Let's Hear it for The Cure

They’re having a bit of a renaissance for me these days. And, apparently, for themselves. They just keep churning out albums, and have been reissuing left and right on top of their new stuff.

I’ve been listening to some of the B sides from "Staring at the Sea". They’re incredible and hardly ever played, let alone known, except by die-hard Cure fans.

Does that make me a die-hard Cure fan? Probably.

Were they an influence on me in my youth? Absolutely.

I freaking looked like Robert Smith. I had big hair and eyeliner, dyed my hair jet black and wore ripped, black (natch) clothes and big boots. I smoked cigarettes alone at three in the morning and felt like I was the only person in the world who felt this way, besides, of course, Robert and his boys. Misery truly does love company. (See: Morrissey; sidebar, have you seen his new video? He definitely has some more mileage, but he still looks good and angst-filled, albeit greyer. He still flails his arms around. I love it.)

Back in the late 80s, I would play particular Cure songs over and over, willing them to remove the angst from my teenaged soul. It didn’t always work, but it was better than spending my time doing heavy pharmaceuticals.

If you’re looking for classic Cure, you should try “Throw Your Foot:” off the above-mentioned "B-Sides". Or “Stop Dead.” And if you want their best dance song ever, try “Hot! Hot! Hot!” from "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me", without question the best song about lightning EVER. I dare you to sit still while it plays. And if you want early raw Cure, try “10:15 Saturday Night.” Get the live version. The studio one is nowhere near as good.

There's so much more, but by now you've either stopped reading or are already on ITunes looking for your own personal cure for angst. Enjoy. And by "enjoy", I mean, revel in the angst and be happy. It is humanly possible to do both simultaneously.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Comment: Alfie Kohn Mania

Okay, it appears to me that at least 75% of all parents in the San Francisco Bay Area are going to see Alfie Kohn tonight. And that’s a conservative estimate.

Who is Alfie Kohn? He’s a radical intellectual with a radical point of view: in brief, as a parental practice, punishments don’t work; but neither do rewards.

He has a book called “Punished by Rewards” if that gives you a clearer idea about where he stands on the issue of praise/positive reinforcement. Yikes.

Let me step back a bit. I first found his book. “Unconditional Parenting” when my children were very small; toddler and infant, to be exact. I tried to read the book. It was so daunting, the methods so off my grid and the point of view so extreme that I gave up and hid the book on a shelf high up in my closet. There was no way that as a new mom I could possibly live up to his expectations. I kind of wanted to, but sheesh, the whole paradigm shift/sea change that was required was beyond my sleep-deprived, overwhelmed mindset.

Fast forward three years. The nursery school where I’ve sent both my children has an educational component for the parents as well. One evening not so long ago, we watched an Alfie Kohn DVD.

Basically it was him giving a lecture (there were no special effects, though I could swear I saw lasers coming out of his eyes at one point). He came across as so draconian, manic and intense that I felt like he was chastising me from the TV for my shoddy parenting practices. Other parents in the room felt the same way.

But it doesn’t stop there. I decided to go home that night and pick up the long-ago-abandoned book and see if it was as intense as he was. If it didn't bite me when I picked it up, I'd be okay.

Did it blow my mind? Not so much. His language in person is meant to shock and awe, and that it does. He makes you feel like a freaking idiot for telling your child they did a good job, or giving them a sticker for cleaning their room.

In the book, though, his language and expectations are far gentler. He allows for the fact that we are all human, and thus, err, and that in fact we are bound to do some punishing and some rewarding. That’s not his point.

His point, it seems to me, is that we should as much as humanly possible consider the child with respect, think about what we’re asking of them, and teach them to be autonomous. You don’t want little Johnny to stop kicking people because you’re going to punish him if he does, you want him to stop because it is unkind and hurtful to other people. You want to develop intrinsic social behaviors, not extrinsic ones. And Kohn’s thesis is that punishing or rewarding do just that.

I read the whole book, felt inspired, and have been trying, with some success, to listen more and punish/praise less. This is not easy. I’m an enthusiastic gal. I’m still going to say “good job!” dammit, but I see the point in helping to teach my children not to harm or do negative things not because they’ll get in trouble, but because it isn’t kind. And I want them to do their school work or other activities because they want to, not so I will cheer and jump and down like a dork every time they wipe their ass.

It’s actually quite sensible, and dovetails nicely with the Farber/Maslish gentle (and very positive) bestselling classic, “How to Talk to So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk”. It and Alfie Kohn’s ideas are not incompatible.

So everyone and their sister is off to the auditorium tonight to see Alfie Kohn rant. I’m not sure what going to see him would do for me, since I’ve read his book, seem the rant, and figured out what I think I need to learn from his ideas.

Call me jaded, but I need my sleep more than I need a live parenting celebrity sighting. Good night, Alfie.

Thanks for the insights.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Question: What’s with the pinching?

St. Patrick’s Day.

Originally a day to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, it now consists of a bunch of drunk people chugging green beer (and later, barfing green barf) , wearing green, and pinching anyone who isn’t. Boy, do we know how to celebrate.

So supposedly some Irish children some number of years ago decided that you could pinch anyone who wasn’t wearing green.

Isn’t that a little, um, Lord of the Flies-y?

What about the kids who didn’t have green clothes? Were they going to be tormented as a result of not having a certain color on? The answer, throughout history, appears to be yes.

Thankfully my elementary school aged son wore green today, or who knows what would have happened.

Even at my daughter’s preschool, a PRESCHOOL, the teacher joked about pinching my child since she refused (adamantly) that morning to wear any green at all (that’s my girl). She said that my daughter’s name tag was green, and a good thing too, or else she might have gotten pinched. Has it come to this?

And looking back in history, do you think the people going through the potato famine and who barely had two sticks to rub together still got pinched if they weren’t wearing green? Some of them probably only had one pair of pants and one shirt. What are the odds that one of them was green? (Get back to me on that one, please.) Are we saying that a forgetful child should get pinched all day? How is that helpful? Is spite part of St. Patrick's Day?

And what about people who are color blind? You know, to some people, teal looks a lot like green. So what, you’re gonna get punished physically for wearing a color you thought was the right one?

I saw so much green today it made my head spin. In a totally random accident, I ended up wearing olive green army pants. So maybe that makes me a joiner after all. And nobody in my family got injured or mocked for their fashion choices.

But for the record, the pinching thing? Can kiss my 1/16th Irish ass.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Comments: Bits 'N Pieces

Today I’d like to give a shout-out to my daughter. She is four today and is quite the fabulous little person. She has taught me an enormous amount about life and how to cope with chaos, from her tumultuous gestation to her drama-filled entrance on this stage to her daily antics.

She is fierce, strong, funny, tenacious and loving. I am truly grateful for her.


In other news, can we please sort out this whole AIG business? I don’t claim to have an understanding of the whole financial system (does anyone?) but I do not think that giving big bonuses to the people who wreaked havoc on our finances is in any way the thing to do. WTF?

It enrages and embarrasses me to think of all the money that has gone to waste through greed and corruption that could help us take care of people who need help with basics like housing, food and health care. (Shut up, I’m Canadian.)


I just finished reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake.” That woman can write. She could make my car owner’s manual riveting (get it?) (sorry). Seriously. Check out her work. It’s beyond my comprehension how someone can write like that. Ditto for Anne Marie McDonald, in case you’re looking for brilliant female authors of our time who know how to cut to the heart of everything in miraculous prose.

But I’d also like to say huzzah to Brad Warner. His latest, “Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate” is awesome. (gee, is that the technical literary term?) In his inimitable blunt and hilarious style, he really demystifies the life of a Buddhist monk, which frankly needed to be demystified. So much of what we see in life is for show, and it’s nice to hear about the solid core underneath it all. In the end, none of us is perfect nor ever will be; and yet we are perfect as we are.

Chew on that for awhile. I've got a birthday party to plan.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Complaint: Museums

I don’t like museums.

There, I said it.

And I’m not sorry.

It may make me sound like a knuckle-dragging philistine, but so be it. I’m edumacated, I’ve got a coupla degrees, I love to read, but I don’t like museums.

I don’t enjoy them. I endure them.

But let me get very specific: museums in the present, with small children, suck. They’re so overstimulating it’s a wonder we don’t all get seizures from them like those little kids in Japan with the video game. Remember that?

Besides, museums have become so Disneyfied it boggles the mind.

How are they like Disney? You pay a huge fee, then enter only to be surrounded by gift shops so big they have departments, and name brand, over-priced food courts. To enter certain, special exhibits, you have to either be a member, a super member, a jumbo fabulous member, or own the museum, else you’re required to pay ANOTHER fee.


It’s not Disney. It’s the mall! D'oh.

I don’t remember museums being like this back in the olden days. My favorite museum was the Electric Museum in Longueuil, Quebec. It was so small (How small was it?) I think my living room dwarfs it. (Bearing in mind of course that I do have a very large living room; you've probably never been to my house, so how would you know?) There were a few interactive, non-computerized activities; things like turning cranks and pushing levers. It was an electricity museum, what do you want?

Today’s ultra-mega museums are so tarted up that they aren’t really about the exhibits anymore. They’re about the snacks, the gift shop, possibly some I-Max or other 3-D related edutainment, including hands-on everything. (Can you say Rhinovirus? Rotavirus? Flu? Eek.)

When I’m in a museum I feel like I am surrounded by loud and annoying strangers who are filled with germs and make me wait in long lines to do something I frankly don’t really want to do, but think I’m supposed to do for my kids.

And herein lies the rub: Why are we going to all these damn museums anyway? I think there’s a place for museums. Restoring and saving artifacts is vital to preserving our sense of history and of the world around us. All good. But I repeat: why are WE going to all these damn museums anyway?

Is it to make our children smarter? Is it because we can’t think of any other ways to engage as a family on Saturday mornings? Is it because we think we’re supposed to and it makes us look good? Do people go because they enjoy it?

Sometimes I wonder.

If you really want to teach your child, what’s wrong with a book? A walk in the woods? A trip to the library? (You only pay fees there if you take something out and don’t return it on time, and there are NO snack bars or souvenirs, except for bookmarks.) Sure, there’s a place for museums in everyone’s life, I suppose. But life outside the museum walls in any country is actually very interesting. I mean, if you want to learn about a culture, you're better off in a cafe or public park than a museum. I’m just not convinced that small children really get a whole lot out of them, except very, very tired and very, very wired. Our manic desires to enrich our children don't always make sense to me.

I can see taking one child at a time to a museum, in the future, when they are interested in what the specific museum is offering. Then we can, I hope, walk around at our leisure, look at stuff until we’re tired, and leave. That’s harder to do when you travel as a group. I know lots of mom’s groups who meet at museums. That sounds like sixteen shades of hell to me. You can’t have a conversation with anyone at a museum! If you want to socialize, go to a park or someone’s house.

Museums are over-rated as destinations for families. I don’t like paying extra to see shark bones or eat McNuggets in an acoustically-hideous place where I can’t find the damn bathroom and the elevators are all broken and the exhibit my son wants to see is not only on the sixth floor, but closed for freaking repairs.

I’m just sayin’.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Comment: Whereabouts

Dearest Readers,

It has come to my attention that I should have written something to alert you to the fact that QCC was taking a very short trip/hiatus due to business travel. I'm still alive and kicking and forming extreme opinions on a wide range of rant-worthy subjects.

Stay tuned for a post coming up about museums and why they are a lot like eating your vegetables but costing so much more per bite.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Comment: On Disappointment

You can’t be disappointed if you aren’t hoping for something. And life would have little meaning if you didn’t have hope. So ultimately, we are often hopeful and then disappointed.

But sometimes the disappointment does not occur. Success, delight, and/or happiness ensue. But these are always temporary. Our expectations are destined not to be reached by virtue of their very existence. This is not depressing. In fact, it can be quite liberating.

I’d rather be disappointed about something not working out than never having the hope and possibility of something actually succeeding in the first place. (Wow, that was an awkward sentence. Sorry if you're disappointed. HA!

I guess this is my way of processing the endless changes that are coming our (and I mean the collective our, there are many of us) way these days.

Deep breaths, roll with it, move on.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Question: What's on your list?

Life is easier in list form.

When I get anxious (which is often), I do two things: if there’s a problem, I seek out a book about it, buy it, read it, and feel slightly better. In addition, I usually end up making a list. Pros and cons, sequences, lists of gift recipients for holidays, grocery items, party planning, even playdates. I love lists so much I was once in a play where I was a character who actually said the line: “I love making lists!” (Never was I so compelling. Art imitating life or life imitating art?)

It just calms me down to get things in a list and see that what I may have perceived as a draconian task is in fact several small tasks that don’t need to be overwhelming. It’s the whole “one step at a time” thing. (For you Anne Lamott fans, the “bird by bird” thing.)

There’s a lot going on right now in my family’s life, so I have a few lists I need to go and make right now; I’ll leave you, natch, a list in parting.

Why Do I Love Lists?

1. They help me organize concrete activities.
2. They help me organize abstract thoughts.
3. I think better and more clearly in sequence.
4. They help break down a large task in several smaller ones.
5. They help me make decisions (e.g. pros and cons).
6. I love to check things OFF the list.
7. They make me feel like like a grown-up.
8. They’re fun!
9. I feel safer when I'm following directions.
10. Lists give the illusion of being in control.

Why do you make lists?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Forward, land on your ass. Fall Backward, land on your ass.

Daylight Savings Time has kicked in, or has it stopped? I’m never sure. And all week long people on the radio and in person have been complaining about losing the hour of sleep this weekend.

But I say, if you can sleep as long as you want on that day, how is it that you’re losing anything? Don’t you just change your clocks AFTER you get up? Theoretically, you’re losing an hour of your morning, not your night.

Certainly, if you have somewhere you have to be or you have small children, you will most definitely lose an hour of sleep. And if you have a child who’s going through a phase where she needs to be in Mommy and Daddy’s bed every freaking night from midnight to wake up, you’re going to lose an hour of kicky, squirmy, bed-hogged sleep.

But I’m not bitter.

I actually embrace the hour, because I love the fact that it stays light later. It makes my intention to go running or run an errand after supper more feasible, albeit not always a reality. When it’s dark by 5 pm, I just want to go to sleep. My circadian rhythm rejoices at the extra hour of daylight. Plus, if the kids are wired after supper, you can send them out into the backyard. You don’t do that in the winter when it’s cold and dark, it seems somehow wrong. (Refer to “The Simpsons” in the episode where Marge says, “I worry about Bart. There’s something unwholesome about a boy flying a kite at night.” And then you see Bart, in the dark, with his kite, saying a la Norman Bates, “Hello, Mother.”)

It’s now 7:36 pm, or is it 6:36 pm? Are we now back to “normal” so it really and truly is 7:36? Are we starting or finishing something? Does it even matter? At least our clock switch doesn’t cause headaches and nosebleeds like it does in Lost. If you ever feel ripped off or cranky about losing an hour of sleep, watch the show. They have WAY more problems than you or I. They wouldn’t even blink at a one hour time shift.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Question: Bumper Sticker Elitism?

“Am I Liberal or just well-educated?”

That’s what I read on the bumper sticker of the car parked in front of me while driving around today. At first, being somewhat left-leaning myself, I thought I was supposed to agree with the sentiment. But when I thought about it? Not so much.

Because even though I tilt to the left, I know and respect people who tilt (at least a little) to the right. And they’ve been to college, and graduate school.

Yes, I get the point of the sticker; it’s saying, if you’re conservative, maybe you don’t have all the facts. But the conservatives can say the same thing to the so-called liberals. We can all finger point all we want, and I see that our President is already getting in hot water with pretty much everybody, but he’s just trying to actually do his job, which is uniting people for causes and issues that affect everybody.

What I don’t like about the sticker is the implication that conservatives are red-necked, possibly only GED-diploma-carrying troglodytes. That’s not very nice.

So the snarky stab at elitism just doesn’t sit well with me. I mean, I’m well-educated and many would say liberal, but I’m not denying the existence of well-educated people who believe in less government or lower taxes. I don’t have to agree with everyone, and I don’t, but I don’t need to be insulting.

To me, this sticker gives the liberals a dodgy name. And frankly, the word liberal doesn’t need to be besmirched any more than it already is here in the USA.

To be called liberal in this country is a tricky thing. Where I’m from (Canada) we have a freakin’ Liberal Party. It’s not a swear word or a slur when it’s used in Canada. But here, what with hateheads like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh spewing their vitriol multimedia-style, “liberal” can be a real epithet.

And why do people put bumper stickers on their cars anyway? Your car is not your dorm room. Save your sentiments for the wine bar, or the pub, or the barbeque, or the Raiders game; I don’t care, just don’t stick your snark so close to my car. Please.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Comment: Suddenly superfluous.

My little babies are growing up. We had a “drop off playdate” today with a friend of my son’s. The two boys went into the living room and my daughter followed them. They played and interacted and they didn’t need me.

It’s amazing to reach the point where you realize your kids don’t need your (usually unnecessary) social engineering skills anymore.

I’m not saying there’s never going to be an intervention of some kind in a social challenge with my kids. That stuff never stops, even when you’re grown. But I sat in the kitchen today and listened to my son and his friend talk nicely to each other, listen, share, and all the stuff we hope we are teaching our children. And my daughter, ever the social butterfly, is happy playing with or alongside any friend who comes into our house, no matter whose actual friend it is.

I’m not needed in there. Should I be baking cookies or something? Stirring Tang and making Rice Krispie ™ treats? I need to do something. But what? I’m quite sure there should be some bustling involved. Should I just sit here and revel in the evolution of my children’s social skills? Probably.

It’s a bit lonely without a mom to talk to, but I’ll survive. I’m getting the opportunity to listen to the kids when they don’t think anyone is paying attention. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot this way.

And in the meantime, I think I have some muffin mix somewhere.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Comment: The Princess/President Paradox

"Mommy, you look like the President!"

"Mommy, you look like a princess!"

My son’s is the first quote, my daughter's the second.

This speaks volumes about what’s on their minds.

My son wants to be President. We were going through the umpteeth scholastic book order pamphlets (Leaflets? Brochure-izines? Micro-catalogues?) today and he asked for a book about President Obama. My son is nearly six.

My daughter is all about princesses. It shouldn’t surprise any of you that she’s nearly four.

And I spent the past hour in Target running around in the (relative) calm of late night shopping to find loot for the damn loot bags that will need to be distributed at their low-key (I hope) and (relatively) small party.

Organizing a child’s birthday party is a lot like organizing a wedding. The guest list selection is brutal. Am I inviting the kids my kids actually play with, or the ones they talk about all the time? Am I inviting the moms I like irrespective of how our kids get along? How deep into the social circle do you go? What’s the policy on siblings? Are the dads coming too? I’ve been at parties where the whole family is there, even though the kid only marginally knows the birthday celebrant.

It’s an event now, this whole birthday party thing. People are having them at Build-a-Bear and Chuck E. Cheese and Gymboree and and Pump it Up (I swear I am not making any of these names up). It’s easy to complicate things and agonize and forget that it’s a kids’ party, FFS. All they really need is cake and a bouncy house.

But back to my kids’ comments. I was dressed up (I’m trying to walk my talk, people!) for a school meeting and I had just put on my swanky vintage car coat. I’m not sure why that made me look presidential or princess-like, but I believe it was my children’s way of saying, “You look good, Mom”; or at least, “You look presentable enough to leave the house”.

I’ll take what I can get.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Comment: On Chuck E. Cheese and Taking One Day at a Time (not the sitcom)

Do you ever look ahead at all the upcoming events in your life and think, there’s no way I can do this, every detail of every action in every moment that I am slated to do?

I’m not talking about suicidal ideation. You don’t wish you were dead. You just don’t quite see how you will summon the moxie, the oomph, the gumption, the sheer force of will to get through whatever it is you need to get through.

Because these days just getting the kids to and from school and to birthday parties feels like it’s killing me. I’m exhausted. And I look ahead at the weeks and months of heavy activity and I think, how in the world am I going to do this?

I feel like wave after wave keeps breaking over me and I’m just clinging to my position so I don’t get swept away in the tide of change and activity that is gushing over my household.

The idea of a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Two weeks ago, we were invited to TWO, within the same week. I agonized, and thought, maybe I should force myself to take my kids. They might love it; it’s for them, not for you, I reasoned. But then I thought about it some more.

I don’t believe in Chuck E. Cheese.

It’s fine if that’s your thrill, but it’s not for me. And if I don’t believe in it, why in the world would I subject my kids to it? So I didn’t bring them to either party, and they were none the wiser nor sadder. I recently took them to a Build-a-Bear party which was so over-stimulating I nearly had a seizure, but we did in fact survive it. And the party was during a long four days when Daddy was out of town. I didn’t think I’d handle it, but I did.

I remember as a kid in elementary school, I used to look at the high schoolers with awe and trepidation. I couldn’t imagine myself ever getting to that age and knowing what to do. How did they do algebra? I didn’t even know what that was! How did they know how to dress? My mom still helped me pick out my clothes! How were they smart enough to know how to write like grown-ups? It was beyond me.

I guess what I didn’t know then was it’s gradual, and what I need to remember now is the same thing. You don’t actually do or learn all the things you have to do in one moment. You do it one moment at a time.

Now would be a really good time to be really good at being a Buddhist. Seriously.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Comment: Vindication!

It’s official: there is an upper limit to the number of people you can sustain in your social circle.

It’s true.

All this 200 Facebook friends is an oxymoron.

According to an article in The Economist, there is an optimum number of people one can have and sustain in a social circle. That number is 150. In fact, it’s called the Dunbar circle, named after Robin Dunbar, an Oxford University anthropologist. He says that your brain is limited in how much social networking you can actually sustain and handle.

And according to surveys on Facebook use and the intimacy levels therein, even for people with 150 plus friends, their major usage/interaction only involves a handful of said persons. That means that I may have 89 friends, but I really only spend time with about five of them. In other words, less than ten percent of the people you “friend” are really your friends.

At least that’s this article’s (and my) interpretation. 300 friends are not sustainable, except in the loosest sense of the word.

From the article:
“People who are members of online social networks are not so much “networking” as they are “broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren’t necessarily inside the Dunbar circle.” "

Yeah, me and The Economist, we're all over it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Comment: Facebook Withdrawal

Got the Facebook DTs. I keep looking at the tabs on my browser and wondering where my fix is.

But overall I still stand by my decision some 24 hours later.

It just seems to me that you should live as much of your life LIVE and in PERSON as possible, as opposed to virtually. Sure, there’s a place for online interaction, but it shouldn’t dominate.

I really wonder what our kids’ social skills will be like as they grow older since they will likely spend so much time online or texting. What will it mean for society at large? Will we all speak in shorter sentences? Will “GR8” become the official spelling for “great”? Will all correspondence look like the title of an 80s Prince song?

Time will tell.