Sunday, May 31, 2009

Comment: The Little Red Wagon of Remorse

So today I gave my children’s red wagon away to our lovely neighbors, who consist of four kids ranging in age from 0 to 6 years. Lest you think I’m being cruel, know this: that wagon sat on our front porch gathering dust for 18 months, with nary a glance, except for its default use as a receptacle for found sticks, twigs and dried palm fronds. (Did you know that last year the official “toy of the year” was a stick? No foolin’.)

Anyway, as soon as I mentioned the fact of this giveaway to my kids, they immediately began playing with it. And when our friends came over to pick it up, awkwardness ensued. Suddenly this thing which had no apparent value to my kids became highly valuable. It’s the whole “other people’s toys” thing. We've all seen that before.

All the ambulatory children took turns running and pushing each other in it. Hilarity ensued. Then it was time for the wagon to go home with our friends. My son, who is 6, was really conflicted about it. He didn’t want to make a scene, but he didn’t want to give up the wagon. Initially my daughter had been shrieking about not wanting to give away the wagon, but the drama of the moment was the hairband she’d borrowed from one of our friends and now had to return. She could give a flying fig about the wagon. The loss of the hairband was devastating. She fled in tears.

And here’s the thing: because my son was being so reasonable about it, it gave me pause. He was mature, he didn’t fuss, but he wanted the wagon.

Was I wrong to give it away? I don’t think so. But of course, the mamaguilt gushed forth to take over my internal monologue: they LOVED playing with it, wouldn’t it have been nice to take it with us on our move and have something familiar to play with NEW friends with? It’s bad enough you’re moving them across the country, but did you have to give away the wagon, too?

And on and on.

Like I said: not used once in 18 months. (Hey, that rhymes. Maybe that can be my new calming mantra. Not that I’ve ever successfully used one. “Hoochie Mama” and “Serenity Now” from Seinfeld are the closest I’ve ever gotten.)

Oh, and when things are getting me down, I like to say, “It’s all a rich tapestry.” Which is a Simpsons quote (the shrink, played by Anne Bancroft, said to Marge, about her fear of flying)

Anyway, I’m wallowing in the guilt. But it will pass. Ultimately the kids don’t really give a shit about the wagon.

Ultimately we're all just feeling sad that we’re moving. Sometimes parting is sweet sorrow after all.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Comment: More Being Wistful about Friendship

Sometimes it takes moving away to realize how much you liked somebody, or something that you will no longer have in your immediate surroundings. It’s very bittersweet for my family and I to be leaving Silicon Valley. We were only here for a year and a half, so we’d barely begun to get acclimated.

And now as the time comes for us to head out on our next adventure, I’m taking a little time to allow myself to be sad. Even if you don’t like everything about a place you live, there is always something positive if you look for it.

I met a friend with whom I clicked instantly. I am sad to leave her, but we have a healthy i-m relationship, which will ease the sting somewhat. I found the most splendid community of kind and funny people at the preschool I sent both of my children to; I will greatly miss the companionship of these parents and children. I am especially wistful/regretful at the friendships less traveled: the cool women I met whom I didn’t get to know as well as I would have liked. It saddens me to see that potential lost.

And sometimes when you leave a place, people come out of the woodwork who were fans of yours, or better friends than you realized. You don’t know the impact you have on others around you most of the time; I learned that from teaching. I had students approach me years later who never said a single word in class and who told me the class was their favorite or it impacted them profoundly. As much as we like to navel gaze, we as humans really don’t know how we come across or what the hell we’re doing most of the time.

So I mourn the friendships and other relationships that I and my family are leaving. I hate for my son to leave his best friend, even though I know he will make another one. I hope we can all find new friends where we go, and not take them for granted or just assume that they or you will always be there. My advice? If you want to hang out with someone, do it while you can. Don’t wait until it's too late and you’re moving away to realize the gems you’ve left behind.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Complaint: Clicking

What is it about some people, that you meet them and you just don’t click? Try as you might, sometimes things just don’t gel/mesh/insert your favorite verb/image here between two people. You may want or need to be at least compatible with a person, but you just aren’t.

And it’s increasingly difficult to solve the complex mathematical problem of optimal compatibility between two to four children and two adults. It’s kind of a Venn diagram nightmare, with everyone’s subtle emotions spilling over on other people, along with everyone’s specific opinion of everyone else (which, natch, is subject to change on a dime).

Of course I’m talking (complaining) about the ubiquitous playdate.

There are moms you like and there are kids you like. And if you’re lucky, they’re from the same family. But what do you if you and the parent in question have NOTHING to say to each other, but the kids are in love?

Suck it up, right? You can't force a friendship. But you can be pleasant.

I just wonder why some people really send off such negative vibes; it makes me wonder if I do that, too. I know I do when I’m in a bad mood. I'm talking more about the essence of a person; we give soemthing off, and though it varies, there's a general flavor to it.

What happens when you're thrown into a social situation where you hardly know anyone, and you get seated next to someone you just don’t like that much? Or maybe it isn’t like: it’s feel an affinity with.

Personally, I don’t care who you are as long as you laugh at my jokes and don’t insult me; then we’re good. So what is it about some people that you just can’t get a read on them or a smile out of them? Is the default to confusion antipathy? Do we just dislike someone because of what they say, or the way they say it? Or is it more what they don’t say?

Years ago, a female family member was dating a prominent academic and the few times we spent together, I was struck by how very asocial he seemed to be. He wouldn’t look you in the eye or greet you. The only person he really talked to was his girlfriend (your sibling) and he seemed condescending and self-involved. He was horrible to waitstaff in restaurants. That’s a very quick and easy way to measure someone’s character: watch how they treat people who serve them something.

Sometimes, I think I don’t like someone because they’re either not at all like me, so there’s no visible common ground; other times, I think it’s because I see aspects of myself in them that I don’t really want to own up to. Who wants a mirror held up to your lamest attributes?

Some people believe in auras and chakras, and other assorted ways of studying a person. I’m not out there in New Agedom, but I do think people give off individual and specific vibes. Of course these vary; but there is an underlying vibe, I think, in every person. And I think sometimes the two vibes of two people meet each other in the middle and say, “Eh, not a good fit.”

And that’s okay. Usually. I’m definitely in the puppy school of socialization: love me, pay attention to me, listen to me bark and show you my tricks. But not everyone likes that; not everyone likes me. And I don’t like everyone, though I hope I give everyone as much compassion as I can (ideally).

So how do you deal with someone when your vibes are incompatible?

I guess it comes done to what I keep telling my kids, “You don’t have to be everyone’s friend; you just have to be kind to everyone.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Question: Trying too hard?

You know those people who advertise their businesses by hiring someone to stand on a street corner, waving it frantically in the hopes that this will flip the switch for you and embolden you to drive over to said place of business and spend loads of cash?

Well not so long ago, I saw a sign-holding guy who was, wait for it… reading. Not dancing, not flailing, not listening to music. Reading. And to that I say, well played, good sir.

In other news, the solo parenting continues. I’m not always being the best parent I can be; or am I actually the best I can be just by virtue of that fact that I’m trying as hard as I can at any given time? I’ve always wondered about that whole thing: “do your best, be the best fill in the blank you can be”. Don’t we usually do our best?

I mean, okay, sometimes when I clean the bathroom, I don’t do my best. Mirrors are smudged. The toilet paper could be loaded up or down. I mean, I do a half-assed job and nobody’s the wiser. Same goes for folding clothes. I mean, really, who gives a shit if my towels aren’t rolled perfectly, FFS?

But in things like parenting, and striving to be a decent human being, I kind of think I do my best most, if not almost all of the time. I’m not saying I SUCCEED at perfection; I never do. But I try all the time.

Other people do too, right? I mean, don’t you usually do your best with things that truly matter, like work, relationships, being a stand-up kind of person? I think that's sort of definitional to being human.

I remember a Simpsons episode with Bart saying, “I can’t promise to try. But I’ll try to try.” All meta-hilarity aside, aren’t we always trying?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Comment: Book binge

I’ve done it again. I’ve gone on another minor book-buying spree. All the books I just ordered are about balancing your life, finding your calling, and being mindful. I feel like working on these three things pretty much indicates whether or not you are happy/satisfied with your life at any given point in time.

Have you ever seen those pie chart exercises where you’re supposed to put in what percentage of time you spend on each category, like: personal, family, spiritual, physical, professional? I’d say right now I’m 90% family full on caregiving, 5% exercise, 5% kvetching.

We’re in a particularly intense and stressful situation right now, so of course I’m dying for some balance. A glass of wine and some chocolate can only go so far. So I’ve got my perpetual solution to life’s woes: the written word. I’m going to go and read now and hope for some balance, or at the least, some distraction.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Comment: A long, rambling one.

Stress is bringing out all sorts of scary things in me and my children: migraines, anxiety, the refusal to sleep in one’s own bed, regular night time waking to hunt errant or missing stuffed animals. Sheesh.

I’m freakin’ exhausted and didn’t realize how hard it would be to be the solo parent for any great length of time. And, though I hate to sound pat about it, I don’t know how single parents manage. To be the sole person in charge of your child 24/7, that’s pretty intense.

Sure, for many parents, custody is split, which means that after several days or weeks of intensity, you get the week off. But of course, there are many moms and dads who are going it alone all the time. And though it’s a tired cliché, I don’t know how they do it.

I’m beat, man. And it’s not even hard stuff, it’s the constant answering of questions, and ferrying around from one event to the next, and the repeated snack packings every freakin’ night. It’s not hard, it’s arduous. Does that make sense?

On top of this, my kids are definitely stressed. Their dad is living across the country and comes home for 36 hours at a time. It’s better than nothing, but it does kind of leave your head spinning. We miss him. He misses us. But that’s just how it is right now.

And I’ve noticed that the people around us are already fading away, just as we are, no doubt, pulling subtly away, because leaving is difficult and it is always sad to leave friendships, sometimes especially burgeoning ones that weren’t allowed to fully bloom.

We get to start the whole “new in town” thing again in a couple of weeks. I don’t know if I have the moxie for it. It takes so much damn energy to force people to get to know you. And of course, to truly get to know people really does take years. And we’ve lived here for less than two. So we’re kind of fading out now, but we never fully faded in.

Which leaves me melancholy.

I’m trying the Pollyanna approach because it beats bitching about everything (at least most of the time) but sometimes the smile does not extend to the eyes. I feel like we get an opportunity by moving to start fresh, and there’s so much I want to do, to become. My once dormant ambitions are fighting like wild to surface, and I can’t hold them in much longer. What it comes down to is this: how brave will I be in our new city? How many risks will I take in spite of fear and (natch) anxiety a-plenty? How much will I actually DO, instead of waiting to do it, waiting for some non-existent “ideal time” ?

The time is now. There is no other time.

I remember seeing Madonna interviewed on American Bandstand back in her early days, and he asked her what she wanted out of life: her answer? World domination. I’m not looking to conquer the world. I’m just looking to make a dent in it in my own way. And I’m tired of waiting for the “right” time.

Ladies, gentlemen: Start your engines.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Comment: Now I get it.

I now understand the whole "snot-nosed kids" thing. I used to look down on people who didn't keep their kids' faces clean. It seemed kind of declasse, or lazy, not to mention gross.

But now I know different. (RIP, adverb)

The reason kids have snot-encrusted faces is that their parent(s) are just too damn tired to wipe their faces forty or more times a day. It's just too much sometimes, especially if you're the only grown up around.

Sometimes a little snot gets encrusted, and it's just easier to wait until bathtime to soak it off.

And for that visual, you're welcome.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Comment: As I was saying...

Okay, so back to those three songs that sound best at full volume, per Plinky’s suggestion:

I’m trying not to think too hard (it hurts) so here’s my list, off the top of my head.

"I Alone" (Live)
As rockish anthems go, this one is intense and slightly creepy. If you’ve ever seen the video, the lead singer looks like a serious whackjob. But I absolutely love it and went through a phase of playing it full blast on my iPod repeatedly. It has great high and low volume contrast.

"One Step Closer" (Linkin Park)
How can you not love blasting a song that says “Shut up! Shut up when I’m talkin’ ta you!” over and over. Haven’t we all felt that way on more than one occasion?

And finally, the piece de resistance:
"I Think That I Would Die" (Hole)
There’s a part where Courtney Love growls, “It’s….not…yours…..fucckkkkkkkkkk yewwwwwwww!” Songs that are angst-filled, especially with swear words, must be played at full volume whenever possible.This one also has some great volume ups and downs. Love the drama.

Do these songs form a bit of a pattern? Should I be concerned?

See, I’m a little stressed. And somehow playing angry songs loudly makes me feel better. Soothes the savage beast a little.

So there you have it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Comment: Life Prep

I was IM-ing with my pal The Solipsist today, telling him how I am in pre-pack mode at our house. We move in three weeks, and since we're lucky enough to have someone else packing and loading the truck for us (for money, duh) then it doesn't force me to have to do it while my husband toils away across the country and I take care of the kids here.

What is does mean is that I'm never really sure what I'm supposed to be doing in preparation for the move. Sure, things like getting medical records and figuring out what forms schools and summer programs need are on my to-do list. But I walk around the house in a bit of a daze, knowing I should be doing something, but not knowing what the hell it is.

This haze of throwing/giving away stuff and rearranging clutter I like to call "pre-packing." That's what I'm doing. I'm almost, but not quite, packing. It's almost more a mental exercise than anything.

What The Solipsist pointed out to me was this: we are always in pre-pack mode. We are always preparing for something, at some future point, for which we hope to be prepared.

And I thought, wow: Life is all pre-packing.

So where are we thinking our actual destination/event is, exactly? What are we pre-packing for? And do we really need our tootbrushes and extra socks there, anyway?

Somehow I doubt it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Question: What three songs sound best at full volume?

I got that "writing prompt" off Plinky. I was feeling uninspired, so I checked out my friend and bloggeur extraordinaire The Solipsist's post today and he suggested it, so here I am.

What I should be writing about is how I'm not handling being the solo parent these days. It's only been three days since my husband relocated to his new job across the country, and I'm already fried. I thought I had more stamina but it isn't forthcoming.

The worst part is the only time I talk to my husband is on Skype (when it works, the bastard) and that's in addition to doing so with two small children squirming on my lap, sticking out their tongues, singing, and typing on the keyboard. It's nice for the kids, and for Dad to see them, but it's not exactly quality "couple time."

I'm usually so grouchy by the end of the day that I'm miserable to be around and leave the impression that every day has sucked. And this isn't true. We're doing okay, we have lovely moments and much calm during the day. Skyping during the witching hours? Not so much.

So I feel badly that I'm not perky, amusing and pleasant (or at least one of three) when our quality time is so limited. And when the technology doesn't cooperate? Woe betide the poor souls who are within screaming distance. I'm really the most impatient person on the planet when it comes to technology. I just get so mad. Which is just so useless. My tech support is a thousand miles away in a different time zone.

Anyway, I'm not sure what the answer is. I don't want to not communicate at all, because that seems worse. But how fun is it to be alone in a new city starting a new job and having a total of about ten minutes a day to see/speak to your kids and wife and the former are distracted and the latter is a swamp witch?

It's sub-optimal.

I want to do better. But I don't really know what to do about it. Phone calls during working hours in a new job? Don't seem wise. We could IM, because you're more in control of tone. (Plus I'm much wittier in print than in person.) But we have a time difference to deal with.

I don't know.

Technology is amazing, but nothing beats good ole person to person contact.

And nothing else ever will.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Comment: Let Go, Dammit

Farewell to Fisher Price

There are certain times in a parent’s life when defeat must be admitted. You know, the whole “you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole” thing. (Sidebar: Wasn’t Sarah Jessica Parker so much cooler when she was a geek on “Square Pegs?” She’s so airbrushed and emaciated all the time now, it bugs.)

What I’m referring to is my children and their relationship to Fisher Price Little People. And no, I’m not talking about the crappy ones currently made that are all cutesy and generic. I’m talking about Fisher Price…Old School. (hereafter described as OSFP)

For those of you who are old enough to remember (or just avid eBay shoppers) the OSFP contained a whole universe in which to dive: there was the yellow-roofed house (a classic, which I sometimes had my little people living in when it was placed on its side; very Dada, no?) and the barn with the moo sound every time you opened the door; the village with its little traffic lights and dentist’s office, and mail for each and every store. There was also an A-Frame house, a hospital, an airport, an airplane, a parking garage, a school house the likes of which are not seen anymore, a school bus and, the piece de resistance, the castle. Oh, I loved that castle. With its drawbridge and moat and dungeon and secret hiding place behind the staircase. (I bet J.K. Rowling played with OSFP when she was little.)

I loved this stuff and played with it, whether accompanied by others or not, for hours on end. And this went on for years. Even as tweenagers, my best friend and I made a VHS video (shut up, I know I’m old) of the little people’s General Hospital-esque adventures. We got pretty heavily into same sex couples, single parents, high speed car chases and affairs.

But the point of all this? My mother, bless her Canadian heart, saved ALL of our OSFP toys for years and years, and finally was able to bestow them on her grandchildren, my kids.

And they could give a crap.

Seriously, I keep waiting for them to fall madly in love with the toys and occupy themselves with them for hours on end, like I did. But they didn’t. And they don’t.

The ONLY building my daughter takes any interest in is the castle, and that has more to do with her current princess fetish than her love for all things O.S.F.P.

I’ve waited for two years now, along with the toys, and have just watched them gather dust. And now we’re moving across the country, and I don’t really want to pay a buck a pound to move things nobody uses anymore. So I’ve started…giving them away. It’s painful, and I don’t want to talk about it okay, but…that’s how it is.

I wanted my kids to love what I loved, to do what I did. I want them to have the fun I had.

But they’re not me. And I’m not them. And that’s where the square peg lesson comes in.

I can’t expect my kids to be like me just because they came from me. I need to let go.

And I’ll need to keep letting go every time they say or do something that I don’t agree with, or wish they wouldn’t do (as long as it’s not harmful to anyone else, of course) and that’s going to be the hardest thing we as parents are going to have to keep doing over and over for the rest of our lives.

But maybe I’m not just saying goodbye to the new and crappy Fisher Price that’s mass-marketed and stupid and ugly and nowhere as fabulous as the original (not that I’m bitter). Maybe I’m not even just saying goodbye to my childhood (obvi), but to my children’s innocence, too. They’re already pretty clear about who they are, and they know what they want.

And that's not up to me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Comment: Monsters Inc.? Not so bad.

As a quick movie review (because it's too damn hot to do anything else) I'll tell you that the family and I finally watched Monsters Inc.. I think it came out at least five years ago, but hey you know, we're on the cutting edge (of something.)

As kid-movies-that-adults-have-to-watch-with-them, it was pretty good. The voices were all superlatively famous people whom you couldn't quite identify, since the voices were coming out of blue furry heads or cyclops-type monster dealies.

The story is actually very sweet: a little girl infiltrates the monster world and turns it upside down. Chaos ensues, particularly due to a villainous monster (the anomaly, of course) and happiness reigns when he is dispatched. The movie even goes so far as to say, monsters don't need to scare children to gain their power (literally or metaphorically) but instead choose laughter as the most powerful gift of all.

Corny? Yes. Sweet? Yes. Reminiscent of a time when movies had simple plots and no guns? You betcha. That Andrew Stanton, he writes good kid movie.

And now that the kids are in bed, I'm going to eat more kettle corn. Don't try and stop me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Complaint: The latest on the iPhone

It’s a little bit scary how much I love my iPhone. And it’s a lot bit scary how much everyone else seems to love theirs.

Everywhere you turn, people are in a state of perpetual distraction: chin tipped down, fingers a-flyin’, checking their frakking email for the 300th time that day.

There is such a thing as being too much in touch with the rest of the world.

I admit, it’s nice to be able to watch old Madonna videos on YouTube while I sit in the car waiting to pick up my kids. But the fact that more and more frequently real live two-way human conversations are being interrupted repeatedly because of some chime, gong or ding that emanates from said phone, is disturbing.

It should come as no surprise to you that I’ve never been a fan of call-waiting either.

I know Blackberrys are called Crackberrys. But iPhones as well deserve a fitting name for their cracktasticness.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Comment: Finally!

Today I actually saw a bumper sticker I liked.

Love and be loving.

That’s some good advice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Comment: Guerilla Scrapbooking

So my daughter’s preschool has a requirement that each parent make a “memory book” for their child’s year in school. This is not revolutionary, but to require it is an interesting twist.

I tend to throw pictures together of my kids in generic albums, without embellishments or captions, and call it a day. The kids seem perfectly happy with this. They love anything about themselves. (Who doesn't? I mean, if we're being honest.)

But there are some people who are way into scrapbooking, and find it fun to preserve memories with lots of decorative touches. Fair play to them.

I was just musing on it, because I’m on the other end of the spectrum. While some of my friends are making incredible, beautifully detailed pages that stand alone as works of art, I was using kiddie scissors tonight to cut out captions from the school newsletter to TAPE into my daughter’s book. That’s what I mean by guerilla scrapbooking. That’s revolutionary. And I’ll tell you why.

Because in today’s uber-hyper-super-mom culture, it is strongly suggested that we do everything plus more for our children in order for them to optimally thrive. If you like making scrapbooks of your kids’ adventures, rock on, that’s awesome. But for those of us less inclined to do so, we shouldn’t feel that our children are less loved because we choose not to use those funky scissors that make scalloped edges. I mean, I’m moving in four weeks. I don’t have time for scallops.

So my half-assed attempt at my daughter’s scrapbook shouldn’t bring me shame, but obviously it does, a little, since I doth protest too much.

What does it mean?

Too much pressure on mothers to do everything perfectly.

Let’s all cut each other some slack (with whatever the hell kind of scissors you want.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Comment: Blank is the New Blank

The first time I heard this phrase was many years ago, and it was “Brown is the New Black.” What I (and most people, I’d wager) infer from that expression is that where black is the standby wardrobe color that looks good on everyone and goes with everything, some fashion guru decided at some point to hype brown in the same way with the hopes of it catching on. (And it has, kinda. At least in little girls’ clothes: brown and pink are ubiquitous. On most other people it's Hobbit-like.)

I've seen a few books out lately that play on this expression as well:

Bitter is the New Black (hilarious)
Thin is the New Happy (haven’t read it)

I’d like to add my own:

Chronically Sleep-Deprived is the New Tired.

Irony is the New Normal.

Emaciated is the New Slender.

Average is the New Fat.

Sarcasm is the New Sincere.

Facebook is the New Email.

Do you have any to add? Bring ‘em on.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Question: When someone tells you that you look like you’ve lost weight, is it a compliment or an insult?

Or is it possible that it’s a relatively neutral assessment of things?

I tend to think it’s usually a compliment, but it’s pretty back-handed. The subtext of “Have you lost weight?” is “You look lighter now.” Which means you were heavier before.” Is that something you really want to be pointing out to someone? How is a person supposed to respond to that? What if you haven’t lost weight and people think you did? Do you or do you not seem fatter now than you were before? WTF?

We’re all sensitive about our weight; example, I just spent an evening at a potluck with a bunch of wonderful people and without exception every woman either apologized for the amount (at either extreme) they were eating, or bemoaned the size of her clothes/gut/butt/thighs.

We are so obsessed with our bodies. We really need to find better things to do with our time.

But back to my question: is “Have you lost weight?” a positive or a negative statement? I suspect it’s both. I think it’s someone’s not so subtle way of saying, “You look lighter” which really means “better.” But what does that imply about the complimenter’s view of you previously? Doesn’t it make you wonder if they always thought you were fat? Hell, most women think they’re fat even when they aren’t. It’s a social disease.

A corollary to this is the “You look tired” statement. How, exactly, is that helpful? I look tired because I am tired. If I didn’t feel tired, I do now, after you tell me that’s how I look. It’s just not a useful thing to tell someone. I know I’m freakin’ tired. I have a mirror. I am aware.

What the person is saying is “You look like hell” but with a modicum of tact; it’s much ruder to say “ You look like a sack of shit” than “You look tired.” But the thing is, when you’re tired, you DO look like a sack of shit. So it’s kind of the same thing, in a way. Makes you think, eh?

And frankly, I’ve looked tired since the day I gave birth. And those Samsonite bags under my eyes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So people are constantly saying, “You look tired” to which I wittily reply “I am tired.” I slay with my rapier wit.

But for the record, I haven’t lost weight. And I am tired. So good night.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Complaint: One Angry Mother

Too irritable to write something gushy about Mother’s Day. If all men* had to go through childbirth, there’d be mandatory paid leave for six months MINIMUM and nursing rooms in every freakin’ office building and public place in the world. Nobody would ever ask you to go nurse your baby in the bathroom at Burger King.

PMS, anyone?

Happy Mother’s Day.

*Except my husband; he’s a superhero and I’m not kidding. He could totally handle it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Complaint: And some musing.

Sometimes Facebook really reminds me of those Christmas letters you get from people. You know the ones that boast about all the fabulous things people have done? Pictures of kids and vacations, long and tedious details about trips taken and accomplishments achieved?

“Muffy and I wintered in St. Tropez. Darren, our son, graduated Cum Laude from Harvard and is engaged to one of the Bush twins.(He’s such a scamp!) Alexis is enjoying her year abroad and has taken up journaling, calligraphy and extreme skateboarding. She even went through a pink hair phase—isn’t that a riot? Meanwhile Muffy and I garden, sail, and are experimenting with tantric sex!"


Sure, it’s nice to hear how an old friend is doing. But do I need to hear about your score on every damn game Facebook has to offer? Do you really need to tell the world that you just got your hair cut? I mean, sure, if it’s significant, like you got your long hair all cut off and now look (and feel) radically different. How much mundane shit can we pile on one screen? (And I’ve never seen Twitter, which I guarantee is highly mockable and I would despise.)

Yes, I’m bitching about Facebook again.

It’s nice to hear news about your friends, but how much is too much? I understand if you’re promoting something or something major has happened in your life that you want to share with LOTS of people simultaneously. But all this everyday stuff, it’s just, you know, stuff.

What would it be like if we also wrote our sorrows down on Facebook? Can you imagine: Darcy is pissed off at the world. Albert just lost his job. Nancy hates her life.

What would happen to our little Facey community then? What kind of comments would that elicit?

We only report the fabulous or the mundane*. But what about the shitty?

Is it because we only want to put our best “face” forward? Do we want to perpetuate the myth that we are always happy and fulfilled all of the time? Wouldn’t you like, some day, to see a post like “Beatrice is pissed off at everybody” or “Craig has issues with his mother-in-law”? I mean, it wouldn’t hurt people to be a little more honest, would it?


Because yes, I’m back on the schadenfreude train. Is this what it comes down to on Facebook, just as it does on reality TV? We are happy when something bad doesn’t happen to us, and a bit sad when something great happens to someone else. Are we creating our own little Reality Network on Facebook?

Of course you can be delighted at someone else’s triumph. That’s where joy and compassion for others comes in. You’re a pretty shitty Buddhist if you don’t feel compassionate joy. It exists. But it’s not always easy. Then again, nobody said life was going to be easy. There are no quick fixes. (“I like your idea, Marge, of the quick fix.” Ah Homer, if only there were such a thing.)

But back to the cheery faux-reality Christmas cards. I’m glad that someone is happy, but there’s a fine line between stating reality (as you perceive it) and sticking it to everybody else. Are we now creating false, two dimensional selves to present to the world? Wouldn’t it be nice if people told the truth a little more frequently?

I ask you, how much happy is too much for Facebook?

*Or the humorous, which I greatly encourage. Also the dry and the sarcastic win big points with me.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Complaint: Forget you, Lost.

Is it just me or has Lost just about lost its way for good? I’m no theoretical physicist, but it seems to me that if you’re dealing with time travel, it shouldn’t be possible to see yourself in the past AND live the future you’ve already lived. Because in your future, you’d KNOW that you saw yourself in the past. I mean, does amnesia play a role in time travel? Because at least then something would make sense.

Again, though physics is not my strong suit (my high school teacher salivated when he talked about trajectories, it was very disturbing), but explain to me how these people see themselves in the past, don’t remember themselves in the future (which is past) and live simultaneously in two different time frames.

I haven’t checked out any Lost fansites (I did when I was on bedrest, but licking the roof of your mouth is entertainment when you’re on bedrest) but it occurs to me that things are getting so meta and freaky that either the writers are really and calculatingly (adverb for Solipsist!) brilliant, or they have no idea what the hell they’re doing and they’re hoping their fans have short memories/attention spans. (We don’t.)

I just want to get away from Lost. It’s just not compelling to me anymore. I don’t care anymore what’s happened or what’s happening or what’s going to happen. How many times do we have to see young Charlotte on a damn swing? Why are we being forced to deal with a totally daytime soap opera level love triangle? And why doesn’t John Locke stop smiling? And please, for the love of the Dharma Initiative, when are we going to see Jacob? (And don't tell me Jacob is a symbol for God or I'll get all smoke monster on your asses.)

I have so many questions it makes me just want to erase my own memory and pretend I never watched Lost in the first place. Do you think I could just go back in time and forget the whole thing? Or would I remember that I'd forgotten?

My brain hurts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Comment: Examining Crap

Move estimators came today and I really found myself looking at my home with new (and highly unflattering) eyes. I hadn’t done the massive tidy up I save for the end of the day. (I mean, with kids, why clean up until the end of the day? Keeping a kid-filled house neat all day is downright Sissyphean.) I was mortified at how my house must look to other people.

So when the two men came to look at my stuff, I thought, wow, we have a lot of crap. And it’s lame crap. We don’t have any decent furniture, we don’t have any artwork of any note, and even though we have nice mattresses, we have no bed frames. So basically, (that was for you, Solipsist!) we value our sleep, children and computers (not necessarily in that order.) Otherwise it just doesn’t matter what’s in our house. As Darlene or Lurlene from Seinfeld said, “It’s just so much fluh-uff.” (I have GOT to find out what her name was. Interesting sidebar: the actress who played that role also played the part of the snooty, vaguely European-sounding saleswoman in the Elaine mannequin episode. True story.)

We don’t have things of value, and we don’t take care of them very well. Is it because they’re of little value that we don’t care what happens to them? Or do we just not give a rat’s ass? I mean, at the end of the day, the house is clean and relatively neat. But it’s still full of crap.

I mean, I certainly don’t want my kids growing up thinking they can’t jump on the hand-me-down couch we have. That’s why it’s a hand-me-down. Let them jump. Soon the outside world of grown-ups will encroach on their precious, collective joie de vivre and they won’t even want to jump on couches. That makes me sad.

We inherited a beautiful dining room set, but its chair covers are trashed. Should we recover them? Maybe. But not yet. There are still a lot of crayons and chocolate brownies to to grind into the upholstery.

(So I guess we have crap stuff because we don’t want to worry about life getting in the way of our enjoyment of said stuff. Or maybe we're lazy. Or in permanent sticker shock as to the cost of non-Ikea furniture. Or all of the above.)

Maybe someday we’ll have a beautiful, orderly, neat house. But it won’t be as much fun as our craptastic house is now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Question: Actually, lots of them.

So it’s come to this: in our impending move cross-country, we must decide where to land. And that question is and will remain up in the air for awhile, as we gather information. We are true research geeks. My husband and I are both so very much into collecting data that when I went into labor with my son, my husband insisted we take a ton of data points before calling the doctor. I was losing control of my bodily functions at the time, and took issue with his thoroughness.

But I digress.

We’re in possession of flyers, brochures and the vast expanse of the Internet for information. We have too much data, and not enough. Because information is not weighted on the Web. Even when you think you’re getting some real person’s experience and rating on a school or restaurant, you’re not. Because the reviews are not written by real people, in the sense of people who aren’t being paid to write reviews. Sure, some are genuine; but many are fake hype that the sponsoring company paid for to make them look good. Spin doctors for preschools? Apparently.

So you can’t really be sure what to believe, nor should you extend your trust to any Mom, Dick or Harry who post a sterling review of something you’re interested in.

What we’re up against is the ridiculous luxury of the tyranny of choice. We have narrowed it down to two areas in which we might live, but the two are so different that we’re totally torn about the whole thing.

One choice fits in with the whole AsGap ™ mentioned in yesterday’s post. One neighborhood is the place we aspire to be comfortable and hip in. The other is one we actually probably WILL be comfortable (but not so hip) in. Should we make the courageous choice or the predictable one? And what’s so wrong with predictable, if you know it will make you happy? And aren’t we being courageous by taking the leap of faith of going to a start-up company across the country in a much smaller job market for both my husband and I, and maybe even buying a freakin’ house? That takes courage, doesn’t it?

Am I just battling cognitive dissonance here because I want to take the “safe” choice, or am I being smart and/or sensible?

The one choice is urban, eclectic, and therefore exciting. But the schools suck. So we’d actually (gasp) be considering private schools. But I have a really hard time reconciling myself to paying an entire year’s salary to put my children in private school when I can live eight miles away and put them in excellent public schools. But the excellent public schools aren’t as diverse, and the community is smaller and more homogenous. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but both my husband and I grew up in very heterogenous environments, and we want that for our kids.

But we DON’T want our kids to go to private school. I’m admittedly very biased about that. In Montreal, where I grew up, the only kids who went to private school were either regular French kids or the (usually rich) Anglo kids who got kicked out of public school. The English private schools in Montreal were for snotty entitled kids or really “bad” kids who couldn’t hack the excellent public schools that existed. So do I want to perceive my children as bad or entitled? Hell no.

But I’m probably being way too myopic about this. There are surely some private schools that are not full of delinquent and/or entitled kids. Plus, I kind of like delinquent kids; they’re usually smart and rebellious. I always enjoyed teaching them in the public school I worked in.

But back to the AsGap™. (Is the ™ annoying yet? Just checking.) We want to be the parents who totally culturally enrich our children AND send them to public schools, but apparently we can’t have both in the area to which we’re moving. And if I sound like an elitist, forgive me. I’m a product of the California cultural conditioning I’ve lived in these past ten years. If you’re a parent today, at least out here, it’s ALL about the school. And I suspect that’s true in many places elsewhere.

So what will it be? Stay tuned.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Comment: Starting Fresh

My family and I are at a crossroads at the moment. We’re at the intersection of who are and who we want to be, and man, is the congestion heavy.

Seriously. What I’m talking about is choice. We are about to move across the country and start new jobs, new schools, new everything. So the question is: who do we want to be when we get there?

Fundamentally, I know, there’s no changing our core. Who we really are is determined in the womb as far as I can tell, but there’s a lot of shaping that happens as you grow and learn; and transformations can and do occur. Lest you fear I’m going all new age on your asses, fear not: I’m just talking about the difference between who you are and who you want to be.

Everybody has this gap. Let’s call it the “Aspiration Gap” or AsGap ™ for short. I referred to the concept in my “Cute Blouse Girl” post where I talked about buying myself into a more fabulous personality. Because the truth is, we all have a gap between who we think we currently are and who we wish we’d be. Some of us have bigger AsGaps™ than others.

And moving away from the familiar to the unknown is a unique opportunity to start fresh, or at least as fresh as possible. And this means potentially narrowing the space between our current selves and the selves we yearn to be. Shrink the AsGap ™, so to speak.

I’m not talking about hair cuts and new clothes, although of course moving is a perfect opportunity to get those highlights you always wanted, lose ten pounds, start wearing eyeliner or cute blouses, etc. The superficial is much easier to change than the deeper, more abstract shit. And that’s the shit that really bugs you.

I’m talking about changing things you’ve longed to change, but haven’t because you’ve gotten yourself in a rut (either through your own neglect or the expectations of others) that you can’t get out of because it’s too deep. Maybe you want to be one of those people who goes to museums with their kids every weekend. You may want to be someone who volunteers once a week at a homeless shelter. In your new home, maybe you do want to create that home office you've always wanted but never allowed for yourself. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start a writing/running/wine tasting group but have never gotten past the inertia of your present circumstances. Maybe you can be kinder, more tolerant, less irritable, in your new neighborhood. It's a real opportunity.

Moving somewhere new allows you to spread your wings a little wider, allow the wind to let you soar; HOLD IT, shut the front door, I sound like the copy on the back of one of those generic CDs you can get in Target with titles like “Relaxation”, “Meditation Humming” “Languid Afternoons” and “Supine Reflections.” Sorry.

I'm just reflecting. Isn't it annoying? Or can you honestly reflect with me, sans irony? Give it a try. What’s your AsGap™? Can you narrow it down? Maybe you don’t have to move to be a better person. Maybe all you have to do is try.