Thursday, December 20, 2012

Doin' it wrong... with holiday spirit!

I hate the Elf on the Shelf.

My daughter, a typical little girl in every way, dearly wishes we had one. 

My grandmother had one of those things when I was growing up.  It sat in the shelf of the built-in hutch that was part of her Cicero dining room.  Hanging above it were a giant stuffed buck's head and a couple sets of antlers that my Papou had brought home from hunting trips in years gone by.  The disembodied deer head was less disturbing to me than the damned Elf.

First of all, the deer was a handsome example of its breed.  The elf is a creepy, leering, fingerless mongrel crouching in a corner beside some plates we never used.  The antlers held no particular malice, despite their forcible removal from their original host.  The elf was silently judging me every time I went past. 

Those little buggers scare the crap out of me. But wasn't this their original intention?  Did I mention the absence of fingers?  How is an elf supposed to function without fingers, anyway? I thought their whole existence was based on their ability to make toys and do Santa's bidding.  Perhaps that's why this goon was relegated to the shelf, perfectly suited, as it was, for scaring children, and lacking the opposable thumbs required for building a toy train or a doll house.

I always just associated that elf with the vaguely tacky 50s-based decor that characterized my grandparents' house.  You know: the plastic carpet runners everywhere, the carnival glass ash trays, and colored-pebble-lined candy dishes.  Oh, yeah, and the empty wine bottles turned into dolls with plastic heads and crocheted dresses.  Remember that stuff?  No?  What about the padded toilet seat and the fuzzy rug that fit right around the base of the toilet?  The plastic-canvas yarn-embroidered tissue box covers?  Come on, I can't be the only one whose grandmother made this stuff.

Anyway.  One thing that I did NOT miss when my grandparents moved to Florida was that stinking elf.  Then, a couple years ago, Hallmark or some other bunch of jerks starts marketing those things again, and presenting them as an essential part of the Santa Claus myth.  Dude.  It's not bad enough that he sees you when  you're sleeping; now he leaves his creepy minions around to scare your mother.

I didn't buy one.  Hannah wistfully says now and then "I wish we had an Elf on the Shelf," and I remind her of how their lack of extremities is deeply disturbing to me.  But I do feel the guilt of disappointing my child by not providing her with the delight of finding her Creep on the Shelf doing something mischievous and clever every morning.  I would really expect any Elf that infiltrated my home to behave more like the Bloggess's elf than any of those sweet mommy-blogging elves I see tagged now and then on Facebook.  And I'm pretty sure our Elf would terrorize me and give me nightmares.

So.  No dice for Hannah on this one.  I'll have to think of something equally creepy for her. Preferably something with fingers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Not doin' it wrong with breakfast cereal.

I am a big drag about breakfast cereal.  I limit Hannah's choices to about 4 different products, and specifically outlaw anything chocolate and anything with any Flintstone on the box.  Perhaps sensing my nutritional hypocrisy, Cheerios has started making about 20 different flavors, all pretty much weird, figuring I'm dumb enough to buy anything with their logo on the box.

Turns out they weren't wrong.  A while back we tried the fruity kind.  Blech.  Hannah once had some Fruit Loops on vacation, and wanted to get them at the store.  I compromised with the Fruity Cheerios, but she wouldn't eat them.  I didn't blame her.  This week she wanted to try them again, so I bought her just a single-serving cup of actual Fruit Loops, knowing she wouldn't eat the other stuff.

So this morning, I poured half of those gross little circles in a bowl and gave it to her for breakfast.  She wasn't two bites in before she gave me the puppy face and said that this cereal was kinda weird, could she please have regular Cheerios.

Hm.  Really?  Who would have imagined.  Could you just take my word for it next time?

Not likely.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Look at me! Look at me!

I was talking with my husband recently about whether we should get Hannah a milkshake while running errands.  An important point to bear in mind is that milkshakes and mirrors are Hannah's favorite things in the world.  I'll get back to the mirror later.  We talked about the relative nutritional value or harm of a milkshake, versus a frozen lemonade, or whatever other frozen-ish beverage we might grab at a drive-through so Hannah would feel like she'd had a treat.  Husband pointed out my relative hypocrisy in complaining about the junk content in a milkshake for Hannah, although I eat various other junk without a thought for its nutritional impact.  My reply was: That's true. Still.

This double standard is applied to how I spend my time, as well.  Hannah has always had a limit on daily screen time.  Some days, just because life is busy, she has none; occasionally, on a sick day or rainy day off, she'll get extra time if there is something we all want to watch together.  I give myself no such limitation.  If I had a timer on my web browser as Hannah does, I might spend less time reading stuff on, although I can't promise that.  I check my Facebook and work email multiple times after I come home in the afternoons, even when everyone else is home to offer live human interaction.  Then, after Hannah has gone to bed, Husband and I settle in for grown-up television time.  Don't get too excited; it's usually old episodes of Cheers or The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on Netflix.  If I added up all my screen time, I'm sure it would better than double Hannah's daily allowance. 

Why do I think this is acceptable?  It takes approximately four minutes to look at my work email to see if I need to change my schedule for tomorrow.  The other 20 minutes are spent trying to catch up a few points on a Words with Friends game or see if anyone has responded to my Facebook status. 

That brings me back to the mirror.  Hannah loves to look at herself in the mirror.  She can spend 30 minutes in the bathroom having a conversation with herself before she gets around to brushing her teeth.  I wouldn't let her have a mirror at eye level in her bedroom when she was smaller, because it only exacerbated her tantrums.  She loves to look at herself, and talk to herself, and pretend there is someone other than her talking back. I'm pretty sure that's the purpose that social media serves for me.  I want to see my reflection, and pretend someone is talking back.  Have my friends responded to my last comment?  Did anyone Like my status?  Do I have any new blog minions? 

I'm fourteen years old and I'm electronically checking my  hair every 20 minutes. 

Someone needs to install some parental controls for me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Doin' it wrong on vacation time.

This is the first day of Hannah's Thanksgiving break from school.  I have to work, but her Dad is staying home this week.  The key here is I don't need to get her to school before I leave for work in the morning.  Typically, I get up 3 hours before I have to be at work, so I can get myself ready, then get her ready, then get us both to the places we need to be.  On mornings I want to go for a run first, I increase that lag time to 3 1/2 or 4 hours before I need to start work.

So this morning I was up at 5:00 to go out for my run.  It was 56 degrees, which passes for cold in Florida, so I was decked out in running tights and an ear warmer, feeling semi-professional about the whole thing.  I'd completed my circuit and was passing my own driveway for a cool-down walk when I realized I was out here at least an hour early.  No one has to get anywhere under my supervision but myself this morning. I could have slept until 6:30, and still gotten everything done, and been at work by 9:00. Psht.  I'm not good at days off.

This, however, pales in comparison to the time I returned from a vacation a day early and actually reported to work on a day that I was NOT SCHEDULED to see clients.  I don't remember the trip, but I know it was a trip to someplace, and I recall thinking what a dufus I am because I could have stayed a day longer, if only I'd actually payed attention to the dates I'd requested off from work.  I walked into the office, settled into my desk, and went to retrieve my files for the day from the administrative office where they're kept.  All the admin women were looking at me funny as I stared into the empty space in the file drawer, but weren't sure it was okay to laugh at me until I started laughing myself.

So after I've returned from this morning's exercise and settled in to waste  spend some time at the computer, Hannah comes out of her room talking in non-sleepy voice about how it's still so dark outside.  By now it's 6:15.  This is the child that routinely takes about 30 minutes of snuggling, alternated with whining about being tired, to actually get moving most school mornings.  Even on most days off she'll sleep until 8:00am if allowed to do so.  But for some reason, the two of us can't get this particular day off right.

Alas.  I sent her to snuggle with her Dad, and I'll go get in the shower, and we'll try to straighten ourselves out here shortly.  Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Doing it wrong in inappropriate clothing

I don't watch daytime TV.  I don't watch a lot of TV at all; I don't have cable, so I'd have to watch stuff as it airs. I can't predict the likelihood of actually catching a program on time beyond the degree of "There-Might-Be-Oatmeal," as measured on my personal Probability Scale.  But on Wednesday I let Hannah entertain herself for an hour (not exactly a stretch for her) and watched Katie Couric's show at 3:00.  I'm not specifically a fan of Katie; I don't have any particular feelings about her, but Jenny Lawson had posted on The Bloggess that she would be on, in a red dress, no less, and I wanted to see her. THEN she posted that Brene Brown would also be on the show, and that moved it up to the Jennifer-Drinks-Coffee level on the scale, which means this eventuality is no longer in question.

I love Brene Brown.  She is the most sensible author on relationships and mental health I have read.  I love that her big rallying cry is "Be Brave,"and I love the title of her new book: Daring Greatly.  It's not a complicated prescription, but the implementation of it is Herculean.  I spend my days talking to clients about the value of courage and vulnerability in their relationships, and struggle with implementing it in my own just as much as they do.

And I love Jenny Lawson.  She is brave in ways I can only dream about, and has challenges I can not imagine.  I love her Red Dress phenomenon.  I cried when I read her original post, and I cry every time she has red dress update post.  I love the idea of women supporting other women and refusing to allow them to hide in shame without at least inviting them to come out and play dress up for a little while.

My red dress story is not quite as dramatic as some, and, in fact, I didn't recognize it as being a red dress story until this week.  When my Dad died 3 years ago I felt all the warmth and color drain out of the world in a very tangible way.  I was convinced that my heart was irrevocably broken, and I wasn't really even alive anymore.  I could barely participate in the funeral arrangements, other than to criticize the funeral director's grammar when we reviewed the obituary copy.  No.  Criticize doesn't really describe it right; maybe excoriate?  I think I may have tried to wrestle the keyboard out of his hands and do it myself.  Raise your hand if that surprises you.

It was all I could do not to say something hateful when the preacher came over to my Mom's house to plan the service.  I got into a fight with my Aunt over whether I had to help write thank-you cards to people who came to the funeral.  Instead, I spent the week going over my Dad's mysterious balancing act of bill payment; no one else wanted to be involved in that mess, and I was guaranteed to be left alone.  I was angry and hurt, and I didn't care what anyone else felt.

I don't remember who suggested it, but someone said we should all wear red to the funeral.  It was one of the few suggestions (along with playing the Rolling Stone's Brown Sugar during the viewing) that didn't make me want to punch someone in the face.  I figured Daddy would think it was funny if we all wore red dresses to his funeral.  Of course, being that we had travelled for a funeral, neither my sister nor I had packed anything red.  So the next day, the Aunties brought over armloads of red dresses and skirts for the most bizarre dress-up party I've ever been to.

My sister and Mom and I decided that wearing red to his funeral was the last joke we could tell my Dad.  I don't think it was courage so much as defiance and a fierce and blinding love for my Dad that carried us through those days and that funeral.  I still hold my breath through much of the month of August, hoping I can keep it together until my birthday, and then September, when I can try to remember how to breathe again.

So now I think I'll buy myself a red dress.  Probably not a sparkly gown, but one I can wear regularly.  One in which I can be defiant.  And fierce.  And whatever else it is I'm having trouble mustering up that day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Let's put that in perspective

My last post referenced Hannah's waking up nicely as coming close-to-never on my probability scale.  I worked up the rest of the scale, just to give you some perspective on the relative likelihood of all things.  Hannah helped with suggestions for categories of probability.  And with the coloring-in.

I think this 5-point Likert-type scale is sufficient to describe the probability of most eventualities.  However, it is a work in progress; I mean the concepts, not the quality of the art work.  That's not going to get any better.  My apologies to people with actual skill...

Friday, August 24, 2012

And now I'm gonna crush a box.

Mornings are not Hannah's thing.  Typically there is a 20 minute period of whining and unarticulated mewling that prompts me to sing "Who Let the Goat In?" until Hannah either laughs or gets mad enough that I leave the room before she says something that might get her into trouble. 
Fair is fair: annoying songs are bad enough without entrapment for disrespectful behavior.

Today she awakened on her own around 6:45, and was dressed and ready to go before 7:15.  Incidentally, this falls on the far side of Unicorns in the Backyard on the Probability Scale.  My husband had gone to work early this morning, so he called to say good morning at 7:45.  The side of the conversation I could hear went something like this:

I'm dressed already...
Do you remember the pink dress with the flower?  That's what I'm wearing.
It is Friday...
(Mom, could you pull up the school lunch menu please?) If it's still Pizza-Friday, then that's what I'm having...
Well, since we don't have gifted today, I get to go to art class.
And now I'm gonna crush a box.

Hannah had been kicking around a cardboard box all morning that I told her she could break down, but not while eating breakfast.  She'd waited as long as she could, and just had to get back to work on that thing.  She did not put down the phone, or even ask her Dad to hold on. She assumed that the box crushing would become part of the conversation, just as it would have if Dave had been sitting there with her. Not surprisingly, Dave seemed to be asking for commentary on her progress.  She described the progression from box-shaped to flat-as-a-pancake, pausing only in her exertion to tackle a particularly resilient corner.

I've been feeling not awesome lately.  And when I feel not-awesome, I tend to ratchet up the level of acceptability on my Control Freak meter and do things like iron the sheets and insist that Hannah clean her room before she goes to bed.  Dave can sense the disturbance in the Force, and just helps Hannah clean stuff up so I don't have to get all frantic and Mommy-Dearest on the world.  I will tell you that I had to suppress the urge this morning to tell Hannah to just stop kicking that box around, please, despite the absolutely stress-free morning we were having.  I also don't mind telling you that my suppression behavior was reinforced by the unbearable cuteness of that box-crushing commentary.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Doin' it wrong with discipline and home remedies

My daughter has some unidentified seasonal allergies, and I've been trying to treat her without industrial quantities of Triaminic and Benadryl.  So I went with nasal irrigation.  For about a week we had a twice daily ritual of torturing Hannah with a squirt of commercially-produced saline solution in both nostrils and copious nose blowing.  Done.  Oh, except for the whining, occasional shouting, and half-hearted wrestling on her part.

It's worked pretty well.  She breathes easier at night and has much less sneezing and general congestion during the day.  So, naturally, I've slacked off.  Just one treatment at bedtime now, and sometimes I forget about it altogether.

Turns out that was her plan all along.  More about her evil-ness later.

This morning I got up and was so stuffy and dried out, I wanted the saline spray for myself.  I looked in the place where I left it out for convenience: nope. I looked in the place it belongs for storage: nope.  I looked in the bathroom drawer where sometimes everything gets shoved when I'm cleaning: not there.  I looked in the cabinet where everything gets shoved when the drawer is too stuffed with stuff that doesn't belong there: also not there.  I looked on the floor behind the wastebasket, behind the pedestal sink base and in the little hidey-hole in the step stool: no dice.  So I gave up and just suffered a little.

When Hannah got up later I asked her whether she knew where the nose spray is.
Eyes well up.  She looks around a little frantically, touches her nose, sniffs and says, "Why?  I don't need it."

Me: But I do.  Where is it.
Hannah: *deer-in-headlights look*
Me: Hannah?
Hannah: *opens hidey-hole in step stool and removes a rubber cleaning glove, under which is hidden the nose spray*
Me: *Hysterical laughter*
Hannah: *out right weeping*
Me: Why are you crying?
Hannah: Every day I hide it in a different place, but you keep finding it.  So yesterday I  hid it in the stool. (still crying)
Me: *still laughing*  Why are you crying?
Hannah: Well, usually when people yell at me or have a yelling voice, tears just come into my eyes.
Me: But I'm not yelling; I'm laughing.  I don't understand.
Hannah: It's not funny,
Me: But it is clever. You had a problem, and you solved it.  Not the way I might have wanted, but you solved it.  I think maybe you know it was a little naughty, and you feel guilty.  Could that be it?
Hannah: *blank stare*
Me: Never mind. *still laughing*

Partly, it was so funny because I'd looked in that hiding place, just not well enough.  I thought the little bottle had gotten knocked over somewhere and just carelessly lost.  I hadn't anticipated it having been conscientiously squirrelled away under multiple obstacles.  I'm still chuckling about it.

Maybe not my best parenting response, but the most genuine, I think.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Doin' it wrong with operant conditioning and pest control

Today I'm putting my curtains back up. I took them down at the beginning of June when my husband pointed out that they were serving as a nursery for tick larvae.  We spent a frantic and disgusted weekend washing curtains and bedding, vacuuming every milimeter of carpet and upholstery in the house, and spraying every crevice and surface with a combination of purportedly environmentally-neutral pesticides bought at a do-it-yourself joint. 

Yeah, yeah.  Chemicals shmemicals. 

Those of you who know me outside of Bloggerland know how I feel about bugs. I never liked them, and I really screwed myself up several years ago in a behavioral psychology workshop during a demonstration of virtual operant conditioning or some such thing.  The group was instructed to imagine a thing we fear, in the most vivid manner we could, while touching together the thumb and index finger of our left hands.  Then we were instructed to imagine, in an equally vivid manner, a peaceful and comfortable setting, while touching together the thumb and index finger of our right hands.  Being me, I screwed it up.  I got stuck on Thing-I-Fear, and did the whole Right Hand thing wrong.  This only exacerbated my fear of bugs.  Observe:

I once thought I saw a large bug scoot across the carpet in the doorway of my office, and began thinking immediately of the possibility of climbing out the window, and whether the screen popped out easily, or if I'd have to tear through it.  Turns out it was a pen cap that my client had been fiddling with, and shot across the room accidentally.  It was all very amusing for him, but I'm not kidding about thinking of climbing out that window.

Another time, I was out shopping with my friend Amee.  I discovered a palmetto bug crawling around on the floorboard of my car when we returned to the parking lot.  I got out, closed the door, and loudly declared I needed a new car.  I don't remember how we got home.  I'm sure Amee had to chase the bug out of the car.

When I saw a German cockroach in my office one day last year, I told my boss I might have to resign. He had the pest control guy in the same day. I'm not kidding. I really hate bugs.

So when, this spring, I began to fear I'd permanently lost the war with the creepy little parasites, I was considering how I might burn down my house, and get the two 75+ year old live oaks in the back yard to go up with it.  I had even silently and regretfully thought that I might have to give up my dog.  You remember my dog, right?

He's so sweet.  He didn't even murder me for this cone-head incident. He totally could have; I'm a very sound sleeper.

The weekend of the ferocious scouring I took the dog to the vet for a bath and tick treatment.  The vet called me to find out what wildernss I'd abandoned my dog in that caused him to be so virulently infested.  "My backyard," was my only reply.  After about 30 minutes' lecture, the vet suggested a new super-tick-and-flea-control product.  Seeing how my next idea was Napalm and the SPCA, I was game.  She only had one dose, but I happily bought it.  The dog was a sleepy lump for three days, but that could have been due to the overwhleming trauma of having been left at the vet for 8 hours.  He hates that place.

The good part of this story is that the magic product worked!  For a few weeks I found only dead ticks in the house, and, although I fear to say it aloud, I haven't seen any in 2 weeks.  Shh.  Don't repeat that.  I know those little bastards are still in the yard, and I don't want to jinx myself.  Those stupid curtains have been hanging in the laundry room for 2 months, and I'd like my pants hangers back now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Doin' it wrong professionally: Now with more credentials!

I'm in a conference all week.

It's an annual event that happens in my state, and provides several choices for intensive trainings in addiction treatment that last anywhere from one to four full days.  The one I'm taking is for clinical supervision, and my attendance at this event has been graciously facilitated by a former employer, who happened to have an open seat already paid for, and I happened to be the first one to respond to the email.  It turns out that really fast typing is not just a cool parlor trick.

But that's not what I'm doing wrong.  I'm sitting in a room of seasoned professionals-- okay, some of them are seasoned, some of them are just motivated to be in charge of some stuff.  What I've noticed about this bunch of counselors is how much we love to hear ourselves talk.  And this is not a unique group, in my experience.  The funny thing is, as an introductory exercise, the class instructor asked us all to list what we believed were our strengths and our "challenges," and most of the people in this class identified being "a good listener" as one of their strengths.  Um.  Not even close.  Some of these folks are barely waiting for their turn to talk, let alone listening to what anyone else is saying.

I shouldn't imply that I'm not part of the yammering.  But I catch myself at it sometimes, and have to examine my motives for talking in the first place.  I've also been working lately on my own behavior of interrupting people, which seems like a pretty bad characteristic in a therapist.  I notice this behavior much less when talking with patients than with colleagues and with other people, but I can't tell you for sure that I NEVER interrupt patients...  What I do know is that in a room full of other counseling professionals, the only way to get a word in is to talk over someone else.  I have a hard-wired tendency to talk fast and loud, and 12 years of sitting in staff meetings with other therapists has only reinforced this.  I have to work against both my nature and my nurturing in order to not be a complete jerk.

Incidentally, when asked to identify my strengths, I never tell people I'm a good listener.  I'm not sure I am.  But I can be silent when I don't know what to say, and most people think this means I'm listening.  Maybe I am listening, and I just don't recognize it, given the behavior of people who say they're good at it, and then just jabber on and on.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ethics and Elementary School Children

I was discussing ethics with my daughter the other day.  She was telling me about a girl she's known since she was 2, who routinely does things to hurt her feelings, as she did recently.  Hannah was then telling me that if someone else made that girl cry, well, she deserved it.

I tried to convey to Hannah that this is not a true statement.  No one "deserves" to be hurt.  And even if another person is mean to us, we can choose to be kind and loving, even if they don't deserve that.  It's the best definition of Christianity I know: treating others better than they have earned.

I wrote about this conversation on my Facebook status the day it happened, and got a variety of responses.  One, from a dear, dear friend suggested I introduce the concept of Karma.  There is one problem with that: I don't believe in Karma.  I don't believe that people get what they give.  I have seen many examples of people who are despicable, spiritually speaking, and have succeeded in life by all external measures: social, financial, professional.  People on whom I have wished a rash in hidden places have prospered in all visible manners.  I attribute this to the fact that the universe is NOT looking out for justice, because the universe is a collection of stars and planets that is not conscious of the behavior of its inhabitants. And I know that the conscious being I recognize is not in the business of making sure that my version of justice is done.  Therefore, I am left with trying to teach my child grace.  I don't believe I am equal to this task.  I mentioned the wish-rash, right?

I don't think life is fair.  I don't think everything happens for a reason.  I don't think everything is going to work out to my advantage, if I just wait and see it through.  What I do think is that I can make myself satisfied with what happens if I work hard enough, cognitively speaking.  But I'm not good at expressing these thoughts to a 7 year old.

I want it to be true that if you are good and kind, the world will be good and kind back to you.  I want it to be true that if you look out for the interests of others, other will look out for your interests as well.  I also want it to be true that if I think happy thoughts I can fly to the second star to the right, but I know that's not happening anytime soon. Still, I try to be the change I want to see in others as often as I can, and I try to teach my child to be the same.

However, I also teach my child to tell people to Buzz Off when they are overtly mean, because there are only so many cheeks that kid has, after all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Camping Notes 2

I think my "Camping Notes 1" was a Facebook status at least a year ago.  It pretty much just said:

Did you pack the air mattress?

which, incidentally, we did not for our first real camping trip.

So here's what I learned on our second go:
1. 53 degrees when sleeping indoors under a down comforter is NOT the same thing as 53 degrees when sleeping in a tropical weight sleeping bag, with 2 other people in a 6-man tent.
2. The 6-man tent that sounded like a good idea when you thought you might take the dog camping with you is probably not necessary, and will not even be advisable when it comes down to camping in cooler weather than 80 degrees.  You're not going to generate enough body heat to be comfortable.
3. There is no such thing as too much kindling.
4. You're probably not sorry you didn't take the dog with you.
5. Those cargo pants with the zip-off legs are the best $60 you've spent in this whole million-dollar preparation.  You'll wear them for the whole trip.
6. If you can find a campground where there is a curfew for generators: go there.  I loved that it got quiet after 9:00pm.
7. Did you pack the long underwear?

These are the pants in question. They walked home on their own steam.

Do I hear kindling falling?

And I quote: "I'm not sure I can survive 2 days with no screen time."

Dave tolerated my campfire cooking quite well. The addition of spicy chorizo sausage to everything probably helped.  You don't have to refrigerate that stuff.

She can't skip a stone, but she sure can chuck a rock while looking cute.

We will probably go camping again; we have a million dollars' worth of equipment now.  But maybe not at 3300 feet above sea level.  That was just plain cold.  We spent 2 nights in Linville Falls, and wimped out at the prospect of a third night, since it was booked for Pisgah Mountain, at even higher elevation.  I reasoned that we could find an outdoor outfitter store in Asheville and buy enough polar fleece to stave off hypothermia, OR we could spend an equal amount of money on a hotel room.  Dave and Hannah both voted for the Hotel, and who am I to impose my camping will on others?  We grabbed one of the millions of rooms available for hapless campers in Asheville on short notice.  Now we only had to break camp, not set up again, and that freed us up to spend the day at the North Carolina Arboretum, where I dragged Dave and Hannah past every brass plaque I could find.  Plus there was a really cool exhibit based on the book Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart.  Now I have to buy that book.

Hey. It's vacation.  I'm going to have a good time if it kills someone.  Preferably not someone I was hoping would drive me home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Apparently I have more in common with a flying, screaming monkey than I may want to admit.

I gave one of these monkeys to my sister for a present, because I'm very thoughtful.  Hers did not, sadly, have a super hero cape and hood.  More's the pity.  Hers may, if placed in the right hands, do this kind of production number, however.

You have to watch it to the very end for it be really funny.  Or maybe I'm just really tired, and it's not funny at all to normal people.  That would come as no surprise to me.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Don't get me wrong: I like shoes.

I got forcibly Timelined on Facebook.  I can't figure out the new format on Blogspot.  Upgrades in general irritate me.

Must everything evolve?  Isn't anything ever good enough?  I suppose this mindset is why I live in a tiny house and drive an 11-year-old station wagon.  But I think it's also why I have a resting heart rate of 50, and admirable cholesterol levels and cardiac function, despite my reliance on butter, and bacon grease as my primary source of dietary fats.

I don't think I need to be constantly reaching for some new Thing.  I'm intentionally making that noun proper, because I mean I won't work for objects.  I want to continually learn new things.  I want to do meaningful things in my work, and teach my daughter things that are important to know.  I want to be a better person, a better mother, a better spouse, a better therapist.  But I'm not going to kill myself so I can have more expensive shoes.

I had a job once where everyone got laid off, because the company was being investigated for Medicaid fraud.  Good times were had by all.  One of my co-workers suggested I go to law school.  I had no children and my husband worked nights, leaving me lots of time on my own. I was still in my 20s, and had not yet incurred any student loan debt. (Thanks, Dad.)  I thought about it briefly, and realized that most attorneys work 60 to 80 hours a week.  Now I had NOTHING else to do, but I knew that I was not interested in working that many hours.  It didn't really matter to me what the salary potential was.  I wasn't willing to trade time for money.

Instead I took up cooking.  Enter the butter and bacon fat.  I spend the money that other people would spend on attending sporting events or taking dance lessons on cooking implements and mail-order specialty ingredients. Most of it is unnecessary; when you think about it, so is football.  What both of these things contribute to life is noticeable only qualitatively.  Hobbies give people a point outside of their Things on which to attach meaning.  They give us occasion to strive for excellence outside of our means of making a living.  So when I have a really bad week, where no one shows up to appointments and people just don't seem to be getting any better, I can still go home and make a mountainous lemon meringue pie that provides some sense of achievement.  No. Not just achievement: Mastery.

Some researchers have identified Mastery as a basic need.  The model I'm referring to has about 11 basic needs, so, obviously, it comes after the real basics, like food, shelter, and an adequate supply of oxygen.  But it is a real and observable drive for most human beings.  When people don't find ways to achieve this through academics, athletics, or aesthetic pursuits, they tend to try to achieve it by controlling other people, or by demeaning others' areas of Mastery.  You know, you may have had a brother or cousin who told you your hobby was stupid and you were a loser because you practiced the viola 2 hours a day at age 13.  For some people these pursuits turned out to be career paths.  For the rest of us, it's just a way to really strive for accomplishment and occasionally triumph. 

This week I'm going to try to recognize others for their mastery of being people.  Not for their car or their shoes or the size of their diamond, but the things that are truly central to their humanity; the concepts that those Things represent.  Dedication. Focus. Perseverance. Strength. Love.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How to paint yourself into a corner.

Hannah was an ornery cuss all night, beginning with getting whiney about my insistence that she practice her piano lesson correctly, and ending with holding the bathtub plug out of my reach when I asked for it, under the guise of shaking the excess water off it.  Then she went into her room to get dressed and cry in her mirror.  I took the mirror out, so she had to cry alone.

After she came out, I asked her if she wanted to talk about what had upset her.

Hannah: Well, I just got a little tired.  You know how tired people get cranky?
Me: Oh.  Then I guess you should brush your teeth and get ready for bed now.
Hannah: I was just a little bit tired...
Me: Brush.

As I've mentioned before, this child is inventive, and has no compunction about making stuff up.  Fortunately for me, she has not yet mastered the concept of what comes next after she feeds me a line.  When she figures out how to predict my response and trouble-shoot that, I'm dead in the water.  She's a much better liar than I ever was.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I need a pinch-hitter.

Wednesday night I sat on a park bench and watched Hannah take a tearful swipe at a little boy who was not, at that moment, doing anything visibly wrong.  I called her over to me, and she trudged over, climbed into my lap and started crying.  She said the other kids were being mean to her all night, especially one new friend, who kept telling her that it wasn't her turn at whatever they were doing.  Hannah was upset, because she was keeping track of the order, and she KNEW she when it was supposed to be her turn.  That's just not fair.  Then she fell down, and actually got hurt, but the little boy didn't ask if she was okay. That's just not nice.  He may have also made a joke, which was why she took a very wide swipe at him, which had no chance of connecting, but graphically expressed her deep frustration.  That's just heartbreaking.

My daughter, as an only child, doesn't really have to compete for anything at home.  She can have undivided attention, uninterrupted time at playing with her toys, unlimited turns swinging on the rope in the backyard, all without having to negotiate with other kids.  When there are other kids around, she is usually gracious, and wants to share.  She doesn't understand why other kids don't use the same manners that she does, why they would be mean, hit, or laugh at her.

When things like this happen, I just want to take her home, bundle into our little mom-dad-Hannah cocoon and never let anyone else in.  I want to hold her and rock her and tell her how much I love her, and that she never has to see those rotten kids again if she doesn't want to.

But I don't want to make her emotionally crippled.  I don't really want her living with me when she's 40.  I know the rest of the world is a lot harsher, ruder, and louder than her dad and I are.  And I want her to be able to live on earth like a normal person.

So what I do is reason with her about how important it is to be first, as opposed to second in line, if everyone still gets a turn.  I tell her that boys fall down all the time, and they might not stop to ask one another if they're okay, and maybe that's why this boy didn't ask her.  I tell her that everyone has bad days, and maybe the other kids don't realize they're being mean.  I remind her to tell other people to "Buzz off!" in her "mean voice" when they bother her repeatedly.  I remind her that she doesn't have to give other people the toys she's using when they ask, but it's okay to do so if she wants.  And I let her know that everyone won't be her friend, but she can still be kind to everyone. 

I don't really know how to raise a child to be both assertive and kind.   I'm not always sure how to do those two things at the same time as an adult.  Sometimes I want to backhand other people's children for being a jerk to mine; but I don't want to intervene too quickly, for fear that I'll teach my child that I don't think she can handle her own problems.  It's painful to watch her struggle and sometimes fail, although I know that's the correct way to build self-esteem, because it's the quickest way to break my heart.  Some days I'd like to stay on the bench and let someone else handle the heavy hitting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Boundaries? What boundaries?

I pulled into the parking lot at work this morning to see a grown woman, easily sixty years old, sitting on the side of a raised planting bed, shirt pulled up, scrutinizing her navel.  I mean her chin was on her chest, and she was prodding at her abdomen for some reason, although I wasn't close enough to see exactly what the reason may have been.  I couldn't be more pleased about my nearsightedness.

When she heard my car, she covered herself, but as I was parking she went right back to what she was doing. I know this because when I got out of the car, I saw she had her shirt hiked up again for another look.  I felt like I'd stumbled upon a man peeing in an alley.  This woman was sitting in front of my building, as though she were doing nothing more intimate than making a phone call.  Why am I the one who feels embarrassed?

Later, coming out of the common rest room in center of our office plaza, I happened upon a man's actual ass.  There is a gentleman who leases an office near ours who commonly sits on a bench in the breezeway to smoke a cigar and mess around on his smart phone.  Today, for some reason, he was sitting on another of these stupid raised planting beds, leaning over to peer into his phone. This left a rather impressive and compulsory view of his butt to anyone coming from west of the shrubbery.  That end of the plaza, incidentally, includes a psychiatrist's office.  No risk for lasting damage there.

Don't tell me, gentlemen, that you are unaware of the exposure of your buttocks to the air in the case of the proverbial plumber's crack.  That guy had to know he was a little too-well ventilated.  And what, short of a stab wound, would be worthy of public examination of one's bare midsection.  Why is it that people don't feel the need to keep their private business private?  Am I the only one disturbed by this?  I'm not that dainty.  I talk about sex, drugs, and body parts with people every day, for legitimate, clinical reasons.  But I don't need to see it in the courtyard, people.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's a good thing I have other people to do my thinking for me some days.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm weary.  I've been doing everything that requires 2 hands for over a month now, and I have started forgetting stuff.  Not important stuff, I think.  Everyone's been bathed and fed at least three times this week, so I think I'm doing pretty well.

My aunt called me today and asked what we're doing for Easter.
Um. Going to church?  Eating chocolate bunnies?  What else is there?
Oh!  Dinner!  I forgot.  Maybe I should go buy a ham. Or a ham sandwich.  Or Valium.

She suggested that we go out for brunch.  I love the idea of brunch.  Brunch always sounds like there will be sunshine and mimosas.  And maybe hats.  It sounds crisp and fresh and like there should be whipped cream on most of the things that aren't prime rib.  It's a festive word.  And usually comes with a festive price tag, so I don't bother with it myself.

Except this year.  Because, dang it, I'm not cooking Easter dinner and then cleaning the whole thing up after I'm done.  And because I can't get anyone else to eat asparagus, so I'd have to make two vegetables.  Boo to that.

It never, ever occurred to me to go out to eat on Easter.  I called for reservations just this evening.  Which is why we'll be enjoying the buffet at 5:30 instead of 11:30.  But what I'll really be enjoying is the clean kitchen.  And the not-washing dishes.  And the view.  Dig it.

Why didn't I think of this?

I've gotten myself into the mindset that I can, and must, do everything.  We must have home-cooked meals together every night.  The laundry must be done and bathroom cleaned twice a week. The kitchen must be cleaned daily. The floors must be vacuumed constantly.  Alright, that one's true, or the carpets would be made out of dog hair.  It's this perfect woman thing that we inadvertently buy into.  I am well-acquainted with the concept of good enough.  I fairly shower my clients in it all day long.  I rail against the folly of the "Should" thinking error, and can pick it out of any (anyone else's) rant in record time.  It is my actual business to help other people lighten up and be less hard on themselves.  But I routinely forget to do it myself.  

Sigh.  Anyone know of a good therapist?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I'm not Irish, and you probably don't want to get close enough to kiss me.

I'm about at my wit's end.  I, frankly, had more faith in the length of my wits before this week, but now I see the truth of it: I'm nearly witless.

In the words of Indigo Montoya: There is too much; lemme sum up.

My husband got hit by a car while riding his bicycle 2 weeks ago.  He had surgery on Monday to repair the complete separation of his shoulder, including the complete tear of both the AC and CC ligaments.  I don't want to explain that any further; it's medical and boring if it's not happening to you. Suffice it to say that the past two weeks have sucked immensely.  I'm exhausted.  I'm frustrated.  I'm fearful of lasting damage to my  husband's mobility.  I might cry if they don't have the flavor of ice cream I want when I stop at Publix on the way home today.

Now it's St. Patrick's day.  I could not give a flying tow-truck about St. Patrick's day.  I don't own any green clothing.  I'm not interested in green beer.  And anyone who pinches me is going to lose a couple fingers, at best.

My daughter, on the other hand, is 6, and thinks it's a serious holiday for everyone.  They apparently camp it up in elementary school nowadays, and she's been talking about the stupid Leprechaun like it's Santa Claus.  Any minor change in her environment is chalked up to the Leprechaun's practice runs of mischief-making.  Geeze.  Last night she set up a Leprechaun trap in her bedroom, which looked a little like a fairy house, so it was mildly endearing to me.  But this morning she awakens me at 4:30 asking if she can get up yet.  Like she's expecting a pot of gold in the living room.  I had, in concession to her sweet enthusiasm over the day, gone into her room after she fell asleep to mess around with her toys and write a little Leprechaun note for her.  But that was as much as I could manage.  I wasn't getting up 3 hours before dawn to enjoy that moment with her.  Fortunately, she let me go back to sleep and didn't wake her dad about it.

Really.  People.  I'm sorry I can't drum up any enthusiasm here.  I feel like a jerk for being unfestive and stuff, but cut me some slack.  I have to change the dressing on some surgical wounds.  And then eat a pint of salted caramel gelato.  I take that back; I'm not even a little sorry.  Especially about the gelato.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Those who can, write. Those who can't, write blog entries about how those other guys did it wrong.

I've started reading Sense and Sensibility for the first time.  For some reason I avoided all those Brit-chick novels when I was in high school.  Except for Wuthering Heights.   I loved that, presumably because it's kind of half-ghost-story, and I was a huge Kate Bush fan.  Even with these factors to recommend it, it was pretty tragic and swooney and girly.  I'm not, so far, getting the gush over Jane Austen.  Does that make me some kind of philistine?  In the first 10 admittedly short chapters of this book, it seems like typical unrealistic romance novel stuff that would have inspired two different John Hughes movies in the '80s.  Austen must have had teen aged girls traipsing all over the countryside hoping for a fortuitous sprain that would put them within striking distance of a dashing and rich husband in the early 19th century. I wonder how many needlessly muddy shoes turned up on back porches of the well-bred middle classes after the publication of this treasure. 

To be fair, I have no real knowledge of literary criticism.  I never took any literature or English courses in college; I'd showed up with enough AP credits to opt out entirely.  What a bargain.  My literary sensibilities lean toward smart use of humor, precise grammar, and correct word usage, preferably with at least three or four words I have to go look up.  I once rejected a book because the author used the word "undermine" when the context of his sentence clearly called for "impugn" or "deride." (Chris Bohjalian, you ninny.)  And, for some reason, I deeply enjoy the artful and non-gratuitous use of expletives, in the style of Christopher Moore's Fool.

The really good thing about this book for me is that it's extremely talkey, and uses quite a bit of colloquial language that forces me to think harder than the plot, to this point, would require.  So I'll undoubtedly carry on with it.  After all,  Sacre Bleu won't be released until April 3, so I've got a little time.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On the Live Oak

Your yellow veil obscures

Your shower of leaves

And must I even mention
the stupid inch worms?

Yet your eventual shelter from May through October
keeps me
from burning you
to the ground
from whence you grow.

Keep it up.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Non-pharmacological Sleep Aids?

We've discussed already how I am overly fixated on language, grammar, and how one's choices in literature are reflections of one's character in some way.  But now I'm a bad mother about it.  It's library day at our house, and my sweet almost-seven-year-old chose only chapter books to bring home today.  I'm feeling smug, because she can read them herself, for the most part.  She does still enjoy having me and her dad read to her.

But her taste in literature sucks.  I dread reading the books she chooses.  It's torture.

It's not for lack of exposure.  I encourage her to look at the non-fiction section in the library for topics that interest her.  I bought a collection of girl-centric fairy tales compiled by Jane Yolen after Christmas; she'll listen politely to one occasionally.  My sister gave her a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairlyland in a Ship of her Own Making for a present; couldn't be less interested. I tried to get her interested in Peter and the Starcatchers on her by first letting her watch Hook; too scary.  Okay.  I'll give her that one.  But Hannah brings home Rainbow Magic books from the library.  This week's selection includes Shannon the Undersea Fairy and Cherry the Cake Fairy.  Holy coma.  Those books actually put me to sleep.  I read two chapters and had to go brew a pot of coffee.  I'm not kidding.

I've read this one.  My soul is just a little smaller as a result. DON'T look inside, whatever you do.

They're almost as formulaic as the dumb Barbie stories she likes. The books are about two best friends who discover that Fairlyland just happens to be in great turmoil everytime they have occasion to get together, and they have to work with the fairies to save the day.  Oh puh-lease.  At least they could come up with some interesting fairies now and then.  Hillary the Headcold Fairy?  She could make sure everyone got a good dose of the grippe every couple years, so their immune systems could get a good work out.  Belinda the Break-Up Fairy?  Her role is to make sure that there are self-refilling pints of cookie-dough ice cream or Jack Daniels in the ice box of everyone who just ended a relationship.  How about Cora the Cable Fairy?  Her job is to make sure no one's cable goes out during an important sporting event or the season finale of The Simpsons. Or Hannah's suggestion: Caroline the Coffee Fairy.  She's clearly the one to look after me.  These are fairies with whom I could get along.

I usually try to avoid using sarcasm with my child; I figure what I give her, I'm getting back at some point, with no one to blame but myself. But I can't read these books without a heavy dose of irony and commentary.  She tolerates it in order to hear the repetetive stories of two girls and a fairy undoing the spiteful mischief of Jack Frost and his goblins, a bunch of villains too stupid to tie their own shoes, if they ever wore any. That kid is a trooper.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

again with the attention span

Here's my problem with books.  The quality of all books is relative to the other books I am reading at the time.  And I might not be that discriminating, I'm not sure yet.  Where do I get that tested, anyway?

I've discovered this awesome service provided by my county's library system, where you can log into their system using the barcode on your library card, and command the library to bring you books!
Bring me all the Neil Gaiman you have!  Immediately, naves!
Ok. Not quite so imperiously.  But you can just click on the titles you want reserved, and they'll have them set aside for you when you go in.  There's another feature that I've more recently stumbled upon where you can keep a list of books you want later, so you don't have to take home 27, and end up renewing them over and over.  which you can also do from the website.  Heaven.

I still bring home six at a time, and start most of them right away.  So if one is really lame, I just leave it on an end table somewhere and focus on the juvenile fiction book I got, ostensibly to read to Hannah, but of which she'll have no part because there's too much suspense.  Or too many monsters.  I like fairy tales.

I checked out The Illumination last time.  It seemed a quiet, thoughtful book about a woman who injures herself with a knife, and meets another woman, fatally wounded in a car accident, while they share a hospital room.  On the date the first woman is injured, for some reason, people all over the world start emitting light from wounds and painful places on their bodies, hence the title. It turns out, I think, that the book is about an inanimate object that passes amongst many different people with little or no clear connection prior to the object passing between them. I got halfway through the book before I decided I didn't care what else happened to the object or the people who had possession of it, and I had finally dispaired that anyone was going to tell me why people were glowing.  I much preferred to spend my spare moments reading a children's novel called Fablehaven.  Really, how could you compete with a story about how a little girl calls up an army of 6-foot faries to rescue her family from a demon.  That's just quality story telling.  I have the attention span and literary sensibilites of a 9 year old.

Except where Neil Gaiman is concerned.  Seriously.  I'd read that guy's grocery list.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Not exactly the Queen's English

I was in the kitchen with Hannah making Rice Krispie treats, and she did something marginally inconvenient, from which I redirected her.

Hannah: Oh, sorry, my fault.
Me: Excuse me?
Hannah: I said 'my fault.'
Me: I know it's your fault, that's why I asked you not to do it.
Hannah: *blank look*
Me: Do me a favor and don't say that any more.  Don't ever say 'My fault,' or 'My bad.'
Hannah: Why? What does 'My bad' mean?
Me: It means 'I'm a dope, and I don't know how to say I'm sorry.'  It just doesn't sound very intelligent.

I know there's no way to keep slang out of her vocabulary permanently.  I use slang.  I call her Dude all the time.  Sometimes I end sentences with 'yo,' albeit mostly when talking to my sister.  I'm not all that bothered by her frequent use of the word 'totally.'  But street slang is just gross coming out of my sweet little popkin in her polka-dotted skirt.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bless me, Blogspot, for I am a jerk...

Time for my blog-confessional again.  This time, my social sin is willful non-recycling.  That's right: I make my own marshmallows and soup stock so I don't have to eat weird chemicals, but I don't recycle.  Unless there is a designated "Recycle Here" trash can right in front of me, I chuck everything in the regular garbage. In that past, that was my own private sin, but now I'm an elementary-school pariah.

It started last year, when all the children in Kindergarten were sent home with a "Recycling Pledge" form, which parents were supposed to help them fill out and return, stating that they would responsibly separate out the recyclables from the regular trash, and dispose of them in a friendly, green manner. Only by signing this pledge could my five-year-old prove to the elementary-school population that she isn't a river-polluting, baby-seal-clubbing monster.  And I refused.  Because I try not to lie, and I try to teach my child the same.  I'm just not doing it.

I personally think that the benefits of recycling are eaten up by the resources used to complete the process.  In my county there are dozens of recycling drop-off sites; they're all over the place.  But my city also has a designated recycling collection crew, with it's own sort-it-as-you-go truck.  At least one truck, but I assume more.  So we've built extra vehicles, to burn extra gas, while we pay extra guys (which, incidentally, is the only benefit I see) to do what ORDINARY WASTE MANAGEMENT DOES ANYWAY.  That's right.  A lot of the trash collected at your curb gets recycled in the regular waste management plant. Glass is shaken out and sold to glass buyers.  Plastic is picked out for different buyers to be recycled.  Paper and cardboard are bundled and sold to paper mills.  Metal is sucked up on big magnets and, you guessed it, sold to companies that will recycle it.  The biodegradable stuff gets mulched up for compost.  What's left is pretty much disposable diapers and old Star Wars action figures.

So I avoid looking the kid wearing the silly foam Recycling Can costume in the eye when I drop my daughter off at school.  I find something very interesting in my pocket that must be examined right now when we pass the aluminum can drop-box at the entrance to the school property.  I deftly change the subject when my daughter mentions some recycling campaign being promoted this month.  And I dread April 22.

Look.  I do my best to avoid genetically modified foods, although sometimes I just don't know.  I (sometimes) buy responsibly raised meat and dairy.  Only sometimes, because, having actually done side-by-side comparisons, I fail to appreciate the difference in taste. And that stuff is expensive, yo.  But I'm not making a second job of throwing away the milk bottles and the tomato cans.  Because someone else already has a first job of that.  I'm not even sorry.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nominated for Best Dad Ever is...

We were sitting at dinner this evening when Hannah raised a concern:

Hannah: Remember when we were at that play in Chicago, and I asked a question?
Me: Baby, there's no way I could remember one question you asked me.  You ask questions all the time.
(completely true statement)
Hannah: No, not to you, after the play.
(the company hosted a children's question-and-answer time after the show was over, and Hannah wanted to ask a question.  She's small and cute and was wearing a frilly dress, so, of course, she was selected.)
Me: Oh, yes. I remember.
Hannah: And do you remember that people laughed?  I want to know why they laughed.
Me: (Inwardly cringing) Well, maybe they were wondering the same thing.  Sometimes when you say something that someone else was thinking, they think it's funny.
Hannah: (looking down at her hands) Or maybe they just thought it was dumb.

My heart breaks for a second, and then, BAM, Dave to the rescue!

Dave: Wait. Who was laughing?  Grown ups or kids?
Hannah: Grown ups.
Dave: Well, that explains it.  Grown ups will laugh at anything. There's no explanation for it.
Me: (speechless)
Dave: Especially if you said something smart.  Grown ups always think it's funny when a kid says something smart. They're not expecting it.

This fits nicely into a previous discussion we've had about how things are funny when they're unexpected, so Hannah just accepts this explanation as perfectly rational.  The truth is, it is perfectly rational.  And simply stated.  And completely beyond my capacity for parsimony.

Man, I love that guy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

In which I discover, again, that I don't know everything.

I spent three days last week in a room full of lawyers at my Alma Mater.  I know, I know.  I thought I'd hate it, too.  But it turns out that what I hate are criminal defense attorneys, not just attorneys in general.  My only real exposure to attorneys so far has been just that.  And I've had dealings with some really slimy ones with regard to drug and alcohol related criminal offenders.  As usual, my sample set is decidedly skewed.

In the spirit of full disclosure (what'd I tell you; 24 hours with attorneys-- I feel a little dirty) the room was only half-full of attorneys; the other half was full of mental health professionals.  We were in a training for Parenting Coordination.  I'll spare you the gory details.  Mostly because I didn't  understand a lot of it.  I have to go to work today and read about 200 pages of Florida statutes and Administrative Rules to try to make sense of it all.

The whole training was exhausting, and mind boggling. I was so drained, that by 5:00 on Saturday, when we were dismissed, I got into the elevator and stood there for about 2 minutes, wondering why it was so slow. Then I noticed I hadn't pushed a button for a floor selection.  To make me even cooler, I was singing the Wonder Pets theme song while I waited for something to happen.  I can only hope the university students in the lounge area outside the elevator could hear me declare that I would Save the Goldfish!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting dressed probably shouldn't be this amusing.

So I'm all dressed for work yesterday, except for shoes.  I put on something sensible in which to walk to school with my daughter, but planned on wearing my wedge-heeled boots to work.  I don't get that many chances to wear boots without looking like a geek in Florida.  When I'm finally ready to go to work, mostly because I've finished all the coffee, and it seems silly to make another pot, when I can just go to work and use the Keurig, I go to my room for socks and boots.

I love wearing boots, because when I wear something pretty conservative I secretly have on pink knee-socks with purple and gray polka-dots.  I think it's funny all day, and no one knows what I'm giggling about.  Alright. Maybe what it is is slightly crazy.  But whatevs.

This time, I get the aforementioned pink polka-dot socks on, add the boots and go to brush my teeth.  Walking out of the bathroom, I notice something jiggling around in my shoe.  Pull off boot, shake upside down: nothing.  Pull off sock, turn inside out: Quarter.

How did a quarter get in my sock?  How did I not notice it when I put it on?  And is this some assurance of good luck?  I can only hope this is some portent of good fortune for my week.

Monday, January 9, 2012

not exactly The Longest Winter.

The temperature stayed in the 50s last night.  As we were getting ready for bed, my husband says to me:
       I hope spring is on the way now.  I can't take much more winter.
me: You mean you can't take more than last week?
Dave: Yeah. It was brutal.

It was 80 degrees on Christmas, and then we had about three nights last week where the temperature got down into the 30s.  Granted, our poor little heat pump is not really equipped for battling those numbers, and we've been running space heaters in the bedrooms for the past two weeks.  But part of that decision is our extreme cheapness: Why heat the whole house to 75 degrees for the eight hours when we don't leave our bedrooms?

Dave can't stand the cold.  Which is always amusing to me, since he grew up in Dearborn, Michigan.  For anyone unfamiliar with that area, Dearborn is like Detroit's little brother, who's embarrassed because Detroit keeps getting arrested and borrowing money from his friends, so he pretends they're not related.  It's kinda tough to convince his friends, though, since Detroit is still living in their parents' basement.

I don't really know where I'm going with this analogy.

But, since I lost my favorite hat on the Northwest line while we were in Chicago last month, I'm also in favor of no more freezing-type temperatures.  Incidentally, if anyone sees a purple felt cloche hat with felt rosettes while you're on the Metra train, give me a call, will ya?  That thing fit my little pin-head perfectly, so normal people probably couldn't get it on, anyway.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Project Acquisition-Neutral Status: So far, so-- Oh, man.

Today is my day off.  On Wednesdays I do my grocery shopping and clean my house while there's no one underfoot to bug me and get stuff out again for a couple hours.  Today I had a couple extra things I needed: a new shower curtain and a new date book.  Both are replacement items, so I felt good about the outing.

For the shower curtain I went to K-Mart. I don't really like that store, so there's no desire to browse around for stuff I don't need.  Easy in and out there.  Shower curtain liner, 8-pack of hangers (we broke about 4 last month, so it's a semi-legit purchase) and I'm out of there.

My next stop, however, was the office supply store for the date book. We had a gift card from several months back, so it was a seemingly logical choice.  Except for the fact that I love office supplies.  I like the little stacking trays and sorting bins.  I love stationery and post-it notes and self-stick tabs that you use for marking your notes in books you borrow.  But what I really love is pens.  My dream pen is a retractable, super-fine point, gel-ink, rollerball pen.  That's right. I have a dream pen, what of it?  It's like I go into a trance when I walk into that place.  I like to leisurely stroll around and try as many of them as I can without actually tearing open any bubble-packs. By the time I realized what I was doing this morning, I was holding not only my required item, but several pens of various colors in both ball-point and porous-tip styles.  I did manage to put most of them down, but ultimately walked out with a four-pack of porous point black pens, using the justification that the only pens we have at work are the crappy give-aways that my boss gets for free when he orders our business cards. Weak, I know, but it's all I've got.

Better luck next Wednesday.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Stuff it.

I spent this weekend trying to fit all my daughter's new Christmas clothes and books into our existing shoe-box's worth of space.  I pulled out several things from her dresser and closet for the Red Cross pick up, and then turned to my own.  I was able to part with notably less of my stuff than hers, but I'm sure if I had set someone else to the task they'd be a little less conservative about what could go and what needed to stay.

Then I spent some time thinking about my stuff.  I have a lot of it. None of it is particularly valuable; not in actual dollars, anyway.  But every year there is more of it.  Who am I kidding? Every week there is more of it.  If I have 2 hours to kill, I'm likely to spend them at Target or Marshall's, culling for some unpredictable but wonderful bargain.

In truth, my house is beyond full. I can barely find places for all the stuff we have.  Last week I visited my brother and sister-in-law in their first house, and marvelled at the empty closets and drawers.  Did I say marvelled?  I meant seethed with envy.  "Imagine what I could store in here!" was more the sound of it inside my head.  They had a huge Harry-Potter-esque under-stairs closet.  Actually, Harry would have been envious; this one went around a corner.  But the reality of things is this: we have the house we can afford, in the neighborhood we want.  It's not getting any bigger, and I don't even have stairs under which to wish there were a closet of any size.

So I started thinking about the plausibility of having a negative growth year, in terms of stuff. Would it be possible to get rid of more stuff than I buy this year?  Probably not. But maybe I could conduct an acquisition-neutral experiment.  Buy nothing that is not meant to replace something worn out.  That would mean no shoes, unless I could toss pair that is too worn to be seen in public anymore.  No socks, unless I've had to discard a pair already.  No kitchenware that isn't a replacement for a broken item.  That's right: no new glasses or cookware.  Well, no additional glasses or cookware, anyway.  

I'm not sure I can commit to a whole year of that, so I'm shooting for three months.  There will be some exceptions to the acquisition-neutral rules, I think.  Books, for instance.  Hannah is now reading her own short chapter books, and, although we regularly visit the library, I expect that we will, from time to time, buy her a book.  Also, we have planned a camping trip for our summer vacation, and have important holes in our camping gear collection, most notably, cookware.  That's where I may be able to cheat on the no-new-kitchenware rule a bit.  But in terms of clothing, shoes, and general home furnishings, I'm going to put a three-month moratorium on new stuff.  

There: I said it. No new stuff for three months, unless an old piece of stuff breaks.  Let's see how this goes.  If you hear a whimpering sound from somewhere in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, it's probably me, wishing I could buy that pair of Gianni Bini pumps that Dillard's just put on sale for $26.  Sigh.  It's happened before, I have no reason to think it won't happen again this year.  But I won't be the lucky girl wearing those shoes this time.  Unless they go on sale in April...