Severe clear

One of the weird side effects of 9/11 for me was becoming much more aware of the weather this time of year. The incongruity of those terrifying events happening on such a gorgeous “severe clear” day will probably remain with me for the rest of my life. Beautiful late summer days shouldn’t make me sad, but they do.

Today was the first severe clear day after several rainy days in a row and I finally figured out a way to counteract the sadness. I hung some laundry in the back yard. Is this totally weird? Are there other people out there who love the look of laundry hanging on a line? Especially if it’s colorful, and there is a light breeze?

Hello again, world!

Hmm, it’s been over a month since I last wrote a “daily” post. Not for lack of interest, or lack of things to write about, but simply lack of time. Mainly because of work. Our big annual event takes place in August and this big annual event is pretty much our entire raison d’etre. So, lots to do in August. And then I had to turn my attention back to home and family after ignoring them all summer (because of the event), getting everyone organized for the start of school, getting back into the swing of things.

Also we had some extra surprises like having to quickly buy a new car after hitting a deer :-( That was tough because not only were we not financially prepared, but it had been years since we researched cars. We’d go to a lot and the salesman would say “well I have a nice Ford Freestyle” and we didn’t even know whether to expect a truck or a snazzy sports car or what. So we were really at square one. (Here’s what we ended up with: a Ford Escape, very high mileage unfortunately but handles like a dream and I absolutely adore it!!)

So, anyway, I am excited to be back here. I changed the theme (Comet!) and although I haven’t checked how block quotes are treated yet, so far I like it a lot. I’ll be posting some book reviews soon — my reading this summer was all over the place and I came across some interesting books.

A recipe for happiness: sweat the small stuff

When people say don’t sweat the small stuff, they mean don’t get all upset over little things that don’t really matter in the long run. That is certainly good advice, but I would add to it that some small stuff can make you really really happy. Sometimes, when you least expect it . . .

Ringtone

I changed the ringtone on my iPhone last week. I’ve had the same one for over a year, ever since I got this phone. The ringer I had all this time was “Old Phone” — you know, the one that sounds like these. A charmingly ironic statement about modern technology, right? My kids kept bugging me to change it — I have a 1,001 ringtones app on my phone that they adore — but I was way too in love with the charming irony to even consider changing it.

But, I dunno why, just on a whim I guess, last week I finally changed it. I picked one of the 1,001 off the app. It’s called “Jive” and it fades in with a funky bass line, gradually builds in funk and intensity as more instruments come in, and then fades out again. No irony there, but as soon as you hear that bass line fade in, you just want to dance!

And I realized something. Despite the charming irony, Old Phone was setting off my startle reflex every time I heard it. I have a pretty extreme reflex — just ask my kids who think it’s hilarious — and that meant that every time I answered my phone, my heart was pounding and I was experiencing that fight or flight thing. Whereas now, when my ringer fades in (no startle there) and starts my head boppin’ and my toes tappin’? Now when I answer my phone I always have a big grin on my face even when it’s my evil coworker on the other end.

Umbrella

I went to a very small college in a very small town. Among other things it meant that everyone bought their umbrellas from the same store, and they were all plain black. So they were communal. On rainy days you’d go into the cafeteria, leave your umbrella in the lobby with all the other identical ones, and when you came out you’d just grab one, any one. After a while I decided to be rebellious so I went into the big city and bought me an electric blue umbrella with big white polka dots all over it. My sole purpose was to differentiate mine from all the plain black ones.

But guess what? Every time I opened that umbrella I would giggle at the goofy polka dots. Didn’t matter how grey and drizzly the day, I always got a giggle out of that umbrella. And it’s hard to be annoyed about the weather when you’re giggling at your umbrella. Just sayin’.

Mirror

Ok, this is the last one. I am not a girly girl, but once upon a time I used to wear makeup when I worked in a fancy office. And one of the things I used to do was look in the mirror and smile at myself in order to find my cheekbones so that I could, you know, apply the blush. And this is kinda embarrassing, but whenever I did that smile, I would actually feel happy. (Cf. a hilarious scene in a Patrick O’Brian where Stephen and another doctor wonder whether the expression of an emotion causes the actual emotion; they experiment by angrily insulting each other and then checking their pulses, ha ha ha ha!)

And speaking of mirrors, if you are feeling really down, i.e. crying, I recommend taking a look at yourself in the mirror. I can practically guarantee that the sight of your own red-faced weepy facial contortions will make you laugh. (Hat tip to my sister who discovered this when we were angst-y teenagers.)

What small stuff makes you happy?

Tattoos, pros & cons

Well I couldn’t think of a blessed thing to write about, so I went over and looked at the postaday prompts. Not without trepidation, because most of them I wouldn’t touch with a ten hundred foot pole. However, yesterday’s prompt was “would you ever get a tattoo” and, well, here you go:

Cons

The bad thing about having a tattoo is you can’t ever become a secret agent. Your tattoo blows your cover instantly. Remember what happened to James Bond in Casino Royale? They carved the Smersh symbol into the back of his hand. He had to get skin grafts, and he bore the scar for the rest of his life.

Pros

Quite simply, the best rock and roll song by the greatest rock and roll band of all time. Let’s all sing together:

Welcome to my life, tattoo!
We’ve a long time together me and you.
I expect I’ll regret you but the skin graft men won’t get you;
You’ll be there when I die . . . tattoo-o-o-o-o-o-o! 

Reality check

I continue to have my share of ups and downs working with this woman that I have vented about in a couple of previous posts. I’ve reached the conclusion that she not only has ADD but possibly also Borderline Personality Disorder. I am not being facetious or snarky, either. I know BPD when I see it, and I think I am seeing it. She is very very difficult, and it has fallen to me to be the one to run interference and keep her out of everyone else’s hair. Which for the most part is okay with me. I am pretty phlegmatic and not easily fazed by craziness. But my god this woman is relentless. To the point where I can’t help questioning my own abilities. I ask her to do something in language that (I think) could not possibly be any clearer. Simple short declarative sentences. Subject verb object. And she always ends up misunderstanding, misinterpreting, or just downright ignoring me. Maybe I’m not being as clear as I think I am?

The other day I emailed her: “I will be responsible for XYZ . . . So please strike that off your to-do list.” I mean, that is pretty clear, isn’t it? That isn’t really open to interpretation is it?

She emailed back: “ok,” and I thought, phew! Great! She got it.

And then a day later she sent me another email full of questions, suggestions, and a progress report on what she’s done about XYZ.

This isn’t about me, or my “management style” — is it? If your boss sent you an email saying “I will be responsible for this task” would you then go ahead and keep working on it?

Home again

We had a great week by the lake. Some highlights:

My brother in law brought his new girlfriend along, and we all unanimously adore her. His ex-wife, I hate to say it, but she must have been unhappy in the marriage for a looooooong time before we realized it, and she was always a bit of a downer at family gatherings. The new girlfriend is fantastic, fits right in with the rest of the family, would make an awesome stepmom for my nieces, and is just an all-around good egg. Plus she has no family of her own so she is always available to do stuff with us. :-)

Sailing was good, especially with Jay. He finally started to catch on to the thrill of it. In the past he’s always been the bored teenager, or the bored 10yo, or the bored 7yo, but this year hubby and I made a point of taking him out, just the three of us, and insisting that he take over as skipper. As he sat there with the rudder in one hand and the mains’l sheet in the other, it suddenly clicked for him and he said “wow, it’s an amazing feeling when the rudder answers.” Oh yes it is! And we especially loved that he used the word answers. :-)

We played tons of games. We taught Elle how to play Hearts — that was a mommy moment for sure! Also, she also finally learned to do the bridge (shuffling) which she has been working on for a long time. Awwwww!

We also played quite a bit of our favorite board game, Wise and Otherwise. This game is basically the same as fictionary, only with proverbs. You are given the first half of an old proverb, for example, “There is an old Italian saying: The chestnut is for . . .” Everyone writes down what they think is a plausible second half of the sentence. One person reads them all aloud and everyone votes on which they think is the true one. Just like in fictionary, you get a point if someone votes for yours, and you also get a point if you vote for the true one. This is the most awesome game for family gatherings ever. Little kids can play just as well as grownups, and every round is hilarious. My one criticism about this game is they made it a lot more complicated than it needs to be, with playing pieces, a board, extra rules, etc. All you really need are the cards with the proverbs, pencils and paper. This shouldn’t be a competitive game; it’s about laughing and having fun together. In fact we ended up giving a lot of “ghost votes” to show appreciation for proverbs we knew were not correct, but were too clever or funny to pass by.

Folie à deux

So, I’ve returned to blogging only to leave again. Tomorrow we are off for a week’s vacation, lakeside. While the kids do their thing, hubby and I will spend our afternoons zipping across the lake in a Flying Scot. Not bad, but we are the little dog that thinks it is a big dog. Because in our joint imaginations hubby and I are actually sailing one of these:

And as we zigzag back and forth across the little lake in the little dinghy we will speak to each other in all the Age of Sail jargon we can dredge up from our Patrick O’Brian-saturated brains. We’ll pretend to tie Matthew Walkers. We’ll quote poetry about “th’impervious horrors of a leeward shore.” We’ll trim the mains’l, we’ll batten the hatches, we’ll call out “the boat, ahoy” as we approach other vessels and if they get in our way we’ll call them “scrubs” or (worse) “dutch-built slab-sided buggers.” We’ll point out landmarks that are “two points off the larboard bow” or “abaft the beam.” We’ll imagine that we’re in the Mediterranean… or perhaps we’re rounding Cape Horn… or no, wait, we’re in the Indian Ocean… or *shiver* the North Atlantic.

See you next week!

Natural consequences FTW

My parenting philosophy, if you can call it that, is based on actually doing as little as possible. Many of my friends think I am neglectful, and I in turn think they are hovering helicopters. Whatever. But it never ceases to amaze me how things have a way of working themselves out. Kids will learn from their mistakes if you just let them be.

Case in point. Several months ago, Jay mysteriously “lost” his glasses. He and his buddy got into a play wrestling match, he said. His glasses fell off, it was dark outside, he couldn’t find them. (Play wrestling? Can I just say, Jay is sooooo not a wrestler, not even a play wrestler. Never has been. But who am I to argue.) Anyway, he was strangely reluctant to go back and look for them the next day, even though he knew exactly where the wrestling match had taken place. And even more strangely, he was not the least bit upset about this loss. No, all he could talk about was getting contact lenses now that he didn’t have glasses. Ahem.

Sorry honey! Our insurance only covers one eye appointment per calendar year. Of course you’re welcome to save up for new frames (or contacts) yourself. And what’s that? You want to take drivers’ ed? You didn’t know there would be a vision test? Bummer! Maybe next year . . .

Now how easy is that? No yelling, no arguing, no possibility of negotiating, and a lesson learned that he won’t soon forget.

Post A Month, anyone?

Because whoa, it’s been longer than that since I checked in here at all. I stopped by just now for the first time since Mother’s Day and wow! People came and visited, and even left comments while I was gone. I am touched, and inspired to start this up again.

Summer is always a crazy time at our house. Everyone is home all day long, including my husband the teacher. With two parents home (I’m a WAHM) all day, we’ve never been big on signing our kids up for day camp or summer activities. We live in a perfectly nice neighborhood with trees, parks, and other kids all around, and we obviously don’t need daycare, so what’s the point? Right. Well, it sounds good anyway. But the fact is, there are five of us living in 1,500 square feet and with everyone home all the time we are constantly bumping into each other, both literally and figuratively. The house is always a a mess and no one has any privacy. Add to that the fact that summer is my busiest time for work, and yes I am feeling a little bit crazy.

So, here are a few tidbits:

My son has a girlfriend. A real girlfriend. Their facebooks say they are “in a relationship.” He goes to her family functions. He teases her little sisters. He hangs out with her friends. In an earlier era she’d be wearing his class ring. And I’m really glad for him. I like her. But it is definitely weird. Uncharted parenting territory. I’m discovering I have surprising feelings about it. Like: she better appreciate what a lucky girl she is, the hussy! (She is soooo not a hussy. They met in Latin class, ferchrissake. And her summer job is mother’s helper to a family with newborn triplets. But that thought creeps up on me from time to time, regardless.)

My daughter is learning to take chances, get messy and make mistakes. This is very very hard for her. I’ve never known such a cautious, risk-averse person as this girl. It is a perennial struggle for me to judge how hard to push her towards independence. Right now we’re working on it in the context of music. A few weeks ago her violin teacher had her in tears at her lesson, not over tricky passage work, but over the fact that he wants her to make her own artistic decisions and not wait for him to tell her how to polish a piece. And guess what, little by little, she is doing it! She’s working on a piece right now that isn’t too technically demanding but has a lot of musical depth to it and is perfect for making artistic decisions. And a wonderfully “safe” way for her to try her wings.

My little guy is playing with Legos. All. Day. Long. Ugh, the darn things are everywhere. But I have to give him credit for one thing: he really does play with them. He gets quite a bang for his Lego buck. When I was a kid I loved Legos too, but as soon as I built something, I was done. Dee, however, builds in order to play. And unlike his sister, he has no trouble making artistic decisions. His lego creations usually stray pretty far from the direction that come in the box. And his favorite pieces are the people.

Childhood occupations

Ok, here’s a good prompt from a few days ago:

What occupation did you want as a child? Given what you know now as an adult (or more of one than you were), would it have been a good choice for you?

Ha ha! When we were little my sister and I both wanted, desperatedly wanted, to be grocery store cashiers. Those buttons! On the cash register! They look so fun! And those ladies punch them so fast! And then they punch that big button and the cash drawer comes out — ding! — and you get to count out the money and give back the change! Yes we had a toy cash register and we played grocery store all the time.

I’ve never worked in a grocery store, and it’s a lucky thing I didn’t choose that for my life’s career because now they all have those swipe things. However, I temped in a piano store for a week once, and I got to work the register. Mostly people just came in to buy sheet music, but one person did actually buy a piano while I was there. I got to punch in $17,000. Woo hoo!

* * *

My sister and I also used to play waitress a lot. That seemed like a fun job too. Because you get a cool pad of paper and a small little pencil that you keep in your apron pocket! And you get to write down the orders! How fun is that?!?

I’ve never worked in food service either. Waitress is actually a way worse match for my personality than grocery store cashier would have been. I could not, could not, make myself smile and be nice for tips. I cannot say the word “sir” unless I am being sarcastic. I know that I am overly quick to perceive others as being patronizing, and I bristle more than I should when I feel I am being condescended to. But there it is. I just couldn’t do it.

I had an interesting conversation with my son about this the other day. He told me that a friend of his said that it is bad form to say please or can I have to the waitstaff when you’re ordering. A simple I’ll have is preferable since it takes away any hint of condescension. You are there to eat and they are there to bring the food, and everyone knows it, so why pretend they are doing you a favor?