Archive | May, 2011

Inside My Head

23 May

There is a foul-mouthed, judgmental witch in my life. I’m ashamed to admit that I even know her, but there is nothing I can do to eradicate her presence. You see, she lives inside my head.

I am, by nature, a curious person. At the same time, I like to do things “the right way,” which means that I do lots and lots of research on what is the right way to do particular things, especially household tasks. The voice inside my head, therefore, has an opinion about everything, from how people should brush their teeth (two minutes, reaching all tooth surfaces) to how they should fold their sheets (the way I do).

Naturally, I am a huge fan of Martha Stewart. Martha understands me. She knows that there must be a best way to do everything and she will find it, by God. Take the dishwashing liquid bottle on the counter, for example.  Probably eighty percent of the households in America have a big plastic bottle of green or blue liquid dishwashing soap sitting to one or the other side of the kitchen sink. I had one. I thought it was ugly. Martha had one. She thought it was ugly. In a stroke of genius worthy of a NASA engineer, Martha decanted the brightly colored liquid into a beautiful glass bottle and topped it all off with an attractive liquor pouring spout. I immediately bought a beautiful glass bottle, filled it with Dawn and set it beside my sink. It made me smile. But that wasn’t good enough for the voice inside my head. No, every time I spy a plastic dishwashing bottle while visiting someone’s home the voice inside my head says, “Ewwww!”

“Ewww” is one of the tamer things that rattles around my brain. “Hooker” pops up more often than I like to admit. I have no idea why, but the “inside my head” voice sees hookers just about everywhere I go. I was in Target this past winter. I was doing the economy a favor, pushing my cart up and down the aisles. I turned a corner to find a young woman wearing a heavily ruffled blouse under a pea coat, which was heavily ruffled in the back. My eyes traveled south of the ruffled pea-coat-butt to the thigh-high, black suede high-heeled boots and “Hooker!” popped into my head. I saw similar boots on a five-year-old girl at the mall not long after that. Right after “Hooker boots!” popped into my head, I wondered, “Who buys hooker boots for a five-year-old?”, immediately followed by “Who makes hooker boots for a five-year-old?”

While playing Fashion Police is a favorite activity inside my head, I really get cranking when someone ticks me off. This seems to be happening more and more during my regular runs. I mostly do trail running, usually through a prairie preserve near my home. Recently, my daughter begged to join me. Inside my head I was whining about not getting my mileage for the week but my mommy instinct won and my daughter and I headed to the prairie despite 20 mph winds and a constant drizzle.  We ran one and one-half miles with the wind yanking my daughter’s hat off her head every chance it got. Back at the trailhead, I spied a couple dressed, to my mind, completely inappropriately. Being the considerate person I am, I attempted to warn them that the wind was fierce that day. “I’m sure it is,” said the woman runner, giving me her best “maybe you can’t hack it, but I can” smile. I do not like condescension and, inside my head at least, I’m not particularly mature either. “I hope your hat blows away,” I thought.

While condescending runners get my goat, it’s the cyclists on the trail that really set my inner witch to wagging her tongue. When I was a cyclist, I was ever so considerate. I never cut anyone off; I never rode on the wrong side of the path. Readying to pass another cyclist or a runner, I announced myself. “On your left,” I said, and then thanked the passee.  Not so those who share the trail with me. Many are the cyclists who whiz past me unannounced, scaring the whiz out of me. To each and every one, I think, “Get a bell, asshole!” as they speed out of sight.

Inside my head, the trail I run is “my trail” and I am not particularly kind to those on my trail that I consider, shall we say, stupid. Witness the happy runner who trotted toward me on the wrong side of my trail. In America, we drive to the right, we walk to the right, we run to the right. I looked right at the wrong-sided runner. She did not yield. Instead, she smiled. “WTF,” I thought, so I gave her the universal WTF sign: palms raised to the sky, eyebrows up, quizzical look on my face. She did not yield. No, she smiled wider, waving, and trotted happily down the trail. “Idiot!” I thought, as I stepped out of her way.

Immediately after thinking the idiot an idiot, I felt bad. “Maybe she’s from England,” I thought. “Maybe she has some leg length discrepancy that requires she run on the left side of the trail. Maybe I’m just mean and intolerant.” By the time I reached the end of my run, I had convinced myself that I am a nasty-minded, judgmental witch. See, as nasty-minded as I am toward others, I am hardest on myself. My children have called me fat, mean, stupid and ugly, though never all at once. It doesn’t get to me. I realize I am not fat, mean, stupid or ugly. But inside my head there is a constant barrage of insults. Can’t find my keys? “You are so stupid,” I tell myself. Gained a pound after having my annual turtle sundae? “Ack. You’re fat!” Reading a book instead of de-cluttering my office pig mess? “You’re so lazy!” You name it, my inner witch has a nasty comment for it.

This morning, my daughter wanted me to hear a Selena Gomez song. In it, Selena sings, “Who say’s you’re not perfect?” My daughter sang merrily along while I held her in my lap and cried. Inside my head I thought, “I hope you never have a nasty, judgmental witch inside your beautiful, perfect head.”

© 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved. Photo: Martha


Never Never Land

16 May

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is closed . . .for good. All of the exhibits are being dismantled, the artifacts sold. Michael Jackson’s glove? Elvis’ jukebox? Grace Slick’s fringy vest? Jim Morrison’s Cub Scout shirt? Bet you can find ‘em all on ebay. At least, that’s what my son thinks.

A little background is in order here. When I still thought I would find a full-time teaching job, we made plans for a family car trip from Illinois to Boston, where we’d check out the Berklee School of Music, our son’s dream college. Since Cleveland is sort of on the way, we figured we’d stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then, since Boston is closer to upstate New York than Illinois is, we thought we should check out the Eastman School of Music, our son’s dream-on college. Sure looked like Canada was pretty close, so we added a trek up to Toronto. By the end of our planning night, we were going to be on the road for about three weeks and our son was wondering if it was possible to drive to China.

Fast forward to today. I am still under-employed so the three-week driving trip to Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Beijing is out of the question. Still, my husband and I believe that our under-motivated son needs the kick in the pants that a meeting with an admissions counselor might provide. And, we reasoned, touching the actual college might make more real the idea that he has to work to get there. Sort of “See, Mom and Dad weren’t lying. There really is a place called college.” We decided that I would accompany our son on a trip to Boston. I was looking forward to it, thinking my son would, too. A couple of days with Mom—the fun parent—in a pretty cool city without his sister. What’s not to like?

“Son,” I said, “Dad and I decided that we can’t afford the big family trip. So, you and I are going to fly out to Boston to check out Berklee.”

“What?! We’re not going to Cleveland?”

“No, we can’t do Cleveland and Boston and the point behind this whole trip was for you to check out Boston and see Berklee. We’ll have fun, just us!”

“Oh, my god!” he yelled. “Now, I’ll never see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!”

It is a sign of my maturity as a parent that I simply rolled my eyes and walked away.

Never seeing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is just one of the things that will never happen in my son’s family. For instance, we never have anything good to eat. Typically, we have a wide variety of foods, from fresh fruit, yogurt and gourmet cheeses to crackers, popcorn, cold cuts and, of course, bacon. There is enough food that my husband and I work at not eating too much. Still, there is nothing to eat, according to our son.

We never do anything fun, either. This Sunday evening, for instance, the four of us played poker together. Our son happens to be one of the funniest people I know and he was in very good form. He noticed our cat, Oliver, had crawled into a shopping bag. Now, you need to understand that Oliver is a terrible cat otherwise what I am about to say might make you think that we are cruel to our cat. Feel free to check out my post about our pets, then come back for the rest of the story.

So, we were all playing poker. Oliver was hanging out in the shopping bag. My son picked up the bag and Oliver settled down into the bottom, belly up and all four paws sticking up in the air. It was one of those permanent shopping bags, made out of recycled bottles, very sturdy. I, half joking but remembering all of the teapots Oliver has broken, said, “Hang it from a hook!” Just as my son was about to hang the shopping bag from a door handle, my daughter burst past me saying, “Wait, I’ll get my bungee cord!” Now, I don’t know about you, but I was thinking this was some fun stuff, in addition to wondering why my daughter has a bungee cord.

“Never” is not the only negative thrown around in our house. Its close cousin is “no one.” No one cares about my daughter. She makes a point of telling me this at least twice each week. No one cares about her when her best friend has gone home for the night and I am busy making dinner, forcing her to entertain herself. Frequently, no one cares about her when she is expected to clean up her messy room by herself since she’s the one who made the mess.

I’m convinced that my children’s catastrophic thinking comes from years of watching Dora, the Explorer.  I realize that Dora is beloved by generations of children around the world but, to me, she’s just a wimp with a head shaped like a football. Dora’s gotta know by now that Swiper is waiting around the corner just itching to screw up her plan to get the baby bird past the Grumpy Old Troll and over the bridge to Blueberry Hill. But every time Swiper throws a monkey wrench into Dora and Boots’ best-laid plans, Dora has the same reaction, “Now we’ll never. . .” Well, you get the picture.

Recently, my daughter was so convinced that no one cared about her that she decided she would leave.

“Where will you go?” I asked, watching her stuff one of my tote bags with her clothing.

“I’ll go live on the streets,” she said, turning back to stuffing the tote bag.

As she continued to pack, I remembered my own running away from home adventure. Convinced no one cared about me, I got on my bike to ride away, expecting my mother to run out of the house, begging me to stay. She didn’t. She merely said, “We’ll miss you if you go.” I didn’t go.

“I’d better take some sweaters,” my daughter said, mostly to herself, but loud enough for me to hear. “I might get cold.”

“Yes,” I said. “I wouldn’t want you to get cold. You know, we’ll miss you if you go.”

She snorted a little “Sure, Mom” snort and continued packing. But she didn’t go.

Life’s problems come in black and white for my children. “Never,” “no one,” “always,” “everything” are their constant companions. I envy them their certainty but don’t have the heart to disabuse them of it. Besides, I’ve got to go check out the auctions on eBay. I’m thinking Grace Slick’s fringy vest would look pretty stylish on me.

© 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

The Stupid Files

9 May

My son grew up with better cartoons than I had. Oh, the Jetsons were ok and I really did love “Rastro,” but my son was lucky enough to be a ‘toon watcher when “Dexter’s Laboratory” was in its heyday on Cartoon Network. Dexter, the boy genius, was constantly vexed by his less intellectual sister, Dee Dee. In every episode, Dexter would tell her “Dee Dee, you are stupid. You are stupid. And don’t forget, you are stuuupid.”

I think I love that line so much because there is so much that is stupid in this world. As evidence, I offer the following. There is a road that runs east and west through Aurora and Naperville, crossing Route 59. On the Naperville side of 59, it is called “Aurora Avenue.” On the Aurora side, it is called “New York Avenue.” If you go north on Ogden Avenue from my house and you keep going north, you have to turn right to continue onto Ogden. Continuing north, without turning, will not keep you on Ogden. You will find yourself on Raymond as if you had entered an alternate universe. And, while turning east to stay on Ogden keeps you on Ogden, turning left does not put you on the westbound part of Ogden. A left hand turn will put you on North Aurora Avenue.  The Naperville area is not alone in street naming stupidity. There is a sign in Palatine, I’m told, identifying Meacham Road that reads: “Meacham Road road.”

Massive amounts of stupidity emanate from the myriad fast food drive-thrus in our area. I just adore those disembodied voices that don’t even say “hello” or “welcome” before diving into a guess as to why I drove up there in the first place. “Would you like to try the Triple Burger Death from Hell?” they ask. I am always polite and say “No, thank you” to their gracious suggestion. Some day, though, I’m going to say “Wrong! Guess again!”

A friend recently visited a drive through to order three two-cheeseburger meals, one cheeseburger and two shakes. Well, of course, the little video screen beneath the disembodied voice (let’s call it “DV,” shall we?) showed that my friend ordered two cheeseburgers and two shakes. My friend corrected DV; the order became three cheeseburger meals. My friend corrected DV twice more and the order was finally correct, but that is not the most egregious incidence of DV’s stupidity. No! Each burger had to be decorated with the proper condiments, so DV asked, “Do you want cheeseburger number one with everything: pickles, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup?” “Sure,” said my friend. DV went on to cheeseburger number two. “Do you want it with everything: pickles, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup?” “Sure,” said my friend. Cheeseburger number three got similar treatment. Finally all of the cheeseburgers had been decorated and accounted for. DV forgot the shakes.

My kids can do some stunningly stupid stuff. My son, for instance, can stand within arm’s distance of the back door. Should he open it, he could step directly out onto our deck. No stairs required and he’d be outdoors. Instead, he shouts to his father, “What’s it like out?” Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I wanted nothing more than to sit in my gazebo with a cup of tea and scan the news on my iPod. I finally got my wish and was glorying in a beautiful morning when my son appeared at the patio door. He looked at me pleadingly through the glass. I got up and went into the house, hoping for a “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.” I got, “What do we have for breakfast?” Now, this is the child who went with me to the grocery store the night before. He himself selected two boxes of cereal and a half-gallon of milk and placed them in the shopping cart.

The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard come out of my children has probably come out of every child in the world at some point. Hell, I’ve said it. “Are we there yet?” they ask. Every time the car has been moving more than 15 minutes, one of my children will ask it. They will repeat it. I have always said the same thing: “No, not yet.” I have, in short, been patient. The last time I was asked if we were “there” yet, something broke in my good-mommy brain segment. Smart Ass Mom replied.

“Dear child,” I asked, “what happens when we get where we are going?”

“We’re there,” said the child.

“Yes. And then what happens?”

“I don’t know, Mommy. What?”

“Well, the same thing happens every time. Mommy parks the car, I turn it off and we all get out. Now, has Mommy parked the car? Have I turned it off? Are we getting out?”

The child was silent. A few miles later, she said, “Mommy are we getting close to being there?” No child of mine is stupid for long.

The most consistent sources of stupidity in our lives, though, are the administrators of our children’s schools. They truly shine at registration time. Each year, for the past four years, I have been asked to complete the forms contained in a registration packet. Even though the first page of the packet is a computer-generated form, printed front and back, containing all the information that is necessary for my child’s continued presence at school, I am required to fill out five additional forms with the same information. I write my daughter’s name five times. I write my own name five times. I write my husband’s name five times. I fill out the same information on the new Emergency Card that I supplied in prior years. Ditto with the health card. One year, I pointed out that the school had all of the information on the cards I completed the prior year and that nothing had changed. Ah! But something had changed. They threw those cards away. They sent the un-completed cards back and threatened to exclude my daughter from classes until they received the completed cards.

Now, all of that sounds pretty darn stupid, doesn’t it? But, it’s not the dumbest thing that has come out of one of my kids’ schools. Not by a long, long shot. No, the dumbest thing that has come out of their schools—maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen—came from my son’s principal. Apparently, the staff at my son’s school spent too much time delivering stuff students had forgotten to the forgetful little buggers’ classrooms. Henceforth, Mr. Principal announced, the staff would no longer deliver such items. Nay, he said, they would be reserving their efforts for “more poignant responsibilities.” Yup. He said it. All I can say is “Mr. Principal, you are stupid, you are stupid. And, don’t forget, you are stuuupid.”

© 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

The Other “F” Word

2 May

I collect refrigerator magnets. I’ve never stopped to count how many there are but I’ve got quite a few. My favorites are the ones you get in trendy gift shops that have a vintage picture of a woman with a witty saying. For instance, I have one very large one with a picture of a woman leaning on a pillow. The saying? “I dreamed my whole house was clean.” I also have one with a pensive woman. Her caption reads, “She thought she might enjoy being mature.”

My favorites, though, go hand in hand. One, of a woman embracing a man states, “Darling, let’s get deeply into debt!” Its mate shows a picture of a beautiful woman with bleached blonde hair and deep red lips. She’s saying, “Frugal is such an ugly word.”

I firmly believe that frugal is an ugly word, but as we are deeply in debt, I’ve resolved that I shall attempt to become frugal.

My grandmother was very good at being cheap—I mean, frugal. I remember she had a wire basket with a long handle in her kitchen. You know those little hunks of soap that are too little to effectively wash your hands with but too big to throw away guilt-free? My grandmother collected them, put them in the wire basket then, when she needed soap for doing dishes, she would swish the basket around in the hot water.

I’m pretty sure they don’t make the soap my grandmother used anymore. Until my own family entered the frugal zone, I bought really nice soap. One particular favorite is French-milled and smells like gardenias. I’m not really sure what French-milled means, but it makes the soap nice and hard, but not too hard. Unfortunately, my favorite gardenia soap costs $5 for a bar. Now, it’s a big bar, but one can purchase a crate of Ivory soap for $3.99 at Target so I switched to Ivory. My husband liked that it’s cheap—I mean inexpensive. My daughter liked that it floats. I remember liking that when I was her age. I don’t remember the soap costing more than $100 to use, though. Here’s the problem with Ivory: it’s soft. It’s soft and gushy and all that soft, soapy gushiness combined with my daughter’s long, long hair creates a drain clog that requires a plumber to remove. Our foray into cheap soap cost us $65 per hour to remove. That gardenia-scented soap is smelling better and better these days.

I’ve tried to save money on clothes and shoes. Back when I was young and trendy, I had more than twenty pairs of black shoes. “How can one person need twenty pairs of black shoes,” my husband asked? I was astounded that he could question owning so few black shoes. I tried to explain to my husband the difference between sandals, pumps, sling backs, oxfords, loafers and ballet flats. All he retained is that the ones he thinks are hot are called “pumps.”

I used to spend a LOT of money on shoes. One pair was made entirely of leather, from the buttery smooth uppers to the little stacked heels. They were sleek, almost austere and I wore them with everything from pants to skirts. They were $200. I wear them still. Last year, I bought a pair of tan Mary Jane pumps at Target. They cost $19. Within half an hour of putting them on, my feet are screaming in agony. I remind myself of this every time I am drawn into the shoe section at Target. For me at least, there is no cheap and chic when it comes to shoes.

I can’t save money on my daughter’s shoes, either. She has long, narrow feet that can only be shod by the local outrageously expensive children’s shop or Nordstrom. My son, however, wears the same pair of shoes every day. While I admire his cheapness—I mean, frugality—I am sure we will have a doctor visit for some disgusting fungal growth in the near future.

Since our grocery expense is rather large, I thought I’d cut costs there. I bought the huge store-brand of frosted flakes. It came in a floppy bag with “Cheap Frosted Flakes” plastered all over it in big, bold letters. I needed a proper disguise. I bought a really cool plastic, reusable cereal container. My mother would have called it “Tupperware,” but a genuine Tupperware cereal container costs $20. I think I paid $5 for mine and felt guilty about it. I put the $1.99 worth of cereal in the $5 cereal-serving container. The next day, my son poured a huge bowl of flakes, added three pints of milk and took a bite. He immediately ran to the sink, spitting the flakes out as if they were coated with arsenic. “These aren’t Kellogg’s!  These suck!!” His sister heard his pronouncement; hence she wouldn’t eat the offending flakes either. So, I tasted the flakes. They suck.

I moved on to makeup, another considerable expense. Foundation, in particular, is something I am very particular about. I routinely bought $45 foundation, made specifically for me by Prescriptives. Apparently, I didn’t buy enough of it. Prescriptives went out of business. There being three aisles of makeup at Target, I selected a promising shade. It cost $15. I put it on. Though a lovely shade of rose in the bottle, it turned instantly orange on my skin. I tried another brand for $12. It turned orange. Another brand. Another $15. It turned orange. Forty-two dollars later, I still need a foundation that doesn’t turn orange.

My husband would say that one of our biggest problems is the fact that our regular grocery store is Target, coupled with the fact that I like nothing better than going to Target and pushing a cart around for an hour or two. I’m better about non-grocery items landing in the cart, but the kids aren’t. Some surprise treat always makes its way onto the belt. And, while I bring a list, I always find something we need that isn’t on it. At the check out counter, the children have fun guessing if the total will go over $200. I’m pleased to say it frequently doesn’t. Still, one of my son’s favorite jokes is that Dad goes to Target to get milk and comes out with milk. Period. Mom goes to Target for milk and comes home with milk and a flat screen TV. What? You mean you don’t? What are you, cheap—I mean, frugal?

© 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

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