Archive | September, 2012

Did you notice?

28 Sep

I didn’t post yesterday. I spent 2.5 hours in a chair at the dentist. About half-way through, I almost started crying. I am so sick of going to the dentist that I am seriously considering writing a post titled, “Why I Live at the DO.” DO standing for dentist’s office. After the DO, I came home fully intending to run; I napped.

Working on filling my week with posts, I asked for suggestions. One reader thought it would be interesting to post a picture of the same place every week. This, I thought, had possiblities. I was considering posting pictures of either a prairie sunrise or a prairie sunset, but I’d have to get up pretty damn early for the sunrise and I’m at work when the sun sets. Still, I might decide to do it if I can get myself up early. Maybe for Sunday?

In the meantime, I can kill two birds with one post. Every Friday (or there abouts), I’m going to post a picture of my office, beginning today. My office is a screaming mess. There are books everywhere, piles of papers on the desk, a computer on the floor, my husband’s detritus from his voice-over ventures, and a daybed that has become my daughter’s nightly bed because her room is also a screaming mess.

Here is the current state of affairs. Don’t judge. Or maybe you should . . .that will be further incentive to get it organized.

My kids say funny stuff, too – 5

25 Sep

from the Food Heathen Files

Every school day morning, my daughter eats breakfast while I put together her lunch. Usually, I make her breakfast, too, but one morning, she decided to have a Gopicnic® “ready-to-eat meal.” Kind of like a Lunchable® but made with food, the meal included a turkey snack stick, fruit leather, chips and some other snacky things.

One of the snack items was a package of “seed and fruit mix.” My daughter read the ingredients, “Mountain Mambo,” she said. “sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, raisins, apples, chocolate chips and cranberries. Ewwwwww!”

“Sounds good to me,” I said. “I’ll put it in my oatmeal.”

“Well, you can have it,” she said, tossing me the package.

Later, she asked where the package of seeds and fruit was.

“I ate it in my oatmeal,” I said.

She walked past me, eyebrows up, mouth screwed in disgust and said, under her breath, “Yeah. You’re gonna be throwing up soon.”

Poop you, Jimmy Kimmel!

24 Sep

My daughter claims I am a fashion criminal, but that didn’t stop her from watching the glittery dress parade Emmy Awards with me last night. While I folded laundry, she did her best Joan Rivers impersonation, declaring Clare Danes’ dress looked like a trash bag and Julianne Moore’s was too tight. Sophia Vergara got a thumbs up, but Ginnifer Goodwin and Amanda Plumber didn’t pass my daughter’s muster.

Between spangles, we put up with Jimmy Kimmel’s witless banter, until he dropped an A-bomb.

In one of those stupid so-funny segments the writers insert to keep the broadcast entertaining, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who plays Lily in Modern Family, was featured pranking the rest of the cast in “Lily is a Monster.” Never mind that the skit is supposed to be about Aubrey’s misbehavior. Take a look:

Following the bit, which I found forced and humorless, Kimmel said, “That would make a good public service announcement for adoption.”

My daughter recoiled. There are lots of things you want to see your kid do, like ride a bike for the first time, wear a gown and mortarboard for kindergarten graduation, lose a first tooth. But recoiling? My breath caught, then she responded:

“Poop you, Fat Guy!”

Poop you, indeed, Kimmel and Poop you, writers for the predictable segment and ugly, scripted comment. Most of all, Poop you, ABC, for hiring the writers and Kimmel both.

i Don’t Get the iPhone Lines

20 Sep

They’re lined up all over the country, hunkered down in their folding watch-the-kids-at-T-ball chairs. In my town, they’re bundled up in Bears jackets and hats. Some are even wearing gloves. While they don’t quite qualify to be committed to the local mental health center, everyone passing by them wonders, “Are they crazy?”

I see them, amazed by their dedication and devotion and I think, “Wow, there really ought to be a name for people like that. How about, say, ‘losers’?”

And what are they waiting for? The iPhone 5. Now, I love Apple products. In our house, we have an iMac, two MacBook Pros and two MacBooks. We have an iPod Classic, two iPod Touches and, yes, an iPhone. I love Apple products because they work and they’re backed by great service. Don’t get on my back about PCs. Been down that road and I’m never going back. You can if you want to and I won’t care at all. Besides, this isn’t a post about who makes better computers or phones or MP3 devices.

This is a post about people obsessed with stuff. People so obsessed with stuff that they are willing to sit in line for stuff so they can say they were the first to have the stuff. Frankly, I don’t understand why there is more than one person in any of these lines. If you’re not the first person in line, why bother? You’ll be the second person to get the iPhone 5. Where’s the glory in that? I imagine the water cooler conversation going something like this:

Julie: Hey, Joe! I see you’ve got the new iPhone 5.

Joe: Yeah, Julie. Sat in line for four days for this little beauty.

Julie: Wow! So you were the first person in Naperville to get an iPhone 5?

Joe: Actually, no, I was second. So, kind of the silver medal in iPhones.

Julie (backing away): Yeah, well, good for you, Joe. Bet you can’t wait to show it to the guys in your RPG meetup.

The thing that really puzzles me about the losers people waiting for the iPhone 5 are the diametrically opposed concepts involved in waiting days to buy an iPhone 5. iPhones are expensive, $199 without anything else, such as the talk, text and data package you also need. So, you probably want to be employed for that to work out. Most of the people I know who are employed don’t have days to sit on their ass in a folding chair at the Apple Store. So, in my mind a bunch of unemployed nerds are sitting in front of a store so they can be the first to buy a product they can’t afford.

The iPhone losers buyers are up there, in my mind, with the people who get up at three o’clock in the morning so they can be the first in line when the big box stores open at 5 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. Why? So they can get incredible deals on stuff, stuff for Christmas, the Stuffapalooza of Stuff.

People have been shopping for stuff the day after Christmas since the three Kings hopped on their camels and hoofed it back to the Orient. And yet, my local news always reports on people shopping for stuff on the day after Christmas as if it were the Second Coming. My favorite part of the news reports is the interview with the happy, exhausted shopper, who brags about saving $500 on a $1500 flat-screen TV.

No, Ma’am you didn’t save $500. You didn’t save any money at all. You spent $1500.

Maybe I’m sensitive to the stuff obsession because one of my favorite activities during a bipolar mania was shopping. I racked up a mountain of debt while I was high. Every one of my personal Black Fridays was followed by depression, made even blacker by the aftermath of my manic episode.

Anyone who says we are no longer a hunter-gatherer society hasn’t taken a good look around. The people featured on “Hoarders” are only the most extreme of us. Evidence of our hunting and gathering is everywhere. A two-car garage isn’t enough anymore. Now we need three—one for each of our cars and a third for stuff. Toy boxes can no longer contain our kids’ stuff; now we need entire rooms. We have so much stuff that we have entire stores devoted to containing our stuff.

Recently, we sold the home I grew up in. While it was emotionally wrenching, I expected that. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming magnitude of stuff. Faced with getting rid of an entire life’s worth, I realized how truly insidious stuff is. It slinks into our lives one shopping bag or birthday or Christmas at a time. We suck it into our existence, shoving other stuff aside to fit it all in, then go about slowly accumulating more and more stuff.

This time tomorrow, losers people all over the world will call themselves winners in the “Who Got the iPhone First” game. Good for them, I guess. But me? There is nothing in the world that I want so much that I’ll sit on my butt in front of a store for days on end. Now, if you just happened to pick up an extra one . . .

My kids say funny stuff, too 4

18 Sep

My children like to bond with me by making me watch a god-awful mutually-enjoyable television show with them. With my daughter, it’s frequently Animal Planet because she doesn’t like cooking shows or shows where people speak intelligent dialogue. I don’t like shows where the main character is a pretty but quirky and misunderstood white girl who’s best friend is a fat black girl with a  ghetto accent even though her parents are plastic surgeons and live in a mansion.

My daughter has been taking advantage of the fact that her brother would rather IM with his friends than interact with his family. Recently, though, he noticed that his sister has had two consecutive weeks of mother-daughter bonding time. He walked in on us about halfway through “The Great Barrier Reef” and demanded to know when it was his turn. I invited him to join us, noting “It’s a really beatiful show.” He declined just as a shark devoured a sea turtle, crushing it’s shell like it was a potato chip. “Real beautiful,” he said, leaving the room.

Later in the week, Chris Hayes appeared as a panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher. I proudly admit to having a massive nerd-girl crush on Chris Hayes. I’m into that boyish good looks and quick intellect thing. Now, I’m also into Joe Manganiello and am pretty sure Chris Hayes shirtless would cancel out his nerdly hotness.

I invited my son to watch Real Time with me. For a few minutes we watched the debate in silence. Chris was acquitting himself nicely, defending his views with a devastating combination of wit, mastery of the facts and intelligence.

Rapt, my son said, “Did he go to Harvard? Or did he invent Harvard?”


17 Sep

Today, I went to court. Everyone told me I should go to court. That I should plead “Not Guilty” to the charge of rear-ending a Jetta. Actually, I was charged with “improper acceleration,” which is police-speak for rear-ending a Jetta.
The man who owns the Jetta I allegedly improperly accelerated into called me to tell me he had no intention of going to court. He said the police officer told him he had no intention of going to court, either. He told me to go to court and the case would be dismissed.

Having never been the alleged cause of an improper acceleration before, I had no idea what one was supposed to do. So, I did the sensible thing: I asked my therapist. She told me to go to court. I asked what I should plead. She said, “Not Guilty.”

So, I decided I would go to court. We can’t really afford the fine and I had the time. Then, for weeks, my mind twisted in the wind as I struggled with the idea of saying “Not Guilty” to a judge (I mean, really, A JUDGE!!!) when I knew it was me that improperly accelerated into the Jetta.

Today was the court date. Last night I didn’t sleep, worried about how exactly the karmic retribution would manifest itself.

I got to court. I waited my turn, sweating and sickening as I pondered saying, “Not Guilty.” I was called before the judge, who asked me to turn to face the court as a clerk asked for witnesses to my disgusting action. None appeared. I turned back to the judge who said, “They are dismissing the charges; you are free to go. Have a nice day.”

I left. I’m trying to have a nice day while I worry about the karmic retribution I’ll suffer for even pondering perfidy.

The world in a grain of sand? How about your soul in an atom of hydrogen?

14 Sep

My son has a new girlfriend.

The young lady is lovely, though my son initially described her as a Smurf. She’s tiny, except in certain places where tiny is less than desirable, and she has blue hair. Well, not completely blue, but the Farrah Faucet-y bits around her face are definitely blue.

But before he described his lady love’s appearance, our son told us, “She’s an atheist.” I didn’t realize how important his religious stance was to him, though, until he started preparing us to meet Girl Friend for the first time. He repeated the “she’s an atheist” bit and then said, “I told her you guys are atheists, too, and she thinks that awesome.”

“You told her what?” I asked.

“That you guys are atheists.”

“But we’re not,” I said.

“Dad’s an atheist and you’re a Buddhist. That’s the same as being an atheist. You told me yourself, ‘Buddha’s not a god’.”

Now, I can tell the kid to start the oven for the pizza, or move the wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, or bring our entire collection of drinking glasses down from his room and he forgets within minutes. I have no idea how he hung onto “Buddha isn’t a god” but I was definitely wishing he hadn’t. Some days you want to help your kids with the big ideas and some days you don’t.

I took a deep breath.

“Ok, you’re right. Buddha isn’t a god, but that doesn’t mean that I’m an atheist.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“You mean white guy on a cloud god? No.”

“Then you’re an atheist.”

I sighed.

“Yes,” I said, “I suppose you’re right.” He smiled the smile of those who believe they’ve won the argument and the subject is closed, so he didn’t really hear, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a spiritual life, that I don’t have a soul.”

But the subject isn’t closed. Not by a long shot. Since that conversation, I’ve mulled the idea of soul and spirituality on a daily basis. I now have a headache.

I’ve thought about soul on my runs, which has led me—consistently—to finish them singing, “R, E, S, P, E, C, T!” Not a bad way to end a run, but not the resolution I’d hoped for.

So, I asked other bloggers what they thought about soul. The G’nat at G’nat’s Eye View is an existentialist. His response made me realize that there are some seriously deep people in my virtual world. G’nat said:

I don’t think there is a difference between the soul and the self. Purpose? Purpose is our creation. Life is a blank canvas, and the self (or soul) holds both the paint and the brushes. The self (soul) not only has the freedom, but also has the responsibility to paint its own purpose.

I took philosophy in college. I really liked it, back when I had a lot of time and a young brain. I’m not saying I’ve gotten slow, but I had to read G’nat’s very thoughtful response a few times before I really understood his view. I think there’s a reason I read mainly trashy fantasy novels these days.

But the G’nat doesn’t get at the spiritual component of soul that nags at me. I’m not the only mom prodded to address religious issues because of her kids. Dinnerversions, who happens to publish a pretty wonderful food blog, said:

My own feeling is that our ‘soul’ is the energy within us. Neurons firing, chemical messengers moving across a gradient, the electrical potential between the cells of a heartbeat, the positive or negative charge of an amino acid….All of that is energy and when we die, that energy leaves us. That’s about as deep as I get.

I think that’s pretty deep. And she seems to be on to something. Hello Sailor has a similar view:

I believe everything has a soul and a soul is a type of energy, or a life force. Logically my brain wants it to know that it is just neurons and chemical messages, but in my heart there is something mystical about it, because where did that energy come from in the first place and where does it go when we are finished?

Maybe the energy gets recycled? Nevercontrary believes in reincarnation. I’ve tried; I’m not sure I don’t. It certainly explains having an immediate and intense reaction to someone, as I’ve had on meeting several people in my life. Mad Queen Linda at The Magic Bus Stop, equates the soul with consciousness and I like that, seeing as how it leaves room for lower and higher levels of consciousness. My cat, for instance, is on the same level as, say, Adolf Hitler and is likely just as irredeemable.

A few bloggers thought I was over thinking, which is really nothing new. Racing thoughts of all sorts kind of go with the bipolar territory. (Am I doubly bipolar if my thoughts are racing while I run? Does that make me quadripolar? Are my thoughts racing right now?)

Courtney Hosny of oneweektocrazy considered her immortal soul and decided whatever is at the end is at the end and figured the point of soul-searching was moot. Societyred once had a discussion about whether or not a rock has a soul. My kind of guy! He gave me a lightbulb moment with his retort to someone asking if he cared where we spend eternity: “I told him I had too much to think about in the here and now. Isn’t this time part of eternity?”

This time is, indeed, part of eternity. Certainly, some things feel like they take an eternity, like pre-school Christmas holiday pageants.

In the end, I believe that there is something beyond our physical bodies that makes us wonder about things like, is there something beyond our physical bodies. Areyoufinishedyet offered an explanation for the “something beyond” that she promised would blow my mind. It did.

Our bodies are made up of about 50% hydrogen atoms. When the universe was born, ALL of the hydrogen and helium atoms were formed. And since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, that means the hydrogen half of you is 13.7 billion years old. I think that definitely speaks to the idea of soul, and the continuity of the soul. Maybe the soul is the collective experience of those hydrogen atoms. We are imprinting our own story on the atoms inside our body as we live and breathe, and that story will be taken with those atoms once our bodies are gone, transformed into something else.

I would like to thank everyone who so thoughtfully responded to my call for input on the idea of “soul.” They all certainly have it.

My kids say funny stuff, too 3

11 Sep

I live with food heathens. While I will eat, and enjoy, pretty much anything (except liver), they are happy to subsist on chips, cheese and bacon. These are three of my favorite food groups, but I occasionally like to eat as if my heart mattered to me. Unfortunately, many of the things that only I will eat come in a package designed for a family of vegans, or, as my son might say, “A family of losers.” Hence, the following scenario is all too common.

Me (clearing out the fridge, flinging half-eaten containers of healthful foods in the nearby trash): Agh! Why don’t they make these in smaller containers? I’m so sick of throwing away hummus!

My husband: Oh, Bah Hummus!

Me, after several seconds of glaring at him: Oh, my god. You didn’t just say that. Daughter, come shoot your daddy in the head.

Daughter (whining): But then I’d have to go to juvie!

The Soul Train

10 Sep

I got to thinking about soul the other day, primarily because my son is in a phase where he needs to label everything, from his sister (“annoying little freak”) to his religious beliefs. He is an atheist and is intent on naming everyone in his family, except the annoying little freak, as an atheist as well. He won’t speak for the freak because he thinks she’s too young to have formed an opinion about theism.

When he said, “You’re an atheist,” I balked. Then we started splitting hairs about what we meant when we said we were theist, atheist or simply “spiritual.”

I spent an entire 5 mile run thinking about the concept of soul and what business a godless heathen has even considering whether or not she has a soul.

What does soul mean to you? Do you have one? Do all creatures have one? All of existence, including non-living entities?

Helicopters At The Gym

6 Sep

Photo:Naperville Gymnastics Club

Every Wednesday night, I go to the gym and I sit. Now, I’m not a slug, by any means, but I’m not there to get my weekly workout. I’m there for a different kind of exercise: watching my daughter fling her body around bars, jump in the air over a wooden beam and travel the length of a mat using her arms as if they were legs.

My daughter does gymnastics. My daughter thinks it’s fun, so I ignore the freaked out voice in my head that screams, “She’s going to break her neck” every time she jumps more than one inch on the beam.

I’m not alone, of course. There are all kinds of parents at the gym. There are parents who read while they wait, parents who work while they wait and parents who surf the web while they wait.

And then, there are those parents.

Like “I’m Having A Meeting Here, People!” Mom. Hogging prime real estate in front of the viewing window (parents are not allowed in the gym), she very loudly discusses with her clients how she is going to make right what she has clearly done wrong. I wish she would shut the hell up, but none of the other parents seem to be bothered.

I sort of feel sorry for Binoculars Dad. My daughter is in the recreational program, which is code for these kids are never going to the Olympics. Binoculars Dad has a daughter in “Team” and she’s a Level 10, the highest level you can go in competitive gymnastics. Apparently, Olympic contenders go to eleven.

Binoculars Dad needs binoculars because the team athletes work out on the far side of the gym, “far” as in far away from prying—and distracting—parental eyes. The recreational kids are right up front; no one cares if they get distracted.

I feel sorry for Binoculars Dad because, well, he needs binoculars to see his daughter practice. Team gymnastics costs a butt load of money; the compulsory leotard alone is $140. I feel his pain. Every month, I give a lot of money to Hix Brothers music for my son to have lessons in guitar and drums. This has been going on for years; I have heard my son play guitar three times. He insists he practices in his room, which shall be the subject of another post, but I’m thinking of bugging the place for proof.

My favorite parents, though, and I mean that in the “Oh, man, these people are un-freaking-believable” sense, are The Sports Announcers.

This couple follows their daughter’s progress around the gym, providing commentary on every aspect of her performance, the coaching, the other members of the practice group and what they’ll do with the intel they’ve gathered when they get home alone with their kid.

Let’s say their daughter, Stephanie, is practicing with her group on the floor exercise mats.

“Oh!” says Mom, “he’s having them do back handsprings,” referring to the move the coach is having the girls do. “Stephanie should be able to do that,” says Dad.

“Oh!” says Mom. “Cara did a nice one. Stephanie’s turn!”

“Ok, Stephanie,” says Dad. “Don’t lose focus.”

A minute passes.

“She didn’t do a back handspring,” says Dad. “I wonder why.” Like me, Stephanie’s mom clearly doesn’t care; she’s busy analyzing the team.

“Oh!” says Mom, because she starts every statement with “Oh!”, “there’s a new girl.”

“And a new boy,” says Dad. Both parents are clearly disturbed that Stephanie’s universe has been invaded.

“I wanna know her name,” says Mom. “I wanna know his name,” says Dad. I want you to shut up, I think, but by now I am drawn into the play by play of Stepanie’s practice session. I decide to move closer to the viewing window to watch my daughter. She sticks her landing and we flash each other a thumb up.

The Sports Announcers follow me. Stephanie’s group is now doing front handsprings or back walkovers or front-to-back walkover springs. I have no idea what the names of all these moves are but I’m sure the Sports Announcers will let me know.

Unfortunately, the Sports Announcers have become distracted by Stephanie’s hair, which seems to be coming loose repeatedly.

“Oh!” says Mom, “her hair is loose again. Look! Coach is telling her to put it up again.”

“Is her hair too thin for a Scrunchi?” asks Dad. This stops me in the middle of thinking Will you shut the hell up? Sports Announcer Dad has used the word “Scrunchi” appropriately. My husband probably thinks a Scrunchi is an Italian appetizer.

Mom ignores the Scrunchi comment; it’s Stephanie’s turn.

“Oh! She’s really focused. Oh! She did a back handspring.”

“It wasn’t very good,” says Dad. “Just like with bars. It took a while so we’ll work on this now. We just have to get her to not put her head on the mat. We’ll talk to her when she comes out.”

I decide I must see this Stephanie child, so pull my eyes away from my daughter’s group. I scan through the practice group next to hers, looking for a seriously focused athlete with scrawny hair. I find her.

“SHE’S FIVE!” my brain screams. It can’t be true, I think. I’ve made a mistake. That taller, ten-year-old must be Stephanie. But it’s not. Stephanie is an adorable five-year-old girl with a sweet smile, a chubby little tummy, really fine hair and parents from hell.

I look away just in time to see a girl do three perfect back handsprings in a row. Her coach runs up to her, grabs her under the arms and swings her around and around as they both laugh. And then, the session is over.

My daughter runs out of the gym and meets me in the viewing area. I see Stephanie greet her parents, bouncing up and down, but I don’t stay to hear what they say. I give my daughter a hug, ask if she had fun and kiss the top of her head. Next week, I think, I’ll bring my headphones.

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