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Just another (not) Manic Monday

28 Jan

Baby-Horse-Running-Wallpaper-240x180I want my mania back.

Now, if you’re normal, you probably can’t understand why someone with Bipolar Disorder would even contemplate wanting a ride to the top of the roller coaster, particularly when what’s waiting on the other side of the climb is a drop into depression.

Even if you’re Bipolar, you might not understand remembering mania wistfully. Getting deeply in debt, driving drunk or high, having sex with strangers…why would anyone want to live that way? Certainly, I’m in no hurry to return to my wicked, pre-medicated ways, but the life of lethargy I’ve been living lately has seriously outworn its welcome.

A little mania and my house wouldn’t look like, well, like someone was too depressed to straighten. The cleaning ladies are scheduled to come tomorrow, but even that isn’t uplifting. Without straightening, it won’t even look like they came except for the telltale trails of a vacuum cleaner. Add in the fact that we can’t afford the mostly ineffectual crew but don’t have the heart to fire the now 70-year old woman who has been cleaning our home since my son was two and who just lost her retirement savings in a series of ill-advised real estate transactions, and my morose mood is more understandable.

A little mania and I wouldn’t be feeling like a parental failure because my son—who carries my genetic code—barely scraped together the four Cs and an A on his recent report card while my daughter—adopted from China—came home with all As . . .ok, one B+. Sure, my son also had an A in PE, but PE doesn’t count. I know, I know . . .a class focused on activity suits his ADHD brain, PE is an important class in a society full of couch potatoes , an A is an A. Yada, yada, yada. And I know that lots of kids get Cs, even lots of kids we know and lots of kids we know who got into colleges they wanted to go to. Cs aren’t Fs, but that’s the problem. To me, Cs are just Fs with a silent F. Unkind and unfair, I know, and further evidence that I richly deserve the depression I’m in.

A little mania and my creative well wouldn’t have run dry. I’d have posted witty commentary on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, how I came to love the running skirt, watching my husband writhe in pain. Well, maybe that last one wouldn’t have been witty. I might even have finally figured out how to get my son’s obscene sense of humor featured in a blog with a PG13 rating.

Just a little mania, that’s all I’m looking for here. Of course, there’s no such thing as a little mania. Oh, at first I think there could be, that I can keep the momentum from building out of control. But it always escalates so that what started as a trot through the park turns into a wild gallop and a crashing fall.

So, I took my meds. I let the house be cluttered beyond recognition. I sat my ass down at the computer and I wrote, even though writing was the last thing I thought I could do, and pulled these 600 plus words out of some secret place even I didn’t know existed. Pretty soon, I’ll put on my running gear—it might even be warm enough for a skirt today—then get my ass off the chair and onto the trail. I’ll ignore that the unseasonably warm weather is most likely caused by global climate change which will lead to the early demise of our planet. At least, I’ll try.

I’m sure all of that will help. But I’ll still miss my mania.

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Welcoming thanks

19 Nov

It’s half way through November and it’s happening again. People all around me are grateful. I have friends who post daily what they are grateful for, everything from goofy co-workers to post-workout meals to husbands returning from out of town trips. One friend is even expressing her gratitude in haiku, but she’s an English professor, so don’t hate.

I asked my grateful friends why they are making these daily gratitudinal adjustments. They said things like, “Gratitude frees me to be a more hopeful, kinder person.” The haiku-writing professor likes being reminded, “to appreciate what I have. I like the daily Facebook project because doing it every day makes me notice the little things. They kind of turn out to be the big things, so I enjoy that irony.”

This professor predicted that I would find all this gratitude annoying. She is right, which is also annoying.

We owe our current focus on thankfulness to the positive psychology movement. Sometime around 2000, researchers found that feeling grateful had a strong and direct correlation to happiness. According to my extensive research on Wikipedia,

Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships[19][22][23] Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance.[24] Grateful people have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life, being more likely to seek support from other people, reinterpreted and grow from the experience, and spend more time planning how to deal with the problem.[25]

That all sounds good, and like all things good, it gets perverted.

Corporations get hold of gratitude research and suddenly you’re getting phone calls during dinner thanking you for buying a new dishwasher. Turns out that you’re 70 percent more likely to buy from that dishwasher dealer again if you’re thanked than if you aren’t. My favorite corporate perversion of gratitude is the tech support person who thanks me for calling to report my problem then asks how she can give me excellent service. I’ve never said, “Hm. Well, how about making a product that always works so I don’t ever have to make you grateful again?” I’d be grateful for that.

I’ve frequently been accused of over-intellectualizing and seeing conspiracy around every corner. This is why I keep Professors among my friends. Not one has ever accused me of over-intellectualizing. In fact, I’m quite the lightweight in intellectual terms. So, I know none of them will roll their eyes when I opine that gratitude is the new opiate of the masses.

Constantly being exhorted to be grateful for what we have here and now smacks a little too much of the same philosophy that keeps all disadvantaged peoples happy where they are. Add to the “be happy with what you have” message another one promising reward in the future for contentment today and you’ve got a pretty good recipe for enslaving whole groups of people.

Saying “Thank you” implies that something has been given and while I firmly believe that we should be thankful for our blessings, gifts, or whatever you want to call them, the focus is still on what we have. Gratitude gurus and others selling gratitude keep us caught in the goodies game by having us chasing after more and more gratitude. Now we have to ask not just have we been grateful, but have we been grateful enough. The more grateful we are, the more we will have to be grateful for. It is an infinite loop of gratitude.

And it makes me feel that we’re missing something. When I was a kid, my mother taught me that the proper response to “Thank you”, is “You’re welcome.” But we’re so driven to thanks, that hardly anyone says “You’re welcome” anymore.

These days, the answer to “Thank you” is “Thank you.” I noticed it first in radio interviews, where the host thanks the guest for appearing and the guest thanks the host for hosting. They sign off the same way, thanking each other until every reason for the two of them existing in the same space at the same time—even though it is their jobs to do so—has been thoroughly thanked.

I know my “welcomes” are fewer and I’m betting yours are, too. Listen to yourself the next time you pay for something. The clerk thanks you as she hands back your change; you thank the clerk as you accept it. Hell, I even say “Thank you” instead of “Goodbye” when ending a phone call sometimes.

But what difference does it make if we say “You’re welcome” when we are thanked or if we respond to thanks with more thanks. Aren’t we still spreading the love?

“Thank you” is all about getting goodies, even if, as is the case with getting change back, they are goodies that are yours to begin with. “You’re welcome,” in comparison, is about giving. When we say, “you’re welcome” we acknowledge thanks but avow that there is no indebtedness, nothing to pay back, no need for gratitude at all. “You’re welcome,” opens our lives to a more authentic feeling of bounty. I don’t just give to you; I welcome you to take from what I have.

Every year, family and friends gather at my house for Thanksgiving. I’ve done it so many years that it no longer causes any anxiety. In fact, it’s Monday and I haven’t even bought the turkey yet.

I’ve had anywhere from ten to more than twenty people at my tables, because it usually takes more than one. Not too long ago, I had planned for twenty-two guests. Thanksgiving morning, my niece called begging to bring one more person, an exchange student from Sweden, to the feast.

Much as I love the baking, cooking and decorating for Thanksgiving, I love the gathering. Of course, the exchange student came because, for me, it’s the welcoming that matters when we’re giving thanks.

Solitude, Invading Molecules, and The Scarlet Pimpernel

9 Nov

There is someone in the house. I don’t have to see or hear them. I know by the way my skin prickles and my brain reels. There is someone in the house besides me. I feel his molecules, because I know it’s a man, invading my space making it impossible for me to work. I feel seen, observed. I feel this way every time my husband takes vacation days.

The problem isn’t that he’s in my hair, though it feels like he’s in my hair. The problem is that he’s here at all. He’s actually leaving me alone. Most of the time you wouldn’t even know he’s here. Except that he’s here. When I leave my office to warm my tea or let the dog out or have a snack, there he is. And he’s doing nothing while I’m trying to do something. I go to my office and he doesn’t follow me but I still can’t work. It’s like the molecules he breathes seek me out and watch my every move.

You’d think that feeling observed like this would make me more productive, but it doesn’t. My husband likes my writing, he supports my writing, but I can’t do it in front of him or his molecules. So I check Facebook, then email, then read other bloggers’ posts. I comment and check Facebook again. I go back to email to see if the blogger has responded to my witty comment and the cycle begins again.

This morning, while I was cleaning the kitchen, he woke and came downstairs. I had spent the morning listening to my daughter wail about how she’d ruined her model of the atomic structure of the iron atom. She wailed about it for fifteen minutes then mysteriously stopped wailing. “I didn’t ruin it after all,” she said gaily. I sighed. She went to school.

I had about a half hour in silence. I like silence. Even the dog knows I like silence and only barks when absolutely necessary. Normally, I have hours and hours of silence. But not this week.

I’ve been tolerant of having another human in my silent house. And, really, my husband has been considerate, only engaging me when I’m within a ten-foot radius. He even listens to his music with noise-canceling headphones.

This morning, though, he interrupted my kitchen cleaning ritual with dialogue from 1934’s The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I like the movie; we like the movie. We quote the dialogue to each other, particularly the idiotic poem Leslie Howard pens as the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney, who is actually the infamous Pimpernel, fearless rescuer of French nobility following the Revolution. The poem begins like this:

They seek him here,

They seek him there.

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.

It goes on, ending with “That damned elusive Pimpernel.”

Today, I rose at 7 a. m. with The Empress of the Fine Chinese Whine. My vacationing husband rose at 10 a.m. and came down for his morning coffee. He was cheerful. He was quoting the Scarlet Pimpernel poem, he thought.

“They seek him high,” he said. “They seek him low. Those Frenchies know not. . .”

“Stop yourself!” I said. “You’re doing it wrong! I think I’ve been pretty good about you being here all week, putting up with your molecules all up in my face, but you have no idea how the poem goes!”

To his credit, he stopped. To my credit, I poured a cup of tea, went to my office, closed the door, and wrote about how my husband’s molecules, supportive and understanding as they are, drive me crazy when they aren’t supposed to be here in my solitude.

Next week, he’ll be back at work and so will I. Alone. In silence. Now, though, my teacup is empty and I’m hoping the Scarlet Pimpernel isn’t waiting for me in the kitchen.

Happy Birthday, Dear Mom

11 Oct

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. No, not a day when everyone on earth spends the day trying to act calm, stable and happy, but a day devoted to encouraging people to discuss mental health issues. This year’s topic was depression. Not to belittle the global crisis of depression, but I guess all the other mental disorders got to take a break.

Most of you know that I am bipolar and may wonder why I didn’t write about what it’s like to be bipolar on World Mental Health Day. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, I’ve got all week. Mental Health Awareness Week in the United States runs from October 7th through the 13th. I am American and I’m writing this on the 11th, so I figure I’m covered. Even if I’m not, National Mental Health Month is in May. Of course, a mental health month puts a lot of pressure on us; I’m not sure I can keep my mania and depression from popping up for an entire month even with meds.

I didn’t write about mental health—mine or anyone else’s—because yesterday was my mother’s birthday. When she was alive, I hosted a beef-centered dinner at my house. I did this because I loved my mother, but also because I spent years listening to her complain that no one ever did anything for her birthday and she was not going to plan her own party. And she loved beef.

Yesterday, we had fried chicken for dinner. That is not as contrary as it sounds. My mother was from the South and, while she made really good fried chicken herself, she also loved Popeye’s. My kids don’t really like beef—I think my daughter may become a vegetarian soon—but they like Popeye’s.  So, fried chicken for dinner.

I think my mother would have approved, but there were many things in my life that she didn’t really like a whole lot.

My hair? Not curly enough. Never mind that it is stick straight, fine as frog fur and most likely inherited from her. When my hair was permed, my mother loved it.

My housekeeping? Notice “housekeeping” and “Ha!” both start with an H. But when Mom was scheduled to visit, I became a dervish, scrubbing counters with hot water, vacuuming lampshades, polishing bathroom fixtures, arranging flowers. A friend once pointed out that it wasn’t like Queen Elizabeth was going to pop in to use my powder room. If only, I thought, if only!

My mouth? Far too many F-bombs came out of it to please my Mom. Actually, any F-bomb was unacceptable. According to her, I swear like a longshoreman. I doubt she ever met one; I’m not convinced she even knew what they did but she was convinced that I talked like one.

My mother didn’t swear . . .much. I think I heard her use the S-word twice. The most memorable instance was during a sewing session when she repeatedly tried to do a tricky seam. Finally, she got it right only to realize she’d sewed the thing to the shirt she was wearing.

There were things my mother approved of, though.

My intelligence, for one. When Geraldine Ferraro ran with Walter Mondale, my grandmother was appalled. How, in her mind, could a woman be tolerated one heartbeat away from the presidency? My mother was incensed. “I think a woman would be a wonderful president. Janice would be a wonderful president!” I might be, but there are far too many skeletons in my closet. Hell, my skeletons are out on the front lawn doing the Macarena.

My cooking. My mother loved the beef-centered dishes I made, but she loved the Williamsburg Orange cake I made every year even more. She liked my snacks, too. When my sister and I still lived at home, we’d watch late night movies with Mom, everything from Frankenstein to It Happened One Night. During some commercial break, I’d want a snack. I’d offer one to my mother on my way to the kitchen. “No, thank you” was invariably her response. On my return, she’d take a look at my snack and say, “Oh, that looks good!” an unspoken yet undeniable request for said snack.

My spirit. I’m honest—blunt, some would say—and pretty funny. If something strikes me as humorous, I’ll say it even if it’s highly inappropriate. My mother loved this about me. She loved it so much that she worried the meds I needed to stay alive would dampen it. They never did.

My mother died a slow, painful, ugly death of COPD. But while her disease chipped away at her freedom and health, she adapted and kept going. When breathing became difficult at night, she used an oxygen concentrator while she slept. When climbing the stairs at her home became difficult, she got a stair lift. When she couldn’t walk around the mall, she got oxygen in a bottle and a wheeled cart to drag it around behind her. When even that became difficult, she learned how to surf the ‘Net to visit her favorite stores.

My mother even found a reason to like Depends. Getting to the bathroom from the couch before you’ve got to go is something you likely take for granted. But when you can’t breathe, there’s no guarantee you’ll get there in time. “These Depends are great!” my mother told me. “I never have to worry if I’ll get to the potty in time.”

We joked that Mom was the Energizer Bunny; she kept going and going. Even in the end, she didn’t give up. It was left to us to turn off the machines keeping her alive.

I don’t need a particular day to make me aware of mental health issues; I live with them everyday. So, while yesterday may have been a mental health day for the rest of the world, I spent it with memories of my mom.

Running, Writing and the 20-point Shot

1 Oct

Waiting to start

“Give me your hands,” she said, holding her own out, palms up.

Confused, I took them nonetheless. Was this some kind of congratulatory high-five? I wondered. No, this felt comforting, her warm hands making me realize how cold my own were.

Another woman grabbed at my waist, slowing me when all I wanted was to keep moving. “I know it’s hard,” she said, “but we need the bottom part.” Then, she ripped off the bottom of my racing bib and with that, they released me to walk off the momentum and adrenaline of finishing my first race.

I started running a little more than two years ago. I’ve logged probably 2000 miles since then. My first runs consisted of sixty seconds of shuffling like an eighty-year old woman interspersed with ninety-minute segments of walking. I recall the first sixty-second shuffle vividly. Ok, time to run, I thought, as the voice from my C25K app directed. I can do this. I look ridiculous. I hate running. “Walk,” the app directed after what seemed an eternity. I walked, then shuffled, then walked again for twenty minutes.

Yesterday, I ran for thirty minutes and 6/100ths of a second without stopping, except to slow down twice for a cup of water from a Cub Scout by the side of the road. I finished second in my age group.

I started blogging at about the same time I started running. Both were things I did because I thought I ought. Running would get me the bone-strengthening impact I’d been missing swimming laps. Blogging would give me a way of exercising my mind while kicking the cobwebs out of my tech savvy. And, both filled the massive amount of time I had on my hands while looking for a teaching job in a crashed economy.

Running and writing have become integral parts of my life, but for some reason, I’m able to be more disciplined in my running. I find it far easier to get my butt—and legs, of course—out the door three times a week than I do to park my butt—and my typing fingers, of course—in front of my computer everyday. OK, that’s not completely true. It’s very easy to park in front of the computer, what’s not so easy is doing it to write.

I’ve read many stories of successful people translating skills learned from one discipline to another, where they also inevitably become successful. I believe it’s possible for me; I believe my running regularity and success should make it easier to develop discipline, and achieve success, in a writing career. But so far, I haven’t done it.

The stakes are much higher for my writing. No one pays me to run and no one is depending on me to be paid when I run. People are depending on me being able to make money writing. My husband wants to retire, my kids will go to college. We need, desperately need, to be out of debt.

And yet, I hesitate.  The thought of cold calling prospects leaves me breathless with anxiety. Writing letters of introduction takes hours of torment and deliberation over every word. Networking events? Weeks of self-pep-talking to get me there.

I know the answer is going to be something like a C25K program for writers. I could even say I’ve stalled because I’m not good at inching toward a goal; this weekend proved that isn’t true.

When I watch basketball and my favorite team is behind by 20 points, I wish for the 20-point shot. But, there is no 20-point shot, not in basketball, running or writing. I’m going to have to start writing professionally the way I did running,  sixty seconds of shuffling at a time.

 

Yesterday was the second anniversary of starting my blog. I’ve gone from approximately 45 readers to nearly 300 since then and I thank you all for your loyal support.

 

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.

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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