Thursday, January 31, 2013

Almost There

Now that I am almost done painting what seems like half of our house, I can get down to business and get back to what I really love, which is expose my inner thoughts to random strangers and my mom on the internet.

And now you know that I am not much of a multi-tasker.

I’d post pictures of my handiwork, but all the rooms I painted in our home the last four weeks were redone in shades of gray and white, which is not very interesting.  I might have posted them if I had chosen more attention-grabbing colors, which was what I decided to cover in the first place.  That would have been more interesting, if you think dings, strangely colored smudges, and black slashes on walls and ceilings (ceilings?) painted with jungle animals, goldfish bubbles, and large pastel polka dots are more interesting than gray and white walls.  Seriously.  It was like a game of “what do you think THAT mark is from” combined with “I can’t BELIEVE that I was so stupid to paint all this crap in the first place” all up in here.

Plus, who cares what a freshly painted room looks like in someone else’s house.  I am the only one who really appreciates the transformation, evidenced by the many times over the past month I have found myself standing quietly in a newly painted room, admiring the smooth, unmarked walls and letting them soothe me into a trance-like state. 

Or maybe it’s just the paint fumes.

In any case, it’s almost finished and I am looking forward to the new month beginning without a paintbrush in my hand.  In all, it wasn’t such a bad way to spend January, a month which I hate mostly because of the post-holiday let-down, the terrible weather in our part of the world, and the general feeling of jerkiness that January seems to possess.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Regret

When I was younger, I’d scoff at regret as if it were a prudish school marm trying to keep me down.  I regretted nothing.  Those situations and behaviors that, when reflected upon, caused a physical and emotional wincing, were placed in the Life Experiences category as quick as a flinch.  Back then, I told myself that regret was a weakness; own up to your past behaviors, but be sure to rationalize, rationalize, rationalize.  I was young; I didn’t know better; I was influenced; I was having fun.

These days, I feel regret.  I dwell in regret just long enough to tsk tsk myself and vow to do better.  I tell myself to learn from mistakes; don’t file them away, only to be repeated tomorrow.

I do much better now than I did then, but there are some mistakes that can’t be improved upon.  Sometimes, you get a moment to do the right thing, and if you don’t take it, it is lost forever. 

It’s here that I reflect on my children, and my decisions on how to parent them.  I am not a perfect parent; there is certainly a lot of square footage for me to improve upon.  My children are imperfect individuals, and they reflect me perfectly.  We are all just a bit inconsistent, unloving, and critical, and every parenting manual and parenting professional out there preaches the direct opposite.

The problem with parenting and regret is that children grow so fast that you often don’t get another chance to do it over.  You find yourself trying to improve upon a mistake that you wish you hadn’t made.  The way back to the road is so difficult that you wish you’d have just followed the directions in the first place and not okayed the shortcuts that put you off the path so obviously.

It’s no secret that I am a reluctant electronics user.  It is ever so apparent that I am in the minority.  I have been swept along in the personal electronics craze with everyone else, and have thus far been standing on the edge of this current screaming digital age with alternating disdain and indifference.  I possess no state-of-the-art electronic devices.  I conceded to receiving a Kindle as a gift, thinking it would drive me to read more.  I haven’t touched it in weeks.

When my kids were old enough not to break everything they touched, they were given personal electronics devices despite my gut feelings that they were not old enough to take adequate responsibility for them.  Over the next few years, they have been given other devices that are a source of grief and stress in our household.  Despite usage limits, we remind our children daily to end their screen sessions, to which we are more often than not countered with fits of anger, tears, and stalling techniques.  “One more minute” turns into five, then ten, then twenty.  It is the most common form of Disrespect in my house.

The devices that were so shiny in the box have turned into grimy objects that litter our home.  Sometimes they have not worked correctly for days, and only when I take the time to help my children delete apps they no longer use, update the ones they do, and clean them up will they snatch them away from me only to be clogged with more unusable apps and worthless pictures.  They are not old enough to be responsible for a pocket-sized device that each cost upwards of at least two hundred dollars.  Two hundred dollars is still a lot of money in our house.

Charge your iPad.  Plug in the computer.  Turn off your mouse.  These sayings have become a mantra that I have adopted as a way to instill responsibility in my children about their belongings.  I should be telling them to go outside, read a book, play a game together.  They should not be worried about where their chargers are.

My son tells me that most of his school friends have cellphones.  My son is still a child: he is 11 years old.  I do not understand why he would have to call or text anyone, including me, from school during the day.  He is supervised by adults at school, adults whom he can talk to if he needs to contact me.  They need to know if there is a problem at school.  If he is contacting me from his pocket in the hallways at school, no one knows but him and me that there is a problem.  The adults at school should know that there is a problem, and in my opinion they should know about it first.

My son also tells me that some kids look at the types of websites on their phones that I don’t even look at on my computer.  We can’t look at those websites on our electronic devices because we have set parental controls not to.  My husband would be fired from his job if he looked at them on his work computer.

I am not naive.  I know that when given the chance, like I had when I was little and got an eyeful of a discarded Playboy magazine, my son will experience these things.  I know he has curiosity about these things.  I am not into sheltering my children from the world; they live in it.

But they are not old enough for all of the things that electronic devices bring, starting with the real care that a teeny computer requires.  We know this from experience.  I have also seen enough child-owned cellphones with cracked screens to know that my children are not the only ones who are too young to know how to be responsible for them.  I know they are not old enough to view porn and the kinds of inappropriate things that make me squirm when I think of my children being exposed to them.  They are not 18 years old; they are 9 and 11.

I do not have the answers about how to parent in this age of electronics.  All I know is what my gut tells me, and I wish that we had held off on giving them their own devices to manage until they were older.  That time will never be returned to me, or to them.  I regret that, but never so much as when we are battling over daily screen time, or taking the time to nurse a tearful child’s iPod back to health.  Our children are children; they are innocent.  I regret this loss in them that I believe is occurring earlier than it had to, but most of all, I regret that I didn’t put my foot down when I had the chance.
 
 
 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why McDonald’s Can Always Count on my Business

It was breakfast time, so I pulled up to the drive thru window at McDonald’s and placed my order.  I don’t visit this particular establishment often, but I was out, and wanted some more coffee, and darn it, I deserved a break today.

After ordering, I pulled up to Window 1 to pay for my food.  The sliding window opened, and I was greeted by a cheerful man’s gap-toothed smile.  It was 9:00 on a frigid morning, and the wind blew in his face as he reached his Golden Arches-emblazoned gloved hand out to receive my money.  How can I get my hands on a pair of those gloves without actually working here, I wondered.  The fingerless look is really in right now, and the “M” design has always been one of my favorites.

“How are you today?” I asked the man as I forked over some cash, mostly in pennies and nickels that I keep on the floor of my car.

“Cold!”  he replied.  “Heh heh heh!”

“Seriously,” I answered, feigning disgust.  I glanced at my car thermometer which rudely announced an outside temperature of 14.  I gave it the finger and said, “It’s only fourteen out right now.”

“That’s cold,” says Mr. McDonald’s.  “Although anything below twenty is cold to me!  HEH HEH HEH!”

Hmmm, I think to myself.  This guy’s a real giggler.  I gotta keep this going.  “Well, anything below FORTY is cold to me!  I’m dying out here!  HA HA HA!”

McDonald’s drive-thru looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, you couldn’t be at my house in the summer, then.  I like my indoor temperature at THIRTY-EIGHT during the summer months.  My air-conditioning works great, and my wife hates it.  I have to keep it at around fifty just so I don’t freeze her out!  HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH!

“Whoa,” I said.  “Are you part snowman?  Is Frosty your Dad?  Did you come from the North Pole?  Is your name Jack Frost?”

Actually, I gave him none of those responses.  I thought of those, and a hundred more, about five minutes after I gave him one more “ha ha,” said thanks for the change, and retrieved my food from the next drive-thru worker who practically threw it through the window as the arctic air threatened to turn her eyeballs into snowballs.

I would have loved to sit there with that guy all day long and asked him about his vacation homes on the polar icecaps and if he keeps penguins in the refrigerator.  He was friendly, and I love a good story, even if it may not be 100% true.  Then again, it could be, although I question a reality that allows a McDonald’s employee to afford an electric bill that manages an indoor temp of 38 during our 90-plus degree summers.

On another note, not much compares with the deliciousness of a freshly-made McDonald’s sausage biscuit.
 
Am I right?
 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Inquisition

In college I sat in a huge auditorium during an introductory psychology class with three hundred other equally clueless students.  The outrageously leonine and tweedy prof stood there, triumphantly tenured, peered at us over his half-spectacles through the bushiest eyebrows I had ever seen and have ever seen since, and in a slurred and probably drunken voice declared: “Forget what you’ve been told.  There are such things as dumb questions.  Always think before you ask.”

I was floored, and I have never forgotten that lesson.  I have asked countless questions in my lifetime, and through the filter of the lie that we have been told as children “there is no such thing as a dumb question,” we grow up learning that it is okay to ask anything and that no one will think you ridiculous for asking.  We are told that the spirit of the questioning overrides any ignorance about the topic at hand, because it shows a level of humility and readiness to be taught that any rational person welcomes in another human being.  It’s refreshing. 

But there is a line.  When you are an adult, it is okay to ask questions unless they are dumb ones.  When you are an adult, you must hold back.  You must know which questions are dumb and refrain from asking them.  You cannot fire questions at people and expect them to always respond positively to your line of questioning, unless they hold the key to any and all information on a subject that you are interested in learning.  If you don’t think before you ask, and you ask a lot of dumb questions, you will annoy people.

You’re welcome.

I love my husband.  I’m his wife, and as a wife you’re supposed to say that, or else people look at you with pity in their eyes and silently high five themselves for truly loving their husbands while you are judged for obviously struggling in your marriage, because there is an unwritten rule that even though marriage is the hardest relationship in the entire universe, you are supposed to act like it is both easy AND breezy.

Which it isn’t, OK?  I don’t care if you’re Hugh Jackman’s wife and you are so lucky to be married to him that you spend every day smiling at yourself in the mirror for obviously winning the husband jackpot.

So anyway, I love my husband.  BUT.

He never learned the ‘Think before you ask’ lesson I did in college.  He frequently asks questions as a means of conversation.  And many of his questions are dumb ones.  I mean, it's obvious that he didn't put any time into the thoughts behind these questions.  Here are a few that occurred recently:

(My husband): What are you doing?  I am sitting at the computer, paying bills.  My answer:  Right now I am catching up on writing fan mail to myself and doing my hourly Kegel count.  I just sent $10,000 to this businessman in Nigeria who promised me $100,000 in diamonds after the check clears.  I figured you wouldn’t mind.

Is that hairspray?  Asked as he ‘keeps me company’ while I get ready after a shower.  It’s a little weird that he watches me dry off all the parts of my body that I wish didn’t exist, but that's his nightmare.  When he asks if I am spraying hairspray on my body out of a fragrance bottle, I get a little testy.  My answer: Yes.  I am spraying hairspray all over myself before I put my clothes on.  It’s supposed to be good for your skin.  And your eyes.  Would you like to try?  Open wide.

What are you thinking about having for dinner?  Asked during hour 8 of a 10-hour day that I spent with our daughter at a mildly tortuous and lengthy academic tournament, while he was at home most of the day.  My answer (after taking some deep breaths and silently thanking God that there were no sharp objects in my hands):  Gee, I don’t know.  I was thinking about going home and drinking a bottle of wine.  Maybe I’ll chase it with some tequila shots if I’m still hungry afterwards.  If you and the kids don’t want that, then you are on your own.

What are your plans for tonight?  Asked on a Friday at 5 pm, after I’ve completed a solid week of manual work done inside the house.  I am sweaty, exhausted, and irritable.  My answer:  None.  I have no energy to answer such a dumb question.  I instead turn on the water in the shower as hot as I can stand, stand under the stream, and weep as I think that Hugh Jackman probably gives his wife daily footrubs.

What are you making?  Asked as I stand at the kitchen counter, a huge bowl of chopped-up lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and green peppers in front of me.  I am chopping up a red pepper to add to the bowl.   My answer:  I’m making hot dogs.  Do you want one?

What do the kids want to do?  Asked as the kids stand right there in front of both of us.  My answer:  Kids!  Your father wants to know: What do you want to do?  Then: You know, the kids can hear as well as respond intelligently.  Someday you must learn to speak to them directly.

(Holding up a movie) Do you want to watch this movie?  I am sitting with a book, taking pleasure in some peace and quiet. My answer: Not really.  Do you want to rent another one?  My answer: (realizing that my first answer was the wrong one) OK.   Which movie do you want to see?  My answer:  I don’t care.  Do you want to see (movie A)?  Do you want to see (movie B)?  Do you want to see (movie C)?  I don’t care.  Please pick one. Which movie were you thinking about getting?  I wasn’t.  YOU ASKED ME IF I’D LIKE TO WATCH A MOVIE.  PICK ONE FORTHELOVEOFEVERYTHINGTHATISHOLY!!!!!  OK.  But which one were you thinking?

It goes on forever, folks.  It has become kind of a joke, if jokes were intended to drive the recipient to the edge of sanity.  The bright spot is that he gives me plenty of opportunities to practice my snark. 

The dark spot is that for him, there is still no such thing as a dumb question.
 

I like to call him "The Inquisitor"
 

The other bright spot?  That he is OMG - so cute.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Boys in the House

I have two boys in my family: my husband and my son.  As numbers go, this isn’t too bad.  They are not too hard to handle, and there are two girls in the house too, so I am not often outnumbered.  Both of my boys are pretty reasonable individuals. My husband, despite his addiction to asking questions, is an emotionally even-Steven who hardly ever gets ruffled unless things don’t go perfectly for him, which they usually do, because he does most everything perfectly.

My son is also pretty reasonable, even as an 11-year-old, except for the times when his emotional state rises and falls in rapid fire succession and we all get a front-row seat to the one-man show I like to call Rage and Crying.  This can happen at any time, like in the middle of a spirited discussion with his sister about how she stores her Barbie dolls’ clothing, or like when I ask him to turn off his computer when he still has four minutes of screen time left.

What can be hard to handle, however, is when both boys are home with me at the same time, and the other girl is not here to run interference.  Especially if the boys didn’t really plan on being at home in the first place, but they are due to plans falling through or other things like illness or broken down cars, which is what is happening today.  Right now.

The boys in my house are like dogs: they require constant companionship, recognition, and reward.  They are needier than newborns, these boys.  They need a job to do, and if they did not plan to be here on an extended basis but are because of uncontrollable outside events, I am relied upon to occupy them. 

And that is exhausting.  And I am kind of lazy to boot, so I don’t enjoy the extra work it takes to entertain a couple of men who don’t know how to put their time in peacefully and quietly at home and instead spend their unoccupied time wandering around aimlessly and getting into my business.  Especially when I’m also not feeling well.  I mean, I’m already kind of resenting the fact that no one around here would eat anything but potato chip crumbs and 100-calorie snack packs unless I lovingly prepared vats of homemade family chow that they still turn up their noses at in favor of the boxes of Little Debbies I keep on hand for when I am jonesing for a swiss roll the kids’ lunch boxes.

So what is an overworked, mildly ill mom to do?

So far, all I have come up with is to hide in the TV room, watch taped awards show ceremonies and HBO on demand, blog a little, and ride the day out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Things I Think About When Painting

My daughter wanted a bedroom re-do, so I helped her decide how to transform her room into one that more matches her style now and less like when she was three.

This week seemed like one as good as any to start on the transformation, and as there are several rooms in our home that need freshening, I made the decision to power through the rest of them when hers was finished.  We can’t afford to hire professional painters for the work, and my husband works all day and all night seemingly, so the chore falls squarely on my shoulders.  It’s a lesson in home ownership: painting must be done on a regular basis and you will most likely have to do it yourself.

If someone would have told me that before I signed a mortgage, I would have said no thanks.  Renting is where it's at.

I hate painting.  It’s messy, it’s smelly, I’m terrible at it, and it never seems to end.  When the walls are finished, you may as well do the trim.  And the doors.  Outlet covers off, outlet covers on.  Furniture moves around to make room for the displaced items in a to-be painted room until everyone is uncomfortable and I can’t find anything.

I got my supplies, cried a little, turned on my favorite Pandora radio station, took a deep breath, and steeled myself for daily self-inflicted torture, at least for a couple of weeks.

Painting by yourself is a lonely, isolating chore.  It’s mindless, and unlike other mindless and lonely household tasks like cleaning or laundry, with painting you’re confined to one room until it is finished and that makes me sad, because I don’t have freedom to quit or walk around.  I’m a slave to the paint can and the brushes and rollers that will surely harden and be ruined if I take a half a day or week or month break. You can do that with cleaning and laundry.

Which I don’t but you can if you don’t mind living in filth and wearing dirty clothes.

Maybe the only thing I like about painting is having all that time to think.  I can pass an hour or two staring out the window thinking about life and the world, but that feels a little indulgent.  At least if I’m painting I’m being productive.  Then I thought I could make it more productive by jotting down some of my thoughts while I was painting today; maybe I would have an interesting insight or find an important solution or maybe even discover a million-dollar idea.

What I found is that painting is in fact a soul-sucking chore, because time spent painting produces very little valuable insight.

But at least I got a blog post about it.  Enjoy my innermost thoughts from a day of paining.

(That was an unintended typo.  But I’m keeping it.)

I hate painting.  I want to cry.  At least I thought to pull my hair back this time.  No white primer in my hair for weeks this time.

Crap.  Paint in my hair. 

I wonder what my old dance teacher/elementary school boyfriend/that girl I hung out with who stole a bottle of champagne on that cruise back in the 80s/that old dude who flipped me off on the road in front of the kids is doing right now.

(Mumford and Sons song playing) I love Mumford and Sons.  I wonder if they’re coming to this area.  I need to remember to Google it.  I’ll go ahead and add that to my “things I want to Google” list that is already a mile long. 

Oooh, Coldplay too.  They never get old.  I wonder if Gwyneth Paltrow ever painted the rooms in her house?  She probably never had to paint anything, unless it’s for cultivating a latent artistic talent or for a movie role.  She has time to do that, do nothing but cultivate her own talents.  Probably she doesn’t even know how to paint a wall. 

I bet if she did, she’d be better than me at it.

Great.  Paint on the underside of the dropcloth.  How does that happen?

At least I have more life experience than Gwyneth Paltrow. 

Then again, I never won an Oscar.  I guess winning an Oscar trumps painting a room on the life experience continuum any day.  I probably could, though.  If I was an actor.  Or at least wasn’t terrified of performing in front of people.  I could win an Oscar for a screenplay.  Are screenplay Oscars considered less important than acting Oscars? Certainly they’re more important than those scientific Oscars that have a separate ceremony hosted by whatever starlet is famous right now and never will be again ever.

Actually that Oscar party is probably the wildest of all Oscar parties.  Those scientific people are crazy partiers, just like in in Revenge of the Nerds or that 1980’s Val Kilmer movie, what was it called? (Real Genius.)

I wonder if Gwyneth Paltrow ever accidentally read my blog while cruising through Blogger late at night? 

If I didn’t have paint all over my hands/face/legs/butt/arms I would totally give Pandora a huge thumbs down for this song.  Am I in Braveheart?  Terrible. (It was Breath of Life by Florence and the Machine)

Well, I guess I know that I’ll never get through an entire Florence and Machine concert.

Wow.  This paint really stinks.  I feel like I’ve been huffing.  Do kids still do that?  My brain hurts.  Wonder how many brain cells I’ll kill in the next few weeks.

Whose idea was it to put all these stupid glow in the dark stars on the ceiling?  Bad idea.  Bad, bad idea.

I wonder if the people in Lowe’s really know what they’re doing.  This primer clearly is not going to cover up all those huge polka dots I painted that were a worse idea than the glow stars.

The next person in this house that wants any color on their walls other than white or cream gets a neck punch.

Lowe’s employees probably hire people to do all their painting for them.  DIY diehards are obviously people who I can’t relate to.

Oops.  I should only buy paint that matches the carpet.

I wonder what the percent likelihood is that the glop of paint that falls from the brush to the floor will end up on the carpet, in that tiny eighth-inch spot that was left uncovered by the dropcloth?  Today it’s like ninety-five percent.

Whoops.  More white paint on the carpet.  At least I can rub it in.  I’m going to have to find a piece of furniture to cover all the gray primer that dripped.

Lowe’s really needs to do combo deals on carpet replacement and paint.  I’d be their best customer.

Wonder if painters use gallons of wall paint to make art?  Isn’t that what Jackson Pollock did?  I’m kind of doing a Pollock in this room right now.

I’m so bad at this.  If I was bartering a skill to trade for painting, I’d have a hard time coming up with something.  What am I good at that is equally as valuable as painting?  Folding clothes?

I’m sweating. At least I’m getting some exercise.  It makes me feel better about skipping the gym this week to get this done.  Of course, on a scale of one to ten, with one being the most tortuous form of exercise and ten being the most fun, painting is negative seventy-nine billion.

There are probably no fat painters in the world.  If there are, what do they eat?  Lard sandwiches, probably.  Or maybe they have thyroid problems.

I remember when we used to say that there were 6 billion people in the world.  Then the seven billionth person was born.  So for years we were saying there are six billion of us, six billion people in the world – when there were really seven billion.  That’s like saying something that costs 19.99 is just 19 dollars.  Keith (my husband) does that all the time.  “It’s only two hundred dollars.”  No.  It isn’t.  It’s two hundred and ninety nine dollars.  That’s three hundred dollars.  And we have been seven billion for a while now.

If I had seven billion dollars I would never have to paint my walls.  Ever.  Neither would my kids.  There wouldn’t even be the chance that we’d have to paint walls in our lifetimes.  Gwyneth Paltrow can’t say that.

Hell, if I had an extra seven thousand dollars I wouldn’t be painting my walls right now.
 
 
Tools of the trade torture
 
photo credit

Friday, January 4, 2013

Back To It

I’m kind of glad the week’s almost over and that I ran out of time to go to the gym today; I am so worn out from trying to get back into the swing of a normal exercise routine after the gross amount of back-sliding that happened over the holidays in terms of my health and fitness due to all the mashed potato and candy-eating and I don’t think I could have done one more day.  I really overdid it; my body hurts in places that I don’t recall trying to recondition.

That one and a half hours of gym time this week really knocked me out.  I mean, even the scheduled nap at the end of yoga felt extra strenuous the one day I did it.

On another note, hooray for stretchy pants.


Darn you, Christmas cookies.

 
photo credit

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New You. Or maybe just a New Start.

I love New Year’s.  Eve, Day, whatever.  I love the idea of a new year representing a new start in life, a fresh perspective, a way of doing things that is different than what you are leaving behind in the old year.

Basically, I have the same attitude about New Year’s that that prostitute on Forrest Gump declared, right before she and Lieutenant Dan got it on in his seedy apartment in front of poor ol’ Forrest and his matching prostitute who tasted like cigarettes.   

"Don’t ’cha just love New Years? You could start all over. Everybody gets a second chance."


 
I can’t find the clip but this one is close. You get the idea.
 

The last day of the year descends in a rowdy pit of excitement and crazy antics, kids hopped up on sugar and sleep-deprivation and adults on booze and laughter and loud music, and everyone over-stimulated with parties complete with funny hats and noisemakers, and Dick Clark/Ryan Seacrest and various questionably talented entertainers on the TV.  At once, the madness stops amazingly and is replaced by reflection and wistfulness of the year just passed and a sliver of optimism sparkling right over there.

Anything is possible.  Second chances, a new beginning, the relief that things can be rebooted for anyone.

Maybe you want to lose weight, exercise more, be nicer to your husband, reconnect with an old friend, send more birthday cards, save money, or take more time for yourself.

We’ve all been there, and there’s just something elevating about wanting to live a little differently than the way you’ve done it the past year.

That’s optimism, and coming from me, that’s a big deal.

And so is New Year’s.  Eve, Day, whatever.  Happy 2013.


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