Thursday, November 25, 2010

Obligatory Thinky Thanksgiving Post

It’s ironic, but true: the season of thanks always finds me griping the most.

It’s darker earlier, which is an annual buzz kill. It’s chillier and the older I get, the colder I seem to feel. The kids have officially lost their back-to-school excitement and have moved into the dreaded homework-is-a-chore phase. The house we spend more and more time huddled inside creaks and moans and shows its age: the railings split, another shingle blows off the roof, a threatening crack appears in the plaster. Soon enough, the Christmas decorating, partying, and shopping will come due in bills that seem higher every year.

And I gripe about it all.

Meanwhile, my son will perform a sweet play about families and feasts, which will, as it has twice before, make me feel teary and nostalgic but also pressed for time. Television commercials and magazine articles will remind me to slow down and I will whiz by each in a flash. The whole world will attempt to lecture me on the values of the season, while I sit in the back of the class, doodling.

I really need to get on that spiritual gravy train! I know I should be riding it all the time, and I try.

On my kitchen wall hangs a folk-artsy sign reminding me to count my blessings. I probably look at it one hundred times a day, but like so many other parts of my life, sometimes it too blends into the background. So I gripe when I should count and complain when I should celebrate, but I realize now it’s time to shine a light up there and really have a good look at those three words.

Truth is, no one in my immediate and extended family is sick (after a few scary years of the opposite being true). We are all employed (after a few scary months of that too). Babies have been safely born, cousins have been blissfully wed, and nieces have survived the first few months of college. We are all chugging through lives that are essentially good. Even great.

So, I’m making an early resolution this year: enough with the griping!

Complaining has its place, in an activist, squeaky wheel kind of way, but this is different. This is about making a concerted effort to roll my eyes less, to stomp my feet less, to see more forest and fewer trees. This is less about giving thanks next Thursday but about living thankfully -- consciously thankful -- all the other days. If I tear up a little more, so be it: I’ll gladly replace my frustrated irritation for a few happy sobs. My aim is to shrug off the leak in the ceiling for a while and listen more to the laughter above it.

I realize this might sound kind of hokey or metaphysical or as if I’ve been hanging out with Oprah too much (and admittedly, I kind of wish I were), but I realize that when I gripe about my kids, my family, my house, or my work, it’s a privilege really. See, I have all those things to gripe about, and it’s not lost on me that there are those among us who do not.

With good fortune comes responsibility and I think I know what mine is. The griping? I’m quitting -- or at least cutting back -- and I’m going to tell all the lucky others out there what I have just told myself: enough already. Put down the plastic knives and the sour milk jugs! Dig into the good stuff.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why I Love My Sister: A Short Lesson in Chaos Appreciation

My sister is the person you want with you when you accidentally (?) get bitten by a snake or set on fire. I'm not sure where she keeps her supplies -- she's a tiny person so you'd think you might see 'em bulging out from under her sweaters and tees -- but that doesn't matter. What does: she has what you need when you need it.

(Especially Benadryl. Benadryl is to her what Windex was to that dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)

While I spent this whole day convinced that it was November 21st (and even argued that fact to Bridget) (oh yes I did), my sister has probably already packed her bags and set the oven (in another state) to start pre-heating at noon three days from now. (I seriously would not be surprised if she had some awesome remote control or super telepathic powers to actually do that...)

She's a lot like my mom, another equally organized, creator of happy. For example: my mom created an Excel spreadsheet (or something like it) to make sure we all know our assigned Thanksgiving tasks, as well as a PowerPoint (or something like it) of all the various activities and events during our weekend -- when they will begin and end (to the minute). Do not mess with broads like these!

I'm not complaining. Without them (and Bridget), I'd show up in a crappy pilgrim hat on Friday! With a sack of greasy cheeseburgers and a Yankee Candle.

So the following email? Well, it was exactly the laugh I needed this November 21st...eek, 22nd, dammit.

TO: Picket, Mom, Other Sister, Neighbor
FR: Sister

Ingredients bought - done
Wine and beer secured - done
Outfit for Daughter - done
Making pumpkin bread - done
Warm clothes at the ready for football and hike - done
5 pound bag of flour on floor - shit
Wait...the sugar too! - #!&$@!

Daughter helping with baking - DONE

Freakin' awesome.

(OH! PS: Not getting me in your inbox? So sad. Please re-enter your email address over there ----> and if the google gods be willing, I might be inspired to write enough here to make you wish you hadn't.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Considering Going Luddite: Kids, Social Mayhem and Me

My son's favorite country is China.

His favorite number is 11.
Color? Food? Subject in school?

I could tell you all those things -- but only because, with the assistance of his big sister, my six year old made a quiz I could take on-line.

I took it.

Turns out, thanks to that dumb quiz, I know the GFYO not as well as I thought. I know the child I bred and birthed and who owes me who sleeps in my bed most nights, something like 66% which doesn't even put me in the so-called category of "peeps who know me good" -- which is absurd because the freaking dog does not count as a "brother" and also: CHINA?

This is why I hate technology. Technology is getting in the way of my role as the undefeated know-it-all of All Knowledge. Which, as many of you know, is the right of all mothers.

Damn you internet! Damn you quizzes with trick questions!

6th grader B does not have a mobile phone yet but she does have an email account -- which I realize seems only normal in some alternate universe of "normal." I hold the phone off like a freaking golden carrot but allow her access now to conversations online with friends (I approve) who lead us to these stupid quizzes. I allow her to talk one way and not the other? It doesn't even make sense to me.

I had Shaun Cassidy posters on my wall (like her Bieber ones) and when my parents signed up for "total phone," which was built (I think) for dads at the train station to get past the busy signal, me and my friends figured out how to game it and "group chatted" like -- well, like tween and teenage girls did then and -- do now.

Truth is, not much has changed.
Truth is, I have no idea what I am doing.

I'm weighing my friends experiences (especially those with older kids), but mostly, I'm winging it. There has not been a time when I have felt so utterly out on my own in parenting. Where's the book for this?

Soon enough, the day will come where the questions on the quiz will neither be as simple or as funny as my son's were. Soon enough, my sixth grader won't even want my answers. She'll probably want to text her BFF.

(This makes me want to deny her a phone FOREVER and delete her email account right this very second. Which I could but won't.)

At some point, most kids sneak away from our grip and become who they will be; it's part of the process. But right now, while I have 'em in my hands -- I run their social and their media.

But I also know the future is coming in more ways than one.

Will my withholding of a mobile phone, my monitoring of internet access, my insistence that phone calls be made where I can (mostly) hear them even matter?

I have no idea. Do you?