Posted in Life As I Know It

2013…WTF?

I’m not a fan of whining (not to be confused with “wining,” of which I am totally a fan), but I’m going to indulge in it for this post. Forgive me. I know that these laments are First World, that I am very blessed, and that others have it much worse, but…can’t a girl vent a bit?

Like in the movie City Slickers, I’m ready for a do-over of 2013. I was ready for a great year…I mean, come on, look at my cheerful Facebook attitude on New Year’s Eve:

NYE wish

2012 had been a bit of a pain in the patoot, and I was ready for that lovely clean slate that somehow takes on meaning because we rip the 12th page off of a calendar. But, I gotta tell you…so far, 2013 blows. Do-over time!

Yes, yes, I know it is only mid-February, but so far in 2013 sickness has reigned supreme—including taking a shot at my husband’s 50th birthday party. After weeks of planning and preparation (not to mention hand washing that would rival Lady Macbeth’s, as I tried to make sure I didn’t get sick as the party planner), the day of the party—a party where the band my hubby plays in is supposed to rock it out—he falls ill. And thus begins roughly a month’s worth of sickness for him. And because we believe in sharing, I eventually got sick. And so did the kid (though not as badly, thank God). We have yet to completely climb out of the sickness hole, but we hope that we succeed soon.

And once I’m well, then I get to do fun things like have my gallbladder out. And maybe my knee operated on. Have I mentioned that the furnace has needed repair twice in just over a week? How about the dryer conking? The car dying?

Yeah, I know—this whining is getting annoying. Sorry. I’ll stop.

Sometimes it just feels good to put words around that “ack!!!” that you’re feeling…and then move on.

Indulging in a bit of whining doesn’t mean I’ve lost perspective—I have people in my life who have it much harder—friends with significant illnesses or losses, people who have major, challenging life decisions facing them. My struggles are nothing in comparison to theirs.

So stick your eye roll back in your socket and know that I know what you know—I know I am loaded with good things, too. And sometimes it takes walking through the manure field to realize that you’ve got people in your life ready to walk right alongside you on that stinky journey. And that makes it all stink less.

So…here’s the deal. I think I’m going to create my own sub year. It will be known as 2013B, and it will only have 10.5 months. And it starts…now.

Posted in Wit's End

Is This the Party to Whom I Am Speaking?

Stop callin', stop callin'...
Stop callin’, stop callin’…

One thing I lament for “today’s youth” is that the beauty of the simple prank phone call is no more. Now, I know there are ways around it, and that there’s plenty of mayhem occurring in today’s Caller ID world, but it’s not the same. While you can block your number from appearing on Caller ID…do you answer those calls? Yeah, me neither. So the opportunity for calling a neighbor to have a few innocent yet mischievous giggles just isn’t the same as it was when I was a kid.

My best friend Jen was my main partner in crime. Like most pranksters, we aimed low at the beginning but quickly graduated from the level of “Is your refrigerator running?” (yawn) and “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” (we weren’t even sure who this Prince Albert was, so we didn’t find it all that funny) to more clever—at least to us—calls.

Since we had our own “radio show” (i.e. we had a sketch comedy show that we recorded on cassette tape…man, we were cutting edge), we liked to think that we had a wide array of voices and characters at our disposal. I’m not sure how we, as 11-year-old girls, pulled off convincing men’s voices, but based on the success of our pranks, we must have been somewhat believable.

[Side note/disclaimer: if anything in these stories can be found to be illegal, then these stories are absolutely not true. Completely fictitious. If not, then never mind this disclaimer.]

One bit that we loved doing was acting as though we were from the fire department. During sleepovers, we would be up at 2am and just call someone we knew and say, “Mrs. So-and-So (that’s not really her name—because that would be an awesome last name to have, but it’s not—it’s just because Jen and I still need to maintain our cloak of anonymity even after all these years. I’d hate to have to relocate.) Anyway, we would say, “Mrs. So-and-So, this is the Mayberry (no, not really Mayberry…come on) Fire Department. Forgive me for waking you up, but fires can strike a house at 2am, and if one did, would you have an escape route planned?” Of course, Mrs. So-and-So wouldn’t know which end was up. On the one hand, she’d just been awoken by a call, but on the other hand…that call was trying to save her life. How could you get mad at that? Remarkably, she could. After a few minutes of back and forth conversation, where the “fire department” was expressing concern for her home safety plan, Mrs. So-and-So finally told me to go to hell. Jen’s convulsive giggling in the background probably wasn’t keeping a tight lid on our ruse, but…that was what it was all about.

Another fire department call that we had fun making was when our neighbors were having a big party. We called the partying neighbors and told them I was the fire chief and that we had heard they were having a big party. Did they have a permit for that party?? Jen and I almost wet ourselves laughing as we could hear the man switch phones to go to a quieter room where he could better answer “the chief’s” questions, as he worriedly told his wife. “Mr. So-and-So (no, he was not married to Mrs. So-and-So…please, quit being so literal), can you please tell me the number of people in attendance at your party?” Again, Jen and I had all we could do to keep it together while we overheard him count off bunches of people and then finally come in with a guess of “around 40.” “Well, based on the size of your house, you are just under the number where a permit would be required. Carry on.” And the very relieved man thanked me and went back to his party.

We also loved calling up people and freaking them out just a teensy bit. We had a neighborhood phone book that listed the names of the children and their ages as a way for neighbors to get to know one another (my, how times have changed in that regard, no?) We would call up strangers and act like we were related to them. “Uncle John? This is your niece Susie. How ARE you??” To which John would reply, “Uh, I don’t have a niece named Susie, you must have the wrong number…” And I would jump in with, “But Uncle John, I can’t believe you don’t remember me! Can you put Aunt Linda on the phone? Or how about one of my cousins? Alan must be around, what? 11?…” to which John would, well…freak out a bit. “Listen, I don’t know who the hell this is, but…” and then he would rage on and threaten us…you know, fun stuff.

Okay, maybe it’s better that there is Caller ID. Nah, I take that back—it was a lot of fun that was mostly harmless. Well, now that I’m all grown up (technically), I wouldn’t want my kid doing it, but, as a memory it’s harmless. And who knows, maybe Mrs. So-and-So decided to create an escape route in her house after all? Maybe these calls of ours were actually helpful. In fact, I’d like to think they made the world a slightly better place.

P.S. Bonus points if you get the reference in the title.

Posted in Soapbox

Once This, Then That

I missed the bus on the first day of high school. Oh, I was on time and waiting at the corner, and it even stopped for me, but since my school had two campuses (one for freshman/sophomore, the other for junior/senior), I thought the bus number was the route number—which wasn’t mine—and so I told the driver to go on…

After waiting for several minutes, I walked home crying, and my dad drove me to school. What an awesome way to start that new life chapter! Aside from fostering a lifelong anxiety for successfully catching public transportation, it also is a bit of a metaphor to me of an unhealthy mentality that I battle called “once this, then that.”

It’s not an exact metaphor because I missed the damn bus, but doesn’t it make my little 14-year-old self sound pathetic? Yeah, I know. Listen, I never missed the bus again, so don’t cry too long, okay?

Please do not be confused--this is NOT me.
Please do not be confused–this is NOT me.

The “once this, then that” mentality goes something like this: “Once I get through this next ‘thing,’ then all will be better” (as in, once I get on the bus to high school, then all will be well…though you gotta actually catch the bus first!)

The “thing” could be a project, an event, a challenging time—whatever. It’s the belief that once a certain hurdle is crossed, then the road will be much smoother. But the truth is, the road never is…the bumps and ruts never go away.

Yet it’s a terribly tempting way to get through things. Once I make this job transition, then I’ll be able to get to the work I’ve always wanted to. Once I get through the holidays, then I’ll start eating healthier. Once I get a more workable schedule, then I’ll exercise regularly. Once I make this deadline, then I’ll take a deep breath and be more patient.

For me, the reason this kind of thinking can be so deadly is because there is enough truth to it that it lulls you into thinking it will be so. And the problem is that it’s still up to me to make it happen. There is no magic once the hurdle is crossed. And the truth of it is that, yes—we do get through things and come out the other side, and often we are able to take our necessary next, better steps. But the danger is in waiting for the hurdle to come and in thinking that all it takes is that—the mere passage of whatever.

And so I try to balance the feeling of reassurance that once I get through something things will be better with the awareness that…well, once I get through something, things may be…the same…unless I do what needs doing to make them different.

After the missed bus, I never again assumed I knew the difference between something like a route number and a bus number—I learned a little preparation in that regard can go a long way—literally—it can go so far as to successfully take me to school! And once I caught the bus, it didn’t mean that the rest of my life was gravy, either. High school was one heck of a ride, indeed—but not simply because I arrived there—it was because of the steps I took after I got off the bus.

Once this, then that…but only if I do my part to make it happen.

Posted in Life As I Know It

I Have a Google Goggles Headache

information2“We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge” was written by John Naisbitt…in 1982…and I can’t find a more apt commentary about the status of my own overwhelmed brain. 16 years after that statement was made, Google was founded, and since then, countless other technologies exist that enable us to access information like never before.

But my brain hurts. It feels like when Tom from Tom and Jerry gets shot at and then takes a drink of water. As he drinks it down, it just goes right out all the holes he now has. My head is kind of like an old colander these days—I can hold the water of information for a little bit before it just seeps right through.

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a Google Girl. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll roll their eyes and comment on how I whip out my Droid like a six-shooter and dial up information faster than a speeding bullet. It’s awesome…”Who starred in My Favorite Martian”? Done. “What is the lifespan of a dragonfly?” You got it. “What’s the record number of points scored in a football game?” Dude, I’m all over it.

But I have come to recognize that while a ginormous amount of information is at my fingertips, my retention of it, well…totally blows…as in blows through one ear, takes a brief stop at my addled brain, and then goes right out the other ear.

And it’s not just Google or other search engines. It’s all the opportunities we have to store information that we know we can access later…but will we? And if we do, will we truly digest it, remember it, and learn from it? Like Naisbitt states, we aren’t necessarily using it for the growth of knowledge. Today you can Evernote it, Pin it, Facebook it, Drop Box it, stick it in an email folder, on your phone—you name it. Entire companies are exploding with ways for us to store, store, store. My head is truly in The Cloud.

And the sad reality is that what is stored in my brain is ridiculous stuff that entered in years ago when it had a fighting chance to hang around. Oh, if only I could make room for data that actually matters by hitting the delete key on all of the Brady Bunch tidbits stuck inside my brain. And I don’t have to look far—these little bits of useless minutiae bubble up with no problem.

The name of the kid they brought in when Cindy and Bobby were getting too old to be “cute” anymore? Cousin Oliver. Who played Aunt Jenny, Jan’s lookalike? Imogene Coca. What was the name of Alice’s identical cousin (a popular yet disturbing TV phenomenon)? Emma. What world record do Bobby and Cindy try to break to garner some attention? Teeter-tottering. You get the idea.

I need to defrag my brain.

And as if all of our ability to catalog and store info wasn’t enough, we have things like YouTube now offering recommendations for videos to watch—because apparently they don’t trust me to waste enough of my time on their site without their stellar suggestions! “Hey, if you like that puppy video, we’re sure you’ll enjoy THIS one…” Uh, thanks, YouTube, but I will figure out what videos I want to distract myself with…oh, wait…that one does look awfully cute…

It must be a conspiracy. Information is out to get me! I am getting pummeled with factoids and folklore. What to do?! Where can all this information overload possibly lead?!

Guess I’ll Google it to find out.

Posted in Life As I Know It

Ask Dad. He Knows.

Two cents' worth of shoelaces?
Two cents’ worth of shoelaces?

I fell in love with the movie It’s a Wonderful Life when I was just a little girl. Back then, they showed it numerous times during the holiday season, and it’s a safe estimate to say I’ve seen it close to 100 times…so I’m a tad familiar with it. I think most people are familiar with it, too, as well as the main themes of the movie. The ideas of “Each man’s life touches so many other lives” and “No man is a failure who has friends” are the one-two punches of the movie and still so relevant today.

But there’s lots more to be learned in this lovely movie, too—like don’t ride your shovel onto thin ice…a turntable can make one helluva rotisserie…whispering into someone’s deaf ear is a great way to admit your love without having them know it…it’s best to periodically check the floor when dancing…and the valuable tip from Uncle Billy that has served me so well in life: when drunk and in doubt, choose the middle hat.

Think you might be on your way to deliver poison? Best ask Dad.
Think you might be on your way to deliver poison? Best ask Dad.

Indeed, the film is loaded with life lessons, but there’s one in particular that I want to take a moment with, and the title of this post probably already clued you in. Ask Dad. He knows. When George is presented with the problem of delivering what he knows to be deadly “medicine,” he barges into a meeting and attempts to ask his dad what to do. Of course, later in the film you can connect the dots to know that the dad he really needs to ask about his big problems is The Dad of All, but his earthly one is pretty damned important, too. In fact, when George’s dad dies, it ends up shaping the rest of his life.

When I began my love affair with IAWL as a child, I had no idea the parallels that George Bailey and I would have, with a key one being that my dad died just about the same time of life as Peter Bailey left George. His chances to ask his dad disappeared, as did mine.

And, oh, the things I would have loved to ask my dad…Of course, plenty of serious life issues, but lots of others, too. Like how was “Oh, I trust you, it’s just your date that I don’t trust…” supposed to ever even appear fair? And why didn’t you wear shorts except for swimming? And couldn’t you have used another comparison instead of “poodle” when I got that one perm in junior high?

For the years lived without him, lots of questions from my 20s would have begun, “Dad, why do guys…?” and there’d be the specific one that asked, “What do you think of this guy?” In my 30s, I know one question would have been, “How do you like your new grandson?” And now in my 40s, I still find myself wondering, “what would Dad have thought?” about any variety of things.

But all of these questions are no longer possible to ask. So, my friends, I want to encourage you: if you still can, ask Dad—and ask Mom, too. From the silly to the serious, if you don’t ask…you’ll never know. Don’t let them take too many answers with them. After all, it IS a wonderful life, and the more we learn about and love one another, the better.

Posted in Wit's End

Recipe for Success

Less than a month away from the start of 2013, many of us may be thinking about goal setting for the New Year. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have it all figured out. Yep. I have the recipe for success. It’s all about proper goal setting. I don’t mean to appear smug about this, but really…I have the answer. After years of living as me, I now know what I must do to be a success at something. And I’m pretty sure I have the answer for you, too.

Choosing what you are innately good at is key to my method, and my new goals will reflect this. Let me share with you some goals that I just know I will successfully achieve: I will gain weight. I will sleep less than I should. I will let myself be easily distracted, and—as an offshoot of this, I will watch more mindless youtube videos, particularly ones of ridiculously cute puppies. I will continue to undermine my short term memory by Googling anything and everything that crosses my mind.

See?!?! These are things I can achieve! In fact, these are things I am already doing—I just haven’t intended to! So what if I make them be things I am trying to do on purpose? Yes, these are simply horribly bad goals–but imagine the boost to self confidence that I will feel when I start knocking these goals off my list one-by-one! You go, girl! You are on fire! Who knows what I might be able to achieve with a string of successes under my ever-tightening belt?!

Of course, I am familiar with failure, and there is the slight chance that I might fail here, as well…and then what to do? Here’s the added bonus to my recipe for success: failure is even better! “Oh, darn…I’ve lost another pound this week. I have failed yet again.” Yes! Failure in this plan IS an option! It could result in a slim, well-rested, and more focused me! Failure would be the new success!

Feel free to use my exciting new method in achieving your goals, too! We could start a whole wave of people who are succeeding like never before! We could change the world!

Or not.