Monday, July 28, 2014

My New Year

I am not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions. Sometimes I make them and sometimes I don't, but mostly I feel like they just put too much pressure on you to ever succeed. I understand the impulse, though. There's something almost desperate about looking at another year and knowing it'll probably be more or less like the one before it.

Only for me, that desperation doesn't revolve around a calendar, but around the school year. I'm not sure why, but every year, as we are shopping for school supplies and settling on the perfect first day outfit, I feel certain that I can't keep going on the same way.

It doesn't help that my birthday is right around the beginning of school, so I have that milestone to reflect on, too.

So, every year, I sit the girls down, family meeting style, and tell them that this year is going to be different. This year, we are going to keep the house clean, we are going to get ready for the next day the night before, we are going to pre-pack lunches, lay out clothes, eat breakfast at the table. This year, we'll be prepared for all the madness, we'll keep our stuff organized and I will sign the planner every night.

What I picture in my head is a magical transformation where I become Donna Reed and they become perfect sitcom kids. I will scrub the floors and bake bread. They will come home from school and do their homework and their chores without nagging and occasionally say something cute which will make the studio audience laugh.

What happens is not that. What happens is usually that by the end of the school year, we're eating granola bars in the car, while Brynna digs for a pen so I can sign her planner before she gets out. What happens is our house is a mess, I drop into bed exhausted and realize in the morning that no one has clean underwear.

But this year is going to be different.


But what I've realized over the last few days, while I've put together new chore charts, frantically done laundry and planned the annual lecture, is that it's not been as bad as I thought. Every year, something sticks. Not all of it. I'm still not Donna Reed, but yeah. We went all of last school years with only one box of pop tarts. And my house is a wreck, but it's way less of a wreck than it used to be. Every year's New School Year's Resolutions have a little effect.

I might actually have this all together by the time Maren graduates. My only hope is that when they have kids, they remember how hard I tried and how it got better little by little. I hope they forget how hard I am on myself when I fail.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Things on Friday: Books I'm Reading

I have a slight attention span problem. Sometimes I can only really handle one book at a time. If I try to pick something up before I've finished whatever I was reading, I'll end up finishing book two and never going back to book one. Sometimes, though, I just keep piling on books until I am reading a half million at a time.

Right now, I'm reading five books. So, hey, I do this thing on my blog... Yeah, let's talk about that.

The Five Books I'm Reading Right Now

1. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire - Seanan is my favorite and my best. I named my Jeep October after October Daye, the protagonist of one of her series. I will read pretty much anything she writes. Sparrow Hill Road is a beautiful ghost story told originally as a series of short stories. They've been rewritten into a novel, but I am really enjoying taking my time with it, savoring each little snippet as part of something big and beautiful. Plus, I have a print version, so I don't carry it with me.

2. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black - I'm listening to this on CD. I have wanted to read this book for a while, based solely on the cover. (I know.) And knowing that I was going to be spending a lot of time alone in a car this week, I went to the library to find something to listen to. When I saw this, I just about broke an arm grabbing it. And, let me tell you, my cover-judging skills did not disappoint me. This book is so good, I'm going to read-read it when I'm done listening-reading it. Seriously, I cannot recommend it enough.

3. Snuff by Terry Pratchett - I love the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. I don't believe in reading them in order, so I don't even know how many of them I have floating out there unread, but my very favorites are the ones about Death. This one isn't about Death. My second favorites ones are the ones about Samuel Vimes. This one is about him. It's funny and beautiful and amazing.

4. Fatale Vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker - I bought a big bunch of comics a while back and I'm working my way through them. I'm not sure about this one. I've never read a comic with so little dialog and so much narration. I'll let you know.

5. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabbott - So, while I was getting my book on tape, Maren wanted to get one too and we were in the young adult section and she picked this up and it was all pink and glittery and you know, I've got the Anne Hathaway movie memorized and oooh, look, Anne Hathaway reads it. I love her. And yeah, this should be fine. Let's get that. Well, I'm not entirely sure that was a good idea. I would let Brynna read it without hesitation, but Maren? I keep waiting for her to ask me what stuff means. And Mia is not a great role model. But, she is witty and funny and bubbly and Maren and Brynna are both enjoying it and that's pretty rare. So, I'm going to see it through to the bitter end. I guess.

What are you reading?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Four Month Headache

Let me tell you about next door. Next door to my office, they are building a new office building. It's big. Right now, I can't tell you much more than that. Except that they have been building it since the second the snow melted this spring.

It's a never ending process. It's loud and obnoxious and terrible. Today, they are on the roof and I swear, they have the loudest nail guns in the history of nail gundom. I mean, in general, I am all about some hot construction guys right out my office window. But between the loudest nail guns ever, the constant monotone beeping of machinery going backwards (I seriously wonder if they ever drive it forwards) and some kind of saw thing that never seems to turn off, I am kinda losing my mind.

It's really just the repetitiveness, I think. It never stops. The only time there is quiet from that direction is when it's storming and then I have the echoing cacophony of rainfall on my big hollow roof.

And every day, every single day, by nine thirty, I have a headache. Not a serious, worrisome headache. Not a migraine or anything debilitating in any way. Just a headache.

And this job doesn't need any extra headaches.

I want them to be finished, but I don't know if they ever will. And I want better soundproofing in my office. You know, it's not like it's ten feet away, I shouldn't be able to hear everything that I am. When I turn off my radio, I can hear them talking to each other.

But mostly, I just want a day of real, live silence. And I hate silence. When I am missing the empty void of soundlessness, you know things have gotten out of hand.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On Taking Your Kids to Work

Twice a year. I do this twice a year and never at the same time.

In the winter, I take them when they are on Christmas break, which is pretty dead in my office. Also, I don't usually stay until the bitter end that particular week. So, when Maren gets whiny or Brynna gets hyper, I pack it up and we leave.

In the summer, I try to take them towards the end of summer break. That way they are already bored with NiNi's house and I don't have to worry so much about them whining that they want to go there.

Brynna came with me a couple of weeks ago. Since Christmas, Brynna has turned into a pretty amazing office girl. I brought her on Friday, which is my "Get Stuff Done" day. She watered my plants, shredded my shredding, did most of my filing and spent the majority of the day fetching things off the printer for me.

We brought the dog. 'Cause, why not? River slept most of the day, but Brynna took him out for his walk all by herself and they had a nice run in the big field next to my office.

So, of course, Maren wanted to come this week, while Brynna is off at camp and we HAD to bring River. So, let me run down my day of tiny disasters for you:

  • Maren tried to get my attention the entire time I was on the phone with my president this morning
  • River has (abnormally) barked at every other dog entering or leaving the building today. He never does that.
  • Maren got stung by a bee when we took River out for a walk.
  • River knocked over his water bowl trying to get at the black lab next door.
  • Maren watched a movie on an extra computer and clapped and sang along to the theme song for what seemed like two hours.
  • River jumped under my desk when the construction crew next door dropped something heavy and stepped on my surge protector, shutting off my computer and making me lose all the edits my president had just given me via phone.
  • Maren got bored at 3:00. An hour and a half of making up jobs to make her feel important. (She is currently making us all crowns.)
So, what I've learned: kids are constantly growing. Brynna became a bigger help in the last six months. Maren became a bigger pain. Also, River doesn't like black labs. Or one particular black lab? I don't know, but every time that dog walks by he loses his ever-loving mind.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Your Experience Doesn't Invalidate Mine

Lately, I've been having this issue. It has to do with being wrong. Or not being wrong, more specifically. Let me give you an example.

I'm in a book club. My book club read a book. It was supposed to be funny. I didn't think it was. For one thing, the story revolved around a broken marriage and a stillborn son. And I am all about finding the funny, but you've got to work pretty hard to make dead babies funny to me. That's all I'm saying.

For another, it was just... crass? I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it wasn't my brand of humor. I didn't mind the profanity, the sex, the innappropriateness... It just wasn't funny. It was all cheap shots and shock value. And you know what? That's okay. I don't have to love every book I read. I mean, I'd like to, but I'll live. And it was a good enough story, more or less, it just wasn't funny to me. I'm sure it was to other people. In fact, if my book club is to be believed, it's funny to everyone everywhere but me.

And that's where this issue came into play. Most everyone there listened to my point of view and accepted it. Sorry you didn't like it, yadda yadda. Fine, fine. But one woman flat out informed me that I was wrong. "It is funny," she said, "even if you didn't get it."

Now let me make something clear here, "getting it" isn't my problem. I get it. Really, there's not much to get. It's not like it's some sort of deep, philosophical kind of humor. I just didn't think it was funny.

And it's a little thing. Really it is. I'm over it. It's just that it's brought home something that has been bothering me in the grander scheme for a while now. I read the book. I had an experience. My experience was that it wasn't funny. It doesn't matter how funny you think it is, that doesn't change my experience. And me dragging my way through 350 pages without even cracking a smile doesn't change your experience. You can think it's funny. That's allowed.

This whole #yesallwomen and "Not all Men" thing speaks to that, too. People want to say "Well, I've never catcalled a woman, so that just doesn't happen anymore," or "I don't personally know anyone who talks about being raped, so that's not really a problem," or "I don't think women are treated any differently than men." Your experience does not invalidate mine (or the statistical facts, in this case). And then the pendulum swings, "All men are pigs," or "Guys can't understand what it's like to be sexually abused," or "Men just aren't victimized like that." And that's wrong, too. For the exact same reason.

Look, I get it. You've never been anyone else. You don't know what it's like to be a different nationality, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic class. All you have is your own perspective and that makes it hard to see that other people are experiencing things differently. But for the love of pants, accept that.

Don't tell people they are wrong unless it's a verifiable fact and you have evidence. It's okay to say, "No, gravity is what holds us to the Earth, not sticky glue on our shoes." It's not okay to tell someone that they have not really experienced what they say they have experienced. So much in our world is a matter of opinion and perspective.

Next time someone says something you want to argue about, instead of jumping in with all the ways in which they are wrong, why not try listening. You might just find that understanding other people's experiences changes yours.