Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The sound of silence

I am dreading Thanksgiving, and the annual over-the-river-and-through-the -woods trip we take.


Because I lost my voice.

What? No, that’s too passive. Correction: a germ-infested little boy got into my bed exactly five mornings ago and, while aggressively cuddling and telling me how much he loves me, coughed a wet cough all over my face. Exactly three days ago, my throat started to hurt. Exactly two days ago, I ceased being able to speak.

And very little pisses me off more than not being able to talk. I can deal with the cough, the snot, the knifing pain in my chest when I breathe, and the generally crappy feeling I am experiencing. I cannot deal with not having a voice.

It’s hard enough not being able to talk at home. I screamed at Caroline for ten minutes yesterday, ordering her to turn off her iTouch. As I was about to detonate due to her total lack of a response, I realized she literally hadn’t heard a word I said. Even her polite friends didn’t answer my questions until I stood right in front of them and tapped them on the shoulder, at which point I got a tentative, "Uh, Mrs. Kennon? Did you say something?" (Girls, I am ALWAYS saying something!! That is a rhetorical question.)

I tried to have one of those always-enjoyable, thirty-minute phone calls with Verizon tech support, and most of it was spent with the representative saying, "Ma’am?? Are you there?"

Yes. Bad enough.

But visiting a family that’s just as weird as my own?

(Okay, Whit, I think you actually won last time we argued about that, and we’re currently edging you out in the weird and dysfunctional category. But the pendulum will swing. Just wait.)

It can’t happen. How can I yell at my children to JUST WALK AND STOP DOING CARTWHEELS DOWN THE AIRPORT HALL or say, in an exasperated voice I have perfected, "You packed it, you carry it!" I can’t ask Whit to go get me a Diet Coke. I can’t change our seats around so I am sitting by myself with my family. For God’s sake, I can’t even try to get in the Thanksgiving spirit and be nice to strangers. They’ll think I’m some sort of demented charitable mime if I start mouthing kind words about their adorable children.

And once I get there? How can I stay up late, drinking wine with my in-laws and psychoanalyzing everyone who will be sitting at the Thanksgiving table? How can I boss anyone around on Thanksgiving Day? How can I make snarky comments to my husband about his family? And what am I supposed to say when we go around the table and everyone has to declare what they’re most thankful for?

Oh, wait just a minute. I just realized something. I bet I know what Whit and the kids are going to say they’re thankful for.

I dare you, people! (And I am SCREAMING that.) (Inside my head.)

Happy Thanksgiving, particularly to the afflicted (points to herself) and those who are thankful for said affliction (points to her family).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Me, me and more me.

One thing you guys probably don’t realize is how much I love feedback on anything I write (well, I love nice feedback. I don’t love shrieky feedback). So, I read comments on my blog and comments on my Facebook page and notice retweets on Twitter and I can honestly say that your comments can sometimes leave me walking on air.

Bill Peebles at ihopeiwinatoaster left me a comment telling me he was awarding me the Liebster Award. He warned me that it could be a big fake joke but that it would be fun, and he asked me to play along. It’s kind of like the Facebook thing where you answer a bunch of questions and then tag people so they can answer them – silly, fun, harmless.

Plus it’s the first time the word "award" has ever been linked to my blog, so I can’t help but play along.

Warning: this is a looooong post. Sorry.

So here we go. Here are the rules:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the awarder has given you, the awardee.
3. You, now the awarder, create 11 questions for your nominees, who are now the awardees.
4. Choose 11 awardees, link to their website, and notify them.
5. No award-backs.

Eleven things about myself? Let’s see. (This feels a little narcissistic but you can stop reading at any time.)

I’m one of five kids; my older brother and I are Irish twins (11 months apart to the day) and then there are fraternal twins at the other end with my sister in the middle. We were all born in VERY rapid succession. The kind that makes you go, "ewww" when it’s your parents you’re talking about.

I once worked for an internet company where strippers were hired to be the receptionists. (No, I was not a receptionist.) (Or a stripper.)

On a business trip for another job, I got to ride a camel around the pyramids in Egypt. The camels smelled, and so did I, since I didn’t get to shower before we flew home. On another trip, I was guarded by Colombian police armed with machine guns everywhere I went. It was a kick-ass, cool job.

Airplane is my all-time favorite movie. It’s hilarious. Even my kids know how to respond when I ask, "Nervous? First time?"

If I could, I’d go to bed by 9:00 every night and wake up around 5:00 am to go for a run. But I can’t, and I don’t.

My three biggest vices are chocolate, wine and Diet Coke. And I don’t try really hard to give any of them up.

I have loved to read ever since I can remember. When I was nine, I sat on a couch and ate a whole bag of Chips Ahoy cookies and read three Nancy Drews, back to back. I wanted to be Nancy Drew: 18, with a blue convertible and a boyfriend named Ned. Sometimes I also wanted to be Trixie Belden and tried calling my friends "Honey" but they told me I was weird.

I have crazy, vivid dreams and seriously freaky nightmares. The retelling of my nightmares can scare other adults.

I cry over roadkill. Dead deer and smushed bunnies make me so sad. (Squished squirrels, though, just make me barf, so at least I discriminate.)

I am a professional worrier. If you have a problem but you don’t want to worry about it, tell me. I’ll worry for you. Obsessively.

I actually really love my in-laws. They say things like, "No, really, drink your wine and read your book while we play sardines with your children. You could use a break." Want to know who else on the planet says that to me? Right. NO ONE.

Okay, enough about me. Now, more about me.

Here are the questions I was asked to answer:

1. Were you pleasantly surprised or slightly irritated when I tagged you with this?
Pleasantly surprised. See above. I never get awards for anything.

2. Do you think I am sorry for that?
No. (That was an easy one.)

3. If you were to smack me upside the head for passing this on to you with your favorite book, what book would that be?
Fifty Shades of Grey? Nah, that’s a paperback. And poorly written. My favorite book is usually the last best book I read, which is currently Gone Girl.

4. If you had back the (enter minutes spent on this exercise here), what would you do with them?
I’d be walking the dog or going to CVS. Which is really where I need to be right now but I was flattered enough to sit down and answer your questions.

5. Do you think perfect strangers should stalk around the Internet and bestow odd awards and ask random questions? Why or why not?
Yes, because my favorite thing about the internet is strangers. I love that strangers choose to read what I write and sometimes tell me they like it, and not because I’m going to accost them in the carpool line to see if they thought my last post was funny.

6. How can words be so beautiful to read and so frightening to write?
Because you get so judged by what you write but the best writing is unrestrained. It’s a horribly vulnerable feeling to know someone is forming or reshaping an opinion of you based on a creative outlet you enjoy. I don't even write about the really interesting stuff in my life because it would leave me much more vulnerable than I am comfortable being. And maybe I'd get sued.

7. Do you like my hat?
I do not. Goodbye!

8. How many hotdogs do you consume on a weekly basis?
I despise hotdogs. But I could eat a good cheeseburger every other day and be happy. Fat, maybe, but happy.

9. You seem like a decent person, how did you become so?
I’m actually not that decent. I’m very passive aggressive and sometimes a little judgmental.

10. Pop-up toaster or toaster over?
Um, toaster oven. Bagels get stuck in pop-up toasters.

11. Where do you physically blog, as in, where are you right now and, did you ever suspect blogging would be this damned complicated?
I have an office in my house. I love it because it has beautiful curtains and a rug I really like. It’s part of the 10% of my house that’s actually been decorated. And I don’t think blogging is complicated because it’s how I discovered I can write stuff that makes people laugh. Or cry. Or feel superior to me. All of which is fine, as long as they’re reading.

Now I have to choose some awardees and ask them questions. I don’t follow eleven blogs that aren’t widely known, but I do have a few friends who occasionally blog. I don’t know that they want to be named, so I will just tell them to identify themselves in the comments if they want to continue with the award. In my opinion, anyone who likes to write will jump at a chance to write about almost anything, so I'll tag them privately and let them decide if they want to respond.

1. What motivates you to sit down and write?
2. What’s the hardest part of your day?
3. What’s your biggest vice?
4. What do you do to relax?
5. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
6. What makes you happy?
7. What’s the last best book you read?
8. What’s the weirdest thing about you?
9. What is the quality you love the most in other people?
10. What is the last thing you ate?
11. What was your favorite thing about the 80’s?

And that, my friends, is the end. Thanks to Bill for the honor!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crushing political disappointment? Have some mint chip.

My sister just texted me asking me where the hell my blog has gone for the past month. Well, I am officially Going Through A Lot (which, frankly, my sister knows since it’s mainly family shit and she’s Going Through A Lot, too, and she should know as well as anyone that you can’t really have a month in which you tape multiple DNR orders to multiple refrigerators and then turn around and write or say something funny. If I’m not trying to be funny, then I don’t really want to write about death because I have a standing date to write about my mother’s death every year and, frankly, death, while occasionally slightly funny, is really just sad and depressing and not worth focusing on until you have to.) And writing is like exercising in that you can get out of the habit really really fast, and sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for a short run or write a short post to try to get back in the habit because you’re happier when you’re doing it. (And I could make a sex joke here but I’ll let you do that.)

So, I will capitulate and talk politics, because there was a recent election that I REALLY cared about. One for which I enthusiastically made posters, rudely pushed my agenda on my friends, aggressively took to social media to further the chances of my candidate winning it all, and laid awake at night worrying about what the opposition would do.

That’s right.

Caroline ran for 5th grade president of the student council.

Now, I’ll be honest. When she said she hoped her class would nominate her to run, I hoped she wouldn’t get nominated. Mainly because I was being a bad mother and I didn’t want to deal with the drama of a ten-year-old girl in a popularity contest. But she was nominated, and she ran, and she made cute posters (even though I told her, "Don’t be hesitant, vote Caroline for president" was a bit wordy and that hesitant was a big word for the younger kids to even pronounce).

She ran against three great kids, one girl and two boys. She’s friends with all of them and I’m friends with all their mothers, and I knew for a fact that any of these guys would rock it as president. We all sat in the gym a few weeks ago and listened to four earnest speeches filled with humor and honesty and promises.

Caroline lost.

She was edged out by a boy in a wig who sang "Call Me Maybe." (There was a girl who sang Katy Perry who did win another office, so perhaps Caroline’s downfall was that she can’t carry a tune. We’ll never know.)

Do I wish she had won? Sort of. But only sort of, because I have to say the big life lesson was in losing. And by "big life lesson," I mean for me. Because, for maybe the first time, I got to see Caroline handle what was, relative to her happy life, a huge disappointment. And I got to step back and just see what she did.

So yes, I got to see a few tears. But then I got to see her instantly congratulate her friend who won. And I got to see her adorable friends hug her and tell her they voted for her. And I got to see her wonder if maybe she could run for class representative. And I got to see her not take it personally, and not place blame anywhere. And when I gently pointed out that it was pretty amazing that she had the confidence to stand up in front of her whole school, I got to see a perplexed look that told me she couldn’t imagine why someone wouldn’t be able to stand in front of hundreds of kids and all her teachers and talk about how great she is.

Of course, I’m her mom, and she’s one of the two brightest lights of my life, so I think she did win. And I think she really won the most after she lost the election, but she is only ten and not quite deep enough to understand that. And part of the reason I’m writing all this down is that so one day, when she’s older and deeper and suffers a (relatively) crushing disappointment, I can remind her that she is capable of handling almost anything with grace and confidence and kindness. And I realized that, as a grownup who occasionally suffers some disappointment or sadness, I could take a page from her book.

And Caroline’s takeaway?

She woke up this morning and, in a purely nonpartisan comment, announced, "I sure do know how that Mitt Romney feels. Someone better take him out for ice cream."