Month: January 2012

Don’t Fence Me In

None of us deserves to be stuffed into a box.

I was at the gym today, riding the exercise bike, wearing my headphones, and reading a magazine when an older gentleman walked by me. I don’t normally notice what others are doing at the gym, but this gentleman got my attention because he stopped right in front of my bike. He paused for a moment, quite obviously checking out what I was reading. Then he looked directly at me, raised his eyebrows, and continued on with a smile. I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of his actions. I suppose it’s possible he was impressed. Maybe he’d never seen a woman reading articles in The Economist before? Perhaps he was surprised I could ride, read, and listen to my iPod at the same time? Maybe he wasn’t entirely sure a blonde could read at all and he was shocked? I’ll never know because I kept right on pedaling.

The whole wordless encounter had the wheels in my brain spinning as fast as I was spinning that bike, though. That man’s bemused countenance, although it shouldn’t have, flat out bugged me. I’d love to assume that his smile was full of compliment and not condescension, but I don’t believe that. I think he was judging me with both his surprise and his amusement. I didn’t like it.

We are too quick to put people into a box based on our own prejudices and preconceived notions. I know I have a grand time doing this. Truth is, though, no one fits neatly into any category. We’re all unique and interesting with our quirks and preferences. I went to college in liberal Boulder where I studied the arts. I recycle like a woman possessed. I bag my own groceries with cloth bags. I love to practice yoga. Although all those things have a friend convinced I’m something of a hippie, I would counter that my intense dislike of patchouli, tie dye, and Birkenstocks puts me firmly on the outside of traditional hippie culture. I’m a Democrat, but I am against the Estate Tax and want to see wasteful government programs and subsidies suspended. I’m an introvert who will stand up and speak in front of groups. I hate spiders but will capture a snake stuck in our window well. I’m an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Aren’t we all?

A while back I was recounting to a friend my annoyance when I tell someone I’m a stay-at-home mom and that announcement effectively ends our conversation. My friend’s response was, “Why do you tell them that, then?”  That was a light bulb moment for me. Why do I wrap myself up in the mantle of stay-at-home mom and then scorn others who then think of me solely in that fashion? What other choice did I give them? Sure. I’m a mom. But, I’m also much more. Who I am is not reflected in any one thing I do but evident in my complexity. Why do I fold myself into such a neat little package for others when I’m claustrophobic to begin with? I think we’d all be much happier if we unboxed ourselves and took more time to unwrap others as well.

Siri-ously…I’m Being Replaced

iClouds

My sister got an iPhone this weekend. It’s funny how fast technology can take hold of a person. It seems like just yesterday she was questioning me about how to set up  iCloud, and today she used Siri to call me. Wait. It was just yesterday she was asking me about iCloud. See what I mean?

I realized after talking to my sister today that Siri may just replace me as our family’s resident know-it-all.

Kathy: “Siri is amazing. I asked her to remind me to get the license plates, and she actually said What time would you like to me remind you? I told her 2 p.m. and she put it on my calendar. And then I said Call Justine and she did. She’s the best personal assistant ever. Wonder what else I can ask her?”

Me: “You can ask her anything. You can ask her about movies you might want to see or get information on the nearest sushi place. You can have her give you Aunt Helen’s address or put together your shopping list. Wait a minute. Wait just one minute. Something amazing just occurred to me.”

Kathy: “What?”

Me: “Now that you have Siri you’re going to be annoying me a lot less.”

Kathy: “Excuse me?”

Me: “With phone calls, I mean. You know, the ones where you treat me like I’m your personal Google? Now when you have a question about who sings that Don’t You Want Me song, Siri can tell you it’s The Human League and you won’t have to call and ask me about it.”

Kathy: “Huh. I hadn’t thought that.”

Me: “WOOHOO!!! Free at last! Free at last. I thank god I’m free at last!”

Kathy: “Wow. I had no idea you were so vexed by my phone calls.”

Me: “Think of all the free time I’ll have now. I’ll finally be able to take that trip I’ve always wanted to go on but couldn’t take for fear you’d be lost without me.”

Kathy: “Don’t make ask Siri to hang up on you.”

Siri’s entry as the fourth sister in our family is going greatly lessen my frustration at being everyone’s go-to answer person. I can use annoyance reduction wherever I can get it. I thought I might be jealous that Kathy got the iPhone 4S while I was stuck with my lowly iPhone 4, but now I see how shortsighted that thought was. I don’t need the 4S. I merely need every other person in my life to get one so they’ll stop pestering me. Siri may be everyone else’s personal assistant, but she’s my new best friend.

Lego Jus

A Lego representation of our family

My son Luke is our resident Lego fanatic. I would not like to hazard a guess about how many Legos he has. But if someone threatened to cut off my arm unless I estimated his Lego-worth, I’d conjecture that he has at least 5000 actual Lego pieces. It’s ridiculous. It’s the only toy he has asked for each and every birthday and Christmas since he turned 6. I would be disgusted by the whole situation if he wasn’t such a creative kid and a gifted builder. I’m quite accustomed to seeing Luke’s amazing creations that are the result of his merging pieces from several different sets.

Joe does not have Luke’s gift for Legos. He has built sets, mostly with Luke’s help, but he’s not the Lego visionary that Luke is. He wants to be, but he’s not there yet. Or so I thought. Yesterday, however, I was sitting at the counter working on my computer when Joe brought up a Lego creation. It was a representation of our family, each of us in our own likeness, as if we were gathered together in our dining area. Lego Joe was sitting at the table wearing his favorite green fleece jacket. Lego Steve was standing there looking dashing, a perfect representation minus the salt and pepper needed for his plastic hair. Lego Luke was petting Lego Ruby, who was the spitting image of her doggie self down to her reddish-brown and white border collie markings and her red collar. Then, there was Lego Justine. I had the long, blonde hair, the grey yoga pants, and the lipsticked lips. Looked like me all right. Then I noticed that Joe had me with my back turned to my family as I typed away on my computer. Ouch.

As utterly impressed as I was with Joe’s creation, his first ever fabricated solely using his own imagination, it was a bit sobering. Yep. That’s how you’ll find me far too often, sitting at the kitchen counter with my face turned to my MacBook and my back turned toward whatever else is going on in my house. Sad, but true. I suppose this is partly what I signed on for when I decided to focus on writing more. I imagine there are worse ways my son could have depicted me. I could have been napping on the couch or standing over him threateningly with a rolling pin in my hand. Those might not have been accurate representations but they certainly would have given me greater reason to pause. I’m simply going to let go of the notion that Lego me is glued to the computer like living me. I’m going to chose, instead, to focus on the fact that our Lego family is just like our real family, happily hanging out together in the heart of our home. I’m sure that’s what Joe was going for. 😉

I’m A Princess and This Is My Tiara

"Of course, I'm beautiful. I'm a princess, and this is my tiara!"

Let me start out by saying that I was never a “girly” girl. I never had a pink room, liked bubble baths, or cared for frilly dresses. I didn’t paint my nails, take ballet lessons, or wear ribbons in my hair. I never identified with princesses nor had dreams of Prince Charming. I’m pragmatic and, frankly, all that stuff seemed like an incredible waste of time to a girl who would rather hang with the boys, catch salamanders at Sandstone Park, and run barefoot after dark playing Capture the Flag. Sometimes, being not girly is more fun.

Yesterday, however, I was watching a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, a show I adore because it’s both intelligent and incredibly funny. The dialogue is writer’s genius. For example:

Sheldon: “Why are you crying?”

Penny: “Because I’m stupid.”

Sheldon: “Well, that’s no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid, and that makes me sad.”

Like I said, genius.

My favorite character is Amy Farrah Fowler. Although I relate more to Sheldon (not because I’m a genius but because I share his dislike for people and his inability to appreciate social conventions), Amy ‘s intelligence coupled with her over-the-top desire to be a “normal” girl make her hysterical. And, no one could play Amy the way Mayim Bialik does. Whoever cast her is a mastermind. She’s completely bizarre and yet somehow fully likable.

At any rate, the episode I saw yesterday had Amy and Sheldon at odds. To smooth over Amy’s ruffled feathers, Sheldon at his friend’s suggestion decides to buy Amy a gift so he can circumvent any further arguing. It works. Sheldon gives Amy a tiara, and it effectively ends the fight. Amy’s reaction to the tiara is priceless, and it got me to thinking. Every woman, even a not girly girl, deserves a tiara. It’s just that simple.

So, yesterday I went tiara shopping. After polling Heather M, my in-the-know shopping friend, I headed to the local mall to Claire’s. I’ve never stepped foot in Claire’s before because 1) it’s a girly store for pre-teens and 2) it’s a store filled with girly pre-teens. But, sure enough, just as Heather predicted there were rhinestone tiaras to be had. Yes. Tiaras. Plural. While my boys, none too thrilled with being dragged to the mall, sat outside in horror and shame, I stood in there among the girls and tried on tiaras. It was oddly fun. Finally I selected one, paid the obnoxious teenage clerk who had rolled her eyes at me when I was trying them on and she thought I couldn’t see her (newsflash, sweetie…I was looking into a mirror…I could SEE you behind me) and left with my tiara in a bag.

I got home, put it on, and walked in the kitchen to show Steve. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

“What is that for?” he inquired.

“I’m a princess, and this is my tiara,” I replied.

He didn’t say a thing. Just moved on to the next topic while I walked around wearing my tiara. Smart man.

I know it’s a silly for a grown woman to have a rhinestone tiara. It’s whimsical. It’s foolish. I’ll probably never wear it out anywhere except perhaps to a costume party. But I’m fairly certain that on my next really bad day I’m going to dig it out of my lingerie drawer, place it atop my head, and remind myself over a tasty glass of Cab that I rule this kingdom, such that it is. And, if the men in my life are as intelligent as I think they are, they will learn that when I’m wearing that tiara they’d best not mess with me. You never argue with a princess in a tiara unless you want to find yourself shackled in a dungeon that’s guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. I may not be a girly girl, but I do understand the inherent power in being a princess.

 

Drinking Lattes by the Sea, Mamacita

A true friend knows it's totally okay to get you a mug like this.

I got this mug last night from my friend Heather. I’m not exactly sure what the occasion was. She simply said, “It had to be done.” She was right. What makes the mug is that the somewhat vulgar sentiment is put into a heart shape. Nothing is as sweet as a heart with the word motherf@#*er in it, right?

I love that Heather knows me well enough to know that I would appreciate this mug and not find it offensive. On the contrary, I had my latte in it this morning and I will continue to do so every day until the writing wears off and the mug is just plain white (at which point I’ll probably start wondering where the hell I got the plain white mug from). But, what makes this gift unbelievably special is the thought behind it. I honestly believe Heather wants me to write like a motherf@#*er. She wants me to pursue my passion and pour my heart into it. She is with me as I travel down this writing road with its potholes, speed bumps, and unpaved sections. She’s also with me when the highway runs smoothly and we’re cruising with the top down, enjoying the sunshine on our faces. She’s the Louise to my Thelma, and we’re about to have an adventure of epic proportions.

Don’t worry, Heather. I’m not about to give up on writing. I’m going to keep writing like a motherf@#*er. And, I’ll make sure I write a better ending for us than Thelma and Louise got.

Mom’s Day Out

This is goofing off.

It’s Mom’s Day Out. I don’t have unproductive days very often. It’s my nature to be busy and accomplish a lot in the course of 24 hours. Out of coincidence, however, today I ended up scheduling a lunch date with my college roommates (it is Rachel’s birthday today) and a dinner date with my friend Heather just because weeks ago we decided we both wanted an evening sans children. It’s a great thing when you wake up and realize that you’re not going to be cleaning house today or running errands. It’s merely a dedicated day for goofing off.

Okay. Okay. It wasn’t entirely a day off. I did have to get the kids ready for school and then drive them there. And I had to get in the dog’s three mile walk. I had some laundry to fold and a dishwasher to unload. I also had to run by the bank, pick my boys up from school, and help with homework. Other than that, though, the day was mine.

I sat for two hours with my old friends at lunch laughing and talking about crazy times at CU. Afterward before getting the kids I ran by Sports Authority and tried on ski pants. Then I came home and searched for the exact ski pants I tried on and found them at www.altrec.com for $30 less than they were at the store plus free shipping. SCORE! Now I am desperately trying to get ready to meet Heather for barbeque (our weakness), so I am doing my makeup in between typing lines on my blog.

I hope you’ll excuse me for bailing out on writing anything meaningful today. You see…it’s Mom’s Day Out and for that to occur I actually need to get OUT.

“We don’t stop playing because we turn old. We turn old because we stop playing.” ~Author Unknown

Information Blackout

The day my blog host went black.

Today, some Internet sites carried out a silent protest. Wikipedia, Google, and Craigslist, along with many blog sites, went black to prepare Internet users for what they might be seeing more of in the future. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) are being introduced to stop copyright infringement, especially in the instances of music, television, and movies. Now, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t claim to understand the finer details of this legislation, but from what I do understand it would essentially make web site owners responsible for all content on their site. Any copyright infringement on the site could cause the entire site to be blacked out for non-compliance with the new law. Can you imagine hopping onto Google only to find it blocked entirely or heavily censored? It appears that SOPA and PIPA are the equivalent of the government taking a big black pen and marking out entire chapters of information available online. With them enacted, our Internet becomes a censored text book.

Now, I do agree that copyright infringement runs rampantly on the Internet and needs to be stopped. I understand how it greatly decreases profits for those whose materials are being pirated. If I were a songwriter who made my living by selling my music and suddenly everyone could download it for free without my consent, I would be fairly unhappy. So, I wholeheartedly agree that something must be done to curtail if not entirely cease copyright infringement. I just think this current legislation, while it would be a quick fix, is a bit extreme.

Ten years ago when Joe was just an infant I got most of my news from the television. I used the Internet primarily for email and my desktop (yes…desktop) computer for writing my master’s thesis and our holiday letters replete with random cheesy clip art. Ten years ago, email was my lifeline. My hubby and I also watched movies on VHS tapes. Fast forward to today and I am lost without my iPhone, my digital video, and music playlists (not mix tapes). When I’m at the zoo with my kids and they have a question about the diet of the orangutan, I pull up Google on my smartphone and get them an answer in an instant. When 9/11 rolled around this year and my kids asked me what it was like on that day, I was able to find on You Tube the exact news footage I watched on that dreadful morning in 2001. These experiences, so commonplace today, might become a memory if this legislation passes. What good is all the technology we possess if we can’t use it to its fullest capacity? Why would we ever think it’s okay to limit people’s access to information?

If you want to see how life altering these Internet changes could be, try going one full day with any social media, Internet search engines, or blog sites. Don’t watch any video clips on You Tube, either. I simply thought about that today and got the shakes. The Internet has opened up the world for me. I’m not prepared to let that go. Are you?

Please let your congressional representative know how you feel.