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Archive for September, 2008

Responsibility, reshmonsibility.

Back when I was a little kid in grade school, before I had all this responsibility, I rode the school bus.  Since we lived in the country it was a long trip to the school, through farm land, down roads that had no lines painted on them because they just weren’t wide enough to support two dedicated lanes.  Because I was not then, nor am I now, a morning kind of person, the ride in the mornings was a chance for my wee little grade-school brain to daydream that I was anywhere else besides on a school bus.  My favorite dream involved staring out the window and imagining myself on a horse, racing alongside the bus, jumping ditches and creeks. 

Yes, I was a weird kid.  I could have daydreamed that horse taking me anywhere but school, and yet there I was, racing the school bus.  Guess that explains why I never ditched school; I couldn’t come up with a better alternative.  (Goody Two Shoes, thy name is Mox.) 

There are times where I wish I could go back to that particular daydream, imagining myself racing free across fields and jumping ditches.  It’s hard to revisit those old daydreams of youth, when you know what you know as an adult. 

Yesterday and today and tomorrow, as a matter of fact, would be nice days to revisit that imagined freedom.  But I have this thing called responsibility, and while what I know about economics wouldn’t fit on the head of a pin, I know enough to know that my responsibility just got a little harder yesterday. 

The hard thing to realize about the economic crisis we’re facing today is that basically you and I (if you are in the same boat as I am, and a good many of us are in this boat) are helpless until something gets resolved.  Which is to say, there is nothing I can do to push this bailout forward.  And to call it a bailout really toys with the emotions of common folk like me.  Where is MY bailout?  Who out there will rescue me from my own foolishness? 

Look, I believe that each of us is the architect of our own life.  The decisions we make shape the course of our life, and there is no sense blaming anyone else for our screw-ups.  Had I chosen to ditch school all those years ago, chosen to escalate that behavior to the point that I got expelled, chosen to become an uneducated blight on society, chosen to get addicted to something or have children out of wedlock or refused to get a job… well, then, those would have been my choices and it would not make any sense to blame any of that on anyone else but myself.  It is not the government’s responsibility to save me from myself. 

I guess what I am saying is, that with my limited understanding of this economic mess we’re in right now, I’m not really sure how I feel about this bailout.  It’s a problem of our own creation, we have allowed things to go along this path, and now we’re looking to the government to stop it from plunging over the edge into the abyss.  I can see where the bailout is necessary to avoid a catastrophic collapse of our economy, but I also hate that we’ve allowed it to come to this. 

My great-grandfather was a prominent businessman in a small town in Kentucky at the beginning of the 20th century.  He owned movie theatres and restaurants and ice cream parlors, and he and his family lived in a big house on a hill.  In 1929 he literally lost everything.  It not only ruined him financially, it ruined him emotionally.  He was never able to recapture the entrepreneurial drive he’d had before.  He took a job as a night watchman at a tobacco warehouse, and he waited the rest of his life to die. 

I wonder what he would make of the world that his great-granddaughter is living in today. 

 

— Mox

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My bad? I think not.

This is where my crotchety side comes out in the light of day for everyone to see. 

The other day I was volleying emails back and forth with a salesperson who had no freaking clue what the hell she was doing with regard to one of my accounts.  The details of the problem aren’t really important, but I finally got her straightened out and the next time I spoke with her she attempted to apologize for her screw-up by calling the problem “totally my bad.” 

The hell? 

I get kind of irritated at what passes for proper business discourse amongst the newly-minted working set.  This ranks right up there with saying “no problem” when what you mean is “you’re welcome”  — which I believe I have ranted about here before. 

Listen, if you are a young person just starting out in a career, take the time to learn how to use the proper parlance of business.  So you got that degree from GreatBigUniversity and you understand all the theories and practices that you were forced to snooze through the lectures on.  Good for you.  Only it’s too bad your tuition didn’t include a course on how to talk to your elders in the business world. 

And hey, I’m all for colloquialisms.  I use them all the time.  For examples please see just about any post on this blog.  I’m a casual sort of person.  But when you screw up you need to acknowledge it with something else besides lingo that would pass for high conversation at the frat house. 

Of course this could just be me getting all het up about the spaciness and stupidity of one salesperson.  In which case, my bad. 

 

— Mox

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So over the weekend, the spouses of all the gathered cousins started comparing notes on us and our family traits.  Turns out, one of the biggest things my family is known for, and is most irritating about (according to the spouses), is having a plan. 

Huh.  Not a spontaneous one in the bunch. 

And none of us denied it.  We are ALL about being planned out.  The fact that this past weekend was planned in scrupulous detail back in July was damning evidence. 

I like a plan.  I like a routine.  I like having a place for everything and everything in its’ place.  I realize that what this says about me is none too flattering, but to also know that this sort of thing is apparently in my DNA allows me to shrug it off as “just the way I am.”  Believe me, I don’t need anything else to beat myself up about. 

I try to be spontaneous from time to time.  It never works out.  Left to blow in the wind, I usually manage to have something of a mini-breakdown and end up sitting in the corner talking to myself.  I inevitably need something of a plan, even if it’s only a rough outline of a plan.  I can sort of cope with a cobbled-together version of a plan.  I just need something to focus on. 

So when I read this post over at Bitch Ph.D., I chuckled to myself, because this is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about when I express a need to have a plan.  This sounds like something that would happen in my household, and while I’m all for Spawn needing to understand spontaneity and maybe learning to be a little less structured (because the kid isn’t going to see it out of me), I would totally be sitting home smugly while my husband abandoned a camping trip in favor of a Comfort Inn. 

Being a planner is one of the reasons that Spawn’s babyhood was all about setting up and maintaining a routine.  My husband scoffed at me for it at the time, but when you have a kid with ADHD and Tourettes, keeping a routine helps to control the frequency and intensity of meltdowns.  The kid likes to know what to expect, and I don’t mind lining it out.  My husband is more of the bumblebee type, hither and yon in his daily plans, and while that works for him I do think it would freak Spawn the hell out to not know what to expect from the day. 

Chalk another one up for Mox as Primary Parent. 

I think that we are how we are because of the world’s need for us in some capacity.  It’s just my lot in life to come from a family of planners, and to be the parent of someone who needs that kind of structure.  A leopard can’t change her spots. 

 

— Mox

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Brewhaha

One of the things I enjoy the most about visiting Chicago (other than the chance to hang with my relatives) is the limitless opportunities for food and drink.  A chain restaurant is a chain restaurant is a chain restaurant, but an original restaurant is worth its’ weight in gold, if you ask me.  My only request whenever I visit and take complete advantage of my relatives’ kindness is that they take me to eat foods I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get here in Podunk, the Land of the Chain Restaurant.  I am never, ever, disappointed.  And whatever food regimen I happen to be on (I can’t call them diets because I don’t actually lose any weight) goes right out the window. 

Have I mentioned that I am all about not denying myself?  Yeah. 

One thing Chicagoans take very seriously is beer.  In the course of this past weekend I have encountered more brands of beer than I ever knew existed, and I have discovered just exactly how plebeian my tastes can be.  I know what I like.  I like beer.  I like a nice lager, I like a nice red ale.  I do pretty well with most of what comes out of Milwaukee.  And because I have this aversion to spending money on beer that I don’t like the taste of, I tend to order from the same basic list of national brands. 

I don’t get out much, beer-ly speaking.  Around here there’s not much need or opportunity. 

If I were to live in an area like Chicago, where there is great diversity in culture, food, and drink, I am reasonably certain I would be a foodie of the highest order.  Because wow, up there — on tap! — are beers I have never heard of in my little redneck countrified existence.  You know how wine aficionados can identify subtle hints of oak or a berry complexity in their glass?  That would be me, sitting at the bar, sampling what’s on tap.  My favorite would be whatever complements a spicy dish. 

Please notice that there is no mention of me doing any actual cooking in this post.  I am a big fan of letting someone else do all the work. 

 

— Mox

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Short version:  Cubs win. 

Saw some pictures of myself from this weekend and OMG do I ever look like my mother. 

There was drinking. 

Naperville, Illinois, is a lovely, and neat, little city.  As is Wheaton, Illinois. 

Wrigleyville is the epicenter of crazy. 

Six hours in a car with no books to read is a recipe for an episode of Snapped. 

There is laundry. 

Maybe tomorrow I can string together some coherent thoughts. 

 

— Mox

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I have something of a confession to make:  even though I have been waiting and waiting for this weekend to arrive, I almost don’t want to go. 

Almost.  Not enough that I actually would cancel, you understand. 

It’s just that — oh, I don’t know — there’s a lot of stuff going on this weekend that I’d rather not have to miss.  Why is it there are weeks and weeks of yawning boredom and then everything all happens at once? 

For one thing, my kid’s school fall festival is this weekend.  I can remember as a kid loving the fall festival.  My aunt & uncle lived right across the street from the school and we’d always go over there and park and walk across the street and spend the whole weekend over there.  It was fun.  My cousin and I would have free run of the whole thing, carnival rides and cotton candy and hoky little games, and we’d meet up occasionally with our parents, who were in the bingo hall eating catfish dinners and drinking beer and trying to bingo.  They’d give us more money and off we’d go again.  Of course this was back in the 70’s, when no one gave a second thought to perverts and kidnappers lurking about waiting to snatch up an unchaperoned kid. 

I miss those times. 

Now that we’re the parents in the school my husband and I will be manning the funnel cake booth for a couple of hours on Friday night, while my parents escort Spawn around and dole out money.  And then we’re leaving Spawn with my parents and headed out of town. 

Where are we going, you ask? 

We’re meeting up with some of my cousins and spending the weekend in Chicago.  At our last family reunion, which had all the earmarks of being the LAST one, the cousins decided that if we were going to stay connected we’d have to make more of an effort to get together from time to time.  So this weekend we’ve got tickets to a Cubs game.  At Wrigley.  Which crosses off two of the items on my lifetime to-do list. 

And since I am in something of a confessional mood, I confess this:  I wish I liked baseball more. 

The players’ strike of the mid-90’s sort of soured me on baseball, and I quit following the teams after that.  Prior to 1994 I was all about Bo Jackson and George Brett, and glad I could be tuned in to see the retirement of Brett, who remains one of my husband’s favorite players (and who also shares a birthday with my husband).  And really, the Royals tanked after all the hoohah of the strike, so it was easy to just let my interest in baseball wane.  I got interested to see Sosa and McGwire chase Maris’ record, but once that was accomplished I retired my interest once again. 

Most of what I like about baseball is physically being at a game, anyway.  We’ve gone to a few minor league games over the years and that’s been enjoyable, but with major league teams being several hours away it’s hard to sustain a lot of excitement about baseball. 

And with all that said, I am sort of stoked to be headed to Wrigley.  Beer and peanuts and people and a honest-to-god real baseball game in front of me — what’s not to love? 

 

— Mox

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From the Ways I Kid Myself files: 

Because I have weak willpower, I can rationalize that Tropical Blizzard from DQ, since it is loaded with pecans and pecans are nuts and nuts are good for you.  And it also has bananas in it, and they have potassium, and that is also good for you. 

In the back of my mind I know that what I am doing is kidding myself, so at least I try to control my portion sizes.  I get the small. 

I do the same thing with Peanut M&Ms.  And Almond M&Ms.  Rationalize the nuts, get the small bag. 

I am ALL ABOUT not denying myself. 

 

— Mox

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Avoiding.

I come from the dieting philosophy that you can eat what you want just so long as you exercise.  My husband’s thinking on the subject is diametrically opposed, meaning that he finds it necessary to severely restrict what and how much he eats in order to sit around on his butt. 

To me this is no way to live. 

He and I both embarked on a diet of sorts just a little over a week ago.  His diet of sorts is called low-carbing and it is one of those things that he does that makes me crazy.  Because not only do I have to take into consideration what a very picky seven-year-old will eat, I now have to further restrict my dinner preparations to what a very picky 43-year-old will eat.  And since I am no great shakes in the kitchen, my life gets infinitely more complicated during the hours of 5 to 7PM. 

I’ve got to admit that his approach works… for him.  Last week he was boasting that he lost seven pounds.  At that point I hadn’t even weighed myself.  I try to say things like “the number on the scale doesn’t bother me as much as where it’s located on my body” and believe them, but after a while I just decided to go ahead and weigh myself and get it over with. 

Half. a. friggin’. pound. 

Left to my own devices, you understand, I would not cook one whit.  It’s just not worth it.  But I feel like I must at least make an attempt to have a family meal, for Spawn’s sake.  But I know that Spawn can feel my torpor with regard to the domestic arts, and so maybe what that means is that I am teaching the kid how to lie about stuff. 

I am a great human being sometimes, and a great mom. 

None of this changes my philosophy, you understand.  I still eat what I want (mostly) and don’t deny myself.  I go to these ridiculously painful exercise classes and I push myself to walk a couple of miles, and I try to convince myself that I am healthy. 

And just so long as my clothes fit better I try not to worry too much about what the scale says. 

 

— Mox

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I spent most of the weekend trying to keep my body from involuntarily curling up into a fetal position.  Oh. my. God.  Saturday morning I somehow managed to uncurl myself and get upright, but I can tell you this — racing around in a hot field wielding a butterfly net high in the air over your head is tough to do when your abs have revolted. 

I’ll let that image soak into your brain for a sec.  Makes me sound like a weirdo, doesn’t it? 

Saturday morning I promised Spawn that we’d participate in the Monarch Migration Mystery program offered by our local state park.  If you don’t know, Monarch butterflies migrate south to Mexico for the winter and return north in the spring.  Our area is right in the flight path.  The MMM program enlists regular citizens (and eco-geeks and those with young kids who like bugs) to catch the Monarchs and tag them and record data about them so that scientists can study their migration patterns. 

The tagging site is located about ten miles from the edge of civilization, which is to say, at the edge of the earth.  It’s in the river bottoms, where no human lives because the river bottoms tend to flood a lot.  The area is a federally managed wildlife refuge, so at least the roads are mostly blacktopped.  Mostly.  Lots of cropland out that way.  Cell phone service is spotty at best out there, and if you are a modern human the thought of not getting a signal out in the middle of the boonies is a bit disconcerting.  Especially since down in the river bottoms there are things like poisonous snakes.  I hate to admit it but it’s been so long since I was out tromping around in the fields in the sticks that I was a little nervous about being unplugged for the bulk of the morning.  But since there were about 30 of us lost in the tall weeds at least we had the safety of numbers. 

Also, it was hot.  And we had to wear long pants and lace-up shoes.  So yes, we were hot.  And the weeds, they were indeed tall.  As a kid I was used to having weeds taller than me, but as an adult having weeds taller than me made me feel pretty alone.  I told Spawn that if we got separated to hold the butterfly net up high so I could reorient myself and get us back together.  Last thing I wanted was for the Creature From the Black Lagoon to snatch up my kid. 

Last years’ MMM program tagged over 300 butterflies over the span of two weekends.  I think this year there will be considerably fewer tagged, because Spawn and I only caught two untagged.  And we were out there for two hours.  Several of the others had about the same luck.  I caught the same butterfly at least twice, one that was already tagged. 

Someone found a turtle.  A turtle is high on Spawn’s list of Pets To Have, and I could see the wheels turning in the kid’s head of just how to convince me that we should take it home.  But we were on federal property, and that would have been illegal.  So I explained for the umpteenth time that a wild creature should stay in the wild because that is its’ home.  And we took the turtle over to the treeline where there was some good vegetation cover and a water source, and it took me ten minutes to convince Spawn that the turtle wasn’t going to come out of its’ shell until we were gone. 

As a kid, I had a turtle.  His name was George.  He was not an exciting pet.  But a turtle is a lot less work than, say, a dog, which is another animal that is on Spawn’s list.  As is a hedgehog.  And a snake (oh hell no).  And a hermit crab.  And a lizard.  Seven cats are just not enough.  And while I wouldn’t really mind too much indulging my kid in having this sort of menagerie (minus the snake, obvs), I am also quite well aware that the bulk of the responsibility would fall to me and quite frankly I do not have the time to feed and care for all of those critters. 

Anyway. 

The MMM program records where the tagged butterflies end up and the ones that make it all the way to Mexico earn an official certificate for the person who captured and tagged them.  I don’t hold out a lot of hope that the two we caught will make it all the way to Michoacán but if they do what a cool thing for the kid to learn. 

And in the meantime I am holding myself upright at all times.  I am afraid that if I start to slump I will curl up and never be able to look the world in the eye again.  And yes, I plan on abusing my abs again this week in the same class.  No pain, no gain. 

 

— Mox

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OK, so last night I went to my “Awesome Abs” class while Spawn was in tumbling class, and I am here to tell you, I have learned some things about myself. 

One is that I am woefully, pitifully, painfully uncoordinated. 

Another is that I am more out of shape than I thought. 

I fully expected to “feel the burn” in my abs last night while being coached through a series of kickboxing moves and crunching reps.  Didn’t happen.  Thought I’d be a human question mark this morning after the ache set in.  Didn’t happen. 

What did happen was that both of my arches on the bottoms of my feet seized up in cramps.  And the muscles at the tops of my thighs quivered and shook.  And my ass hurts. 

Everything but the abs.  So either my abs are actually in pretty good shape (underneath that layer of flab) or my aforementioned uncoordination helped me to work out a completely different set of muscles. 

And STILL I got up this morning and went to the gym and walked two miles.  Because I am a glutton for punishment. 

And in a weird perverse way, I am actually enjoying my post-workout ache today.  Feels like I actually did something.  That might be that fabled endorphin rush talking, but whatever. 

I may be over the threshold of 40 and two steps into the room, but I’m going down swinging. 

 

 

— Mox

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