Archive for July, 2009

(File this one under I Am An Old Fart.) 

Last night I had the rare opportunity to sit down and watch a little TV, just to kill some time.  It’s not often that I get the TV and the remote all to myself, or for that matter have the house all to myself, but there I was.  (Frankly, I was a little lost.)  Spawn was at my parents’ house, my husband was out of town, and I was waiting for the appointed time to head out to Spawn’s school for a mandatory parent meeting. 

I put a load in the washer, fed the cats, and sat down for a few minutes in front of the TV.  I ran through the cable guide to see what was on, and you know what?  There was nothing on that I really wanted to see.  I flipped around for just a little bit and somehow I landed on a show on MTV called “Teen Cribs.” 

For the uninitiated, Teen Cribs is all about touring unbelievably enormous and tricked-out houses, designed as mortgage-bearing playrooms for the teens that live in them. 

For about ten minutes, I sat agog. 

Hey, I realize that even in today’s crazy economy, there are people living the high life.  There are some super-rich folks out there.  The people featured in this “reality” show (and I use that term “reality” loosely, hence the quotation marks) aren’t celebrities, as you might suspect.  Celebrities, we expect to live large.  These are just regular non-celebrity rich folks.  (Also using the word “regular” loosely, as there is nothing regular about them.) 

But really.  I guess it’s nice and all, to have gobs of money to build indoor playrooms the likes of which one might find in, oh, Vegas.  I have a few people of my own personal acquaintance with the odd pinball machine or big-screen TV in their basement, who have a nice swimming pool or tennis court or stables, or all of the above.  I’ve been in a few houses that seem to ramble on for days.  Still?  The homes featured on this show were over. the. top. 

The premise of the show is that the teens themselves take the audience on a tour of the home, showing off the toys and games and doodads that keep them and their friends from ever leaving the premises.  Why go to the arcade at the mall when you have one at home, right?  And in watching these teens schump and mumble their way through the tours, I got to wondering (and flat-out assuming) if these kids had any sense of entitlement. 

We all know someone from our youth who was deemed the “rich kid” in the school.  That was the person who got a new car for their 16th birthday, and it was a new new car, complete with the new car smell and Mercedes/BMW/Audi emblem on it.  The person who had the best of everything, the latest, the name-brand.  It was obvious they had money.  Having come of age in the 1980’s there was a lot of conspicuous consumption going on in my rather large high school.  To a one, each of those rich kids was an entitled snob.  I often thought how cool it would be to suddenly come into a pile of money and have those kids want to be my friend, only to feel quite justified in rebuffing their friendship.  (Hey, I was a teenager.  Not only did I live in FantasyLand I harbored animosity toward the popular crowd.  Results are typical, I suppose.) 

I flipped the TV off after watching a couple of segments of the show because I was, in all honesty, taken aback.  How nice for them to be so rich.  How nice for them to be able to flaunt it so.  Whereas in this neck of the woods there are agencies out there begging for people to donate school supplies so that kids, whose parents are out of work, are able to have pencils and folders and backpacks. 

I don’t watch a lot of MTV, mostly because I’m not in a position to sit and watch TV.  But I’m not their demographic, and I know this.  I used to be in their demographic when all they did was play music videos, but times have changed, and I guess so have I.  To show that kind of lavish teen living when the bulk of the people watching it are somewhere far below that line, in this day and age, seems to me to be uninspired and uncreative programming on MTV’s part.  And then to call it “reality” TV is adding insult to injury. 

Thing is, I know the difference btween “reality” and reality.  The bulk of young people having this sort of thing presented to their wondering eyes don’t have a lot of distinction between the two.  No wonder kids are rotten and entitled.  What they see presented as reality is nowhere close to the truth. 

How I long for the days where the people defined pop culture, not the other way around. 


— Mox

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School starts seven days from today. 

(boo!  hiss!) 

(Etc., etc.) 

While some parents would turn cartwheels over the thought of sending kids back to school, thus absolving them of responsibility for seven (or more) hours of the day, five days per week — I am not one of those parents. 

I am continually shaking my head at the fact that my kid will be in third grade.  THIRD GRADE, y’all.  I was warned that once they start school it goes all too quickly, and by damn, it does. 

The thing I love about summer is the fact that we get to hang out, Spawn and me.  I love being with my kid, having new experiences, having fun.  I am soaking up every single second of this part of Spawn’s childhood, because I know in just a few short years it will be All Over and I will be relegated to the role of Please Just Drop Me Off Two Blocks Away And I’ll Walk, God I’m So Embarrassed I Have Parents. 

(Because I remember what I was like as a preteen and teen.  Not pretty.) 

To be sure, each age and phase that Spawn has gone through has had its’ challenges, but for the most part I can’t say that any particular one of them has been the best.  I’ve loved each year as it’s passed, amazed by the changes the kid has gone through.  Every age has been my favorite, for reasons as varied as the ages and stages themselves.  The baby years and their milestones were fascinating.  Toddlerhood, there were definitely some things I could have done without (okay, LOTS of things), but still there were parts that just blew me away.  And from about age 4 and up, each year has been funny and bittersweet and full-on awesome in terms of seeing what kind of person Spawn is becoming. 

And yet, I can feel the rush of air from a door closing.  Spawn is pushing away, as kids are supposed to do, from my parental grip.  I don’t kid myself thinking that I’ll continue to have the same omniscient influence as I’ve enjoyed these first eight years or so. 

My dad used to always caution me to not wish my life away, and for a kid that’s just useless advice, because the whole object of the game is to reach the next big day — birthday, Christmas, driver’s license, college.  The folly of youth lies in the knitting together the boring parts in order to arrive at the exciting stuff, whatever that might be.  But it’s in the boring stuff, the day by day, that life’s lessons are learned.  What I would not give to be able to go back and spend the day with my grandfather, riding around town in his big ol’ Buick, eating Hershey bars and drinking Cokes from glass bottles.  It’s entirely possible that I might have been the only 16-year-old girl in history who preferred to spend her sixteenth birthday fishing with her dad than at some hotsy-totsy party. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it important to take my dad’s advice.  Because he is wise. 

Spawn’s childhood has been akin to trying to hold water in my cupped palms.  It’s leaked out between my fingers and left me with wet hands.  And it’s been me arriving here, at the cusp of a third grade year and all that it will bring, and just not being ready at all. 


— Mox

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I have a rather uncomplicated relationship with food.  In short, I like to eat.  I like rich, fattening stuff, full-flavor stuff, bad-for-me stuff.  I’m not unusual in that respect, I know.  Every once in a while I like a light meal, but for the most part I want meat and potatoes.  Or pasta and bread.  You get the idea. 

Since the beginning of the year I have managed to pack on ten pounds, mainly because I have given up going to the gym with any consistency.  The gym was what helped me be able to eat what I like and keep my waistline within reasonable boundaries. 

I don’t suppose my life is any more or less stressful than the person sitting in traffic next to me, but damn if I don’t react to it like a glutton. 

I eat when I’m tired. 

I eat when I’m stressed out. 

I eat when I’m bored. 

I eat when I’m worried. 

I eat when I’m feeling fat. 

What the hell, I eat when I’m feeling thin. 

I’m not different from anyone else in this world who turns to food as a crutch or a safety valve or a blanket.  I’ve thought a lot about this, about why I react to the events in my life in this manner, and what I could be doing differently. 

Of course, the first thing on my list is, I could get off my rapidly expanding ass and go back to the gym.  Because I know, I know, getting some of those magical endorphins coursing through my veins would go a long way to helping me stay on an even keel. 

If I take my personal psychoanalysis a step further, and examine why I’m stuffing my pie-hole so often with morsels large and small, I come down to the issue of control. 

Control is a big issue for me, as in I Need to Be In Control.  My husband will tell you this.  My best friend will tell you this.  I am wired to be in control, to know what to expect.  I like to see Action A be met with Reaction B.  I am good with a schedule, a plan, a map.  I can boss people around like nobody’s business.  But at the heart of it, it’s not so much that I need to be In Charge as it’s a case of I Need To Know What to Expect. 

If everyone has a fatal flaw, that’s mine.  It’s the thorn in my paw. 

Why I am this way, I don’t know. 

The irony here is, I have no control of the one thing I have control over.  I can, theoretically, control what I put in my mouth, and how often.  But in the absence of controlling other things in my life, I eat. 

What do I wish I had control over? 

The biggie, and this will be no surprise to those who have read here for any length of time, is that I wish I had some control over Spawn’s ADHD and learning disability.  I wish I could adjust the horizontal and vertical hold, balance the treble and the bass, turn down the volume.  I wish I could smooth the path of education and peer acceptance.   I wish I could vaccinate the kid with a whopping shot of self-esteem.  People will tell you not to compare your kid with other kids the same age, but I can tell you from experience that that’s a difficult thing to do.  How can you not?  Other kids in the same room seem to be sailing along, reading, not struggling too much, sitting calmly and focusing.  Your kid is on rocket fuel.  The differences are glaring. 

Secondly, and perhaps this is becoming just as large an issue in my psyche as the first thing, I wish I had some control over my career.  Technically, yes, I have a modicum of control.  I could go out and get another job, even in this economy.  Might not be what I want to do, but I could do something, anything.  I’ve got brains and I’ve got talent.  But at this point in time I am struggling with what I have mentally labeled Act II.  Call it a classic midlife crisis, I guess.  I’m just not too awful sure I want to be doing this for another 30 years.  So what do I want to do?  I have no idea. 

There is a certain balancing act, I’m finding, to guiding my kid to finding bliss while simultaneously trying to find my own. 

Currently, bliss looks like a hot fudge cake with whipped cream and nuts. 


— Mox

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Okay, show of hands here.  How many of us know the difference between poison ivy and Virginia creeper? 

(raises hand) 

Okay, a test. 

Which one is which? 

We have both in our yard, as evidenced by the many, many times my husband has come down with itchy whelps after doing yard work.  I know what poison ivy looks like.  Apparently he doesn’t. 

I’ve noticed this year that the poison ivy has spread a great deal all over our yard.  Never before have I had so many little sprouts of poison ivy in my garden beds.  I’ve pulled most of it up (wearing gloves!  always wearing gloves!)  as I’ve found it, and still it comes. 

The only thing I can attribute to this bloom of poison ivy is the ice storm we had earlier in the year.  The ice killed off a good many things, and as nature is designed, survival is imperative.  So it’s spread.  How?  I don’t know, but I think maybe the birds had a bit to do with it, eating the berries and distributing them as only birds can. 

I am hoping not to have to cope with this problem next year. 

(Answer:  the photo on the left is poison ivy.  The photo on the right is Virginia creeper.  Each of them causes their own set of problems.) 

— Mox

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Beware the language police.

I don’t ordinarily take offense to the vagaries of the English language, particularly as it is spoken in America, because (to paraphrase the great philosopher Popeye) you am who you am. 

But there is a particular verb in usage in today’s vernacular that sort of goes all through me, and I really don’t know why.  That verb is “suck.” 

The verb “suck” seems to me to be the domain of teenage boys, and I am more forgiving when I hear it come from their mouths than I am when young children or cute teenage girls or grown adults use it. 

“Sucks to be you.” 

“Sucks to be me.” 

“I suck at it.”

“Well, that sucks.” 

Just today at lunchtime I heard an otherwise professional woman use the word “suck” as a derogatory verb, and it was just so out of context with her appearance that it sort of stopped me in my tracks. 

Spawn’s school handbook has a section on offensive language, and as an example of what is unacceptable, the section names the word “sucks” in particular.  Maybe that’s why I find it grating, because the Catholic school we attend has singled out that particular word as unutterable in conversation.  Because heaven knows, if Catholic school says it’s wrong, it’s got to be wrong.  Right? 

It’s a word that’s not recognized as one of your garden-variety curse words, which I tend to fling about with aplomb.  Words used within the proper context, of course.  Anger, injury, injustice, etc., and within the confines of casual discourse among friends.  Never as a matter of course in a professional situation.  And never upon never in front of my mother.  Maybe that’s why I find it so unsettling to hear.  It’s not one of the “7 words you can’t say on television” and so people say it and it sort of sounds like a slap in the face. 

I can’t help it.  It bothers me.  It stinks. 


— Mox

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Poor horsie.

When I am particularly upset, usually at my husband, I have a tendency to stew over whatever it is that makes me upset.  (Really.  It’s true.)  And in my stewing I sometimes have imaginary discussions with my husband, particularly if there is something I wish I would have said at the time.  (No one else does this, right?) 

If the offense goes above and beyond garden-variety upset, there is a pretty good chance I will finish up my mostly silent rant with a good, old-fashioned “F— you” and then for good measure I usually add “and the horse you rode in on.” 

Which is pretty unfair to the horse, if you think about it.  I mean, a horse is only a beast of burden, carrying an ass.  Why do that to an innocent animal? 

I don’t even know why I add the expression, but it makes me feel somehow more vindicated.

And sometimes, I just skip all the interior ranting and just say “and the horse you rode in on” and that sort of settles it in my mind. 

I don’t claim to have a perfect system, just one that works for me. 


— Mox

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There is a point, late in every summer, in which I wake up one morning and realize that the birds are no longer singing. 

This is the point at which I know that fall is on its’ way. 

I don’t really mind fall, not too awful much.  You still have good weather, for the most part — sunny, slightly cool days that sparkle.  When the trees begin to turn the light of day takes on a different quality, and in the shade the canopy of leaves glows.  You get a few Indian summer days in the bargain, too. 

What upsets me so is the knowledge of what follows fall. 

I don’t know if you remember the winter of 2008-09, but here in this neck of the woods we had a humdinger of an ice storm.  It took days to dig out.  It took weeks for everyone to get back on the power grid.  It took months to get downed trees cleared.  And truthfully, I think it beat every single one of us down, and we haven’t recovered yet.  (The economy hasn’t helped, either.)  For all of the excitement that something like that causes, the change in otherwise dreary routine, frankly I’d just rather have the routine. 

My seasonal depression begins, ever so slowly, right around the time I realize that the birds are no longer bada-binging, that they have ceased their predawn twittering in search of a little sumthin’-sumthin’.  I love spring precisely for its’ fecundity, for the way the world wipes away the death that comes with winter and starts all over again. 

It helps, too, that spring is warm and sunny.  The days get longer.  My sleep cycles regulate.  I quit noshing like a hibernating bear.  I start all over again, too.

I ride pretty high on all of that, all the way through the warm and humid days of summer, because I like those, too.  I can even suffer a few rainy days without so much as a blip on my radar.  But when the birds become silent, it’s a little deafening. 

Soon enough the air will be filled with the late afternoon hum of insects, cicadas, the sawing of which means back to school.  I’ll start to hear the squawk of bluejays defending food stores, and watch the bright yellow goldfinches feeding on my purple coneflowers.  And then the days will grow darker at both ends.  And then it will be cold. 


I try to find the joy in the change of the seasons, I really do.  How else do you appreciate things if you don’t see the differences? But having known what winter is, from past experience, means that I can file it away for future reference.  I don’t really think it’s necessary to repeat this every. single. year.  I get it already.  Once is really quite enough for me. 

Is it any wonder that my recurring fantasy involves a tropical beach somewhere nearer the equator? 


— Mox

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