Wednesday, August 27, 2014

close-minded liberal

"beware of half-truths. you may have gotten hold of the wrong half." - author unknown

the guy who sat next to me in my first year of law school once called me a close-minded (closed-minded?) liberal. it ticked me off at the time, but now that i am, ahem, older and wiser, i can kind of see his point. and while i'm still not sure that was a totally fair accusation, i think it becomes more and more true the older (and wiser ;)) i get. and i'm not necessarily bummed out about it.

let me back up a little.

i used to love a good debate. no topics were off limits. i would argue politics, religion - gays, god, guns, whatever. i was basically born this way. when i was really little the only other overtly political person i spoke with on a regular basis was my grandpa, and so at the time i thought i was a republican. as i got a little older my lefty leanings became pretty clear. i remember getting this sort of green peace book for kids, and my little sister and i would try to implement our planet-saving initiatives on a daily basis. reduce. reuse. recycle. write your congressman. save the whales. i was school president in junior high and we fought our school's sexist rules that boys couldn't have their ears pieced and girls had to wear wool skirts (instead of pants) in the winter. (and won, i might add.) i argued with the creepy abortion protestors outside our high school. i argued with my english teacher about what f. scott fitzgerald and maya angelou really meant. i respectfully disagreed with my religious conservative relatives about whatever chain email they had sent that morning. (jesus loves you, if you "like" his facebook page. members of congress make one billion dollars a year upon retirement. president obama is actually michael jackson). the first day of law school, one of my professors called me a communist. i am and always have been so passionate about my beliefs, and i truly thought that if i could just properly present my position, the other person would have to see it my way. "still not convinced? okay. i must not be explaining this correctly. let me try to say it another way."

even up until, like, a year ago, i couldn't not engage in a political debate on facebook. it was like this uncontrollable, physical urge. certain family and friends on the opposite side of the political spectrum grew to expect my vehement response whenever they posted about any hot button issue. and hey, theoretically, civic engagement and civil discourse are awesome and beneficial. but for me, personally, it really wasn't beneficial at all. i would literally make myself sick to my stomach stressing out over some stupid facebook discussion or the presidential debates or the latest coverage on Iran/Syria/Egypt/Russia/Ukraine/Gaza/etc. and what did i have to show for it? did my contribution draw anyone from the darkness into the light? nope. seriously. after 34 years of arguing, the only person i've ever successfully convinced of an argument is my husband, and that's probably only because he was trying to get me in bed. maybe i just suck at it! (arguing, not sex ;)) maybe i'm in the wrong line of work! but honestly, i think it's more because people are so entrenched in their beliefs that there's nothing anyone could say that would convince them otherwise. have you ever noticed that people glom onto information and experiences that confirm their beliefs, and discount anything that doesn't? with the internet and facebook fueling this confirmation bias, "facts" and "the truth" have very little to do with it. everyone thinks that they're right, and can find some purportedly irrefutable source to back it up. (on that note, a family friend posted this great, thought-provoking article from I F*cking Love Science: "No, You're Not Entitled To Your Opinion.")

and back to the close-minded liberal comment - is it so terrible to prefer the company (online and "IRL" [in real life]) of people whose choice in conversational topics doesn't make you want to stab yourself in the ear-hole with a spork?

i'm not even sure what i'm saying here. i am starting to sound like my mother, who, while very opinionated, didn't vote or give a rat's ass about "civic engagement." DM has made the same argument to me over the years, though i probably shouldn't say that publicly these days given the ironic fact that he is something of an expert on voting rights, ha! (i think he would say, in his defense, that local politics is where it's at.) i don't mean to imply that we shouldn't care about what is going on in the world, or that we shouldn't critically assess our beliefs and the underlying assumptions therefor, or that we shouldn't stand up/speak up for what we ultimately believe in. but i just don't think arguing about opinions on the internet is a useful tool for that type of examination and reflection.

i mean, there's something to be said for the internet, and the way that it has changed "the news" and reporting and the manner in which knowledge is distributed. it is a useful source for information. an unparalleled source. but i liken it to shopping at Ross or TJ Maxx or something. you have to sort through a lot of crap to find the good stuff.

and, sometimes, i just feel like i don't need or want that much information.

last week we were visiting family in michigan and i was sort of out of touch with the interwebs, but apparently a lot was going on because when i got back i was confronted with this digital diarrhea of everything i'd missed. war. ebola. ferguson. robin williams. tony stewart. shamu is still really, really depressed. and lest we forget the ever-lovin' ice bucket challenge. (and then there's the inevitable backlash: "why is everyone and their grandma doing the ice bucket challenge and no one is discussing ISIS's beheading of an American journalist or taking a child bride? why are we crying about a rich white guy killing himself when we just lost the first general since the vietnam war? don't you people know we're in the midst of a(n) historical drought?! 'cuz, obama.")

here's the deal though. i kind of liked just hearing snippets and not being under siege by a full frontal media assault. i've never been one of those people who gets off on the morbid details of the crisis du jour. i do not understand the people who want to watch the video of some guy getting hit and killed by a race car. i do not want to see someone get their head chopped off. i do not want to view gruesome photos of dead babies in gaza. i do not want to read the front page headline that robin williams hung himself with a belt because then i will be haunted by images i created in my crazy little mind. call me an ostrich burying my head in the sand, but i actually think the internet feeding frenzy on that type of stuff is kind of sick.

i understand the arguments on the other side - we live in our nice, comfy little world and sometimes we need to be shocked out of our complacency by the reality of what's really going on. (trust me. i know what's going on. and i am shocked as hell.) i don't mean to sound callous or ignorant. but, bottom line, i just don't have a lot of room for that kind of soul-crushing stuff at this juncture in my life. seriously, like, i can be driving home thinking, "life is pretty darn alright" and then i turn on NPR and three minutes later i'm ready to drive my car straight into the ocean. most of the time, i'm just trying to get through the day, you know? trying to maintain my sanity until bedtime. trying to take care of me and mine the best i know how. trying to find a little happiness where i can - sunsets, sand, sleeping babies. bourbon and brie. and i like my little bubble. it's nice there. i think i'll stay.

(of course, i say that, and then i happen upon some insane old quote from ann coulter and i become enraged and i want to go stand on a street corner with a campaign sign for the next 3 months: "it would be a much better country if women did not vote. that is simply a fact." what. in. the. actual. fuck. . . . sigh.)

if you DO feel like some edjamakashun, here are some of the super steals from the web, amidst all the ice buckets and baloney:

glennon melton from momastery's post on suicide and depression and mental illness in light of robin williams' death. i, thankfully, am one of those people who thought, 'why?! how?! and... why?!' but i thought this was very real and raw and powerful.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: we need to talk about Israel

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization (HBO)

and these because they're a little bit funny.

(but see this article in forbes, "think the ice bucket challenge is stupid? you're wrong."
and this ("the last ice bucket challenge you need to see" from upworthy.)
and this. i wonder if patrick stewart is accepting applications for friendship?
oh and of course we can't forget the fails.)
I know what i'm doing for Halloween

you're in luck, dummy!

the end.

until later.

aaaand later is now:

have i already basically said all of this before? it's hard to keep track. i feel like i only have seven original thoughts and every single post is just a variation on one of those seven themes. i am like a 90s sit-com. (< allegedly. the only way i could know less about pop culture in general, is to have been raised on an ashram in rural connecticut.)

ps, apparently, if i actually kept up with the news, i would have seen that there is scientific research to support my theory. see this article in the new york times - how social media silences debate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

california girl

i think i have a midwestern soul. how else can i explain my love of trees and lakes and wide-open spaces and porch sitting and back doors? my penchant for boxed wine and mayonnaise and casseroles? i mean, i'm not nice enough to actually be a midwesterner, but it's in my blood.

my mom's family lives in kalamazoo, michigan. we used to go back a couple of weeks every summer until i went to college, but it had been five years since the last time we went. that's pre-little-people. my grandma hadn't even met my kids! my littlest cousins are practically grown. it had been too long.

anyway. something about going to michigan will always feel a little bit like coming home. there are 24 of us cousins (i think?), and god knows how many offspring. a lot of them still live in the area. going back just feels like a big hug. a big sweaty, sandy hug. it's just different there. it has the niceness of the south, without the pretense. nobody has fences between their yards, but it's like they lack emotional fences, too. the family bonds are so tight, it seems. people went out of their way to make time for us, to feed us and entertain us. seeing the next generation of cousins thick as thieves like we all were twenty-thirty years ago was priceless. it also helps that we are now old enough to drink, and no one has any problem cracking open a bud light on the beach at noon.

(my mom would probably actually be flabbergasted that this is now the case. i don't think any family gatherings involved alcohol while she was alive. her upbringing was very "footloose." no dancing, no movies, no cards, no nylons, definitely no alcohol. (well, she had alcohol. but shhhh. don't tell grandma.) i remember she was blown away when my grandma got her ears pierced because that was just so totally verboten when she was growing up. and beer at a cookout? not a chance. my aunt and her husband actually own a bar and i don't think my grandma accepted that fact for a decade. but she's come a long way ;))

anyway. hanging out with the Michigan contingent really made me realize how... sort of... isolated we are in san diego. my sister lives 20 minutes away. my dad and my brother and an aunt and uncle and a couple of cousins are a short plane flight north. i have a few really good friends in san diego and a large helping of besties strewn about the state. but i don't know. it's different. the fiber of that fabric is strong, but loosely woven, if that makes any sense? i know if i really need someone, i have a long list of people who would be willing to drop what they were doing to be there for me. but it's not the same as having an enormous clan of family and friends as your default setting - people that will call before they go to the market to ask if you need anything, people who will pick your kids up from school without thinking twice, people who hang out on "school nights," who will be at your house to watch football every sunday whether you like it or not.

and hey. we had a fun-filled-family week and i'm still riding high off that. and who knows. maybe they only do it when we're in town! but there's an ease, a familiarity, that really gave voice to the notion of "it takes a village." my cousins and aunts and uncles traded kids and grandkids like they were their own. we ate and drank and planned and played like one giant, tardy organism :) it just felt very.... comforting.

DM would take this opportunity to point out that I've actively avoided this sense of community and belonging for most of my life. and he would be right. i like my space. my quiet. my solitude. i'm not really cut out for unexpected guests or standing plans on Friday nights. i stress out for weeks beforehand whenever i entertain. and i am reeling from exhaustion and overstimulation after a stint of family-time, all-the-time like the week we just had. but still. it's nice. it's nice to know it still exists and that, if we wanted, we could pretty seamlessly become a part of it. at least for a week every summer :)

and of course, i'm sure a large part of it is because this is one of the last real connections i have to my mom.

i still think it's interesting though, the different "feel" of the place. geography certainly plays a part. most of my mom's family lives within 30 miles of where she grew up. and that takes a kind of familial commitment that i wasn't willing to make. i couldn't WAIT to get out of dodge after high school, and i had (and still have) no intention of returning to my "home town." at this point, i've spent almost as much time away as i spent there, and honestly, there isn't much left that feels like "home" anymore.

and California is different than Michigan. at least, the parts i know. we have fences. i have more of a relationship with the UPS guy than i do with any of my neighbors. we don't sit on the front porch and watch life go by. we stay in our little bubbles. our garages suck us in and spit us out morning and night - from the house to the car to the office and back again, sometimes without even seeing the light of day. we use the front door. (and when someone knocks on it, i hide.) kids don't "go outside and play," they have scheduled play dates at Gymboree. schools don't allow PB&J or super heroes. we talk about farm shares and recipes for quinoa. meanwhile, Michiganders are out on the actual farm detassling (sweet) corn.

i don't mean to sound like i'm down on California, by the way. it's my home. i love it here. it is, in my humble opinion, far and away the best state. i have no intention of leaving, ever. and Michigan isn't all corn rows and kumbayah, i'm sure. (for example, during a 6-month polar vortex.) but i would be lying if i couldn't admit that certain aspects of California are a little... inauthentic. (maybe that is partly because California consists primarily of transplants - people who left "home" in search of something, including but not limited to, themselves?)

anyway, it's not just the midwest, per se. DM is always agitating to move somewhere like Michigan, Delaware, north Carolina, or fresno. somewhere that, in his mind, involves block parties and barbecues, poker night, wiring the baby monitors between your house and your neighbors on either side. but i think it's less about where you are, and more about who you're with. i think maybe you just have to make your own community wherever you end up.

who wants to come over for some casserooooollllle?! extra-gluten-y! ;)

p.s. - i should really stop talking shit about gluten- and dairy-free. it is coming home to roost. my doctor just told me that foregoing dairy may alleviate many of my health woes. "is there cheese in it?" "NO. no there is NOT, A-hole. thanks for reminding me!!!" i just know they're coming after my bread next. hold me.

Monday, August 18, 2014

leavin on a jet pwane

what are the chances of making a connection with two small children and a 15 minute layover?

the answer is zero. zero percent.

we went to michigan last week. on the flight out the kids were angels. i know this has very little to do with me. (as one of my cousins quotes, when it comes to kids, don't take too much credit for the good or the bad.) but still. when people say to you after a painless 4.5 hour flight, "wow, your kids are SO GOOD," it's hard not to feel a tiny bit proud. of course i say thank you and laugh it off and chalk it up to luck and divine intervention. but in my head i'm thinking, yeah, man. dragging these nuggets on airplanes ten times a year since they were born, spending a small fortune on exciting new travel toys every single time, hours spent perfectly packing nutritious snacks and "busy bags" that will fit under the seats in front of us... yeah. i am getting pretty darn good at this.

as they say. pride go-eth before the fall.

on the day of our return, we get to the airport and find out our flight is delayed. if we miss our connection in minneapolis/st. paul, we'll have a five hour layover, and not get back to san diego until after midnight (which is 3am michigan time). we're watching the flight delay tick up by the minute, and our layover time sliced down sliver by sliver - 40 minutes, 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 18 minutes... the alternative is to take a later flight out of kalamazoo, connect in detroit, and get home around 9:45. when we realized we would have less than 20 minutes to make our connection, we bit the bullet and made the switch. i'm really glad we did because we would 100% have missed the flight and been stuck at MSP for 5 hours with two angry babies which sounds like the ninth rung of hell. 

so we wait. (2 hours, not 5, thank you lord). the kids are already pretty tetchy at this point - it's been almost a week in strange hotel rooms, sleeping on weird schedules, and spending all day every day with lots and lots and lots of loved ones. they're just kinda loved-out. they were mostly super great, by the way, especially my mister "don't touch me." and i think they were just exhausted and maybe felt like they could finally let down their "best behavior" guard. it was just bad timing, as we were in a teeny tiny airport with great acoustics and every single person there was privy to the kids' theatrics. and of course, we still had over 6 hours of travel time ahead of us.

because we switched flights last minute, the seating arrangements were dicey. they were able to get us 2 and 2 for the quick hop over to detroit, which went fine. of course the girl fell asleep on my lap 3 minutes before we landed, but what can you do?

then from detroit to san diego, we had a row of 3, and then a middle seat seven rows up. middle seats make me homicidal so i chose to sit with the kids. it was supposed to be a full flight, but as they closed the doors of the airplane, the aisle seat across from us was open! "FATE," i thought. just as i reached up to press my call button to get DM into that seat, the guy who was in the middle scootched over and buckled himself into the aisle seat. i made my best sad-sack mom face and gave him the elevator version of our story, saying i was really hoping my husband could sit there and help out! otherwise this was going to be a long flight! pretty please??? [insert batting eyelashes here.] no dice. he said, "sorry, but i sat in the middle the entire way here and if i have a choice, i am not doing it again." i stopped batting my eyelashes and said, "well then, my husband will be taking that middle seat with a grumpy toddler on his lap." of course, i had two grumpy toddlers on my lap and no way to signal the seat subterfuge to DM so it was an empty threat.

before we even took off, a baby behind us started to cry. colby puts her hands over her ears and says, "DAT'S TOO LOUD." i said yes but sometimes babies cry and she should probably try to be a little more understanding as she was just pulling some ear-piercing mariah carey-pitched BS in the airport. the baby continued to shriek and colby pipes up, "dat baby is CWABBY.... diss is not a cwying ting!!...we don't hass to whine 'bout it."

and someone in front of us definitely has SARS.

then as we take off, jack's like, "DISS PWANE IS GOING TO AFWICA!!! Wait! No! we are going to CHINA! Wait! No! We are going to PWUTO!!! Pwuto is dah farzest away as awfica!!" the ascent was a little bumpy and he continues to narrate, loud enough for deaf people to hear, "OH NO! we are getting shotted by Ironing Man's REPOSTER BWASTS! oh no! we are going to CWASH into dah OCEAN! Pew Pew Pew!!! Aaaaahhhhh!"

the first couple of hours were less than enjoyable but definitely not the worst thing in the world. they were just grumpy and tired and hungry (but didn't want to eat anything i had to offer) and uncomfortable and bored of my bag o' tricks and super squirrelly. then they both wanted to go to the bathroom at the same time but there was no way i was going to try to pull that off so i walked them up to DM and said, "help." then i tapped out, trading seats with DM for the last 2 hours of the flight. i imagine it supremely sucked for him because they were already on a one-way train to crazy town, but i couldn't hear the kids from 7 aisles away, so it could have been worse, right?

DM warned me that i really wasn't going to like the other seat, but i didn't think it could be as bad as the seat i just came from. and i'm sure it wasn't. but it was not ideal. it was between an older couple who had seats on the window and aisle, and they were not slim, and they kept wanting to have conversations and pass reading materials and hot coffee and snacks across my lap, and i had a nearly uncontrollable urge to punch a couple of elderly folks in the "eye-bowls" (as Colby likes to say).

it was so hot and sweaty and uncomfortable and i was crawling out of my skin and i was just thinking to myself, there is NO WAY ON EARTH i could possibly fly to someplace like fiji or anywhere in afwica. and definitely not pwuto. which somehow made me feel even MORE claustrophobic because that basically means i am stranded on this continent for the rest of my life. (i did fly to europe by myself when i was 9 which completely boggles my mind. but that was before my complete set of neuroses was fully developed.)

i had no choice but to eavesdrop on the kids behind me, which at least took my mind off the all-encompassing sense of anxiety:

girl to boy: my birthday is march 28 and your birthday is august 28. six months apart!
girl: well a year and six months apart.
girl: once you turn 17 your are closer to 20 than 15.
girl: well, once you are 17 and a day.
nope. this is not giving me a great deal of hope with respect to san diego's public school system.

i tried to distract myself by watching a movie but then discovered it was going to cost $6 to watch cameron diaz in "the other woman," and while i'll spend more than that on red bull in a single day, i couldn't bring myself to do it. (okay actually it was just because i didn't have a credit card on me.) someone in front of me was watching that animated movie "9," with Japanese subtitles and frankly it was scaring the CRAP out of me. maybe it's less ominous when you can watch it with sound but that shit gave me nightmares. finally i discovered i could watch older/crappier movies for free so i settled for eminem in 8 mile. i fast-forwarded all the way until the final "battle," which is still one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.

and i have to say, i sort of identified with eminem in that movie - except instead of using rap skills to overcome socioeconomic adversity, i'm using humor and glitter glue to overcome parenting adversity, and while these paths are accompanied by nausea and black eyes, in the end we both win ;)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

may the 4th be with you

the boy is four today. i was feeling a tad weepy about the whole thing yesterday but then last night he woke up literally eleven times between 2 and 5am because, gnats. (okay, in his defense, 3 of those 11 times were for a shrieking/tweeting smoke alarm because when the F else do smoke alarms go off except between 2 and 5am?! after that he was on HIGH ALERT for any and all miniscule winged insects.) anyway. i'm feeling a little better about things today because clearly he is still my giant baby. but, four, people. f-o-u-r. they just grow up so fast. ;)

we had a party for him on Saturday. i was a bit worried about how it would all turn out. the logistics were a little nuts because work and life are crazy for both DM and me, and on top of that, it was a joint birthday party, which brought in a whole host of new etiquette and party planning challenges. do you invite all the kids in the preschool class? i know that's the polite thing to do, but there are 24 of them, and some of them punch my kid in the face on a regular basis. then add in friends and family for BOTH kids? that's like, a guest list equal to the population of delaware, and our house isn't that big. even with our seriously pared down roster, we ended up with about thirty people, thirteen of which were kids. that's a lot of kids. it is a small miracle that our swimming pool survived free of feces.

then there was this weird "do you have to buy a present for the kid you've never met before in your life?" issue... where's ann landers when i need her?

also, we don't really know our co-hosts all that well. i mean, they're great. but we've really only hung out together twice and one of those times colby puked all over their house. and now we're planning a party together. so it was interesting. i had to walk a fine line between fulfilling my control freak psycho pinterest party planning dreams, and causing the other mom to call 911 and recommend me for an involuntary psychiatric hold. "you're going to BUY cupcakes? from SAFEWAY? with GREEN SPRINKLES????... um... okay... that sounds perfect!" quick! someone help me hack into safeway's customer database and change the order. green sprinkles, god forbid! ;)

it was actually really good for me. i should always have a co-host to counteract my crazy. of course it's all relative. when they came over in the morning the other mom started in with the "oh i'm such a bad mom, you did all this stuff and i just went to Costco!" then she told me that she's not crafty, but she's a cook, so whenever she hosts at her place she feels obligated to cook for three days prior. (and i believe her. the one time they had us over she made delectable black bean burgers from scratch, and hand-hewn quinoa guacamole with a mortar and pestle.) i assured her that cooking healthy and delicious comestibles is a much more useful skill than being able to craft light sabers from various food stuffs and items from the seasonal aisle at target.

anyway, i "only" stayed up until 2am getting things ready. and all-in-all our joint venture was a great success! except for that part at 1am when DM took a break between two television shows to critique my pretzel light sabers: "the light part needs to be longer."

poor DM. he wasn't able to make it to the party. he mysteriously disappeared, and was later found at the bottom of a shark-infested body of water, dipped in chocolate, with a pretzel light saber lodged in his aorta ;)

then my dear husband called me Lord Business all morning because, in my persistent irrationality, i wanted the decorations and party favors to remain intact at least until the guests arrived. silly me. what was i thinking? for those of you who aren't familiar with the Lego Movie, "Lord Business" is will farell's character and - spoiler alert - at the end you find out he's a dad who won't let his kid play with his legos:

The Man Upstairs: You know the rules, this isn't a toy!
Finn: Um... it kind of is.
The Man Upstairs: No, actually it's a highly sophisticated inter-locking brick system.
Finn: But we bought it at the toy store.
The Man Upstairs: We did, but the way I'm using it makes it an adult thing.
Finn: The box for this one said "Ages 8 to 14"!
The Man Upstairs: That's a suggestion. They have to put that on there.

i have to admit, i closely identify with will farell's character ;)

i also briefly questioned my choice of party favors when there was an all out pool-noodle light saber civil war, but thankfully there were no casualties.

mommy had way too much fun making pool noodle light sabers ;)


oh yeah, and, it was a pool party. but it was raining. like real, legitimate rain. in san diego. in august. turns out four-year-olds could not care less! as my grandma says, "you're not sugar, you won't melt."

as usual, grandma was right :)

co-host: should we have adult beverages?
me: was that a rhetorical question?
oh yeah. then. today. jack wanted to bring the avengers birthday card he got from his grandpa in for show-and-tell. but, being my son, he is very aware of the school's strict superhero censorship, and did not want to violate preschool protocol. his teacher's comment yesterday that captain America is "scary" only served to underline his concern. so he suggested that we bring in the birthday card, but cover up the scary parts. a clever compromise, i thought.

happy birthday to my boy. may the force be with you, always, except when aiming light-saber-y things at your little sister's dome.