Sunday, October 9, 2011

Drama and the Suburban Housewife

Today was weird. There's no more eloquent way to put it. It had started off as a normal if incredibly lazy day. The kids and I were still in our pajamas past noon (don't judge me!!!) until we were summoned outside by one of Ben's friends who lives directly across from us. For anonymity's sake, we shall call this friend "P" because he was dressed as a Pirate. I'm clever. Ben donned his own pirate costume and I attempted to outfit Ethan in his but it turns out that a Halloween costume that says it fits 3- to 4-year old children just cannot contend with the Mighty Ethan. However, we all got outfitted and stepped into the lovely Fall day.

As the boys were running about, we saw that we had new neighbors moving in. There was a parade of family members hauling boxes and at one point, a little boy crept out of the condo and became transfixed at the spectacle of my neighbor's and my hooligans playing about like monkeys. His Grandma followed him out in an attempt to urge him back inside but it was a hopeless case. Once my kids and my neighbor's kids took off in their scooters, the new kid was swept up in their wake. Poor Grandma was pretty frazzled and kept trying and trying to get her grandson to go back home with her. I could sympathize because moving is stressful enough but moving AND watching a small child is madness. Grandma, P's mom and I ended up trailing behind the parade of neighborhood boys and chatting when P's mom had to break away to check on her middle child. Shortly after she left, P and Ben found...the thing.

I should mention that I had consumed nothing the entire day up to that point except for coffee. My blood sugar was crashing and I was wired from the caffeine. I was keeping it together for the most part but the thing was sort of the tipping point. P and Ben were about 20 feet ahead of us, intently studying something on the ground and as we got closer I could hear P saying over and over "It's real! Oh my goodness, it's real!" Ben made some noises along the line of "blech" and pointed at the ground excitedly when he saw me. It was at that point that P said that they had found a hand. A hand. I looked where my son was pointing and my already frazzled brain tried to put together the information being sent to it by my optic nerve. It looked like a hand. A skinned, somewhat mutilated, and very definitely severed hand. My first thought was that it was some kind of amazing Halloween prop. I told the boys as much and to illustrate my certainty, I poked it. I really wish I hadn't poked it. I was expecting hard plastic but instead felt something altogether more yielding and a tad slimy. I tried to confer with Grandma but she must have met her tipping point, too. Beyond offering up her son-in-law's medical expertise ("He's medical," she says to me) she couldn't offer anything else and instead told the boys that I was going to get some paper towels and dispose of it.

I should have resisted more to being volunteered to handle the thing but I wasn't entirely in my right mind. I passed P's mom as I headed back to my home and gave her a very brief and terribly vague overview of what was going on. I retrieved the towels and went back to the thing, wrapped it up, and headed to the dumpster. On my way there, I decided to stop by the new neighbor's garage to see if the Medical Son-in-Law could offer any insight. This is the part where I introduced myself to my new neighbors, flushed and shaky and clutching a skinned body part.

"Hi! I'm Sarah. Does this look like a HUMAN HAND to you?"

It turns out that Medical Son-in-Law is not, in fact, medical. However, he and his wife looked at the thing, agreed with me that it was real and definitely not a prop, and urged me to call the police. I probably should have done that before handling the damn thing but better late than never. I left them standing dumbfounded in their garage and made my way back to the spot while on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. I explained what had happened and ensured them that I was putting it back where it was found and I would leave it the hell alone. When I got back to the spot, another of my neighbor friends had joined the party and she took a look at the thing once I put it back on the ground. She's super smart and way more savvy about biology than I am and she thought it looked like it could possibly be a bear paw. Her equally smart and savvy husband came out to join us and seemed to draw the same conclusion. By and by, a police officer showed up. He donned some blue gloves and studied the thing but I didn't get to hang around for the final verdict because the kids scattered once again. I was also really close to collapsing on the sidewalk from hypoglycemia so once I decided that I wasn't going to be interrogated or chastised for being so stupid, I gathered my kids and went home. I met my new neighbors on the way back and told them it was probably a bear paw and might have mumbled something in an attempt to reassure them that finding stray body parts on the lawn isn't the norm for our neighborhood. I'm pretty sure they'll be steering clear of me in the future.

And I still don't know what the hell it was.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Suddenly, Kindergarten!

It's been a while so I thought I should attempt to update this thing, especially considering the new and exciting chapter our family has entered into - Kindergarten! No, not all of us although I do get those anxiety dreams every now and then in which I'm forced to redo some year of school due to a technicality. My oldest child, my little man, my Benjamin has started kindergarten. He has already completed his first week. As you might guess, this milestone has me feeling a whole mess of emotions. I can't help but get a little misty-eyed when I see Ben in his too-big backpack, standing in his class line as they prepare to enter his classroom. He blows me kisses and waves when they start marching in. On the first day, he almost didn't make it into the building with the rest of the kids because he broke away from the line to give Ethan and I another kiss and hug goodbye. How does one NOT tear up in the face of such sweetness?

Ben and I are also feeling some anxiety. For Ben, he's learning that he needs to complete things in a set amount of time; something that is causing him some frustration according to his teacher. He's always been a slow eater and he hates leaving a project before he's decided he's finished. As of Friday, however, he's shown a lot of improvement in this area. He's also feeling anxious regarding the social aspect of school which also happens to be the part that's causing ME the most anxiety as well. Ben is a very sweet kid. He's very affectionate and he loves to play with other kids. He also tends not to realize when he's being picked on. I've witnessed this on several occasions, the most recent of which happened at the play area at McDonald's. A rather large family came in and the kids in that family immediately started picking on Benjamin. The youngest of the brood (a little girl about Ben's age) even took to hitting and slapping him. Ben was upset but he still wanted to play with them. It was heart-breaking and I ended up "rescuing" Ben and going home. I worry how he'll be treated at school. I worry because I remember vividly how much I hated those first school years because of the maliciousness of my classmates and I hope with all my heart that Ben has a better time of it. I also worry just as much and possibly more that Ben's sweetness will dissipate and he'll become one of the mean kids. Actually, that definitely worries me more. I can't stand the thought of either of my kids as bullies. There's a strength to be gained from overcoming the taunts of others but I have no idea what, if anything, a bully gains in life.

Because Ben is in school now, it means that Ethan and I get one on one time. It didn't occur to me until the first day I dropped Ben off that Ethan and I never had that kind of time since he's the second child and all. As much as I miss having Ben around, I'm looking forward to this time with Ethan. As long as I'm still unemployed (boooooo!) we'll get to pal around just the two of us (yay!).
I've already experienced the profound miracle that is shopping with only one child in tow. The difference was amazing. I felt like I was cheating the system or something, it was so easy. It'll be great to go to a park without feeling like I need iguana eyes to keep track of two kids who never seem to want to go in the same direction.

This should be a pretty exciting time and even though I occasionally have episodes of "oh my god my baby is in school"-induced madness, I'm looking forward to what comes.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ideas requested in a manner that may resemble begging.

I have a camera now and I want to vlog and create funny/interesting videos with it. What I want to know is what YOU would find interesting. Please keep in mind that I'm a noob and I have no editing skills so it's all going to be baby steps. Also, volunteers are more than welcome to assist in any way. Please help me! I'm lost and confused and adrift in a sea of...confusion!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life lessons suck most of the time.

Remember that time I was a stay at home mom but it just wasn't working out so I got a job? Well, that time is really closely related to this other time when I spent 40 hours a week in a soul-crushing environment with awful people who treated me like an idiot all the time. And THAT time is really really closely linked to the time when I met my breaking point and quit and walked the hell out. That last time I'm talking about was this morning. It marks the second time in my life that I have quit a job on the spot, never to return. Although, I guess I do have to walk back in there to get my last paycheck. I bet that'll be neat!

This experience has taught me some things;
- I don't like being patronized. I know, right? Who'da thunk...
- It's super difficult for me to complete a task when I'm getting conflicting information as to how to complete it.
- Sometimes when your supervisor says she's got your back, she means that she's preparing to stab a knife into it repeatedly.
- When a future employer tells you "we're like a family here", get him/her to elaborate on whether or not that family is a dysfunctional, reality-show kind of family. That's important.
- If I throw up at work and have to seriously wonder if it's because I'm sick or if I just hate the place that much, that's a clear indication that it's time to move on.
- It might be appropriate to inquire at job interviews if any of the employees are bat shit crazy people who should have retired years ago.

Okay, I won't actually ask at interviews if I'd be working with crazy people. Still, though, these last few months have been nearly ulcer-inducing. I kind of felt like I was getting slowly squeezed like a tube of toothpaste and my soul was the paste and my nutjob coworkers were brushing their teeth with my soul. Or something. It was bad. Now that I've gotten through the residual feelings of rage and frustration, I'm feeling liberated. My friend Meagan said that sometimes the best way to stand up for yourself is to leave and I agree with her. I tried talking about it, I tried sticking it out, I tried everything I could think of but it came down to either leaving or punching someone right in the face. Neither of the potential recipients for that punch to the face would be worth the assault charge, though. I should have left a long time ago but there was a stubborn part of me that refused to admit defeat. Thankfully, it occurred to me that I was already being defeated on a daily basis and getting the eff out of there could only be a victory. Yay!

SO....anyone hiring?

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I watched "Blue Valentine" the other night and it got the ol' cogs turning in my head. If you haven't watched it, I do recommend it. However, I recommend it with the caveat that you will probably be at least a little depressed by it. Oddly, it was refreshing for that very reason. The film industry (for the most part) has an annoying habit of taking the realness out of reality. The questions tend to not be difficult, the answers are absolute, and everyone walks away satisfied. "Blue Valentine" is definitely not that kind of movie. It's a movie about a relationship minus the fairy-tale romance aspect. It's honest and it's intimate and it really doesn't give a damn if anyone's terribly satisfied at the end. Watching the movie just brought up an age-old conversation I have with myself over the nature of romance. Yes, I have conversations with myself. Moving on...

I find that I am much more pragmatic than I was during my teenage years. This is by no means abnormal. At least, I hope it isn't. When I was a teenager, I believed in the idea of soul mates while simultaneously scoffing at the idea in public. My concept of love was intense, passionate, tragic, and certainly never anything short of dramatic. However, if that was truly the case in romantic relationships, we'd all be crying lines of eyeliner down our cheeks and writing terrible poetry 24/7. Reality has to creep in somewhere. And when it does creep in, that's when I think the true romance happens. It's easy to fall for an ideal. Ideals are shiny and beautiful and new all the time. They are what they are because you haven't obtained them, yet. The real work and the real love begins once you've obtained what you've idealized. For the purposes of this post, that ideal is your husband/wife/lover/partner.

The beginning of a relationship almost always has that butterflies-in-yer-stomach, gosh-everything's-magical aspect to it. You and the Object of Your Affection (OYA... like "oh yeahhhh"... heh) are still putting your best foot forward. You don't want your OYA to know that you snore or that you eat with your mouth open or that you save your toenails after you clip them or WHATEVER. You try to stifle the faults you're aware of and therefore present an ideal, and terribly untrue, version of yourself. However, the charade is awfully hard to keep up. Sooner of later, your OYA is going to see you picking your teeth or you're going to fart in his/her presence and the smoke and mirrors will vanish. When that happens, the real trial begins. This is when you find out what you're made of and you'd better hope there's a good foundation or you're toast.

To me, it is far more romantic to be able to look at your OYA when he/she has bed head and hasn't brushed his/her teeth and is wearing ratty old pajamas and you STILL think, "I really love this person." And the intense happiness that comes with knowing that your OYA feels the same way about you when you've spent the whole night snoring the house down and drooling all over your pillow is better than any Hollywood construct. The truth is, you will not be at your best all the time. Hell, I'm lucky if I'm at my best once a month. Scratch that and edit it to once a year. My husband is confronted with the worst of me often. He sees me when I'm hating myself and I just can't give a damn and he's still there, loving and accepting me. Screw Cinderella and Prince Charming and all of that other garbage. That love and that acceptance is what's going to see you through to your old age.

There will be drama and there will probably be tragedy in your lives but that's going to happen in between long stretches of the mundane and the routine. You will need something to sustain you through those long stretches. You will need to be able to laugh at yourselves, to recognize your faults, to be able to have arguments without falling apart, to be able to communicate and work together. You will need to be really damn good friends and have each other's backs. You will need to be able to look at your OYA at the end of a very difficult day and think to yourself that all that other bullshit isn't going to tear you apart because you have this person who will see you through it.

All of this is a far cry from my teenage perceptions of romance but it isn't unromantic, not to me. I think part of growing up is learning how to redefine things rather than abandoning them. I will never be a fairy princess or own a unicorn but I do have love in my life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Did you know I like to whine?

I thought I would solve things. You see a problem, you search for solutions, apply them to the situation, and you fix it. If not A, then B. If not B, then C. Etcetera. It's not anything new to figure out that life is more complicated than that. However, some revelations have to be had over and over and over again. Even then they might not stick. It's not stupidity or naivete that makes the lesson hard (or impossible) to learn. I know that in my case, it's just a continued hope that keeps me making the same mistakes. I keep hoping that it'll be simpler this time and that the formula will work. Isn't there an exception to every rule, after all? I'm in the middle of the same of revelation for the umpteenth time and I know I'll find myself in the middle of it again.

What do you do when the problem is you? My problem isn't having a crappy job or having no job or having the wrong job. My problem is pretty fundamental - I am screwing up my life. It's me. Granted, I'm not doing drugs or drinking myself into oblivion. I'm not prostituting myself or robbing from people or killing people. I don't even pull the wings off of flies. There are far less dramatic yet equally damaging ways to screw up your own life. To paraphrase from a Mumford and Sons song, I haven't found an enemy bigger than my apathy. Or maybe it's fear. I suppose it's equal parts fear and apathy. I've never been ambitious out loud because I'm afraid of what I can't do. There's something about having potential that can ruin a person. As long as I never try to tap into my potential, I'll never have to find out that it's all just bullshit and I'm really not good enough. And at any given time when I could choose between making an effort or playing video games, I'll opt for the video games. That, more than anything, explains why I am splattering self-pity on the internet instead of... I don't know. Following my dreams? Pursuing my goals? Grabbing life by the balls?

I got a job because I'm a terrible stay at home mom. I wanted to be around other adults and feel like I was part of something and being productive. My job, though, has left me feeling either incompetent or enraged. I have always been a good employee. I've been able to get along with and befriend my coworkers. Here, though, I can't decide if I'm just out of my groove or if I'm working with crazy people. Am I really that awful? Are they really that awful? What the hell is going on here? My therapist told me I should quit and part of me agrees 100%, part of me is stubborn and feels like quitting would mean "they" had won, and part of me is oddly comfortable. Did you know that comfort isn't always a good thing? Now you do. Comfort keeps me in dead-end jobs. Comfort keeps me playing video games.

It's Thursday evening. I've worked 4 ten-hour days and I'm feeling a little drained. My kids are in their room, asleep. I have a glass of wine and I'm listening to music. Ironically, the song I'm listening to is "The Edge of Glory." That's funny, right? So I'm going to finish typing, finish my wine, maybe read a little or watch a little TV. Then, I'll go to bed and let myself think of who I wish I was until I fall asleep. Tomorrow, I'll start over again and hope that I can muster some enthusiasm. Yeah. I'm rolling my eyes, too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Worst mom, ever.

Were you at the Big Dipper this afternoon at around 1? If so, you might have seen me. I was the lady who left her kids in the car while purchasing some ice cream. You sure gave me some nasty looks, I must say. You know what, though? You'd have been giving me nasty looks had I let them stand in line with me. Let me explain...

We awoke today to some gorgeous Spring weather. Sunshine! There's sunshine out there, for the love of all that's good and pure! Since you live in Missoula, too, you understand why that's such a big deal. We haven't seen the sun in weeks. At least, it certainly feels that way. Anyway, since there's an abundance of what we have been previously lacking, I knew it'd be damn near criminal not to take advantage. After breakfast, I grabbed some water bottles and readied the munchkins for a stroll along the river. As we headed out the door, Ethan noticed his pushable Thomas train and I thought "Why not? Let's take it along and Ethan can push his Thomas train to his heart's content! It'll be fun!" This is not the first time I've been horribly wrong about something similar. I should know by now. To be fair, though, the stroll started out well. The kids were smiling, Ethan was happily pushing the train along, Ben was skipping and dancing, birds were chirping, etc. How lovely!

When we got halfway to my target destination, things started turning sour. Ethan began to refuse to push the train any further but he didn't want anyone else to touch it, either. Neither did he want to leave it behind. I'm not sure exactly what he wanted to have happen but it was clearly something beyond my control or capabilities. Benjamin actually diffused the situation by inviting Ethan to sit and rest with him on a bench, where I took some pictures and stupidly thought that everything was going to be ok after all. That was when Ethan hopped off the bench and made a run for it. At first, I didn't see the harm since he was headed for an open and empty field that certainly posed no danger. As if he knew what I was thinking, he stopped his mad dash and started trying to eat rocks.

The details of everything that followed are fuzzy - just glimpses through a reddish haze and peppered with feelings of futility, humiliation, confusion, and desperation. The boys hit each other a lot, Ethan planted himself face down on the ground several times, Thomas was brutally thrown fairly often, and passing dogs were terrorized. I eventually ended up carrying Ethan - as he pinched, bit, scratched, slapped, and kicked me - while Ben dutifully pushed Thomas along side of me. Trust me, people at Big Dipper, yours were not the only pointed looks I endured this day. I walked through a gauntlet of judgment, avoiding eye contact, all the way back to my car where I strapped a still-shrieking Ethan into his car seat and thanked Ben for helping me with the stupid train. I told him he could have an ice cream for his troubles, which is how we came to be at Big Dipper this afternoon.

You see, Ethan was not going to get ice cream. There was no way I was going to reward his horrifying behavior by giving him a delicious treat. Also, whether or not the kid was going to get ice cream, I knew that standing in line with him would be an utter disaster. Have you experienced flailing toddler rage? It's nearly impossible to deal with when the parent to child ratio is 1 to 1, when the parent is outnumbered it's game over. No matter how dutiful and well-behaved the non-flailing child has been to that point, he or she will only register that Other Child is getting an awful lot of attention and will follow suit. No, thank you. So I parked the car in the shade. I rolled the windows down a bit and told them that I would be right back. I walked the 20 feet to the line and barely took my eyes off the munchkins. I saw you staring worriedly at my kids and I noted your disdainful glares as well as the shaking of your heads. I also noted how there were 5 of you to the two small children present in your group.

You got up from your table and dispersed, leaving behind one member of your party who happened to be the mother of the little girl present. And you, mother of little girl, took it upon yourself to "guard" my children until I closed the 20 feet between us and got back in my car. You thought you were noble, I'm sure, and you will tell the tale of the Evil Woman at Big Dipper to all your friends to caution them against such gross child neglect. Someday, mother of little girl, your daughter will throw an unholy tantrum in public and drive you to your wits' end. She will shatter every single illusion of parenthood that you ever had. If I'm standing there when it happens, I won't shake my head at you. I just want you to know that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Around and around I go

Have I mentioned that I've gone back to work?

So, yes. That happened. I'm employed again. I tried being a stay at home mom, or SAHM as they are known in the blogging community, and it didn't turn out the way it was supposed to. Basically, I completely sucked at it. There were a few weeks when I think I was mostly on the right track; I took the kids places and kept us all active and away from our home. However, I ran out of ideas very quickly. I thought I was a creative person, and maybe I am, but my creativity doesn't translate well into actual day-to-day functioning. (I'm still not sure if anything I do translates well into day-to-day functioning.) Basically, I had no freaking idea what to do with these two little people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yes, sleeping factors in there somewhere but I was having really messed up dreams about Graboids eating my kids and reclusive old people kidnapping and murdering me so I have decided that my sleeping hours don't count. Something was stressing me out all the time.

So how is going back to work less stressful? Well, I get to talk to grownups again on a regular basis. As it turns out, that is really important for me. I started feeling both sorry for and resentful of Clyde when he came home at night because I would start babbling at him from the moment he walked in the door and I just couldn't understand why he wouldn't want to hear my stories about how many times Ethan pooped or the ferocious battle of wills that occurred between Ben and I at every mealtime. There was a small part of me that realized Clyde had just finished up a 12-16 hour day and the man needs at least a moment to unwind. But there was a larger part of me that just thought "OMG an adult! Must talk! BLAH BLAH BLAH CONVERSE WITH ME DAMNIT!!!!"

I also genuinely feel that my kids are better off at daycare. When they are there, they are interacting with other children, creating pictures, listening to stories, and just learning things that I lack the capacity and patience to teach. I tried to teach Ben how to write letters and numbers and just could not wrap my head around why he couldn't trace the dotted lines to make a letter "H" or number "9". After all, it's so easy for me to do it. Never mind that I'm 28 years old, have been through 17 years of school, and don't even have to think of how to hold a pencil correctly. My poor 4-year old son was frantically trying to live up to my insane expectations and we were both suffering for it. This is a HUGE failing on my part, I fully admit. Now, Ben is being taught by people who aren't crazy know how to guide a small child and he's doing wonderfully.

I was raised by a SAHM and until I myself became a parent, it never occurred to me that my own mother could have ever envisioned another direction for her life. What she did for me, I could never possibly repay. I don't fully know what sacrifices and compromises she made, but I'm grateful to her. She did something that I now know I can't do. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy being with my children. I swear to you that the best part of my day is having them run to me and hug me when I pick them up. I just acknowledge that there are people in the world who can be amazing stay at home parents but I'm not one of them.

So I'm back to earning a wage and I feel better for it. The boys are also doing great. Ethan is getting better at playing with other kids rather than just near them and Ben always has something to show me, something that he's very proud of. I think that if I've learned anything through my experience thus far as a mom it's that parenting is even more complicated than anyone or anything makes it seem. Every parent has to figure out what works and that process involves going through a lot of things that simply don't.

My hat goes off to SAHMs (or SAHDs), but I've got a nod and knowing look for those of us in the (paid) work place.

The stumbling continues.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dear Friend,

I had an interesting afternoon looking for you. In my pocket, I had a note with "Lot 35, block 42" written on it and I'll be damned if that note was even a little helpful. For some reason, I had the idea in my head that I'd get to the cemetery and just immediately know where to find your grave. This was a silly thought because I did not attend your funeral back in 2006 and had never before visited your grave site. Useless note in hand (or pocket), I hopped in my car and headed out to the Holy Cross Cemetery with every intention of finding closure. After a stop at Safeway to buy a dozen long stemmed red roses (of a quality that only Safeway could provide), I drove through the cemetery gates and instantly realized that this was going to be harder than I thought.

Several years ago, I went for a walk with my husband in one of the cemeteries in Sonora, CA. I took note of the fact that the cemetery had something like street signs for the crisscrossing paths. At the time, I probably thought it was quaint. This afternoon, however, I realized that those signs were terribly useful. There were no such signs to help me navigate Holy Cross Cemetery. There were no helpful markers, no directory to say "you are here" and give me an idea of where I might find you. There was just an expanse of very similar-looking graves, stretching off in front of me and to the left and right of me. I did not innately know where to find you and so I wandered.

As I was trudging through the crusty snow and the sucking mud, clutching the bouquet of mediocre roses and continuously going in circles, I cheered myself with the thought that you were watching me somehow and getting a laugh. I talked to you in my head and then began talking to you out loud, hoping that you would give me a sign of where to find you. I would have followed a squirrel at that point if I thought it looked like it knew where it was going. Alas, there were no squirrels or whispers from the afterlife. I did find the grave of a young boy who had been accidentally shot and killed when I was in elementary school. I left him a rose. As for the others, immediately before I gave up my search I came upon the grave of a baby boy who had only lived for less than a month. He has your roses. I knew you'd understand.

My dear friend, although it had been years since we last saw each other when I heard of your death, I hope that you somehow always knew that you touched my life. When we moved from Baker, OR to Butte, MT, the transition was frightening and difficult. Everything was different and unfamiliar but your friendship helped me to think of my new town as home. You will forever occupy places in my head and my heart. I can find you there, at least.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Humanity is (surprise!) Human

Natural disasters have a tendency to bring out the best and worst of humanity. This morning, I had the misfortune to click on a link which displays a list of Facebook status updates from people claiming that the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan is somehow a karmic response to Pearl Harbor. If you are a thinking human being, you should not wonder why such a connection is not only mind-bogglingly stupid but also hateful. I'm bothered not just by these statements but also by the fact that this link is being tweeted and retweeted as evidence that people in the U.S. are all this stupid and hateful.

It's easy to look at these updates that are fueled by ignorance and an utter lack of compassion and then begin to despair the species. I'm guilty of travelling that downward spiral on many occasions and I'm sure I'll traverse it many more times before I die. However, something happened to my mindset once I had children: it occurred to me that I simply cannot afford to be (or more accurately, remain) nihilistic or hopeless about humanity. After all, I made the decision to bring two fresh little people into this world of ours and for me to have such a bleak outlook on life it would mean that I'm a complete asshole for having done so. I don't consider myself a complete asshole so that means I need to do a little soul-searching in order to figure out just how to feel about the people who inhabit this lil' green and blue dot with me.

When I saw the vitriolic and moronic postings, I was immediately outraged and wanted to vent my spleen in a similar way with these xenophobes as my target. What would be the point, though? Would I change their minds? Would I make them feel ashamed? Would they plumb the depths of their souls and find the compassion and empathy that they lack? No, probably not. All that would happen is that I would have stooped to their level and made a bad thing worse. Instead, I left that poisonous little webpage, opened my eyes a little wider, and saw outpourings of love and support, generosity of wealth and spirit, and a much louder voice crying above the hateful din a message that we are human beings who recognize a tragedy that could befall any one of us and we grieve with those who suffer. More importantly, we offer a hand up as well.

I find that when we are at our best it is during moments when we recognize our collective humanity. We forget about borders and politics and our myriad differences and instead see a much broader picture of All Of Us instead of Us and Them. Japan is not paying for an act of war nearly 70 years ago, just like Haiti was not paying for rising up against their oppressors when disaster struck there. When natural disasters strike within the U.S., it is not payback for the Trail of Tears, slavery, Guantanamo, or any other of our horrific failings. Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. happen because we inhabit a planet that shifts and moves with utter indifference to our presence. With that as our reality how else are we to find comfort if not with each other?

This is all easier said than done, of course, but if we say it enough it might just sink in. So I will tell my children that even though the worst of us might sometimes be the loudest, they are not necessarily the majority. Sometimes it is terribly hard to believe and it is during those moments that I have to search for the things to feel hopeful about. They're always there, though. At the very least, the whole world can't agree to be as awful as possible all the time because the whole world would never agree to anything entirely to begin with. There will always be someone to say "Now hang on a minute..." And with luck, education, and determination, I will have added two more of those someones to this world of ours.

You're welcome.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I think I might be irrelevant in the sense that I do not pertain to anything. In my head, I'm a fad that went out a decade ago or a piece of outmoded technology. The world is full of smaller, cuter, more efficient and desirable models. Mentally, I am collecting dust.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Family Fun

For the past several days, Clyde has been off of work thanks to some much-needed vacation time. We've been cramming family fun time in between bouts of rest and relaxation and I think that we have all needed this badly. Ben has been delighted by the sudden abundance of "Daddy Days" and our trip to the Children's Museum was much, much easier when there was a pair of eyes for each child. The boys have an annoying habit of wanting to dart off in completely different directions which makes supervision difficult for just lil' ol' me. This time, Ethan got to pretend shop to his heart's content while Clyde and Ben were able to go to the arts and crafts room and paint several masterpieces. Joy!

We've also been swimming and sledding. The swimming excursion was a mixed bag, though. Ethan hates Currents Aquatic Center. We had taken him there quite a while ago with poor results. He screamed the moment he and I entered the locker rooms (which was extra awesome given the echo) and he refused to be any more than a quarter inch away from me the entire time we were in the pool. During the Summer, however, we took him to Splash Montana and that was a huge success. He happily splashed and played and had a wonderful time. We foolishly thought that this meant he was over his "pool fear" and assumed that another trip to Currents would be successful. Unfortunately, not all pools are created equal and there is something inherently offensive to Ethan about Currents. Maybe he just hates indoor pools or maybe the water is just the wrong temperature. Maybe the ventilation system in the building emits a sound that is only audible to small children named Ethan and triggers a part of their brain that whips them into a frenzy. I don't know. I suppose this most recent time around was slightly better than our first trip. He still screamed immediately upon entering the locker room (both coming into and out of the pool) and he still clung to me like a desperate baby spider monkey, but he was marginally less frightened while in the water and even cracked a smile or two. Oh well. On to sledding...

Sledding was a resounding success. We had to buy a sled since we're really bad Montanans and did not already own one. Clyde was put in charge of that purchase and he came out with what I have now dubbed "Death Sled". The thing requires only the gentlest of slopes to send it flying. Remember, however, that I have deemed the excursion a success which means there were no injuries despite the warning sign at the trail head which promised death, paralysis, and other "serious injury" should sledding be in our future. We took necessary precautions when the kids were on the sled. It was the few times that Clyde or I went down by ourselves that "Death Sled" showed its full potential. Neither of us had been sledding since we were children so I think we underestimated both the hill and the sled. The only way that we could stop our frightening descent was to lie down so that our backs could create enough drag on the snow to slow "Death Sled" to a stop. It was either that or aim for a tree and that is an unpleasant option.

We did have one frightening experience when Ben flopped down on the sled at the base (or what seemed like the base) of the hill and began to drift off. At first, he was travelling slowly and we thought that the terrain was flat enough that he'd gently drift to a halt in short order. We were quite wrong. He began to gain speed and the seemingly flat terrain revealed a subtle slope that we hadn't noticed. Clyde and I found ourselves running after Ben while shouting at him to roll off the sled or drag his feet or do ANYTHING to keep "Death Sled" from it's chosen path that involved rocks and trees and injury. Ben managed to expertly spin the sled sideways which slowed it enough to let him gently roll of it into soft and rock-free snow. Clyde and I were panic-stricken but Ben just giggled and said that it was "super fun."