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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Priorities for the Tempest

In a moment of pain and fatigue and disillusionment I reached out to a friend. She sent me her answer in a poem.

Priorities for the Tempest (to my friend)
by Abigail Knutson

First find his face
then attend to all the rest.
After looking in the eyes of he who knew you
back at molecule one, still knows you best,
turn back to the storm.
Wrestle the ropes, brave the rain,
but only after slipping one shoulder down,
let the burden roll, chuck him your pain.
He can carry it and still hold
the two trillion galaxies we know about.
Don’t try to assemble a picture of his face
from the chaos and the wreckage of the squall.
He said there would be trouble, and we’re still drinking
the gall that he refused, but his wine’s coming.
Our great globe shall dissolve
when he tips his hand.
Drink deep despite the bitterness and hold out
for the wedding feast of the lamb.
Our revels then won’t end.
Hell’s not empty
but there are plenty of devils here.
Don’t let the slippery sibilants wind
your cochlea, precious snail
round which a snake would love to coil.
Keep it free to receive
Forgive comfort like cold porridge
He’s coming back for you. Stay bright,
stay steadfast, my friend.
We are such stuff as eternity is made of.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What to Do on Valentine's Day When Love Stinks

I’m getting no love this year on V-Day, not because love stinks but because Hubs’ job does. He’ll be on travel on the annual Day of Love & Romance. So I offered to babysit for some friends who are in the middle of a major home renovation and haven’t been out alone together, sans chitlins, in far too long.
Yeah, I’m just sweet that way.
Unfortunately my friends’ schedule doesn’t accommodate a date that night, so I’m getting no credit for being the saint that I am.
But it got me thinking about what else one who finds herself stag might do on the annual Day of Blissful Coupledom. Here are a few ideas.
Movie Night With the Kids (Yours, or Someone Else’s)
“Is this a kissing book?” Pop some corn, tear open a bag of pink and red M&Ms, and sit down to a showing of The Princess Bride. There’s something for everyone: …swordfighting, giants, true love, miracles, chases and escapes… “It doesn’t sound too bad. I’ll try and stay awake.”
Go to a Movie On Your Own
This isn’t as hideous as it might seem. Get yourself a big bucket of popcorn—which you don’t have to share—and a large box of Milk Duds—which you don’t have to share—and watch the movie you want to watch. Sitting in the back lets you sling kernels at people who are smooching during the movie, but sitting at the front prevents you seeing all those snoogly couples, if that’s going to give you the sniffles or hurl you into an abyss of despair.
Host a Girls’ Dinner Party (or a Boyfriend Bonfire)
Make this one as classy or crass as you and your girlfriends like. Everyone brings an appetizer and a bottle of wine? A side dish and a dessert? Memorabilia from ex-boyfriends and some kindling? For the first two parties the hostess just needs a few chairs and some places to set drinks. For the last one you’ll want to have it at whosever home has a fireplace. Or a cast-iron bathtub she doesn’t like.
Stay Home Alone and Tweak Your Dating Profile…
…OMG, NO. Seriously. Don’t even look at your dating apps on Valentine’s Day. Uninstall them if you must. You can get them back later. Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, lace it with Bailey’s maybe, and grab a novel. Or binge-watch all six seasons of Downton Abbey. Or find a Youtube tutorial and finally learn to play that guitar you’ve had sitting in the corner for the last eight years.
Take a Bubble Bath
Light some candles, turn on some music, and fill your tub with happiness. Order some HanZa Bath Bombs. You can get these bad boys in 24 hours most places. “Rubber ducky, you’re the one. You make bath time lots of fun…”
Go on a Chocolate-Hunting Spree
Retailers clearance all their seasonal candy after holidays; many start slashing prices right on the day itself. Hit Target, CVS, the grocery store, etc., and clean up on candy. You’ll get first dibs on all the good stuff, while everyone who shows up the next day will find nothing but love-shaped red-hots and bags of broken conversation hearts.
Whatever you choose to do this Valentine’s Day, coupled or solo, just remember: it’s 24 hours. February 15 is just a few heartbeats away. If you didn’t have the evening you wanted to have this year, it’ll come around again in another 364 days. Therefore, I leave you with a poem:
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Valentine’s Day always kind of stinks,
unless it doesn’t for you this time. Then hey, knock yourself out, Love Machine.
(I’m not a very gifted poet.)
Happy V-Day.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Little Girl vs. the (Dead) Spider

Oh, the nightmarish horror of it all.
I'm the worst mom ever.
Yadda, yadda, yadda...

Wow. Haven’t heard this kind of tantrum—complete with throat-shredding screeches—in a long time. Here’s how it started:
The boys are away on a ski weekend, so the girls and I are home alone. I made Daughter and Little Girl a deal: if they help me with housecleaning this morning, they both get to have a friend over this afternoon. Woot-woot, win for everyone!
While the eleven-year-old changed her bed linens and collected her dirty laundry, the nine-year-old worked on cleaning out the kid-junk drawers in the basement coffee table. I was vacuuming in the next room when I heard a scream.
“There’s a spider in the drawer!” Little Girl cried.
“Dead or alive?”
“Dead,” she told me.
“Here,” I said as I went into the laundry room. I pulled off a full-size sheet of paper towel, dampened it, and demonstrated on top of the freezer how you slap it over the spider, the spider sticks to the towel, and you toss it in the trash.
It is now thirty minutes later and the horror has escalated to the point that it sounds like Hannibal Lechter is butchering my child in our basement.
“I hate my stupid life!” (Wails and screaming and gnashing of teeth.) “Why do I have to do everything?!?” (Banshee howls and flailing of body parts.) “I can’t doooooooo iiiiiiiiiiit!!!”
Was that the music from Psycho I just heard?
Her older sister headed downstairs.
“Do not clean up the spider for her,” I commanded. “She can do this.”
“Okay then.”
They’re down there now. Big Sis—who has killed, picked up, and disposed of spiders for her older brother since she was four—is talking Little Girl through it.
Yipes! Here they come!
Little Girl’s eyes are wet, but otherwise she appears unbutchered.
“I did it,” she says. With a smile. A SMILE.
“I knew you could,” I tell her.
“It was gross.”
They have now gone back to completing their chores.
One more milestone on the path to adulthood: Check.

Friday, January 27, 2017

And Now You're MINE. Bagging Up the Beanies, Bears, & Babies

Actual Photo Documenting My Daughters' Bedroom Floor
I’ve had it.
The stuffed animals are everywhere. My house looks like a Beanie Baby puppy mill exploded inside a Star Trek replicator. The girls’ room has a veritable carpet of stuffed animals. No exaggeration—I’ve given up trying to step around them, and now when I have to enter the room I just walk on their squishy heads and floppy, furry limbs.
No, I don’t hear them crying. And I wouldn’t care if they did
Oh, golly. I’m sorry—that one was actually the cat.
I’ve asked the children—repeatedly, ad nauseum, until my throat has gone hoarse with the effort and relentlessness of my simple request—to please pick up the freakin’ animals!!!
But they have not.
They think I am impotent, evidently, to do anything about the rabbit-like proliferation of fake fur and fiberfill that litters my living space.
But I am not.
Guess what Mother is about to do? It involves two black 42-gallon Hefty bags…
Oh, take a pill. I’m not going to throw them out. Or burn them.
Nope, I’m going to hold them hostage.
Every cat and dog and bear and bunny and otter and dragon and ocelot is going to be my personal lever of leverage to get everything else I want done, done.
My older daughter is, one might say, unmotivated when it comes to homework. “I already know this stuff. Why do I have to waste my time doing stupid busywork to prove it?”
Because you’ll never see Darla the Dolphin again unless you do. Dear.
That’s right. Daughter will get one critter back for every A she earns on an item of homework.
Little Girl is going to learn about the gravity of her mother’s mandate to pick up her things after showers. Every evening that clothes are properly stowed and the towel is not mildewing on the floor or on the couch or in her bed, she will receive the reward of one inmate's liberation from Black Plastic Prison.
There's enough faux wildlife in my house that I think I can make this last till at least the older one leaves for college.
I’m hopeful that one day, after enough experiences contending with the Mother Who Shall Not Be Overcome, the children will take it seriously when I say, “We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way”.
Either way, it’s no fur off my hide.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

On Coping With the Obstinate Human

We have at least one obstinate child in our house, and I am was as a younger person perhaps a smidge on the stubborn side myself. So I feel somewhat authoritative on the subject of dealing with a creature whose heels frequently dig themselves six inches into the unyielding earth.
I hate, loathe, detest, and am unwilling to submit to external pressure. If you Nudge me on Words With Friends, I will do my best to trounce you, then block you like a foul-mouthed troll if you ever send me a “Let’s Play!” message again. But even when the thing being asked of me is something I actually want to do, if it smells one whiff like I’m being coerced, good stinkin’ luck, friend. You’ll have a better chance prying open a clam with a pair of wet Q-tips.
But at the risk of shooting myself in the foot (hopefully those who regularly have to deal with me are not reading my blog this week), I want to share—in the way of a public service message—a few secrets about getting the pigheaded mule in your life to concede to your will.
Give Up the Notion that You Know What’s Best for Him
This will get you nowhere. No. Where. At all. The obdurate person, by the time he has set his parking brake, has already prioritized his unwillingness to perform as The Most Important of All Important Things. Giving in would be traitorous to his sense of self and free-will. Acquiescing is akin to selling out your countrymen from the front lines in order to secure a safe desk job at enemy headquarters. Save yourself a lot of time, breath, and energy, and move on to a more practical strategy.
Don’t Assume You Know What She Wants
You may think you understand what’s going on inside the brain of the person whose lower jaw is now jutting out half a foot, but you likely do not. My older daughter was willing to stand facing a wall all day long—and I know from experience that she has the stamina to do it—rather than give her younger sister a hug of apology. Her father figured she was just being contrary. But when I asked why she didn’t want to hug her adorable little sis, Older Sister answered, “Because she’s gross.” Then she cited a couple of examples I couldn’t really contradict. (All people do gross things, if you observe them long enough.)
Ask the Person of Stiff Neck What Could Change His Mind
It’s useful to recognize that stubbornness is a often a reaction to a perceived sense of lost control. One of the quickest ways to deactivate the Shields-Up mechanism is to return some sense of control to your adversary. I asked my daughter, “Is there anything your sister could do which would render her less gross?”
The answer was, “No.” But it did open up a dialogue…
Turn the Situation Into a Problem-Solving Conversation, Rather Than a Confrontation of Wills
Again, intractability is typically the response to a high need for control. While you may want to address your intractable person’s overreaching control issues, in the middle of a battle for control is almost certainly the least effective time to do it. Deal instead with the present issue and bring up the larger problem in a less volatile moment. (Like after a nice meal followed by a rich dessert. People with happy tummies don’t usually get into knock-down-drag-outs with each other.)
Older Daughter couldn’t come up with a way that she could power through Younger Daughter’s grossness, so I offered a suggestion, wrapped in empathy: “I really hate for you to waste your whole day standing here. You have better things to do. What if you gave her a quick hug, then immediately changed your clothes and washed your hands?”
She left the wall, found her sibling, and the episode ended within sixty seconds.
(I may, however, need to do some research on germophobia.)
In Conclusion
As with most episodes of human conflict, understanding why someone behaves as they do goes a long way toward figuring out a resolution or workaround. Once I understand a person’s motivation, I can address the need behind it, rather than beat my head against the brick wall of the behavior I don’t like.
Hey, I wonder if this strategy might work in the political or national arenas?
Pfft. Where’s the fun in that?