Archive by Author | Musings from a Tangled Mind

Thanksgiving Madness

Ahhhh, the end of November. You know what that means. Thanksgiving is ready to spill its bountiful cornucopia all over us. Are you ready for the psychological obstacle course known as Thanksgiving dinner? Just like evergreen trees are to Christmas, gaudy cakes are to birthdays, pastel eggs are to Easter, and candy hearts are to Valentine’s Day, the family meal centered around turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce defines the holiday of Thanksgiving — yet it’s rarely as benign as a chalky pink piece of candy that says BE MINE.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having the generations all gathered around one table to laugh, share, and love. I love my family. Not only do I love them, they’re a hoot. Where do you think I get it from? But often coming along for the heartwarming ride is the knowledge that over wine, green bean casserole, and Haas Gooey Cake, I get to be put on trial yet again for that thing (or two or three) I did god knows how many years ago. And by this point so many of the stories brought up are so old that there’s probably more imagination in their re-telling than actual fact. Or so I like to say anyway. I mean, no one could be that bad when they were young, could they?

Thankfully, the holiday spirit that envelopes my family is plenty big enough to wash over many and my brother is often also the object of ridicule at these joyous functions. Believe me; I’m only too glad to share in the glow of the dinner table spotlight. Topics that are often revisited have to do with our childhood and our inspired attempts at killing each other or our driving our mother insane. I tell you, I cannot wait until my children are old enough for this holiday tradition and I can start to tell stories on them. Although quite frankly, looking back on it, I think my mother just has way more material to work with. Poor woman.

This Thanksgiving, to add to the joy, we’re going to throw three dogs into the mix as well. Oh, big deal you might say. Well, these dogs haven’t met yet, and being in my family, of course each one has its own little quirks…doggy eccentricities let’s say.

One of them is a mammoth of a German Shepherd puppy named Resi who is absolutely flippin’ adorable but a little shy and new to the family. She’ll have to quickly learn to hold her own against two brutal hell-hounds. They’re not the mighty, snarling beasts like at the end of Ghostbusters, but as you regular readers will know, my Rufus and Petra can be just as vicious as Zool’s protectors even if they are only about 5 pounds each with limited reach. They’ve fended off their fair share of UPS drivers through the window I’ll have you know, and I’ve yet to be murdered in my sleep, or taken hostage by the mailman thanks solely to my diminutive four-legged protectors.

Despite her size, Resi is still young and she’s afraid of new things, bless her heart. And when she sees a dreaded “new thing,” she tends to stand there and bark at it as puppies so often do. But so far, these new things haven’t been able to hop around and generally be annoying. Her encounters have been more on the inanimate side, like sculptured pigs sitting on an end table and the like. Well, that’s about to change.

Rufus really wants nothing more than to be friends with his four-legged cohorts, yet he has absolutely no sense of boundaries with other dogs so will do whatever he can to coerce them to play whether his attentions are wanted or not. He’s like that annoying little weasel who tries to steal chickens in the Looney Tunes cartoons who just won’t give up.  Or the kid whose name you learn in the restaurant because the mother is constantly “Rufus stop that, Rufus get down, Rufus leave him alone, Rufus stop licking her in the face for goodness sake!”

Petra, like Resi, is sometimes fearful of new things, and when she’s afraid, she also stands there and barks. Oh joy. I can see hear it now. “Battle of the Barks.” She has the additional quirk of wanting to burrow and hide when she’s very afraid. Under what, it doesn’t matter. Under furniture (whether she fits is irrelevant), under blankets, under people. Under something, under anything.

If our dinner table stays upright, I’ll eat my hat. I’m definitely taking bets on all hell breaking loose and the turkey going airborne. I think I may just come out of all this with some decent spending money.

Thinking about what’s to come as I write this blog I’m reminded of one other part of the holidays that I do quite enjoy…drinking. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit for that which is called wine. Without thee I know not what I would do.

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

This.  This is what I’m faced with immediately upon entering my neighborhood grocery store. Most of you will likely scoff and say, oh, big deal! So what!? What are we even looking at?? But perhaps a few of you will at least somewhat understand why this blemish on an otherwise perfectly corresponding floor throws me off my stride every time I go food shopping.

I understand accidents happen and tiles get damaged. Why not make a design? Even a simple square or something? Especially if you chose a tile that had a nice, peppy design rather than trying to match the tile already in place…and dismally failing, might I add.

I mean, it is the only odd tile in a veritable sea of like-colored tiles. And what’s worse, the banana table is RIGHT THERE. See it!? It could be moved over ever so slightly to cover up the oddball tile. But no. The powers that be just leave the offending thing there. Out in the open. Taunting me.


tile at acme_1


tile at acme_2

Importance of Spell Check

So, this corner mart is in my hometown. Not far from the house where I grew up actually.  I’m just so proud of my old neighborhood and what it’s become. Now I’m not normally one to go around policing everyone’s spelling or grammar, but seriously!? Come on people, get your act together. The sign’s been there at least two years. All I can think of is this: Has no one brought it to the store owner’s attention? Surely there are less socially awkward people than me out there who are brave enough to come forward and let him or her know. Or is it a purposeful thing? Is it some kind of secret code? And if it is, for what exactly? Bad spellers anonymous?

As it is, every time my daughter and I visit my parents, we point to it and smile, our individual, internal spell checkers on alert and for some reason, amused.




Being a Kid is Tough Work

It’s not easy being green…or a kid.

Lots of adults – too many adults – think that childhood is an easy time.  They think that kids are carefree and have nothing to worry about.  Well, childhood should be an easy time, with no cares or worries, and in a perfect world it would be, but we do not live in a perfect world.

Kids face stressors of all kinds and always have. They have to go to school – and if they are not good students that’s one type of stress, and if they are good students, that’s another kind of stress, and if they have to deal with bullies that’s another type of stress, and if they are shy and have difficulty making friends – even if they aren’t subjected to bullying – that’s another type of stress, or if they’re popular and have to maintain a certain circle of friends even if they don’t want to because “it’s expected,” that’s another type of stress.  Well, you get the picture. Stress.

Nowadays there’s more than ever for kids to be worried about. Take for instance, the chat my daughter’s teacher had with her class last school year about possible shooters in the school and how they’re basically all screwed anyway.  And then there’s the fact that my daughter went to a college conference in Baltimore recently – one of her concerns included whether or not the convention center would be shot up…given Baltimore’s latest activities in that regard. Many kids face this fear in this day and age and truly, that’s just a sad testament to our society as a whole.

Then there’s home life, which can be more complicated now than ever before, considering the proliferation of different family units – single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents and step-siblings, and so on. Which can be just fine and dandy inside the home or it can be incredibly complicated depending on how the family meshes – but the external stressors that kids in these situations sometime face can be overwhelming.

And then there’s the parents. Regardless of the type of family unit, most parents are loving and treat their kids well…but there are always the exceptions. And while the percentage of “bad parents” may be low, that still means there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea how to treat kids, and shouldn’t be parents in the first place, frankly.

And all that brings me to the real subject of this blog entry, which is how frustrating it is for teenagers to be lumped into a single mass.

“All teenagers are sullen.”

“All teenagers are moody and antagonistic.”

“All teenagers have teenage angst.”

I disagree with all of these statements but none more than the existence of “teenage angst.” Not all teenagers have teenage angst! And what the hell is teenage angst anyway? There’s no “adult angst” and believe me, I’ve seen plenty of adults that ought to have it.

Oh, and just because a teenager doesn’t want to be social or outgoing, even among family, does not mean they are sullen or moody or antagonistic. Perhaps they’re introverted. Perhaps they’re shy. Perhaps they have a lot going on in their mind and life and they’re distracted. Perhaps they just don’t like you. They should be allowed to do their own thing so long as they’re not being outwardly disrespectful. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer of “respect is a two-way street.”  There is no minimum age for deserving respect. All too often adults think that kids, simply by virtue of being kids, do not deserve even a modicum of respect, thereby completely invalidating their feelings, and this is just wrong.

But how should we treat teenagers who do have angst? (Note the intentional lack of “teenage” preceding the word angst.)

Are they to blame for giving into their feelings – when adults certainly never hesitate to give in to theirs?

Kids have a lot to be anxious about. For some, it’s worse than the norm.

Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzing numb.”

That’s a quote to think about, and to remember.

All of the stresses that affect kids are magnified a hundred fold if they do suffer from anxiety and/or depression.  First off, anxiety and depression are medical conditions. That’s what a lot of adults don’t seem to understand. Oh, they might “get it” regarding themselves or other adults.  They just don’t seem to understand that kids can suffer from these same conditions.  I mean, why would they?  They’re kids, in the prime of their carefree days for goodness sake.

Second, a lot of this angst is caused by external forces.

Take girls, for example. It’s well documented that boys and girls do equally well in school until they get into their teens, when the scores for girls (speaking overall here – there are always exceptions) go way down in certain subjects. Like math and science. Why? Because even today – even today! – girls are not expected to be good at math or science! And they are treated accordingly. No wonder their scores go down.

Then there’s the fact that once girls become teenagers, they “blossom” as the saying goes, and all of a sudden they’ve got to deal with the “opposite sex” coming onto them (or not). Not to mention ridiculous dress codes that make it abundantly clear that their education is much less important than a boy’s and instead they should focus on not distracting the male students from their studies.

Of course boys have a similar and equal kind of stress when they hit puberty, as there’s a blinding rush to turn them into adults and no innocence seems left to any kids anywhere!

Bad parents also cause their kids a lot of stress and anxiety. Some parents emotionally abuse kids, even if they don’t physically abuse them, threatening to withdraw their love if the kid fails a test, for example…or irrationally and insistently pushing the kid into sports when he or she would rather be on the stage let’s say, just so they can relive their old high school quarterback days.

Something else to think about: When parents have a bad day, who are the first ones they take it out on?  Their spouse, sure, but who’s next? The kids. Right. (I’m not talking abuse here – that’s a whole other issue – I’m talking about being in a bad mood, snapping at the family, being curt or short in your tone, and having no patience for anyone.) When kids have a bad day?  Who can they take it out on?  No-one. Why? Because they get punished. For belligerence. For having a bad attitude. If they go to their room and try to stay to themselves because they’ve had a bad day? They get punished. Why? For being sullen.  For being anti-social with the family. For ignoring their parents. For bringing the mood of the family down. Kids are expected to be on perfect behavior at all times or face the consequences.  Who can live sanely under those kinds of expectations!? Yet many adults expect them to do it.

My point in all this rambling?  Simple. Let’s cut our kids some slack, shall we? Kids have feelings and personalities all their own just as adults do. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re kids.


having a good kid meme