What’s in a Word?

Do you ever lay in bed at night, trying to sleep, and suddenly, your mind decides to reach into its dark, hidden stash of almost-forgotten memories to slap you in the face with the most random shit?  I have to believe this happens to other people (it’s what keeps me sane, so don’t pop that balloon, for all our sake).

And by the way, what the hell is up with these nighttime reveries anyway??  It’s your one time to relax and not think. You’re laying there, feeling the hardships of the day seeping out of your overburdened consciousness, and you’re grateful for the quiet … glad to be away from the noise of it all.  Suddenly, your brain is like, NO! You will NOT sleep … you will instead fixate on that irritating commercial jingle you heard in third grade as it plays over and over in your head. Or how about that stupid thing you did at work five years ago? You know what I’m talking about. In the conference room in front of everyone too. That was fun, huh? Or, why does a round pizza come in a square box? Answer that one, smart guy.  Why is it that if someone yells “duck” they are helping you, but if they yell “chicken” they are mocking you? Have they ever even MET a chicken? Those things will tear you up. Tear. You. Up.  Or the old tried and true, are there birds who are afraid of heights? Poor birds.

So. Yeah.

Anyway, I bring all of this up to let you in on the crap question-of-the-night my brain decided to throw at me last night. Perhaps you’ll relate. Perhaps you’ll have an answer. Perhaps you will be kind enough to soothingly touch my arm (figuratively speaking, of course, since we are on the internet and as far as I know, we can’t actually reach out and touch someone … yet) and say, encouragingly, why, no, Wendy, you are not crazy. Not crazy at all. It will all be all right.

Is the plural of a computer mouse, mouse(s) or mice?  The crux of the problem, the answer to which I unwillingly contemplated for hours, is this: grammatically, saying computer mouses just isn’t right and the grammar-fanatic in me fights back against such misuse. But … saying computer mice … well, in a word, drives me flipping insane. It sounds neither right nor logical … just stupid.

Me at Best Buy: “Excuse me clearly overworked sales clerk, but do you have any computer mice?”  I feel as though such a request would be met with disdain if not outright confusion. Oh, of course they would know what I meant, but wonder in awe at my attempt at being “hip.” (On a side note, do we still say hip?)

It took me longer than it should have (4 hours 32 minutes) to figure out an answer to this late-night grammar puzzle. But solve it, I did. Aren’t you proud?

Simply put, I will never ever be in a situation where I have to use the plural of computer mouses  mice  mouses  mice  mouses … aaarrrgghhh!

A Little Game Called Doorbell Dodging

I am sitting in my comfy chair, in my fudge stained favorite sweatshirt, hair pulled back in an unkempt knot at the back of my head.  My teeth aren’t brushed, no make-up on, coffee in hand, laptop on lap, Maury about to announce who the father is (I gotta know!).  I stop cold, a spoonful of Captain Crunch lifted to my mouth.  I hear a car, I hear footsteps…I know what is about to happen.  Yet I’m powerless to stop it.

The doorbell rings. Ugh.

I immediately go into Doorbell Dodger mode.  I haven’t moved this fast since I found out there was only one chocolate glazed donut left in the kitchen at work.

First step, shut off the TV (dang it, now I’ll never know who the father is), then dive head first under the coffee table and hold my breath.  I can’t recall if I closed the curtains on the front door, and darn it, I see the visitor doing the “shade the eyes and look through the window” thing; it’s really kind of creepy.   The doorbell rings again, then the mystery person knocks.   Maybe even a cheery “Hello” from the other side of the front door.  Is it my neighbor?  A friend?  Publisher’s Clearing House? Jehovah’s Witness?  The police looking for me after I jaywalked last week? I may never know, because I hear a scuffling of feet before a car door slams and the sound of a car engine fading into the distance.  I tiptoe to the window and gently pull the curtain to the side, not far, just enough to peep through.  Car is gone.  That was a close one, I narrowly escaped. Whew!

Now that the threat of invasion is over, I start to wonder about the identity of the mystery caller.  I open the door and check for packages, letters, any clues at all.  Now the burning question — other than who the father is, obviously, is…who was the random caller?  And why the hell were they at my door? The downside of Doorbell Dodging is that you will be obsessing the rest of the day over who it could have been.

I feel kind of hypocritical.  I post sweet statuses about my door always being open, I’ll always be there, night or day if you need me…but really, those are just statuses I copied and pasted because I was too lazy to think of one of my own.  The reality is, I don’t like unannounced people on my doorstep.  I’d say call me first, but I never answer my phone either.

I have learned to transform into full Ninja when I hear a car in the driveway; I’ll be locked in the basement before you even hit the first step.  When I miss the tires on the gravel, though, I can get caught short and have to hide behind curtains or furniture. I’ve gotten really good at, if I may say so myself.

What is it about a doorbell that turns us into secretive fugitives in our own homes?  The guilt of our actions makes us feel that our visitor has X-Ray vision and can see right into the bathroom, behind the shower curtain, and into your soul.

I don’t mind company if I know it’s coming.  Ok, I don’t despise company if I know that it’s coming a week in advance.  All right, all right; I will tolerate company if they have made a preset appointment a month prior and have stated the exact purpose and length of their stay prior to arriving.

I’d be a little more ashamed of this if I thought I was alone, but I know I’m not.  I am working on a few inventions for my fellow Doorbell Dodgers, if you’d like a sneak peek:

  • I am going to design a cover that turns my car invisible because I feel the car in the driveway is a dead give-away that I am doorbell dodging.
  • I will be inventing a table disguise that can be slipped on at a moment’s notice, transforming myself into a piece of furniture for the duration of the doorbell episode.
  • I have brainstormed the idea of stick-on house numbers that can be slapped over your real numbers, making your visitor think they are at the wrong door. I just can’t figure out how to install the numbers in stealth mode. Slipping my arm out the door long enough to affix the decals – and in full view of the intruder on my welcome mat, seems a bit awkward … not to mention alerting them to my whereabouts.
  • I have crafted suction cups for your hands and feet, so you can scale the wall like a fly and hang on to the ceiling to avoid detection. (this one is my favorite just in case you wanted to know)
  • I have recorded an endless loop of shower noises to be played over a loudspeaker, activated by the push of the doorbell. I have also recorded sneezes and horrible fits of coughing to scare the offender away.  For a small additional charge, you can upgrade to my recording of the barks of St. Bernards, German Shepherds and Great Danes with a voice frantically screaming, “Get back, get back!” in the background.
  • When all else fails, I have created a pair of “pants” that slip on the front only, so it appears you are wearing pants when you answer the door. This is a last resort … a Hail Mary if you will. Just be careful to remain facing your visitor at all times.

Let’s face it, the doorbell can ring at any time; it’s just a matter of when.  Always be alert, and until I can roll out my aforementioned handy-dandy inventions, be prepared:

  • Have a blanket the same color as your couch cushions to throw over you when the doorbell rings
  • Practice your escape route often. Be prepared to hurtle over barking dogs and dodge obstacles in the hallway for a clean escape.
  • Have more than one hiding place in case someone else in the house beat you to the first one.
  • Plan a spot to meet your family in the house after the visitor is gone so you can monitor windows in case he changes his mind.
  • Never let your guard down. Doorbells can ring at all hours of the day and night.  You are never really safe. Practice your stop, drop, and roll crawl across the living room floor on a routine basis.
  • Remember that sometimes a visitor will remain on the step for a minute or two after the last door chime. This is a trap that has caught many unsuccessful doorbell dodgers in the past.
  • Keep a pair of pants by the front door, just in case.

All kidding aside, anyone is welcome to my home, any time.  Just sign up for an appointment, call me in advance, and answer my prescreening questions.

Also, bring a bathing suit and be careful; that moat is full of alligators.

Supply and Demand

I think someone who is smarter than me — which is a pretty wide field — should create this app, not just for those with social anxiety but for introverts everywhere. I would buy it. Hell, I could easily name 20 people who would buy it, and that’s just me. I’m sure everyone knows someone who would pay good money for this. The creator could make a fortune. Let’s make it happen, people! By tomorrow if at all possible, I have to go shopping …

Independence Day

So. I drove into the city last week. Two & half hours away.  Got on major highways and everything. Went to a different city last month, same situation. Yep. Me.

No, I didn’t do it blindfolded. No, I didn’t do it only using my feet. No, I didn’t do it without hitting a single red light. I did it. That’s it. That’s the accomplishment.

Not terribly impressed, are you? I don’t blame you. I don’t see Hollywood optioning that story for their next summer tent-pole.

You may not know this about me but I get a little bit, okay, seriously anxious when I’m on a major highway. I wasn’t always that way. It grew on me over time, through a series of repetitive blows to my self-esteem.

So, when I had a significant other, I let him take care of the driving…believe me, he was only too willing to nurture my anxiety right along with me. But now that co-dependent crutch is gone (I’m currently just addicted to Siri, MapQuest, and my GPS!).

Now I’m driving to cities hours away and shoveling out blizzards and I’m getting my oil changed and flat tires fixed and repairing refrigerators myself…well, I could always figure out how to repair things so that last one doesn’t count.  But now I can do it without first having to let someone else try while I stand there watching and biting my tongue and not saying “that’s really not a good idea,” or “I have an idea how to fix it, if you’d just let me,” because I was afraid of hurting an ego that was quite capable of bringing down the house when it was injured.

I allowed myself to be afraid of so many stupid things, like driving into the city for instance. Over the past 18 months or so, I’m going new places, doing new things, and able to count on myself.  My daughter and I are going to take a bus trip to NYC this summer. Can’t wait. We’re visiting Gettysburg and Antietam on our own when it gets warm…which, guess what? Requires driving. Which is cool, because I’ve got GPS and a funny sidekick riding shotgun.

A trip to the National Zoo and the Smithsonian (National) Museum of Natural History are also on our list. BUT we’ll be taking an Uber for that outing. Hey! It’s Washington D.C. folks. No-one in their right mind wants to drive in D.C., it’s not just ME.

And who knows, if we win the lottery, Massachusetts is also on our go-to list.  The Lizzie Borden House is there and we’re anxious to see it. We’ve been told it’s haunted and that’s just too awesome of a possibility for us to pass up. I’ve already got it mapped out and I’m not afraid. Of the house OR the trip it will take to get there.

So. I’m not saying I have every one of my fears hog-tied as I dance over them in victory — anxiety will always rear its ugly head.  But…definitely making progress.  At least now I only have MY little voice to listen to and sometimes my daughter’s. AND neither starts by saying “Oh no! You can’t do this.” Instead it yells, “You got this!” And you know what…it’s right.

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