November 21, 2013
Welcome to the November Intelligentsia.
If you watched The Office during the brief Will Ferrell era, you may remember the Inner Circle episode. The new boss hand-picked a few people for exclusive meetings, including some obvious choices like Jim and counter-intuitive choices like Kevin. The inner circle was particularly egregious because everyone could see the secret meetings going on, so everyone else knew that they had been left out of the inner circle.
I’ve never experienced the inner circle phenomenon, as far as I know — if it has gone on around me, I guess my bosses have been good at hiding their existence. Recently, though, the Big Boss has, for some reason, brought me into his inner circle. A few weeks ago there was a meeting to make some big decisions, with 3 very senior staff, a newly recruited hotshot, and me. I frankly held my own in the meeting, but still I had no business being on the list. No one asked me what the hell I was doing there, but they would have been totally within reason if they had.
Then again today, I was on a short list of people that Big Boss emailed to ask for a vote on something. I should be at #23 in the organizational hierarchy based on status and experience, but somehow I made Big Boss’s top 7.
This is all particularly ironic given that one of my immediate bosses is constantly disappointed in my work. Today was the first meeting in two months where she didn’t chastise me for something. Two weeks ago I totally killed it with outstanding work, which she absolutely couldn’t criticize, so instead she complained that I hadn’t turned in my time card.
Yeah well fuck her. I am riding my inner circle membership all the way to the top! I will leapfrog right over her!
Until Big Boss retires.
Have you ever been in the inner circle? Have you ever been left out of the inner circle?
October 31, 2013
I’m glad to see Halloween end. I adore little children in costumes, and I’m often amused by big kids and adults in costumes. I’m fine with pumpkins and candy. But I do not like all of the scary stuff. I don’t like the scary movies on TV and in theaters all month, I don’t like the death-themed decorations, I really don’t like the horrifying costumes. Last year, two different trick-or-treaters who came to our door were so scary that they made Burrito cry (out of more than a hundred, so the odds were small, but still). I abhor haunted houses. Few things in life sound less appealing than someone jumping out at me or, worse, grabbing me in a dark room.
Burrito and Tamale are consistently confused by all of the scary Halloween stuff. Why would someone make their lawn into a graveyard? Why do so many big kids choose to dress in scary costumes? Why does our neighbor’s door have a ghost that makes scary noises when you walk by? Why would people want to be scared?
Beyond Halloween, they both don’t understand the drive for being scared. One of their favorite activities is adjacent to an amusement park, and they can hear the people on the roller coasters screaming. They are so perplexed by people voluntarily putting themselves in a situation where they would be so afraid. Burrito in particular has no plans to ever, ever go on a roller coaster. Tamale at this point wouldn’t particularly seek it out, but she’s game for pretty much anything, so I predict that in a few years I’ll be sitting next to her on roller coasters while Burrito and his dad watch from the ground. I’m fine with roller coasters, not because I like to be scared but because they don’t particularly scare me. I’m not seeking thrills because I don’t experience a thrill. Sometimes they’re whatever, and sometimes I enjoy the weightless feeling of coasting and flying, but it’s not exciting for me. Based on the number of people lining up for roller coasters and haunted houses, I am clearly in the minority.
Do you enjoy being frightened?
October 24, 2013
There are a lot of things I like about the house I now live in, but this red maple tree in my front yard may be my favorite.
(The color of the sky is accurate, but the leaves are even more vibrant in person.)
Before I lived in this city, I lived in the epicenter of foliage, the kind of destination to which leaf peepers make pilgrimages. And my house was surrounded by trees on all sides. It was glorious. There are a lot of things I don’t miss about that place, but at this time of year, I do miss the leaves.
I grew up in a place with no foliage whatsoever. Many trees weren’t deciduous, and the ones that did lose their leaves in autumn just seemed to turn brown. In high school biology class when we were learning about the leaf cycle, the teacher pointed out that the new girl had just moved from New Jersey. We all clamored around her, bombarding her with questions about the foliage. It was as if she’d just moved from Jupiter.
There are two things I really love about winter. #1: Walking outside in the morning after a big snowfall and trying to identify the animal tracks. In my previous locale, I did not love the snow that stuck around for months and months, and mostly I vastly prefer winter in my current city where the snow almost always melts instantly (and where we sometimes get days in the 60s or 70s). But, it was wondrous when I lived in the forest and tried to track all of the visitors who’d passed through my driveway that morning. Deer, rabbits, birds, squirrels, mice, beavers, woodchucks. There were some animals that I almost never saw, but they all left their mark. I loved solving the puzzle of the footprints, and I loved imagining them walking/running/hopping around my driveway while I was asleep.
#2: Super giant snowflakes. I’ve never seen them in this city, and only a couple of times in my last home; really only a handful of times in my life. My first time was during my first year of college, when I moved from a place where it never snows to a place where it snows plenty. One January day I was sitting in sociology class, and I looked out the window and there were marvelous, enormous snowflakes. Really enormous — some were as large as an inch in diameter. They danced through the air. It was like a cartoon version of snow. Everyone kept watching them dance. Even the students who came from snowy places were mesmerized. Our poor professor and Durkheim just couldn’t compete.
In the spring, daffodils are my absolute favorite. My appreciation largely stems from learning Wordworth’s poem as a child. When Burrito and Tamale were small, instead of telling them nursery rhymes, I’d recite poetry. When I was pushing them in the stroller in the spring, any time we’d pass daffodils, I was compelled to recite the whole poem. There are other flowers I enjoy too, but there’s something unique about daffodils that “my heart with pleasure fills.”
And in the summer, even though I grew up very close to the ocean, I don’t particularly care for the beach. I don’t like sand, I don’t like hot weather, I don’t like bathing suits, and I am unimpressed by flat coastlines. I do like the sounds of the waves, and I enjoy watching the surfers, but what really floats my boat are the hills and lakes of the Pacific NW. I shot the photo below just a few blocks from my house at the time; when I would come around a bend, or over the crest of the hill, and be confronted by a view like this, it got me every time.
What are your favorite aspects of nature?
October 10, 2013
Welcome to the October Intelligentsia.
The first of my husband’s high school friends turned 40 today. Exactly eighteen years ago today, I teased that friend that since he’d turned 22, he was now in his mid-20s. He protested, “No, I’m still in my early 20s!”
I’ve seen people freak out about turning 30, 40, 45, 50, 60… And even some of the non-round numbers.
My mother objected to every age. She always looked much younger than her age, and her lies continued that illusion. She would even try to get me to lie to her friends, acquaintances, manicurists, baristas, et al., since “I don’t want to be old enough to have a 25 year old” (or any other age).
I’m the opposite, at least so far. With each new birthday, I’m happy to announce my age (38 coming up shortly!). As my husband always says when someone laments getting another year older, it beats the alternative.
Are there any ages, future or past, that freak you out? How do you react to getting older?
September 19, 2013
We have a houseguest right now. He and my husband have been friends and colleagues for many years and speak on an almost daily basis, but he has only met Burrito and Tamale once before, last year. Even so, when he arrived today, both Burrito and Tamale were clamoring to show him around the house. Burrito, who normally takes hours to get comfortable with a new person, within a few minutes was literally leading our guest around the house by the hand.
After the children went to bed, I commented to our guest, “Wow, Burrito likes you so much. He is never so comfortable with someone so quickly.”
Our guest responded, “Children and dogs are crazy about me. Adults, not so much.”
I replied, “I’m exactly the same way! Except for the dogs.”
In fact, neither of our statements is quite true. Everybody likes our houseguest; I’ve never met a person who had a bad word to say about him. Children and dogs just like him even more. A mutual friend had a dog who barked viciously at everyone except her immediate family; the teenaged daughter of the family had a boyfriend who was only accepted by the dog after 2 years. The first and every subsequent time that the dog met my houseguest, she was snuggling him and licking his face.
As for me, I’m also a pied piper with children. Not all children, but most. Recently at a birthday party, a 2 year old who is hesitant around almost all adults was literally pushing my children out of the way so that she could sit next to me.
I’m also pretty popular with older people. I’m calm, listen attentively, show excellent manners. People my age? Hit or miss.
The same principle applies professionally. I’m a great mentor/supervisor. Bosses love me. Peers? Iffy.
Which types of people (or animals) are particularly drawn to you? What types of people are tougher for you to charm?
September 11, 2013
Welcome to the September Intelligentsia.
Following up from the last post, I caved. Burrito made a reasoned argument and I couldn’t refuse. “Abel is my friend and he is nice and he is gentle and he is funny and he is good at sweeping.”
So, I added Abel and Tamale’s 2nd best friend (Lilith?) but not Cain or Seth or anyone else. Additional personalized trains are currently en route to my house. 4 guests, plus their parents — in line with the rule that Sara mentioned her mother using of the number of guests equaling the age of the child.
Anyway, on to TT.
In the past two days, Burrito and Tamale have independently discovered the little box in the back of the silverware drawer. I had the same conversation with both of them, almost verbatim.
“What’s in this box?!?”
Chopsticks. They are my chopsticks.
“May I please use them?”
No, they are my chopsticks.
“I want to try them.”
I bought them in Japan. They are only for me.
There aren’t many things in this house that are just for me — quite the opposite. Burrito and Tamale literally eat the food off my plate, on a daily basis. My office serves mainly as the room that has the swivel chair in which they spin each other around. My hairbrush has taken up permanent residence in the playroom. They clomp around the house wearing my shoes.
But, there are a few items that are off limits. B&T are allowed to use almost every dish, bowl, or cup that I have made myself, except for a couple — and there’s one plate that even DH isn’t allowed to use.
I have a few pens that I wouldn’t let the children use; my husband can use them if he’d like, but the pens can’t leave the house, and I wouldn’t recommend that he mess with the fountain pens.
Sometimes I like to buy myself fancy soaps. Even though DH shares my shower, he’s not allowed to use my soap, because what lasts two months for me will last a week if he goes near it. The children don’t use the shower and they don’t use bar soap, so they’re not a threat to my fancy soaps, yet.
And, there are my chopsticks. Though after he kept asking, I told Burrito that if he keeps practicing with the kid chopsticks (they are attached at the top to make them easier to use) that I might let him use them. If he breaks them, I guess we’ll have to go buy replacements… in Japan.
Is there anything in your house that’s just for you?
August 29, 2013
Burrito and Tamale’s 4th (!!) birthday is coming up. We’d planned a party with their two closest friends at one of their favorite places, where we go all the time but neither of these kids has ever been. Eve from the previous post, and a little boy, let’s call him Adam. Both of those kids have been in school with B&T since they were barely 2. We have gone on multiple outings with each of them and their parents. Burrito can get overwhelmed when there are too many people, or when there are people he doesn’t know well, so two kids (with a total of 6 guests counting their parents) seemed very reasonable.
Except that Burrito keeps inviting other kids from school. Every day, I’m greeted with a new request, or, worse, notification that he has extended an invitation. “I want to invite Cain to my party.” “Abel has never been there before!” “Seth is excited to have a cupcake at my party.”
I know exactly where he gets it — definitely not from me. His father’s birthday is coming up too, and I can’t even fathom the guest list. He has plans with some buddies for the night before, and the #1 buddy asked him who else he should invite. DH answered, “I dunno, go ahead and invite everybody.” Everybody. There might very well be 20, 30, 40 people, and he’s perfectly happy with that. Conversely, I have not wanted more than 3 people for my birthday since I was in high school.
It’s not just an introvert-extravert thing, though that’s part of it. This “the more the merrier” philosophy seems to go beyond mere extraversion. We have been to the weddings of many extraverts, but there was only one where the groom kept adding people on at the last minute. Three different people were suddenly coming to town — none of them close friends of the happy couple (a friend’s brother, a high school classmate, and a sorta-friend who went to a rival high school), and the groom invited each of them to not only drop by but to attend the entire wedding. Seating charts and head counts be damned, he’d make room for them.
Ironically, that groom was an add-on to my own wedding guest list. One of DH’s friends (previously mentioned on the blog as That Guy) didn’t want to make the 10-hour drive to our wedding alone, so he asked if we could invite this future inclusive groom — who had gone to elementary and high school with DH and they had many close mutual friends, but they hadn’t been close friends since 5th grade. We’re not talking hundreds of people like the inclusive groom’s wedding; this addition raised our head count from 45 to 46. Then, the driving plans changed and the additional guy was going to drive with a different guest. That Guy was once again driving alone. So, he asked us to invite three, yes three, more people: a guy we’d never met who happened to have a car, and two girls with whom they hoped to hook up, who would provide sufficient motivation for the car guy to make a weekend trip to the wedding of people he’d never met. DH and I put our collective foot down. I told him that it was a wedding, not a BBQ. (Note: The previous year, we’d had a BBQ, and That Guy had brought along 5 people we didn’t know, bringing the total head count to 12.) I told him that he was trying to add 4 extra people, the same number of family members I had coming to my wedding. I told him that I was not going to hand-calligraph placecards for people whose names I didn’t know.
Which brings us back to the 4th birthday party. I originally set the guest list at two because it seemed like the best thing for Burrito’s enjoyment (Tamale would be happy with 2 or 20). But, I am resisting expanding beyond two despite Burrito’s repeated requests for selfish reasons: instead of dollar store crap, the party favors I’ve chosen have to be custom ordered weeks in advance (trains where each car is a letter of the kid’s name). I can’t keep adding to the order every day, and I don’t want to switch to different party favors. If Burrito keeps taking after his father, though, in future years I may have to forgo the elegant hand-crafted party favors and settle for the bulk bin. And I might even have to spend the party talking to parents that I don’t already know well and, who knows, make a new friend or two. Who I might then have to invite to my own birthday party.
How inclusive are you when constructing a guest list?