July 5, 2012
Welcome to the July Intelligentsia.
#33: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#28: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#25: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#18: Ernessa from Fierce and Nerdy
#17: Tara from Turkey In My Oven
#15: St. Elsewhere
#13: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#12: Ana from Ana Begins
#12: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#8: Sara from Aryanhwy
The coworker who sits next to me left her cell phone on her desk the other day. It rang. When I glanced at it to see if it was something urgent for which I should run and fetch her, I was surprised to see the full name of her husband: both first and last.
A couple of days later, my boss accidentally left her phone on my desk. I was even more surprised than the time before to see her husband’s name when he called: his last name only, no capital letters. She and I are very different. I would never list someone in my phone with only a last name, let alone my husband. I would certainly never put anyone’s name in my address book with no capital letters, let alone my husband. C’mon, the iPhone capitalizes the first letter by default — she had to do make it all lower case on purpose. Bizarre.
My husband is only listed by his first name in my phone (with the first letter capitalized!). If I thought I’d be the only person ever to look at my phone, I’d use a nickname instead. But Boopsie or Rumpshaker or whatever would be pretty embarrassing if anyone ever glanced at my phone when I left it near their desk. Actually maybe Rumpshaker would be awesome instead of embarrassing. Hmm, maybe I need to change it…
Parents are another funny case for address books. My dad is listed by his first name in my phone; my mother used to appear as Mom. My husband does the opposite with his parents: his father is Dad, and his mother is listed by her name. Websites like parentsshouldnttext.com provide a window into the variety of cell names that people use for their parents beyond Mom and Dad — Mommy, Daddy-O, Mamma, Old Man, Mother Dearest, Papa Smurf…
What names do you use in your address book for your nearest and dearest?
December 23, 2011
In the past, with these types of lists, address books, or birthday calendars, I would delete people who had become obsolete — either because they’d moved out of our lives, or because they died.
This year, I instead hid those lines on the spreadsheet. I did this for a couple of reasons: first, there are a couple of people whom DH has had me remove from the list at some point only to request that they be added in a subsequent year; hiding allows me to restore their address rather than having to contact them. Second, it’s hard to know what to do with people who have died. I remember reading a blog post from Mel several years saying that when people die, she leaves them in her address book untouched. At that point in life, her approach was very different from mine: I made a dramatic point of deleting them, a symbolic goodbye. But, I don’t think deleting works for me anymore, nor do I want to look at a potentially painful entry without warning. Hence, hiding the row.
Past deletion has come back to bite me: for example, a relative died last year, and I deleted his birthday from my list. Now, I couldn’t tell you his exact birthday. I know the month, but not the date. And so, when his daughter was suddenly sad on that day, I had no idea why, and I didn’t treat her as gently as I would have until someone else filled me in. Even if the deceased person can’t celebrate anymore, others might want to honor them — or mourn them — on that day, and it’s handy to have some kind of reminder.
There are some entries that I won’t forget, whether or not they appear on a list. I will never forget my mother’s birthday, for example, nor her address, nor the fact that she used to be at the top of my list and she isn’t there any more.
What do you do with obsolete entries in your address book, birthday calendar, etc.?
August 11, 2011
I keep thinking about this article I read about the medium chill, also known as satisficing: “abandoning the quest for the ideal in favor of the good-enough.” It’s about making a choice to live with less “money/stuff/status” in exchange for more time, freedom, and happiness.
That tradeoff became especially apparent for me as we recently spent time with two of DH’s lifelong chums: a guy with a fine-paying, skilled job who chooses to work at that job part time so that he can spend more time with his kids as well as on his hobbies; and Mr. Moneybags, whose moniker says it all. One is the embodiment of satisficing; the other relentlessly accumulates wealth and prestige.
I was raised in a rich/poor family: one parent came from a poor family, and one came from a very rich family. My own upbringing was sometimes rich and sometimes poor. There was no satisficing when I was growing up: you never knew when lean times were coming, so you made the most of the fat times. My father recently spoke about the choices he made, to pursue big things even though it sometimes meant failure because working at a normal steady job would “kill his soul.”
My husband also came from a rich/poor family, but to a more moderate degree than my family. Also more moderate: the big things and the failure.
We both ended up with the good/terrible sense to choose a career that was fulfilling intellectually rather than financially.
Neither of us currently lives a satisficing life at all, working much harder than we should, but we are both pursuing accomplishment more than money. To the extent that we (esp. DH) have pursued money, to a large extent it was to pay for all of those fertility treatments and, now, sustain the results of the fertility treatments.
We both think every day about going somewhere exciting and satisficing for a few months — but only a few months. We both like having some extra money in the bank in case of emergency, or in case we suddenly need to go get some gelato — in Italy. I guess we’d both rather work very hard then relax very hard in a marvelous place than live a balanced but frugal life in a regular place.
How much do you pursue money/stuff/status? Have you made conscious decisions to follow a certain path, or just ended up there?
July 20, 2011
(Sorry to my RSS subscribers about the truncated feed — battling a fucknut blog scraper.)
Day 20 of blog summer camp at Creating Motherhood.
Today’s prompt: What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? Did you repay the kindness? Did you blog about it?
Due to a confluence of ongoing limbo, the most hated person in my life pulling her same shit, and having to spend most of my time doing things that are neither enjoyable nor beneficial, I’m in a bad mood today. Then I saw the Summer Camp topic and thought, “Oh good, this will lift my spirits.”
And then I couldn’t think of anything.
I racked my brain and couldn’t think of any big kindness anyone has ever done for me.
Little ones, sure, but nothing extraordinary.
Which is pretty sad considering that I try very hard to be kind to others.
On an earlier day of camp I talked about birthday cakes. I have baked literally dozens — I’m sure well over 100 — birthday cakes for others, and in my whole life no one has ever baked me a birthday cake. Unless you count the ones I’ve baked for myself, which really shouldn’t count. Boo hoo, poor me. There’s no shortage of cake in my life, but still.
I don’t bake cakes so that others will bake them for me. I don’t perform kindnesses so that others will be kind. I do it because I do it. But when all I can recall are mediocre store-bought sheet cakes and some extraordinary unkindnesses, it makes me sad.
Finally I thought of a set of true kindnesses I’ve received: the relatives and friends who came to stay with us when Burrito and Tamale were tiny.
And several people who drove an hour or two to visit when I was in the hospital trying to prevent Burrito and Tamale from being born too early — including my massage therapist, who not only drove far but didn’t even charge me for my hospital bed massage.
Or the neighbor who left me flowers on the day that my mother died, the note unsigned and saying nothing except a little heart. Which normally would be a small kindness, but on that day was huge.
Or today when I glumly asked, “Who wants to give Mommy a hug?” and Burrito ran over as he usually does and threw his arms around my neck. Then immediately after Burrito finished his hug, Tamale, who loves to give kisses and does hug back but never initiates hugs, for the first time ever, came over and hugged me.
I would gladly exchange a lifetime of sheet cake for those hugs.
July 5, 2011
Day 5 of blog summer camp at Creating Motherhood!
Today’s prompt: What do you prefer to do on your birthday?
When this gray world crumbles like a cake
I’ll be hanging from the hope
That I’ll never see that recipe again
It’s not my birthday
It’s not today
It’s not my birthday, so why do you lunge out at me?
–It’s Not My Birthday, They Might Be Giants
Birthdays were all about duality when I was a kid. As an only child, I was very much the center of attention any day of the year, but on birthdays it was over the top. At the same time, my mother so often seemed to pick my birthday to be miserable to me. I don’t know what baggage my birthday stirred up in her, but especially as I made my way through the teen years, I could count on my mother supplying an unnerving combination of hundreds of dollars of presents and endless hostile harangue.
My first year at college, there was a startling change. There was no drama from my mother. There was also no fanfare. Actually, there wasn’t really any acknowledgement. My RAs had decided to combine my birthday with two other birthdays in that month, at the time of the other hallmates’ birthdays, 3 weeks after mine. My parents didn’t send me any presents, maybe assuming that we’d go shopping the next time I saw them, or that I’d treat myself on their dime. I received zero presents. There was no drama from my mother, but there was plenty of drama from me. Oh, the fit I threw to them on the phone.
Then there was the year I had to work at the Worst Job Ever on my birthday. Special highlight: I finished my shift covered in bruises.
My snubbing continued further when I got my first job after college. I became the in-house baker, and for everyone’s birthday I baked a fabulous cake, exactly the kind they liked best (angel food cake for the dairy-free girl, Black Forest cake for the German, a rum cake for the boozer, etc.). Each person got their own cake, even when it fell the week after someone else’s. I lugged every one of those cakes on the subway! When my birthday came, just like in college it got combined — with three other birthdays. Three others! Spanning two months! Since I couldn’t bake my own cake, the secretary purchased… a sheet cake from the grocery store… a yellow sheet cake with disgusting white icing and inedible flowers. Not only was it horrible cake, but it wasn’t even a flavor of horrible cake I like! Outrageous! “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.”
Since then, my birthdays have thankfully been free of drama and filled with proper cake. There’s a shirt I like to wear on my birthday; nothing special about it, except that I’ve worn it on almost every birthday for almost 20 years. I often seek out marvelous desserts, sometimes beloved favorites and sometimes exotic new treats. I don’t care about presents or balloons or fanfare. Just don’t make me cry or beat me up, and give me some good damn cake.
I don’t know if it’s anyone’s birthday, but I bet the other campers will share some cake with you!
May 8, 2011
From my birth until 2001, I only thought of Mothers’ Day from the perspective of a daughter.
From 2002-2008, Mothers’ Day primarily called attention to my status as a non-mother.
In 2009, I was a hopeful almost-mother, toward the end of my first trimester with Burrito and Tamale.
Last year, I celebrated the day with my babies, and I sent the appropriate greetings to my mother, grandmother, MILs, grand-MILs, et al.
This year, I celebrated the day with my toddlers, and only almost burst out crying once when I thought of my own mother being gone.
At the time, I had no idea that 2010 would be the only Mothers’ Day of my life that I’d both be a mother and have a mother.
At least it happened once.
April 7, 2011
First, inducted into the Intelligentsia Hall of Fame is Wiseguy formerly of Woman Anyone?, who has achieved Intelligentsia status 26 times and only missed a single week in the history of Thoughtful Thursday. She will no longer be blogging or commenting under that moniker, though I suspect that we may hear from her in other ways. She epitomizes thoughtfulness.
- A flamboyant brand new handbag that Tamale may enjoy using someday, either for dress-up in a couple of years or for going out on the town in her teens
- A few letters written to her by people in her family, and a card I sent her when I was in college in a rare display of emotion
- Documents: unpaid bills, documentation, boring stuff
- A couple of children’s books she’d presumably bought for Burrito and Tamale
- Maxi pads
- An unopened box of Thin Mints
These last two are funny. I happened to be in specific need of feminine products when I got the call from the hospital that my mother’s condition had become dire. If I hadn’t had to get on a plane immediately, I would have gone to the drugstore that day because I hadn’t realized that my supply was almost gone. I didn’t have time to go to the store before heading to the hospital first thing when I arrived. After she died, I went to go through her things, and there were all of these maxi pads, somehow anticipating my need. I have no idea why she even had maxi pads, except maybe as a lightweight alternative to Depends (of which there were three enormous packages in her closet, and which I did not bring back with me).
The Thin Mints: even though she wasn’t supposed to eat this kind of food, she never could resist a sales pitch from a Girl Scout.
I happen to still have a couple of other boxes of Girl Scout cookies left that I bought. I’ve found myself going through them unusually slowly, because once I finish those, it’s time to start on the box my mother bought, and once I finish those, they’re gone, forever. That box of cookies is no different from any other box in this world, at least in theory. It’s now in the pantry with the other boxes, and no one else could tell them apart, but I know which one was hers.
As for the jewelry, a couple of pieces are valuable. Several are cheap but I don’t know what else to do with it except stick it all in my jewelry box. Her ring (one of the bands she wore; her diamond ring has disappeared though it may still be at the hospital) goes into a lineup at the back of my jewelry box consisting of:
- Diamond ring my father gave as a gift to my paternal grandmother during an especially flush period of his life (she is still alive, but she gave it to me when I was a young adult because it’s “too fancy” for her)
- Very cheap but sentimental ring my paternal grandfather bought overseas during WWII
- Men’s pinky ring and women’s amber ring from DH’s paternal grandparents, both given to us when they were alive and inspired to hand things down; DH would never wear a pinky ring, and I would never wear an old lady ring like that (or maybe I will when I’m old?) but they’re precious nonetheless
- Cufflinks from DH’s grandfather
- Marvelous gold pocket watch from my grandfather, also a gift from my father during flush times and also given to me in my young adulthood because it was “too fancy”
Outside the jewelry box, we have several household decorations (paintings, statues, needlepoints) from both sets of DH’s grandparents, some of which we use and appreciate and some of which sit in the back of the closet but I can’t get rid of them. I also have a bunch of items that DH’s grandmother made for herself or her grandchildren. Those are so precious. When I wear one of the scarves or hats she made, I think of her all day long. When I put Burrito or Tamale into an article of clothing that she made for their father or one of his siblings, it’s like I can feel her reaching across time and space to embrace them.
I like to tell myself that if my house were burning down, I’d grab the babies and run, and regret losing nothing else. Enough of our photos are backed up into the cloud that I could afford to lose the rest, and anything else is just stuff and can be replaced. But, truth be told, I would be terribly sad to lose some of those heirlooms.
Strangely, I think I will also be rather sad when the time comes to finish those Thin Mints.
What heirlooms, whether valuable or just sentimental, do you own?
April 2, 2011
I was looking up my mother’s house on Google Maps to try to figure out the neighbors’ address so I could write them a letter to inform them of her death. I was using Street View to figure out the right house.
And then, something I did not expect.
In the Street View of my mother’s house, her car is in the driveway.
As far as Google is concerned, her car is still there, and therefore she is still there, and therefore she is still alive.
She lived in that house for 17 years, but already there is no physical trace that she was ever there. The house has been sold and renovated, and everything of hers/ours has been donated or discarded.
I wonder how long it will take until the map realizes that she is gone.
February 17, 2011
Since the downturn in my mother’s health, I’ve received several insights from my father. The confirmation of my parents’ infertility occurred several months ago. Another one I’ll talk about next week. A third was the biggest surprise of my life.
Before my grandfather died a couple of years ago, I had received many remarks about how unusual it was to be in my 30s and have four living grandparents (particularly since my maternal grandparents were quite old when they had my mother, who is the youngest of many many kids, and since my parents were not young when they had me).
My mother is estranged from certain parts of her family. I hadn’t seen my maternal grandparents since I was a toddler, but they were out there somewhere.
Apparently not! At least, not my maternal grandfather.
Recently, discussing my mother’s reaction to her health situation, my father happened to mention something about her reaction to the death of her father.
Before I was born.
I did not misunderstand the situation all these years, and I did not make up a grandfather. My mother absolutely led me to believe that he was alive. I used to draw him birthday cards when I was a kid. I distinctly remember seeing photos of me with him, but I guess that must have been some other old man.
My mother has done some very weird things over the years, but 40 years of pretending that someone was alive takes the cake. I knew that she liked to keep secrets, and I knew that she lives in denial of truths she doesn’t want to accept, but I never, ever imagined that she could do something like this.
She doesn’t deal well with confrontation, especially in her current state, so I’m not going to bring it up. I wonder, though, if my grandmother is alive, or if she’s been gone this whole time too. I also wonder what other surprises are out there that I never could have imagined.
Have you ever been truly surprised?
December 30, 2010
Around our house, one motivation for resolutions has been, “Don’t be like that other person.” A common example: Though DH and I have never smoked, I’ve known others to quit smoking after loved ones were diagnosed with lung cancer.
A few years ago, DH made permanent changes to his diet after his father underwent cardiac bypass surgery.
Exercise jags have followed learning of heart problems from both sides of the family.
Seeing a particular person with a monobrow has sent me straight to the esthetician for waxing.
My MIL’s ingratitude has encouraged my own relentless writing of thank you notes.
A couple of blowhard relatives have inspired both DH and me to curb our own know-it-all tendencies.
There’s nothing like seeing someone else’s muffin top to send you to the mirror to check how your own pants fit.
A loved one almost dies in a car crash? You can bet you’ll drive more carefully from then on.
Do you make resolutions for your own reasons, or has someone inspired you through negative example?