April 25, 2013
Continuing where we left off with the questions I ask Burrito and Tamale to gauge other kids’ personalities…
Another question that’s particularly relevant to 3-year-olds is whether the person is quiet or loud.
Burrito has sensitive hearing, so even though he himself is rather loud, he shies away from loud kids. “Exciting” is appealing to him, but loud is not.
Little kids can be very loud indeed, so my general preference for Burrito and Tamale’s playmates is for kids who are not-too-loud. But, oddly, I have chosen a husband and a best friend who are both tremendously loud. Conspicuously loud. Whole-restaurant-turning-to-stare loud.
Equally oddly, my husband and friend have chosen me. I speak at a normal volume, and I can get a little loud and animated when I’m really engaged in discussion, but my base state is to be extremely quiet. I walk into rooms so softly that I am effectively sneaking in, and I often startle people. It comes in handy when there are sleeping children and I need to pass by their rooms without waking anyone. It comes in less handy when every shopkeeper in the world doesn’t realize that I’ve entered the store, unless there is a little bell on the door. That only happens when I’m alone, though — if I’m with my husband or best friend or kids, you can hear us coming from a mile away.
Do you prefer people who are quiet or loud? Are you quiet or loud?
April 11, 2013
Welcome to the April Intelligentsia.
#42: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#36: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#35: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#34: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#24: St. Elsewhere
#22: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#17: Sara from Aryanhwy
#16: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#16: Ana from Ana Begins
#6: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
There’s a game that I play with Burrito and Tamale in which I try to find out more about the personalities of their classmates. I go through a series of questions that give me a pretty good sense of each kid. We’ll work through the questions over the next few weeks. First:
Is he energetic or calm?
They actually prefer the word “exciting” (pronounced ex-kiting) to energetic, but they can readily answer the question either way. With preschoolers, it’s very clear who is energetic and calm. Most kids are calm (like my Tamale), except for a few Tasmanian devils (like my Burrito). If I’m thinking of inviting a kid for a playdate, my preference would be for a calm child. This is ironic because I am married to the most energetic person I’ve ever met.
Next week I’ll be seeing an old friend with whom I once had the following conversation:
Me: DH has soooo much energy. I’m really low energy.
Friend: If you’re low energy, that means I’m dead.
We were defining energy differently. I am a very calm person, but I have a lot of energy relative to most people — particularly energy for creating things, which is what my friend was thinking of. What I do not have is energy as I was defining it in that conversation: energy for running wildly around the room the way that a 3-year-old (or my husband) would. I am calibrated to be fast, but this manifests itself not in big motor movements but in talking fast, thinking fast, writing fast. When I was a kid, my piano teacher constantly tried to slow me down. She often told me that just because my brain moved fast didn’t mean that my fingers could, nor that the music warranted it. I was never the type to run around the room, though, even as a little kid. I never cared for the type of person who runs around the room.
Until I married one. And then gave birth to another one.
It makes life very exciting. And ex-kiting.
What is your energy level? What kind of energy level do you prefer in the people around you?
March 28, 2013
How often do you feel like you have your shit together? I can’t remember ever feeling caught up in all aspects of life. No, that’s not true. The days before school would start in college: I didn’t yet have any homework on which to fall behind. My first job after college was one where at the end of the day I was done, and I’d go home and do something else like cook dinner or play board games with my husband. I think that was the last time. Once I started graduate school, there was always something more I should be doing. For the first couple of years, DH and I still played board games, until we both started working nights at home in addition to days at work. Ever since then, work-wise, we are never done, never caught up. For both of us, if we finish a big project, the next 5 are waiting. My field is such that even people who aren’t perpetually behind like I am still never really get caught up on everything; there is always more that you should have done yesterday, last week, last year. I love my work, but I do not love that feeling.
In other domains, I sometimes get caught up, and sometimes I am woefully behind. Bills and household stuff? Ugh. Sometimes I’m drowning in unopened mail, and sometimes I’m pleasantly up to date — until the next day, when that damned mailman comes back. And taxes, oh gawd, it’s almost April.
Laundry is put away as of today, but the sink is full of dishes.
There are minor domains where I am often behind but it’s not too hard to get caught up. Thank you notes, for example. I’m caught up right now, because there haven’t been any presents lately. I absolutely like getting presents, but sometimes they’re not worth the hassle of the thank you note. Today I noticed a housewarming gift we’d gotten a few months ago from a friend of DH, and I had this thought: “I’m so glad we’re not moving ever again — there won’t be any more housewarming gifts for which I have to write notes. Oh, but there are still birthdays and holidays, yuck.” What is wrong with me?
For more personal correspondence, I always feel like there are several friends to whom I owe long, heartfelt emails or hour-long phone calls.
Every 6 months I write posterity letters to Burrito and Tamale. I haven’t yet written the letter for their 3rd birthday. They turn 3 1/2 in a few days.
Blog and other online reading? When I was really sick and could barely move but could manage a few taps on the iPad, I actually caught up on everything. Now, my Reader once again has several hundred unread posts. That’s okay, I’ll take it if the alternative is being unable to walk nor use my hands.
Blogging? For today at least, I am caught up as of….. now.
Do you ever feel caught up? In what ways are you perpetually behind?
March 21, 2013
My mother was a terrible tipper. 15% was her max, but usually her tip was closer to 10%. As a kid I’d calculate a proper tip and insist that she leave that amount; she’d often try to sneak a dollar or two back into her purse as we exited, but I always caught her and put the money back.
In restaurants I’m usually somewhere around 18% unless the service is particularly good or particularly bad. When the bill is small, though, I often bump it up. When it’s a place I go often, I bump it up. When I’m on an expense account, I really bump it up.
I’m not always a great tipper, though. I rarely tip maids in hotels: it just doesn’t make sense to me, I dunno. For people like shuttle bus drivers I tip sometimes, but if they’re unfriendly or make me lug giant suitcases onto the bus while they sit watching me I refrain without guilt. I’m an inconsistent tipper when it comes to picking up takeout and getting counter service: should I really be tipping the same amount to someone who does nothing more than hand me a bag as I would to a waiter who attends to a table for an hour or more? I didn’t even realize that anyone tipped on takeout until a few years ago when I saw a friend tip $15 on a $60 order — like many who have worked in food service in the past, she is an excellent tipper. Now, I might tip 10-15%, or if it’s a bakery or something then I toss in a dollar, maybe two, which might turn out to be 10% or might be 40%. If I’m putting the money in a jar, I try to do it when the person is looking, not because I want to get credit for tipping but because I don’t want them to think that I didn’t when I actually did. I totally get that wages for many jobs assume a certain level of tipping, but sometimes I feel like it’s all an extortion scheme. When I was in college, the student-run pizza place literally had a Shit List of non-tippers; after a few times, they would refuse to bring you any more pizzas.
I’ve been to many countries in Europe that don’t tip in restaurants, or maybe something small like rounding up to the nearest Euro. In Japan, you don’t tip at all, for anything. That is one of my favorite things about Japan, that people try hard because they want to do a good job, not because it might increase their tip. I believe in the free market economy, but sometimes it’s lovely to get good service because the person chooses to give you good service.
What kind of tipper are you?
March 7, 2013
Welcome to the MarchIntelligentsia.
#41: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#35: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#34: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#33: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#23: St. Elsewhere
#21: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#16: Sara from Aryanhwy
#15: Ana from Ana Begins
#5: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
Last week’s discussion of our wild nights had an undertone of alcohol in my post and in most of the comments, but for me booze is not a necessary ingredient. On most of my wild and wild-ish nights, I have not had a drop to drink. Usually most of the people around me have had plenty, but I’m almost always totally sober.
I don’t need alcohol to stand on a stage and sing in front of a packed room. I don’t need alcohol to stand on a table and shake my ass (though generally I choose to shake my ass standing firmly on the floor). I didn’t need alcohol that time only a few years ago when I took off my sweater and stood outside a nightclub in my camisole to encourage the bouncer to let in my party more quickly. Sometimes, I have no inhibitions at all.
Which is pretty shocking to some people who encounter me in daily life, because often I seem to be very inhibited. Here’s the thing. I’m not inhibited, but I am usually very controlled, which looks the same — I choose my words and actions judiciously.
In graduate school, back when cardio kickboxing was all the rage, I brought an uninitiated classmate with me to a workout. In many ways we come across as similar, but we turned out to be wired quite differently. After the class, she made the observation that she and I approached complicated kickboxing sequences in opposite ways. When I wasn’t sure what to do, I paused for a few seconds to watch the instructor, until I had the steps down, then I’d join in. When she wasn’t sure what to do, she flailed wildly. She’s also someone who is quiet but not inhibited, who chooses her words and actions carefully — but when things get tough, she revs up and I slow down.
I’ve gotten more uninhibited since having children. Before, I would gladly get up and sing on a stage but I was sheepish about singing to a friend’s toddler when my friend was in the room. Now, I sing all the time for my children and I no longer care who else hears. Before, I tended to act like a normal person — a highly controlled version of a normal person. Now, I often use animated expressions, big gestures, and funny voices; I have become some sort of cartoon character.
How inhibited are you? How inhibited do you seem to others?
February 28, 2013
Among the consequences of my new disease is that I am forbidden from ever drinking again, since one of my medications in combination with alcohol can cause major liver damage. This is not that big a deal to me since I almost never drink — entire years go by in which I don’t drink at all; on the rare occasion that I do imbibe, it’s probably one or two drinks; I’ve had a lot to drink probably half a dozen times in my life; I’ve never had a hangover. Even so, it marks the end of an era.
One of the places I recently went in my mind’s eye was to the last night I spent in Tokyo. I blogged a couple of photos from that trip at the time, 4.5 years ago, but the side of Tokyo I’ll show you now is very different. On our last night, we met up with some expat friends-of-friends, along with an expat friend of theirs (friend-of-friends-of-friends). First, we had a truly beautiful 12-course vegetarian meal.
One of my best meals of all time. Accompanying one of the courses was a tiny cup of blueberry wine. “Okay, can’t turn that down, fine. Just one little cup of wine. Mmm, delicious.”
Then we went to an expat bar, by and for expats from the home country of the friend-of-friends-of-friends. It’s a beer-oriented bar (and country), but I don’t drink beer. We ordered beer, beer, beer, beer, and nothing. The barkeep would have none of that, so a shot of apple liqueur suddenly appeared before me. “Okay, not going to refuse when the man standing in front of me personally brought the bottle halfway around the world. Hmm, pretty tasty. Okay, no big deal. I’ve only ingested a couple of thimblefuls of booze.”
And then we moved on to a specialized Japanese bar. Things in Japan can be oddly specialized. The night before, we went to a restaurant that centers each dish around a different breed of rice. Everything in this particular bar was icy blue: the lighting; the tables; the art; whatever the hell was in my glass. “Can’t say no to this; it’s a cultural experience. Oh. Wow. That is strong. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it. Oh. Ohhhh. Why was my glass so big?”
And then, karaoke. With or without alcohol, karaoke in Tokyo is pretty wild. But there was in fact alcohol. My first and only experience with fluorescent blue alcohol. A little went a long way. “Oh boy. Aw yeah.”
At 4 a.m. we migrated to a fast food place, where I abstained for vegetarian reasons. Eventually DH and I found a taxi and headed home while the rest of the group went back for more karaoke. A couple of hours later, we were on our way to the airport. No hangover, but plenty of jetlag.
That was my last wild night — last meaning most recent, and, I now realize, last meaning final. I can participate in nights that are wild for others (and I have, not that long ago) but that night in Tokyo was my last truly wild night. It’s for the best; I don’t think I could ever top it.
What was your last wild night? How long ago was it? Are there any more wild nights in your future?
February 21, 2013
You may have seen a news story this week about a lawsuit in Michigan in which a nurse is suing her hospital for allowing a NICU patient’s father to dictate that no Black nurses care for his baby. Strongblonde and I have been talking about this off-blog, since it’s her neck of the woods as well as her profession (nursing, not white supremacy).
Obviously we both object to the racial prohibition in this case, along with the rationale. However, we’ve both made choices of health care providers based on the providers’ characteristics. Depending on the situation, sometimes I have no preference and sometimes I have a strong preference.
Sometimes I’m put off by very young providers — not enough experience — and sometimes I’m not a fan of very old providers — unsteady hands, and perhaps not up to date on the latest science. As someone who recently moved to a new city, I have also purposely avoided old doctors because I don’t want to lose them to retirement almost immediately.
Sometimes I check where physicians went to medical school and residency, as a proxy (imperfect though it may be) for intelligence.
Sometimes personality also impacts my preferences. One of the dentists at my new practice is quite popular, but I will not be switching over to him based on what I can overhear across the hall: he is such a chatty Cathy. Friendly and personable, but he talks nonstop during people’s cleanings and procedures. For a different kind of doctor I might not mind, but at the dentist I am not interested in extended chit-chat with someone’s hands in my mouth.
I make choices when I’m choosing a doctor ahead of time. When assigned to someone, as I have been in the hospital or with other staff in a doctor’s office, I’ve never refused a provider. I’ve requested someone I liked better when making a return appointment, sure. But I’ve never refused, even when I actively disliked someone. Like the midwife whose cutesy schtick involved blaming pregnant women for premature labor. Ha ha. Hilarious. Even then, I accepted my fate. I was not friendly, but I didn’t demand a switch.
A friend of mine chose a hospital specifically because it was not a teaching hospital, and therefore she would not have to deal with medical students. However, the hospital did have nursing students. After the birth of her baby, a nursing student stuck herself then my friend with the same needle. After that, and the ensuing need to test for HIV etc., my friend banished all nursing students from her room for the rest of the hospitalization. Because of the incident, and because my friend had Dr. before her own name, the hospital respected her wishes, but I wonder if they would obey if a patient just walked in and said, “No students! I don’t like ‘em!”
Bringing it back to the news story, a deceased relative who was a Holocaust survivor used to refuse doctors who came from Germany or had German lineage. No one ever seemed to have a problem with that. The two cases are similar in practice but very different in rationale. I wonder, though, where we draw the line: when is it okay to object on the basis of personal characteristics, and when it it wrong? I really have no idea.
Do you ever choose health care providers on the basis of personal characteristics? Have you ever refused to have a certain kind of provider?
February 14, 2013
How was your Valentine’s Day? Mine was exactly like any other day. Well, that’s not quite true. I attended a preschool Valentine’s party and helped Burrito and Tamale celebrate, but it was like any other day in terms of my interactions with my husband. We don’t really Valentine’s Day. We don’t really observe the official romantic occasions — no New Year’s Eve, usually we barely even acknowledge anniversaries. Definitely none of the overcrowded restaurants nor overpriced flowers nor not-quite-right jewelry nor trans-fatty drugstore chocolate nor disappointments that characterize Valentine’s Day.
Ignoring “romantic” holidays like today is one of the things about which DH and I heartily agree (get it? heartily?). We don’t like setting expectations that invariably fail to get met — that is, no female expectations nor male failure around here. We don’t like the calendar telling us when to express love or buy presents. We don’t like crowds nor paying more for things than they cost on every other day of the year.
How did I become a Valentine’s grinch? When I was in 9th grade, I happened to have an appointment at the beauty salon on Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t getting gussied up for a hot date or anything, just a routine visit. In retrospect I’m not sure why my mother scheduled the appointment on Valentine’s Day and not a normal day. Anyway, I was the last appointment of the day, and my beautician was the last one left in the salon — presumably everyone else had left early to celebrate the holiday. In the middle of working on me, she got a call from her boyfriend. She got more and more heated until she screamed, “Then you can just celebrate Valentine’s Day with some other bitch!” Then she slammed down the phone and burst out sobbing. Then she came back to finish working on me. Despite her emotional state, there were no mishaps with the scissors.
That day, I decided that I was on board with chocolate and wearing red and giving out valentines, but I did not want any of the drama. I never wanted to have a conversation like that.
Oh, and then there are the single people. Valentine’s Day totally rubs it in their faces. I always have plenty of friends who are single on any given Valentine’s Day, and many of them are really annoyed by it all. My husband has a friend whose divorce will be finalized next week; that guy has spent all day sending out angry tweets.
Anyway, the best part of Valentine’s Day happens tomorrow. All of the chocolate will be half price!
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day and other “romantic” occasions?
February 7, 2013
Welcome to the February Intelligentsia.
#40: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#34: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#33: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#32: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#22: St. Elsewhere
#20: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#15: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#15: Sara from Aryanhwy
#4: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
I almost never dislike anyone. Well, except for disliking everyone.
My father is not only an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, he is also a misanthrope masquerading as a philanthrope. One of his greatest strengths professionally is his charm, but he’s totally pretending. I think he actually loves humanity, except when he doesn’t.
My husband is totally a secret misanthrope too. I’ll often hear him mumbling, “I hate everyone,” or, “People are horrible.” People who interact with him, though, think that he is kind and gregarious. Because he iskind and gregarious. He just doesn’t think much of humanity.
DH’s father is a not-so-secret misanthrope. He is tremendously warm and engaging to people he likes, but he’s not keen on making new friends nor on superficial social interactions. He succeeds professionally not through charm but through an air of authority (as well as being good at what he does). Being crusty is part of his schtick, but I really think that it’s genuine, much of the time. I have to wonder whether being the son of Survivors contributed to his lack of faith in humanity.
I am also a secret misanthrope. I like individual people, and I dislike other individual people, but outwardly I project the image of someone who truly wants to help other people. Because I do want to help, and I do help. But I also send venting emails to my closest friend or husband that consist of things like, in all caps, FUCK EVERYONE. Unlike the loved ones that I’ve just described, I actually have a lot of faith in humanity, but that doesn’t mean that I want to put forth the effort to actually interact with most of humanity. And, I’ve been burned enough that my lack of faith feels warranted.
Not everyone I know is a misanthrope, of course. My mother loved to meet new people. She didn’t trust new people, but she liked them. She had such a soft spot for the needy and the downtrodden. She’d do things like buy a crate of fruit that was more than she could possibly eat, explaining that she would share some with “my homeless guy next to the mall” or “all of the guys working at the car wash.” She never gave any panhandler a dime, but she’d feed them and clothe them and speak to them with a smile.
One of DH’s siblings is, more than anyone else I’ve ever known, a true humanitarian. A decade ago, when she was 13, we were visiting a relative in a rehab hospital. An scruffy amputee was slowly trying to propel his wheelchair down the hall. Everyone else kept walking past. She stopped what she was doing to help him get where he was going and fill up his water pitcher. But more than that, it was the way she spoke to him. Sweetly, gently, looking him in the eye, like a person. Most 13-year-olds seem to avoid eye contact even with people they’re supposed to talk to, let alone someone who makes most people deeply uncomfortable, but she dealt with him as an equal — not kid to adult, nor able-bodied to handicapped — because in her heart she truly believes that everyone is her equal. She has been the kind of kid who worries her elders because she is so trusting, so good, that she seems poised to be taken advantage of. But, so far, treating everyone with genuineness and respect has resulted in nothing but good things coming back to her.
People like her are almost enough to cure my misanthropy. Almost.
Are you a misanthrope? Philanthrope? A mix?
January 31, 2013
Something new has been happening to me during yoga. Sometimes during shavasana, sometimes in the middle of a more active pose. One thing that’s new is that I’ve recently been able to turn my mind off and just be. The other new thing is that once my mind is blank, I’m suddenly transported to another place in my mind’s eye. I don’t try to conjure anything; I just let the images float into my mind.
The first time it was the new age store near my mother’s house; I went there one time, in 1993.
Then there was the hotel room where I stayed that time I went to Detroit, also in the mid-90s. There was nothing special about that hotel room (and, come to think of it, nothing interesting about that trip to Detroit, unless you count the biker bar which sounds more interesting than it actually was).
Another time it was the outside of the convenience store next to my mother’s assisted living center. I never went into that store, but I spent a lot of time trying and failing to convince my mother not to go there, since she kept buying food that she wasn’t supposed to be eating.
Today, I was transported back to 2007, when I traveled to Meteora.
From a yoga perspective, I don’t judge. I just take the images as they come, and let them float away. From a non-yoga perspective I have to say that Meteora is a lot better than Detroit.
Do you ever travel anywhere in your mind’s eye, either voluntarily or involuntarily?