Thursday, March 27, 2014

SPRING BREAK (or why I need to start pre-drinking to prepare for summer vacation)

I'm in the thick of Spring Break.  And I'm going a little crazy.

This year my house seems louder than usual.  I don't know if it's my kids' ages or what, but my house is in a constant state of noise.  And I won't lie to you.

If my house is like this now, it has me thinking I should start pre-drinking for summer vacation.

It's taken me a few days to realize the root of my problem:  My kids all start talking at the exact same time.  I think this started happening gradually because it really crept up on me and I had no idea how good I had gotten at translating three conversations at once until earlier this week. 

We'd been driving around in a blissful silence when...I don't know what happened...they all felt the need to start talking at the exact same time.

"Did you know that the square root of 1,267 is 35.59494346111537?"

"Mom...are you Team Jacob or Team Edward?"

"What's for dinner tonight?"

I think I've gotten so used to these conversations that I didn't even think about it before I replied:

"Really?  I didn't know that. Jacob.  Pork chops."

Yesterday, though, I hit my limit.  We were in the car and my oldest daughter was talking to me about Divergent, something that my son apparently didn't hear even though she was about 24 inches away from him, because he suddenly started talking about summer camp.  And at that moment, my youngest decided she needed to pipe in and ask what we were having for dinner.

I thought my head was going to explode.

"Can you guys really not hear that someone else is talking?  That you're all talking at the same time?"

At which point they all started answering me at the same time and then my son asked me what's for dinner.

There are several problems with this.  First, this truly is an amazing skill that I've developed, but there is no room on a resume for me to put "Can carry on five different conversations at once with three different people."  The second is that none of them actually listen or pay attention to the simultaneous conversations that are going on.  So, I might be answering each one of them, but I will inevitably have to answer the same question again because the other two didn't listen to the answer I gave to the first one.

This has me spinning wheels I don't have time to spin.

I have been patient about this, explaining to the kids that interrupting is rude and the way we have been going about our conversations has been counterproductive.  They didn't get it at first, but I think I made my point this afternoon after I had been asked the same question ten different times by three different people.

And I stood in the middle of my kitchen and screamed.

Since that moment, I've had several conversations, but all at different times and no one has repeated the question that I answered with so much emphasis earlier today.

I guess having your mother turn beet red, plant her socked feet on the hardwood floor, clench her fists and scream, "WE'RE HAVING PORK CHOPS!" made quite an impression.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You Can Burn Down My House, But Don't Cut Me Off In Traffic (or why we hold grudges)

This week, the Today Show briefly mentioned a story that made the bitch in me sit up and listen.

 This really couldn't come at a better time for me, personally, because I've been trying to figure that out myself - why I have forgiven some pretty major things in my life...but I can't get over the little stuff.

I'm just glad I'm not alone.  I mean, if someone actually did a study on it, there must be at least 100 people out there who feel the same way I do.

For example, why is it that I can forgive the betrayal of someone close to me that's cost me hundreds of dollars in therapy, but I can't get over the rude behavior of someone I don't know very well?  Why is it that I can have some people over to my house many times in a row..and then be irritated when someone else doesn't reciprocate like I think they should?  Why is it that I hardly think about the ridiculous behavior of one person that may have even altered the direction my life has taken, but can distinctly remember the time some asshole cut in front of me in line at the grocery store?

Why is it that the little things keep me up at night while the big things have somehow been released from my consciousness?

"If the hurt is minor, we can let it fester. If the pain is major, we find ways to calm ourselves down. We do similar things when we are physically injured. A gunshot wound can cause us less overall pain than a bad back, because we go to the hospital when we're shot, while we're perfectly content to wait for weeks before we seek treatment for a bad back."

Hmmm.  Now there's a thinker.


This morning, in the Ask Amy column in the paper, a woman asked for some advice on how to handle a friend of her husband's who constantly comes over for dinner and never contributes anything.  

"He has never brought a dessert or a bottle of wine," she wrote.  "Should I continue to host someone with poor style or stand firm and not continue being a hostess to my husband's friend?"

Now, I'm betting that, being an adult and being married, this woman has had to deal with bigger
issues in her life (probably even due to her husband on occasion).  And while I don't completely understand her complaint (I, frankly, don't know many men who would think to do something like that without some sort of female influence), I do understand how something like that can fester like a boil on your consciousness.  I bet that woman has lost hours of sleep thinking about that damn dessert she thinks that guy should bring over.  Hell, it bothers her so much she wrote into a syndicated columnist looking for advice.

And I'm betting that even if he started bringing a dessert now it would be too late for her.  The grudge is there.

Now, the original article from Signs of the Times implies that we're more likely to  excuse the bigger offenses of the people who are close to us rather than the minor offenses of people we don't know well.  And that makes sense.  We have a history with some people and not with others.  With some, we can justify our feelings of forgiveness with those who have treated us well in the past while, with people we don't know well, the only thing we really know about them is that they've pissed us off.

But I don't think that's all there is to it.  At least not for me.
I discussed this issue with a friend yesterday because, as I said, it's been on my mind.  It irritates me that I keep spinning my wheels, anxious and angry about things that will never be resolved.  It's a waste of my time and energy, and yet...I almost can't help myself.  So, I asked the question:  why can I forgive big things and then stew about the little stuff?

"I think it's because with big things, it's usually a one-time thing," she said.  "But with little things, over time, there's a history and it's usually a behavior that annoys us over and over again.  When we get pissed and start holding a's almost like a form of self-protection."

I can definitely see that in myself as I've gotten older.  My sister used to say that I would forgive just about anything.  But, having been screwed over multiple times in the same ways but by different people, I don't have a whole lot of patience anymore.

Take my previous blog for example.  When my oldest daughter was younger, I would pretty much let any parent walk all over me when it came to play dates.  As the years went on and my son started making friends at school, I started on the same path and then suddenly realized what was happening and put a stop to it.  Now that my youngest daughter is entering into the play date age, any signs that a parent or child is going to take advantage of us...I cut them out of our lives immediately, rather than wait for repeated behavior that I know is going to keep me up at night.

Now, this means that the parents of my youngest daughter probably think I'm a complete bitch.  What they don't know is that they're paying the price for the bad parenting of others in my past.  All of that little stuff has built up over time until I just couldn't take it anymore.

Just like when I get cut-off during rush hour on the highway - the the first time that happened when I was a teenager, I was probably more scared than angry.  But after 20+ years of being cut off...I'm not afraid.  I'm staring at my ceiling at 3 AM fantasizing about throwing my Super-sized iced tea cup at the offending car because I'm so irritated about all of the times it's happened before.

The first time someone didn't show up for a lunch date, I don't remember being angry and probably
even justified it by saying, "Oh, they're so busy.  It's okay."  But if anyone does that to me now, I assume that they have no respect for my time.  And that annoys the crap out of me for weeks.

The problem is that it's impossible to let some of these things go.  As we get older and more experienced, it's easy to get jaded, again, as a way of self-protection.  If it's something bigger, it's usually a one-shot thing, something that we've never experienced before and so, since we don't have a past with that particular issue, it could be easier for us to let it slide. But with the little's probably harder to forgive because something similar has happened to us before and we'll be damned if we're going to let it happen again.


As you can imagine, this has made dating a lot harder for me.  When I first began dating after my husband died, I hadn't been out there in a while and was, therefore, pretty inexperienced.  I had guys who would show up late or show me very little respect in general and, at first, I thought this was how it was going to be.

Six years into dating and, because of my previous experience, it takes a lot for me to even go on a first date with anyone, much less think about a future with them.  I know now that it's not okay for someone to be late.  It's not okay for someone to think they're going to be able to take advantage or manipulate me in some way.  It's not okay for me to settle for anything less than the way I think I should be treated.

Again, this makes me jaded.  And it also gives me a very definite idea of what I think is right and wrong.  Part of my frustration and why I hold these little grudges is because I know I can't change people and to make them do what I think is right.

Oh, if we could all only be as perfect as I am, right?

But isn't that what frustrates YOU?  When someone does something little that irritates you and keeps you awake...isn't it because you know you can't change that person and you know they're going to keep right on doing it?

Of course, when I really think about everyone operating the same way I do, it also sounds slightly boring.

I mean, if I didn't have a few bad dates, people who irritated me, and the public-at-large out there with absolutely no grocery store etiquette...what would I have to blog about?

Grocery Cart Rage: A Woman On the Edge of a Meltdown in Frozen Foods

It seems like for the past few months, I’ve been asking myself over and over, “Were certain things in life always this aggravating?  Are people getting more exasperating or am I just getting older and more crotchety?”

And, lately, I’m usually asking myself that question while I’m at the grocery store.

When we go grocery shopping, there are no signs on the walls explaining the system, which I think is a huge mistake.  I mean, most people are okay.  They know what the unwritten rules are and they follow them.  But there are always a couple of people who go about their shopping business, completely oblivious to the fact that there are 200 other shoppers in the store.

That’s right.  You know who I’m talking about.

The guy who unloads 30 items in the Express Lane.  The woman who has parked in the center of the aisle while she peruses 500 different varieties of soup in order to figure out which combination fits the “buy 10, get 1 half off” coupon she’s holding in her hand.  Or the person in line in front of you who only has ten items, but needs to split them into seven transactions and has to write a check for each one.

I thought I was the only one who needed to decompress with a glass of wine after my weekly shopping, but I recently brought this topic up with a couple of friends at lunch and you could almost see the blood pressure rising at our table.

“I was in the Express Lane with two things, trying to get out the door to pick up my kid,” said my friend.  “This woman in front of me was using one of those electric scooter carts and managed to wedge herself into the lane so badly that the scooter was completely stuck and even the cashier couldn’t get her out.  It took three guys to push her through.  Really?  No one saw that coming?”

“You think that’s bad?” my other friend replied.  “I was about to pick up the last box of Fiber One when this woman literally came running down the aisle and snatched it up right in front of me.  I could have fought her for it on principle, but I’m guessing that anyone who needs fiber that badly is not to be messed with.”

Years ago, when my husband was in the military and I would shop at the Commissary, there were arrows in the aisles.  That’s right.  You could only go one way down each aisle.  So, if you forgot band-aids, you had to loop yourself around until you were going in the right direction.  And if you didn’t, one of the 80-year-old retired military wives would yell at you.

When I was 20, I didn’t get it.  Now, not only do I think each aisle should go one way, I think we should install turn signals on each cart to warn people when we’re pulling over for milk or making a sharp right into the diaper aisle.

Self check-out has only added to the confusion.  Now we stand in one big glob, wondering who is supposed to go next.  Not too long ago, I’d actually been waiting for awhile in the self-checkout clouge when this couple walked right in front of me to one of the stands that had just been vacated.  The man turned to me with a little smirk and said, “Oh.  I thought you were waiting for that one over there.”

I sat there sputtering, “But…but…there are rules!”

And as I looked around for someone else to defend me I realized…there weren’t.

Until now.
  1. Texting and shopping makes life difficult for everyone.  Please pull over and finish your message.  This especially applies to those using the “car carts.”
  2. This is America.  We drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  3. This is an addition to #2:  Most of us were born with peripheral vision.  If you know that you are taking up most of the aisle, pay attention to who’s coming your way so that you can step back for two seconds while they pass.  Then you can get back to your in-depth research on how much you are paying for each dried bean.
  4. I have a deep respect for people who are coupon shoppers.  But please don’t wait until all of your groceries have been tallied before you start searching through your enormous binder to find all of your coupons.
  5. The “15 items or less” sign at self checkout does not mean “15 types of items” (example:  I may have 70 individual folders, but technically that’s really only one type of item).
  6. Please don’t double park.  I had no idea that someone could do that until last week when I got wedged into the Oscar Meyer section by someone looking for the fifty Lunchables she needed.
  7. Don’t weave.  That’s right.  To the guy I was trying to get around who seemed to enjoy blocking me…a grocery cart to the back of the ankle is no fun.  Remember that, buddy.
  8. If you are purchasing an entire cart full of produce, please do not use self-check out.  It does not make you get out the door faster when you do it yourself.
  9. I’m sure your child washed his hands thoroughly at some point today.  But I’d still rather not see him stick his arm elbow-deep into every bulk food bin within his reach.
  10. Finally, as you are exiting the grocery store and making your way to your car, please do not walk up the center of the parking lot aisle.  I’m in a car.   You are not.  And I’m already frustrated because I’ve just waited as you self-checked 70 folders.
Happy shopping, everyone!