Thursday, May 29, 2014

Halfway to 18

I just had the gist of this conversation with someone the other day at the bus stop. She mentioned she's halfway to 18 (meaning her kids) and wants time to slow down. She asked me if I ever felt that way or did I want to get it over with. I told her I am not in a hurry but the main thing I wonder is, "who am I without my kids?" She lit up. She said, "Yeah -- I don't even feel like I have any friends anymore." While I don't exactly feel that way, the number of true friends that I spend much time with has dwindled significantly as time goes on. I have my bus stop and neighborhood friends (two of which are more than acquaintances), my sports mom friends (that change with the season), and some cordial friends who are parents of my kids' friends (one has become more than cordial and is a real gem in my life)...and a handful of longtime friends that I get together with once in a while and whose birthdays I remember (but not always!), my church friends, an my online friends.

I imagine social media gives a false perspective of friendship. My bus stop friend told me she feels bad about herself when she sees what other people are doing on facebook. I told her I thought facebook was mostly fake -- it's just what people want you to see. I am not really "friends" with most of my facebook friends. Or am I? Social media has been a good way to reconnect with old friends from the past, mostly high school friends. I have a few people I met online in a group that I have friended, but still, we're not really friends. I don't think I'd go out of my way if I were in their state or country to visit them. But that's not really the point of this post. The point is, who am I without my kids? I have no real hobbies that I participate in with other people.

Yes, writing and taking long walks are hobbies, but they are not social hobbies.

I am happy about my job. I am grateful to be able to work at home and earn a good living. I do not feel that this job is a "calling," though. I got a tea bag fortune last night that said something along the lines of "do what you love and love what you do." I am not sure you can love what you do 100% of the time. I don't, not in my professional or personal life. (Who likes cleaning bathrooms?)

Is it too much to ask for purpose and meaning in my life? I read other people's essays and think some of them are so much more *je ne sais quoi* and wish I had the courage to come out and write about some of the things that I could, but would no doubt embarrass my children. I toy with the idea of an anonymous blog, but am not sure anything "out there" is truly anonymous.

Is my self-actualization on hold while I raise kids? Or is raising kids my self-actualization? In the sense that you have to be your best self to set an example for them, I suppose it is. And I suppose my job offers purpose and meaning -- the purpose is to pay bills, the meaning is that I can stay home and enjoy everything we're paying for and be here when everyone needs me. (I mentioned to another friend that I needed another hobby besides "chauffeur." She thought it was funny, but it's one of those if-you-don't-laugh-you'll-cry type of funnies.)

The other thing about my "new" job (it's not all that new since I am working with the same company I used to work for, as a contractor), is that I don't see any travel on the horizon. I used to really look forward to my yearly foray to Las Vegas for an event where I could at least wear grown up clothes and hang around with other professionals in real life. It feels like my world is shrinking a bit, even as my kids' worlds expand (my oldest going to high school next year). He's more than halfway to 18, but my youngest is not quite at the 50% mark (as he reminds me, his birthday is coming up.)

I guess I have the next nine years to figure it out who I am without my kids.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The grammar gods

I imagine the grammar gods are related to the cribbage gods, who as (my) legend has it, punish you if you boast about the fact that you're winning a match. That's my superstition anyway and what I tell my oldest son about playing cribbage. Really, the message is "don't boast or gloat" and he knows I am kidding about the gods because first of all we only believe in one God and we don't think He's a punishing God.

I had just told my colleague the other day, "I am currently feeling guilty for being judgmental about other people's grammar. I was watching a movie last night and heard three different grammar errors...thankfully I did not say anything."

My colleague told me she can shut if off when she is not working, but I confessed, "I can't shut it off. It's awful."

Last night, I got spanked by the grammar gods. I had just reviewed one of my son's papers and told him "You spelled 'Youkilis' wrong (yes, he was writing about baseball), and while you're at it, you need to edit this page and reprint it, too. This word should have an 's' at the end."

The word in question was Red Sox in its possessive form.

I was SO SURE I was right because I had just gone through the research of plural and possessive of words ending in x, if they were common or proper nouns (because I had to address a thank you note to some people whose family name ends in x, and no, I did not feel like writing "The *****x Family" on the envelope.

I was so sure I told my son "Well, maybe I'm smarter than your teacher" when he told me she hadn't edited it during the rough draft phase. I felt bad enough saying that and quickly told him, "Well, she does have lots of papers to look at, and I only have one..."

He went back to the computer to edit "Youkilis" and started to edit "Red Sox' " and I said, "Wait, let's just look it up to be sure. Move over a little." And I sat next to him on the chair and did a google search on the other computer.

We scanned the results and he said, "Hah! I'm not wrong -- you are!"

My kids love to point out my grammar mistakes.

"Oh! I'm so glad we looked it up. I would have felt horrible if you got points taken off and it was my fault." As it was, I felt horrible enough about saying I was smarter than my son's teacher. Because not only was I not smarter, I was also not at all humble.

"Don't boast or gloat."

Suffice it to say I care about grammar and let's leave it at that.

And the reason Red Sox' (possessive) is correct is because if "Sox" was actually spelled "Socks" you only add the apostrophe.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Data hoarder

Since moving nearly a year ago after living in the same house for more than 10 years, I have been very careful about the amount of stuff we accumulate in our new house. During the course of the year prior to our move, we had dumpsters on three occasions, and I took more than 50 pounds of documents to a secure shredding facility. I don't want to go through that ordeal again.

But one thing I have a problem with is data.

During our move, I did throw out a bunch of floppy disks, but I have old hard drives that I am carting around with me. I long ago freecycled the machines but I couldn't let the hard drives go with them. Even if I deleted the data on them, does it ever really go away? As a writer and long-time journaler, there is just a lot of stuff on those hard drives that I never want anyone to see. Heck, I might not even want to see it any more. It's probably as cringe-worthy as a lot of the diaries I have in a trunk in our attic, that I plan to ceremonially day...because it's really hard to think about burning up my childhood hopes and dreams, in spite of it not being a pleasant thought that my kids might stumble across them...well, the ones from college anyway...

Probably most if the data on those hard drives is replicated, since I would have restored the data I'd backed up (yes, I pay for offsite data storage, so my "habit" is costing me money) numerous times, including on the computer I use now.

According to my former employer, every day we are creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. I am creating data right now by typing these words here, saving, and publishing this entry. Data is created by social media posts, the selfies and other pictures we take with our phones, and all those e-commerce receipts we generate when we shop online. I save a lot of this stuff.

Some of the things I took to the shredding facility have been replaced by the electronic versions, like bank statements and bills. I have, for the most part, quit saving those on my c: drives unless I need them for expense reimbursement, trusting the institution to keep the copies. That is a big step for me.

The next step might just be to take the old hard drives to Dr. Fixit, my computer guy, because I trust him to wipe them and dispose of them.

The final step will be to quit paying for offsite storage and get an external hard drive and back up to that. Yes, I know if it's not offsite it's not disaster tolerant, but what are the chances, really?

Oh, but the actual point of this story was the fact that I cleaned out my personal inbox. I hoard email messages, too. I currently have 18,303 "unread" (it says that but I know it's not true because I read them in my preview pane. The ones addressed to me anyway...if they're addressed to someone else, I do not pay that much attention to them) emails in my work account. It was kind of a big deal that I cleaned out my personal inbox (but not really, since that is only one of four places I can check my email. I am trying to wean myself to webmail because my desk top client doesn't play nice with Windows 8.). I filed a few messages folders, set up some automated message filtering, and then just deleted all of the rest of them -- cold turkey.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Seen under my desk

I read a horrifying statistic that said even if you work out for an hour a day it does not undo the effects of sitting on your butt all day. I haven't until very recently felt I had time to work out for an hour a day (sadly), and even then, it's just a two-mile walk around a hilly neighborhood. Since I am not interested in a career change at this time (to something less sedentary), I had to do something. I got a little cycle for under my desk. It is quiet (not electric -- all those cords in the pic are my computer's and router's) and doesn't interfere with typing (I am using it right now) and certainly wouldn't interfere with a conference call (I just have to make sure I am not going faster than 12 mph or I get a little breathless when it's my turn to talk).

There have been a few days where I have racked up more than 20 miles. I'm sure it's not the same as riding an actual bicycle outside and going the 20 miles. I am also sure it is far better -- for my circulation, my alertness, and my overall well being, than sitting immobile all day.

Friday, May 9, 2014

I need to lie down

Just kidding. It's still early. I just wanted to mention this amusing graphic that my friend shared with me on facebook. Not only was it cool that she thought of me, but also, I was psyched to see a whole bunch of her other friends appreciated it and some typed their grammatical peeves in the comments. "Could of...would of." "I'm so FUSStrated with these errors," she replied. Someone else needed an Expresso -- "like so fast." (snicker, yeah -- that one's right up my I sit here with leftover iced coffee from Dunks). I am not alone -- there are others in the world who care about grammar!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Keep up

Keep up. This was the admonition from my tea bag the other day. What does that mean exactly? Especially hanging between those two princesses...Snow White and Cinderalla (on my favorite cup even though it's missing the handle after one of my "bulls in the china shop" dropped it). How could I possibly keep up with them (and would I even want to)?

I certainly can't keep up with fashion. Once in a nail salon I want to, the woman doing my nails was making small talk and she pointed out that she could tell I have sons because I dress like a boy. That was enlightening. I guess hoodies, t-shirts, and jean cut-offs are boy clothes (though my sons would not be caught dead in cut-offs).

I am not all that into name-brand accessories, either. I don't know why someone would pay hundreds of dollars for purses and shoes. I currently have Nike slides on (but they're white and purple so I *know* they are intended for women) and if I were going anywhere I would grab my salmon-colored faux-leather bag from Tarjay. (Faux leather is way easier to get ball-point pen off than real leather.)

I have trouble keeping up with everything I want to do in life and sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not have anything I feel compelled to do like write, take a class, research, volunteer or do hobbies after work in the evenings. What would it be like to finish dinner, clean up the kitchen, and have free time? (Well, sometimes on weekends we have leisure time so it's not a complete mystery.)

I decided I'd look at it another way. "Keep up" could mean "keep your spirits up." It made me think of a high school cheer, "When you're up you're up; when you're down, you're down. When you're up against _____________, you're up - side - down." And I think there were some sort of upside down stunt happening during that last part, but I really do not remember.

No matter what ever happens and how long my to-do list gets, I can always keep my spirits up. Life is not a race...I am in no hurry to get to the end.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Oops, I missed the bus. Not! (Wrestling with what other people think)

I am not very good at getting out to the bus stop on time.

My older two actually do not want me anywhere near their bus stop, unless I am dropping them off at it in the case of when our long and slightly sloped driveway is a sheet of ice and to walk to the bus with their multiple accoutrements (backpacks, gym bags, instrument) would be ridiculously treacherous. Plus their stops (different places morning and afternoon) are possibly a half mile from the house.

My youngest, who is in elementary school, doesn't care whether or not I am at his bus stop either, or even if I am there when I pick him up.

So, why do I go?

Because all the other parents do.

The above was part of a draft post I started in February. This morning I had yet another checkpoint chat with my youngest son about the bus stop.

"Hon, does it bother you that I don't come to meet you at the bus stop in the afternoon?"

"No, I don't care at all, mom. I've told you this before."

"Okay, well, I am just asking because all the other parents are there."

"I know how to cross the street, mom."

"Of course you do. But what about in the morning when I say, 'you go ahead' and I don't always vet out there in time?" This was the case this morning, actually.

"Mom, it's okay!"

This morning, I made it to the mail box, which is close to where I was when I took the above pic in February, when the bus sped past me. I waved at the driver, and then I celled "Bye!" to my son and waved. He waved back. I know we're good. There have been mornings, though, that I do not get out there in time to see him get on the bus. And I know the school would call me if he didn't show up.

I actually did carry on to the bus stop before I started my morning walk, so I could catch up with one of the other moms whose son is on the same baseball team as mine, to check in about our game tonight.

Often times, while I do like to be friendly with my neighbors, I don't have time to interrupt what I am doing, especially in the afternoon, to go stand around for 10 minutes.

I do not think my son will get lost, or hit by a car (we have sidewalks), or abducted (especially with all those other parents around!).

I am more concerned about what people think than I want to be. There was a time many years ago when I stopped in at CVS with two sleeping toddlers in the car. I just wanted to drop off a couple of rolls of film to be developed (this was before the days of Smart Phones and Shutterfly -- or before I was using those devices/services anyway). I went into the store to get the envelope. I left the kids sleeping in the car, as I had parked right in front of the door and it literally took 10 steps to get inside. Yes, I shut the car off, locked it, and took the keys with me. I came back out and noticed a woman in a van pulling out, giving me a dirty look and shaking her head. I couldn't imagine what I did wrong. Was I parked in a handicapped spot? Was I parked on the white line, instead of within it? (I checked.) I got back in the car and filled out the envelope, and then went back inside a second time to drop it in the bin for developing. The boys were still asleep, in the car. Yes, I locked the car again and took the keys with me. When I came back out, the kids were still asleep. Then I went home. I carried the boys in one by one and laid them on the L-shaped couch to finish their naps.

Not long after that, a policeman showed up at our house. He told me I had been reported (by the scornful woman in the van) and it was his duty to follow up. It was also his obligation to report the whole incident to his chief who would decide whether or not social services would be called. This policeman is someone I had known at that time for more than 10 years. I told him I thought that was ridiculous, that the kids were asleep, the doors were locked, what was the harm? He told me the woman was a known busybody and the chief would likely do nothing. But still, my stomach fell to my feet.

I felt ashamed. I worried that I would lose custody. I wondered what kind of awful parent I really was. I spent a good deal of time awfulizing, but no call from Social Services ever came.

Later that week when I went to the bank, I pulled in next to a van. There were at least three little kids sitting in the van talking and laughing and no grown up in sight. They waved at me. I waved back and smiled. I felt relieved to know I was not the only one.

I had no inclination to call the police whatsoever.

It still took me a while to get over my shame. I know I am not a bad parent, but I am still sensitive to what other people perceive, given the fact that one of these people took it upon herself to tattle on me to the police. But if anyone should be ashamed, I don't think it's me.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...