Let me tell you about some bullshit.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably remember that Penelope was hospitalized a few months after she was born and blah blah blah, a kidney thing. A year or so later, she ended up having surgery to resolve the defect. However, during that year in between, we had to be on ridiculously vigilant watch for UTIs. Not that all parents shouldn’t keep an eye out for UTIs. But the structure of her body made it so that the infected urine from the bladder would be able to travel backward – something that should not and does not usually happen – to her kidneys and damage them before we’d know what was happening. We actually don’t know the extent of kidney damage she might have suffered from the first incident, but that’s something for future Kelly to worry about. Anyway, any fever over 100 degrees – even if she was clearly otherwise ill – required an immediate trip to the emergency room for her to be catheterized to get a urine sample, just to make sure. Fortunately, we only had to do that twice.
After her surgery, I think it was another year or so of watching, though the fever threshold got raised to 101. And then after that, a couple last tests and she was released from her urologist’s care entirely. Of course we still have to watch for UTIs, because UTIs are no good, but no more than any other parent. A UTI is no longer an emergency. Still, you also remember the kidney lady?
Okay, if you don’t, this is a story. I got a UTI, and I knew I had a UTI, but it kind of went away? I don’t know, I was stupid. I thought it was gone, but it wasn’t. It went underground for a few days, and then I was sick. I was so sick. I was so sick that when Phil and I decided to get married, one of the things I made him promise me was that as a married lady, he’d never let me sleep with my own puke bucket, because I was so sick all I could do was lean over and throw up and I couldn’t even remove my bucket from the bed. Like almost 105 fever, thought for certain I was going to die kind of sick. Anyway, it was a kidney infection, because of course that UTI didn’t just go away, you absolute walnut (me, not you). I got some crazy antibiotics and it took a while, but eventually I got better. And it took a long time for me to tell this one particular story about that incident, because it was embarrassing, so it took me a while to be able to tell it in such a way that it was kind of funny (but it was not actually funny). On my first day back to work after being sick, the medicine was still messing up my stomach pretty badly, and I was stuck in traffic at the 270 split in Maryland, and I had to get out of my car to throw up, and I only made it as far as the hood of the car before I leaned over to puke so hard I wet my pants. And I was still STUCK IN TRAFFIC, so I then had to get back in my car with all the same cars who were right there the WHOLE TIME all around me.
So I tell this story, and one of the comments I get is something like, “Hey, be glad you can even wet your pants. Some of us would love to wet our pants, but we don’t even have functioning kidneys.”
And. I just.
So if you see someone bellowing at someone else in my general circle of interaction on Twitter, “AT LEAST YOU HAVE KIDNEYS,” that is why that happens.
Oh, wait, here you go – I forgot for a minute the other site still exists and I can just take things from it whenever I want.
Needless to say, even though Penelope is cleared by her surgeon to not worry about UTIs as much, we still take them very seriously in this house. So when she was up and down every 10 minutes all night long to use the bathroom on Friday night, frustrated that she wasn’t actually peeing, and saying when she did pee that it was hot and “shocked” her, we knew we’d be going to urgent care first thing Saturday because no, we are not messing around with that shit. I mean, her kidneys may possibly be damaged, but at least she HAS some, and I have be soundly scolded by a random stranger on the Internet for taking that for granted one time when I was telling what was actually a really kind of sad story.
I will spare you the details about trying to get a urine sample out of a five year old who can only pee a drop at a time but wants to attempt it every seven minutes.
We go into the exam room, we go over her history with the VUR, the surgery, etc. Kind of irrelevant but also relevant, because you never know. We go over the symptoms – classic UTI stuff, minus any kind of fever, but then, when she was first hospitalized with a kidney infection as an infant, we had no idea what was going on, because she had no fever. It was kind of her UTI MO. So the doctor checks her out, basic exam, looks everywhere.
“I think she’s got strep.”
The fuck you say?
The doctor even had me look down Penny’s throat to see her tonsils, enormous and red and angry. She said it definitely looked like strep. But but but. No sore throat, I said. No fever. No nothing. Just the UTI. The doctor said, well, strep’s been a little weird this year. I’ll do a rapid test.
She does, and takes the test out of the room, telling us it will be five minutes, and the door swings RIGHT back open, and she shows it to me, explaining the clear positive that came up in like, 30 seconds. STREP.
Okay, I’m thinking, she’s got a UTI and we also found out she’s coming down with strep, coincidentally. NOPE. Zero sign of infection in her urine sample. NOTHING. She only has strep.
What, may I ask, the fuck?
And the doctor tells us, strep has been weird this year. They’ve had an epidemic not just of strep, but WEIRD strep. A kid came in with knee pain, walked out with a diagnosis of strep. Back pain, strep. Three people had been in THAT WEEK with UTI-like symptoms, no UTI, but a positive strep test. Penelope got one of their last two rapid strep tests. There’s no more left in the county at the moment. Five day courses of antibiotics haven’t been treating this well, so she was prescribed a 10 day course, and the pharmacy could only give us enough to get us through until today, because they were totally out. (They’ll get more today.)
I guess a lot of the cases the doctor was talking about could be coincidence. Maybe a kid did hurt his knee, and while there, they discovered strep. But three others with UTI symptoms and no UTI? And she also told us that in a ton of the cases they were finding, they were like Penelope – no fever, no sore throat, no signs of strep at all until you look down at the tonsils and then, hey, there you go.
So how many kids did Penelope take down with her, since she was in school all last week, since SHE WASN’T SICK as far as we knew? How many kids are walking around with this stealthy strep right now, passing it around and around, with no earthly idea it’s happening?
Having a kid is hard for a lot of reasons, because you know nothing and everything changes all the time, but you’re supposed to be able to COUNT ON STREP. Annoying, painful, yes. Basic childhood illness? Also yes. It sucks, it turns around within a couple of doses of antibiotics, and it’s a generally predictable and standard part of childhood.
IN A WORLD WHERE WE CAN COUNT ON NOTHING, I THOUGHT WE STILL AT LEAST HAD STREP THROAT.
In conclusion, this goddamn giraffe better make with a giant giraffe baby already.
I don’t know what to tell you. Things are kind of terrible right now. I don’t feel like talking about it because self-pity makes me want to slap myself and my face hurts.
Dumbass things I said to my kid recently
So the other day, “other day” being a placeholder term for “a while ago but I don’t remember when,” Penelope was telling me about a kid at her daycare who is mean. Actually, this had to be quite a while ago, since Penelope no longer goes to daycare, since I had to quit my job for health reasons, which is a whole thing that falls under the “I don’t feel like talking about it” heading. Anyway, she said he’s mean because “he repeats what you say but in a mean voice.” And I told her, “Well, that’s what people do when they’re not smart enough to come up with good jokes.”
I regret that one.
Then yesterday, and I know it was yesterday because the cinnamon rolls were no good today so I fed her donuts, she says to me when I came downstairs in the morning, “I’m going to have a piece of candy, because I was supposed to have one after dinner last night but I didn’t, so I’ll have it now.”
And I told her “No, you can’t have candy for breakfast. Eat your cinnamon roll.”
“But the cinnamon roll has sugar, too.”
“Yeah, but… that’s… breakfast sugar. It’s different. Eat your cinnamon roll.”
A problem with telling the Internet things I like
Sometimes I just want to tell the Internet about a thing I bought that I like, and there is always a person who wants to shoot it down. Yeah, but it has X feature/drawback, therefore it wouldn’t work for me, therefore it’s no good.
That’s… not a thing. That’s not what I’m doing when I tell you a thing I like. I’m not reviewing shit for you like a professional… reviewest of some sort. You know, with obligations to be unbiased and think about how everyone may or may not like a thing. I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to do shit. There’s no law.
And sometimes it’s even more weird, when someone knows I own something and they’re thinking about buying a similar something or something in the same category and ask me what I think of mine, and I tell them, and then they shoot that down, or, ever weirder, tell me, “well, I’ll have to think about it,” and then I’m standing there like some kind of awkward sales person. I didn’t even know I was trying to make a sale. I was just telling you about a thing.
Relatedly, this is why I sometimes struggle with GoodReads and leaving reviews for books, because sometimes I really love something that I know, objectively, is very terrible. And sometimes I hate something that I absolutely know for sure is a good book. Just not for me. And I have to pep talk myself when I’m leaving a review sometimes, like tell myself this is not my job, this is not the NY Times. It’s a social site. People who follow me either do so because they have similar tastes or completely opposite tastes, and they want to know what I think of a book personally, because if we generally like the same books, maybe they will read it, and if they hate everything I love, then they know not to read it, and I have no actual responsibility toward the greater GoodReads audience other than to just say what I think about my personal feelings about the book. Which are sometimes – oftentimes, lately – very angry.
And while I’m talking about GoodReads, can we talk about the difference between a book review and a book report? We can all read the blurb. Just tell me what you thought about the stupid thing without giving me a plot rundown. This is not the 7th grade. I’m not going to whip out a rubric and subtract points for your inability to write a summary and note all the symbolism. Tell me: good or bad? Then I will read or not read the book, and from there, I will find out the plot points and – wait a second, I’m going to go back up to the top of this and put GoodReads in as its own heading because I have a couple more things to say. Done. Anyway. If your review starts with “Character A is a small town –” I’m already deaf. I’ve gone deaf from how bad you are at this. Internet deaf, anyway, which is probably more like blind, but not actually blind, because I still need to find the back button to nope the fuck out of what you’ve got going on here. Your review-report will make me Internet deaf. I just had to invent a thing for how much I hate review-reports.
And and and the morality police in book reviews. I think – I hope – by now, at this age, we can all understand the value of an unlikable character. I mean, there’s a line, but a character written in such a way that they’re kind of just an awful person, well. That’s a thing that books do and you don’t have to like the character for it still to be a good book. There’s that line, sure, when a character is tropey and sucky and lazily written, but that’s bad writing. A bad character is different. Same thing with questionable subject matter – you know the stuff. Just horrible things people do to each other, ugly ways people behave, things that are clearly Just Not Cool to Do in real life – all those things often go in books, too. And some people don’t enjoy those kind of things. Like you know what’s a big one on GoodReads? Cheating. A lot of people don’t like cheating in books. Even as a plot device. Even when a character is shitty and does shitty things as part of his or her clearly defined shitty character. And it’s fine to write your review and say, I didn’t like this book because I don’t generally enjoy cheating in a story line and it really ruined it for me, and that’s fine. But say you pick up some horrible thing, and the synopsis says, “Okay so there’s this dude and he kidnaps a girl off the street and he locks her up and makes her into a sex slave and he beats her every day and he’s real mean but their relationship is complex.” And you pick it up and you READ IT and then you write a review that says, “THIS BOOK WAS TERRIBLE BECAUSE THIS TERRIBLE MAN BEAT THIS GIRL AND THEN SHE LOVED HIM IN THE END WHAT EVEN THE FUCK ZERO STARS.” Excuse me ma’am what did you think you were about to read?
Or or or take my second favorite trope – obsessive romance between kind of shitty damaged people. (My first favorite trope of all time is the standard Harlequin romance “there’s a misunderstanding that could be explained in five minutes but the noble lady refuses to explain to save face and lets the dude go on with his misconceptions and they break up and she keeps her chin up bravely but then he finds out he was wrong and there’s a triumphant tearful reunion” and I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING I WILL READ THAT SHIT TIL THE END OF TIME.) One of my favorite books in this second favorite trope is called Beautiful Disaster. And so many of the reviews harp on how terrible it is that these two are so obsessed with each other, what a sign of danger it is that the dude loses his shit when he thinks she left him, how irresponsible of the author to write such terrible role models and whoa hold up. You’re going to give a book a negative review not because you didn’t enjoy it – which, fine, if you didn’t, BUT YOU’RE WRONG TRAVIS MADDOX IS THE BEST – but because you feel the author has somehow failed in her duty to the youth of America? That’s not… that’s not a thing. It’s your job as an adult in a young person’s life to make sure they understand the difference between fact and fiction, between enjoying entertainment and living it out, between right and wrong, between being a decent human being and someone who writes shitty reviews on GoodReads. That’s on you. Not the author.
LEAVE THE AUTHORS OF OBSESSIVE ROMANCE ALONE. THEY HAVE BOOKS TO WRITE. FOR ME.
And lastly. ARCs. Can you people not with this shit. We all know by now that we have to take paid reviews with a grain of salt. People are either reluctant to say negative things when they’re being paid, banned from saying negative things when they’re being paid, or too afraid of never being paid again to say negative things. And it has finally hit GoodReads HARD. ARCs are going out all over the place, all the time, and a lot – a lot of them – are for the shitty Kindle books that cost like $2.99 and are never even whole books, just one regular sized book chopped awkwardly into a trilogy so they can charge you three times. And they’re shitty. So shitty. SO many of them are so, so shitty. But I read a lot of Kindle freebies, because what else am I doing with my life, and I review them, and then I look at other reviews, and they’re all gushing BOLD CAPS LOTS OF GIFS FIVE STARS!!! reviews and I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS and then I see “this book was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review.” And there’s so so so many. I get it. You want to keep the free book train rolling, so you’re willing to salt this author’s GoodReads reviews with 5 stars just so you’ll keep getting books to review, but you should know that you’re terrible and no one likes you except maybe the author, but who cares because the author is also terrible and maybe you two should take a vacation together to terrible island, and when you get bored, the writer can tell you poorly thought-out stories about half an idea she had one time and started writing down with no idea where it was going to go and just hoped she’d get there by the end but never did and then maybe you’ll just WALK INTO THE SEA.
Going back to that thing about stuff I bought.
Here’s some stuff I bought recently that I like.
I got a Loopy Case for my phone. I reluctantly switched back to the iPhone almost a year ago now, and I don’t care what Apple is saying about their super special porn star dick hard glass, I have shattered the fucking thing three damn times. I have never shattered a phone in my LIFE. I use a case. I use the useless protective glass cover, which is stupid, because the shape of the iPhone glass is stupid and no one can cover it properly. After this last shattering, I ordered a Loopy case and I like it. It’s a phone case with… a loop on the back. And you can slide your finger through it and hold your phone better.
They say it allows you to use your phone with one hand, but I’m never going to be a one hand phone user. I got on board with the smart phones pretty much as soon as they were a thing, but still too old to adapt to new ways of doing things, I guess. I ordered a left-handed Loopy even though I’m right handed (the difference is very subtle and you can still easily use it with either hand with no discomfort), because I hold my phone in my left hand and poke at it with my right. I am a phone poker. I am not a thumber. So that feature doesn’t apply so much to me. But I very quickly took to always having my finger through the loop, and it’s much easier to carry in general, like flipped around to the back of my hand when I’m carrying a lot of things, and really, it just gives me peace of mind. Also, the case it comes with is one that wraps all the way around and has a lip at the front, so it’s quite protective as well.
Things you might notice about it: It’s got a big old loop at the back, which might make it hard to slide into your pocket or phone slot in a bag. Also, the loop causes a bump in the back of the case itself. Some might find that bothersome. I do have a rebuttal for both of those: I don’t care. Buy it or don’t. I like it. You might not. That’s a you thing. That is not a “I find these things displeasing therefore the case wouldn’t work for me therefore the case is bad and by association you are also bad” thing.
Other thing I got recently: I made an extremely ill-advised basically spur of the moment trip to Dallas to surprise Bagel for her 30th birthday. Her sister came from Alaska. It was a whole thing. It was a dumb, dumb, dumb thing for me to do, but I did it and we had a lot of fun. We had breakfast for birthday dinner, ate like 6000 red bean buns (ok, just me), and watched a rack of episodes of the kdrama Goblin, which I would love to talk with you about, at great length.
We also went to Sam’s Club, and Beth directed me toward these two packs of wireless bras – Bali Comfort Revolution bras. I spend a lot of time in my house now, and I don’t generally like to wear a bra in the house, because the industrial strength bras I wear are fine but not “I’ll wear this for funsies” kind of fine. Also, I can’t sleep in my industrial strength bras and lately I’ve kind of wanted to sleep in bras because everything is everywhere. Anyway, Beth suggested these as a good idea.
I was hesitant because I’ve never been able to buy a bra that comes in sizes like M, L, XL, but I looked at the size charts and went with a large anyway, and what do you know, they fit. They’re not flattering bras – not something I’d wear to… anything. Except, like, to get the mail? Or a drive through? Or actually I’ve worn them on a couple long (ill-advised) drives. And they do exactly what I want them to. They keep everything from wilding around without the full on rigging necessary for actual participation in real life. I especially like them because most of the time at home I wear my comfort suit, which is onesie pajamas, and I just really, really hate the feeling of being braless in onesie pajamas for some reason, worse than I hate it in anything else. I’d wear a regular bra with my suit during the day, but to be honest I kind of fall asleep at random wherever I am, so I like to be prepared to nap at any moment.
Also, there’s the whole sort of FlyLady thing – did you ever do FlyLady? I should do that. She’s got this thing where every morning, you get dressed all the way down to your shoes, because shoes mean you are Doing Shit, and it’s a mindset thing. It’s kind of the same as going braless. I can wander around my house braless, and lay on the couch braless, and nap braless, but I cannot do things braless. I am not suited up for any sort of activity. Not because it would be too uncomfortable to bend down and pick a sock up off the floor without a bra, but just because, hey, I have no bra on. I am not in action mode. The Bali Comfort Revolution Bras are a nice middle ground because not only am I set to nap whenever the mood strikes me, but I could also pick up that sock and all the other socks if I felt like it. I am not prepared to accomplish anything bra-free. I don’t think Penelope was even conceived bra-free. I need a bra to be in the mindset to Do Things, but I don’t want to wear a capital B-R-A BRA. So that’s why I like those.
All right, good talk.
We’ve only got one kid. I know a lot of people only have one kid, and a lot of people have more than one kid, and a lot of people have no kids. Today I am talking about only having one kid. Specifically I’m talking about us only having one kid, because probably if you only have one kid you don’t do things the same way.
One of the benefits we’ve appreciated about only having one kid is that we don’t have to set a lot of rules. I’m not talking about, like, household anarchy. But with more than one kid, with several kids, you’ve got to work harder to keep order. You probably want to keep order, what with all those arms and legs in your house. But for us (for us), with just one, we’re just really flexible. We only have a few hard rules. Listen the first time. Don’t be a turd in public, you can’t be rude to people. Manners. Actually, that’s about it. We feed her a separate dinner a lot. There’s no set rule on eating this to get that. Her bedtime is within a certain window, but largely relies on when she seems like she’s ready to go to sleep. Lots of things have no set “rule” in our house, and it works with just one kid, because we can bend a previous guideline to fit the situation without having the whole house erupt into unfairness or madness.
Mostly this stems from just not wanting to fight about every little thing, because she’s at that age. Where she is ready to fight about every little thing. So we’re careful not to make everything a hill to die on. We just evaluate whatever situation is currently happening and do what works, rather than set a hard line for every time a similar situation comes up. As a rule for myself, I don’t dig my heels in unless I’m ready to fight something down to the end, and with Penny, every little thing can become a fight down to the end, and it is EXHAUSTING to battle a five year old because it’s not like she comes up with new and interesting arguments.
“Can I paint?”
“No, we’re not painting today.”
“Ok, but can I paint?”
“I just said no, no paint today.”
“Can I paint, though?”
“Penelope. There’s no painting right now.”
“When I finish with this, can I paint?”
“HOLY SHIT IF YOU SAY THE WORD PAINT ONE MORE TIME I WILL EAT OFF YOUR ARM.”
Point is, I’m careful not to say anything that I don’t really, really, really intend to stick to, even in the face of endless questioning and fit throwing. That’s not a lot of stuff. Mostly like, you will say thank you, you will apologize, you will not burn this house down.
I made a mistake a few days ago, though. I mean, it’s not really a mistake. I think I’m in the right. But holy shit, has it turned into complete insanity in this house. I didn’t know Penelope had the attention span to harp on an issue for more than an hour, but it has been like a WEEK and we are all LOSING IT.
Kohl’s has these magic blankets, you know? And they go on sale multiple times a year, right around Christmas, usually. So in October, I think, I picked up three of them with the intent of having one for each of us at Christmas. One gray, one purple, one blue. The gray and purple have the same pattern on them, and the blue one has white polka dots. I don’t know why this matters. They’re all the same goddamn blanket. (You with the multiple children that you’ve had for a lot of years, you’re probably already laughing at me, like OH IT MATTERS.)
Every year on Christmas eve, we go out for dinner. While we’re gone, our elf, Roland, takes off to help Santa for the night and leaves a gift. This year, he left a microwave s’mores maker (AND IT IS GREAT), and I also put out the three blankets I got, thinking it would be nice for her to have a new blanket before bed, and that she could take on the car trip to Disneyland she didn’t know we were taking at the time.
So we get home and she sees the gift from Roland, and I tell her hey, I also got us each a blanket, go ahead and pick one for yourself. She chose the blue. Phil took the gray and I got the purple. Everyone was pleased. We took them along on our trip. Penelope actually even got a second magic blanket from family, one with dogs in sweaters on it. So she has two. I am not jealous because I am an adult and I will use her dogs with sweaters blanket while she’s at school if I want to. As long as I put it back before she notices.
A couple days after we got back from our trip, Penelope informed me that she wanted my blanket instead of hers. She wanted purple, not blue. And here is where I fucked up. I told her no, you had an opportunity to pick out your blanket, and you picked blue. The purple is mine.
WHY DIDN’T I JUST SHRUG AND EXCHANGE THE BLANKETS?
(Probably because she had just filled hers with a particularly rank fart and I was trying to escape her bedroom with my life at the moment.)
Oh, she was mad. But I decided. If you pick something, you stick with your choice and that is that. This is a life lesson. A life lesson with blankets. You can’t go back and take what someone else has because you regret your decision for whatever stupid reason. THE BLANKETS ARE ALL THE SAME.
The next night, she comes at me again. She wants the purple. I told her, look, you have the blue. The purple and gray have the same pattern, but you have the special one. You’re keeping the blue. I’m condensing this conversation for your sanity, but the back and forth was very, very similar to the paint discussion above (which also happened recently).
The next night she comes to me and tells me she doesn’t want the special blanket. In fact, she says, I should have the special blanket because I’m the most special one in the house. Well, as much as I agree about my own specialness, I’m now in much too deep to just let this go. NO. You keep blue. Purple is mine.
“BUT MAMA, when I picked the blue, that night, I was feeling like blue, but every every every other night EVERY OTHER NIGHT has been PURPLE!”
Penelope is like most kids, and when she’s tired, she just… loses all control. She’s completely unreasonable. Two nights ago she came in my room after school and made her play, again, for the purple blanket, and she was ON THE EDGE OF SANITY. Just going on and on and on, yelling and stomping her feet. She’s not a bad kid and she’s not really prone to tantrums, except when she’s this tired. She just latches on to something and can’t let it go for anything, absolutely cannot handle disappointments she usually takes quite well. I had to send her out of my room.
A couple minutes later, I get a text from Phil who is downstairs with her. It just said, “please kill me.” I can hear her yelling and yelling, and I just assumed, I guess, that she’d moved on to expressing her displeasure about her dinner, or about wanting to play a video game, or about not being allowed to launch a pirate ship from the backyard to sail the seven seas plundering unsuspecting cruise liners for their quality shrimp spreads.
But no. What am I, new? She was downstairs, pleading her case to Phil about the blanket. How she’s feeling very purple. How she needs to have the purple blanket. How he should make me give her the purple blanket. She was loud and shrill and in a full on meltdown over this.
At this point, I realize I am a 35 year old adult refusing to give a 5 year old the blanket she wants.
But I said! I SAID! That I wouldn’t exchange the blankets! That I was making a point! That you can’t pick and then unpick! This is how life goes! It’s my job as your mother to teach you these hard blanket-based lessons! What am I now if I give it to her? I’M NOTHING! I WILL CEDE CONTROL OF THIS HOUSE! I CANNOT!
Phil finally managed to stuff a little food in her and send her to bed, after 15-20 minutes of shrill blanket monologue, because while she really does want my blanket, she doesn’t usually resort to out of control shrieking unless she’s just too exhausted to go on. She’ll come back at me again, when she’s rested and at her most dangerous, with some new logical approach that will surely make me see the light and understand that she is the most deserving of the purple blanket.
But you guys. I SAID. I ALREADY SAID. I can’t let this go now. THIS IS WHY RULES ARE STUPID. I swear to never ever ever speak in absolutes to my child ever again. I will only ever say maybe. I promise you on my purple blanket, I WILL ONLY EVER SAY MAYBE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
I was going to ask this question around Christmas, but, you know, life. I’m still curious, though, so I’m asking it anyway, and now you have a wealth of recent experience to use as examples for your answers, which you are surely going to give me.
Okay, a couple of scenarios.
One. You have a group of people you exchange gifts with. Family, friends, whoever. Just people you regularly buy for. And you set a gift budget for the group as a whole – like you’re going to spend $150 on each person. That’s a made up number on the high side, or the low side. It’s made up. It doesn’t matter. So you’ve got $150 to spend per person. Obviously not strict – if you find a great $145 item for someone, you don’t scramble to find a $5 thinger to make it exactly even. In the same vein, if you spend $160 on someone for the perfect gift, no big. You get me. $150-ish. Now, say you find the perfect item for someone. It’s what they want/need/secretly desire in their heart of hearts or whatever. And it costs $150. Perfect. Except, you get some insane deal on it. Like, totally insane. You’ve got a coupon and reward points and there’s also a sale and it turns out your giftees tastes match up with no one else’s so this item is totally unfavored by the rest of the world so it’s also on clearance. You end up spending, say, $50 for a $150 item. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s clearly an expensive item, anyone who sees it can ballpark the price, etc.
Now, keeping in mind that your budget is not a shared budget, it’s just what you’ve decided to spend on each person privately, not a group agreement, what do you do? Do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And buy that person an extra $100 gift to go with your sweet $50 deal, bringing their total actual value of gifts up to $250 while you spent $150 on everyone else in the group? Or, do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And redirect your saved $100 to Christmas eve dinner, or a bonus gift for your spouse, or, surprise!, you needed new tires right before Christmas because you were driving to Disneyland and didn’t actually check the tires well in advance to prepare for this possibility, which was surely going to happen regardless, because that’s just how your life goes, and even if you had checked them in advance and budgeted for them, your dog certainly would have eaten a glass ornament or something just to fuck with you?
Two. Work gift exchange, or secret santa with your volunteer group, or teacher gift, or something like that. Public budget is set and it’s $10. Unlike the scenario above where you set your own budget for the group of people you’re giving to, independent of their budgets, and everyone gets each other what they can comfortably afford to spend and everyone appreciates everything regardless because we’re all good people and we all know good people, in this case, the budget is set and public, fair and agreed upon by everyone, and everyone in the exchange will be getting each other gifts around the same value. You pull someone’s name, a friend, right, or someone you comfortably know. And it just so happens you have a $10-$15 item at home that you were given, new and unopened. It’s not a crap regift, it’s good. Maybe you were talking to that person about a thing you own, and they say they always meant to get one, and then, surprise, you were gifted a duplicate! Something you might have bought for your giftee anyway.
So, you decide you’re going to give your person this $10-$15 item. You acquired it at zero cost, therefore you’re putting out no money on the exchange, when everyone else is, in theory, spending $10-$15. In this case, do you grab another $10 item and include it, so your giftee does have more value in their gift than the rest of those in the exchange, but you haven’t spent any more than anyone else? Or maybe tack on a $2 or $5 item just so you feel like you also spent something? Or just give them the brand new perfectly suitable gift, knowing it meets the budget, and save your $10 for when your dog slams himself into a wall trying to run away from home inside the house because the sonic booms from the ceremonial F-4 Phantom II retirement flyover shook the houses on base so badly someone’s door actually fell off and your dog is a giant wiener and maybe you can put that $10 toward his prozac prescription?
Two different scenarios, right? I’m sure you’ve come across these more than once in your life, maybe even this year, because we’re all similar people, right? And you know what’s written on my family crest. Never Pay Full Price. So we all get killer deals here and there from time to time. But how do you handle them with gift giving and budgets?
To recap, in scenario one, your budget is private, just what you personally have decided to spend on each person in the group. Each person in the group may spend differently – more or less. No one knows your budget. You’ve just set an even one for each person. In scenario two, everyone knows the budget, and everyone has the same budget, and everyone will exchange gifts together in some kind of horrific forced fun holiday thing in a conference room where most people are checking their email on the phones, and two people are wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and continually turning up the volume on the Christmas carols playing over someone’s iPhone WITHOUT EVEN A BLUETOOTH SPEAKER ATTACHED.
I am interested to hear what you do.
I didn’t do one of these surveys last year because I felt like 2015 was particularly hard and just… not fitting for a survey. I wasn’t feeling it. 2016 would be the year I could do a great survey.
I was wrong. 2015 was not that bad. I miss 2015. I miss the particular shambles my life was in in 2015. This is a whole new shambles and I regret not appreciating my previous shambles.
I will put pictures of Penny in here so you can just skip from picture to picture like islands in a sea of crap.
1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
I learned how to make fancy coffee. I took over the day to day operations of a shop and did a lot of stuff I didn’t really picture myself being the kind of person to … do that stuff. I apparently kept on with the habit of starting sentences without knowing where I was going with them. I put a pet to sleep. I took my child to Disneyland (that was last week and I haven’t written anything about it yet, but it was swell). I sent a kid to kindergarten. Geeze. Without a consistent blogging habit to look back over, I really don’t remember a lot of what I did this year. I think it was a lot of the same with a few events sprinkled here and there.
2. Did you keep your resolutions and will you make more for next year?
I don’t make resolutions, but I did have a general feeling that 2016 was going to finally be our year. It wasn’t, and I won’t make the mistake of pinning hopes on the flipping of a calendar page again.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I have always defined this question as, “did anyone I know well enough to visit in the hospital or immediately following the birth of their child give birth?” and that remains a no, though all three female friends I have on this base did give birth this year. Or near the end of last year. I can’t really recall. So, not that close, then.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
I still do not travel. I still do not even own a passport. I don’t really have any thoughts of abandoning this country after the election, either, so I don’t know when I’ll get around to getting one.
6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
A more solid idea of what our exact plans are when Phil retires at the end of the year. Financial stability. I don’t even care about financial security at this point. Just pick a spot and stay stable there, finances, even if it’s a shitty spot. A vasectomy (that one’s not for me). A bigger house. Less stuff. Way, way, way less stuff.
7. What moments from 2016 will remain etched in your memory and why?
When I realized Hillary Clinton was going to lose. The day after the election when some friendly Germans asked me about it and I cried. Watching Penelope watch the parade at Disneyland. She was on Phil’s shoulders and kept turning around to scream down at me. “IT’S GOOFY! MAMA! IT’S DONAAAALLLLD!!” When we lost Brinkley, those last few minutes. When a customer bought two coffees and when they were made, said one was for me, because I never get to have coffee during the day. When the French guys left. WHEN FRENCH GUYS CAME INTO THE SHOP TWO WEEKS AGO!! When we took Penny to the beach, that whole trip.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I guess nothing in particular this year, other than just doing well at work. My customers like me, my boss likes me, my boss trusts me with a lot, and said she’s going to miss me when I had to give notice recently. I like the job, and I don’t hate going there or being there every day. Sometimes that feels like a pretty decent accomplishment. Also, I feel kind of okay about the fact that I worked as long as I could, and eventually got myself around to the point that I felt okay about quitting without soul-crushing guilt. Just a regular amount of guilt.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Every other aspect of my life that was not work. Our kid looks like a hobo all the time. I never grocery shop and rarely get a decent cooked meal on the table. My house is… well, disaster is putting it nicely. I was an utter and complete failure at managing to hold it together this year. About halfway through, shit went sideways and stopped working well for us, leaving us just hanging on by the tips of our fingers as the year came to a close.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I’ve talked about this before – how I have a rare condition, the details are stupid and unimportant and depressing. And how I lost a bunch of weight and was feeling better, but then not feeling better again, and I had a spinal tap, which showed that my condition was controlled. Which was good news and also depressing, because if the condition is controlled, why do I feel like shit? So, turns out I have two other, less rare, pretty normal, but definitely shitty migraine and headache type conditions as well. So we adjusted some medications and lifestyle shit, and I started to feel okay again, until I didn’t. Until I really didn’t. So, back to the doctor, and he decided to do a spinal tap, because it’s his damn favorite thing to do. This was probably the hardest part of my year, if I’m thinking selfishly only about me, which I usually do. We all expected this spinal tap was just a check in, just to confirm that condition 1 is still under control so that we could move on without having to consider it as we figured out how to handle everything else that was happening. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the test results were quite bad. My exact words when my doctor announced it were, “you have to be fucking kidding me.”
I don’t really know how to explain why this particular moment was the most difficult, except that… it made it clear that I won’t ever be done with this. I struggled with it for years, actual years spent doing not much more than just laying in bed every single day, dealing with not only feeling like hot garbage, but also the guilt that comes with being chronically ill, which either you understand or you don’t. And I met a new doctor and got better and set that part of my life aside as closed, except it’s just not and it won’t be. It can’t be cured, only managed, and we’ve once again hit a point of “this might be as good as it gets,” with “as good as it gets” being so not good that I’ve had to quit the job I really enjoy, cancel plans, avoid making plans in the first place, and spend so much time sleeping that my kid declared our 14 hour car trip “the best day of her life” because she actually got to hang out with both parents for so much time. And I think worse than feeling like shit – not much worse, but a little worse – are all the feelings that come wrapped up with being chronically ill. I feel guilty, of course. Like, all the time. And angry a lot. Then I feel bad for being angry because what right do I have to wail about the unfairness of it all? And I feel snappish toward well-meaning people who cheerfully suggest it will surely get better, or have I tried this, or have I considered that, and I have to bite my tongue not to tell them to fuck right off, and then, of course, feel awful, because they mean well. And I’m the buttfaced dickbiscuit for even considering raining on their cheer-parade with a trout-smack of reality. THEY’RE being hopeful for me, how dare I not play along like the brave little soldiers sick people are supposed to be?
Anyway, it’s complicated. I want to be sick without also being an asshole, but they seem to go hand in hand.
To answer the question, yeah, I suffered some illness. I also randomly went blind in one eye, but that was only scary the first time. It’s fine now, usually, except when it’s not, and I can just wait it out. Oh, also, I went to a trampoline park a couple days ago and my thighs are fucking killing me.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmm. LEE KWANG SCOOT.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Phil’s, of course. Just re-read above if you need help developing an accurate picture of all the shit that’s heaped upon him on the regular. Penny. She’s been pretty great this year. Five is pretty great. She’s generally understanding of situations as they stand in this house, and does her best to cope with them. As best as someone her age can. She also loves school and brings home great reports almost every day. Other kids like her and she’s made a lot of friends.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Can. We. Not.
14. Where did most of your money go?
The vet. Daycare. The beach and Disneyland. This year, she’s coming out of daycare, though, and we’re down a dog, so maybe we can catch our breaths a bit there.
15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Tickets to see BTS.
Taking Penny to Disneyland.
A new drink a friend and I invented called The French DeVonte. (My friend’s name is DeVonte.)
16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
It came a little late in the year, but Big Bang’s Last Dance.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?
sadder, about the same, poorer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Texting people when I think about them. Don’t I say this every year? If I have your number, I’m writing you at least two to three texts a week, then deleting them before I send them. Sorry/you’re welcome.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Sleeping. Wallowing in a pit of despair/my own filth/empty diet soda cans. Being short-tempered.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
We spent it at home, as I prefer to do. We went out for Chinese the night before, then spent the morning opening gifts together. We told Penny she’d be leaving for California to go to Disneyland. Later in the day, I made a pile of snacks. I basically arm-swept the fancy meats and cheeses shelf. At night, after Penny went to bed, we packed our bags and our car and early the next day, we left for Phil’s aunt’s house in California. We went to the aquarium (though we had to leave quite quickly because I didn’t feel well, see entry re: guilt above). We went to Disneyland. We ate ramen. Penny taught a bunch of people how to play her favorite card game. We went to a trampoline park. And then we drove 14 hours home.
21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Does renewing my love for DBSK and Rain count?
22. What was your favorite TV program?
Running Man. It’s always Running Man. I have a somewhat irrational attachment to the show. When I was spending most of my time in bed, it’s almost all I watched. 200+ episodes. I’ve always just told people simply, it puts me in a good mood. It always has and I love it deeply. Unfortunately, some things happened this year that weren’t cool but likely uninteresting to you if I explain, and the show will be ending in early 2017. I’m taking it so hard it would probably be comical to anyone else. But before you find it comical, you should know that Business Insider found Running Man to be the ninth most popular show in the world of 2016, and the number one most popular non-American television show. In the world. (link) So stick that in your butt and fuck off. I’m sorry, the pain is still very fresh.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate at this time last year?
I can’t remember what date exactly I started hating Donald Trump instead of just finding him to be a giant but harmless tool.
24. What was the best book you read?
Probably A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Feel free to ruin your own life by reading it.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I continue to discover that kpop is fucking awesome.
26. What did you want and get?
My job. Um, some new sneakers the other day.
27. What did you want and not get?
Good results in basically any situation in which I was waiting for results.
28. What was your favorite film of the year?
I only saw one, and it was Sully, and IT WAS SO GREAT.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 35, and I’m pretty sure I took a nap. Oh, and I worked. Which was kind of weird because all my co-workers were surprised. “Why are you at work on your birthday?” Is taking a day off for your birthday a thing? Why? I dunno. I worked. It was fine.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
You know, I don’t know. I hate this saying, like everyone else, but it kind of just is what it is, right?
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Uniform, elastic pants, onesie pajama suits.
32. What kept you sane?
Probably Running Man.
33. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Always this guy. He’s so great and you don’t even know it.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
CAN WE NOT.
35. Who did you miss?
The characters from the dramas that I finished watching.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
More like a group of people. I love my little German lunch groups. These little pods of regular customers who are also German. They are my favorite people, after me.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
I will not.
38. Quote a lyric that sums up your year.
I don’t think so Tim.
Happy fucking New Year. Don’t fuck it up.
When I went to start this post, I kept trying to open the dashboard on Temerity Jane, probably because I’m about to write about some shit that annoys the hell out of me and that’s my habit. I’m going to eventually move those archives, most of them at least, over here, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. That doesn’t have to do with this post, just a thing that happened that now I’ve written down.
Okay, two things that I’m real het up about this morning.
First. There’s another one of those memes going around with a bunch of little girls dressed as princesses except for one who is dressed as Batman and it says something like be a Batman in a world of princesses or whatever. It’s cool for a lot of reasons. One, Batman is cool. Two, it’s cool that little girls are into dressing up as Batman if they love Batman. Three, it’s always cool when a kid breaks from the pack because that’s not always an easy thing to do. HOWEVER. It’s also not cool. It implies that breaking from the pack automatically makes you superior in some way. Sometimes the pack likes awesome shit because it’s awesome, you know? And it’s fine if you – or your kid – wants to like that awesome stuff, too. It’s like shaming someone for liking pop music because it’s popular. Shut the fuck up. It’s popular because people like it. You’re a people. Do the math, jerk.
It also implies that choosing a superhero is superior to choosing a princess, and that is some bullshit internalized misogyny to stick on your four year old. “Boy” stuff is not inherently better than girl stuff. Girls who are into “boy” stuff are not “cooler” than girls who are into “girl” stuff. Yes, it is very awesome that more and more little girls are becoming comfortable with choosing superheroes over princesses or choosing to like both. But your daughter’s preferences of one over the other don’t make her a better or worse child than the one next to her. She is not more awesome, more evolved, or more cool because she wants to be Batman instead of a princess. You stop telling her that. You don’t let her think that. You let her know that whatever she likes, whatever she wants to do, whatever she is interested in – it is all fine. And whatever the little girl next to her likes, whatever the little girl next to her wants to do, whatever the little girl next to her is interested in – that’s all fine, too.
If you send the message to your kid that she is better (and I’m using the general “you” to encompass the dickbags I’m talking about here) and heap praise upon her for being such a cool girl for choosing Batman over Sophia, she’s going to think it is better. She’s going to think she’s made a better choice than the Elsa next to her. She might grow up thinking that the superior way to be is whatever way chooses the least “girly” option possible, because the “girly” choice is the lesser choice. And it’s not. It’s a valid choice, too. These memes and ideas – you know, where you see a little girl dressed up as Superman next to two of her friends dressed up like Cinderella, and someone comments, “you’re raising her right!” – are the ones setting these girls up to spend their younger years claiming to “not be like other women,” which, in addition to being a dick thing to say (which, still, most of us have said/legitimately felt at some point or another), also sets her back many, many years in developing the female friendships she’s really going to want and need someday.
Anyway, there’s a lot of points to be made from that and I could keep going, but you’re all smart people who can totally extrapolate further and get everything I wanted to say from the disjointed mess I left up there.
This is the other thing that is bothering me a lot. I’ve been buying a lot of stuff on Etsy (STICKERS IF YOU MUST KNOW), and I’m in a lot of Facebook groups for handmade things (ALSO MOSTLY STICKERS IF YOU MUST KNOW), but this applies to most small business/WAHM-type things. I am really, really over poor customer service/cutting some slack for slow shipping and poor communication being the rule rather than the exception lately. I don’t understand why people who are running a business at the same time want to be treated as someone who is doing me a favor.
Mostly what I have been running into lately is incredibly slow shipping. In some ways, I’m fine with this. Most shops post lead times. Those lead times factor into a purchase decision, right? If I need something in two weeks and the shop lists a lead time of 4 to 6, then I can’t buy from that shop. But if they say they ship in 4-5 days, I should be able to expect I can give them my money and get my item. That’s not a crazy concept. But people are making me feel like that’s crazy. The date the item should arrive goes by and nothing has even shipped. If you ask in one of the groups dedicated to these items, you’ll get responses like, “I always give it a week or so more” or “you know, it’s a one woman shop,” and things like that. Like I am supposed to be cutting some slack because, hey, one person is doing this all on her own. But but but I gave you money and you said you could have it done by this time. That was part of the whole arrangement. There are ways to avoid that, like not making more sales than you can handle – Etsy does allow you to sell certain quantities, but many shops insist on making to order so they can sell unlimited numbers. Or you can put down an honest lead time with cushioning. I feel like a lot of shops avoid listing long lead times because people won’t buy if it’s going to take that long. No, they won’t buy if you miss your fake deadline by weeks or months. They’ll be pleasantly surprised if things show up early.
What’s making me so mad about this lately is that yeah, most of us do want to support small businesses. And we do want to shop small. And we’re being encouraged to do this, to choose little companies making their own shit over big, faceless businesses. You want to be the company I choose over Amazon, Walmart, etc, but at the same time, you want special treatment, too? And the people jumping in to defend the small Etsy companies just make it all worse. You have to cut her some slack, she’s doing this on her own, what do you expect? I expect that when I give you my money, you’ll fulfill your end of the bargain with a the product you promised in the time frame listed. I’m not even saying you can’t list a two month turn around time, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you actually meet it once you set it. And buyers are put in a position of actually feeling like an asshole for expecting to receive what they paid for in a reasonable amount of time. How very dare you, the shop owner has children, the shop owner has a lot going on, the shop owner was abducted by aliens, you have no idea what’s going on in her life.
Listen, I paid actual money to buy a thing. I didn’t use my special money that I set aside for special businesses who can just, you know, keep it until they feel like they’re up to doing the contracted work someday. I won’t keep buying cool handmade shit for myself and for gifts if I’m always expected to be understanding and give leeway and look the other way and not file PayPal claims and not leave bad reviews when things don’t go right. This is not… we are not friends. You are not doing me a favor and I am not doing you a favor. I give you money, you give me things. That is what Amazon and Walmart and everyone else do for me. I’m sick of being made to feel like the Great Satan for having expectations of receiving products in exchange for money. How is this a thing that is happening?
AND DON’T GET ME STARTED on the ones that print the shipping label on the very last day of Etsy’s turn around time window and then just LET IT SIT THERE and then claim “oh I shipped it, I don’t know what’s wrong” like I’M NEW HERE NONE OF US ARE NEW WE ALL KNOW WHAT “PRE-SHIPMENT INFO SENT TO USPS” MEANS IT’S 2016 COME ON.
I want to start this post by saying that I know that there are people with anxiety and other issues that make every day tasks very difficult. I also want to say that I know that the majority of us do not have those issues but still find many every day tasks and interactions uncomfortable and difficult, but more in a “wow I need to adult the fuck up and just do this” kind of way. I want you to know that I know that there are definitely differences between these two groups of people, and I also want you to understand that I am addressing the second group here, and I apologize for not including everyone in this post, but if I included everyone, someone would get offended and I don’t want to offend anyone. So is that out of the way? You know that I know that some people really would find this situation cripplingly difficult, and I have great sympathy for them but I am not talking about them. Okay. Okay. We’re all set.
So here’s a thing that happens that I think is THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN. That’s not entirely true, not in, like, the grand scheme of the world, but in that moment, there is not a worse thing that could happen.
So you’re at the grocery store, right, and you get all your stuff – maybe a lot of stuff or maybe not a lot – I don’t think that has anything to do with when this sort of thing happens but I’ve never worked at a grocery store, so I can’t say. Maybe there’s some kind of item number vs time taken to scan math that goes into this, but I assume they cover that in grocery store training. You’ve got your stuff and you find an acceptable line that is not too long for the amount of time you’ve got available, and the cashier is there cashiering and the light is on so you get in the line and put your stuff on the belt or just hold it if you’re hitting up the $1.25 Reeses pumpkin things my Exchange had on all the registers for a week or so before they SOLD OUT ENTIRELY and I had to buy regular circle peanut butter cups, which, don’t get me wrong, I totally love, but you have to admit that with the different shapes come different pleasing texture differences and sometimes a lady wants a pumpkin.
You’re in the line and you’re at the end of the line, and the cashier turns her light off. Now, you’re already in the line so you’re fine and you don’t have to go anywhere else, unless the cashier tells you that you have to, in which case you probably just should, definitely if you only have an item or two, though I’d be super annoyed if I had already unloaded a full cart onto the belt and was told I had to move, but I’m pretty sure that’s such a rare occurrence – it’s never happened to me – that you could probably assume there was some kind of cashier emergency or even personal emergency that the cashier must attend to, and soothe your annoyance by reminding yourself of that.
But in this situation, the cashier doesn’t tell you to go somewhere else. You’re already there so you’re fine. Instead, she tells you, “you’re my last customer, ok?” Why would she have to tell me that? I’m not a total asshole or anything, but I have to say, I really do not care what you do and with who after our personal transaction is finished. I don’t need to know that I’m the last one. So you know why she is telling me?
BECAUSE IT IS NOW MY RESPONSIBILITY TO INFORM ANYONE WHO COMES BEHIND ME THAT THEY CANNOT JOIN MY LINE.
Now instead of zoning out looking at the magazines and evaluating all the shapes that chocolate and peanut butter come in for possible pleasing texture differences, I have to stand there ALL STIFF and on HIGH ALERT thinking about nothing but the desperate hope that people will be decent people and not approach a checkout with the light off, even though you know full well there are people who will see that the light is off but also see that I’m standing there and decide they can jump onto the end of the line, even though we all know the universal lights off signal means that the person already in line is the LAST PERSON and you are definitely trying to cheat the system while FULLY AWARE that you are doing it.
So that’s what makes it the worst, because you’ve been told that you’re the last, and by telling you that, the cashier is letting you know that she kind of expects you to play End of the Line Police, but her light is out, so in theory no one should be getting in the line and you should be saved from having a 2.5 second mildly awkward in a non-consequential way conversation with an absolute stranger, EXCEPT for the fact that of the two kinds of people who will get in line behind you anyway, one will be clueless and just have not seen the light off and apologize and walk away, and the OTHER kind will certainly have seen the light off but figured they could sneak onto the end of the line like they’ve cracked the big grocery store code that no one else knows about. AND THAT IS THE PERSON YOU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH.
To sum up, my favorite cashiers are the ones that will say, “I’m closed now but 3 is open” over your shoulder WITHOUT BRINGING YOU INTO THE SYSTEM AT ALL.
So I was talking with Phil about something the other day, and then a similar situation occurred today and I got all Baader-Meinhoffy and decided to write it down. (If you feel like you’ve seen someone mention Baader-Meinhof recently, guess what? It’s happening to you.)
To tell this story, I have to admit to doing something stupid. Okay, several stupid things. First, last year, there was a whole thing, and for a list of reasonable yet pretty indefensible reasons, Phil and I started smoking again. He’s already quit and I smoke maybe two or three a day, so the end is in sight (well, the end has passed for Phil but you know I prefer to look at things from a me-centric point of view, it just works best for me). Anyway. That’s one of the stupid things. Should not have done that. The second stupid thing happened this morning. I was getting ready for work – and morning in our house is kind of a hustle, with 2/3 of us sleeping until the last possible second we can sleep and the rest being Phil who gets up early probably to just get a damn minute without us ladies up in his face with all our talking – and I’m not saying that like, haha, isn’t it funny how much women talk? No, I’m talking about me and Penny specifically. The number of words being flung into Phil’s head at any given waking moment are incalculable. So yeah maybe that’s why he gets up at 4am, because our damn mouths are shut for a damn second.
So we rush around a bit in the morning, we being me, because I leave myself no time, and for some reason today, I kept thinking my backpack was on the chair where it sometimes is, but it wasn’t my backpack, it was Penny’s. And I kept putting things into “my” backpack and then looking down and seeing, like, my phone nestled sweetly beside an R2-D2 thermos. And I’d take my stuff out and move it to my backpack, in the other room, and then putting something else in there a minute later. So I’m sure you can see where this is going, and on my lunch break – which I take at 9am because that’s life and I’m very hungry right now – I had to call Penny’s school and tell them what I had maybe done, and could they please go check, and yeah if you find them go ahead and throw them away and I’ll call it a stupid tax.
Anyway, I came home and I found them on the table, so that was fine, but what was interesting – to me, I don’t know about you – was how the woman on the phone reacted. She was taken aback, I definitely got the impression that this was not a common sort of phone call to get, and I apologized a bunch, and she said she’d handle it and thanks for the call. But what she didn’t say was anything like, “oh, it’s okay,” or “these things happen,” or “don’t worry about it.” And maybe I wouldn’t have noticed that if I hadn’t recently had this conversation with Phil.
The other night he and I were talking about a mistake someone had made, one they feel bad about, and while he’s not one to flip out on someone, he wasn’t really thrilled about it. And we were talking about how when this person apologized again, as he would surely do, maybe Phil should resist the urge to say, “it’s okay.” Because you know, we all have that urge, right? Someone does something against us – not, like, murder, but something minor – and the reflex is to say, “it’s okay,” so that they don’t feel as bad. You’re the one wronged (“wronged,” you know the type of thing I’m talking about here), and your immediate response is to alleviate some of the upset the other person is feeling.
And you know, a lot of times, that’s totally fine. Sometimes someone spills something in the coffee shop, and I say, “that’s ok! Don’t worry about it!” And they shouldn’t worry about it! It is okay! One, those things happen, and two, part of my job is to clean shit up. I am zero percent bothered by the little accident you just had, and I want you to know that you really shouldn’t be bothered at all, either. But then, say, some kind of different situation occurs – like you’re acting like a jackass and you knock a whole row of drinks off my counter and all over the floor, as a direct result of your jackassy behavior. Of course I will clean it and it will be fine, and you know, I might still say, “it’s okay” if you apologize, but you know what? It’s not really okay.
I would say, “it’s okay” as a reflex because I see you feeling bad about what happened and immediately feel it’s now my job to make you not have that discomfort. But when people fuck up, shouldn’t they kind of have some discomfort? I’m not talking about prolonged suffering, or holding a grudge forever or anything like that. I’m saying, why should we say “it’s okay” when it’s not? If a person makes a mistake, as all people do, there should probably be some sort of consequence, because that’s how we learn not to do these things again, right? And a lot of times, the mistake is little and the consequence is little. Like the consequence is just… feeling bad.
I think a lot of people kind of rush to take responsibility for the feelings of others, either by doing something small like saying, “don’t worry about it,” or something big like bending over backward to accommodate someone who is upset by your personal boundaries, making yourself uncomfortable in the process. And that second one, that’s a whole other topic, so forget I said that, but maybe we’ll come back to it sometime in the never future.
Instead of “that’s okay,” you can say things like, “it’s done so let’s move on,” or “I accept your apology,” or, I don’t know, some other things that aren’t coming to mind. And yeah, the person who made the infraction doesn’t get that weight a little bit lifted off their shoulders. They have to sit with that uncomfortable feeling that they’ve upset you, or inconvenience you, or messed something up. And is that so terrible? To make a mistake and then just have to… regret it? Or feel bad about it? I don’t think so.
And obviously I bring this around to my kid because what doesn’t come around to my kid. It’s really tempting to say, “it’s okay” to her when she’s having some kind of big feelings. I just read an article about this, actually (I didn’t read it, that was a lie, I saw it linked somewhere and only read the title, but I assume it said to stop saying “it’s okay” to your kids.) And I should probably stop that. She should just have the feelings. The same is true when she’s disappointed by something – I instantly want to swoop in and fix it, to offer something else for whatever she’s missing, to stop her from having to feel disappointment for a damn second, but that’s not a good path for us all to walk down, is it?
Anyway, I guess what I’m thinking here is that I’m going to stop telling people it’s okay when it’s not. I don’t mean I’m going to sulk, hold grudges, get revenge. I mean I’m going to stop that knee-jerk reaction to lift someone’s [minor] guilt off his shoulders. Because sometimes it’s not actually okay, you know? I put my cigarettes in my kid’s backpack today and sent her to school (I didn’t, actually, but I believed I did). And I called the school and fessed up and the woman on the other end didn’t tell me it was okay, and that’s good, because you know what? It wasn’t. I made a minor but still quite stupid mistake (I didn’t, actually) and it’s not the end of the world that no one made me feel better about that. Why should I feel better about that? It was dumb. I should feel dumb. I did feel dumb! And the world didn’t end because I had to feel dumb for a while.
There is a lot of stuff right now, for me and for the general world but I’m mostly always focused on just me, that is kind of terrible. I don’t feel well again. I felt better for a long time and now I don’t feel well again, and it’s shitty just like before, but with the added bonus of anxiety and distress at the sensation of being dragged back down into a craphole. I sleep a lot, mostly.
And, you know, other terrible things.
Anyway, here are some things I like right now.
NUMBER ONE. Facebook groups. I dunno, man, I am just into them. I like how I am in a bunch of different groups with a bunch of different purposes with a lot of the same people. And I like the groups I’m in with not the same people. I like how groups are being used, or at least, how I’m now seeing them being used. Like how you can just make a group for any damn thing and be in it and post in it or not or just read things. This doesn’t make sense and that’s fine. You know, the idea of people deleting Facebook or being addicted to Facebook never really made sense to me before – post something, look at some things, leave. What else is there to do on there that you’re spending hours a day? But groups, man. I don’t participate a ton, but I just really like being in them and reading things and saving links for projects and recipes some alternate universe version of myself might take on some day. You know any good groups I should be in? Add me to some Facebook groups. Make a Facebook group with just you in it and add me to it. I’m fine with that. Don’t add me to any direct sales groups, fuck off with that shit, but otherwise, yeah, put me in all your groups.
NUMBER TWO. Being basic as hell. I don’t really like the word or the concept, not so much. Especially not the whole “basic bitch” phrase. I dunno, you know that’s insulting and meant to be insulting, but the concept goes against everything I’ve come to learn about myself in recent years, so I’m not into it. But accepting the concept as a THING that we all understand, OH MAN I LOVE IT. Fall is when it seems to come out the most, but obviously being a basic person is a year round endeavor. But examples from right now: what, leggings, warm boots, top knots? Yes, yes, yes. Sign me up for all of those things. Those are all things I love. I love doing basic shit. Being incredibly average and predictable is my jam. I like watching fall tv show premiers and I like putting stickers in my planner and I like stopping for coffee. I get that the whole “basic” concept is meant to be sort of, “haha, look at you, liking things other people like,” but you know me well enough by now, or maybe you don’t, so I’m telling you now, I think that liking things that other people like is the absolute BEST THING IN THE WORLD. Yes. Put me down for one of everything that average people are enjoying the shit out of. Make space for me. I’m coming to enjoy shit with you.
NUMBER THREE. Korean television. Guys, it just keeps getting better, I promise. I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything, so I’m going to use myself as an example here, but BEFORE I started watching Korean television, it was impossible for me to imagine it could be as good as American television. I mean, I guess I just assumed the US was where quality entertainment came from. I don’t know if I thought it would be hokey or poorly produced or what. I don’t think it was a conscious thought, just some kind of embedded ethnocentrism I wasn’t super aware of. So anyway, I know I’ve beat this drum forever, but I don’t really plan to stop. It really is just as good as American television. It’s just as well produced, just as complex and interesting, and it’s just really, really great. I do think you’re missing out on something awesome if you haven’t tried them out, and I hate when people miss out on awesome things.
Okay, well, that’s about all of the things I am liking right now. I hope you are liking some things, too. Add me to Facebook groups about them.
This was part of a way bigger post I have shrunken due to excessive… me-ness.
This is something I need to make sure Penny knows before she leaves our house someday: she’s got to know where money comes from. I mean, I know she knows I go to a job, and I know most kids know that’s where money comes from, but where it really comes from.
I go to my job and there are things that need to be done. It’s not a hard job – you don’t need any experience or special talent to become a good employee really quickly. But you have to work. You have to show up and do all the things that need to be done. I’ve got an eight hour shift, and I go there, and I do things for eight hours – the whole eight hours, I do the things that my job requires. Then they give me money for that.
It’s not a hard job and it’s not a hard concept. But the kind of turnover you see in food service and similar make it clear that not everyone – like maybe people who are new to working or maybe just this type of person who exists – really has a firm grasp on the concept. Talking to my sister, who is a manager at a restaurant, makes it clear that it’s obviously not just something I’ve noticed.
I need to make sure Penny knows where money comes from. That you go to a job and do the job and that’s how you get the money. Not by just showing up, not by getting a job and then calling out a lot or not calling at all and not showing up, not by doing as little work as you can possibly get away with. If someone is going to pay you to do a thing, you must do the thing. That is how work works. It is not going to always be fun, but it’s also not very difficult – show up for your assigned shift and do the tasks assigned to you. That is the whole thing. You get money for doing that. No, there’s not a lot of time to socialize, and no, you can’t really dick around on your phone the whole day. But all you have to do is do the work you’re supposed to do during the time you’re assigned to be there. That’s it.
If someone is willing to pay you to do something, that means your work has value. If you’re taking money for doing something, that means you have to do it. If you don’t want to, or you find ways not to, or you make things difficult on everyone else, there is someone else out there who is willing to do those tasks for that amount of money. The money comes from doing the work.
I know Penny knows we go to work, and I know she knows we have money to buy things. I’m reasonably certain that she gets the work/money connection. But before I send her out to get a job of her own someday, I swear to you, Penny’s future employer, I will make sure that she understands that the money you are willing to give her is conditional on her doing the tasks that need to be done. That anything that someone will pay you for is work, and that the work matters to her employer. That if she won’t do the work or tries to find ways out of the work, then she won’t get the money. That there is no task or work duty that she is to good to do, no matter how tedious and un-fun. If someone wants to give her money, the work has value, and she needs to do it. Even if she thinks it’s a stupid way to do things. Even if she’s bored. Even if she’d rather be somewhere else doing anything else. Money comes from work and work (in most cases) is not just showing up.
There are a lot of things we need to teach Penny, so much that it’s overwhelming when I start to think of it. How to be a good person. That she doesn’t have to light herself on fire to keep other people warm. That she’s in charge of her body. That not everyone is going to like her and that’s okay. That she’s not going to like everyone and that’s okay, too. How to honor commitments and make phone calls and take care of her belongings. So this is just one of them, in a really long list of stuff, and I’m not saying anything about any other parents, or about any particular generation of children, or anything about anyone specific when I say that I hope you will make sure that your kids know this, too. That they don’t just understand that you leave all day and then buy them things. That they really get that when you leave, you do things that have value, and that value is reflected in your paycheck. That you have to earn the money, it doesn’t just appear. And that they’ll be expected to do the same thing someday, too.