A Little Less Into It


The problem with young poets
Is that they’re much too earnest.
They emote so gushily, you gag,
But with age, they learnest.

Note:  If I could, I’d record these short poems and put the audio up here, because they have a sort of timing that is a challenge to convey.  Then again…if I was trying to write good poetry, I’d try harder to meet that challenge, I suppose.

She Couldn’t Believe It When She Saw What You Believed!

There’s been a lot of back on forth lately (mostly forth) about some really outrageous things in the news.  You may have been tempted by the delicious aroma of moral superiority.  You may have even taken a bite.  I’m sure it tasted oh-so-good, but I have a question for you.

Do you even know where your outrage was manufactured?

Most people assume that because they are personally having the outrage, it’s locally sourced. But how do you know your outrage is wholesome organic outrage, not some pre-packaged, processed frankenfit?  For all you know, Big Aggro is importing your outrage from an overseas factory server farm!  They aren’t even required to label it!

Manufactured outrage is full of toxins that slowly poison you from the inside out. These toxins may make your outrage look better, or feel better, but they’ve been proven to cause tight sphincters, jerking knees, and hurting butts.  Did you know that compounded outrage is addictive, just like heroin?  It’s no mistake that they call it website “hits.”

The healthiest course of action is probably to avoid outrage altogether. It’s not necessary to anyone’s well-being, and the risks of it being a processed, additive-laden nightmare are high.  If you just can’t go without a little outrage in your life, though, here’s an alternative to supporting Big Aggro:

Be outraged about things within a 25 mile radius of yourself.

Locally Sourced Outrage

Support local outrage, and know that your outrage is genuine, organic outrage grown right in your backyard.

Regretfully, I Am Not Qualified For Your Position

I spent a lot of time yesterday cleaning up dog vomit. The dog has bad ears and they get infected without my noticing because I am a terrible dog owner.  Since she is twelve, and blind, she doesn’t do much normally—so “lethargy” and “inactivity” are sort of her natural states.  Hard to notice when her activity level goes from .5 to .2.  Antibiotics to cure the disgusting ears have all kinds of other disgusting side effects.  Poor doggy.  Anyway…  I don’t often think, “I have a college degree and 15 years of experience, and I am doing THIS,” but it crossed my mind more than once during Festival de Papertowel and Rugcleaner.  Let’s stipulate that I am slightly overqualified to clean up dog vomit.  There are, however, a list of things in the world that I am not qualified, nor will ever be qualified to do.


  • Consignment Boutique Fashionista: This was what started the whole thing. A consignment shop had a “Fashionista Wanted” sign up, and I thought, “Well, they don’t want me.” I treat my clothes and my cars the same way. I find something reliable and use it until every single last drop of goody has been wrung from its sad, tattered carcass. My 2007 Honda has 125,000 miles on it and I’m hoping for at least two more years. Some of my shirts probably have almost that many miles on them. It’s not a successful garment experience unless you’re too ashamed to give it to Goodwill. If an actual “Fashionista” went through my closet, I’d probably have to foot some therapy bills or call the police.
I put this on right after I took the picture because it was slightly chilly.

I put this on right after I took the picture because I was slightly chilly and it’s still perfectly functional.

  • Hoarder: Now you’re probably imagining that my closet is just one massive pile of rags. NOT SO. I am not constitutionally capable of hoarding stuff. I also lack the mental self-trickery to think that I will need *that* someday, or that I won’t ever have another one of *those* again, or that I can fix *this* up and it will be worth something on eBay. No, no, and NO. It’s all just crap. Throw it away. If you need all those things to preserve every precious memory, then maybe a couple of them aren’t as precious as you think.  I get mental when the trash can is full and the possibility of throwing something away doesn’t exist. Really mental. Like…if we forget trash day, Mr. YSBH has to take to can to the transfer station or it ruins my week. My career as a professional hoarder would be cut short about three times a year when I looked around and said, “What is all this junk??? Gah! Get me a shovel!”
We keep moving this box of unopened organizers because we don't have anything to put in them.

We keep moving this box of unopened organizers because we don’t have anything to put in them.

  • Physics Instructor: I’m a smart gal[i]. I learned and learned when I was in school, and I embraced all the learny things. Except trigonometry and wave theory. To be honest, I decided not to. I am certain that I am fully capable of learning those two things (really, they are sort of the same thing, you can’t get one without the other), but I would have to memorize it. It doesn’t make logical sense to me. Trading in financial derivative futures, and the required reporting? SURE. Light waves bouncing all over my room? Nope. I decided that it’s MAGIC. The idea of things bouncing all over my room all the time makes me uncomfortably crawly. Just writing about it now is making me restless. Magic in the air (which is also not moving unless there is a breeze, thank you very much) allows the sounds and sights to enter my head as needed. This also explains why Mr. YSBH has “selective hearing.” HE’S IMPERVIOUS TO MAGIC, YOU GUYS. While this theory works really well for me, I betcha it wouldn’t go over that well in a high school science class. Then again… kids today, they might not know the difference.
I don't even really understand this, and I made it up myself.

I don’t even really understand this, and I made it up myself.

  • Parent: Speaking of kids, I am completely unqualified to be a parent. This is the one job on the list that I actually have, and I can’t even quit. “Sorry, kids, but this gig isn’t working out for either of us. I’m just going to move on so you can hire somebody who is a better fit.” I took Child Development in high school. For the assignment where you were to come up with fun games for preschoolers using household objects, I turned in “Look at the Man in the Sun,” which you were supposed to do with binoculars. I was the one person the preschoolers did *not* want to read to them during the field trip to the day school. Somehow, they let me bring two of the little snowflakes home from the hospital, though. Amazing. I’m setting the bar pretty low on this one, honestly. Were they clothed and sort of fed when I dropped them at preschool with their buckets? YES. Gold star for me, because they both had buckets and snacks and shoes on the correct feet. As for the more advanced parts of this job, I’m totally winging it until I get my performance review. Which I am still waiting for, BY THE WAY—do you know when those come out again?
Run away! Run away!

Run away! Run away!

[i] Yes.  I said “gal.”  I’m taking back “gal.”  I don’t actually know what’s wrong with “gal,” except maybe it’s a little familiar.  In the wrong context, sure, that would be offensive, just like a man can be called “buddy” in an aggressive way.  I’m a gal, she’s a gal, wouldn’t you like to be a gal, too?

Mommy Is Relaxing … Her Standards

Burning question of the day: Why wasn’t my house always spotless before I had kids? Seriously, there was, in hindsight, no legitimate reason why it couldn’t have been clean all the time. I guess I was just really lazy. And happy. I was lazy, and happy, and I played video games and worked a lot.  Now, when I talk about what I’ve been doing all day, or better yet, what I got DONE, I find that I’m … fudging it a little? What I say…doesn’t seem to mean what I used to think it meant.

“I cleaned the floor.”
Used to mean: I picked up every single thing and vacuumed and mopped the entire house.
Now: I picked up most of the things, and kicked the others around the carpet so I could vacuum. Then I squinted my eyes to simulate an older person who doesn’t see well, and paper towel spot-cleaned anything on the laminate that was glowing green or creating texture.

This is where they live, because they are mine and I clean the floor.  Put yours away.

This is where they live, because they are mine and I clean the floor. Put yours away.

“I cooked dinner.”
Used to mean: I spent at least 45 minutes cooking some spicy, complicated creation from scratch, using every pan and spoon I owned.
Now: We are eating anything besides take and bake pizza.

So, 45 minutes to make the meal, and an hour to wash every dish in the kitchen? *does math, frowns*

So, 45 minutes to make the meal, and an hour to wash every dish in the kitchen? *does math, frowns*

“I did laundry.”
Used to mean: I spent all day Sunday washing and drying all the things, so that I could spend my time watching X-Files, folding the laundry, and putting it away during commercial breaks. Voila! All the clothes clean for Monday morning.
Now: I washed and dried some clothes, many of which are small and annoying to fold. They are sitting on the bed RIGHT NOW. If I can sneak off after dinner, I will fold a few of them, then the rest will get smashed into the giant pile of wrinkles in our bedroom. Sorry, dear.
“I cleaned the bathroom.”
Used to mean: The bathroom was ready for a picnic. You could eat off any surface you desired. Everything was sanitized, shiny, and the end of the toilet paper was folded into a little triangle just to make you feel fancy on the john.
Now: Visible signs of the small people have been hurriedly scrubbed off with a disinfecting wipe, and a flushable brush has been swished around the toilet to remove whatever it will remove. Notice I didn’t mention the tub. That’s what shower curtains are for. If you look, it is your problem—why are you looking in my shower? Weirdo.

Pin This!  Effort-free growth chart for the little ones!  Smear their hands with a different color of sidewalk chalk for each year.

Pin This! Effort-free growth chart for the little ones! Smear their hands with a different color of sidewalk chalk for each year.

“I’m ready to go.”
Used to mean: I’m ready to go, except I need one more thing that I forgot. There, now I’m ready.
Now: I might be ready to go in about 15 minutes, after I get the other 17 things the children *need* to be happy, find the other shoe, tie them into the carseats and then run upstairs and “fix” my hair. That is conditional. If anyone needs to use the potty, flips out over a sibling saying the wrong thing, or comes down with a flash virus, all guarantees, implied or otherwise, are forever cancelled.
“I did the dishes.”
Used to mean: Who are we kidding? I never kept up with the damn dishes. It pretty much means the same exact thing now as it always did: We’re expecting company.

Optimism Is the Powdered Sugar On My Bitter, Cynical Doughnut

I  suppose I owe you an explanation of what exactly an “optimistic cynic” is, should one exist beyond hipster irony.  I have branded myself this after a great deal of thought.  The question about the glass–half-full?  half-empty?  It seems a little simplistic to me.  If it does it for you—“I’m an optimist!  Super big YEAH for a half a glass of something!”—then I am a little suspicious of your intelligence.  If you are going to get all weepy about the glass being partly empty, well, go suck that egg somewhere else.  Sure, it’s half-empty, but I’m pretty sure we can DO something about it if you stop whining for a minute.

Sad glass is sad (and pensive).  Perhaps it is thinking about when it was a full glass.

Sad glass is sad (and pensive). Perhaps it is thinking about when it was a full glass.

It comes down to this minor point: Optimism and cynicism are in a struggle for my immortal soul.  Optimism is a form of humility.  The optimist believes that others are probably doing the right things, that the world will work out, because they feel somewhere inside that they are not the pinnacle of creation.  Those sunny optimists are always ready to believe that someone outside of themselves could, probably even DOES, have a good answer.  The right answer.  This is very, very silly, but bless their little hearts anyway.

The cynic is inherently arrogant.  She can find a problem with your plan in five seconds flat, has no reluctance to tell you about the problem, and harbors a suspicion that you will pretend to listen, then go off and do your damn fool thing anyway.  I worked for a company at one time that tried to “value” this as a necessary part of progress, despite it being very annoying.  I did well there.  I also worked for a company that nearly fired me for it (that, and my lack of appropriately dangly gender parts).

Here's a close-up of dangly bits!  (No, this is not that blog, you can stop looking.)

Here’s a close-up of dangly bits! (No, this is not that blog, you can stop looking.)

That experience led to a year of pretending to be someone I was not, in order to keep my job.  It was transformative and awful.  I had to keep my know-it-all, how-dumb-are-you, that-is-the-worst-idea-ever mouth shut.  FOR A YEAR.  I still knew that the folks in charge of the projects were wrong, and I still knew that my idea was smarter, better, more efficient, etc…  I just didn’t say anything.  I learned to take orders.  I found another job and QUIT.  The partners were sort of shocked, because they hadn’t seen that the cynic was still there, chafing at every stupid command.

Let's pretend!  I'll be the Japanese schoolgirl.... (No, this is not THAT blog either!  Move on.)

Let’s pretend! I’ll be the Japanese schoolgirl…. (No, this is not THAT blog either! Move on.)

The transformation was this, however:  I listened.  I had to hear out the idea/opinion/thoughts of the people in charge, and sometimes, it was fine.  It was good enough, and it was easier.  I didn’t love it, but I learned to trust a few people, and I learned some things from them.  In this new and humbler incubator, the repressed optimist stirred, stuck her hand up out of the primordial ooze, and claimed a breath of life.  Couldn’t put the silly tart down after that.  She keeps popping up.  “That’s the dumbest thing ever, but it just might work!  Let’s try it!”

Get thee down into my belly, thou evil tart!

Get thee down into my belly, thou evil tart!

Some amount of cynicism is a requirement in the world we live in.  You could believe all the stuff in your e-mail.  You could have lots of friends in Nigeria that you help with a little cash.  If you hadn’t sent that chain letter out to 200 of your Facebook friends, you probably would be bald and impotent!  Great job!  Coconuts are a miracle!  I know, pretty snarky, but in order to avoid the bad actors with bad motives, it’s necessary to evaluate a lot of things with the presumption that the “person” on the other end is all-in for themselves.

That said, it is just as necessary to operate with a degree of optimism.  If you don’t have some hope that things are going to turn out alright, how do you get up in the morning?  How do you touch a doorknob, knowing that half the people who touched it before you probably just pottied and didn’t wash their hands?  You have to grasp that knob like an old friend, and believe that whatever germs and crud are living on there will get along with you just fine.  Having children is the Xtreme version of this.  I can’t think about all of the things that are going to go wrong there long enough to write about it.  I just hope for the best and try not to screw them up too badly.

Yes, I did just compare touching a doorknob to raising a child.  Toooooouch meeeee!

Yes, I did just compare touching a doorknob to raising a child. Toooooouch meeeee!

Where does this leave me when I face another day of washing approximately six million Disney-branded plastic dishes?  I am still going to see all the things that are wrong with your thought/idea/project/baby, and if you catch me at the wrong moment, I will tell you all about it.  Most of the time, though, there will be enough sweetness to keep you hopeful that somehow, it will still all be okay.

PS.  If you like the term, by all means use it.  I have a feeling a lot of us GenXers are in the same boat.  The same poorly constructed, taking on water, probably built by one-armed orangutans, just might make it to the other side boat.  We need some sort of secret handshake.