Jammies and judgments

If you were sitting in my living room right now and we were having coffee, it would no doubt occur to you to wonder exactly how long I stay in my pajama pants on an average day.  You might even think about asking me directly, because right now it’s like one in the afternoon and to most of the world, my comfy clothes might look a lot like clinical depression.  You’re probably a really caring and nurturing soul and I appreciate that, but before you jump on the bandwagon, I can assure you that everything’s all right.  I’ve had a shower today.  Hell, I’ve even shaved my legs and put on moisturizer.  I am not depressed.  If I was, my mom (whose name would have been either Frank or Earnest if she were a man) would’ve called me out on it like two seconds after it started, my cats would’ve been really pissed about their dirty litter boxes, and my husband and step-kids would’ve wanted to know where the hell their supper was, and that would’ve been that.  So again, I’m not depressed.  But admittedly, there are a few things contributing to the plethora of pajama pants in my possession as well as the frequency with which I wear them.

  1. I keep my house cold enough (even in the summer) that most people need an afghan to be comfortable.  (This is not at all inconvenient because I actually MAKE AFGHANS, so I have plenty and I like to share.)  Since I’m either on the computer or crocheting, I can’t really cover up; the pajama bottoms mean that I don’t have to.
  2. I have a cat who barely lands on the nice side of satanic.  If I don’t wear pants that he likes to sleep on (fuzzy soft pajama bottoms), he’ll scratch my legs until I reconsider my choice.  The scratching is, of course, unintentional.  (Yeah.)
  3. I’m going through a bit of a heavy phase at the moment, brought on by the purchase of Oreos, ice cream, and potato chips every week for the past six months.  The pajama bottoms are among the few articles of clothing I own that still fit.  The way I see it, folks should be grateful I’m wearing pants at all.

Probably none of these explanations is really good enough for you, and I have to admit that even I occasionally find my attire appalling and problematic.  Mostly, these moments occur in the presence of other people.  For example, there are times when I have felt truly and unfairly judged by the UPS guy.  And we’re not even going to talk about the visiting 12-year-old friends of my step-son.  Except to say that those kids really need to work on keeping every thought they have from crossing their faces.

Thankfully, I can at least say that in my house, I am not alone in my preference of pajama bottoms.  To illustrate:  last night, step-daughter and I returned from an afternoon out with my mom.  As she walked through the door, she was tweeting about taking off her makeup, putting on pajamas and binge watching Supernatural.  By the time she finished typing, I’d already re-donned my fuzzy ‘jammy pants from earlier in the day, grabbed the Chromebook, and started a cup of coffee.  By the time my coffee was done, she had on her own fuzzy pants.  We could only smile at one another as we grabbed various bags of unhealthy food and seriously contemplated having frozen pizza for supper for the second night in a row.  In the end, we couldn’t be bothered to wait for the oven to preheat and we ate whatever we could find that took even less effort than that.  (Parenting goals!)

So, if you were sitting here right now drinking coffee with me, it would probably occur to you that I’m not depressed so much as I’m an obnoxious teenager in a 40-some-year-old squishy body.  And I couldn’t really argue with you there.  Not at all.

You can’t go home again.

Boredom is a rarity for me.  There are too many books and blogs to read, too much television to watch, too much Amazon browsing to be done to ever allow it.  This afternoon though…I just finished a book (Hillbilly Elegy), and before I can really get into another one, I need some silence and a steady lack of company.  Neither are happening.  Step-son is having technology issues that I must periodically attend to, step-daughter is trying not to throw her phone in frustration with one of her friends (who seems to think that sending a screenshot of her phone will show evidence of her broken screen).  Husband is trying to sleep for a little while before he returns to work tonight for another 12 hours.  The cat is high from the catnip spray we bought last night, and the neighbors are mowing their grass in the 95 degree heat of the day.  The trains roll through repeatedly, too many to count and way too loud.

So I’m not bored, not really.  But the book was good and a little thought-provoking and my mind is certainly wandering.

Today, I’ve been thinking about people I originally encountered on the internet, met face-to-face, and now haven’t seen or heard from in more than a decade.  Thinking of them led me to a sort of homesickness for OpenDiary, a community I joined in 1999 and stayed with off and on for the five or six years following, even though I was also self-hosted during most of that time.  (OD, of course, closed permanently in 2014, but even looking at the Wayback screenshots of its standard crappy page design makes me more than a little sad for those days long gone.)  It’s funny the things that stick with us and that become synonymous with “home” in our heads.  Place–I guess even virtual place–becomes something so much more once feeling is attached to it.  On OpenDiary, I met Leah, whose last name I no longer remember, whose emails were lost to the ether when my old standby email address was shut down due to inaction.  She made me soap, sent me a book on powerful historical women, and hugged me in the Charlotte townhouse of a friend of hers.  She was a first-year teacher with a lot of frustration…not at all a new thing for that school district, even then.  Then there was Essdee (Shawn Dana), whose last name I never knew, whose face I never saw, but whose comments on the every day minutiae of my life made everything so much easier.  And, of course, Dominica, who accompanied me and my then-partner to a Star Trek Voyager convention in Cleveland (where we all patently refused to sit in on Jennifer Lien’s section, even though she hadn’t yet become a psycho with a record), who was so very kind, who loved us both, who was a brilliant web designer, and who herself had more psychiatric problems than any of our circle of friends could have possibly imagined.

Where do these people go?  How do we all drift so quickly in and out of one another’s lives, especially if what we have seems to be good for all involved?  I like to think that I am a person interested in people, that the people I love and have around me are more important than any thing I might accomplish or any money I might make in my time on this planet.  I would rather excel in friendship than in the accumulation of possessions, and I hope that the people who are (or have been) in my life know without a doubt that this is where I stand.

I am Jewish for a reason:  I believe that this life is all we get, that our only company for the journey is one another.  That we have to take care of our fellow humans even in their weakness and sadness and madness and baddity.  (I don’t care if “baddity” isn’t a word, I’ve still been using it for more than a decade and it works.)  I was young once, so of course I didn’t always feel this way.  As young people, we rarely value the right things, and I’m sure I threw away many people I should’ve kept, and vice versa.  It’s just so hard sometimes to remember (even now) that it’s not just me in the world.  People don’t do the things they do because of how those things will affect me; rather, like me, they mostly only consider how they themselves will be affected.  I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I am not the end all and be all, that the teenager neglecting to pick up her mess cannot be taken as a personal affront anymore than the weather can.  It’s a freakin’ struggle, but I’m guessing it’s one with which we’re all fairly familiar.

I’ve digressed a little.  My point is that I’m missing all those long-gone folks today, and I’m taking their gone-ness (and OD’s gone-ness) more personally than I should.  Conventional wisdom tells me that I can’t go home again, but today….today that’s just making me really, really sad.

Into temptation

Y’all, I can pass right on by the fried chicken and the french fries and the mozzarella cheese sticks and anything else that’s cooked in fat and sold in fast food restaurants.  But Jesus on a bicycle with no helmet, I cannot pass by the Sixlets…or actually any chocolate, come to think of it.  And the soft serve vanilla ice cream?  To echo a certain badly written Twilight character, it’s my own personal brand of heroin.

I’ve done so well in the last few weeks.  I managed to get ten pounds down after our return home from the beach.  But today has not been good.  I went grocery shopping with my step-daughter, and ended up buying all that cheap, nutrient-void junk food that tastes so good you just can’t make yourself stop eating it till it’s gone.  Long story short, I ended up going over my calories for the day by 200.  Tomorrow is likely to be more of the same, and probably worse; it’s my step-son’s birthday, and there’s a damn Dairy Queen ice cream cake in the freezer.  I probably don’t need to tell you that I didn’t go for the small one.  Mama always says that “for a dollar more you can go first class,” and in this case, two dollars took the cake from “probably too small to feed four” to “almost big enough to feed ten.”  I’m counting on there being leftover cake that everyone else will forget to eat and that I will probably obsess over until it’s gone.  If I had any sense of self-preservation, I’d make a vow to not log a single calorie for the next couple days, but knowing how very Type A I can be, I can pretty much guarantee that each one will be meticulously counted regardless of what it does to my self-esteem.

I did go swimming this morning with Mom though.  We took the water weights and moved around a little while we visited and talked about the other people in the pool.  You’d think we never saw one another, the way we carry on.  Maybe this is just the way maturing mother-daughter relationships are, but I feel like we’re probably a little more appreciative of our time together than most.  Until the end of 2014, I had been 650 miles away from her for 14 years.  I’m hopeful that we’ll have many more years together to continue being inappropriate in public; the women in our family tend to be unnaturally long-lived, even when they chose to spend the majority of their lives doing unhealthy things like smoking and drinking.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m going to blame today’s transgression of the diet on those girls in my gene pool who lived way too damn long.  If it weren’t for them, I might be a little more careful about how I treated my body.

L’chaim, grannies.  And shalom, y’all.

In my kingdom, there shall be a ban.

I am, admittedly, awfully new to the parenting game, but man I gotta tell you, this shit is hard.  It’s a huge learning curve; every new situation, every meal, every everything is first and foremost me trying to figure out where the booby traps are, what the words are that might set off the next chain of exploding land mines.  The kids were in this family before me, and there are so many days when I would tell you myself that they run this joint–no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

They, of course, do not feel the same way.  Though I am usually decent and amusing company for them, there are more than a few moments when they look around for their father, likely hoping that he’ll notice how his wife is once again trying to rule with an iron fist when they’d be much happier to have her sucking up and asking for their approval.  These looks do not go over well with me, and I’m beginning to notice that my ire is compounding over time.  The more I don’t respond, the more I want to and the more likely it becomes that I’m eventually going to.  Every day, for example, I struggle to resist the urge to plan and legislate every second of their time at home.  I am oh-so-tired of cleaning up after them, of saying “please don’t eat pineapple fruit cups on the couch” and then having to clean a sticky mess off the cushions when they get up.  I am so done saying “don’t carry soda cans into your bedroom” and then having to buy ant poison for the subsequent and inevitable infestation.  If they had chore lists and set punishments for their dumbassery, maybe I’d get a break from the relentless movement and the neverending urge to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration.

But as the parent who is the most present in their lives (my sweet husband works a lot), I am most often consumed with worry rather than anger.  I’m 43 years old, and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that there’s some scary, dangerous stuff out there.  I’ve also been around the block enough times to know that most of the time, it’s our own bad choices that bring the shitstorm down on our heads.  I would very much like to save them from either of those truths whenever possible.  I am therefore seriously considering a mandate from my high position as step-mother:

HENCEFORTH AND FORTHWITH, ALL HUMANS UNDER THE AGE OF 39 WHO LIVE IN THIS HOUSE WILL IMMEDIATELY (AND WITHOUT HOPE OF SUCCESSFUL APPEAL) RELINQUISH THE EQUIPMENT REFERRED TO AS CELL PHONES AND THEN TRAVEL BACK IN TIME, POST HASTE, TO THE RENAISSANCE ERA, WHERE THEY WILL START READING ACTUAL LITERATURE AND DRINKING TEA AND NEVER AGAIN UTTER THE WORDS “YOU TUBE” OR PERFORM THE MANEUVER “DAB” EVER, EVER, EVER AGAIN.  ALSO, THEY WILL WEAR VICTORIAN CLOTHES AND SPEAK AS THOUGH THEY HAVE SOME SENSE AND A DECENT EDUCATION.

I don’t know…maybe it sounds a little extreme, but it’s beginning to feel like desperate times call for desperate measures.  I mean, I was about 18 when I started learning about computers and building my first, scary-looking websites, but the integration with technology nowadays is freakin’ scary.  It’s more than just wanting to play on your phone when you’re bored; people (including children) today are so addicted to their phones that cell phone addiction has actually become a thing.  It adversely effects concentration, test taking, and even sleep.  Consequently, what formerly was an occasional flight of fancy about taking the phones away from the kids and returning to board games, books, and actual eye contact has now become an almost zealous belief in the inherent evil of cell phones and a determination that next time some shit goes down and punishment is imminent, removing the phones (and all other access to social media) might well be the first (joyous) step.

Aside from the scary addiction factor, I’m also worried by the extent to which cell phones are causing our kids to grow up much earlier than they should.  And I know that wouldn’t be possible if we were monitoring our kids’ phone usage as closely as our parents once monitored our internet usage, but for the most part, for whatever reason, we aren’t looking.  Ironically, I think we were in far less danger than are the kids and teens of this generation.  I mean, suicides are happening because of Facebook and Snapchat, y’all.  I wouldn’t want to have to tell people that’s what happened to my kid, especially since the mere idea of a death caused by something so intangible is still pretty much unfathomable even to people my age, who were in the first high school level computer classes as teenagers.

How does something so small get so big and important in the lives of children?

I think my sister (in-law) has it right, as usual, and we should be seriously limiting screen time and snatching the phones at random–right out of the hands of the children we love–to see what the hell is actually going on in their lives, what information and everyday horror they’re being presented with in a place that is so very obvious and easily accessible, and yet WE NEVER FREAKIN’ LOOK.  I mean, I had to do some serious plotting to read my first smut book at 15, and dammit, I don’t think my step-kids should have it any easier.  Also, if they want to know how to build a bomb or start a cult, I really think they should have to perform a little exercise and walk their crazy little asses down to the library, but hey, maybe that’s just me getting a bit drunk on all that new step-mother power.

But I’m serious, y’all…I’m worried.  I’m going to try to pay more attention, but I have a feeling that it’s only going to take a feather to push me over the edge of reason on this subject, and I’m taking all the cell phones with me on the trip down.