September 2008

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(Warning:  Includes spoilers from episodes 1 and 2, air date 9/25/08)


Michelle, the angry victim, was the first person voted off Survivor: Gabon last week.  It reminds me of something I witnessed at the doctor’s office a couple of weeks ago.

I was in the waiting room when this tense woman walked in.  Angry Woman went to the front desk and asked where Dr. D.’s office was.  The receptionist told her that this was indeed his office.  Her response was, “Oh, well I would have expected his name to be on the door or something.”  The receptionist asked her name, and whether she had her “orders.”  In a short tone, Angry Woman said that, no, she didn’t have her orders.  The receptionist asked about some other paperwork and by now, Angry Woman was pissed.  She sarcastically told the receptionist that she did not have that paperwork either, the implication being that the receptionist was out of line for asking.  Angry Woman was given some forms to fill out and she sat down, fuming.  After a moment, she declared to the room at large, “I might just have to leave.”  She looked around at all of us, seeking a sympathetic face I suppose, and apparently the woman next to me gave it to her.  Angry Woman addressed my neighbor directly:  ”Did they treat you like that? I might not be able to stay here if they are going to treat me like that.  Did they treat you like that?” My neighbor mumbled, “Yes.”  Then Angry Woman muttered to herself for a minute or two.  Eventually she went back to the receptionist and gave her a tongue lashing about how people who come here are in pain, and need help, and if this is the level of service from the receptionist what can she expect from the doctor, and she might just have to leave, and she is outraged, etc. etc.

I’ve been to this doctor about 8 times, and the administrative staff is way above average and I’ve always been treated with respect.  The receptionist treated Angry Woman the same way, at least until Angry Woman gave her the bad attitude.  Then, the receptionist was a bit more formal and short, but that’s about the extent of it.

After chewing out the receptionist, Angry Woman joined my neighbor and they started bitching together about how terribly they have been treated.  I had to change seats because I just couldn’t take the needless negativity.

Later that day, I went to the drive through at McDonald’s.  I ordered a Filet O’ Fish and a milk.  Chicken McNuggets came up on the display screen.  I corrected the order a few times, and managed to get the fish sandwich and milk up on the screen, but no matter what I told the woman on the other side of the intercom, those nuggets stayed up there.  I was laughing when she asked me, “Will that be all?” as the quantity of nuggets went from 1 to 2 to 3.  In a silly voice to make sure she knew I wasn’t mad, I said, “yes, but NO NUGGETS.”  She laughed and finally got them deleted.  When I got to the window to pay, I said, “You’re really doing the hard sell on those nuggets today, aren’t you?”  She laughed and we had a nice moment.

How many times in the past have I been bitchy about someone getting my order wrong, or misspelling my name 3 times in a row, or not using their turn signal?  What a waste!  Most of these people are not incompetent or mean or out to get me.  Maybe they are new on the job, or hard of hearing, or are actually doing something good that I’m just not aware of.  Sure, the incompetent people are out there, but going through your life angry about how the stupid people are making your life hell is counterproductive.  I’ve been doing it for 30 years and I’m just realizing that I’ve been the stupid one.

Michelle bitched and moaned about how her tribe mates were stupid.  They voted her off because of her negativity, but she was convinced that they were losers and that they voted her off because she was strong.

Victims choose to live in the world that they complain about.


This is probably the most beautifully sad video I’ve ever seen on YouTube:

Last Friday night was “Parents Night Out” at Sam’s day care.  For $20, they babysit the kids from 6:30 – 10:00pm, and dinner is included.  They do this once a month and that’s usually all the babysitting we need for a night out here and there.  On Friday we decided to see a movie instead of going out to dinner, our usual outing.  The Dark Knight was still playing at a nice theatre just 8 miles away and it started at 6:55pm – giving us just enough time to get there after dropping off Sam.  We loved Batman Begins and really wanted to see this sequel in the theater, so we felt very lucky that it worked out so well. 

It was raining that night so I worried about traffic delays, but getting there was no problem.  I got the tickets while Adam parked, we raced in for popcorn and soda, and had just enough time to visit the restroom before the previews began.  Perfect!

About an hour into the movie it occurred to me that those previews had gone on for quite a while, and movies tend to be so long now that we might be cutting it close for Sam’s 10 o’clock pickup.  I checked my watch – it was 8:05.  I forgot about it.

By 8:45, I was thinking about it again.  Why didn’t we think to check the running time?  I guess we figured 3 1/2 hours had to be plenty of time.  It felt like the movie was about to end, but I’d been feeling that way every time the scene changed for the past 10 minutes.   At 9:05, I whispered to Adam that we might have to leave before it was over.   It was only a 15 minute drive, but we had never been to this theater before.  Sometimes it takes 10 minutes just to get out of the parking lot at a busy, mall-based theater like this one.  And I had to go to the bathroom.  And it was raining.  And it was Friday night.  What would they do with Sam if we were late?  I’ve actually had nightmares about forgetting to pick her up at day care, so I started to get anxious. 

By 9:15 I was freaking out and I didn’t process the end of the movie at all.  It finally ended at 9:30.  Some people applauded.  I stood up so fast that I accidentally pulled a woman’s hair by grabbing at the seat in front of me so that I could gain that fraction of a second.   Adam gallantly indulged me and rushed to the car while I went to the ladies room.  I was so stressed out that I criticized his driving the whole way back – I really thought the car was just going to slide right off the wet road.

We made it back with 5 minutes to spare.  I can’t say that I learned a lesson from this about chilling out.  Maybe that is the right lesson, but what I’ve decided is that I will never go out to a movie again without checking the running time.

We’re going to have to rent The Dark Knight on video as soon as it comes out so I can see the end.  I think it might have been quite a good movie.

The way Samantha says “mine” when she means “yours” brings home to me how complex our language is, and how amazing it is that these little people learn it so easily. 

Doing His Job

I love my dog.  I take him for walks and he obeys.  He plays with the cat.  He is waiting for me in the car when I come out of the store.  He sleeps under the bed and farts and groans and makes me laugh.  But now that we have a toddler, he’s actually earning his keep.

First of all, he’s a vacuum cleaner.  I’m not sure what people do about all the food under the high chair if they don’t have a dog.  I mean, you’re not going to clean up under there 5 times a day, are you?  I wouldn’t.  But Toby does.  This skill alone pays for all of his pills and shots and vet visits.

Toby prompted Sam’s first giggle when she was just a couple of months old.  Adam came home and chased him around the house like he always does.  Sam must have heard me laughing at this dozens of times, and one day, she joined in.  This pays for the hell he put me through as a puppy.

Samantha is old enough to play fetch with him now, too.  For some reason, this Labrador Retriever will not fetch for Adam or me, but he will for Sam.  If we throw something he might bring it back once or twice but then he’s done.  For Sam, he’ll fetch as long as she’s interested.  Maybe it’s because she can only throw the ball a few feet and he figures it’s worth the trip.  Maybe he enjoys the way I clap and say, “yea!” in my cutsie voice when Sam is involved.  Or maybe he finds her as adorable as I do when, after throwing the ball, she turns around and runs the other way, squealing with delight.

TobyWhatever the reason, it’s our favorite game right now.  I get to lie on the couch and just watch them play.  Toby usually brings the ball back to me, not to Sam, so I tell him, “drop it,” and then hand it to her for the next throw.  I’m trying to teach her to give him the “drop it” command, but she can’t get the syllables straight.  She is, however, getting the hang of giving him other commands.  She can tell him to fetch, which she says very clearly.  She also delights in telling him he is a “bad boy.”  But the best one is when she tells him to sit, which she pronounces, “shit.”

Yep, that dog is in the black now.

I walked around the mall for an hour today with a heart sticker on my butt.

Grown Up

An old friend contacted me through Facebook the other day.  I worked with her in the mid-nineties when I was doing software development.  She had a young daughter at the time and was a bit older than me.  We weren’t very close but I liked her, and she said one thing to me that I still think about quite often.  When I was about to turn 30 and expressed some surprise that I could be so old, she told me that her thirties were a great decade and that I would love my thirties.  She might have told me why, but I don’t remember what she said.  I just remember that I was surprised to hear that somebody was happier when they were older.  Most people don’t talk that way. 

Since then, any time that I get that scary, I’m-getting-old feeling, I recall her words.  I’ve always thought those people who pine for the good ol’ days of high school or college were morons.  They always seem to talk about how easy life was “back then,” but they forget that they chose the additional responsibilities in order to gain values:  marriage, kids, a house, a career.  These things are values you have to work for, and bemoaning the effort is just childish.  The effort is part of what makes these things values to begin with.  Seeking the unearned is the most direct route to unhappiness.

I was pretty clear on how much better life was in my twenties than in my teens, but I didn’t translate it to my thirties until my friend prompted me.  Life really is better now, and there’s no reason to think it won’t get even better in my forties.  The first thing my friend wrote to me on Facebook was, “So, like, you’re a mom and married and all grown up.”  Yes, I am.  Nice to be here.

I don’t care what it says about me as a mother – I find it adorable that Samantha says “french fries” every time we go to the drive-through pharmacy.

Field Trip

The pet store might be Sam’s favorite place on earth right now.  She squeals with delight when we walk through the pet section at the grocery store, so imagine her excitement about a whole store full of pictures of cats and dogs, PLUS REAL LIVE ANIMALS.  It’s even better than the zoo at her age.  She doesn’t really need the variety of animals – it’s all novel to her – and she’s not old enough to beg for a kitten.  And she can see the animals close up, in air conditioned comfort.  Our local chain has fish, birds, cats, and all kinds of rodents.  When we were there the other day, another woman with a toddler said, “It’s nice to see someone else thinks the pet store is a good field trip.”  I realized that people without pets might not have discovered this gem.  Try it!

First Pee!

Samantha went pee on the potty for the first time today.  She did it at day care so I didn’t see it.  Now I know how the working parents feel.  I should never again complain about the “always on call” nature of being a stay-at-home parent, but I probably will anyway.

Adam, yelling at the dog:  “Toby, get away from Jinx’s litter box!  That is not a food depository.”

Me:  “You mean repository.  In fact, it really is a food depository of sorts.”

Adam:  “Yeah, right.  Toby, get away from that box!  That is not manna from heaven.  If you eat it, you’ll make Jinx even more certain he is a god.”

Happy Anniversary

Today Samantha said to her daddy, “I love you.”

Sam has been watching a lot of TV since she’s been sick.  Normally, I like to let Sam watch videos and TV in moderation.  It can be a nice break in an active day and it is true that sometimes I just need the electronic babysitter.  I try to avoid letting her watch TV for longer than 20 minutes or on two consecutive days.  Twenty minutes is a long time for a toddler, and I’ve noticed that kids who don’t watch TV daily don’t ask for it much.  When it’s not part of the daily routine, it remains a treat.  It’s not a big issue in our house either way.

Since we watch so little children’s TV I don’t know much about the shows most kids watch.  We tried Dora but I found it absurd for Sam’s age.  How can a two-year-old relate to a girl running around solving mysteries and a computer-icon arrow clicking around the screen as a pointer?  The attempt at interaction is just stupid.  TV is not interactive and having cartoon characters ask questions and pause for answers is just a way to rationalize letting kids veg out in front of the TV instead of spending real time with them.  (Don’t you just love Noggin’s claim that it is “like preschool on TV.” Ha!)  There are also some high-energy, musical-type shows, but just because toddlers are little balls of energy doesn’t mean they need to watch a frenetic show.  As I’ve written before, Sam and I like to watch Sesame Street, but our favorite show by far is Little Bear.  If I try to get Sam to watch anything else, she begs for Little Bear.  She loves it almost as much as she loves our cat, Jinx, and that’s saying a lot! 

Little Bear is such a great show that I think it is positively healthy for Sam to watch.  Little Bear is a sweet character, the stories are short and benevolent, and the orchestral music is beautiful.  As the website says, “the series celebrates the playful and sometimes enchanted aspects of the everyday activities and important moments in a pre-schooler’s life.”  Little Bear cooks with his Mother Bear, wrestles with his Father Bear, and makes up songs with his friends.  The characters treat each other with respect and speak slowly and clearly.  There is never a pedantic “message.”  There is no multiculturalism and no environmentalism.  It’s the only children’s show that has never offended me. 

This does not mean it is vapid, though.  Little Bear solves problems, uses his imagination, and deals with troubling situations.  In one episode, he breaks the record player on the day of his grandparents’ anniversary, so he and his friends form a band to make music for the party.  In another, one of his friends sits on a doll and they all decide the doll has “died” and throw a funeral for her.  In the episode we watched today, Little Bear enjoys the colorful fallen leaves of autumn and makes a scary mask out of them.  He playfully scares his parents and all his friends with it.  Most children’s stories would use this as an opportunity to ”teach” the lesson that it is not good to scare people – somebody would inevitably get hurt and the naughty child would see the error of his ways.  Little Bear’s friends all have a good laugh and join in the innocent fun.  In the end, though, they tire of the game, and Little Bear gives his mask away “to a friend;” he lets it blow away on the wind.

I’m not sure how long this show will appeal to Sam, but I’m hoping for years.  I’m going to have a hard time weaning myself off of it this week as we return to our normal routine.  Little Bear will be a part of Sam’s toddlerhood that I always remember fondly. 

Samantha had a frightening poop-out from the antibiotic-induced diarrhea.  I remained calm and comforted her instead of freaking out.  Ahhh, the little victories of a neat-freak.

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