Friday, February 26, 2010

Step Away from the Keyboard...

I broke one of my cardinal rules yesterday - how annoying!  It's no fun having mantras if you forget to follow them all the time.  The last time this happened to me with this rule was...oh, gosh, I guess about two years ago.  Not a bad span of good behavior.

What was it?  Virtual Fighting.

I love the internet.  I love Google and Facebook and online crosswords and IM-ing.  I love looking up people's homes because I'm nosy and I love sounding smart but not crediting my sources.  I love that there will always (I hope) be someone out there who knows less about the internet than me - thus making me forever smarter than at least one person.

The internet rates high on my list of "Things I Wish I'd Invented."  Other items include Microwave Popcorn, the Ped-Egg, those little rubber mats for your dashboard that hold your phone in place and, of course, the Snuggee.  (Actually, I did invent the Snuggee and anyone at Time Warner Media Sales can confirm this with flashbacks of me walking around looking like the Pope.)

But, all great inventions have a hitch. My house still smells like burnt popcorn after a recent incident. The Ped-Egg requires me to actually use it. Those rubber mats collect all sorts of dust and grossness. And the Snuggee doesn't remind you to take it off before leaving the house. (Fortunately, this is appropriate attire at Walmart).

With the Internet?  Well, it seems to have excused a large portion of the population from maintaining their social courtesies.  I never realized that folks actually used Facebook as a battlefield until I had my first encounter with an angry colleague.  I happened to notice her constant status updates refering to some bitch and how she was going to stab her like she'd been stabbed (Facebook doesn't require sensible sentences)...and suddenly I realized she was writing about me!

For the record - I never stabbed anyone. The disagreement stemmed from my usual path of thinking I'm doing the right thing only to find out later I've been tricked.  I'm that girl - the one who accidently tells a guy that he saw a mutual friend getting busy with some dude - only to find out that mutual friend is that guy's girlfriend...and I'd just spilled the cheating beans.

Right, back to my slip up.

In an effort to ask a question out of care - I turned to Instant Messenger.  Repeat after me, "Emails, Texts, Status Updates, NOT offer inflection and therefore are up for interpretation." The short story is that the question went haywire, the response went haywire and within fifty strokes of the keyboard I was in the midst of an all out Virtual Argument.  Like all arguments, no one wanted to bend so fingers kept fluttering out attempts at being the winner. 

Lesson learned.  Again. 

It's safe to say that there isn't a person out there who doesn't have long distance friends - so, yeah, meeting for coffee/beer to have those awkward conversations isn't always possible. And yet...Alexander Graham Bell would be sorely disappointed to know that many of us have abandoned his invention to make such chats less uncomfortable.

I think I went the virtual route so I wouldn't have to hear either hurt or anger or, well, yelling.  Turns out I got all of that anyway - this time in print that I could scroll through it over and over for an hour or so.  And what I wanted to implore - which was really about protecting someone I care about - was totally lost in the mix.

The real problem is - Virtual Fighting...never fixes anything.  I can say pretty accurately that the number of pot shots I've taking via the web are minimal - but I can also say that those rare pot shots only fueled a fire that probably didn't even need to be ignited.  It just so much easy to have the last word when all you have to do is type it and log off.  The problem is, it doesn't work.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kids Come in All Shapes

Remember this guy?  Probably not...I wasn't blogging when he was born last year.  It's my pal, Jack - son of one of my closest friends, Anne Marie.  (Currently thinking....will Jack sue me for slander?  I'm pretty sure Anne Marie won't...but you never know what babies are thinking.)  This picture is actually from last February when I met Jack for the first time.  He didn't plan well and came at Christmastime, so by the time I got up to see him it was already Valentine's Day.  BUT....we did some real bonding.  I didn't realize at the time that it would be a whole year before I saw him again - but time does fly. 

Last year, Jack's mom was in pure New Mom mode - that place where outsiders might look at her as being a little cooky.  Especially outsiders, like me, without children of their own.  I was really patient though - even though I might have let it slip once or twice that he probably wasn't going to break (ps...he proved me wrong by allowing us to spend the first full day of my visit last year in the ER).

So...a year later...and we are here.  Holy Sweet Little Buddy.  Kind of uncool of Jack to grow up so much in a year without waiting for me to be there to witness it.  Yet totally cool of him not to forget his Aunt Jyl.  And Anne Marie - well, she's changed a whole lot in a year too - in all the best ways.  Jack is all boy and she knows it (just ignore that moppit of curls, it's too darn cute to think about cutting).  No more shadowing him with a pillow to catch his fall, no more sleeping with her arms wrapped protectively around the legs of his crib.  In fact, Jack's first word appears to be "Uh-oh."  Anne Marie also has Jack smartly trained to have start the morning slow with some kid-coffee (well, milk, really). 

I'm pretty sure Jack's mom has no idea of how impressive she is - essentially a single mom with this 14 month old who wakes at 6am ready to take on the world.  He is so wide open it makes me wish I was around when he discovered the speed he carried in his little legs.  He must have looked down, realized he was mobile and watched Anne Marie's life take a serious turn.

Not to be's my child....Kylie.  She was shocked and appalled to wake up from a four hour nap in the back of the car (thanks for all your help navigating I-95, co-pilot) only to find herself so close to the North Pole.  Without going too far into the details...Kylie's legs are about 7 inches high.  Which means her, um...exhaust system is about an inch above that.  The snow here was still 18 inches deep.  Ergo...squatting was not only treacherous, but also butt-chilling.

Like any good mom, I fixed it.  Yes, I had just spent five hours driving north.  Yes, my shoulders already hurt from gripping the steering wheel.  Yes, my back hurt and my butt hurt.  Yes, I was super tired from getting up so early to beat the Friday traffic through Richmond, through Fredricksburg, through anywhere nearing the D.C. metro area.  But, my child comes I unloaded the car and grabbed the shovel off Anne Marie's front porch and headed to her back yard. 

An hour or so later...Kylie was able to uncross her beagle legs.  Or as I said to myself over and over in a motivational chant...."If I do my mom duty, Kylie can do her dog doody."  Hey, it made me laugh and kept me going.  Needless to say, the dog was thrilled at my efforts.  My child may have four legs, but she can kiss the heck out of you when she wants to say, "thanks!"

Back to Jack - our big Saturday project (sort of unplanned) was buying a new-to-Anne Marie Honda Odyssey.  That's right, my friends...I am now friends with mini-van people.  Actually, she's not the first, but this is someone I've had a lot of late nights with... and that was pre-Jack. 

So now she owns a mini-van.  Don't get me wrong - it's a pretty sweet ride...DVD player (Jack will never get to see this in action), automatic doors, seating for the entire Brady Bunch...I guess I just thought that my mini-van friends would never be the same as my late-night-out-all-dolled-up friends.  Or that I'd be pulling up to a bar on a Saturday night in a van without the word 'Taxi' on the side.

Ah, the sacrifices of potty spots...we may have taken different roads, but Anne Marie and I are still linked by all the things that matter- the most important of which is our children.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Please Hold...I have to adjust my weights.

I'm guessing that every gym in the country has a similar sign at the front door, by the locker rooms, near the weight machines....that says "No Cell Phones." It always makes me chuckle to see such a sign - mainly because their locations often make me think, "Really?  You needed someone to tell you that?"
(In the interest of full disclosure...I feel I must admit...I have texted at the gym. Once when my brother was in town and got lost in Raleigh. Another time when a co-worker kept calling to track me down. Both times to say, sit tight...I'll be with you after I kick this Hulk's ass on the leg press.)

But about the "No Cell Phones" signs...and society's need to be given common sense via such in the doctor's office, on an airplane or at the library...sometimes I wish I had a big stamp that I could use in other places.  I want to hit the inside of the elevator and the produce section at the supermarket and all check-out lines and bathrooms with a big "No Cell Phones" stamp. 

I realize I'm a little bit of a modern technology oddity - in that I have no desire for everyone around me to listen to my calls...and, more strangely, I don't actually ever feel that I have to answer the phone.  Someone long ago spent a whole lot of time inventing voice mail - and I'm happy to let their success work for me.

Back to the gym...there is a sign posted stating, "No Cell Phones; No Doo-Rags or Cut-Offs; Wipe Down Equipment After Each Use." I don't really understand the Doo-Rags...I mean, who really wants to put any effort into their hair before hitting the gym?  I do understand the Cut-Offs and certainly the request to clean the equipment.  It absolutely skeeves me when I see people finish on a machine and walk away leaving a puddle of sweat behind.  Really??

And that brings me to yesterday...I could not turn around yesterday without watching someone yammering on their cell phone at the gym.  (Is it weird that I took her picture?)


I'm no Jillian Michaels or anything - but I can tell you for sure, there has never been a moment when mid-crunch I've thought, "Oh geez, I need to phone a friend." I can almost excuse the quick calls - the ones where you answer, say "Is everything okay? I'll call you when I leave the gym."  What I don't understand are the people who spend their 30 Minute Maximum While Other Are Waiting Treadmill Time chatting away. 

Do they do it under the assumption that everyone else is wearing earbuds and therefore can't hear them.  Well, here's a newsflash...sometimes I only wear the earbuds...not my actual iPod...because I forgot it...but I still don't want anyone to talk to me.  And when I am listening to Wicked or Les Miz (it's no secret that I like to workout to showtunes), I don't blast it, so, yes, I can hear the drone of phone calls.

Yesterday, I watched this chick sit on the chest press with her phone held tightly to her ear.  Friday, it was a lady on the Elliptical behind me - at an even greater disadvantage because she had to talk over the sound of the machine (or maybe it was my grunting). 

And that's where the trouble usually starts...because, if you know me at all, you know the struggle I have keeping my mouth shut.  The problem is, I'm not even sure what to I ask them to hang up?  Ask them to pipe down?  Tell them they are rude and inconsiderate to my workout needs?  Do hand signals miming a phone hanging up?  Move to a different machine?  Well, cross off that one...we all know the grown up approach is still years away from my young self.

At least if I'm in the bathroom and the gal in the stall next to me is chattering away, I can multi-flush to disrupt her chain of chatter.  I've got no recourse at the gym.  And trust me, I do not need any motivation to cut my work out short - I can do that all by myself. No Phone Call needed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

You're Next! Isn't that great?

My new least favorite words in the world are "You're Next!"  Mind you, I already hate the words "satchel," "slacks," and "moisture."  I just don't like they way they feel when I say them - like they are trying to be dirty or bad or something.  I've got some other word-nemesis - "amphitheatre" (which I can't say without dropping an 'L' in the middle) and "confiscate" (which I want to add an extra "N" to)....but these have all jumped down on the list to bearable - at least for today.

Now, to understand where my day took a turn, we have to review the last few months.  November:  Friend A gets engaged.  December: Friend B gets engaged.  Today:  Friend C gets engaged.  About an hour later...someone posts the latest switch-you-picture-on-Facebook craze to 'Post a picture of you and your spouse in honor of Valentine's Day!'  Oh yes, shall we?

The engagements - I can almost live with.  It is reassuring that women my age (just short of Cougarville) can still dream about white dresses, flowers girls and, in my I will get a Clay's Cake to North Carolina. 

Here's where I jump ship - it is never, ever, ever, ever, EVER okay to say the words, "You're Next!" 

I'm even having trouble this very minute trying to describe how it feels to have those words thrown at you.  I've heard these words before.  Outside the Principal's Office after I faked a sprained arm in fifth grade thus creating a scandal involving my teachers, the nurse, my parents...or at the pharmacy as the clinicians are sharpening the next round of flu shot needles.

Yet the connotation when those words follow 'Hey, I just got engaged!" is totally different because they also carry an insult, albeit unintended. Newsflash..."You're Next!" is basically a flat out cover story.  It's really just code for "Wow, I'm so glad I'm not pathetic anymore and you still are." or "I really dodged a bullet by getting engaged. Thank God it was me and none of my other girlfriends."

It's also code for "Now that I'm engaged, I'm going to hang out with my married and engaged friends because now I have more in common with them than you - but I'll call you if I need any opinions on single people stuff."  or "Make sure you come to the wedding because I need an even number at the tables and my cousin Jiffy's husband can't make it."

The funny thing is that what sparked a very heated phone rant to my Lake View, Oregon friend today wasn't even a "You're Next!"  It was an "Isn't that great?"  It referenced another friend's engagement.  And for the first time in my life, I really wanted to answer, "You know what?  No.  It isn't great. In fact, it sucks.  It sucks that she met someone a half hour ago and now they are getting married while I sit here reorganizing my 2010 budget to afford all these registries."

So by now, you might have the impression that I'm a bit, um....selfish...I swear...that's not it at all.  I do love my friends.  And I am excited for them.  And I am glad they are all starting new adventures.  And I will stand up for them and behind them and by their sides throughout the whole process. 

This round of engagements has actually been really nice actually.  Back in my early twenties there was a rash of weddings - dress shopping, menu planning - heck that was before you could point and shoot your registry into a magic database.  This time it's different.  My girlfriends all know who they are and don't apologize for it.  I see a lot more solidity in their relationships than those in my twenties because of that.  Their future husbands really do know exactly what they are getting - and couldn't be more happy.

And really, by now in our lives we've all been to so many weddings that putting together our own is a snap.  Dress, check. Church, check. Reception Hall, check. Clay's Cake, check.

So friends...I am happy for you - and anxious for all this wedding mumbo-jumbo to be over.  It is hard work for you, which makes it hard work for me.  Soon, we can sit around and review who did the dumbest thing at your wedding.  I pledge for it not to involve me taking off my pants or throwing up.  Well, I'll try.

But, let's face it - I'm not next..and that is great.  I'm fine where I am.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Make new friends...but keep the old...

Back before I retired from the Girl Scouts...yes, I was part of the gaggle of green-gowned girls, we would traipse around singing our motto..."Make new friends, but keep the is silver and the other's gold..." And, in between selling cookies and earning badges, we all focused on the obvious - which one is silver and which one is gold?

Friendship was an easy task for an eight year old. Friends came and went - the sadness and excitement that accompanied each transition were just as quick. Having things in common was simple - meet a girl on the playground and three seconds later you would be comparing sibling counts, food likes, doll collections. It was nearly impossible not to make new friends.

Time changes things. I'm older. I'm creakier. I have to shop in the grown up departments instead of the Garanimals section. And, I'm learning that the cycle of friendships is getting shorter.

I did hear once upon a time from someone wiser than me...that as you grew older, the amount of friends you surrounded yourself with got smaller - but the quality of those friendships became greater. As usual, I assumed that the 'as you grew older' part related to folks my grandmother's age. As in - when you do end up in a nursing home, you and your roommate will get along famously. Evidently, people my age have grown older.

So how do I balance friendship versus change? Distance versus quality? When one friend moves onto a new phase in life, how do I not automatically seek someone 'more like me' to attach myself too? And is it wrong to do so?

Sometimes, it's easy - the latest to hit the road is moving clear out of the state...up past the Mason Dixon line. While her new adventure does seem exciting, it's put me in that weird place where I try not to care about whether I'll miss her. In fact, I think we've both been pulling away from each other for months now. (Ironically, I face commitment the same way - by pulling away). Clearly, I will miss her - but not being able to trek over to her house at the drop of a hat will make it easier to move on. Which sounds cold.

I've joked recently that I'm taking applications for a new posse. Or restacking the friendship deck - oromotions and demotions are imminent. To be honest...I kind of think this is smart.

Women have this tendency to latch onto other women and then assume they have to stick together like glue forever. 50% of the time, those friendships don't really pan out so we start bad-mouthing one another until there's a small cat fight just before closing at the local bar. Then we cry and hug and tell each other soppy things...only to sober up the next day and realize we never should have been friends in the first place. It's exhausting.

I think the fact that my two closest friends in the entire world live five and eight hours away might say something. It's just easier. We don't have to hang out all the time. We don't have to talk everyday. We don't have to wonder what the other one is doing on Saturday night. Yeah, we talk when we need to talk or when we want to talk or when we're bored or not bored- but there is no 'oh man, I haven't seen you in forever' guilt.

Those are my gold friends. The friendships that can take months off at a time and then reconvene as if it were yesterday. And, yeah, the likelihood of those being long-distant friendships is high...but the reality is there are people right here in my home town that I don't see for months and then just skirt getting arrested with on a Saturday night.

I guess the bottom line is - even though I have gotten older, creakier and more acclimating to matching my own thing hasn't changed. I still think friendships should be easy. Find a few things in common - important or not, it doesn't matter. Enjoy each day together as if the other might have to switch schools at any second. And pay special attention to those who you don't see often, but feel like you are never apart from.