Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How I remember things

I have a multitude of safety nets in place that protect me from forgetting appointments, meetings, meds, etc. Those raggedy nets, in no particular order, are: Post-it notes; alarms on my cell phone and laptop calendars; a 4 ft. x 3 ft. chalkboard on the wall of my kitchen, which I divide into 14 large boxes that change every two weeks and display sports practices, meetings, appointments, due dates and important social engagements (happy hour). I also have audibles from my kids and husband: “Make me a hair appointment;” “We’re out of ice cream;” “Try to stay awake the whole time.” Of course, these verbal reminders as good as gone before they hit my eardrums. So I tell my people, “write it down.” For this purpose, I have a magnetic notepad on the refrigerator, on which we can all jot things down as we realize we’re out of something, especially patience.
All of this attention to remembering five other peoples important data, and by important data, I mean crap, is on top of remembering my own work-related tasks and deadlines as editor of two monthly trade magazines. Weekly deadlines bear down on me like a speeding locomotive, and there I am on the track (at my desk), jumping out of the way (hitting the send button) at precisely the last second before getting a face full of train.
The elephant in the memory room, so to speak, is age. How does one compensate for the decline in memory as one ages? Buy more Post-its? Put chalkboards in every room? (The bedroom wall chalkboard could get interesting.) Set alarms for our impending alarms? Surely, there’s got to be another way.
I contemplated this at length the other day, while driving across town (all two miles of it) and forgetting where I was going. So I asked my 15-year old passenger.
“Where are we going?”
“To Save-Mart for milk and then Play it Again Sports for cleats.”
Wow! Not only did she remember the places we were headed, but the items we were buying! Eureka! The sure-fire way to compensate for an aging brain is to surround oneself with young, fresh brains! And since I’ve got between one and four much younger brains around me most days, this had to be the answer.
To test my theory, I made sure I wasn’t alone from the time the kids got home from school, until they went to bed, so that I could compile some simple stats on how many things I didn’t let slip through the cracks. Here’s how it worked out:
               On day one of my experiment, my 16-year old son told me that he needed to go to his dad’s classroom to get a book that he had forgotten (an early clue that my fresh-brain theory may not be airtight).  The trip required that we first drive to the softball field where Dad was coaching, in order to retrieve the classroom keys from his truck. Halfway between our house and the softball field is the classroom, which you must drive right past; there is no other route. To illustrate just how short of a journey this is, the entire round trip takes approximately four minutes with no stops. And, the road runs so close to the classroom that the room number painted on the door can be read from the road.
Off we went, son at the wheel, me in the passenger seat, enjoying the sunset view of cows, fields and oak trees. In about two minutes, we were pulling up to the truck. We got the keys, which took ten seconds, and turned around to go back the same way we came. Two minutes later, as we pulled into the garage, I said, “Don’t turn off the car. I have to go run an errand.” My son mumbled something that sounded like “ok” as he put the car into park and set the brake. Then, we looked at each other.


               “Oh my god.”

               “I can’t believe....”

               “Let’s go.”

That’s right: In the two-tenths of a mile between the field and the classroom, we’d forgotten to stop the car. And the whole point we were in the car, at all, was to get into the classroom, which we’d driven right by on a quiet two-lane road with no traffic, no distractions, not even any conversation.

               Now what do I do? Install a chalkboard in the car? Make sure a second teenager is present? Or should I call protective services? Child or adult?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bring me a "higher love" (Steve Winwood)

If you’re a fan of popular music, a small sampling may lead you to believe that: love is in the air (Tom Jones); love is all around us (The Troggs); love stinks (J. Geils Band); and love hurts (Nazareth). Is love all these things, and a lot more? Maybe, maybe not. Of course, there are probably thousands of songs about love, each with its own take. But for now, four is enough (kids and songs). Let’s break it down.
               Love is definitely in the air. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day. It’s floating around, hovering over high schools, mini-marts (perhaps my favorite place to show my love), retirement homes, factories and prisons. It’s on Main St. of small towns like mine, it’s lingering still at the intersection of Haight & Ashbury (though not as free as it once was), it’s pounding the pavement on Wall St. and probably even rearing its fair head in war zones all over the world. After all, enemy combatants need lovin’ too. But like air, you can’t see it. Sometimes, romantic love for someone else is just dormant—giving you more time to fall in love with yourself, which is precisely when others will notice that you are lovable.  
Love really is all around us. The dictionary says that love is “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, a child, or friend; sexual passion or desire.” Of course, this last one refers to the physical act of wanting to get with someone. Like, when my dog attaches himself to the leg of the cable guy and won’t let go, as if to say, “Let me love you!”
 The dictionary doesn’t say anything about loving objects. It’s all about people and feelings. So if we are to believe the dictionary, we can’t really love things. We can’t really love our cars, or our phones, or food, regardless of the sexy noises we make when we drive, talk, or eat. I do think animals can feel love for one another. Take my dog (the same one who loves the cable guy) and my cat, Pickles. They love each other. I don’t know anyone who would put their nose where those two do without a deep and abiding affection for one another.
Love does not stink. Love coming to a tragic end stinks; loving the wrong person stinks; loving someone who doesn’t love you back certainly stinks. All those feelings resulting from those situations definitely stink, but love itself? No way. How could it? It’s the emotions that you mistakenly label as love that stink: obsession, dependence, desperation. It’s what humans do with love that stinks: treat it carelessly, abuse it, abandon it, let it fade away, stifle it, submerge it, suffocate it, allow other things to eclipse it. This last one is a biggy. It happens all the time in relationships. Two people get up each morning and only see the same person who was there yesterday. Seeing this same person, but only going as deeply as seeing a face, he or she also sees the same mistakes, the same shortcomings, the same disappointing habits as the day before.
The father of a friend of mine, during a recent e-mail discussion about relationships, said, “If you married a wonderful person, you need to be able to recognize that fact every day as a new thing, and not as boring old patterns of behavior; you have to see them as they are today, not how your mind pictures them based upon your preconceptions of who they are. Don’t let your brain cut off new data about your partner.”
What I took away from that is, loving is seeing one another with fresh eyes, not just every day, but several times a day, and fanning the embers into a flame, remembering to stoke and to stroke, even when you feel the pull of the autopilot switch.
Therefore, love is remembering; he was someone before he met you. He had highs and lows and dreams and disappointments and comebacks and setbacks; job offers and perfect games and sublime moments alone in nature. He experienced moments with lovers that left him daydreaming for the entire next day. He felt he would live forever, and it was before you ever came along. And that is what attracted you to him.
Love is remembering; she was someone before she met you. She had a brain and goals and aspirations and a job she loved and promotions and the respect of people who knew her. She had moments where she stared at the phone for hours and then it rang and it was him and it was perfect. She was swept off her feet and dumped on her ass and pulled up by the strength of her own soul. She left a trail of broken hearts in a wake of her own tears. She was powerful, and it was before you ever came along. And that is what attracted you to her.
If you only see the person who buys the groceries, who mows the lawn, who pissed you off last Saturday, who can’t remember appointments, who spends too much on clothes, who watches too much football, or who takes too long getting home or getting ready, you are treating it carelessly, abusing it, abandoning it, letting it fade away, stifling it, submerging it, suffocating it, and allowing other things to eclipse it. 
So whether you are “a prisoner of love” (Perry Como), think love is “a many splendored thing” (Four Aces), or even if “you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling,” (Righteous Bros.) “stop, in the name of love” (Supremes), and remember that “all you need is love” (Beatles).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Top Ten Time: Things That Really Bug Me

A great thing about being a writer is that I can cleverly disguise things as humorous rants in my blog, or my column, which would otherwise be tricky to tell people to their face. Did I just blow my cover? Oh, rats.

So without further ado, here’s my Top Ten Things That Really Bug Me:

10. People who get offended when I forget something. I come from a long line of short-term memory deficient people. I am a mass-murderer of Post-its, the evidence of which is all over my house, stuck on mirrors, computer monitors, and doors, bossing me around to do various things, like “water at 11”; “take hamburger out” and “wipe.” So whether you are one of  my kids, a fancy doctor, a receptionist for a fancy doctor, my husband (never!) or a sanitation engineer, don’t act like I invented not remembering something.

When I forget crap, it’s because I’m busy concentrating, and by concentrating, I mean thinking about more important stuff, like how many mouths I’m feeding at the next meal, how I’m going to get those mouths fed and pull off being in four places at one time (board meeting, snack shack, soccer game and basketball meeting), or my newest strategy for finally becoming a world-class body builder.

And people expect me to remember that they need more deodorant? Or that I promised someone six months ago they could clean my teeth at 1:45 yesterday? Puh-lease.

9. Other people’s messes. Leave it the way you found it. Found it clean and tidy? Leave it the same way. Found it messy? Don’t add to the mess. Why should every person clean as they go, as often as they can? Because if they don’t it becomes someone else’s job. Unless you are hemorrhaging or late for practice (nothing tops that), when you leave a mess behind you might as well also leave a note that says, “Hi. Clean up my crap. I couldn’t be bothered.”

So whether it’s shoes, dishes or toxic waste (you listening, corporate ‘Merica?), clean up after yourself. If you make gobs of profits each year but can’t find the money to do it safely, without disturbing another person’s clean air, water or way of life, you’re twice as terrible as those who do it out of laziness. Shame on you.

8. Lotion or shampoo containers that don’t allow you to unscrew the top in order to retrieve every last drop. I am not okay throwing a half-inch of conditioner away in a bottle that cost me $22. (Just kidding, honey. I would never spend $22 on a bottle of conditioner. I’m exaggerating for effect.)

7. Loud, sustained noises when I’m trying to hear myself think.

6. School projects that require construction. Teachers, are you telling me that kids understand the historical ramifications of ancient Rome because they constructed the coliseum over the weekend? “Just use things you find around your house,” you say? Sure, my kid is going to bring a scale model of the coliseum made from popsicle sticks, duct tape and dryer lint and plop it down next to the one made from a shopping spree at Michael’s. It becomes a competition, which doesn’t help my kid appreciate a day in the life of an average Roman citizen. I don’t care if you play Roman charades! Just please don’t make me spend a bunch of money on stuff in the name of learning and burn my fingers with hot glue. For those teachers who offer options, for the many types of learners, and budgets, thank you.

5,4,3,2,and 1: This one gets the final five spots on my Top Ten List of Things That Bug Me because it’s that important: Ignorance. More specifically, people who are outraged at a commercial depicting people singing “America the Beautiful” in various languages. This website,, explains what people were speaking before immigrants (ancestors of ignoramuses, by the way) came to the Americas and not only refused to learn the home turf language, but killed the Americans and took their property.

So the next time I see you, the only thing I want to hear you say is “M’Chucksas” (“hello” in Sierra Nevada Miwok), sucker.