Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Thankful November 30, 2011

I’m big on tradition. I like the predictability. The familiarity. The control.

Over the years, I may have been known to…react strongly to a suggestion of changing any of our holiday traditions. And by “react strongly” I basically mean pitch a fit, and as a result, I’ve probably held my family hostage in our traditions for the past 30+ years.

But now, this year, I suddenly find myself a little less concerned with traditions and more concerned with flexibility. Possibly because I have a  motivation to be flexible.

And that motivation may or may not be named Chris.

This is my first holiday being part of a real couple. We’re talking serious milestone here.

And as always, major milestones tend to cause me some level of panic – mostly born of a fear that I’ll stumble over the milestone and tear a big hole in the fabric of our relationship somehow.

This was probably one of the scarier milestones so far, because it actually requires decisions and action and involves lots of other people. With the other ones, like our 6 month anniversary, or meeting the friends, I could navigate them by just avoiding any sudden movements or major personality changes. But the holidays are a totally different ball of pine needles.

I spent a few months obsessing thinking about options.  I knew enough about his work schedule and family demands to realize he wasn’t just going to be able to jump in the car with me on the day before Thanksgiving and head to my parents house for a long weekend. Which is what I’ve done for Thanksgiving every year since I graduated from college.

And I knew enough about us to know that I wanted to spend the holiday with him if there was any way possible.  All of a sudden traditions didn’t seem as important as finding a way to balance his holiday experiences with my own.

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I’m pretty sure that’s called growth, people.

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But, at the same time I was struggling with a special holiday edition of  the type of fear and insecurity that accompany my milestones: If I just didn’t go home Thanksgiving, is it wrong to choose my boyfriend of not even 10 months over my family? What if I regret my choice and miss my family and we have our first bad weekend ever? What if he comes with me and realizes that my family is too overwhelming and he misses his quiet vacation days? What if I suggest a change in my family’s tradition and they all flip out the way I always did when someone suggested changes?

But then, about two weeks before Thanksgiving, when we still hadn’t made any firm plans, I got an email from my mom saying “maybe this is the year you don’t come home, maybe this is the year you have a Thanksgiving with someone else.” From some mothers that would have been a trick, a passive-aggressive plea to in fact be sure to come home for Thanksgiving. But from MY mom it was permission.  Permission to break with our family tradition, permission to experiment with a new tradition, with putting someone other than my family first.

It took away some of the fears, but didn’t completely solve the problem. I still didn’t know if our relatively young relationship could handle the weight of replacing my family.

But before I could respond I got an email from Chris confirming his work and family schedule would allow us to spend Thanksgiving day with his family and then drive the 7ish hours to see my family on Friday and stay until Monday.

I knew my mom always served a second Thanksgiving on Sunday of that weekend to use up leftovers, and so I told her we’d join her for that meal, not wanting to ask her to cook twice or for everyone else to change their plans. I figured it would mean not seeing all of my siblings, but it seemed a reasonable compromise.

A few days later I heard from my mom that everyone had jumped at the idea of moving Thanksgiving to Sunday. It turns out, everyone else was ready to experiment with new traditions as well.  One brother had a private Thanksgiving day with just his wife where they spent the day eating, sleeping and drinking on their own schedule. One sister went to her husband’s family’s Thanksgiving for the first time in years, and my other sister didn’t have to feel like she was missing her family’s celebration as she spent Thanksgiving day with her husband’s family and she was now able to invite another brother and his family to join them for a traditional Italian Thanksgiving (they serve raviolli instead of turkey!)  Basically, it worked out great for everyone to have Thanksgiving on Sunday, and I couldn’t have had a better introduction to my first attempt at making new traditions.

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As Thanksgiving got closer and standard small talk with friends and co-workers became “what are you doing for the holidays”, I heard tale after tale of couples torn between two competing families. I heard stories of couples who skipped Thanksgiving all together and went on vacation, who had to manuever around complicated alternating year schedules and manipulative, guilt tripping parents who had no interest in sharing or experimenting with different traditions.

I know I’ve heard these stories in past years. In fact, I know that one of my best friends has endured guilt from her mother for the entire length of her marriage for every holiday she’s spent with her husband’s family, even after the marriage ended. So I know this is a thing. But I never really heard those stories until now.

And now I know that what I have to be thankful for this year, beyond all of the obvious things, is that I have a family that cheerfully got behind moving Thanksgiving from Thursday to Sunday, and that I have a boyfriend who was willing to spend two days in the car to let me spend time with my family.

I know that part of my family’s flexibility comes from the fact that I’m the last person in this big old family to need a change. Until now I’ve been static as all around me things have changed: marriages have ended and started; people have moved houses and states; babies have been born and teenagers have appeared fully formed.

I was always the least flexible because I had the least motivation to want change. In some families that would be the kind of thing that comes back to bite you. But not in my family. And for that, I am grateful.

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Of course, we still have Christmas to figure out. To me that’s a bigger holiday than Thanksgiving, so its still a new milestone.  I think its something to do with the presents. So it may turn out that my family has exhausted its flexibility reserves and any attempt to change our Christmas traditions will be met with rigidity.

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Or maybe this blog post will be enough positive reinforcement to grease the wheels for Christmas. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

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Yeah…I’m Kind of a Big Deal…. July 5, 2011

I’m a guest blogger!

This is like, a big deal in the blogging world. Especially when you area  lower case “b” blogger who isn’t sure if she wants to become an upper case “B” Blogger, but might, because like, Bloggers have a shot at making some money or at least getting free stuff once in a while, while bloggers just get friends saying “Cute blog post. I mean, I didn’t finish it, but I’m sure it had a great ending,” or their mom’s heavy sighing when you write about how you keep forgetting your house keys when you go out with your boyfriend. But Blogging is a commitment, and takes work. You have to be serious about it, and frankly I don’t do serious all that well.  So I’m just hanging as a blogger, but flirting at the edges of making the leap to Blogger.

But I have this BFF, Tara, who is totally a Blogger, like she has tons of people who read her and she’s sorta famous in the area where she lives. Strangers stop her at the gym and her kid’s school and stuff to say they like her blog.  Because she’s totally hilarious. And now she’s hanging around with all the other cool super popular mommy Blogger chics and they  all follow each other and comment on each others blogs and are always like “OMG you’re SO funny,” “NO YOU’RE so funny,”  “I worship you.” “I want to BE you.”

Not that I care.  I’m all “whateves, I could be at the popular kids table if I wanted to be. I just don’t want to be.”

It’s exactly like when Tara and I were in high school, except then she was in Honor Society and I wasn’t. Which meant she got to go to the cafeteria in the mornings with all the other Honor Society kids and have orange juice and donuts while braiding each others hair. Or something, I don’t really know because I wasn’t there. But as I always told Tara when she’d ask why I didn’t join:  “I could be in it if I wanted to be, I just don’t want to be.” And I really didn’t want to be. Everyone was so serious all the time, and I didn’t much see the point, aside from the donuts, but my mom would totally have bought me donuts for breakfast if I asked her to. And this way I got to watch Beverly Hills 90210 instead of doing my math homework.

Anyway, Tara and I have been friends for like, a billion years or so and in that time our friendship has renewed or reinvented itself like a million times. We’re really more like sisters at this point, in the sense that she couldn’t get rid of me if she tried.

I was calling myself a writer and blogging long before she was, but then she jumped into the world of over-sharing and thinking every detail of your life is worth sharing, and it turns out, we’re BOTH writers.

I mean, who could have seen that coming? (although we did co-write two short stories for extra credit in high school English, which I still have, and one day will scan in and post on one of our blogs for the world to see our early genius).

I happen to think its pretty awesome that given the divergent paths our lives have taken that they are intersecting in this way at this time in our lives. Hence the excitement over the guest blogging.

(It’s so awesome, in fact, that its possible we might, maybe, be working on a book of personal essays together… possibly. Nothing for sure yet. But how cool would that be, right? But for now, lets just keep it between us.)

But enough about that.  Go read my blog on her site – Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy?

And then go through her site and read her other posts. But first promise you’ll come back to my blog and still read my ramblings even though I don’t have ridiculously cute kids to feed me content all the time… Pinky swear. Ok, thanks. Now go.

 

Born This Way April 13, 2011

When I was 6 years old, my parents started allowing me  to go down the street and around the corner to my friend’s house by myself. I had a Strawberry Shortcake digital watch and my parents would tell me what time to be home and expect that I would look at that watch often enough to note the passing of time and thus be able to return home on time. 

I understood the watch to be more of a fashion accessory than a tool…

I frequently came home late.

I don’t remember specifically, but my guess is that I was often late coming home for dinner, which was a major crime in my house.

So one afternoon, I asked my dad if I could go to my friend’s house, and he said “Yes, but be home by 6:00.  And if you aren’t home at exactly 6:00, then I’m going to come down there and find you and then bring you home and lock you in the basement forever.”

My dad was a funny guy.

No really, he was a very funny guy. He was always making jokes and being silly and by the ripe old age of 6, I knew that very little of what he said was to be taken literally.

(My mom was the disciplinarian.)

So on this day, I laughed at my dad’s funny joke, perfectly secure in the knowledge that he had no real plans to relocate my bedroom, or to install a lock on the basement door, and set off to my friend’s house.  

Around 6:15 he showed up at my friend’s house and I happily assumed he’d come to keep me company on my walk home.

When I came out on the porch where he was waiting he said “Why are you still here? Why didn’t you come home at 6 like I told you to?” He wasn’t angry so much as bewildered. I wasn’t the kid who flagrantly ignored my parents -that was my little brother.

“I didn’t know I was supposed to,” I said.

“But I told you, 6:00, and I explained that this was your last chance to not be late before we stopped letting you come here by yourself.” That’s when it dawned on me that there had been real information mixed in with his jokes. It was a shocking revelation.

“Daddy,” I said “Sometimes I don’t know when you’re being serious and when you’re kidding.”

“Oh,” my dad said. “Well, I guess I can see how that could happen. So from now on, when you aren’t sure you ask, and when its important I’ll make sure you know, ok?”

I agreed and we had a lovely walk back home wherein I also confessed that I didn’t know how to know when it was time to come home, and then learned that Strawberry Shortcake could be more than an accessory.  

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When my parents went to my third grade parent/teacher conference they were told that I had a very wry sense of humor.

I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean it as a positive thing. I’m pretty sure she thought she’d found a gentle way of saying I was a pain in the ass.  

She had no way of knowing that her words would make my dad burst with pride. I’m pretty sure that of my entire academic career, that was my dad’s proudest moment.  Which isn’t to say that he and my mom both weren’t totally proud when I made honor roll in high school, Deans List in college, or earned a Master’s Degree.  But those achievements were no less than they had come to expect.  Both of my parents are very intelligent and put heavy emphasis on education, doing all the things parents are supposed to do to support their children in school – dedicated supervised homework time, joining PTA, giving me answers on my math homework etc etc.  But they couldn’t be sure I’d develop a good sense of humor (here good = witty, sarcastic and ironic) despite the constant exposure, until they had outside confirmation.

I think that my sense of humor has become one of my best known and appreciated personality traits, and in general has served me well in my life. Probably better than my education when you consider my popularity in storytelling, blogging, and social invitations, compared to my career path…

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So…yesterday I had my one year review for this mindless job that I’ve had for, god help me, an entire year. I had to do a self eval answering questions about my professional goals and development, and I was actually expected to take it seriously.

It took every once of my self-control, and the supervision of a co-worker, for me to avoid writing “I HAVE A MASTERS DEGREE AND I’M A RECEPTIONIST. CLEARLY MY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT GOALS HAVE GONE A BIT ASKEW.” Instead I found a balance between being realistic and playing the game:

Q: What is the most interesting part of your job?

A: I’m a receptionist. And while I love my job, nothing is interesting about it. (This is pretty true – I do enjoy my job. It’s not hard or stressful, and leaves me time to blog and write and surf the internet a lot. What’s not to love? But I didn’t think that “Huffington Post” would have been acceptable as the most interesting part of my job.)

Q: Where do you want to be in a year?

A: I wish I had an answer for this question.

During the official review meeting where we discussed my self eval, he was fine with those answers. I also threw in some “real” answers to make it look like I at least gave a tiny crap about my job since I’d like to keep it at for a while now that I’ve been rejected by every grad school I applied to.

He had only one real point of feedback in terms of areas for improvement. His exact quote?

“Sometimes it’s not clear if you’re being serious or sarcastic.”

I said “On the phone? With staff?” Because I thought I did a pretty good job of hiding my personality at work, and by personality I mean sense of humor.

He said “Yes.”

I said “I’ve suspected for a while that I’ve lost the ability to sound sincere, even when I totally am.”

He looked at me for a moment, probably trying to decide if I was being sarcastic. (I wasn’t, seriously.) Finally he just gave a shrug and said “Well, just…do what you can.”

I fear this might be a losing battle, given how many years of positive reinforcement I’ve had for my sense of humor.

But I’ll do what I can…

 

Just Drop the Presents and Back Away Slowly… December 22, 2010

Filed under: Home — Meredith @ 3:37 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

  

The other day I was reading a post on my friend Tara’s blog about how her son is suddenly afraid of having Santa come into   their house. And I completely empathized with her son, because when I was little  I’d   had the exact same issue.  Although no one offered an alternative, like Tara did for Declan…I was expected to simply suck it up. But then it WAS the late 70’s, before parents got all coddling and super sensitive to their children’s phobias.

When I was little, we had a ritual for Christmas morning. My little brother usually woke up first, and then would wake me up, and then we’d wake our older sister up, and then we’d go wake up mom and dad. Once dad was up, we had to wait with my mom in their room, while my dad went downstairs and did…stuff. I never thought to ask what he was doing, because I assumed I knew. He was obviously first checking to make sure that Santa had in fact come (I recognized that mine was just one family, one house, among millions, and it was conceivable, perhaps even reasonable to expect that mistakes could be made, homes over looked); and second, assuming Santa had come, daddy was checking to make sure he’d also LEFT (I recognized that Santa had a lot of work to do in one night, and it was conceivable, perhaps even reasonable to assume that at some point, he might want to sit for a bit, and being old as he was, could easily nod off.)

When daddy came back upstairs and gave the all clear, we would line up at the top of the stairs in order from youngest to oldest, and then run down the stairs taking a sharp left at the bottom into the living room with the tree and all the presents.

The Christmas I was 4, when I entered the living room, I saw the blanket from the couch drapped over part of the wing back chair and covering a large and suspicious bulge in front of the chair.  The wing back chair was exactly the type of chair a man of Santa’s stature might choose to sit in, should he be so inclined to “set a bit”, while visiting our house.

I looked at that blanket covered bulge, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Santa had in fact, chosen to set a bit and had fallen asleep. Daddy had then addressed the issue by covering him with a blanket, clearly hoping I would not notice. I decided to go along with the plan, and carefully avoided the area.

After I had opened all my presents, my mom said “Wait, there’s one more!” I looked around, wondering what box I’d missed. Then she said “How about you look under that blanket?” I. Was. Horrified. Several questions ran through my head: WHY would I want to see what was under that blanket? Was he holding my present on his lap? Had he fallen asleep mid unloading? What if he got mad because I woke him up?

I shook my head, declining the offer and picked up a new toy to play with.

“Come on!” My dad said cheerfully. “Look under the blanket!” Had my parent’s lost their minds? Did they think that just because I hadn’t cried at the mall in a few years, that I was somehow over my fear of Santa, and to the point that I wanted him to become a house guest?!?

“NO!” I said and tried to move further away from the blanket.

“Oh come on. Just peek under there,” my mom encouraged. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Why, I wondered, did Santa have to pick THIS HOUSE to fall asleep in? Why not a home where they wanted him? And now I was convinced, not only that Santa was there, but that my parents had been brainwashed by his elves and could no longer be trusted. In a tearful panic, I crawled onto my sister’s lap and begged her to be the voice of reason, and possibly my new guardian.

To be honest, I don’t remember what she said, but I remember everyone laughing at me, and me not caring, but starting to wonder if maybe they didn’t realize Santa was under there. Then my sister said “How about if I take the blanket off?” I had a wave of panic, and immediately got out of her lap and hid behind her as she leaned forward and started to pull at the blanket. I covered my face.

“LOOK” my mom said, and I hesitantly moved my hands and saw…

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a beautiful, blue and white Holly Hobby kitchen set, all assembled and ready to play with.

And with that, I wish you all a Very Happy Holiday, with just a tiny bit of crazy in it so you’ll have stories to tell 🙂

 

Holiday Memories December 16, 2010

Filed under: Home — Meredith @ 3:51 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

You know how a specific song will evoke a specific memory?

Like, Little Drummer Boy always reminds me of Christmas Eve when I was really little, because my mom would play it on the record player while my little brother and I marched up to bed to wait for Santa. 

Which is a nice, warm holiday memory.

Then there is I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, which also evokes a specific memory from when I was around 7 or 8. It came on the radio while I was with my mom and I started singling along and then my mom said “Ugh. I hate this song.”

Me: Why?

Mom: Because, its sick.

Me: uh… whaa?

Mom: It’s about a kid spying on his parents doing grown up things.

Me: But its funny because it’s his dad and not Santa…

Mom: Maybe. Or its a special friend of mommy’s. But that doesn’t really change anything. Mom and whoever are having a little holiday fun, a little role play, and the kid’s watching. That’s sick. But not as sick as writing a song about it like its funny.

Me: uh…whaa?

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I’ve thought of this conversation every time I’ve heard that song since. Every. Single. Time.

For 26+ years.

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And you know what? It kinda makes the song more interesting. I see a little movie in my head while I listen. A movie that has… evolved as I’ve gotten older.

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 And you know what? My mom was right. No child should witness that kind of thing.

 

 
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