Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Forget Where You Came From

There's a lot of talk about how technology has taken the personal touch out of relationships. First it was cell phones, then email, then social networking like myspace and facebook. Some people turn their nose up at it saying "I don't need to broadcast when I eat a pumpkin muffin" or "if I cared about what someone I knew 18 years ago was up to, I would've called them". As someone who moved away from home 10 years ago, I look at these advances as a blessing. Being able to see a video of my nephew's wrestling match, pictures from my sister's birthday party, or read a smart aleck comment from my best friend in college, makes me feel not so homesick. But there's also other reasons I find it truly remarkable.

When I was in elementary school, I had 3 BEST friends - Michelle, Karyn, and Kristen. I can still remember the smell of Michelle's basement, the way Karyn's mom laughed, and the way Kristen and I would watch movies I wasn't allowed to watch at home like 'Loverboy. We all used to sit at recess by the swings or the mouseholes (they were just hollowed out cement cylinders with holes in them so we called them that) and talk incessantly. I don't really even really remember what we talked about, but at the time, it was the only thing that mattered in the world. They would be my best friends for life and when our 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Fetzer, got mad at us for being too "cliquey" (first time I'd heard the word), we were almost secretly proud to be recognized as being that close.

By the time Jr High came, we started on our own paths. We developed other interests, we made different friends - we lived different lives.  Another "best" friend I made in 6th grade was Erica. She had just moved across the street from me. Call it luck, kismet, geography....she's still my best friend to this day.

But I think like any relationship, you never forget your first. Your first best friend(s).  You experience first sleepovers and first crushes and getting in real trouble for the first time. Like the "You're grounded" kind of trouble. Most importantly, they shape your relationships from that point on. So am I happy there are things like facebook that allow me to know that they're okay? Am I glad I'm able to see pictures of their children or just a snippet of their lives every once in awhile even if we don't talk much except for the occassional comment? You bet. Because the joys we shared and the mistakes we made together helped shape the friend I have become today and are part of the reason I have the amazing circle of friends that I do. And they will always be a part of me.

My mother used to say "When you're my age, you'll be lucky if you can count all your friends on one hand"...because people always grow and change and move apart. I feel like the luckiest person in the world that I need to use all my phalanges and then some to count the people I call friends. Michelle, Karyn, and Kristen are a big reason for that. And I don't have to look back on my fond childhood memories and say "I wonder whatever happened to......" I know they're more than okay; they seem to have gotten everything they deserved.

And now I'm gonna text Erica. Because I want to experience the joy of technology.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Gotta Pee Like A Race Horse

"If I win that $50,000, I plan - "
"No, Katie! Not if I when that $50,000. WHEN I win that $50,0000!!!
"Okay, when I win the $50,000, I plan on -

I stood there sweating, looking for the nearest possible emergency exit. What had I gotten myself into? I hadn't gone to the bathroom in 3 hours which may not seem like a lot but when my nerves feel like Mexican jumping beans in my stomach and I drink a crate of Arrowhead, I have to pee at the same rate my mother does on a road trip after drinking a pot of coffee. But in the interest of time, I had to hold it.

Being a on a game show had seemed like such a good idea. Go out there, have fun, maybe win some money and prove that not all contestants have to be obnoxious Mid-Westerners jumping all over the hosts and clinging to him for dear life while waiting to hear the answer. No, I was going to be cool and collected and make the viewers at home think, "Finally, someone like me is up there." But this is not how it went down.

"Jump up and down, you're winning money!," exclaimed the producer, demonstrating how I should be jumping.
"But I'm not a jumper,"I whimpered trying to find a way to authentically exude excitement. Just please let me run to restroom.'
"But you have to show your excitement! You're excited! This is great! This is the best thing you've even been a part of! You're going to open up a pub with your dad!"

Whose idea was it that I was opening a pub with my dad? Had I said that? I thought I was going to pay off some debt and maybe get a new car. Where did this pub come from? After being in a delirious state of what seemed like an eternity in a room with no windows and what felt like no air, people jumping and screaming at me that I needed to jump and scream, I cursed what my mother had advised when I asked her if I should participate in the show. 

"Why not? You only live once," she replied. I never bothered to ask her if she would ever be caught dead doing something like this.

"So as soon as they give you the intro you're going to run on stage!," the stage manager instructed.
"Do I have to run?," I asked, I believe with tears in my eyes, terrified of what I was about to become.
"Well you don't have to run."

But I ran. I ran with all my might as I was announced to the stage like a horse being let out of the gate. I'm surprised I didn't run straight through the screaming crowd to the nearest port-a-pot. Nerves, combined with adrenalin, combined with game show boot camp, had turned me into a crazy, jumping, screaming, gambling fool who lost $10,000 because all I was thinking about was "WHEN I WIN THAT $50,000!!!" and how badly I had to go. And I walked away with $1000 and I'm not gonna lie, wet my pants a little.

Not bad for a day's work. It was fun. I won some money. I had an experience. And whenever I watch a game show from now on my heart will go out to the poor fool onstage who probably just wants someone to let him go to the bathroom.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Track and Field

'Life's a marathon not a sprint.' My mom used to say this whenever I wasn't getting immediate gratification.

My brother is running a 50 mile race tomorrow. That's not a typo. A marathon is 26 point something miles so I don't know what you call what he's doing except stupid. But stupid in the good way like "Man that party was so cool it was stupid". My other siblings have run marathons but I've never quite understood. I don't even like walking down my driveway to get the mail.

The other day my girlfriend, Jen, told me she was starting to train for the marathon in March. I, on the other hand, was starting to make the plans for my annual St Patrick's Day bash. No wonder I wouldn't describe myself on an online dating site as being "fit". Legend has it, the word marathon comes from a man who ran from Marathon, Greece to Athens ( still Greece ) to deliver the message that the battle had been won. He preceded to keel over and die. So in my mind, Jen was basically telling me she was training to fall to her death. History shows us, it just doesn't seem like a natural thing for the body to do. And I'm not going to pretend to understand it, yet I will always be impressed by anyone who takes the phrase "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" to heart.

But this is my brother who was a straight A student, attended the United States Navel Academy and by the time he was 30 had graduated law school, was a partner in a successful firm and had a house, 3 dogs and a kid. Sorry, a house, 3 kids, and a dog. I can't keep up. Meanwhile, I have a Toyota and my bartender friend Javier at the local Irish pub who hooks me up with happy hour prices anytime I want. Go me!

I guess that's the thing when you have a big family or even more than one kid. Even if they're raised by the same parents, they can be so vastly different. I consider myself a shot put kind of gal. I'd rather stand in one place and throw the heaviest thing I find and watch where it lands. But as a parent you probably just love watching your little team; the sprinters, the ones jumping over hurdles, THE OVER ACHIEVERS RUNNING 50 MILES!!!! Though I'm sure watching your child run 50 miles is pretty cool. No matter how much I make is pretty cool.

So congrats bro. You always amaze me. I'm very proud of you for being stupid:)

The following article shows there may actually be some truth to this...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grandpa Driving

When are they going to develop a car horn that can mean different things? We can keep the usual BEEEEPPP for when someone cuts you off and you're upset. But why not have a sweet little toot for when we think we see a friend on the sidewalk? Or a, 'hey mister, I think you left your gas tank open. Just trying to get your attention." Even a passive aggressive horn sound for times when you want to say, "Really? Have you not noticed the light's been green for a good 5 seconds?"

So a car cut in front of me on the way to work. I was going a little faster than I should have been but still, it was obvious that for him to make that right turn out of his driveway in front of me, I would need to partially slam on my brakes. I stopped patiently but became enraged when it rolled ever so slowly towards the green light. Then it turned yellow. Then red. Damn! This light takes forever! Why did he have to pull out? Does he know how much of my day he just wasted? Like a good 3 minutes! I was so close to honking when I took a deep breath and realized that he looked like he was a bit old. Almost like my Grandpa (at least how my Grandpa looked when he was alive). What if someone had honked at my Grandpa? I'm one of those people that hasn't figured out that just because you're old, it doesn't mean you're nice. I am just so taken with old people...their wrinkly little faces.....their slow, hunched over walks....the shakey little hands. I just love them all.

What if this man was driving so slow because he just couldn't see where he was going as well as I could? What if he had been in a car accident years ago that left him without the use of one arm and he was afraid to drive but really needed to get somewhere? I bet he had a job interview. His social security ran out and he was going for his job interview at McDonald's because he still had to pay off  the hospital bills from his wife, June's, illness (she passed away last April). Not only that, it was raining today and she used to love the rain. A tear comes to his eyes which he swiftly wipes away as he thinks of June telling him not to worry about the young, crazy driver behind him because he needs to get to where he's going safely.

So I didn't honk. Instead, I was suddenly driving behind my partially-paralyzed grandfather who had just lost his wife and was on his way to a job interview at McDonald's. And it took everything in me not to jump out, bang on his window and give him a hug. I've either inherited my mother's empathy, or have completely lost my mind.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear Mrs. Pinkett-Smith

Dear Mrs. Pinkett-Smith,

First of all, you looked beautiful on Oprah. You and Will are such a handsome couple and seem to have such an amazing relationship both with each other and your children. It's so rare these days that you see any marriage last so long, let alone in Hollywood. It is definitely something to proud be of. Your children seem to be very intelligent and extraordinarily talented.

This brings me to the point of this letter. I was perusing the internet today when I saw something that caught my eye. "Watch Willow Smith's Video Debut". Imagine my excitement when I clicked on the link. After all, I've been such a huge fan of your's and Will's work over the years and I even remember when "Parents Just Don't Understand" came out. Being only 8 years old at the time, I wasn't "technically" allowed to watch it, but I did steal sneaks when my brothers had MTV on. That's the thing about kids. They always find a way.

So back to Willow. I clicked and eagerly awaited to see this cute young thing perform. And what I saw left me incredibly...disturbed. For like the whole day. I don't have children so I was really trying to figure out why this bothered me so much and I was able to break it down into a few reasons. I have some questions that I would just like to ask you about, seeing as I think you appear to be a good mother and maybe this is just one huge misunderstanding. Or I'm incredibly old fashioned. Or the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

She's 9 right? Does she know the difference between a noun and a verb? I only ask because I feel that you may want to go over these things with her after school while you bake her cookies as I'm sure you do. Because if she wrote this song herself (which I believe that's the claim), I'm a bit concerned with her grammar and proper sentence structure. Phrases like "pay no attention to them haters" "we ain't doing nothing wrong" and "don't tell me nothing", concern me. I'm also very confused as to what lengths a fourth grader might go to in order to "keep the party jumpin'"as well as what kind of party that might be. And while I'm sure you're very proud of the "swag" she mentions, the issue that causes me the most disquiet, is her reference to "getting her grind on". I have looked everywhere for a definition of what grind could be besides a) to reduce to powder through friction or b) vulgarly rub one's crotch on another's leg. Now, I did come across something that said in slang, to "get one's grind on" could mean that one is a focused individual not wanting anything to get in his or her way. However, once again, she's 9 right? Do you really think she needs to "get her grind on" beyond a ballet class or an occasional game of kickball?

Haters. Who are the haters? I understand with bullying being such a prevalent issue these days it's important to believe in and stand up for yourself but I'm not sure that calling bullies "them haters" really helps your cause. If it is even bullies she is referring to. In my opinion, and again this is just my opinion, the mere use of the word haters, perpetuates the hate. And she's such a pretty little girl. Could she not smile once in the whole video? It was uncomfortable to see her look so angry and a bit unsettling that I almost thought she would be capable of beating me up. Call me crazy, but it almost made me long for the days when we thought Miley was setting a bad example (though I happen to know Mrs. Cyrus asked her to tone it down after she read my letter).

She's too young to be wearing that much make-up. Period. I don't even think it needs an explanation. I just wish you could be in every bathroom across the nation on a school morning as a mother fights with her child about why she cannot wear make-up and "bling" to school like Willow Smith (don't even get me started on the hair extensions).

I understand your kids have aspirations and boatloads of talent but is it not good enough to just see them in a school talent show? I realize you want to give them every opportunity in the world but their minds are still forming and they're still learning who they are. So when you say things on Oprah like "We tell our kids, you're not rich. Mommy and Daddy are rich" and then you go on to produce their blockbuster movies and record albums, it's a bit disappointing.

I once wanted to cut my own hair in 3rd grade and my mom said no. Shaving a star into the side of my head was just never an option. I didn't have the money to just "be myself" by dressing in Dior or whatever else was bought for me. My choices weren't nearly as fashionable seeing as I was limited to hand-me-downs. Bottom line, when are we going to start raising the bar and teaching kids to express themselves through their thoughts and their words and their ideas and their intelligence? When I started being able to do that, that's when my mom start letting me make more decisions about how I did my hair, how I dressed, etc. With each sign of maturity, I graduated to another stage of responsibility in the decisions made about my life. Because I was trying to discover who I was. A nine-year old might have strong opinions, but they have no idea who they are or, more importantly, who they will become. I say that not as a judgement or a fact; I say this based on experience. I used to be 9.

I wish you and the rest of the Pinkett-Smith family much success and luck and thank you for taking the time to read this. I know you must be very busy. Maybe Willow's next video can steer away from they dark side a bit and find a way to be current and hip with a brighter edge. Something more, dare I say it, age appropriate? I don't need puppy dogs and rainbows...but maybe a smile would be nice:)



Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" video