Friday, February 20, 2015

Revelations of a Pseudo-Parent

    So I'll begin by saying 'Pseudo-Parent', because I think it sounds a lot more interesting than 'babysitter', and much more accurate than 'wannabe parent', as I am most certainly not one of those.

     In recent years I've become somewhat of a de-facto babysitter for my inner circle of friends, this 'second career' of sorts beginning because of a need to help others and developing over time into a more permanent arrangement with some. I like to step in where I can, being single and having spare time (often) in droves. Helping people is my sugar rush, it's what makes me happy knowing that someone is grateful for the time I put in and that their children enjoy seeing me every week.

   When I was younger it really wasn't that way, to be honest, and while I feel terribly that my only niece didn't get that time with me- I don't make excuses for it. I was a child myself when she was little, still in high school and really not interested in doing anything unless it was for me (that's at LEAST 90% of teenagers and don't pretend it isn't), so I will admit that I didn't want anything to do with the idea of small children.

   Now, even though I've definitely decided I don't want children of my own, I don't mind the idea of temporarily taking guardianship of one or two for a day/few hours of the week and keeping them alive. It's not all that bad, really. And sometimes I get paid in food, which is really pretty much the way to my heart. And my survival, so a win in both areas, really.

  This brings me to the topic of today's post: revelations I've had that parents had probably had a long time ago, but it took me longer to figure out because I don't live with children 24-7. Following is a list of things I've discovered during this 'Pseudo-parenting' run I've been having, and I'm sure there will be someone out there who finds it as amusing as I do.

   1) I actually have normal conversations about bowel movements.
      This is true in the case of many children I watch. In the case of two of them the use of the toilet is pretty common and unprompted, so I don't have to worry that much. But as I watch two sets of two fairly often, one of each of those are still in diapers and have to be changed frequently. One of them tends to deposit the most rancid gifts in his, while the other just pees a lot. Once upon a time this sort of discussion would never have had cause to come up in my life, and now it does more often than not. Mostly when getting the 'update' before the parents leave, but sometimes it's my update when they come home. And occasionally it's 'Hey, so-and-so hasn't pooped in three days so today might be the day'. Give me discussion about Criminal Minds reruns and gruesome murders on C.S.I any day.

   2) I buy children's clothing more than I buy my own.

      I can't help it. That goes somewhat with the 'I like doing things for others' piece, but only to a point. Most of these kids probably don't need the clothes I buy them. But when you're a huge geek and you see a teeny tiny Star Trek t-shirt on sale...well, everyone knows that small things are just that much cuter, and if it won't fit your cat you have to find a small person who can wear it. So these things happen, and more often than I'd have ever imagined they would in the past.

   3) I notice deals on diapers and other child products.

     Yup. If I'm clipping coupons (which I've fallen lax on, sadly, in recent years) I'll actually notice Luvs or Huggies coupons and cut them out just in case someone I know could use them. Most of the people I know don't care too terribly much what brand they use, but I know preferences (for the most part) and will often take note of sales when I see them. I will tag people on Facebook, I will actually text people when I stumble across something I think they'd appreciate. I do that now.

  4) I know enough to bring multiple changes of clothing along when watching 'new' children.

     I say 'new' like 'barely in the world long enough to know it's insane'. He'll learn. Eventually. But I learned, when I came home one day smelling of spitup and constantly checking down my shirt to see if I missed any. Throw up on me once, shame on you (except not because you can't direct it and you're little). Throw up on me twice, shame on me (because I didn't bring two shirts, so obviously the second one is going to stink until I can change). I started bringing an extra shirt along after the first spit-up incident, and as far as pants go...I can deal with that. But I just can't deal with wearing a spit-up spotted shirt for most of my morning. Yick.

 5) I can name children's shows and many characters. I can also sing theme songs.

     And I'm not talking 'knowing the theme of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' or 'being able to name all of the characters in Voltron'. No, I can do those things- but those are the cartoons I knew as a child and am still fond of- for nostalgia. I'm talking full-blown 'I know the theme to Daniel Tiger and can sing most of the little 'lesson' songs', and 'Sometimes the theme to Spongebob gets lodged in my brain and I want to die a little'. I know that Daniel Tiger had a baby sister, I know the 'Backpack' song from Dora, and I think Caillou is an annoying little s**t (that last part is something I wouldn't necessarily know if I didn't watch kids, so I feel it belongs here). I don't know why he is, he just is.

6) Pee (or as I like to call it, Pee-T-S-D).

       Sometimes, I also think I can smell pee when there's none to be found. I like to think of it as 'Pee-t-s-d'. Because you're lying if you say you've never been traumatized by pee from an infant. I haven't actually been peed on yet (knock on wood until my knuckles bleed), but I was given fair warning when many others don't get that luxury. It can't always be avoided, but if you're lucky enough to avoid're among few, from what I hear). But after the first time you smell a pee-soaked diaper, you smell it everywhere. And sometimes you can't explain it, so you aren't sure if you got some on you while changing a baby, and that causes the entire day to consist of you sniffing random parts of your clothes while running errands...just to be sure.

   So, for now I'll leave you with 1-6. I've had more revelations and I'm sure they'll come to me, but for now I imagine this is enough for anyone who doesn't actually have children to relate to. Now, you're going to have to excuse me...I think I might smell pee.

  Just kidding. I don't.

  But don't you? ;)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hacking: The New Cheat

    Over the years the english language has, undoubtedly, progressed (although some could argue regressed, rather) to taking words and changing the meaning into something entirely different than the original word was intended for. Example: Gay. Once it meant 'happy', and was thrown around in everyday speech without a thought ("He was rather gay," said the butler, polishing the silver diligently. "Although I imagine it had something to do with the visit he received from Madame Pomfrey."). These days, however, if someone uses the word 'gay' in a sentence it means 'homosexual', and may or may not be taken negatively.

    That brings me to my current subject. As I'm sure you've already guessed by the title of this post, it's the word 'hack'. I've read the definition as provided by, several times, and while there are many uses for the word...the very common use of it in reference to 'life hacks' or 'kitchen hacks', or so on is what really bothers me for some reason. Once, I believe, hacks in those particular examples were just referred to as 'shortcuts' or 'helpful tricks'. I think the closest idiom is to handle or cope with a situation or an assignment adequately and calmly, and somehow I still don't really think that fits well. Nor does the definition meant for computers, where hacking is to break into (a server, website, etc.) from a remote location to steal or damage data. 

   There are others- feel free to check and form your own opinions. 

   Now, I'm guilty of using plenty of words in a form they weren't intended for. I like 'epic', for example, and I toss it around pretty liberally, although not as much as I used to. To me it's a form of expression and I prefer it whether or not it drives people crazy and they want it banished to the far corners of vocabu-land. Many may wish to see 'hack' go the same way, and while I realize this entire piece may make it sound like I'm among those people...I don't necessarily care. It just...bothers me somehow, the application of 'hack' these days, and sometimes I worry that people who use words in ways they weren't meant to be aren't using them that way because they think it fun, but because they don't really understand the original application intentions.

   That goes with my concern that typos, once rare and labelled typos because of such, are now becoming acceptable and commonplace because no one wants to manually edit their work. If someone finds a typo in my work I will freely admit it's because I don't edit, and someone may take that as a sign that I lack pride in what I do. But were I actually being paid to produce work for the public eye in a reputable form of media like a newspaper (the popularity of which isn't being helped, in my opinion, when it loses respect by having a gross amount of misspellings and horrific errors in countless print editions and online articles), I'd probably take the time to be sure I was using the proper form of 'you're and your' and actually not rely on spellcheck to do it for me.

    Sorry. I went off on my personal soapbox again. I'm stepping down and putting it away in favor of taking the time to thank you all for reading what I DO write. Because without you I wouldn't have an audience, and without an audience I'd never progress toward my dream of doing this professionally, one of these days. Everyone who even takes a moment to read my words is important, and as many of you are my friends, I thank you. SO much. I'm grateful for you all. 

    If I'm ever going to hack it (see what I did there?), it's your support that helps me believe that I can.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Are Budgets and Weddings Always a Compatible Pair?

         To some people, 'Budget' is a dirty word- meaning that someone has just enough money to squeak by, and they're restricting themselves from the finer things in life in order to squirrel away funds. To others the word has an everyday use, is as familiar as the feeling of sliding between the sheets at the end of a long day or waiting in line at the grocery store. Those on a budget relish the feeling of having a .99 cent coupon for Dunkin Donuts iced coffee (I, having been among those people, can honestly say I feel like it tastes better when it's a treat- even though I will indulge when I have extra money. I can't lie about that.), and having the opportunity to buy a brand new pair of jeans instead of scrounging the racks at Goodwill (again, I can relate).

     Today I read a post on Facebook by a local radio station that posed an interesting question by one of their listeners. What to do when invited to a wedding and the invitation says 'Don't bring a guest'? One of the suggestions was unsurprising, a man leaping right into the 'bring your boyfriend anyway',  because the writer of said question had stated the shared displeasure of herself and her significant other that he wasn't invited. It brought to mind the idea of a child's birthday party and being left out, the petulant child being upset that they weren't invited because their best friend was, and the parent of the 'poor left out child' calling to ensure their precious bundle was included in the festivities. This reaction of 'bring him anyway' was, in my opinion, that of a bull in a china shop who wouldn't hesitate to do as he pleases without taking a moment to wonder why it was asked of him to do the opposite.

   I'd like to hope that the woman who posed this question took things into consideration, wondered why the couple having the wedding weren't allowing people to bring a plus one. I believe the post mentioned something about 'limited food', so I assume the invitations may have alluded to same. The average budget is probably significantly less than once upon a time, and weddings are so often DIY to save money- so while I can't honestly know what the couple's intentions are, it's not so unlikely that their reasons are due to lack of funds. And in that case, what are people to do except forgo the celebration of their wedding- and as that's considered a day to share with family and friends...why should they be criticized for requesting limited attendance?

   I think the real frustration behind this is the reactions people had. No, the receiver has probably never received an invitation like this before, but I'm sure the sender has never had to send one. And why, honestly, can't the receiver put aside their feelings about attending without their significant other for one day and go alone? This more or less goes with my current thoughts about significant others being unable to do things without their spouse- but while many decline to leave their husband or wife at home while they go to dinner or a basketball game...this is a wedding. If the happy couple doesn't know the boyfriend, why should they have to have him come? And it's their day, not the guest's day, so if that's the request they make...why can't feelings be put aside in favor of them?

   It's an interesting thought, with a lot of variables that are probably missing from the equation, and also riding on the assumption that budget has something to do with it. Maybe in this case it doesn't, and there could be ulterior motives. However, if the invitations are all the same and everyone is requested to not bring a date, I'd think that's because there's a limit somewhere, and this one person isn't being singled out.

    Where is it that pride should be set aside, if money is on the line? And if pride can't be ignored, is that just another way of budget-shaming others?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Poem: Snow

    Many of you may have already seen this on my Facebook page, but as I consider the sound of snow crashing off of the roof...I feel it needs to be shared beyond the reach of Facebook.

  (Contains mild language. Very mild. Like...mild salsa. The sting of the words, but without the lingering burn on your tongue.)

Falling off the roof.
Holy shit, what was that!?
Piled up on the corner.
Nearly hit by a car.
Holy shit, slow DOWN already!
I can't take it anymore.
Holy shit, is this a padded cell?
Drove me crazy.
I was sane once...
Now my world is white.
As white as

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Stop and Smell the Pages: The Rambling of a Reader

      With approximately one week until the release of the newest J.D. Robb book, "Obsession In Death", and me waiting with baited breath for it to land on my coffee table (or in most cases these days, in the depths of my iPad), I felt like it was time to address the interesting reading habits people take on. I have books everywhere in my apartment, and if there were enough shelves to accommodate them I suspect it would take on the appearance of a library more than of an actual living space (although I'd like to ask why a library couldn't be a living space. For some people it's pretty much the happiest place on earth, which is what your inner sanctum should be, right?).

    Anyway, about reading. When I was young it wasn't at all uncommon to see me somewhere with my face buried in a book, forced to find some way to busy myself while my mother was in an appointment or I was waiting to be picked up from...something. Books are worlds within worlds, places you can get lost in and find yourself overwhelmed with feelings you may otherwise never be able to capture in real life. For some they're an escape, a way to have the family you never did or find the love you think you never will. For others they're educational, teaching us how to draw the human body with accuracy or doodle a cartoon bunny rabbit with long, floppy ears. However they're enjoyed, they still are- even with the birth of e-readers, which allow people who read at the speed of light (maybe I'm exaggerating, but some people do read rather quickly) to carry with them more than one book at a time without the bulk that was so often a problem with the heavy readers.

   Some people like to re-read their books, which is something I often do when anticipating the release of a new book in a series. It's nice to revisit the old happenings, refresh the memories of what the characters were occupied with before the new book comes out and you're left wracking your brain to remember who that randomly mentioned secondary character was. Or when Bob decided to re-do the bathroom (was that in book seven, or book ten? Did Bob decide, or was he pushed into it? Is that really important?). Some people, however, don't re-read their books and ask people who do why they even bother?

   Why do you re-read books? Are you a re-visitor of stories you enjoyed, or do you prefer to remember as much as you're able without the refresher course? To me I think it's the fondness that has me hanging on to so many of the books I do. If I keep a series it's because I took so long to collect them, and I do enjoy re-reading those books, but it's nice to keep a series collection going, especially if you have so much of it. Sometimes it's a matter of security- you felt so good reading that book that you want it in your presence as much as possible even if you don't know if you're ever going to bother picking it up again.

   I do go to the library when I'm able, mostly because I've reached the point where so many of my books are in boxes and not on shelves, so if I were to take any more of them into my possession I'd need to start building a room for them. It's nice to take out a book and get the enjoyment without the cost of purchase, but if I like a book enough I'll go back and take it out again and again- which makes me think I should just own it. If you go to pick up your favorite book and it isn't there because someone else wanted to enjoy it, the feeling of envy rushes over you and you become resentful to the fact that this person got your book first.

    Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but you get the idea.

    Print might be going extinct, with so many people preferring the tablet and e-readers to the feel of a physical book. But the smell of a new book is something I've loved since I was a child, and even now when I buy a new paperback I can't resist the urge to bury my face in it and breathe in the combination of ink and paper. It's no different than breathing in the scent of fresh morning coffee- the smell wakes up my brain and excites me as much as the prospect of reading each page and absorbing the story printed within them.

     So go read a book today. Or encourage someone else to read a book you love. Let print live on for as long as possible- because the joy of reading books is timeless and wonderful, and there are some things physical books possess that e-readers never will. So re-read a story, buy a new one, and dig out those boxes hiding in the closet to unearth an old favorite. Trust me- it's worth every second.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Old Man Winter Is A Crotchety Fella

         When I picture Old Man Winter I picture an old dude sitting on his front porch, blistering winds and mountains of snow surrounding him. Completely immune to the cold, he rocks back and forth, watery eyes narrowing at the sight of Spring across the street (the four seasons live in Cul-De-Sac, and each section of land is completely untouched by the one next to it) and the crowd of children in shorts sitting in a circle on freshly mowed grass while they weave daisy chains.

          He was certainly crotchety today, with this crazy wind and snow that buried most of us in our homes and forced some out to shovel sidewalks or driveways throughout the day. I wasn't one of those people, thankfully, and spent my day blissfully cuddled beneath warm blankets with my cat while we watched episodes of The Waltons on cable and triumphed over the final boss of Kirby's Adventure on classic Nintendo.

      The Northeast was hit pretty hard, and while it wasn't quite as difficult as most of us anticipated or the weatherpeople made it out to was still pretty treacherous. That brings me to something I want to say every time there's a snowstorm, and that I've only ever seen one person on Facebook ever actually come out and say themselves.

       Yes, we here in the Northeast are accustomed to snow. We're more than familiar with shoveling driveways and clearing off our cars. Driving in snow? Yup- we've all white-knuckled it down the highway in less-than-desirable visibility, and lived to tell the tale. But what quite a few people seem to forget these days is this: just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. I'm absolutely sick to death of people commenting on weather posts with 'Well, you live in Maine/Siberia/Alaska/Hell, so you should just suck it up.'. It doesn't matter where you live- weather is weather. If I lived somewhere that was constantly plagued by tornadoes...that doesn't mean I should just throw up my arms and have a picnic every time the weather gets tough. What people tend to forget is that nature is unpredictable, and if it's snowing...there's nothing to stop you from going off the road when the ice is hidden by snow, and just because you might be super cautious it doesn't mean that someone else won't crash into you.

       No matter where you live- being brazen about it doesn't make the situation better. Going out into the world with your chest puffed out and muttering about how you 'have four-wheel-drive and snow tires' doesn't mean it's any more safe. You may be able to make it wherever you're going, but that in no way means you have to call other people cowards for not wanting to do the same. And trust me, those of us who live in states that experience the change in seasons may really, really want to go somewhere else. Telling us to do so doesn't make it any more affordable, and we have every right to say we don't feel safe in inclement weather.

     Safety isn't something that should be tossed aside just to show how 'brave' you think you are.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Clutter, DeClutter, Hoarder, DeHoarder?

   I wouldn't say I necessarily classify myself as a hoarder, but I certainly manage to put away a great deal of...stuff. Over the years I've kept bookmarks from elementary school, awards from basketball, ribbons from speech team- you name it. And every few months/years/decades I go through boxes and toss something that I've been hanging on to for so long because I felt it was somehow important...until one day I realized that I don't need that plaque from the one year I played basketball, or those ribbons that are wilted and stained from water damage.

   One thing I've kept for years and seem to have quite the accumulation of are notebooks. Pens, and notebooks- which go hand in hand, really, as they're both used together. I'm a writer and I always have been, so it was never uncommon for me to have any number of writing implements in my bag and a notebook hanging out somewhere, until the days of tablets came and I graduated to an iPad Air and bluetooth keyboard. There would still be a pen in the depths of my purse, but no longer was it necessary to carry a large bag that could contain everything I needed for one of those 'just in case I needed to write' moments (the fact that I still carry a large bag is mostly for the need to be prepared for any eventuality- such as headaches, paper cuts, and assorted injuries).

   I have, sitting next to me, one rather attractive notebook made from recycled cardboard. I'm rather particular about what I write on, so this one has very smooth pages and a nice, thick cover. The cheaper notebooks are fantastic but the paper is terrible, and I enjoy perforated pages for the ease of tearing out pages that contain anything I'm not happy with or made several very frustrating mistakes on. This is the only notebook currently with me, but by no means is it the only notebook I have. Sitting in a box in the next room are four more, and on a bookshelf in the living room is yet another. At work, on my desk, is a pad of graph paper that's also half full.

   As a writer I'm a half-full...or half-fill....kind of person. Haha.

   I tend to change notebooks pretty frequently. They're like a mood ring, and while the colors of the notebooks I write in may change, they in no way signify how I feel. One day I might feel like writing in the purple notebook because it already contains a story I'm in the mood for, and the next day I might feel like writing in the recycled notebook because it has thinner lines than the former. That same feeling goes with the instruments I write with as well, because one day might have me using a ballpoint pen and the next might have me feeling the need to make my words as fine as possible with the elegant point of a sharpie pen (which, by the way, should only be used when one plans on writing only on one side of the page).

   Everyone has their oddity, and while I certainly feel I have more than one...this is only the tip of the mechanical pencil (I also enjoy those, from time to time, but only on the really firm paper. They're rubbish on the cheap, flimsy notebooks. Trust me.). But it makes you wonder, doesn't it, what other interesting things people hang on to? Those are the people who aren't necessarily hoarders but collectors of a sort. People who don't keep a thing for its value or because they have a compulsion...but because their moods change, and with them the need to dig out something they've held onto for a very, very long time.

   I could throw out a few of these notebooks, sure- but you never know when one might finally get finished. So for now they stay. And they wait.