Monthly Archives: April 2010

The New New Math

When I was growing up, every time a kid did something that the previous generation didn’t understand, a parent or grandparent would blame it on “the new math.” We’d come home from school to find our parents unable to help us with our homework. They didn’t understand it, nor did they understand the way we were thinking or behaving in general, so they connected the dots and decided it was the “new math” that made us indecipherable.

Even my father would say it. Which shows you how pervasive the belief was, as he never really had a grasp on “the old math.” The Great Depression hit right before he went into 6th grade and he had to quit school to work for his family. When I went from feathered Farrah hair to preppy Peter-pan collars with a ribbon bow, to Punk rock safety pins in my ears, he greeted each new style with “I don’t get it. Must be that new math.”

It never made sense to me when I was young(er)–note, I held back from the bad pun of “it didn’t add up to me”–but now I think I’m beginning to understand.

Because my kids are doing the new, new math. And now I suspect suspect there is a sadistic, secret math society at work continually creating a gap between every generation.

Do you remember the kids who went to school dances with pens in their pockets or who would sneer at the rest of us for not being able to do calculus problems in our heads? Well, not all of them went to work with Microsoft.

I believe the most bitter of the bunch are now getting even with us for not letting them hang out with us, the cooler kids. They are rubbing it in our faces for making them social outcasts by ensuring our children will rebel against everything we tell them.

How are they doing it? By creating a new, ridiculous math curriculum for each new generation of kids.

Let me tell ya, when your sarcastic, yet sweet, eight-year-old comes to you for help on her math, and you can’t help her, you look like an idiot. It doesn’t matter that you’re a college graduate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a successful business person. She might smile at you, but in her head you know she’s thinking “Ugh! God! My mom is such a dweeb! And my dad! It’s so embarrassing!”

And suddenly there’s one more item on her list of reasons not to trust or respect you. The deck is so stacked against us.

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Filed under Age, Children, TASFUIL, Uncategorized

Will Write for Drugs

Just read through an employment ad for a writer. A marketing company is looking for writers who specialize in “Niche Diseases.”

I’m not such a writer, but the thought of niche diseases almost makes me want to apply. Niche disease. I realize “niche” has been used to define particular markets for years, but every time I hear it I think of artistic snob appeal. So there’s a funky, semi-twisted ideal in my head as to what a niche disease could be.

Immediately I thought back to when I worked at a university several years ago and we hired an artist (forgive me, it was an artiste) to create a wall hanging. He stood waiting for the dean, refusing to sit on the furniture, and explained to me that his niche was in creating 3D symbolic representations for worlds that have none. Apparently a law school, in his private universe, was such a world.

He pulled up both corners of his upper lip and stretched out niche to the point where spit bubbles formed between his teeth. Thank god I was only in young mode and not young-and-stupid mode. I only smiled and blinked at him, somehow not blurting out a snarky comeback like “I specialize in shitting in symbolic representations of toilets.”

And now niche diseases! Yikes. I mean, how pretentious can a disease get? I’m picturing people in chic black hospital gowns leaning at awkward angles on white furniture in a white, minimalist room. They probably speak with (fake) European accents and smoke cigarettes. Maybe even a few are wearing berets or black, round glasses. They are woefully bored with the whole concept of being alive, which is the root cause of their affliction.

Diagnoses would be made by a doctor who looks suspiciously like Freud and speaks haltingly with a (real) German accent. Notes on his clipboard say “they should immediately stop taking themselves so seriously.” Then he will pass out prescriptions for the birth control that makes you giddy happy as you chop off your bangs and blow bubbles while fully clothed in the shower. (Have you seen that commercial?)

Pharmaceutical marketing is just getting weirder and weirder. I’d love to know what kind of drugs their writers are taking. Obviously something is keeping their imagination revved up and in full swing.

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Grateful Journal Hopping

Recently, I picked up a couple small, leather-bound blank books at Target thinking I’d introduce the concept of journaling to my kids. I thought I’d ask them to write down five things they are grateful for every night before they went to bed. At the time, I believe the words going through my head as I tossed the books into my cart were more along the lines of maybe I can get the ungrateful, egotistical little buggers to appreciate some-god-damned-thing in their lives. But, now that a couple days have gone past, I can put a more genteel spin on it and tell myself, Self, isn’t it a lovely thought? I’ve found a way to help them ease into slumberland thinking about all the wonderful things in their lives.

They were both excited by the books. My 9-year-old son took to it right away. He didn’t want to make it about being grateful, though, he wanted to write about his life so that his children could understand what he had to live through. Yes, those were his words: what I had to live through. It’s a tough world for him. One of the examples he gives is that the world has yet to be completely Wi-Fi connected. He’s sure his progeny will never have to suffer taking their I-touches along for a car ride and not have Internet connection all the way to their destinations. The poor thing suffers, he truly does.

Tonight as I went in to kiss him good night, he was busy drawing something in his book. I asked him if he made his gratitude list and was pleased to learn he had. He even read it to me: 1. Legos. 2. Tacos. 3. Me. 4. Mommy. 5. Daddy. I’m happy to have made the cut, but 4th place after Legos and tacos? He didn’t even touch his Legos today and I was the one who made the Tacos. But I guess I sound ungrateful, and God knows I don’t want to complain, so I’ll let it slide.

My daughter is a year younger and sees the world through a different lens. I’m not sure what color the glass is, yet. But it’s different all right. She’s a bit prone to the dramatic and lives as if everything is a cue for stage improvisation. Her list of gratitudes tonight included (and do read these in your best Academy Awards acceptance-speech voice): 1. My wonderful, supportive father. 2. My mother who cooks so much for me. 3. My brother who loves me dearly. 4. I go to an incredible school. 5. I have good books to read. I get the feeling she believes someone will one day read her journal, believe every word of it, then offer her the crown jewels, because really, who else deserves them? Because let me tell you, her father was out of town today, so she didn’t even see him. She bitched, moaned and belly-ached so much about the tacos I cooked for dinner that I nearly made her eat in the laundry room so that I wouldn’t have to hear it any more. She fought non-stop with her brother, came off the bus telling me she really wished it was summer vacation all ready and getting her to read a book alone is harder than training a catfish to use a straw.

To be completely fair, now that I’ve given a screening of what, really, should be the private musings of my brood, here’s something of my own that I found tonight in a journal from about seven years ago: Crazy thing–watching Teletubbies right now. 4 fucked up beings who love and accept each other openly and unconditionally. I totally understand why adults hate this show. It really makes us parents look like pathetic losers. I guess I wasn’t into logging things I am grateful for back then.

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I Feel Validated

Yes, I was so validated this morning I was ready to blast into the kitchen and announce the news, but somehow on the way downstairs I forgot about it and it wound up being breakfast as usual at our house. But I remember now. I’m like Ron White that way: a thought easily escapes my mind, but eventually it finds its way back home. You just gotta be patient.

Anyway, I’ve long been adamant that multitasking is nothing to brag about. I know as a woman I’m not supposed to say that because there’s a rumor out there saying mothers are born multitaskers. I don’t believe it. It’s not something we’re born with, it’s just something we’re stuck with having to do–like changing diapers. What’s the alternative? There is none. Some of us are better than others–multitasking that is, though I suppose the same could be said for diaper changing. I’m good at multitasking sometimes, but not frequently but it always stresses me the hell out. And I’m not alone, hence someone invented National Single-tasking day.

I remember when I first found out about it. I was going to tell everyone I knew and force them into celebrating it by doing one thing at a time for the entire day. Of course I forgot about it when something shiny caught my eye. But it’s Feb. 22, for those of you who don’t believe me. And I have an alarm set for Feb. 21 and 22 in my Outlook calendar. We’ll have fun with it next year, damn it.

But, back to my validation . . . This morning on Good Morning America I learned someone somewhere did a study that proves the human mind can only handle two tasks at a time. Any more than that and we just don’t do a good job, the more we do the less we do it well. Isn’t that fabulous news? Now, every time I’m late somewhere because I was crooning with Crowded House on the car radio (singing + driving = 2 things), I no longer have to feel like a complete idiot when I take the wrong turn in my neighborhood and get lost. No one should have expected me to be on time to begin with. If they did, they’d request that I dont’ listen to the radio when I’m on my way. And the next time I walk to my mailbox and I’m talking on the phone (walking + talking = 2 things) and I forget to get the mail, it’s OK. Again, no one should have expected me to be able to remember to get it to begin with.

You have no idea how much lighter my step was today every time I realized it’s perfectly natural, maybe even normal, to lose the things I lost today: coffee cup, car keys, shopping cart, blue tooth (twice), glass of water, and comb (it’s only 3:30 folks, that’s why the list is so short). I’m in the midst of several projects that I keep focusing on and getting interrupted by. I’m sure each one of those things was lost when I was trying to focus on more than two things.

All my life I’ve wondered why it is that I’m constantly backtracking and rebacktracking, and now I know it’s because I am not meant to do more than two things at once, and I pretty much live my life doing much more than that. Frankly I’m amazed I’ve made it to my age with all my limbs attached. Life must be good, indeed.

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All That #$%^* Complaining!

I’ve been on vacation. Call me paranoid, but after hearing about people being robbed after announcing on FaceBook that they were out of town, I thought I’d wait and mention it after I arrived back at my non-burglarized home.

It was a beautiful trip. Lots of sun, splashing, relaxing, eating and drinking. You’d think I’d have nothing to complain about, but of course I do–about how bleeping hard it is to stop complaining. I took a couple of books with me on my trip: Michael Neill’s SuperCoach, Daniel Amen’s Change Your Brain Change Your Body and Chelsea Handler’s Are You there Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea (which was the most enjoyable).

I like to read Neill’s stuff in bits and pieces. I read a chapter here and there just as mind fodder and I tell myself it makes me a better person. The only thing I’ve read in this current book is the first chapter where he suggests you try going a week without saying a complaint out loud. I thought a week vacationing would be prime time to give it a go.

Of course, it was the week I couldn’t get my laptop to connect the the Wi-Fi at the place where we were staying. I also woke up in the middle of the night every night with major indigestion because I was eating shit foods I don’t normally eat. (I actually stared at the ceiling for a good half hour one pre-dawn morning wondering if a hole had been eaten in my stomach lining. How would I know? It sure felt like it.) The gulf water was too cold to swim in. They began mowing the lawn at the place where we stayed before it was legal (in my opinion) to wake up in the morning. I managed to get two splinters embedded in my foot from the boardwalk at the beach. And the list goes on and on. It’s all pretty mild stuff, and most of it is probably not worth complaining about to most people. My biggest complaint is that I failed at it in part to my tragic flaw of being ADD.

Do you know how hard it is to remind yourself you quit complaining when you can’t quite remember what you were doing thirty seconds ago? On top of it, as previously mentioned in this blog, my mouth sometimes pops things out that I thought I was thinking and didn’t realize I was saying. It’s not a good combination.

It did get me thinking though. At first I was disappointed in how much I complain. But then I started questioning whether or not something was a complaint. Screaming an expletive when a weed-whacker just a wall’s width away blasts you awake isn’t really a complaint is it? What about when you’re getting your toes wet and a salty wave suddenly splashes your warm thighs, taking your breath away and you say “Yikes! That’s cold!” Is that a complaint? Or are you merely pointing out a negative?

But then really, does it matter if it’s a complaint or a negative? Should you be focusing on either one? Not that I can focus on much for an extended period of time–but that other book, the Change Your Brain one is offering me hope for that. It was just enlightening. Many people I know think I’m a positive person. But after failing my repeated trials of refraining from the ultimate in negativity, i.e., complaining, it has me wondering.

I’m still giving it the ‘ole college try. Neill suggests you just start your week over when you catch yourself complaining. It took him a full year to be able to go a week without complaining. I’m giving myself a decade.

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