Years ago, I worked as a management consultant, a job simultaneously fascinating and jejune. Colleagues kept catch-phrases in their pockets: "What Have You Done To Make Sure It Never Happens Again" (commonly known by its acronym. Really.) "Fake it until you make it." "I'm in the weeds."
My favorite was, "Eat your own dog food." When a high-tech client's internal IT was a mess, or when the CEO of a gadget empire refused to buy the rubbish he was selling, or when employees did not wear safety goggles when manufacturing safety goggles, one of us had a come-to-Jesus meeting and told them to eat their own dog food.
Today's example includes an actual dog.
My morbidly obese neighbor takes her small black dog for a walk every day. Except she doesn't actually walk the dog. She bundles up and sits on her motorized buggy (note: not a wheelchair) with a saddle blanket draped over her thighs, and she drives the neighborhood at full speed.
Her dog is not the leader here, and by the time she reaches my house he is running hard to avoid strangulation via leash.
Is pitting a single horse-powered motorized buggy against a tiny mutt a fair race? Wouldn't both of their lives be vastly improved if she walked him? Even fifty yards at a slow walk would be good for her health, and would give her poor dog a break. Or perhaps she could just tether herself to a treadmill and set it to 6.5.
My husband will tell you it's difficult to live with me. I'm obsessive about my hobbies, uneven about tidiness, and crazy about our kids. And living with a writer includes another unique set of challenges.
Since we started dating, 1977 has found hundreds (if not thousands) of my writing notes. I scrawl sweeping plot outlines, character's idiosyncrasies, and ideas for scenes on the nearest blank spot of paper. I begged him to resist the urge to discard these torn slips of paper, used envelopes, lollipop wrappers, fuel receipts and--once--that little paper bit that keeps a nursing pad sticky until you're ready to use it.
Late last year, 1977 (who has his finger on the pulse of modern technology,) introduced me to Evernote. This app syncs between my iPod and computer, so I can take a note wherever I am. I organize everything--notes, photos, articles, URLs--in notebooks so they're ready for my current manuscript, next manuscript, or a project I haven't yet conceived.
LOVE. Love, love love Evernote. It has changed my life! (Or it will, once I enter those other thousands notes into my new database.)
Wednesday morning, 2010 woke up with a barky cough. Via phone, her pediatrician diagnosed her with mild coup and effectively quarantined us until 24 hours after her fever broke. Just as it did, though, 2008's temperature spiked.
The only thing worse than having sick kids is being sick while caring for sick kids. Lucky for us, 1977 and I are still healthy. But the kids have been keeping us up all night with the barking and hacking and incessant neediness.
2008 watched 90 minutes of movies today. We worked on her alphabet and tracing skills. 2010 discovered all the ducks she ever wanted on YouTube. We read books and had baths and spent an hour outside depleting their energy with fresh snow. 2010 did not eat a single bite until dinner. They are both exhausted.
Two or three hours from now, they will wake and realize they are feeling punk all alone in their rooms, and we will be invited to crawl into their beds to snuggle. 2010 will let me rock her for hours throughout the night.
And tomorrow morning, 2008 will snuggle in my lap for dozens of picture books. Having sick kids sucks, but having two girls who want nothing more than to snuggle and love all day? There are worse things.
Until three years ago, I loved winter. Instead of longing for the beach, we hunkered down with books in January and emerged from our caves rejuvenated for spring.
Then 2008 was born. Even that winter was fabulous. A baby! Parenthood! Sleep deprivation!
But since then, winters have been long and grey and cold. Wrangling babies into winter accoutrements is just no fun. Add to that slush, lost mittens and the occasional soaked-child-without-snowpants, and I have started to dread winter.
It is upon us only now. Until this week, there has been no snow. Two weeks ago, 2008 was wearing flip flops in our yard. We rode bikes to the park and played without jackets. Last week we spent hours at playgrounds, but now the end is nigh. No more daily walks. No more casual chats with the neighbors. No more lingering conversations with other moms as we wait for the kids to emerge from preschool.
Now everyone will scuttle into her own house, and I fear that I will become one of those things I hate most: people who complain about the weather.
Please, kids, enjoy the snow! And cabin fever, be brief.
My children are developmentally quite different from each other. 2008 walked earlier, crawled earlier, and is very physically skilled. 2010 was scribbling before she was one, and she is very cautious with her body.
At 18 months, 2008 had over one hundred words. Her sister has a mere dozen. But boy, can they communicate. Today I watched them giggling in one of our many nooks, and I realized I had no idea what they were doing. At ages one and three, they are conspiring with each other and I love it.
Some day, not too long from now, they will have secrets. They might have a private language or share imaginary friends or invent silly games, and I am excited about all of it. They're starting to grow outside my sphere of influence, and it is beautiful.
Right now, I'm crossing my fingers that 2008 and 2010 hold on to this friendship and keep it for life.
I am a stickler for rules, particularly those governing language, syntax and the written word. For many years, I pored over new editions of the AP Style Book and Chicago Manual of Style.
But sometime between my early 20s and this week, rules changed without my notice: now only one space is required between sentences. . .and none between ellipses' periods. This is disturbing news.
What's more, that I'm doing it wrong makes me feel old. Kids these days (yes, I said it!) use only one space. Even 20-somethings use just the one. Yes, I learned to type on a typewriter. (Thank you, Miss Marto.)
I find this habit nearly impossible to break.
I am notoriously stubborn about language. I note a distinct difference between nauseated and nauseous. I know no one can give more than 100 percent effort at his job. I refuse to use transition as a verb. I refuse to use impact as a verb, except in cases of one object physically crashing into another, and I will never suggest that someone insert himself into a situation.
But this, I can do.
When my current manuscript is complete, I will do a huge search-and-replace for double spaces. Then they will disappear from my computer forever. That means I have about six months to get it right on the blog, too.
Wish me luck.
Today brought this winter's first real snow. Most kids I know are beside themselves with joy and an overwhelming urge to make snow angels (without snow pants) and snowmen (without enough snow) and have snowball fights (without mittens.)
While you're reminding your kids how to dress for the season, I have some advice for you:
Brush off the whole car.
Seriously. I don't care whether you're in the snow belt or the bible belt. When you have more than a half inch of snow, your duty is to get it ALL off your car. Not just the windows.
And, unlike my neighbor, NOT JUST THE WINDSHIELD. (Yes, I was shouting.) How does she even drive like that?
Snow belongs on the ground, unless it's falling clean from the sky. No one wants snow from your car landing in their line of sight.
First, clear the roof of your vehicle, even if you're driving something huge. If you bought a Hummer, you need to take care of it. Remove the snow from the roof so swathes of it don't fly off your vehicle to blind your fellow motorists. If you can't handle this, buy something smaller.
Then brush down the windows, all of them. If your brush doesn't include a scraper, a credit card will work on ice in a pinch.
Lastly, brush the hood (for your own sake) and trunk (for those fellow motorists again.)
And, when you get on the road, don't pretend you've never done this before. Driving in snow is no big deal (except that one time, with apologies to Matt Merges and Lynn Cowan.)
Like most families, mine has a lot of crazy.
My mother's sister, whom we actually refer to as Crazy Aunt [Martha] is growing less crazy as she ages. Or perhaps I'm understanding her better as I age.
For as long as I can remember, Crazy Aunt Martha has tucked notes to herself among her Christmas decorations. Her notes simmered (decayed?) for about eleven months until it was time to deck the halls anew. As I helped her unwrap ancient ornaments or her awesome Lionel train set (which just fit the edges of her tree skirt, mind,) she always snatched from me the note she'd written to herself nearly eleven months prior.
I do that now. The writing, not the snatching. My kids can't read yet, and 1977 doesn't do decorations.
I have no idea what Crazy Aunt Martha wrote about--broken bulbs or hidden treasures or grocery lists or a great date--and I don't really care. Most of her notes were written in Sharpie on paper towels. I use stationery and envelopes because, unlike Martha's, my house includes lots of prying eyes that enjoy excavating cardboard boxes.
I spend a lot of December thinking about what I'll write about in my letters to Future Michele. I want to be pointed without inducing panic. I don't try to be profound, though that would be nice. I'm not particularly gentle with myself, so I don't want to set lofty goals whose memory will ruin my holidays when I open the envelope and confront them.
By February, I've forgotten the specifics of what I wrote (except in 2008, when it was all about baby names and plans and what kind of parents I hopes we'd be. Oh, naive Michele-from-the-past!) and by October I'm pretty excited to read what I wrote.
This year, for the first time, I included advice.
Is offering unsolicited advice to one's future self crazy?
I have an ongoing battle with my hair, despite the fact that I'm not really *that* kind of girl. My fine, thin hair and its natural waves have long been a source of self-loathing (along with my crooked teeth and the memory of myself as a Mean Girl throughout high school and parts of college. I cringe. I am cringing now.)
The hair, yes. The hair.
I've worn it up. I've kept it down. I've alternately forced it to be more curly and more straight. I've worn it in pigtails (during the years I was pretending to be fun) and in a bun (?) and pinned it back for most of the time I was a consultant.
As most mothers know, long hair can be an occupational hazard. Babies tug on it, or it falls into their faces when they nurse or they think it's a teether. For my first three (+) years as a parent, I wore a ponytail almost every day.
In May, I let the woman who cuts my hair (Brandi, not her real name!**) chop it off into a cute bob. My hair relaxed into loose curls, just like in The Babysitters' Club, when Mallory minced her mane! And it was easy to care for, and never in 2010's face when she nursed. On vacation, I didn't constantly have eau de Banana Boat wafting from my locks.
I loved it so well that I let Brandi cut it shorter on successive visits, and now it's about an inch long all over my head. It's so unmanageable that some days I look like a cotton swab, and I think that's pretty fun. I'm due for a cut, so it's starting to lie down, which makes me like it less.
This morning I did my typical towel-dry and rustle and my hair laid down. By mid-day, two tufts--one next to each of my temples--had turned upward.
I have horns.
Best. Haircut. Ever.
And tomorrow, of course, I'll make an appointment.
**My stylist doesn't use her real name at the salon. Her clients know her as Brandi, because someone else was using her real name when she started working there. That woman is long gone, but Brandi will be Brandi forever. And in our house, she will forever be known as "Brandi, not her real name."
I think 1977 loved marrying a woman who couldn't care less about fashion, make-up, or keeping up with the Joneses.
Way back when, I was a little embarrassed at the size of my (family) engagement ring, though I did *love* the sparkle. And for nearly four years now, I've rejected jewelry. Rings scraped up 2008's skin. 2010 tugs on necklaces. Earrings dangle irresistibly and I'm squeamish about my earlobes. (2010 could rip my earlobe in two? No earrings, thankyouverymuch.)
But then for Christmas, I received a lovely pearl ring, and since then I've worn jewelry every day. And I've discovered that Sundance has adorable earrings (Tiny posies!) Now that 2010 will leave necklaces alone, I can wear some lovely vintage ones I found in our tiny downtown shopping district. Now that I'm not constantly wrangling her into and out of carriers, rings aren't really an issue either.
Suddenly, I'm shopping for jewelry.
Add that to my recent newfound love of sushi and appreciation for Led Zeppelin, and 1977 doesn't know what's hit him. I certainly am not the woman he married.
(But I'm not a Cylon either. Promise.)
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: