Putting the "MO" in MOFO since 2004

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Monday, October 30, 2006

 

Confessions of a well intended, bad mannered, grateful ingrate

I have tortured myself over your thank-you cards for the last year.

If I could only write out thank you cards immediately, I would open up a whole section of my brain that is currently reserved and utilized solely for self-flagellation. Did I mention my self-induced cringing when I think of my own apparent lack of gratitude every time I look at gifts from loved ones, which are evidence of my etiquetteal oversights?

I AM grateful for the thoughtful and lovely things people give to me and our daughter. Not that anyone would know it. Because I keep forgetting to send thank-you cards to the generous friends and family who bestowed these gifts upon me.

Two months ago, my neighbor Nadine gave us these adorable wooden letters that spell our M-A-G-G-I-E, and I have yet to give her a thank you card.

My friend Jen and her new husband Steve hosted a great night out last weekend, which I enjoyed immensely. I intend to send a card to thank them for their generosity. But I haven’t done it yet.

My cousins Tiffany and Shanna gave Maggie these fantastic books last year for Christmas. My cousin Andy’s wife and my cousin Amy sent these adorable overalls and a little crocheted sweater last winter. I meant to get a card out right away. But I never did.

Basically two thirds of the people who have given Maggie a birthday or Christmas present in the last 2.5 years have not received a thank-you card. I am terrible. REALLY. I am.

Yet, here I sit, cringing.

At my desk at work sits a thank you card for friends of ours for a wedding gift. They gave us a lovely set of Henkels steak knives in their very own butcher block. I wrote out the card and hung onto it because they were in the midst of a move, and I did not yet have their new address. That was three years ago September.

The card is actually written and sealed, and has been for over three years, yet there it sits. I wonder if it’s too late to send it in.

These same friends were over for dinner a while back, and as she and I worked in the kitchen together, she took notice of my knives. I totally froze, broke out into a cold sweat, and secretly wished for our really bad country-themed linoleum to swallow me up. She started asking questions. Did I put them in the dishwasher? Why did we have two kinds of knives? She was torturing me on purpose. I knew it. I called her bluff and casually reminded her that they had given us the fabulous knives, and that we used them all the time. “Huh” she sniffed. Did I detect an eensy weensy bit of hostility? Part of me feared a sharp knife to my socket. But I deserved to sweat a little. I mean, three years? Come on.

The truth is, I think of my cousins Tiffany and Shanna every time we read Maggie’s favorite books, all of which came from them, and for which I have yet to send thank you cards. They gave them to us last Christmas. I marvel at how they managed to know exactly what Maggie would love (an enormous encyclopedia of animals complete with hundreds of illustrations, most of which Maggie can now identify, a huge book of fairy tales full of dragons, and a book called “Maggie and the Monster” which she can recite the first 5 pages of from memory at barely 2 years old.

Then I wince at my own personal scourge of bad manners. I am a heel. Not only that, but my cousin Tiffany, one of the benefactors, is a master of correspondence. Not only does she always send a thank you card, or postcard when traveling around the world, but she writes all sorts of great things that show she out THOUGHT into her notes. She puts me to SHAME.

I think of our friends every time we use those steak knives.

I am grateful. Yet I am haunted by shame about my own bad manners.

Last year for Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me an enormous box of thank you cards. She is the kind of person who will make sure you get a card no more than 48 hours after having her over for dinner. I took the hint and promised myself I would try harder. I don’t think its’ going so well.

Here is the question. At what point do you look like an absolute freak for sending out a thank-you note? Is there a sane limit? Because I can remember a wedding gift I meant to send but never did that dates back to about 1995. And I KNOW they would think I was koo-koo nuts if I sent it out now (mainly because I haven’t seen them for eleven years).

In addition, is it selfish of me to send them out at this point only to clear my own tortured conscience? Isn’t that selfish in and of itself? How do I clear my mind and pay up these karmic debts?

This is the part where you add your two cents. But no flagellation, guilting or mocking. It’s already been self-induced three ways to Tuesday.

Monday, October 23, 2006

 

Van Morrison

It’s a rainy Monday and my neighbor in the cube-farm is playing Van Morrison’s greatest hits.

There is no other album that shoots me back faster to a specific place in time.

I was a trusting, overly enthusiastic college student who felt safe and headstrong. I wore high-wasted jeans, and I thought I looked good. I thought white Grenache from a box was rather sophisticated. I had recently paid off an enormous debt to my sorority that caused me great heartache, but also gave me a world-class education in responsibility. I learned the huge satisfaction one feels when they have cleaned up self-induced mess while maintaining a sense of dignity.

I believed people were good, first and foremost. I erred on the side of trusting. I see flashes of a kitchen table, a stained-glass overhead light, and a deck of “Uno” playing cards. The smells are sweet, cedary, and slightly musty. The lighting is warm, and I am safe in this place. It's 10:30 at night, and it's snowing outside. The quiet, windless kind of snow that makes you want to put on your boots and an over-sized coat from the back of the closet that makes your nose itch, and trudge to the store for more cigarettes. The kind of snow you can HEAR hitting the ground softly.

The memory is bittersweet, and gets caught in the back of my throat. I worry that I like that version of me better than the one I see today. I was less angry. I gave more of myself to those around me.

I miss that me.

On the other hand, I too often judged myself based on what other people felt. I worried about how I was perceived. I jumped through hoops like a trick poodle. I had to be perfect, and to be perfect, I had to figure out what people wanted, and then give it to them.

Still, I fear I have grown to be an emotional miser. Suspect and stingy. Angry. I have seen a lot of behavior from people I have loved that has caused me enormous pain. Certainly, I have dished up similar meals and served them to members of my own inner circle.

How do I forgive, and reconcile that slightly annoying, optimistic, and younger version of me? The me I was before I understood the dark things in people. The conflicts between pure and good, and the demons we all battle within ourselves. I feel too wise to the ways of the world to go back. But sometimes I really want to.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

 

Raw deal

Having just read this Article, I have an overwhelming urge to kick the nearest American policymaker in the gonads. Viva La France.

p.s. If you want to find out how to actually DO something about it, check out momsrising.org,and sign up here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

 

Push + Pull = Stuck

ambivalence

Pronunciation Key [am-biv-uh-luhns]

–noun 1. uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.

2. Psychology. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.

Monday, October 16, 2006

 

Who's zooming who?

A visitor to our suburban rambler of late might wonder what the awful racket is all about.

It goes something like this: “Screech! Rattle-rattle-thump-thump- shriek-shriek-indignant-whimper-thump-thump-sob!”. It lasts for about a minute and seven seconds.

It’s the sound of Maggie getting a time-out. In her room, not a “naughty spot”. I lack the strength and stamina to try to keep a 25 month old child in one spot against her will. Instead, I shut her in her room while she screams and heaves herself against the door in a state of total indignation and panic.

One could say she is not yet taking behavior modification gracefully.

I hate giving them. I know I am supposed to give her a minute for each year old she is (two), but I can barely make it past a minute, seven seconds. The sound of her sobbing in agony just about kills me, and I sit and watch the clock. I have yet to make it to a full 2 minutes.

We give time outs pretty sparingly, and I am trying so very hard to be consistent. She always gets a clear warning first, and so far, she has received time-outs for the following offenses:

Opening up the refrigerator door after being warned not to, whilst looking me straight in the eye and smirking.
Hitting, kicking, hair-pulling, or any other physical maiming-type aggression. So far these have been inflicted solely upon me.

I hear that it’s normal for children to be aggressive towards their mothers, and that it’s actually indicative of a trusting relationship.

Apparently it means that she trusts me not to slap her back, squarely across the face in retaliation, or yank her hair with freakish strength, or “forget” to bring her home from the grocery store when she pummels and maims me.

They say that toddlers act out this way because they lack the verbal skills to express themselves.

Then I think about last week, when Maggie looked at me, giggling, and said “Mommy’s got a BIG NOSE!”, and I realize she is pretty well capable of expressing herself.

Sixty-seven seconds into the time-out, I predictably cave in and open the door to find her, hot and red-faced and tear-streaked. It hurts my heart to see her in such a state.

She sniffles and asks anxiously “a hug?” Then she throws her tiny, freakishly strong arms around my neck and holds on for dear life. I explain to her again, why she got a time-out, as she clings to me, full of remorse and anxiety.

And I melt into a big pile of goo. Sometimes a big pile of goo with a little toddler hand-print still throbbing on my cheek, but a pile of goo nonetheless.

I think she is starting to “get it”. So am I. I remind myself that it’s good for her to learn the boundaries, and that these things make her feel safer in the long run. It’s hard on both of us, and it’s for the best.

But I sure do love those hugs when all is said and done. She presses her tear-streaked cheek to my neck, and gasps "Cookie?"

I nod, take her hand, and we walk to the cupboard together to get her a cookie.

I have to hand it to her. The child. She's good.