10

Ask the Internet

I’m sitting at the computer, searching for answers to questions Peanut has asked this week. When he asks me something I can’t answer, I save his queries on my phone for a calm moment at home. Then we sit down together and search for answers at least once a week. Part of the process is teaching him how to search for answers in a post-encyclopedia era. And part of the process is nestling next to each other and staring at a screen.

It’s unreasonable, I know, to make the learning process into a fear about some day losing him. But that’s where my brain goes when he’s not in the room. When he wants to know something, I can help him, but too much of the time he’s with someone else, asking someone else, exploring the world without me. And it will only get larger, the chasm of time that exists between moments that I get to see him. Breakfast…blink…almost dinner. I can’t help but think, as we find photos of icebergs and technical discussions of cave extraction, that he’s with me for so short a time. And I ache with the thought that some day he’ll be gone. I want to tell him all the things and listen to his every thought and absorb the way he thinks. And I know that sounds creepy and it’s probably just early-morning-me waxing affectionate about a wonderful creature who will frustrate me to within an inch of my life over the next 13 hours. But my love for my children grabs me at quiet moments and shakes me until my teeth chatter and my brain liquifies.

I want our lives full of wonder and exploration and creation. But how to create that when our days are chock full of getting ready and doing chores and running errands and doing things that need to be done? All of us. Not just my family, but every adult human on the planet. Paying bills and getting to work or looking for a job. Preparing food, cleaning up, making appointments, taking the bus.

So much of life is drudgery. How do we find enough magic to get us through the inane tasks?  How much wonder does a child need so that she arrives at adulthood appreciating life and marveling at the world enough to want to take care of it? How much wonder do we need to create to engage them?

I have tabs open so we can read through a slideshow of megaliths, glaciers, and base jumping technical equipment. And I  marvel at how far we’ve come from my childhood when you took questions to the encyclopedia at the library. I wonder what life and technology and knowledge will look like when my children are grown.

And gone.

See what my brain does? “How to get through, is this enough, are we enough, this is nice, my children will leave.”

Anybody else turn a question about glaciers into a panic that this moment is fleeting and that loved ones will change, grow, and drift away?

Can’t just be me, right?

Doesn’t matter, I guess. It’s almost time for him to wake up and make me pancakes. It’s the least he can do, since I’m going to show him what the Internet has to say about cave extraction techniques and since he will someday need to make pancakes for himself…and probably someone special. Oh, geez. I need to go breathe into a paper bag.

5

Win

I just remembered, with no reminders at all, that my campus library books had to be renewed today.

And I actually remembered my password.

These books that I haven’t read have now been successfully renewed. On time. For the eleventh month in a row.

I have one month, seriously, seriously, seriously, to read them. And take meticulous notes. And write the paper that’s been hanging over my head for four years.

But none of that matters today, because I win at renewing books.

Success!

0

New Year’s Refocusing

Never a big fan of the concept of resolutions, I nevertheless embrace the idea that a new year is a captivating opportunity to reassess, refocus on priorities, and set new goals.

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the new year is also a good time to see how high you can climb

So our family talked all this week at dinner about what we remember from 2013. Peanut learned to read…really read…and committed himself with intense commitment to being on a team. Butter learned to ride a bike, unbuckle his own seatbelt, and wipe his own bum. (Holla 2013!) I revised my novel once and am excited to find time for another this year. I also applied for an ideal full-time job and after shrugging off the rejection, booked two contract jobs I’m enjoying.

Together over dinner and dessert and bath and cuddles this week we recounted the year and recalled our camping trips, our regular hikes, and the fun we had with family and friends. We celebrated the time we helped rescue a stranded seal pup and the adorable kittens we brought home from the shelter.

And tonight I asked everyone, as we settled in the darkness just before bed, what they wanted for our family in 2014.

Spouse said he wants us all to be more gentle with each other and to use our words more.
I said I want us to teach each other and make our home a place everyone feels safe rather than attacked.

Peanut says he wants more camping.

Butter says he wants doughnuts.

Spouse said he wants more nights like the one where we tasted dragonfruit.

Peanut said he’d really like to visit a cave.

Butter said he’d really like to try a doughnut.

Peanut said he’d like to see if there are any pyramids around here.

I said I want to visit family more often, see friends more often, and hike more often.

 

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December 30, 2013.
No, seriously. December. They’re clearly as crazy as they are adorable.

 

But really, I’ve been thinking about what I don’t want to change in 2014.

We’ve made it a habit to stay in touch with the friends who need us and the friends who make us want to be our best selves.

We started this year reading poetry over breakfast. We all enjoy it. A lot. Mostly because this month featured Shel Silverstein. That dude cracks us up, and not just because we picture my dad hassling him in S.F. in the late 60s.

We also started doing Mad Libs at dinner, right before we talk about the best and the most challenging parts of our day. You can’t beat a second-grader listing nouns and adjectives while the preschooler takes all requests for silly words and numbers.

I’ve been working to teach my body that when one boy hurts the other, adrenaline isn’t necessary. A calm script is. I want to keep working that script. Because reacting as though every punch is the end of civilization as we know it and a sure sign my children will spend most of their lives in prison just isn’t working for us. So I’ll stay on 2013′s path toward serenity in the midst of testosterone. [Note I said toward. I'm really, really, really far from that goal. But trying is always good, unless you listen to Yoda.]

Exercise and way less sugar has helped my focus. So this year I’ll keep adding exercise and keep minimizing sugar. I might wait another year before I ask my kids to let me meditate for five minutes in the morning.

Client projects have been welcome distractions from my already long to-do lists. Spending time with friends at the expense of projects has made me happier and justifiably pressured to focus on what’s important.

Going to bed early and getting up early to create for myself and for clients is still a huge struggle. But a journey of a thousand minutes begins by not snoozing my “go to bed” alarm. Which means I have to leave you now and prepare for an early morning “write now” alarm.

Here’s hoping that in 2014 you keep what you want and jettison what didn’t work in 2013. What are you working toward this year?

8

Missing: brain

Someone hit fast forward on my life and this month is flying by as though someone is playing a 33 at 45. (I’m reasonably sure that 85% of my readers know what that would do, which we can all pretend means we’re cultured not old.)

I have three new clients this week. Three. They all need something right away, which excites me and also makes we want to cry wee little baby tears. There is a fair number of gifts and donations and cards and foodstuffs to handle this month, as most of your know from your own experience with MP3s becoming MP8s. I also have a set of reviews to write, research to summarize, surveys to analyze, emails to compose, packages to mail, and four small creatures to keep off the table.

Shall we take a kitten break after all that? Let’s.

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kittens in Peanut’s lap

 

 

kittens in Butter's lap

kittens in Butter’s lap

kittens in my lap!

kittens in my lap!

And in this sped up world where voices are veering toward the chipmunk end of the spectrum, I’m not doing so well.

A week ago, when one kid threw up all over the jogging stroller and killed my rare opportunity to exercise, I took him home and promptly forgot that I was substituting for a colleague for an hour, completely spaced a conference call, and blanked on my promise to bring something for the elementary school teachers’ lunch. Totally forgot my whole day because one kid barfed. Rookie move.

This week, I rushed home from dropping off at school to make a lunchtime conference call. Still in my coat I set up what I needed, plugged in all video call whozits and whatsits, tidied a bit, and nervously checked the fridge. After I shut the door I pushed the button in my pocket to lock and set the alarm. And then I actually paused for a moment to figure out why the fridge didn’t respond to the car’s key-fob lock button.

That’s more than operating on autopilot. That’s operating on autospacecase.

This weekend, when I was taking my son and his friend to fencing, I missed an interchange and went 15 miles out of our way on the wrong freeway. Thirty miles extra driving because I was so oblivious to the world and so lost in my head (one kid was telling me about arrowheads and I was brainstorming with him what type of stone it must have been made of) that I totally forgot where we were going. Signs pointing towards brain dead.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but maybe I need to slow down a bit. Fewer clients? Lower expectations? More kitten time? Because we did have one heavenly moment, the boys and I, where we all cuddled up on a couch and let the kittens walk from lap, trying to decide who has the warmest place for a nap. I never win that game. Something about always wearing my coat, just in case I need to lock the car. Or the fridge.

2

How much salt is in the ocean?

This week’s family fencing was lovely. And before my son’s lesson, when we picked up our friend, his little brother gushed to me about his first performance on stage. He’d worked hard and will be in his very first musical, and he talked about dress rehearsal and the costumes and his role. And I loved every minute of it because that’s another bug I love to see children catch. Theater and fencing in one day? Heaven.

So I thought about what’s important to share with my children. Making memories and building traditions and exposing them to what’s important: how do we choose, given limited time and limited resources? My answer has always been to plan in advance and prepare carefully. But life is getting way too messy for that.

We’ve always been a science-y family. When Peanut got lice, he was so excited because he wanted to see them under the microscope. When he asked which weighed more—orange juice or milk—we experimented to find out. But I’ve gotten away from experiments because I have no time to prep. I have client work and Board work and friendships to cultivate and a novel to edit and December to surmount. I can’t manage science, too.

Except I can.

So when Peanut asked how much salt is in the ocean, we looked it up. And we concocted simulated ocean water: 3.5 tablespoons of salt to 1 liter of water.

Then, in two separate containers, we made a saturated and a supersaturated saline solution: two jam jars, one with hot water and one with cold. We just kept adding salt, a teaspoon at a time, until one solution couldn’t hold any more.

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We added another teaspoon to see if anything surprising precipitated out. And then we kept going until the second jar hit its salt maximum.

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We watched over the next hour as the hot solution cooled to see if it would shake any of its salt out or if the cold solution would suck up a bit more.

Everyone tasted the solutions. And spat them out in horror, answering Peanut’s question about why you can’t just drink ocean water if you’re thirsty. (Butter made every guest that evening taste some, and to his delight, they were all horrified, too.)

And then the kids got bored. But I kept the solutions (and not just because they had several dollars’ worth of sea salt in them.)

The next day when they were getting on each other’s nerves, I asked them to find tiny objects. Ad we floated them in tap water, ocean water, and hypotonic saline. Bread ties, sunflower seeds, dried macaroni, plastic lids, flashlight parts.

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Maybe I can actually work this in. One small step at a time.

4

Second-generation fencer

I have to admit to unreasonable happiness—nay, untoward joy—that my son showed interest in fencing. And that his friend initiated a conversation about trying fencing. And that my sweet and wonderful coach, a fencing master with decades of experience teaching kids to fence has classes we can actually attend.

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I will also admit to actual tears watching the man I’ve appreciated for 20+ years show my dear little guy, whom I’ve only known for about eight years, why a foil is not a sword (because it’s made dull, flexible, and not intended to harm), why the en garde position is ideal for fencing (showing less target, weapon hand in position to defend and attack), and why the sport is called fencing (offense then defense then offense then defense in rapid, unpredictable succession).

I beamed with pride watching Peanut’s personality show itself on the strip. Though cautious and analytical, he rarely hesitated and pursued opportunities without the sort of relish you kind of need for a sport where someone is pointing a stick at your face.

And I laughed a bit dragging him and his friend out the door several hours later, telling them that it’s better to leave wanting more than to leave after the fun has worn off.

Peanut said, on the way home, “I think I want to fence every day.”

His friend said, long after bedtime, “I just can’t sleep. I can’t stop thinking about fencing.”

And I teared up a bit more about that. I’m not a pushy fencing mom, and if they both want to quit after the first month I’m fine with that. But it feels really good to hear them relish something I love. Because it’s nice to share something…really share something…with your child.*

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*I’m not actually sharing it with him yet, though, since he refuses to fence me during open fencing. But some day there might be a moment he’s confident enough in himself and in my  ability to modify my technique to fence a beginner that we’ll have a photo of us fencing together. Five bucks says I cry. A lot.

9

Decembexpectations

Maybe it’s the lack of vitamin D. Maybe it’s the cold, the dark, the crush of humanity in every corner, as though the calendar hits December and millions of residents normally housebound show up and get in my way.

Whatever it is, something has put me in a MOOD.

I don’t much care. I stumble upon moods regularly. They sneak up on me with surprising regularity and it’s only because I am oblivious to the rapid passage of time that I’m shocked. Oh, look!  A rotten mood! Why, it’s been ages, since…oh, well, yeah. That makes sense. My moods are rarely perky or cheerful or celebratory. The best I do is grateful. Grateful and industrious are my two best moods. My worst moods are downright malignant. I don’t think I technically reach down to depressed, but I definitely mood along like a fungus, infecting everything in my path, nurturing morose and disaffected as though they were teeny tiny balls of cynicism and depression in need of snarls and unreasonable reactions to survive their nasty infancies. Oh, how I coddle those moods.

So I readily admit that I get malignantly depressive often enough.  But I believe I save my genuinely misanthropic worst for December.

It’s not my fault. Everyone else’s is culpable for my mood. They‘re the ones driving through parking lots and stopping just because someone else is walking, maybe toward a car, maybe to get in the car, and maybe to leave. That’s a lot of maybes, jackalopes, so drive your stinking car until you see white tail lights.

Everyone else is the problem in part because they feel they have to be out of their dens, forcibly creating merriment and cheer for their own families but in the process obliterating all the joy and peace in my life.  Get out of my way, people. Don’t frown at me. I summoned all my social-expectation training and smiled at you, bastard.  The least you can do is smile back. Or look down. Don’t effing sneer at me or I will break off my own femur at a dangerous angle just so I can use it to CUT YOU!

[Did I tell you the lovely story about New Year's in Boston? New Year's Eve morning I'm in California, and walk to the post office. I lamely wait in line until some nice people point out that I can take my stamped letter to the slot over there. I thank them, note embarrassingly that I've forgotten to wear my glasses, and drop my mail in the out-of-town slot. On my way out the door, two stop me.  "Since you don't have your glasses, we can drive you home. It doesn't seem safe if you can't see." Thank you, you delightful people, but I walked. I'll be fine.
Fast forward fourteen hours and I'm in Boston walking to the T from a performance. Red light, all revelers stop and look around at the magic that is Newbury at 2am the first day of the year. Green light, walk. And I hear someone say, "Why the hell are people smiling? Can't they look down like the rest of us and get on with their day?" Ah, Boston. Would it kill you to lighten up a bit? Say, for instance, spew grouchiness about the people who don't smile, as I'm doing so well in this post?]

Everyone else ought to try just a bit harder in December. I’m not talking the poor people working retail and food services. There’s a special place in the Universe full of sunshine and purified Martian water for people who have to work with the public in December. No, when I demand more effort, I mean the jackasses who are barking coffee orders and complaining about stores’ blazing temperature and sneering about tips and generally making humanity look bad. Yeah, I’m talking about that guy, but I’m also talking about all the people around him who ignore that he’s being a jerk.

Look, people, it’s time to step in. When someone’s yelling at a clerk, please, for the sake of all that’s hopeful about December, ask that rude s.o.b. politely if it would help for you to find a manager. When he says, “No, it’s not that big a deal,” please tell him, “Yes, it is, because you’re being abusive and I want to help that poor clerk.” When someone is whining about being in a line, please, for the sake of all of us who have to be in the crush of humanity this time of year, tell that whiner that even though it’s frustrating, everyone else tries their best not to make the situation worse and could she please put a sock in it before you take a poll amongst the other residents in the world’s longest line whether to vote her off the island right now.

I’m so tired of people! I want all them all home, shopping online, giving to charity online, shipping packages online, paying bills online, and socially interacting online. I’d like more of them to consider grocery delivery. And muzzles.

Because seriously, y’all, humanity is working my last nerve this December.

10

Christmas fight

christmas

 

To be honest, it’s the same silly fight, more or less, every year. But being predictable isn’t the most ridiculous part of this debate.

“This can’t be all the lights. We’re, like, a foot from the top of the tree!”

“This can be all the lights because it is all the lights.”

“No way. They worked last year.”

“Smaller tree.”

“No way. Same size tree.”

“Are you going to fix the lights?”

“No. There’s no way…”

“Just fix them.”

“Easy for you to say. I always do the lights.”

“So shouldn’t you be better at putting them on right?”

“They are on right, smartass. They just don’t go all the way up.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Fine. I’ll finesse them a bit. But it’s going to drop even more needles if I go around and around taking the slack out of the lights.”

“So move the tree away from the wall.”

“You. It’s too hard to move.”

“Then why would I do it?”

“Because I said so.”

“Please fix the lights.”

“Fine.” Takes ten minutes to rewrap the tree. “Is that good?”

“If by good you mean closer to the top.”

“I do.”

“Then, yes, it’s ‘good.’”

“Don’t finger-quote. Just…fine. You do it.”

“I’m not doing it. You’re the lights person.”

“But why? Why do I do this every year?”

“Because you do it wrong every year then want someone else to fix it. So if you have to fix it yourself, nobody has to listen to you control-freak all over them.”

“I don’t ‘control freak all over…’. Damn it. I want to rewrap this.”

“Go ahead.”

“This is the last time, though.” Fixes lights on tree, which is still against the wall. Lights are perfect, tree is perfect, life is perfect.

“That looks great.”

“It does, doesn’t it. Thank you. Now you sweep up the needles.”

“No way.”

“Why not?”

“Because you made the mess and you have to clean it up.”

As ridiculous and childish as this fight is, I find it more ridiculous and childish that I’m having it with myself. Because my husband won’t get within 50 feet of the tree when I’m stringing the lights.

Mostly because he knows I’ll have this fight with or without him, and he prefers…greatly prefers…that I have it without him.

9

Kittens. I lose.

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Two feline brothers sitting alap the eldest human brother. I’m soooo outnumbered.

No names yet. A whopping two pounds each, fresh from the local shelter.

The kittens adore the boys wild, loud, and subdued. The boys adore the kittens awake, asleep, and playful.

And while the kittens are in their own room, learning the house slowly, I’m very happy with this new development.

Call me next week when the tree is decorated and the kittens have run of the house and we’ll see.

20

Kittens

I’m being outvoted. Right here, right now.

kittens

The kids want kittens.

Spouse wants kittens.

I’m having nightmares about Black Friday emails and Cyber Monday emails and Last Night of Hanukkah emails about KITTENS.

We’re dog people. And when our cat died earlier this year we were heartbroken. And it took about a week for someone to say, quietly, “time for a dog.”

But I’m not training a puppy. And I’m not socializing an older dog. And I’m not paying a fortune for the medical bills of a senior dog. All of those statements are heartless and cruel, and I don’t care. I don’t need another child, and let’s face it: adding a dog to our family would be as much work as having another child.

It already takes everything I have to keep my boys from killing each other. Every other minute. I’m not going to tell them to stop wrestling the dog, too.

It already takes half an hour to leave the freaking house, trying to keep calm while the fiascos and the fights and the “oh, I forgot!” and the “wait for me!” and the “hey, I want to be first” nonsense ricochets all around me. I’m not adding a leash and a poop bag to that stressful chaos.

So I warmed, a bit, to the idea of cats. It’s been nice not having a litter box. Not worrying about keeping the door closed. Not paying for food and litter and toys and vet bills. Not watching where I step, being awakened by someone other than the three who already wake me, and not worrying about anyone or anything’s poop.

But we already know about cats. We have the stuff. The kids want something small to love.

And who can blame them?

Well, me. I can, if this turns out to be a horrible idea.

We’ve talked about how kittens don’t know the rules, and might fight with feet and hands and backpacks and LEGOs.

They say that’s okay.

We’ve talked about how, if a kitten tries to wrestle your hand or foot you have to say, “uh-oh” and remove that body part from their grasp. And how you have to get a toy as an alternative, but not so quickly that they think they’re being rewarded for clawing and gnawing on human flesh.

They say that’s okay.

We’ve talked about keeping items away from the edges of shelves and about gently removing kittens who jump on counters or tables.

They say that’s okay.

I’m running out of ammunition, people.

Because kittens.

kittens2

6

Sugar Finale

I set Thanksgiving as the closing date for my experiment in cutting sugar and processed food from my frenzied life. Exhausted from late nights of work fueled by cases of gummy widgets, I wanted to find another way.

gummy-cola-bottles

So I vowed to ditch sugar, processed grains, and packaged foods. And it was rough at first. Painful, annoying, frustrating, and almost impossible.

Almost.

But over the past five weeks I’ve cut my sugar intake more than 90%. I no longer crave sweets, and I’ve replaced some of my worse habits with better choices. I’ve tried several new foods and found new favorites. Because I forced myself to replace sugar in my coffee, my snacks, my meals, my late night energy crutch, I’m fueling smarter. I’m choosing to put food into my body when it needs food energy, but trying to use exercise energy and sleep energy and breathing energy, too, as part of an attempt to slow down the trainwreck of my eighteen-hour days.

When I first started this experiment, I would crave candy and stare in frustration at the forbidden candy cabinet. (Yup. Whole cabinet. Love candy. Always have. Fifth food group. Or first, really.) Now when I crave candy, I ask myself what I really want, and I think it over while drinking a glass of water. Not because it’s a trick or because I’m supposed to, but because it makes sense. I’ve always known sugar cravings stem from thirst and exhaustion. But sugar is delicious and easy, so it was hard to choose water first. But now I hydrate and ponder going to bed. And most of the time I rearrange my to-do list, whittle only the most important items, and go to bed, on average, an hour earlier than I did before the sugar-avoidance experiment.

Processed grains were a harder part of my experiment, and after a week, honestly, I gave up. I like bread. There’s nothing inherently bad about bread, especially since we eat whole grain, crunchy-granola-Berkeley bread. Eating thoughtlessly, on autopilot, and from packages was my problem. So I kept the bread and ditched other forms of processing.

The packages were forbidden for a while, and now I don’t want them. Crackers, cookies, and pasta don’t call to me. I know there’s something delicious, quick, and healthy in the fridge that takes longer but feels better.

My habits are different, my choices are better, and I’m thoughtful about what I’m eating. Minimal sugar, minimal processing, more water, more sleep, and many compromises.

Sounds like success to me. Not perfect, not 100%. But success.

4

Full of thanks

I’m grateful, eternally, for my two healthy, happy boys.

And I remember that every day and every night, including last night when my eldest woke me with the scared yelp of a child just before he throws up. Poor guy. Puked all night, thanks to a fever that hit after he went to sleep. No Thanksgiving gathering for him today. But lots of chess and cards and movies with his dad, who also missed the family gathering. My poor little Peanut.

The little guy accompanied me to my favorite holiday, a huge family potluck in which we catch up and celebrate family for half the day. Butterbean didn’t celebrate as much as I did, likely due to the gash in his chin from a fall just after our early dinner.  He’s bled through several bandages, and though I’m grateful for family with better first aid kits than I have in the car, my preschooler is thankful perhaps only for the frozen fun-size chocolate bar that his auntie used as an impromptu ice pack when she saw the blood.

I’m grateful that there are more discussions lately about the nuanced legacy of the first Thanksgiving, coloring the fable of glorious perseverance to reveal, too, the harm caused by European exploration and colonization of North America. I’m glad we’re talking about the terrible ways in which our ancestors treated the tribal peoples native to the place we are so thankful for, because if we can’t talk honestly about the nasty blemishes in our history, we’re not what we claim we are.

I’m grateful for the friends and family in our lives this year, because I know next year will be different. I miss the friends we lost this year and I’m glad I got to meet them. I’m sad for the friends and family who aren’t doing well, but I’m glad that I met them and got to share lovely bits of their lives. I’m grateful for those recovering, and I’m grateful to be able to help, even in small ways, those who aren’t.

I’m grateful for the clients who pay me to write and to the readers who graciously read what I write.

I’m grateful for living in a place with amazing weather and fabulous food.

I’m grateful for the opportunities still open, even as I check my panic at those that have closed.

I’m grateful that tonight we’re safe, we’re warm, we’re fed, and we’re healthy.

Not many can say the same.

What are you grateful for?

8

Descriptive linguistics FTW!

Last night after a Board meeting, I was talking with friends and one expressed shock bordering on horror that I text using abbreviations and conventions created and commonly accepted within that linguistic space.

“I’m rather surprised to find out you’re an LOL and OMG and emoticon person.”

Well, I’m a linguistically adaptable person, actually. I don’t use those conventions outside texts and social media, in which characters are constrained and, generally, keyboarding is limited. I don’t say “LOL” in conversation, nor when using a keyboard. I do, though, use LOL where it is a standard part of the lexicon, because I’m speaking in a colloquial language and don’t feel the need, surrounded by LOLers, to destroy my reputation and thumbs with “oh, wow, that is truly funny.”  Recall David Foster Wallace’s review of Bryan Gardner’s Modern American Usage (which review appears in the nonfiction essay collection Consider the Lobster, and which review reiterated the annoying grammatical tic in which Wallace uses “which” in ways that make me itch ), in which Wallace explains that, when talking with Midwestern friends he uses expressions like “where you at?” because conditional, situational lexical conformity performs significant social functions including masking an erudite prescriptivist snobbery amongst those who disdain such ridiculousness. You know the type…for instance, the raised eyebrow of disdain arched toward a friend who fully embraces emoticons in text messages.

My friend last night seemed to believe that my using LOL and winky emoticons made me shockingly deviant in my linguistic standards. But am I actually failing the language because I OMG when I reply to a text about how awful I am at karaoke? Of course not. (I am, however, failing both George Michael and Rick Springfield when I belt their songs in a key somewhere between those singers’ ranges and my own. Said performances deserved several horrified OMGs.)

The older I get, the more I tend toward descriptivist linguistics. I have been out of academia long enough to know we can’t stem the tide of language shifts, texting enough that I appreciate the culture’s willingness to embrace an abbreviated language parallel to government employees’ acronym dialect, and old enough to know that my pedantic “kids these days are ruining the language” tendencies unveil a knowledge that kids these days are actually going to rule the world. And I, for one, I don’t want to be railing against their language from my rocking chair, cane aloft, countering every miscast objective who with “it’s whom, you linguistic hoodlums!”

Okay, yes, I do.

But I am in my old age moving toward the point of linguistic early adoption, at least within technological theaters.  I gleefully read the Atlantic’s piece about the new preposition, used in online English. Though I was late to OMG and LOL and LMAO, I have jumped on the prepositional-because trend, thanks to my social-media bestie, Twitter.

I love Twitter. I don’t read my feed as much as I used to, for in the land of “may your days be merry and bright starting next week with a rare Thanksgivukkah,” I don’t have time to get my Twitter fix. But I’m quite fond of the prepositional-because.

I do plan, however, on shaking my cane from my rocking chair and bellowing, “it’s not a ‘because-noun!’ Because grammatical naming conventions!”

Go check out the article, whether you find my texts irritatingly colloquial or not. The Atlantic has posted as pleasant a read on descriptive-linguistic developments as possible, and that’s saying a lot.

Which language deviances do you commit in limited settings? Do you eschew LOL unless you’re actually laughing out loud? Will you text a “K” to avoid all those messy characters in “okay”? Do you reject all emoticons or employ them with reckless abandon? Have you crossed into “srsly” and “pls” to save characters or do you share Steve Martin’s insistence on proper spelling in Tweets?

9

Batkid’s Mom

Oh how I cried today following the escapades of the miraculous little boy whose leukemia is in remission and who asked the Make a Wish Foundation to make him Batman.

batkid

San Francisco complied in muthafugging spades, y’all. Told they could make a dream come true, the best city in the world said, “oh, we can do better than that.” The red carpet was rolled out for the caped crusader, and his family watched as more than 12,000 of our desperately kind residents played along and cheered for mocked up superhero situations.

cityhall

The Department of Justice joined in. The FBI. The S.F. Giants. The President of the United States. All cheering for a boy who pretend-saved the city, because we all knew that he actually made it through a terrible, life-threatening disease.

And in every photo, I sobbed at two particular images: his family and the crowds.

I started crying when I saw Batkid’s brother, dressed as Robin, because leukemia is hard on siblings, too. Like all major illness it puts parents in a precarious position of needing to give one child 150% and needing to find another 100% for the healthy sibling. So I cried for Batkid’s brother, whom I’m positive is loved and doted upon, but who also went through family turmoil with that leukemia.

I wept for Batkid’s father. The guy who wanted to be Batman all along, to have superpowers and carry his family away from the pain and the fear and the chemo and the private life lived publicly in a hospital. I cried for how powerless they probably felt during the whole, terrible, awful ordeal. And for how fear probably creeps in at night, reminding both of the adults that remission is a wonderful but terrifying word.

And how I sobbed for Batkid’s mother. Just as powerless as dad and just as hopeful for a superhero miracle. Full of love and fear and anger and hope and exhaustion and sadness from the moment of diagnosis. Oh, I can’t imagine. Batkid was diagnosed with leukemia at 20 months and just finished his last round of chemo. One single minute of your child with cancer is too much. Even one minute of waiting for test results and waiting for donors and waiting as hospital takes blood from your kid to tell you if he’s going to live is just too many minutes. One is far too many for anyone to endure. So I cried for Batkid’s mom and for all the moms.

And I cried for our friend who went through a similar diagnosis and terrifying year of medical upheaval, too. And who now has a wonderful, healthy family and for whom I can’t even articulate my joy and sorrow and pride because it’s all just too big.

Yes, it’s glorious that a whole city put aside business to cheer for a child. We have heard so much of bickering and governments paralyzed with petulance, death and destruction and famine and global weather catastrophes…it was heavenly to just cheer. And cheer and cheer and cheer for a classic triumph of good over evil.

But damn I cried for Batkid’s mother and father and brother. And for him. I cried for Miles. I’m so glad Make a Wish executed this amazing feat. I’m so proud of San Francisco for transforming from a warm, welcoming city to the model of compassion and heart. I’m so thrilled for Miles and his family that he’s healthy.

I’m just so grateful for something to cheer for.

Go donate to Make a Wish. And to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. And to the typhoon victims. And contribute to every bit of kindness you can in this world, because gawd it was nice to have Batkid Day today.