Oh, Christmas Tree

This is my Christmas tree. It’s a 7 foot, artificial, pre-lit number that I’ve had for about three years. Growing up, we always had real trees. And while I miss them, I like the fact that I can put my tree up after Thanksgiving and it looks just as beautiful past the New Year. No saggy, dry branches or shedding needles. To get the smell of the tree, I buy a real wreath and hang it on the back of the front door. Voilà!

I’m a bit of a snob about Christmas trees, decorations and the like, so it wasn’t an easy decision to go with an artificial tree. I used to scoff at people with who had them. I used to say it was like having “a Bobble head Jesus in the manger”. It just wasn’t right. Now, I just make myself an eggnog, sit on the couch and revel in my excellent taste in ornaments.

Now, let’s talk about ornaments. I’m very picky. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I never liked the idea of having a tree-trimming party because I knew that I’d probably hate most of the ornaments that people brought me and even if I liked some of them, I knew I’d end up re-arranging them properly after everyone left. It’s much too stressful to smile at the tacky “Surfin’ Santa” ornament and exclaim, “I love it!” Then you have to put it up every year because you know that friend will look for it next Christmas. It’s much easier to buy your own ornaments.

You may be asking just what my ornament and decorating rules are. Excellent question. Thank you for playing along. Feel free to adopt these for yourself if you’re so inclined.

1. Stick with classic, old fashioned ornaments

For me, this is Victorian. Among my collection I have porcelain Santa faces, Tiny Tim holding a plum pudding, assorted angels and an antique bird.

There are none of the following on my tree: Disney figurines, folk art animals, cats on skateboards, Santa engaging in any un-Santa like behavior (i.e., surfing, riding a motorcycle, doing the hula, etc.)

2. Ornaments must rest securely and perfectly on a branch

This means that there is enough room below the ornament for it to hang as it was intended. No forcing an ornament into a space where it ends up resting on the branch below. That will not do. You must have a mix of long and short ornaments to make sure proper placement can be achieved.

3. Minimize the number of ornament sets

In essence, try to buy more individual ornaments instead of those boxes of identical green balls, red stars and silver bells. I admit to having some of these sets, but each year I cut down as I buy more individual ornaments. If you must use ornament sets, be sure to space them out around the tree and for goodness sake, don’t put two of the same set next to each other!

4. Don’t skimp on the back of the tree

Yes, I know it may face a wall or a window, but true Christmas tree connoisseurs will look at the back of your tree and judge it just as much as they’re judging the front of your tree. So be sure to decorate it just as seriously as the front. And don’t try hiding the ugly ornaments back there. We see them.

5. Take your time with decorating

This is where that artificial tree helps out. This year’s tree took me about three days to properly decorate. Part of the reason is because I’m getting older and I get exhausted and crankier much faster. But mainly it’s because I want to take care with each ornament and find the right spot for it. It’s not just for show that I do this. It’s because each ornament holds a memory for me.

 

 

 

When I hold this rocking horse, I remember when I bought it at Harrod’s when I was in England in 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of my few concessions to a non-traditional ornament. I made this bell out of a milk carton in kindergarten. It reminds me of my teacher, Mrs. Schmale and how sweet she was to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This crocheted Santa was made by an old German lady named Mrs. Mockel who lived across the street from me when I was a child. Her daughter and son-in-law owned the corner grocery store. It reminds me of all the great neighbors who helped shape me into the person I am today.

Perhaps the old-fashioned theme of my tree is about more than the types of ornaments I display. It’s about what those ornaments represent. They remind me of the past, whether that was my own past growing up in the 1960s and 1970s or a time when ancestors of mine decorated their trees with candles instead of lights and utilized whatever materials  were available or popular at the time.

So, if you’re celebrating Christmas and are starting to trim your tree, be sure to enjoy it and make the tree your own. What do you want it to express to the world? It doesn’t have to be like mine (although it would do my ego good). It just has to bring you joy when you look at it.

May your hooks be strong, your branches be firm and your memories be pleasant. I wish you the happiest of holidays, Surfin’ Santa or not.

Talking to Trees and Other Life Forms

I’ve been told that I can talk to a tree and get it to talk back to me. In my experience, oaks think they’re all wise and enlightened but for my money, it’s the redwood that is the king of the forest. Redwoods possess a quiet confidence that comes from knowing that they’re truly badasses. But I digress.

I chalk up my non-shyness to three things: being a Leo, being part Irish, and being part Italian. (The German part of me only kicks in with my love of order and things running on time.) If you were to ask me to name which qualities I like most about myself (aside from my sparkling wit, magnanimous nature and my humility, of course), an outgoing personality and an unquenchable curiosity would be those qualities.

I was reminded twice in the last week of how grateful I am to be a curious people-person.  The latest was yesterday while waiting for my mother at the doctor’s office. As usual, I started a conversation with the person next to me. He was an older man and we started off by talking about the score of the Giants game. (It was scoreless at the time.) I found out that his name was Angelo, that he grew up in North Beach and that he went to Galileo High School. I told him that I was from the Mission, that my parents went to Mission High School and that I went to Catholic schools.

Then his wife came out into the waiting room and we got to talking. I told her where I had gone to grammar school and to high school. As I mentioned the name of my high school, St. Rose Academy, a woman waiting at the front desk turned around and it was my Godmother. Not only that, my Godmother knew the people to whom I was talking! They lived in the same neighborhood.  It is a very small world indeed.

This is the kind of experience I’ve always had as a fourth-generation San Franciscan. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to since natives are a vanishing breed, and that saddens me. But, I just keep being open to new people and conversations.

This brings me to messages that both my mother and I received on our answering machines earlier this week. A man with a heavy Boston accent named Charlie called and was looking for a Frank Rutterman. He mentioned sports and something about a reunion. Mom ignored her message but then I got the same call.

It isn’t often that Mom or I get a call for my father since he’s been dead since 1991. But since this guy Charlie asked for Frank, I thought that perhaps he just mispronounced the last name and he was some old baseball buddy of my father’s. So, I figured, what the hell, I’ll give him a call back.

After some initial suspicion from Charlie’s wife as to my identity and why I was calling, Charlie got on the phone. Alas, he’s about 10 years younger than my Dad and the Frank he was looking for didn’t play baseball. He ran track. It seemed that Charlie’s track team was being inducted into the some Massachusetts state Hall of Fame or something and he’s been trying to locate some of his old teammates.

Once we knew that my Frank and his Frank weren’t the same guys, he asked me about my Dad. I told him that my Dad played baseball and that Ted Williams was his favorite player. Charlie then told me that he had a 1956 Ted Williams baseball card that was worth about $8,000. I told him that I grew up loving the Red Sox because of my Dad and that I only wish Dad had lived long enough to go to Fenway Park with me when I lived in Massachusetts.

Charlie and I talked for another 15 minutes or so. I wished him luck on finding his Frank and he thanked me for calling him back. He said that I sounded like a “helluva girl” and that he really enjoyed our conversation.

When I hung up, I quietly thanked my Dad for not only introducing me to the joy of baseball, but also for encouraging me to be friendly and to get to know people. If he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of sharing a little bit of him with Charlie from Wakefield. Thanks, Dad.

 

Baring My Soul About Bearing Arms

This is a 9 mm Smith & Wesson M&P. I bought it three and a half years ago and I’m not sure I want it anymore. The gun itself is very nice. The recoil isn’t too bad and there are interchangeable grips; a helpful feature for someone with small hands like me. The dilemma regarding ownership is purely a moral one.

Just like I didn’t come from a camping or skiing family, I didn’t come from a hunting or shooting family either. Oh sure, my Dad had a .38 Special he kept in his dresser drawer for protection living in the ‘hood and for shooting cans when we’d go on vacation to Guerneville on the Russian River. Luckily, he never had to use it in self-defense. It was never locked in a safe, or had a child lock on it. He did keep the bullets somewhere else, however. Back then, child-proofing involved a talk from Dad:

Dad
(showing me the gun)
This is Daddy’s gun. It’s not a toy.
Don’t touch it. Do you understand?

Kelly
Yes, Daddy.

That was it. He did try to teach my mother to shoot it once while we were on vacation. It didn’t go well. Even with such a tiny gun, Mom kept dropping the barrel and Dad worried that she’d shoot her foot. Or his. Hence, the lessons ended. When he died, Mom and I didn’t want the gun around since neither of us had the skill or the desire to shoot. So, we turned it in to the city of San Francisco for cash.

Fast-forward to 2008 and I found myself contemplating learning how to shoot. Part of my reasoning had to do with not wanting to be afraid of firearms. There was a lot of talk at the time about the Second Amendment and gun rights in general, so it got me to thinking that I should give this “right to bear arms” thing a whirl.

I took classes, bought the gun and for about a year, I went to the gun range almost every weekend. I found it empowering and humbling. Until you’ve fired a gun, you have no idea about the power that it expends. There is definitely a skill to target shooting and I loved challenging myself. I was also pleasantly surprised that the stereotype I had in my mind about “gun people” wasn’t what I experienced. At the range I frequented in Silicon Valley, the demographics included all age groups, men and women, and all different races and ethnicities. I realized that this was the Bay Area, but still, it was refreshing.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself not only disinterested in shooting but actually pondering the karmic ramifications of gun ownership for me. The main question is, am I inviting unwanted violence into my life by merely having a gun? I’ve always been someone who gave credence to the belief that we manifest what we focus on. And if my focus is on shooting a gun and getting better at it, am I somehow inviting the universe to provide me with an opportunity to do just that, but not at a paper target? It’s a frightening thought.

I’ve wondered if I’d have the same karmic dilemma if I decided to take self-defense classes or martial arts. Is there a difference between these two situations? I honestly don’t know. I do know that I’m really curious to get some input from any readers who have an opinion one way or the other.

Making the Skies Friendly for Adults

I’m sure that most of you have heard about the recent actions of a JetBlue captain when confronted with a disruptive child who wouldn’t calm down before take-off. If not, read about it here. To summarize, he threw the child and her family off the plane. All of us who have suffered through a flight with a child kicking their seat or screaming until dogs in other countries start howling, rejoiced.

What I was most surprised to see, at least on Twitter, was that even the general reaction was favorable. This is progress. People with children are sensitive to criticism about how children today behave and how they as parents, well, parent. I understand that. I’d probably feel the same way if I had children. The fact that I didn’t see an outcry over JetBlue’s actions made me wonder if parents are finally seeing misbehaving children as the rest of us do: as overly-coddled, whiny little brats.

 Maybe this explains the success of Pamela Druckerman’s book about the ways of French parenting, Bringing Up Bébé. It’s been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for three weeks and counting. In the book, Ms. Druckerman discusses the differences between how French and American parents see and treat their children and see themselves as parents. From what I can gather, a pilot wouldn’t have to throw a French family off a flight because of little Monique or Marcel.

 This news story also got me to thinking about an idea I’ve long had for airlines. So, listen up, JetBlue’s Dave Barger and Virgin’s Richard Branson. I think this could be a moneymaker for you. (Feel free to cut me in on some of the action, okay?) I have long thought that airlines should market “Family-Friendly” flights and “Child-free” flights, so that those people with children could have a flight geared towards keeping their children entertained and engaged with other kids. You know, special movies, games, etc. It’s the same idea behind movie theaters having family movie nights. By the same token, the main appeal of child-free flights would be, well, NO CHILDREN! Woo hoo! I don’t have to sell that one very hard, do I?

 When I used to suggest this idea to friends in the past, I was accused of hating children. This is not true. I don’t hate children. I hate the behavior of misbehaving children and the seeming obliviousness of their parents when they misbehave. I will admit to not having the patience gene when it comes to children. I’m impatient about most things. This doesn’t negate the argument for what I think is a fabulous business idea.

 I think this is a much more positive solution than the other one I’ve come up with: The Brat “Watch List”. Just like Homeland Security has a database of names of individuals who want to terrorize our skies with bombs and the like, maybe there should be a database of misbehaving children. Perhaps airlines should set up a “three strikes” type of policy. You get warned and/or reported twice without being thrown off a flight but, if it happens a third time, it’s back to the terminal for you, Junior.

 If it took off with airlines, it could be expanded to movie theaters (except on those designated family movie nights) and restaurants. The possibilities are endless! Going out in public could once again be enjoyable for adults! You can thank me now. And, Mr. Barger and Mr. Branson? I’m open to negotiation. Call me.

 

 

Yes, Sister Gabriel, There is a Santa Claus

This is me back in 4th grade in 1974. I can hear the giggles and see the pointing all the way across the blogosphere. God, that was a bad look for me. Although, the hair and sweater may have made me an excellent candidate for a spot with the Bay City Rollers. All I needed was a little tartan and a Scottish accent. What do you think?

It was before Christmas when this woman, Sister Gabriel, my 4th grade teacher, decided to drop a bombshell. No, she wasn’t retiring immediately and thus making 4th grade safe for children once again. That would have been too wonderful. Her announcement wafted over our heads menacingly like the smell that occurred when she made a boy named Tony sit on the heater to dry his pants after he peed them. And it was just as disturbing.

I can’t remember what led up to it but this is what she said:

Sister Gabriel
There is no Tooth Fairy. There is no Easter
Bunny, and there is no Santa Claus!

 Miscellaneous Children
(Whimpering and Screaming)
No!

As you can imagine, we were distraught and all ran home crying to our parents. Kids back then weren’t as jaded or grown up as kids are today. Our childhoods, and in many respects our innocence, lasted longer. All of my friends still believed in Santa at the age of nine, so Sister Gabriel’s announcement caused a bit of a moral dilemma. On the one hand, there was this authority figure, and a nun to boot, telling us this “truth”. On the other hand, she was a mean old biddy who hated children. What to think, what to think.

When I informed my mother what Sister Gabriel had said, she was very upset, saying that Sister Gabriel had no right to say such a thing, who did she think she was, etc. Then Mom calmed down and proceeded to dazzle me with her explanation.

Mom
Well, I feel sorry for Sister Gabriel
because the only thing she’ll get in
her  Christmas stocking is coal.

That was an excellent passive-aggressive response, wasn’t it? Fake concern for Sister Gabriel’s stocking contents while delivering an insult. Give my mother some props! Mom then went on.

 Kelly
But, is she right? Is Santa a lie?

Mom
Let me ask you a question.
Do you fill your own
Christmas stocking?

 Kelly
No! Who fills their own stocking?

 Mom
That’s right. Mommy doesn’t fill
hers and Daddy doesn’t fill his.
Let me ask you another question.

Do you see how my mother has mastered the art of deflection? Like a smooth politician, she never answered my original question but went on to distract me with other questions and answers. Brilliant!

 Mom
(continuing)
Do you fill Daddy’s stocking?

 Kelly
Of course not!

 Mom
How about Mommy’s stocking?

 Kelly
No! You’re silly.

 Mom
Well, if you don’t fill your stocking and you
don’t fill Mommy’s and Daddy’s stockings
and Mommy and Daddy don’t fill their
stockings, who fills them? Hmm?

This reminds me of those annoying word problems in math class that would include lots of extra information not needed to actually solve the problem. Instead of focusing on the trains traveling in opposite directions, I’d always get hung up on what the conductor’s name was or what kind of sandwich he was eating. Now I see why.

 Kelly
Well, it has to be…Santa!

I proceeded to hug my mother and I ended up believing in Santa Claus for another couple of years. Mom gave me more than answers that year. She gave me the permission to continue believing despite the protestations of others.  And she gave me love. These two things have always been the most treasured gifts. They certainly beat coal. Do you hear that, Sister Gabriel?

Typo No!

I assume that most of the people reading this blog came to find it and me via Twitter. I adore Twitter. Not only have I made some new friends thanks to those 140 characters, but I’ve also become aware of music and books that had previously been unknown to me. The theme of today’s post is one such example.

Thanks to a singer-songwriter I follow on Twitter named Gretchen Peters and our tweets back and forth about spelling and grammar, I became aware of a man named Jeff Deck. Gretchen tweeted a link to an interview Jeff gave about his book, The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World One Correction at a Time, and I was immediately intrigued. You see, I’m one of those people who can spot spelling errors everywhere. I find them in books, on websites, and scrolling to the side, under and above the television anchorperson’s talking head. I don’t look for these errors, they just appear in front of me, mockingly.

In fact, I once received a form rejection letter for a proofreading job and it was addressed to “Dear Job Seaker”. Despite my disappointment in not getting the job, the irony was not lost on me. You can imagine the pithy and witty response I sent back, can’t you?

Jeff and his friend Benjamin D. Herson, who co-wrote the book, traveled across the country hunting down typos in small town diners, national parks, etc. People like Gretchen and me understand this quest. As Jeff tried to explain to his girlfriend Jane, the reason why typos were a problem was because they represent, “The creeping menace of carelessness”.

Even if you don’t give a damn about the Oxford comma and it doesn’t faze you when someone uses “loose” instead of “lose” in a sentence, you have to admit that as a culture, we have become more careless about the rules of grammar and spelling. Granted, no one is perfect. In fact, I’m nervous that this post will contain some sort of grammatical error. The difference is, I care if I make a mistake.

In the book, Jeff describes two schools of thought when it comes to grammar and spelling correction. In this corner, we have the Descriptivists, aka, the Grammar Hippies. This approach favors a more subjective view of language and how people spell now, rather than how something is supposed to be spelled. To the Grammar Hippie, language is in a constant state of change and movement, kind of like those rhythmically-challenged, tie-dye wearing folks dancing at a Grateful Dead concert.

In the other corner, there are the Prescriptivists, or the Grammar Hawks. The Hawks believe that there is one way to spell, punctuate, etc., and that doesn’t change. There is a longstanding tradition and it works. There’s no need to mess with it. None of this hippie-dippy nonsense for the Hawks. No sirree!

It didn’t take me long to realize that I totally identify as a Grammar Hawk. To me, it’s a no-brainer. You learn how to spell a word and that doesn’t change. You place a comma here, and it stays there. How you feel about the placement of said comma or how you want a word to be spelled is irrelevant. I remember rolling my eyes when an ex of mine tried to explain why whole language learning was better than strict phonics. (She was a schoolteacher.)

She said that proper spelling wasn’t as important as understanding the meaning and context of the words. This was heresy to me. Sure, when the word “cat” is written, an image of a feline would help with context. But this doesn’t mean that it’s okay for a child to continually misspell “cat” despite knowing what one is.

To me, the emphasis on feeling and self-esteem I perceive from the Descriptivists point of view is a factor in why we’re seeing more typos and grammatical mistakes. It also reminds me of a previous post about children and sports. When the purpose of an endeavor, be it a game or writing an essay, becomes more about self-esteem than about skill development, we, as a culture, suffer.

Wherever you find yourself on the spelling spectrum, Jeff and Benjamin will take you on an entertaining and informative ride in their book. There were times when I became really depressed while reading it. All I could see was the downfall of our culture as each typo was found. I was further saddened that when the mistakes were pointed out to people, many reacted either defensively or apathetically.

Ultimately, though, Jeff and Benjamin didn’t undertake this journey to be scolds or to make people feel stupid. They did this to facilitate better communication between people. If the world could use one thing more than anything else right now, it would be better communication and understanding. On that, I think both Grammar Hawks and Grammar Hippies can agree.

One Holiday At A Time

I was out at the mall today trying to get a head start on my Christmas shopping. Now, before I say another word, I must admit that I LOVE Christmas. As a child, I used to play Christmas music in July because I was so anxious for it to arrive. I had to get myself in the mood for Christmas because back then, there were no “Christmas in July” sales and the like. We, as a culture, got through one holiday at a time. Shocking, but true.

Now, you can spot trees, tinsel and the usual suspects practically after Labor Day and it’s a full-on assault as soon as Halloween is over. The reason Christmas is pushed on us earlier and earlier each year comes down to one thing: money. Retailers need to extend the shopping season for as long as possible, especially during these challenging economic times. I don’t blame them. They are businesses doing what they need to do for their bottom line. I get that.

However, it does make me nostalgic for my childhood and how the anticipation for Christmas built and became official the day after Thanksgiving. With this in mind, there is one retailer out there who is keeping a pledge to not start hyping Christmas until after Thanksgiving. This retailer is Nordstrom. Here’s a sign that is adorning their stores nationwide:

Apparently, this has been a long-standing policy but I guess I haven’t been in Nordstrom this close to Thanksgiving before. I applaud them for this and I’d love to shop there more often, but funds are a bit tighter this year. Nevertheless, I think Nordstrom’s stance can serve as a good reminder for us all to slow down, not race through our lives and wish it away. The present moment is all we have and we need to embrace it. I’m speaking as much to myself as I am to you when I say this.

There is nothing wrong with being an early, organized shopper, getting your Christmas tree up Thanksgiving weekend, or beginning to watch your collection of Christmas-themed DVDs. I am one of these people and I plan on staying that way. I will do all of these things and enjoy them immensely. I just want to take time out to be mindful and thankful first before visions of sugarplums start dancing in my head.

Even Barbie Has a Tattoo

I don’t like tattoos. I find them unattractive and I’ve never seen the appeal. Now, if you or someone you love have tattoos, that’s your business. There are reasons why I will never get one and I’ll get to those shortly. A couple things happened the other day that brought the topic of tattoos front and center.

 

 

The first trigger was hearing about Barbie getting a tattoo. My first reaction was to roll my eyes. I remember when Ken got facial hair in the 70s. Um, yeah. Groovy.

I had every Barbie accessory. My Barbie lived in the townhouse with the working elevator. She had the dune buggy and camper. And she even used to date my best friend Tony’s Big Jim. (What do you mean Big Jim isn’t an accessory?!) Perhaps “date” is not the correct term for what Barbie and Big Jim were doing. What do you call taking Ken to the prom and as soon as he gives you a chaste peck on the cheek you’re calling Big Jim to come over and demonstrate how his prehensile hands work? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

So, the idea of Barbie getting tattoos doesn’t surprise me considering that they’re more common nowadays. I still remember when having a tattoo was stigmatized. People made judgments about someone based on having tattoos. Is this right? No, but we all make judgments about people based on many factors. Anyone who says he or she doesn’t, needs to book that flight to Rome for canonization for sainthood.

The second event that got me to thinking about tattoos was a woman I saw at physical therapy. She was older than me, perhaps in her late 50s. As I get older, it’s harder for me to guess someone’s age. In any case, she wasn’t some nubile young thing with a toned torso and beautiful biceps. She was an average, older woman except for one thing. Her arms and legs were covered with tattoos.

The sight of her made me think about why I’ll never get a tattoo:

Pain: Listen, lab technicians have enough problems finding a vein when I need blood drawn. I can’t imagine willingly subjecting myself to skin carving. I’m a lot of things, but a masochist isn’t one of them.

Tattoos Don’t Age Well: A tattoo of some hot, curvy babe on your muscular biceps may look great when you’re in your 20s. Look in the mirror when you hit 50 and your biceps haven’t been curled in years, buddy boy. Add to this, the effect of sun damage and wrinkles, and you get the picture. And it’s not pretty.

Tattoos Are Permanent: I’m in a constant state of flux of what I like and what I believe. It would be just my luck to get a yin-yang symbol tattooed on my ass only to become Amish some day. Great. Try explaining that to my husband Yoder. Then again, he’s named Yoder and he wears a goofy beard. And there’s that little fact that I’m a lesbian. But, you get my drift.

So, friends, if you decide to get a tattoo, remember to stay in shape, keep out of the sun and moisturize and don’t put anything on your body that you may be embarrassed about later. You’d be surprised how bitchy those Amish women can get around the sewing circle.

Babies Crawl and So Does My Skin

Some of you may remember my rant about the Nutella commercial in which I take umbrage with the premise that giving Nutella to your kids for breakfast is acceptable. Well, boys and girls, once again a commercial has elicited a strong reaction from me and yes, it relates to my childhood. (I know that you’re shocked.)

This time the commercial is for Huggies and it features miscellaneous toddlers crawling all over the floor. I’m sure that most people find it cute, perhaps even amusing. It creeps me out. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Why, you may be asking, does this commercial bother me so much? Well, to answer this question, I need to give you a little back story that may help. In my first post on this blog, I told you that my parents tried for nine years to have a baby and after multiple medical tests and novenas, ta dah! I was born.

Well, with all that effort, you can imagine how wanted I was and how protective my parents were. (I wasn’t allowed to cross the street by myself until I was 10. I’m not kidding.) One of the ways my parents protected me was by controlling my environment. Compared to the rounded corners, helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and the like that today’s kids deal with, my parents seem almost negligent. Then again, back in the 1960s and 1970s, kids got boo-boos and weren’t micro-managed. But that is a different post.

There was one area in particular in which my mother was obsessed. Dirt. I’ve written about growing up with an aversion to the beach because sand was dirty and dangerous. My mother had the same fear about floors. Not any particular floor, but all surfaces on which you walk: linoleum, wood, carpet and of course, pavement. These surfaces were teeming with all sorts of disgusting and unmentionable things. When I was a teenager, my mother and I were at some function and I saw the look she got on her face when some mother put her kid down on the floor to crawl. The look was a combination of shock and disgust.

Naturally, I asked her about this and here’s how the conversation went.

Kelly
What’s that look for?

Mom
That baby. Crawling all over the floor.

Kelly
That’s what babies do.

Mom
You didn’t. We didn’t let you.

Kelly
What do you mean you didn’t let me?

Mom
Floors, no matter how clean, are not
hygienic. That child over there had his
hands where shoes and dogs have been.
Now his fingers are in his mouth. God
knows what germs he’s picked up.

Kelly
O-kay. How did you stop me from crawling?

Mom
You went from standing in your playpen to
walking. Every night, your father or I would stand at
the opposite end of the playpen and get you to walk
to us. Then you started walking all over the place.

Kelly
(mumbling)
Except across the street alone.

Mom
What was that?

Kelly
Nothing. Nothing at all.

So, according to my mother, I went from this:


to this without missing a proverbial beat.

(There was no way this outfit was going to get dirty, no sirree!)

So fast forward to me today at age 46 and this commercial comes on. I don’t see happy, giggling kids scampering across the floor. I see little human Petri dishes of disease. I bet you’re not surprised that I decided not to have children, are you? My cats are enough work and it’s a good thing that they wash their own paws. But, I do have these on hand just in case…

The Lady Doth Not Protest

I’m not a protesting type of gal. For those who feel strongly enough about an issue to protest, bully for them. It’s just not my style. As I’ve mentioned before, I have friends all over the political spectrum and this includes people who have gone to Tea Party rallies as well as Occupy Wall Street. (Am I schizophrenic or inclusive? I’m not sure.)

 

During my college days back in the mid-to-late 1980s, the two big issues were anti-nukes and anti-apartheid. I do remember going to an anti-nuke rally in Golden Gate Park only because Carlos Santana was playing. I’m not kidding. Even as a liberal college student, the notion of disarmament struck me as naïve wishful thinking but I loved live music. So, I’d trudge along following the smell of pot and patchouli, clap and chant, “No Nukes!” and wait to hear “Oye Como Va”.

You may be wondering (or at least I hope you are), why protesting isn’t my thing. There are a combination of factors at work and in no particular order, here they are:

 Aversion to Confrontation: I shrink from any situation where a confrontation is possible. This stems from seeing and hearing lots of arguing at home when I was a kid. Anger and raised voices made me nervous and they still do. My coping strategy back then was to be perfect and compliant in the hopes that life would be calm. This strategy, ineffective as it mostly was, can lead to…

 No Interest in Rebellion/Acting Out: I was one of those kids who adults adored. I was polite, smart, articulate and could be taken anywhere without fear that I would throw a tantrum or otherwise be an embarrassment. I remember staring at other kids in the midst of some bratty outburst or another and not understanding what was wrong with them. I was a little adult trapped in a kid’s body who felt no need to rebel. It’s not a surprise that I didn’t grow up to protest anything.

 Dislike of Crowds: Being short doesn’t help you in a big crowd of strangers, that’s for sure, and I’m only 5’3”. I’m also an only child. This means that I don’t know how to share and I’m accustomed to having my own space. There aren’t enough people I know personally that I’d agree to be in close quarters with for any extended period of time, let alone strangers.

 I’m a Cranky Camper: We were not a camping family. In fact, I never slept in a tent in the great outdoors until I was in my mid-20s. And I HATED it. Sure I loved playing Trivial Pursuit at night, the grandeur of Yosemite and the peacefulness of the Redwoods. It was the dirt and bugs, the never feeling clean, the sound of mountain lions in the distance or the sight of wart hogs near the bathroom that I didn’t like. Knowing all that, can you actually see me camping out on the streets of New York City or San Francisco?

 So friends, however you choose to exercise your First Amendment rights, have at it. I support you, I do, from the comfort of my living room, with cable, running water and a microwave, that is.