Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's Not to Love?

How can I help but love you?

Boy Wonder

I love the way your two front teeth are a bit crooked. I love the fact that it makes your grin even wider and more dramatic. I love how you are always smiling. And laughing.

I love your fearlessness. It’s new and it’s impressive. You are a bold young man and I can’t wait to see how far you go in your adventures.

I love the way you think. I love how your mind works in complex Lego riddles and you are always trying to fit two ideas or concepts together, regardless of whether they are supposed to or not.

I love the way you bargain with me. From an extra few minutes on the computer to a way out of eating the last bits of lasagna, you are a deal maker, my son.

I love the way you love your family. It’s unconditional and it’s fierce.


I love your face. Each morning when I pull you out of your bed, I want to smoosh your cheeks and chew on your nose. You have the face of a trash-talkin’, bossy little angel and it melts me.

I love the way you talk. Like some Brooklyn mobster from the ‘30s, you end every statement with a “Yeah.” It’s adorable.

“Do you want more milk, Boo?” “More milk, yeah…”

I love the way you hug. Hugging is a new thing for you but when you want one, it’s a neck squeezer for sure and we feel every ounce of your love within it.

I love your need to leave. Constantly. You’ll stand by the gate in your diaper, shoes, coat and hat ready to go…just to be certain we don’t leave you behind. Not that we ever could, but you need to be ready.

I love the fact that you’re the only other person in the house who will eat banana bread with me. I love the fact that you insist on helping me make it. I even love the fact that you drag the chair into the kitchen any time somebody steps foot near the stove. I love your companionship. I love who you are becoming.


I love you. Above all else.

I love the way we wait each other out in the morning when it’s time to get the yelling baby out of his bed and start the morning routine. I love how you always seem to win and I don’t hold it against you. There’s always tomorrow…

I love the way you tolerate my quirks. From the unscrewed milk caps to the way I accidentally hide everything that belongs to you, I love you for your patience and acceptance of me. I love that I can make you laugh with my more outlandish stunts.

I love the man you are. Your own. In a world of constantly changing tides and slippery slopes, the man you were yesterday is the same no-nonsense, practical guy you’ll be tomorrow. No amount of ups and downs or freaky bad news texts from me can throw you and you always seem to calm me down. Amazing, really.

I love your obsession with chocolate and peanut butter. Despite it not being at the top of my list, I like knowing the things that make you happy. Supremely happy. Sublimely happy. I like that there are things out there that can still elicit a child-like grin and enthusiasm from you and it’s my mission to find more.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What to do when it’s all YOUR fault

This week, I’m dealing a lot with overreaction.

Mostly on my part, but others are in on it, too. More than once in the past few days, something has been said, done, seen, heard, muttered, hinted at, acted out or guessed at by party number one, and party number two (quickly joined by party number one) has lost their fuc*&ing mind.

Work, home, the bus, the phone, the internet. Doesn’t matter. It’s a global war on all fronts, people.

Meltdown, pouting, fighting, hurt feelings, resentment, outright sarcasm and arguing…in short, one-way tickets to RUDE CITY all around. (Yay! It’s a party!)

There’s been an argument, a time out, a “hang up” or fifty in there, hurt feelings, overblown drama, you name it. You get where I am going?

It all makes me wonder, what the hell is our problem?

I say “our” because it seems to be a universal experience. We all have triggers that activate nuclear meltdown phase, but why? What purpose does our initial reaction really serve us?

In the old days, the ol’ fight or flight thingy ma-bobber saved our club-dragging arses. But not anymore. Today, that “fight or flight” has pretty much turned to “fight” and it’s really not ensuring the survival of the species, it’s actually making life on earth much more difficult than God probably intended.

I’ll put myself, zits and all, out there for this one.

I overreact. There, I said it.

If I feel that you’re being rude to me (or my family members, individually or collectively), I get angry. I respond immediately and often harshly, without pausing to ask outright “What did you mean by that?” I’ll spit and stomp.

If we’re close, I’ll get my feelings hurt and probably pout. Just because I want to. Then I’ll overanalyze what really happened and turn it into a telenovela instead of the “simple moment” it really was.

If we’re not close, I’ll think you’re a douche bag for months and months and avoid you in public. Just sayin’.

Sometimes, I’ll even lose focus and forget the reason I got fired up in the first place.

But you can bet your sweet ass I’ll remember the emotion that was attached to whatever you did and I’ll carry it around for days. I’ll dwell in it. I’ll roll around like a piggy in mud in it. I’ll pack it up in my backpack and take it for a ride on the Anchorage bus system with me.

But why?

The hamster wheel in my head runs something like this: First, my feelings get hurt. (For example, I think, Why hasn't my so-and-so called back in two weeks?) Then I begin to imagine all the reasons she might be mad at me. (Was it something I said? Shoot — I forgot her anniversary and now she's upset.) Next, I get mad at her — and myself. (She always forgets my anniversary! Why am I worrying about this kind of nonsense?) After hours of circular thinking, I usually discover that nothing was wrong: My friend just got busy and didn't have time to call.

I consider myself a sane, logical person, yet I fall into this cycle again and again. What gives? I'm happy to report that genetics may be to blame — scientists report that sensitivity runs rampant in certain family trees. And I'm not alone: 15 to 20 percent of the population is thin-skinned. Greeeeat. Just what the world needs…more like me.

So what does all this mean? Does it mean I’m a big ol’ weenie who overthinks and has irrational bouts “what the f*($ was that supposed to mean”? Why yes, yes it does.
It also means that I (we) could stand to use a little re-training.

You know that very first thought that pops into your head when you think someone has done something worth getting angry/sarcastic over? Ignore it. No, really. Stop laughing. I’m not kidding.

Nine times out of ten, I’m pretty sure the other person had no idea and didn’t mean to call your dog fat or imply that you’re terrible with adverbs. I’m serious. Detach your damn self for one stinking minute and make it NOT about you and your poor little hurt feelings. Give it a try. I’ll bet your anger dries up now and then.
Supersensitivity stems from a place rife with ego and the “it’s all about me” syndrome. I can attest to that…but the hard truth is, mostly, it’s not about you. Probably not about me, either.

I’ve thought a lot about the crap over the past month and I really think that if I can learn to mentally “look the other way” and let the bs float on by, the quality of my life will improve by leaps and bounds. And more leaps. A couple more bounds, too.

Let’s just say what we are all are thinking at this point: I am a super hero of miscommunications. Ha!

So if in the past 14 days, you feel I have ignored you, insulted you, stepped on your toes, picked on you, not listened enough for your liking (or whatever I am capable of). I am sorry. Oh, and I forgive you, too.

Here’s to a fresh start, yeah?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Boo, On the Occasion of Your Very First Birthday (Give or take 11 Days)

Hello, You Funky Little Monkey!

You Sultan of Silly... the King of Krazy... our very own Main Man of the Madness.

Can I just say, Wow, what a year it has been with you? On February 8, 2009, I thought you were homicidal. No, really, big man, what baby tries to arrive already wearing size 3T??? I mean, c'mon. Was being the over nine pounds things really necessary??

Sure, every single human being at the hospital gave you the automatic, hands down "cutest baby" on the premises award (and holy moly, you were), but I think you would have been just as fabulous looking (and less beat up) had you made your arrival two or three weeks earlier. Just sayin'.

But that's you, and that's who you have grown to be the past 12 months. You are in almost every way imaginable, your father's son. Not surprised, are you? From your "mean mug" to your ears, to the loyalty you're already showing to your dad, brother and I, your are P's doppelganger. And so, so cute. You manage to jam 180 pounds of personality into that 30 pound body and the results are often fireworks.

You have a bond with your dad that I can hardly understand. Not that I don't "get it," I just probably scratch the surface with how deep it runs, that's all. I am a good person to have around because I am silly, I smell good, and I make sure all the food on your high chair tray is bite size so you don't choke on it when you ram a fistful down at a time... but your dad is your soul mate. And I'm okay with that, just as long as you understand, he's mine too... haha!

You walked at 10 months. Seriously. Walking like a grown man walks to the store for a beer...walking. You head butt the cat, growl at your dad, pull your brother's hair, and swipe at my face when you're in a "pistol pete" sort of mood. (Yes, that's your dad's nickname for you and it's so, so perfect.)

When you're happy, you're like an angelic little explorer off on his own, only to return when the dipey is wet or the tummy is empty or maybe when you need a quick hug for reassurance. I had a premonition you'd be an independent little spirit before you were born, and you haven't proven me wrong. And it fits, given this household.

You're not entirely fond of strangers. Not because you don't really like them, you just want to make sure they aren't one of those dreaded creatures...those..."babysitters." No, little man, you hate being babysat. I'm pretty sure in your mind it's akin to abandonment and you take it pretty personally. I don't blame you. Our family is a lot of fun to hang out with and why shouldn't you get to go see "Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief" anyway? You're a card-holding member of the Applegate clan...

You are your own person already, little Boo, and that's amazing. Some of us are still trying to nail down our own identity well into our third decade on the planet, but not you. My money is resting on the fact that when you're a teenager, you'll be difficult to peer pressure into doing things you're not really interested in, which is a rare, rare blessing. Even now, you don't move unless you're good and ready to, and not even Daddy's head butts can make you. Good on ya, baby boy. Heck, you even bawled and carried on during your little "happy birthday" party we had at the house. It's your party and you cried 'cause you wanted to...

You love the "SpongeBob Squarepants" theme, having people over at our house to watch the fights (every danceman needs an audience), Reese's Puffs cereal bits (broken in half), throwing everything in the living room over the baby gate at your dad (when he's in the kitchen), drinking the milk from my cereal, and eating Boy Wonder's legos.

When you play, you play. When you rock out, you rock hard. You've already got your butt-dropping swagger dance down and you're not even out of diapers. You've got a zebra ride on toy from your Nana and you ride that pony figure things out on your own and you're already trying to live your little life on your own little baby terms. And we love it!

You're your Dad's pride and joy, your brother's best bud, and truly, one of the deepest loves of my life.

So happy birthday little Boo...the first of many, many more.



Thursday, February 4, 2010

On da Bus: The Hard Knocks Version

Some day, I am going to write about how wonderful taking the bus is. I am going to tell you about all the wonderful, charming people I meet and I will impart the wisdom I'm gaining just from being on the 102 Eagle River Express every single day, twice a day. But not today.

Today, I am going to rant and rave and seem really ungrateful that I even
have a ride to my job. (If you understood my job situation at the moment, you'd understand my ungrateful attitude. Just sayin'.) So here it is, dear readers. My open letter to the fellow bus riders of Anchorage.

Hello fellow transit users,

I've been among your throng for a month now, and I gotta say, most of the time we're together, I think you suck.

To the busters who put their bags on the seat next to them and don't move them when the extra seats run out, prepare yourself. The day of reckoning is coming and when your backpack and it's contents end up in a dirty snowbank on the side of the Glenn Highway, please know you've been warned.

Hey you, the college kid who wouldn't get up and let the old lady sit when we got on at the last stop last week? Remember that? She nearly fell each time we slowed down and I kept grabbing her and keeping her upright? I remember you. And when you end up in a dirty snowbank on the...well, you get it. You've been warned.

Hello, crazy drunk bastard sprawled out on the bench at my afternoon stop. You're right by my office building in the heart of Midtown. Where the hell did you and your fellow inebriates come from? Is there some crazy drunk guy cave behind the Holiday Gas Station that I don't know about? Please don't take my attitude for anything other than it really is....I don't want to talk to you. No, seriously. I don't want to know about your favorite corner to pee at or where you can buy your plastic bottle of Vodka.


OH? You see my cup of coffee? Well, just so you know, I'm a smart girl and I keep the lid popped off in case you try to grab my backpack again, I can toss it in your over-zealous face. Not only is it a delicious blend of espresso, chocolate, and milk, it's also a deadly weapon that'll be tough to explain in the homeless camp tonight. Getting schooled by the crazy girl at Stop 18 won't win you any cool points, I promise!

Also, be aware that when you approach me and gawk, I'm studying the exposed parts of your face and where I can lodge my fist if you whistle at me one more time. I may not look like much, but after a day in my office, I'm a raging ball of messy hair just waiting for an excuse. Really really. And I just saw you peeing on the trashcan on C Street, and I gotta say, you need to find another angle, brother. Whistling at random transit users will not do you much good.

Well, hello there, crabby bus driver. When I say "good morning," the expected response is "good morning" or even a nod. Hell, I'd settle for a "get the hell on the bus, Sunshine" from some of you a-holes. Are you deaf? Or are you a stick-up-the-arse jerk? Both should preclude you with working with the public as a bus driver. Oh yes. That's right. You drive a bus. Not an Indycar. A buuuuus.

I think you forgot for a must have been having flashbacks to your Nascar/Formula One days the way you speed toward oncoming traffic like you do. Even cooler is the way you slam on your brakes and make all of our backpacks fly off our laps in unison. That's a cute trick. I have a feature on my cellphone that remind me to take my Dramamine before each commute now. Thanks. Thanks a lot!

Hey, "Scream into the Cellphone" guy. STFU. No, seriously. Don't talk about how mad you are that nobody picked you up from jail and now you're having to take the bus home because you're freaking me out. In a big, big way. Just stop talking before I pop the lid off my coffee. Just sayin'.

And finally, to the Downtown Transit Center dwellers, Thank You. Thank you for making me feel like a Hobbit who just stepped into Middle Earth each time I have to pass through you to my bus. (You freakin' Orcs.) I'm not kidding...some of you look like you might enjoy the coffee to the face, and you scare me. Period. I fear for my life each time I get there and that really says something. Riding these buses, I have seen some s*#t, but nothing compares to the Transit Center. You freak me out. End of story.

And though I'm learning to walk with a little "grit in my eye" I have the lamest "mean face" on the planet and you make me feel inadequate. So just stop. Take a shower. Drink a glass of water. Eat a muffin. Something. It's like walking through a pack of rabid dogs with a steak taped to my back and I have no idea what I've got that's got you interested. You can have my bus pass if you really want it. My romance novel, too. No, seriously, just stop walking two inches behind me while singing your ABCs and we'll be cool. You're all a brand of crazy that I just can't compete with and I know when I've been bested. Well played, sirs.

And to the nuts-o broad who laughs at the back of the bus for no damn reason, over and over again: At first, you freaked me out...then I thought you just wanted the attention and I wished the sign above your head would miraculously drop.

Now, I kinda like you. I think you're probably taking in the scene just like I am. You remind me just how ridiculous we all are, and how miserable we must look riding home. Maybe you noticed my goofy pink backpack and my non-matching gloves. Or was it a joke one of your other personalities told you?

Either way, keep on rockin' in the free're one of the good ones.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Dispatch from my Alter Ego

I have an imaginary friend. Well, maybe not imaginary and perhaps not a friend--maybe an additional personality I like to cart around with me. I don't know. If Beyonce has Sasha Fierce (that freeing alter ego she conjures up when on stage), then I have Harper Bennett.

A much cooler, much more organized (and skinnier!) version of myself that writes and does nothing but write. She writes about writing. She reads about writing. She dreams about writing. And Harper's blog is (waaaait for it...) a blog about writing.

Anyway, it's not something I mention that often because I'm not this world-famous author yet and, well, who the hell gives themselves a nom-de-plume before they're even published. Well? Me.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is because I found a short story I'd started about four years ago. I don't remember why I started it. I think I was moody and emo, most likely. (Oh, the dark, dark days of divorce.)

But I started this story and you can read the post over at Harper's place for the background and the plan for it from this point forward.

So go on. Go read it. Do it. Jack the Raven: The Dead Girl's Love Story (Part 1)


Ol' Boy Wonder has a neighborhood friend these days. They met at the park over the summer and ended up in the same kindergarten class. His buddy lives a street over and it's great that they get together on the weekends and let out some of that endless supply of "boyness."

I dropped Boy Wonder off around noon on Friday and when I called to get him a couple hours later, he got on the phone and made a heart-felt plea to "spend the night." He slept over last weekend, so even though I would go a whole 24 hours without seeing him, I figured it would be ok.

Life went on that evening. I dropped off his backpack. P and Boo and I went to our favorite spot in Eagle River for dinner. We came home. We fired up the Wii. I made a comment to P about how I missed Boy Wonder and he looked at me like I was crazy.

"When I was a kid, I loved sleeping at a buddy's house," he reassured me. Sigh. Fine.

At 8 p.m. that night, I got a call. His friend's mom said she was on her way. That Boy Wonder wanted to come home.

When he walked in, he gave me a huge hug and had those tear-fatigued eyes. When I asked why he cried he said: "I missed you guys. I just wanted to come home."

And there it was. Sure, we live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. We have terrible water pressure, very little hot water, no dishwasher, no breathing room. Our laundry monster is so big somedays it should have it's own name (I'm thinking "Gigantor," but that's just me.) The trash always seems ready to be taken out and the drains always seemed on the verge of clogged. The oven doesn't heat right, the microwave door is cracked.

But Boy Wonder reassured us on what we did have--something P and I work really hard at. Despite all the obvious flaws, we have a home.

Home is where we have dinner together every night. Where Boy Wonder says grace, and Boo Bear tries to steal food off his brother's plate from his high chair. It's where we play video games together and get mad at each other when we steal the Mario "goodies". Where we do "science experiments" with vinegar and baking soda, water and food coloring. It's where we make 100 different snacks each day. It's where I keep 10,000 balls of yarn and 40 candles. It's where we watch "America's Funniest Home Videos" as a family and eat popcorn on Friday nights.

Home is pancakes and French Press coffee on Sunday mornings.

It's piles of clean laundry and warm towels for bathtime at night.
It's where Boy Wonder hides in the same spot every time P walks through the door and INSISTS that I play the "Hey, did you pick up Boy Wonder in town?" game.

It's where we paint, where we glue, where we color. It's where Pepper guards the "sheep" (our boys) and where Miko sleeps with Boy Wonder in his bunk bed. Where Hawk the parakeet shrieks "Good Morning, People!" every day at 6 a.m. (Damn bird.)

It's where we grow. Where we cozy up with blankets on the couch and watch the winter go by.

It's the only place Boy Wonder wanted to be Saturday night and for that, I am so, so grateful.