Friday, March 30, 2012

Once-Removed

My feelings got hurt today in a big way.Yes, even The Snarky Mom has feelings.

Without getting too much into it (and therefore, giving my mother a heart attack), I will say this: there was miscommunication and a misconception about something that happened years ago with two of my cousins. I found out about it today, and am quite hurt no one thought to bring it to my attention earlier.

It's complete bullshit what it was about, and about 98% fabricated. Normally, this sort of thing rolls off my back. As long as I know what is right and true, I'm cool. Generally.

But this one spread like a verbal cancer, dirtying my name and reputation amongst my extended family. Extended family that, before today, I adored.

They live 1,000 miles away, and seeing my cousins was always a treat as a kid. I was in the younger set, and always looked up to the older set.

What was said was painful. What was assumed and not confirmed was horrendous. Who was at the root of all of it is absolutely heart-breaking.

Communication is big with me. As I just wrote to a friend yesterday, I like everyone getting along and open lines of communication. I like mis-understandings cleared up quickly and peace amongst those I associate with. Consider it the by-product of having divorced parents. I hate conflict and believe strongly that through communication, every one can be on the same page.

Sadly, not every one in my family believes the same.

I spent my morning sobbing. Not just crying, sobbing. How could two people that used to mean the world to me not only betray me, but think I actually did what they accuse me of? I called one of my favorite friends, L, who also happens to be cousins with me and these people. He helped make me feel better. L is truly a wonderful person who would do anything for me, and I love him dearly.

I just got out of the shower (after seriously considering just turning on SpongeBob for Mini Me and climbing into bed with a corkscrew and a bottle of white wine), where I had a moment of clarity.

It's not worth it.

They aren't worth it.

They aren't worth my tears or my sadness, because when it all comes down to it, they are both strangers to me. I have Facebook friends I met at parties ONCE that I know more about, and who know more about me, than these two. Just like my high school and college classmates, I keep in touch who I want to keep in touch with, and the rest are just names and faces I once knew.

And once upon a time, they were names and faces on some family vacations.

Strangers. They are just strangers. Mis-informed as they are, they are 1,000 miles away and probably don't even know my married last name. They aren't worth my time.

Here's to great moments of clarity about what matters - people like L - and what really doesn't.
 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Another Year Older...

Big Bird. Mr. Rogers. Spike Lee. Holly Hunter. Ovid. Henrik Ibsen. Me.

We're a diverse kind of crew.

All of these people have one thing in common. I'll give you a hint: today.

Yes, this day 33 years ago, I made my grand entrance into this world, three weeks late, amidst drama, and causing my mother so much pain, she had to be put under.

Not much has changed since.

I look forward to my birthday the way an 8 year old does. I love it. I start a countdown in February and am generally pretty obnoxious about it up until the actual day...and quite often, extending well into April. Disgruntled Husband's birthday is exactly 6 weeks later, so I have to quit by then, as to not step on his birthday celebratory toes.

The other day, I asked JDub if she had gotten the parade route okayed by the local police. She didn't know what I was talking about (and, truth be told, she's such a school volunteer, I bet she at first thought she forgot to do something for the PTA or something...which is what I was going for). Then, I asked if she got the TV crew on board. And the balloons.

"What on earth are you talking about," she said.
"For next Tuesday," I said.
It took her a minute. Then, "You are so dumb."

(It's the love I stick around for with her.)


It really is Big Bird's birthday, too. He turns 6 every year. This was awesome when I was little. I told Mini Me this today, and she asked, "Who's Big Bird?" ::Sigh:: I bet SpongeBob doesn't have a designated birthday.

My kids are a little more receptive to my grandiose birthday expectations. Last year, Hoover wanted to get me a new car. DH happened to take the kids to the mall and there was a car parked in there to advertise for a car dealership. As it was told to me, Hoover ran right up to it and exclaimed, "This is perfect! Dad, this is the car I want to get for Mom!"

That's my boy.

This year, DH surprised me with a new iPad, 3rd generation. It has a pink cover and an inscription that says something to the effect of "Happy Birthday to The Snarky Mom." I have a hard time accepting such an expensive and frivolous gift, but I know he really wanted me to have one. And, there were QUITE a few years where he couldn't afford to buy me anything for my birthday. I have to get over my own anxieties and accept my gift graciously.

This past year has been a bumpy ride for me. (I think they all are, actually, but this one more than most.) This blog has shown you a few of my struggles, but there were more. I think everyone has certain friends that bring out certain sides to them, and I reconnected with some of mine that made me deal with things I wasn't going to deal with otherwise. In the end, they reminded me of who I was before I got lost in wife and motherhood, and in turn, it has made me a much happier person, wife, and mother.

But I'm still waiting for my parade. Get on those permits, JDub.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why Dumb People Shouldn't Play the Stock Market

In 6th and 7th grades, we did stock market units in math class. I think it was supposed to teach us about probability and real life and other things I didn't really care about. In 6th grade, I followed a stock called GEO and it bottomed out. I could have chosen things like McDonalds or Disney or my friend's father's company, which was going to split during our unit (I don't think it's considered insider trading if you're using Monopoly money). No, I had to be different. I found something for like $3 a share and watched it get down to a $1.12. I lost my proverbial imaginary shirt on that one.

(In 7th grade, learning the lessons of the year prior, I stuck to Merck. It was more expensive and didn't do so hot then, either. We also had to do a fake tax return and write a story of our future life to go along with it. In mine, I had three kids, married a pilot, and lived at the beach. I was in accelerated math, and we got to write stories. What did you do in YOUR math class?)

Last year, I opened an INGdirect savings account. It suggested I open a ShareBuilder account, too. Apparently, I'd get like free magic beans or something for doing so. I opened the account and bought one vanity share of a company I like.

A week later, feeling cocky and smart and awesome, I decided that this was going to be how I made my millions. I looked for my money maker. I found a stock selling for $.08 a share, a medical supply company. I bought 100 shares, bringing my total to $8. (Actually, because of some fees and small print and my own impulsivity, I think it cost me like $23 to buy those 100 shares. But let's not dwell on that.)

The reason I chose this stock, besides it being $.08 a share and once trading at $567 a share in 2006, was the English major in me. There were lots of repeating vowels in the name of the company, and it's stock symbol is a palindrome. Word fun!  Ooh...and then my phone contract was up, so I got an Android phone and could put the Google Finance app on my main screen. I felt so smart on so many levels.

And then, 6th grade happened all over again.

Apparently, the $.08 a share I bought at was the 52 week high. It then started to hover around 6.5 cents a share. It once dipped to about 4 cents. But that's what you want in a Cinderella story, right?

In the fall, I happened to check it one day and saw it was at $.64 a share. I was so excited! I was calculating how much I made and dreaming of how much better it was going to get. If we would have had a dog track up here, I would have gone. I was feeling lucky!

Was this my stock or my IQ that went down so dramatically?


Before I put the down payment on the yacht, I read the fine print. My stock had done a reverse split. I had to Google what that meant. So, my 100 shares of palindrome fun had been reduced to 6.67 shares. They upped the value of each share, but cut the number of shares by that amount. Or something like that. (Remember, we wrote stories in my math class, so really, I don't understand how the math works.) I learned later that they did this to stay on the stock exchange. (Apparently, you have to be over a dollar or something to be listed on the stock exchange...and if you're under, you have a year or so to get your shit together.) And the even worse news was that the reverse split put it at $1.50 a share, and was already down to $.64 when I checked it.

Then, for a few months, I watched it bounce up and down. Last month, it went up 30% in one day. Unfortunately, that brought it to $.45 a share.

(In the meantime, I bought 3 more shares of my real stock. Someday, I'm going to retire on those four shares.)

Yesterday, I looked at my $8 investment and saw acronyms I had to Google. (I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you that if you have to Google terms in the Stock Market, then you shouldn't be playing. Okay, actually, my friend from high school who handles stuff like this for a living would like you to know that.)

As far as I can understand, my stock is so bad and has had so many warning from the SEC (again, more Googling...) that yesterday, the company made the announcement that in the next two weeks, it was leaving the market and going OTC (over the counter...hey, I knew that one...but had to google what Tylenol and Ny-Quil had to do with the Stock Market). I'm still not quite sure what it means, but I know it's probably not good. I had to call my yacht guy and tell him that the brass fixtures were a no-go.

My friend from high school, who certainly is re-thinking his friendship with me at this point, told me I should sell what's left.

Yeah, I don't know how to do that.

However, I will say that my $8 ($31 with fees) has given me entertainment for the last year and lasted way longer than what it would have in the slot machines at the nearest casino. (Though, the last two times I played slots, I won a total of $400. Maybe I should just stick with the one-arm bandits.)

I'm currently in the market for another English-based stock. Maybe a nice preposition or onomatopoeia this time. Palindromes are nothing but trouble.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Column

Apparently, there is no note feature for fan pages on Facebook. So, here's the column I refer to the blog.I left all words and grammar the same...except for where I named a classmate. Libel is real, ya'll.

--

(Published February 4, 2000 in the Augustana Observer)



Geek awareness: what you were too cool to know

The taunts of my classmates are as real to me today as they were years ago. I remember each name I was called, each party I wasn't invited to, each ride on the bus in which I sat up front with the driver. The years between 4th grade and 12th grade crept by as slowly as they could. Of course, I had my fun moments—there were friends and parties of my own I could enjoy—but even so, something inside of me always felt incomplete. It's sad that someone else’s opinion of me took precedence over my own.
And while I knew it was wrong to let this happen, it happened still.

 I was a geek. A nerd. A total loser, dude. The only time [classmate] ever talked to me was to cheat on a spelling test. I was on bus patrol. My jeans were never tight-rolled correctly. I stayed home while my classmates drank their way to the top of the social totem pole. I worked at Hallmark the night of my senior prom. I was never given the chance to "Just Say No."

 Perhaps you were like me. You too knew what it was like to wait by a phone for an invitation you weren't going to get. People were polite to you, but never invited you over to their houses. You took the abuse people gave you, never having the guts to stand up for yourself. If you were like this, then my message is for you.

Why bring up the past, you ask? To anyone who was on the outside trying to break in, you know why. The stain of geekiness brands you forever, sometimes just in your own eyes. You can be a successful, beautiful, knowledgeable individual with an uncanny sense of humor, but if you see someone who was once a tormentor or idol, you are suddenly the same social outcast in your head that you were once labeled in an ugly school hallway.

Even now, at almost 21, I can't feel comfortable at a party full of "popular" people. It's all in my head, and I know it. But I also know why. If I judge you before I know you, I apologize. I can name you the people to whom I give precedence in doing so, but I accept responsibility for my actions.

"Kids are cruel," people say. The people who say this are probably the same people who socially excluded others in high school. And maybe they did this because their parents did the same thing, and taught it to them. I fear it's an ongoing cycle. My kids might be ostracized one day by the spawn of the same people who did it to me.

MTVs Tabitha Soren said in an interview with Seventeen magazine, "If you're popular in high school, then your life has peaked." At 15, I read this for the first time, and I prayed that it was true. There had to be more out there than what I was seeing. There had to be a light at the end of that orange-carpeted hallway. And there was. It's called high school graduation.

 Perspective is everything. I may not ever be a Homecoming Queen, or know what it's like to eat at the popular table full of girls wearing the same outfits, but that's fine by me. I like where I'm at in life. High school sucked, and I won't deny that, but without the experiences I had then and earlier, I would not be the same person. The funny thing about college is that no one cares (at least in the beginning) about who you were in high school. And along with that mindset, I came to realize that it didn't really matter before where the other people were in the social circle of childhood, because in the end, they weren't any further along in life than I was. If Tabitha was right, and I think she was, then I have a much more satisfying life in front of me, rather than behind me.

 I know that people change. People mature from what they were once in childhood or adolescence. Perhaps those kids who made me feel like nothing didn’t know that they were doing so. Maybe they did and now know enough to care about it. I hate to think that there would be no progress of any sort with my former classmates. Maybe at our reunion they'll save me a seat at their table and apologize for how they acted. But then again, I’m not holding my breath.

To all the people who made geekdom a true concept, and life a living hell, I speak for the geeks when I say, thanks. Without you, we couldn't have realized our own potential, and we might have been the jerks that you were. Grow up? We've been grown up for a long time; a lot longer than what was required of us. lt's time we met on equal ground. You may have been a shining star once upon a time, but even stars burn out. You were never any better than we were, even if you did put on a good show. Show's over folks, turn in your scripts and props at the door.




The Geek Gene

Anyone that knows me in real life (poor souls, I tell you) knows that this weekend was rough around here. Larry Potter had to deal with one of life's suckiest realities: being left out. Not that he hasn't dealt with it before, but this time, Disgruntled Husband and I had to watch. It was truly heartbreaking.

The boy that LP plays with pretty much all summer and any other outdoor-type weather had a birthday party on Saturday. A sleepover party with a bunch of other fourth grade boys. LP wasn't invited. And because this kid lives across the alley from us, the party was in full-view of us...and especially LP. He craned his neck out the kitchen window during dinner to see what they were up to. He could also see the party from his room. From his bed. There were tears and fits, a red face and a head in arms on the table.

"Why didn't he invite me?"

Ugh. Why do other people's kids have to ruin mine? From what I understand, because one of the "popular" boys was going to this party, LP was ostracized.

This weekend opened up so many old wounds for me, I had to call Urgent Care. I was in fourth grade once; I had similar experiences. In fact, in looking back amongst all my years in school, fourth grade was the absolute worst. Watching my son question his own wacky self at the kitchen table made me wish that my experiences were better, so that somehow, I would have raised him differently so he would not be left out.

But I think we all know that isn't the answer. Nor would it have made any difference. Sure, I could try and raise a popular kid, so that he'd have an easier time in school. (What makes a boy popular in fourth grade? Seems it hasn't changed much in 23 years; a bad attitude, knowledge and use of swear words, and an aptitude for athletics.) But I like the way I'm raising my kid. I like how he's turning out (for the most part), and the knocks he's taking right now, hard as it is for him, will make him a better person.

(This is from theoatmeal.com.) Thanks to Lisa for providing me with this hysterical look at high school! The rest of this comic is at http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theoatmeal.com%2Fcomics%2Fsenior_year&h=xAQFoUkl_AQHagrtd0hDWuIQ229hUS4v4J8pPTMScF_1z0A and is 100% accurate!


I wrote a column in my college newspaper about this very thing. Back in 2000, when I was almost 21, having the time of my life, and before marriage and kids were even on the brain, I penned a look back at my life and how being a geek affected me. It was the only piece my dad ever complemented me on (I still have the e-mail to prove it) despite having a subscription to my newspaper. Girls cut it out and put it on their dorm room doors. I felt like J.D. Salinger...for all of about a week.

All of my old articles are online now, mostly to humiliate those of us that thought we were Woodward and Bernstein. I found this particular column and let LP read it. I don't know if it made him feel better or not; I just know that I wish someone would have put things in perspective for me when I was a kid.

(I'll put it up on The Snarky Mom Facebook page if any of you would like to read the column. D'OH! No notes feature on Facebook fan pages. Here's the link: http://www.mamasnarky.com/2012/03/column.html . Or you can just scroll up!)

If I only I had the crystal ball to show LP how awesome his life is going to turn out, it might make things easier to endure. Until then, I ask every parent out there to please have the golden rule talk with your kids. My kid isn't the only one out there going through a shitty time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Spring Picture Gestapo

Next week, my kids are supposed to have their spring pictures taken at school.

What, spring pictures aren't taken at your kids' school? Your school must not be part of the Lifetouch Mafia.

A few years ago, our school switched from a local photographer to Lifetouch, purveyors of digital backgrounds and full-body shots. The jaded former photographer wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper to let us all know of this change.

What it came down to, he said, was assignment notebooks. For exclusive rights to take our kids' pictures, Lifetouch would give our school a bunch of assignment notebooks. And our school took the deal.

And with it came a new phenomenon: spring pictures. But the deal with these are they take them on spec, send the whole package home with the kids, and if you want to buy them, send money back. If you don't want to buy them, send the pictures back.

If only it were that easy.

I find it ridiculous to send these pictures home with kids. Kids that ride the bus. Kids that lose mittens. Kids that have little-to-no-concept of economics and only know that if you take something, you'd better have paid for it. Since they got the pictures, they must have been paid for, right?

"Listen here, Toots. Either you take this picture or wake up with a horse's head in your Barbie bed. Your choice."


For the past two years, Larry Potter has brought these pictures home, wanting to keep them. And each year, I put them back in his backpack and instructed him to return them to his teacher.  AND, two out of two years, about mid-June when I'm doing an overhaul cleaning, I find his stolen pictures deep in a drawer I don't normally go in.

He gets a stern talking to and a punishment. Which is pretty much all I can do at that point.

So this year, I am pro-active. I told Hoover's teacher that I didn't want him taking the pictures. She said, "Everyone has to take them." Later that day, LP said his teacher told him the same thing.

Huh?

What is going on? If it's a matter of a contract fulfillment, I am well within my boundaries as a parent to  have first-refusal of something that involves a picture of my kids. It seems to me like this is some version of mafia protection. I will happily return my son's $8 assignment notebook. "Everyone has to take them," seems a little extreme. (And I know this isn't the teachers talking...it's some party line from higher ups.)

I wrote an e-mail to the principal, the district administrator and the boys' teachers (just to let them know what I sent), expressing my parental veto on these pictures. I mean, if it works for sex ed and vaccinations, certainly something as trivial as pictures will be covered. I haven't heard back yet, but if I get any grief about this, I will conveniently show up at their picture times and hold them back. Come at me with your tripod, bro.

I can just say it's against our religion. I believe in not turning my kids into make-shift bill collectors for shitty pictures I didn't order in the first place.