Monday, July 19, 2010

It's All a matter of Perspective

Mom peeking in the rear view mirror: "Sophie, are you sleeping?"
Sophie: "No, I'm just resting my eyelids."

My parents live 800 miles north of us in a west suburb of the ever-expanding shadow of Chicago. On trips like that, or even on the 4-hour trip to my in-laws house we pray that Sophie will sleep....a LOT. It saves a lot of pain all around. When she's awake and stuck in the car for long periods of time she can get.....fussy. When she's fussy, we suffer.

In truth, even when she's awake and bubbling with joy and goodwill, her curious mind lets loose an endless stream of questions, comments and observations to which she requires an answer or comment to every one. After an hour or two, it can be a little tiring, especially if you're someone who relishes peace, quiet and silent reflection.

On the flip side, when we take shorter trips, like to our zoo which is an hour away, the last thing we want on the drive home is for Sophie to fall asleep and take her nap in the car. If she does that, we're robbed of a couple of hours of getting things done around the house once we get home. Those short car power naps are all that it takes to recharge her batteries and energize her for the rest of the day. So we are constantly making sure that she doesn't fall asleep by talking to her, tickling her, giving her food; whatever it takes.

The day she gave this response to our attempt to keep her awake was the day we realized that we'd hit another milestone; one that would require us to stay on our toes even more than before. We have a politician on our hands. She's three years old (at the time) and she knows how to spin.

I think that being able to spin  a situation or statement is an incredible art form. It amazes me that I can read a piece on Fox News' site, go over to MSNBC and see the same situation described in an entirely different way, with an opposite conclusion; both sounding very plausible.

Perspective is merely spin to your advantage. Unfortunately, it's not always honest. While I applaud our daughter's ability to use her creative mind to quickly come up such a witty response, she'll need to learn and heed the point at which spinning passes simply sharing her perspective and becomes lying.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


"Yea! We're going to the A B C D Y to go swimming!"

We have a beautiful lake across the street from our house. In the winter the cold blue sky is reflected on it and the bare brown trees provide a stark contrast to the blue. In the summer it's exploding with wildlife. There are hawks that live in the area and they scream to each other over the water as they look for mates and proclaim their territory. We have turtles and snakes and other creepy crawlers there. Canada geese arrive in formation and take over the beach area, calling to each other and squabbling like little children night and day.

Which is the reason that we don't usually go swim in the lake. It's nice to look at and the beach is a fun place to long as you avoid green goose droppings. Even though the lake is tested regularly, come mid-summer, there are weird globules of algae floating around and the bottom has that slimy suck-you-under sediment that's uncomfortable to walk through.

Which is the reason that we decided to look into getting a membership at the YMCA even though we have a lake with a beach, a dock and a slide right across the street from us. My husband took our daughter for a tour the first time and she loved being in the kids' room while he examined the weights and other areas she didn't care about. The nice people at the Y gave us several free passes so we could get a feel for whether we wanted to join or not. The second time we went was to go swimming. Once we were all dressed, we moved down towards the car, which is when Sophie let loose with her exclamation. It was cute, but it also reminded me of one of my least favorite things; acronyms.

There was a time when acronyms were used only for long names of things like YMCA, MRI, and FDA. For most of us, we don't even remember what they stand for, but the acronyms have become the product or program.

With the advent of text messaging acronyms have been taken to a new level. I'll read something on Facebook or a friend's blog and see a series of letters and have no idea what they mean. For instance, one friend writes about her HHBL. Any idea what an HHBL is? According to the Urban Dictionary, it's hunka-hunka burnin' love. I'm assuming that's her husband.

What's even worse to me how acronyms have bled into notes and e-mails we send. Over the past thirty years our society has gone through an amazing transformation. We used to wait by the mailbox for that personal, hand written note from a loved one because hand writing was really the fastest way to write something, even though there were typewriters. In the early 1980's word processors came along and people started typing out their correspondence even though they still had to mail the letters (and the United States Post Office sincerely misses those days). Entering the middle 1980's AOL (eek, an acronym) changed everything. E-mail and instant messaging were born and handwriting all but disappeared.

Today it's not good enough that a thought can be transmitted instantaneously via e-mail, text message or blog. Even these messages have to be abbreviated as though the person on the other end is so busy that they can't take the extra five seconds to write thank you but instead feel it necessary to use ty instead.

If you haven't guessed, I'm not a fan of abbreviations. If I write to you I won't use them because I think you're worth taking the time to write out the whole word for. When I sign my name I won't put c or cp, but I'll let you know that I'm Christiane.

Our daughter is growing up in this age and will most likely look at this and think I'm an old fogey. but, I'm sure that when she's in college and opens her mail box and finds a personalized, hand written note from her mother in there, she'll say TYVM. DYKWIM?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Sophie: Mommy, your brownies and poop are the same color.

I am one of those rare people who don't like chocolate. It's beyond the, "I just don't care for it," stance and all the way to the point where I just won't eat desserts that have chocolate in them (though I have been known to make an exception for cheesecake). My husband enjoys chocolate but can go without it and doesn't go out of his way to find it.

Proving that the chocolate addiction is a gene thing and not just a habit that's picked up from being around others with the same need, our daughter (who, remember, is adopted) is a die hard chocoholic. I don't think she even had a piece before she was two simply because I hoped that feeding her fruit early on would create a love for that form of natural sugar, but upon the first bite of chocolate, all that changed.

Since our little lady did develop a taste for this nasty thing, I knew that I'd be making desserts here and there with it. Since my husband does like brownies, those end up being my go-to treat. Even if not using a box, it's pretty hard to mess them up.

One day sometime after having a brownie as a treat, I went in to help Sophie finish her "business" and she came out with that gem of a quote. The fact that it's true is a bit horrifying. The fact that I've used brownies to make a litter box cake even more so (though I didn't tell her that).

The truth of the matter is that appearances can be deceiving, especially in a society like ours that is so easy to use stereotypes so easily.  A friend of mine once told me about an exercise that he had to do with a group of others. They walked into a room and were presented with an arrangement of cardboard cut-out men and women ranging in age, race, economic status, etc.  Each person was asked to go stand by the person with whom they thought they would feel most comfortable going out on a date. After everyone had settled next to their cardboard man or woman, the leader of the group started reading descriptions of these real-life personalities. Some women had chosen to stand next to a well-dressed, handsome man in his early 30s who was actually a rapist. Men stood next to a woman who had beaten her child to death because she had a beautiful smile and looked so nice.  We just never know.

Deception has gone far beyond face-to-face though. Working with an Internet technology company, I am more than aware of the dangers that social networking sites present. I have three friends on Facebook who have an extraordinary amount of friends; 1,943 1,066, and unbelievably 2,658. I find it hard to believe that these three people really know those "friends" yet they continue to post personal information about their lives on their page; travel plans, concert attendance, dinners out, etc. Why not just post a sign out front of their house that says, "Hey thieves, we're not home"?  

It's sad that we have to teach our daughter that appearances can be deceiving and that she needs to be wise and aware at all times. The days of heading to the park on her own are over. Even playing in the front or back yards is supervised and she knows not to talk to strangers no matter how nice they appear to be. 

Some say she's shy as a result, but appearances are deceiving. She's just smart.