Monday, August 15, 2016

We Are Who We Are (or: Sutt Hates Pink Hair)

On my way home from picking up new classroom keys on campus today, I stopped at Kroger to put away some shopping carts.  I do this occasionally because I can count it as a Good Deed For The Universe and (bigger reason) because I'm OCD and hate seeing shopping carts left all willy-nilly around a parking lot.  Oh, by the way, if you are one of those people who do not return their carts or put them away in the cart corral, STOP READING NOW BECAUSE WE CANNOT BE FRIENDS.  That shit is the height of laziness, and I just can't take it.

Anyway, as I was gathering up carts, I started thinking about my kids and how it doesn't even occur to them to NOT put the cart in the proper place when we are finished with it at the store.  I was mentally high-fiving myself when my brain moved onto a conversation I had had with Sutton yesterday morning while watching "What Not To Wear" before school.  Most mornings, he and I have time to just hang out and catch up a bit on life every morning after Belly is gone and before he has to go catch the bus, but every now and then when active thought is too much to handle (neither of us is a morning person, so this happens from time to time) I will flip on the tv and we'll watch a few minutes of whatever happens to be on and talk about that instead.  This was one of those mornings.

The show that day featured a tiny little Asian girl, 23-years old, who had a bad habit of dressing like a male hobo from the 1950s.  Sort of like a homeless character on "Mad Men".  Since I had never seen "What Not To Wear" before and only knew of it from commercials, I don't know much about the designers, but they did a pretty decent job of taking this cute young lady and making her look adorable and fashionable and all that stuff that is the point of makeover shows.  When they got to her hair makeover, they decided to take her long, bleached-platinum blond hair and shape it up, give her  bangs, and dye it hot pink.  Sutton found this very displeasing. The conversation went something like this:

Sutt:  Well, they made her clothes look good, but WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT TO HER HAIR?
Me:  What do you mean?  Give her bangs?  Yeah, I'm not a big fan of those bangs either.
Sutt:  No.  What are bangs?  I mean the PINK part.  I do NOT like hot pink hair.
Me:  Is it because it's pink, or do you mean, like, any weird color?
Sutt:  ANY weird color.  I don't like hair that doesn't look like hair.  IT ISN'T NATURAL.  PEOPLE AREN'T SUPPOSED TO HAVE PINK HAIR.

I was kind of surprised to hear Sutt's thoughts on this, (although I shouldn't be, because I have learned that although you have to drag them out of him, the kid has incredibly strong opinions on EVERYTHING, he just keeps them close to the vest)  mostly because I figured that, being a 10-year-old boy, he hadn't put much thought into the new vibrant hair color trends, but also because I didn't realize Sutt was so judgmental.  Then I thought, but wait-- is that being judgmental, or just having a preference? I CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE.  And then I thought-- if he's being judgmental, where did it come from?  Are B and I judgmental?  (I don't think we are, and if we are, we definitely don't go around saying it out loud.   But then, neither did Sutt.)

A Medium once told me (yeah, you read that right) that our personalities are only so much the result of nature OR nurture, but some of it just comes from us being the Soul that we are.  It doesn't matter what DNA our parents passed down to us or where and how they raised us, we just ARE the Soul that God created.  Sometimes I think about that when I look at my kids and I think, "Whoa."

It is my biology or my upbringing or Jesus that makes me need to return shopping carts compulsively?  Who or what makes Sutt prefer non-pink hair?  How did any of us become what we are?  I can't answer any of those questions, but I can tell you-- it's something I'm thinking about.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Conversations With My Family

I was cleaning out my blog "Drafts" folder, and found this one that I actually wrote last November, but never published.  In honor of my friend Marissa, who pointed out that my blog is becoming a self-help book (blog?), I am publishing it as proof that, despite my introspection, the McPhails are still.....well, the McPhails, and we still need all the help (self or otherwise) we can get.
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These all took place this week, and are excellent glimpses into what LIFE AS A MCPHAIL is like.

1.  Between Me and Blaker:

B:  Did you know that Neal's dad got rid of his alpacas?
H:  WHAT?  Why would anyone lucky enough to have an alpaca get RID of it?  HE DIDN'T EVEN ASK IF WE WANTED DIBS.
B:  I think it was something to do with it not being lucrative.
H:  I don't need a LUCRATIVE alpaca.  I'm happy with a regular one.
B:  I know, right?
H.  We have a GREAT yard for alpacas too.
B:  Yeah.  Because it's hilly.  Like Argentina.
H:  And there's even that little space between the neighbor's fences that we could have used as a corral.  Or a naughty pen.  ALPACA, YOU'VE BEEN AN ASSHOLE.  GET IN YOUR NAUGHTY PEN!
B:  They still have their fainting goats.
H:  NOT SOLD.  I want the alpaca.
B:  I'll talk to Neal Senior.


2.  Between Me and Sutt

H:  Has anyone wished you a Happy Hanukkah yet?
S:  No.
H:  Me neither.  Losers.
S:  We don't celebrate Hanukkah.
H:  SO?  People could AT LEAST BE CORDIAL AND FESTIVE.
S:  Somebody at school wished me Happy KwanzaChristmaKkuh.
H:  What the hell is that?
S:  I don't know.  He said he was covering all his bases.  Do we even celebrate KwanzaChristmaKkuh?
H.  Do you ever remember us celebrating something called KwanzaChristmaKkuh?
S:  That's not the one where you plant trees, right?
H:  Um, no.


3. Between Me and Belly

B:  (bopping around the house in a Santa hat)  Oh the weather outside is....(pause)....sunny and seventy-five degrees, and a fire would be delightful, but since we've no place to go, LET IT SNOW LET IT SNOW LET IT SNOW.
H:  That's beautiful, Bells.
B.  Thanks.  Do you think there's any chance it will snow this year for Christmas?
H:  Well, we have the air conditioner on and Sutt's outside right now playing in shorts where I'm making sure he drinks water every hour so he doesn't have a heatstroke, so....yes?  Definitely snow for Christmas.
B:  Yay!  I can't wait!


4.  Between Me and Sutt:

H:  Okay.  I just need to run into the store and buy some mesh to make a garland, then we can leave.
S:  FINE.  I want to go home.
H:  We'll be fast, I promise.  Here it is.
S:  THAT'S NOT MESH.  IT'S TULLE.
H:  No it's not.  IT'S MESH.
S:  No, it's tulle.  I KNOW WHAT TULLE IS, MOMMY.
H:  You're a 10-year-old boy.  You SHOULDN'T know what tulle is.
S:  But I do.  And that's tulle.  Not mesh.
H:  Sutt, this is MESH.  Tulle is thinner and fluffier.  See how this is kinda wiry?
S:  Yeah.  I guess.
H:  Feel it.
S:  Well, it LOOKS like tulle?  Why would they make two things that look just alike and call them different things?  AND CAN'T YOU JUST USE TULLE?
H:  They don't.  And no.  I can't.
S:  (deep sigh)  FINE.  I need some gold beads.
H:  Gold beads?  Why?
S:  FOR MY DECORATING.
H:  What are you decorating?
S:  MY ROOM.  FOR CHRISTMAS.  Geez, Mommy.  I put my stuff up and I thought it would look really nice if I had some gold beads.
H:  Okay.  That's weird, but....okay.  I have some leftover red beads that I used to put on the Christmas tree if you want those.  They're in a box at home.
S:  Nope.  Gotta have gold or they won't match.
H:  You're wearing Carolina blue basketball shorts and a bright green shirt.  Since when do you care about matching?
S:  I LIKE MY DECORATING TO MATCH.
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Now we all see why I read so many self-help books.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Crushing Zen

Today I bought a cactus.  Well, he's not actually a cactus, per se, but he IS a succulent, which I think is maybe LIKE a cactus, but just on a broader scope.  Like if I bought a Snickers bar but I called it a lollipop, and even though they aren't the same thing they are both candy.  Anyway.  I was at Home Depot perusing the succulents because I needed something super tiny (and difficult to kill) for this cool new teacup planter Zach and Shawna gave me for my birthday and trying to be all IN THE MOMENT (we'll get to that later) when this man asked me if he could look at my shelf (as in, the same shelf I was looking at).

I think the conversation went something like this:

MAN:  Can I stand here and look at your shelf?
ME:  Sure.  Help your-shelf.
MAN:  Oh!  Clever!  (I swear, he really said "clever."  And he was all jovial and such, which all kind of made me love him, which is a totally unusual reaction because normally jovial people just piss me off.)
ME:  Yep.  That's me.
MAN:  Are you looking for a new houseplant?
ME:  Yeah, but I don't know exactly what kind.  I figure it will speak to me when I see it and then I'll know.  That's how I operate with plants and pets.  In the meantime, I'm just standing here staring them all down.
MAN:  Well, that IS kind of the point of shopping.
ME:  I guess.  Are you looking for a new houseplant too?
MAN:  Oh, no!  I'm not shopping for anything.  I just like to putter around and see what's out there.  Every new thing I see adds joy to my life!

Um.  Okay.  Haley out.

At this point, I picked out a plant and fled HD because 1) I needed to go to Kroger and buy cucumbers; and 2)  This guy was starting to get on my nerves and it really freaks me out when people use the word "putter."  Plus, I had a lot to do.  I had already been rushing around all day long-- cleaning and laundering and exercising and running errands.  My brain is always consumed with the NEXT THING THAT HAS TO BE DONE, which is exactly how it had been all morning.  Knowing that I'm this way, I couldn't clear my head of what this guy had said about how he was just out strolling around HD, checking shit out.  WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?

Later, when I got home, I told B about my conversation with the Home Depot guy and pointed out again, WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?  After taking a moment to consider, B informed me that anybody has time for that if they want to take the time.  "NO.  THEY DON'T," my brain screamed.  And even if they did, I decided to argue that they didn't, for principle, because that's what I like to do occasionally.  (I also think that when I do bother to argue for principle or any other reason, B should just concede and bow to my opinion because most of the time I don't give a shit about anything enough to argue with anyone about it.  Some people may see this as me being agreeable, but it's mostly just me being lazy.)

However, when I was lying in bed that night, trying to go to sleep, I kept thinking about what Blaker said and kind of realized his point.  Nearly every minute of my day I spend trying to get stuff done and trying to be efficient.  I think part of me does this because I'm naturally kind of jittery and hate to sit still.  I think part of me does this because if I'm busy, I don't dwell as much on things that make me sad.  And I think part of me does this because I just have a lot to do.  Regardless of the reason, even before I met the Home Depot man I would occasionally feel like I was missing out on my own life because I spend all of my time going going going and none of my time enjoying enjoying enjoying.  Even the things that are meant to be decadent, exist to be pleasurable, I usually do "efficiently."  I don't really have a glass of wine and relax, I have a glass of wine while I cook and clean.  I don't just watch tv, I watch tv while I make a grocery list and paint my nails and put stuff in the calendar on my phone.  I am the very definition of multi-task.  I am the very antonym of fun. Or at least that's how I feel most of the time. 

So, I decided to work on this.  The first thing I decided to do was to try to be more patient in situations where I couldn't really control time.  Just be IN THE MOMENT.  I looked for an opportunity, and one arose the very next day.  I needed to return a Redbox movie on my way home from the gym but when I got to the machine someone was already using it.  And it wasn't just SOMEONE.  It was my REDBOX WORST NIGHTMARE KIND OF SOMEONE.  Specifically, a teenage girl, deep in conversation on her phone complaining about some friend who who liked some guy who everybody knew liked some other girl, languidly scrolling through every single movie on the screen.  You could almost see the rudeness wafting off of her in waves, like heat does on asphalt.  As I took my place in line behind her (holding the disc I needed to return in plain sight and hoping for the best) she glanced up at me with her dead-eyed-teenage-girl-zombie stare (trust me, I taught high school-- I know this stare well) and went right back to scrolling through movies.  SHE WASN'T EVEN LOOKING AT THE SCREEN MOST OF THE TIME.  My first instinct was to throat-punch her.

I was fine.  IT was fine.  I could do this.  I could be Zen as a motherfucking Buddhist while this *ahem* lovely young lady took her time.  Following all the meditation rules I had frantically looked up on the Internet (after I had given up on sleeping the night before), I focused on my breathing.  I considered the temperature of the air on my skin.  I relaxed my facial muscles.  I contemplated all the different ways I could bring her pain while I taught her that WHEN SOMEONE IS RETURNING A MOVIE YOU MOVE YOUR ASS ASIDE AND LET THEM FUCKING DO IT IF YOU AREN'T ACTIVELY CHECKING YOUR MOVIE OUT.  Shit.  This wasn't working.

Maybe I needed to save my Zen for another time.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I need to slow down.  Probably, a lot of us need to slow down.  I need to learn to be in the moment and relax, instead of spazzing out because some asshole is putting me ten minutes behind schedule on whatever I've got happening that day.  I'm going to kill myself with unnecessary stress.

Since that day, I've had a few moments of Nirvana when I was actually able to pull my shit together and revel in a few euphoric moments without worrying about the next thing I need to be doing-- dripping sweat during a hard workout when the endorphins kick in, kissing Sutt on the cheek and realizing if I do it with my eyes closed it ALMOST feels the same as it did when he was a baby and I lived to kiss his fat little cheeks, dropping everything when I come in the door just to pet Poe because he's just so excited to see me, trying on prom dresses with Belly because she's big enough now to fit into juniors formal wear and I'll be damned if spinning around in a dressing room in sequins isn't one of the funnest things ever.  You know--the good stuff.

I still have a lot of slowing down to do, and a lot of forgiving myself for not getting as much accomplished that will have to happen before I can really get on board with being IN THE MOMENT.  But, barring being eaten by a shark or hit by a bus in the near future, I have the time to work on it.  I'll have to be vigilant. I'll definitely fail A LOT.  But every time I don't, I think this world will hand me a beautiful sliver of peace that I didn't have before.  And that will be my reminder to keep on slowing down.  That will be another moment to savor.