Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the old lady

Due to a variety of circumstances, my niece moved in with my parents a few months ago. That’s not such an unusual state of affairs; for as long as I can remember, my parents have taken in kids who needed some sort of respite. For years, when we were growing up, a variety of family friends with “bad situations” at home stayed at our house, sometimes for months on end. Comforting and warm, my parents always offered our friends stability and safety without judgment- it’s a quality that I aspire to and admire.

So when my niece packed in her own bad situation and decided to move forward with her life, it was a natural that she would phone my parents for help. And it was even more natural that they would invite her to stay. In addition to the healing and warm environment provided by my parents, it was also meant to be a time of reflection for my niece. Of looking behind, and beginning to look forward towards a new life, bright and full with promise.

However. In the midst of all of these life-altering moments, self-actualization and self evaluation, something else happened this summer.

Slowly but surely. 

My niece is turning into her grandparents.

It’s inevitable, really. Everyone knows that when people spend time together, they often begin taking on each others’ personality characteristics. It’s just not something you’d expect, or could prepare for really, when your 19 year-old niece begins affecting mannerisms and habits of a couple well into their 70s.

And vice versa.

The transition started slowly, communing around the television. Lying around on the couch watching Iron Chef, and commenting on the judges.

“We think she’s sleeping with the chef!” piped my niece.

“Word!” my dad’s emphatic response.

My dad’s habit of repeatedly pausing movies, movies we are all watching, in order to provide an ongoing commentary of sorts, often renders me almost convulsive with impotent frustration. In my niece, he’s finally found a staunch ally.

“You know,” (pauses movie) “I thought that young fella, Heath Ledger, was quite an actor. He really knew what he was doing. Such a shame.”

“I really liked him in Batman, Grandpa. But I’m not sure about this movie.”


“I love his tatts."

“Me too, grandpa.”


“Applebee’s is a fine restaurant. You know you can always count on a good meal at Applebee’s.”

“I like their cheese sticks, grandpa.”

My health-conscious niece has even changed her eating patterns to match those of my septuagenarian parents. This started with eating seconds at dinner (“to get rid of leftovers”), and quickly morphed into eating dessert a fast 15 minutes later.

“I don’t mean to do it,” explained my niece. “But then grandma says ‘Bananas Foster’ and I start feeling hungry again.”

Mornings are as likely to begin with clouds over the coast as they are with Dutch pancakes and whipped cream. Lunch is also an extraordinary affair, as my father, sandwich-maker extraordinaire, artfully builds teetering reubens garnished with mom’s peanut butter cookies (now deftly made by my niece).

An enormous lunch means yawning faces everywhere, as my parents and my niece mumble “I’m just going to lie down for a minute,” not to resurface from their bedrooms for a couple of hours, when they stumble back out onto the assorted couches, interest piqued.

Because at 2pm in the afternoon, it’s time for my niece to reassess priorities and plan accordingly for the future, as much as anyone can.

“When’s dinner?”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh…Canada. (alternate title: the longest kilometer)

Being in a long distance relationship has many challenges. And when your significant other lives in another country, the challenges are magnified. Especially when that country has a different way of measuring things.

Me: “How many miles is it to the store?”

Him: “Miles?”

Me: “Well, just tell me how many minutes it will take to get there.”

Him: “Minutes?”

Even trying to decide what to wear quickly becomes a struggle, when you’re dating someone who lives in Canada.

Me: “How hot is it going to be today?”

Him: “About 25.”

Me: “Should I bring a sweater?”

Him: “No. But tomorrow the temperature’s going to drop. So you’ll want to have your toque.”

Me: “What?”

Language barriers and metric systems aside, there’s something to long distance relationships. Something sweet and not yet explored by this writer. If you're considering a long distance relationship, or think you may come across any Canadians, stay tuned for more insights.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the uneasy A

When I was in college, one of my favorite classes at Miami University was my Political Ideologies course. We read books like There Are No Children Here and Robert Reich and held heated classroom debates about Locke and Rousseau. My professor made the class special. His easygoing nature and insightful comments left us feeling wiser and well-informed- ready to conquer the many political landscapes laid out before us. 

Ah, youth.

The professor had one policy that I disagreed with, however. If you were late to class on a day when a paper was due, your paper would automatically be docked 5 points. At this point in my college career, the classes for my majors (English and Political Science) all relied on papers, and they were usually a minimum of 7 pages long. Not something to be trifled with, especially by something so small as disrespecting your professor and your other classmates.


Inevitably, I was late on the day a paper was due. It wasn’t my fault, I explained to professor in his office after class. I was a.) out of gas b.) had to work and c.) confronted with a lot of traffic and a lack of parking spaces near the building.

“Piffle,” was his understated response. “You know my policy. You knew that the paper was due today, and that a late penalty applied. And you know, Lisa, when you begin your professional career, you can’t just show up late to meetings or presentations. Punctuality is important.”

But I had never had a “real” job at that point. And I certainly had no idea that one day, I’d be racing off to work an hour early to get to a meeting on time…all the while, remembering his sage words of advice.

So I argued.

I hotly debated.

And I stomped around his office, waving my arms.

My professor watched me with a puzzled look on his face, waiting until the end of my diatribe to calmly raise a hand. “You know, Lisa…it’s still an A.”

Perhaps. But as I explained to him then- and I still believe today- it’s the principle of the thing. 

And isn’t that worth fighting for?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

the conspiracy theory

A while ago I wrote about conspiracies. Laughed about them really, in a half-hearted way. Because on the whole, I think most of them are pretty silly. Hangar 18. Lake monsters. Fake moon landings. I mean, come on.

But lately, I’ve been a little more worried about information dissemination. I’m the first one to admit that I’ve looked up information on people I’m interested in. I’m amazed at how much information is available for free online. In a matter of minutes, you can find out someone’s current address, businesses they own or are employed by and of course, their criminal record. When I lived in Kentucky, I told potential suitors that if we’re going to go on date, you might as well disclose all of your speeding tickets- Because I will look you up on the clerk of courts website. And I did.

I dated someone who was pretty scrupulous about removing his name from the web. In fact, I only found one or two mentions of him online, on an association website. After I told him, I think he called them and asked that his name be removed. I’m not sure why, really. But like a friendly ghost, he prefers to hover behind the scenes, instead of accepting the inevitable Internet disclosure.

I find myself trying to be more cautious about what I say these days. I don’t know why. It’s not like anyone cares. But like that dealer in Pulp Fiction (“Cell phone! This is a Cell Phone!”), I’ve been loathe to disclose too many details over the phone- or over email.

Because although it probably sounds silly, lately, I’ve been worried that someone may be listening in. And I can’t help but wonder, in the age of information overload, if someday I’ll be sitting in a courtroom while my many transgressions, from phone calls to emails (I can’t even get into what I’ve written here) are read back to me.

Start thinking about who might be listening in and it never stops. In fact, it only gets a lot worse. I have an odd habit, when I meet someone who seems familiar, of asking them if they know me. As opposed to the more traditional “Do I know you?” And I’m loathe to expose someone that I think may know me but for some reason or another, may not want other people to know that they know me.

That’s some screwed-up logic, I know.