Mean Green

#07. “Never be jealous.” – Miyamoto, Musashi (Book of Five Rings)

At the first sign of envy, my mother sternly said to me, “Don’t be jealous!” To this day, she still pronounces it “gel-ASS” but like her “strage” for storage and “turn reft at the right and make light at the corner,” it’s the message that counts – not a Shakespearean delivery.

At the time, it seemed unfair to expect a five-year old not to be jealous of her cute baby sister. Now, I see why. Jealousy and envy breed uncontrollably – like cockroaches – it infests and causes nuisance and at it’s best, Stephen King stories. You have to squash it immediately.

With my mother, it was a constant reprimand, “Don be gel-ASS! Don be gel-ASS!” She was too busy looking after my baby sister to bother with my antics. “I’m not jealous,” I’d say, “my belly hurts,” or “I didn’t know it was aspirin,” or “I was just trying to make Flambe.”

She’d just give me that look of disgust, which I too mastered and put to full use during the years I managed a hair salon. It’s a look that says, “Don’t try to play me without serving cocktails first.”

Scares the shit out of people. Especially minors.

While it’s simple to demand, it’s not so easy to turn a jealous cheek. My two boys show me that all the time. Should I offer any kind of praise to their friends or classmates, my sons will whine, “You love him more than me!”

I feel like saying, “Don be gel-ASS!” but boys don’t respond to commands. You yell, “STOP,” and they’ll look back at you while they continue running forward and smack into a mailbox.

Unlike girls, boys not only have a hard time registering their feelings – they don’t want to talk about it either. Almost every time I ask a boy if they want to talk about what’s bothering them, they’ll respond, “No. I just wanna blow something up.” So you see why Minecraft is so popular.

Boys can’t see that praise and kindness given to other people doesn’t lessen the amount given to them. They think of affection like a pizza pie. You give a high five to a buddy and a thumbs up to a classmate and there goes two-eighths of his hugs! It might be a Common Core thing. But there’s a security thing, too. When you point out another child’s merit, you are unwittingly pointing out the shortcomings of your own.

So now, when I pay some kid a compliment, I’ll search my brain for a compliment to give my guy as well. It could go like, “Katie, congratulations on your perfect score. And Zuki – you remembered to bring home your lunch box everyday this week. That’s outstanding!”

Although my mother’s upbringing of not giving into jealousy got me over my jealousy of my sister – and of ex-girlfriends – and of people who have summer beach homes, I fear one day it’ll rear it’s ugly head again when my boys grow up and start dating sluts. Ooh, did I say that out loud?

Hopefully, my mother will still be around to slap some sense into me when the time comes. Though from experience, I’ve noticed that grandmothers are far more picky over their grandson’s partner than anyone else.

Perhaps it’ll be my turn to tell her not to be gel-ASS.

Don't be jealous - smile dammit!
Don’t be jealous – smile dammit!
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A Hyped Up Dud

We don’t watch football – but we do have a Superbowl ritual. We’re suckers for game food – hot wings, nachos and guacamole and if there’s an unofficial day to officially serve them, well, why the Hell not. Plus, the Superbowl is one shot. One game. I can handle one game.

Unlike the past Superbowl games, with the Jets and Giants, I didn’t really care who won Superbowl 2014. But I expected two teams to play, at least. This game was like watching a live suicide. Oh, die already. Now I know how Vikings fans feel.

All week, I thought about taking the boys to Times Square’s Superbowl alley after school. As the game progressed, I was glad I didn’t. All the fanfare and the event was nothing but a hyped up dud.

My boys were sent to bed right after the half time show. They were reluctant as usual and whining, “we wanna see the Broncos score something!” 

I told them, if and when they do, it’ll be too little, too late. Was I right, huh? Huh?

That’s why being a sports fan sucks. These athletes are worshipped and paid a shit load of money and what do they do – choke at the Superbowl. Peyton Manning just wasn’t hungry enough. An unfortunate drawback of being a rich athlete – having the chops and no game. He lost it and never got it back. Not like Michael Phelps who used his loss to come back like a bat out of hell. I have no problem with him – he nice boy.

That’s what the average schmuck is waiting for in a superstar – for them to dig deep and find the spirit that whimsically pranced over to the opponent. That hefty paycheck is impressive, yes – but complacency is just boring. Nobody respects that crap. If you’re going to get soft and happy, build a state of the art Karaoke room and lock yourself away. Otherwise, go bankrupt if you have to but don’t show up for battle with manicured hands. Or sell out to a car commercial…Bob.

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It’s Not Okay But Who Cares?

Will we ever stop obsessing? We’re either too fat, too poor, too crazy or too stupid but in the end, nobody cares. We all wind up in the same place. Yes, this post has philosophical tendencies. It’s not because I had an introspective moment, it’s because Samu’s fish died and I was wondering how to get rid of it.

“Should we put it in the compost?” I asked my husband.

He’s a sick guy so he just laughed and said,”Yeah!”

Seriously, no – we didn’t put the dead pet in the compost. We took the traditional route of flushing the thing down the toilet. He had a mini-funeral and everything. I even cleaned the fish bowl in the dishwasher for the next tenant. Then we analyzed what could’ve killed the fish besides the overall neglect.

“I think it’s because you changed his name.” Samu said to his daddy.

Initially, Samu named it something ridiculous, then he changed it to Rex. Nobody called the fish “Rex”. Then, about a week ago, my husband decided that the fish didn’t look like a “Rex” so he changed the fish’s name to Fishy-poo. The name stuck and a week later – the fish died.

Coincidence? I think so. Still, I’m not going to ask my husband to name any pets in the future – unless I want them to go away.

What I wasn’t expecting was Samu’s mourning. Unlike the deaths of the previous pet fish and the hermit crab, Fishy-poo’s passing brought Samu to tears. He was sad and mopey for a while and he didn’t ask me right away if the void could be filled with another pet. It was the perfect opportunity to talk to him about appreciating life and living for the moment and all that good stuff that I often fail to practice myself.

As of late, I confess I’m a writer who hasn’t written. Every day that passed without writing a word, I used to convince myself that it was okay, there was life threatening laundry and classes to get to. But in reflecting, seeing Samu take our talk to heart, it’s clear that it is not okay.

“It’s okay” is just an excuse and who can do anything with those? Even the best excuse is still just an excuse, I tell my boys. When their homework is taking too long or there’s wads of toilet paper in the sink and I ask why, they know not to give me excuses. If they do for lack of memory, they are made to simply apologize – then do 10 plank push-ups. You’d think they’d look like Mr. Incredible by now instead of the scrawny chickens that they are.

So I’m writing again. And hating it. But love having written. My ass is getting bigger as are the dust bunnies and various other messes that would normally take up writing time to maintain. Certainly, it’s not okay but who cares? Otherwise, I’d have to name my life Fishy-poo.

Fishypoo copy

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Roots, Radicals, Reese’s Pieces

As a full time mom, I get to chaperone a lot of the school field trips for my boys’ class. I get a kick out of them. While getting to know my son’s classmates and teachers is a huge perk, the real bonus is in watching them act like monkeys who escaped from the zoo.

Recently, we went to the Queens County farm, where they took a “Colonial Kitchen” workshop in a farmhouse. During the presentation, these 4th graders learned about life in the Colonial days – how children did chores all day, ate after all the adults were finished, married early, caught on fire easily and hardly had sugar.

No sugar?!

Kids and their priorities. They were put to work during the workshop, cutting the farm’s fresh vegetables, making cornbread with molasses (remember, no sugar), churning butter from cream. When it was all done, only two kids actually finished their cups of soup – the rest preferred to finish off their 30 oz bottle of Gatorade and barbecue flavored chips.

You only live once, I suppose. Fresh food isn’t a novelty to them when we have three supermarkets in a five block radius who all sell organic produce.

Damned kids – I thought the soup was delicious and had two helpings – screw them. Then again, it was a mere five degrees outside and the class voted to go see the frozen cow while the soup cooked. Dumb cow.

In the end, what I learned was – I could never work on a farm. But somebody has to. Somebody has to know how to grow potatoes. I mean out of the 28 kids in the class, only one knew that flint rock and steel was a way to start a fire. And he wasn’t even a scout.

It’s sad when you think about it, how little city folk know about surviving and how even less they can pass on to their kids. I could teach my kids how to get anywhere by subway but outdoors, I couldn’t guide them to the North Star unless there was a huge white arrow pointed to it. But at least I know it’s crucial to find it if you’re lost.

These kids? Well, the instructor asked the students what sweeter they thought replaced sugar in Colonial days, as a hint she said it starts with an M and rhymes with glasses. All the kids searched the furthest corner of their 4’x5′ brain and one kid stuck up his arm like he was having a stroke.

“Peanut butter!”

I clawed at my face and thought, we’re all gonna die.

See - Men do belong in the kitchen
See – Men do belong in the kitchen

 

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Gathered Here Today

My good friend, I heard of your loss and I’m deeply sorry. Sometimes we see it coming – many times we don’t but either way, we’re never quite prepared. It is the ultimate Suck.

How do people carry on, you ask yourself. Don’t they know who they’ve lost?

It is strange – to see life continue when for you, it has split between the time with and the time thereafter. But if anything is to be gained, it’s the awakening. That by departing, they illuminate everyone else. All those who are still here. And it makes you want to remind them that every, single day is important.

Cherish it and replace the sorrow with it for now. The void will inevitably come.

I remember, weeks after I lost my sister, you called me up and coaxed me out of my cave. Gathering the dregs that we tooled around with, we poured our memories into our beers and drank until we ran out of money. That’s what I remember of thirteen years ago – not the tears, but the laughter that fought them and the friends who were there when the dust settled.

There hasn’t been a day gone by that I don’t think of her – and I suspect the same fate awaits you with your brother.

He was the backbone to your uniqueness – the bolt in that swan on your bowler hat. He supported your gigs, even when everyone else was at home watching the season premiere of Sex In The City. He scared off your trick or treaters as the scary Cat in the Hat.

What a guy.

You and your family are in our thoughts, bro.

Here is the light, and there you go…

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Derailed

Recently, I read this article that instructed me to find a correlation with a random event to a problem in my life. “For example,” they said, “passing by a shattered window and relating it to your spouse’s flatulence.”

Well, that’s how I interpreted it anyway.

I can get obsessed with signs. If I hear a crow cackling a mad cry, I’ll walk the opposite direction to avoid the oncoming zombie it’s obviously warning me about.

So, when news filtered in about the Metro North train derailment, it occurred to me that this was it – a sign that described my current discontentment to a tee. Sure, trains derail all the time – but this one was big. It killed four people. Very rarely do I hear of a train derailment resulting in fatalities in New York. Other places are a different story and all I can say is, that’s what happens when you try to save a cow.

Of course, derailment as a metaphor is broad. So broad you might say I should go out and seek mad cackling crows to find a better direction. But for now, I’ll correlate every action. Get back on track like the derailed train. Get things moving again, like the rest of Metro North’s service. Lastly, lay to rest what’s gone.

What’s your shattered window?

 

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Zuke, I Am Your Grandfather

Were my dad alive for his birthday today, he’d be eighty years old. I wish he was here just to stump my boys mathematically – they couldn’t fathom it – eighty years. Just the other day, Zuki asked me if I was alive in 1812.

I asked him if he was serious.

Then he asked me if I was almost a hundred years old.

I told him yes just to stop the conversation because I knew he would never do the math.

Although my dad and Samu only spent a year and a half together on Earth, Samu sometimes says he misses him. Since I doubt he has that extraordinary of a memory, I’m assuming he’s missing the potential of pilfering another grandparent out of money.

To Samu’s credit, he does remember something about “Gigi” – that he would lie on the daybed to take a nap. That’s about it. I told him how my dad used to praise him for neatly putting his shoes away before entering the house. It was a rather “obsessive-compulsive” action for a one year old to take and little did I know it would get much, much worse – but that’s another story.

Zuki, of course wanted a story of his grandfather praising him.

So, I recounted a time when Zuki accidentally turned on the oven cleaner and almost set the house on fire. My father clearly called him a little rascal.

How is that praise?

Because since his stroke, he never made any sense. He’d call me “Machi” and he’d call everyone else “Pachi” – but “rascal” – was reserved just for his grandson.

He didn’t look disappointed with that story – he didn’t seem affected at all. In that way, he reminds me of my dad. The punchline was always way over their heads. My dad would laugh at a joke a good ten minutes later, while Zuki made you explain it until he turned into a gay fish.

And there are other ways: the way it takes forever for them to get to the point, the way they are remotely fascinated with the military, the movies and accessories.The way they they take forever to leave, which is how my dad was dubbed “The Prince” by my mom. Naturally, Zuki is “Prince 2.”

Samu is “The Princess” but again – that’s another story.

My mother thinks my comparisons are fixated, delusional bullshit based on a father complex. Perhaps she’s right. We all see what we want to see – or in this case – who we want to see. Maybe Zuki is just like me but I see my father because I don’t want to see myself.

Does that make me Zuki’s grandfather? There has to be a punchline in there somewhere.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 2.07.21 PM

 

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The Redundant Circle

Pep talk to self: get outta this rut, you bat brain!

That’s how I started my Jewish New Year. Of course, I’m not technically Jewish, but any culture who forces me to observe their holiday and celebrate – by default – has my blessing.

And so, this is my Jewish New Year’s resolution: get back to the path intended and write. Enough of this side-show Bob stuff. I’ve pledged and delivered a bunch of commitments that have lead me astray and wondering where I was. While all were honorable experiences, and I’m grateful for the friendships it created – it’s time to get back to work. Spin off the redundant circle and start walking a straight line.

This morning, with the impeding first day of school less than 24 hours away, Summer of 2013 – seemed complete. I don’t know about my boys, but I enjoyed a memorable summer – which makes it all the more harder to go back and face a void. The Parent Coordinator of Samu’s school is battling stage 4 cancer and won’t be returning to work.

He’ll be devastated when he realizes she’s not there.

She used to greet him every morning with all the animal crafts she was working on, show him all the tools and tricks and even printed a frog and dragon for him to put together. He would hide in her office, whenever he felt anxious and take comfort among her paper zoo collection.

I’m not sure what to say when he asks me where she is. But it’s life like this that encouraged me to write in the first place – guess it’s no surprise that it shows up last.

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