You wait. I’ll be so dang merry, Christmas won’t know what hit it

Manic Mumbling | So Very Merry for Christmas“Don’t you just get more and more excited as it gets closer to Christmas?”

This was the start of a conversation over scrambled eggs yesterday, December-the-very-first, with our exchange student, Anna. Since I don’t talk much before 8 am, my only reply was to stare at her over my coffee mug, contemplating her sobriety.

Then I thought about the relationship I have the holidays, and how likely it is I’m gonna let this girl way down sometime in the coming weeks.

If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know I’m kind of a Scrooge. Want a refresher? Well there’s that tale about our amazing city lights tour – aka the Vomit Trolley Ride of 2004, or the one about how I only do Christmas crafts as an act of revenge, or there was that time I almost came to blows with Santa.

I haven’t any excuse for this hostility. It’s not that Christmas is a particularly dark time of year for me. I don’t get seasonal depression. There’s no trauma in my past. I’m just one of those people who really doesn’t go in for schmaltz. Or shopping. Or crafts, clutter, or empty calories for that matter (except beer, that is. And I do kinda dig spiked eggnog). I’m mostly just lazy. And a cynic. And schmaltz is way less funny than cynicism.

A little research and a consultation with our own kid who’s currently living among Anna’s people, confirmed that Danes do Christmas like they mean it, and Anna appears to be keeping pace with her homeboys. Before December was even upon us, she’d been to two tree-lighting ceremonies and a couple holiday concerts, and had a stack of homemade Christmas cards ready to send. The girl is ready for the holiday. (more…)

Youth exchange and a much-needed optimism refresher

Early last week, Anna, our Danish daughter, asked how it feels to know, as a nation, that the whole world is paying close attention to your every move.

To be honest, right now it feels rather like getting caught by the neighbors, having passed out on the lawn in a puddle of … well of something not left there by the sprinklers, lets say.

And for the record, no, I haven’t ever been caught passed out on the lawn. I’m just guessing how that might feel, you guys. Jeez.

I was working last week on a post I’ve since scrapped because I’m still trying to figure out how screaming into my pillow could be a productive part of any discussion. I’ll admit it was cathartic to give folks a piece of my mind though, even if that piece never leaves my desktop, or is only witnessed by those who happen to pass as I’m having a very heated discussion in my empty car.

One thing’s for sure: for a humor blogger, I have precious little to say that’s very funny right now. Hence the gap in my regular posts.

There was one thing recently that felt productive, though.

Last weekend, I was on a team of more than three-dozen volunteers who screened applicants for Rotary youth exchange. If all goes well, by this time next year, many of those teenagers will be on foreign soil, completely out of their element, struggling to understand and make themselves understood, and hopefully having the times of their lives. We’ll accept a few others just like them, here.Youth exchange and the gift of optimism - Manic Mumbling

(more…)

Three days in Music City: Eating my way through Nashville

Manic Mumbling | Three days in Nashville: Eating my way through music cityI’m not much into the country music scene, and by not much, I mean not the teensiest bit. So when told my trip to Nashville would be on the eve of the 50th Annual Country Music Awards, with a lot of celebrity sighting potential, I had to confess I wouldn’t know a country star unless he bit me right in the face.

This statement did not get the laughs I expected in Tennessee, so I’m wondering if people there were just (a) too aghast at my ignorance to respond as expected, or (b) there’s actually more face biting going on than I realize.

It can’t possibly be (c) that I’m not as funny as I think. (more…)

The late wives’ suite

Manic Mumbling | The Late Wives' SweetThere had been an argument down the hall. Raised voices, a thump, then silence. Martha harrumphed and reached over Larry’s head. He flinched as she grabbed the key off the pegboard. She turned and pushed through the swinging door, disappearing around the corner before it could swing back.

Larry closed his binder after laying a pencil across the spreadsheet to save his place. He stood, pulling himself up at the counter. He propped a sign near the edge of the counter to face the lobby. It was a dog-eared, peeling from its cardboard backing. A cartoon bird was wearing a watch on one wing, pointing to it with the other, its beak open in a wide smile. “Be Back Soon!” in letters that always reminded Larry of that pig and his “That’s all Folks!” at the end of the cartoon.

Larry bent to collect items he’d stowed near his feet. He shuffled after Martha at half her pace. He could hear her before he turned down the hall and saw her, both feet planted at the second door down. She was knocking, her knuckles stern on the wood.

“Manager,” she said, her lips tight.

“Martha, there’s no one,” Larry said.

Four more doors down, there was the sound of a latch. Light threw itself against the opposite wall. Larry saw the shadow of a head. Right. They weren’t completely empty. Never completely. (more…)

There isn’t any Teflon-coated bubble wrap suit for teenagers. I’ve checked.

Manic Mumbling | There is no teflon coating for skateboarding teens, I've checkedI got into a little argument on Facebook recently.

Someone said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Oh, it’s so sad. A child was hit in a crosswalk this morning on his way to school. Please be careful everyone.

Then another person, whom I’m just going to call the “Douche Bag of the Day” responded (again … paraphrasing):

Ahem, not to seem insensitive, but who is really at fault here? Shouldn’t kids watch where they’re going? And shouldn’t parents blah ditty blah, hell-in-a-hand-basket, when-I-was-a-kid blah blah?

Again, you know, paraphrasing.

And I saw red, because some kid that very morning was rushed to the hospital as his bike lay crumpled on the sidewalk and a whole bunch of other kids and probably a crossing guard were doomed to relive the exact moment over and over again in their heads for a number of days if not weeks.

And some parent was pacing in a room with outdated magazines wondering if she should call all the relatives and feeling like she was going to throw up at the same time her throat was constricting and so jumpy that if someone tapped her on the shoulder right then they’d have to peel her off the ceiling.

And here’s this Facebook commenter positing on the state of parenting and kids today and wondering who was at fault? (more…)

If you think traveling with young kids is a waste, you’re doing it wrong

Manic Mumbling - Family travel is never a waste of money or timeLast month, Grant Feller of The Telegraph published an article admonishing parents to wait to travel with their children until they’re teens. To do otherwise, he says, is a waste of money, and the only reason anyone would do so is to assuage guilt about expensive vacations, and rack up bragging chits about their little ones’ ability to tick countries off lists before any of their friends.

Feller points his own childhood travels as “supreme indulgences” on the part of his parents, who dragged him along when he was too young to appreciate or remember anything of significance.

If all that wasn’t enough, he says, traveling with kids is distinctly no fun.

“Children are always inconveniently tired, have very little interest in culture, can’t walk longer than 45 minutes without needing sustenance and moan if burgers aren’t on the menu.”

As part of a parenting team that has brought one or more young children along on a number of regional and international trips, I have a different perspective.

No, more than that. I completely disagree. (more…)

All about how all I wanted was a cheeseburger and I wound up in Hell

Manic Mumbling | The shopping mall is the actual heart of darkness and other insights.The mall in our town is surrounded by an open-air parking lot you can see on approach from the interstate. It stretches to the horizon and it’s always full. Around the holidays, cars back up at that exit sometimes a quarter mile or more.

Why this sight doesn’t serve as a warning to any sane person I’ll never know. That parking lot is an asphalt-paved River Styx surrounding the Heart of Darkness. It’s a test of fortitude. If you can retain your sanity driving two miles an hour up and down lanes in which you could have sworn you just saw an empty space, but that “space” inevitably turns out to be a mini cooper tucked between two F-150s, and then you find yourself following the Inevitable Three Women moseying on foot directly down of the center, pushing strollers, and balancing their respective gigantic handbags, smart phones, and triple, venti, non-fat, caramel macchiatos, if you can do that, and your head doesn’t explode into a million pieces, you may have the temperament needed in order to enter. Yay you. You just earned the right to enter Hell.

And it is Hell. No guarantees whether you’ll return. Or if you do, that you’ll be able to find your damn car. So keep that in mind. (more…)

What I’ve learned from pushups

Manic Mumbling | What I've learned from the 22x22 pushup challenge

EXACTLY what I look like but with slightly more hair

When Mike said he was going to do the ice-bucket challenge a couple years ago, I told him if he tagged me, or if anyone he tagged, tagged me, or if anyone THEY tagged, tagged me, I was going to take it as a sign he wanted me to kick him out and change the password on our Netflix account.

It was kind of overkill and I probably wouldn’t have done something drastic like change our password, but I really don’t like wearing ice water or getting my hair wet, or being on video or anything, so I figured I had to make a pretty strong statement right off the bat.

Flash-forward a couple years and apparently I didn’t get the word out about my general grumpiness on this type of thing before my friend Amanda roped me into something I like just about as much as being doused on my back porch.

Pushups. I hate ‘em. I know they’re good for you, but I do. (more…)

Of latent Tiger Mom tendencies and how once I was able to stifle a lecture

Manid Mom - Of latent Tiger Mom tendencies and how once I was able to stifle a lecture

Pretty, but probably not a good pet

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ve probably noticed we’re not much for helicopter parenting. For a little refresher, here’s a quick story about bags of teeth, and another about how we rate kid activities on the amount of time they require our backsides be removed from the sofa.

I rather think this has worked to our children’s advantage, requiring them to become savvy to all kinds of helpful stuff, like how to find the fire extinguisher, or the expiration date on a gallon of milk. It’s kind of like we planned it, but in reality this is what happens when your MO is expending the least energy possible while keeping people alive. (more…)

A hyggelig holiday

manic mumbling - a hyggeligt holiday

A webcam view of Stanley, with and without smoke

If you’re like me, you look at the word “hygge” and think it’s a remix of something Will Smith wrote when he was still Fresh Prince-ish kind of cool and then you have an ear worm that is really not my fault because you should get your head out of the 90s.

If that sounds like really aggressive way to launch a subject, it’s because I’ve got “Na na na na na na na nana” going through my head, so … sorry.

(more…)