December 12, 2011


About this time of year, I become terribly enamored with people’s End of Year Lists shared on the interwebs (Top Ten Books I Read in 2011, Top Five Influencers in My Life This Year, Top Twenty Songs that Mattered in 2011). These blogs and articles discuss issues that matter, helping humanity evolve into a kinder, braver species. They give readers edifying information, important thinkers to listen to, profound books to read, noteworthy leaders to follow. These writers take their platforms and use their influence for great good. I admire them so much.

I’m joining their ranks, but with *slightly* less necessary information.

People, I have issues, and I believe it is time to air them. I’ve covered plenty of serious material on this blog, like this and this and this. I might have even tricked some readers into believing I operate only in deep thoughts and serious scholarship. Some of you haven’t recovered from my last post, when my family jumped off Santa’s sleigh and half the world came apart at the seams (let it never be said that I don’t employ a healthy amount of melodrama). So it’s time for some lighter fare, or as one of my commenters said on a previous blog about adoption: “You are the worst writer I’ve ever seen! This is exactly what I would expect from a girl from Texas, land of big hair bows and empty brains.” Good reader, I shall dabble in that of which you speak.

Here’s the deal: I’m plagued by a few idiosyncrasies, certain quirks, if you will. I exhibit some behaviors and tendencies that cause people to say, “Really? Get a grip.” I’m daring to believe there are more of you out there, and hear me say right up front: I expect you to offer some quid pro quo at the end of this little piece, because nothing fuels our eccentricities more than another human saying, “You think that’s weird? I’ve saved all my toenail clippings since 1991.”

So without further ado, I give you: Jen’s Five Top Quirks of 2011 (ok, and forever):

1. I’ve let on that I’m not a hovering Mama. My kids slide down banisters and build skateboard ramps and shoot each other with airsoft guns. I parent this behavior by saying, “Don’t cry about it if you get hurt. Or cry in your room where I can’t hear you.” But I have two issues that make me a candidate for Most Neurotic, Controlling Mom Ever: my kids’ sleep and their body temperature.

Since the day they were born, I’ve been a sleep Nazi. I count their hours. I watch the clock. When someone with credentials said, “Children needed ten hours of sleep at night. Believe me”…I did. I believed. I’m a believer. I enjoy my true comfort zone when they get twelve hours. I spaz out – one might say irrationally – when bedtime boundaries get pushed past my liking: “OHMYWORD. It’s 10:13pm and Gavin is still up. We might as well keep him home tomorrow, because he will not be able to lift his head from exhaustion.” I am a freak about a good night’s sleep. A full freak.

Also? I have a very weird fixation about their body temperature. Are you hot? Are you cold? Are you feeling chilly? Are you overheating? Do you need a coat? Where is your coat? Give me your coat. Are you hot? Take off your undershirt. Do you need some water? Do you need to sit in the shade? Do you need to sit in the sun? Do you have enough blankets? Is this blanket too heavy? If you get hot, push this blanket down. If you get cold, here is an extra blanket. Are you hands cold? Are your feet hot? You need a hat. Put on this hat. You can’t go out if you don’t wear this hat. Take off your hat; it’s too hot outside.

After asking Ben about his heat level 28 times from the sidelines at his soccer game, my friend Tonya was like, “Oh my gosh, Jen! Crazy alert! Leave him alone! You are even freaking me out.” I believe she was one second away from slapping me across the face.

I evidently don’t care a whit about other issues, for example, safety or ingesting poisons. This clearly doesn’t bother me:

“Don’t worry, Babe. The eleven-year-old is in charge.”

My kids could jump from a second-story window onto a mattress below while testing the feasibility of wind-resistant capes/umbrellas, and I believe my only concern would be if they were getting too hot or if was getting too close to bedtime.

2. For nearly my entire adult life, I’ve lived in Austin, “Live Music Capital of the World.” We are chock-full of serious musicians and indy singer-songwriters. We have actual producers and artists in our immediate friend circle. I can listen to interesting, unique, creative music any night of the week at two-dozen different venues. Austin hosts ACL and SXSW, two of the best music festivals in the country. This is a city where musical taste matters and is evaluated as a potential character flaw.

I love Top 40.

Like, love it. The sillier, the boppier, the more likely a twelve-year-old girl will have their poster on her walls, the higher the band is on my Love List. If it’s in Tiger Beat, I’m down. Almost every song I love ends up on a Kidz Bop CD. My musical preferences are fully juvenile and unsophisticated. My friends groove to bands called My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes, discussing the genius of the songwriting and creative brilliance. You know what I love? A sixteen-year old covering a Bruno Mars song on American Idol. (My friend Andy is a musician’s musician, and when Brandon mentioned my AI obsession and Andy gave me that look, I yelled at Brandon, “Why did you out me! I want him to take me seriously and now he pities me!”) Sydney, my sixth grader, and I were talking to a friend who casually mentioned Maroon 5 was coming to Austin, and we screamed in unison, “OH MY GAH!!!!”

Yes, I turn the channel when the raunchy fare comes on, and even I cannot listen to K$sha, but Flo Rida? Get in my ears. And don’t mind me while I dance and sing at the top of my lungs. Whatever. This is my jam, keep me partying till the a.m. Yall don’t understand, make me throw my hands in the ayer, ay-ayer, ayer, ay-ayer…

3. This is unfortunate, because I’ve gone and put five kids in this family, but I have a teeny, tiny issue with sound. I call it Noise Pollution, and it makes me a little bit of a crazy person. White, background noise has been known to make me unravel like a lunatic. My family has been carrying on, just going about their business, talking to each other with a show on the TV and living a normal life, when all of a sudden, with no warning or even any red flags indicating an impending meltdown, I’ve flown into their midst like the Wicked Witch snatching remote controls out of hands, turning off every beeping, clicking, humming, buzzing, ticking electronic or instrument offending me, yelling at everyone about appropriate sound levels and demanding to know if they think causing deafness and anxiety in other human beings is acceptable. Usually, six bewildered people look back at me with mouths hanging open, as it might appear the punishment did not fit the crime.

Except that it so did.

The amount of sound trapped in my car between kids + music has actually made me consider sticking knitting needles into my eardrums. Once, the unceasing noise enclosed in the small space of my car pushed me to such despair, I pulled over on the side of I-35, locked my children in the car, walked fifty feet away and sat in the grass bawling, while my kids pressed their faces to the windows mouthing, “MOMMY! MOMMY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MOMMY?!”

I cannot write one word, not one, if there is a single decibel of sound in the room. What? Try a little quiet Adele in the background? Are you trying to sabotage my career? Because that is what would happen. I would start typing song lyrics and lose fifteen minutes thinking about how to kidnap Adele and lock her in my closet and make her sing to me whenever I just feel like rolling in the deep because no one in my house understands me. I need an empty, dead silent house to eek out a ten-word sentence, so when “someone” who lives here with me, who doesn’t go to school and is sometimes home during the day when the quiet space is possible keeps asking me questions like how do you spell in lieu of and did you put that thing in our shared iCalendar and I’m thinking about getting a new tattoo, I might accidentally come freaking unglued and threaten to move into an apartment. (This scenario is hypothetical.) (No it’s not.)

4. I love humor. I love to laugh. I love funny, stupid movies. I love funny people. I love sarcasm and banter. I love witticisms. I love Will Ferrell. I love banal comedy. I am a recent convert to Melissa McCarthy and plan to be her loyal disciple until I die. I believe laughter is the best medicine, and laugh and the world laughs with you, or some such.

But I cannot handle pranks. Can. Not. Even. Handle. Them.

Remember The Tom Green Show and Punk’d and The Jamie Kennedy Experiment? These shows almost put me into a coma. When a bunch of people are in on it, and one person doesn’t know it, and they are forced into an awkward/horrifying/embarrassing/confusing/distressing situation, AND IT IS BEING FILMED, I start praying for the rapture. My anxiety goes straight through the roof. I spontaneously develop hysterical psychosis.

When we were caught in massive delays for our son’s adoption, my friend Missy decided to post a funny Youtube video on my Facebook wall every day until we passed court. It was her Youtube Ministry, and it gave us such gems as this:

This made me happy for like 11 hours.

But a couple of months in, she started posting some prank videos, and they strangely drew no response from me. Finally she was like, What up, Mrs. Ungrateful?? That video was GOLD and you didn’t even comment! And I was all, I JUST CAN’T DO IT, OKAY? *in a small voice*…I couldn’t even watch. Then she was like, you’re weird, weirdo.

So please just note, if you invite me in on a prank, I will be voted Most Likely To Prematurely Yell At The Top Of My Lungs:

It’s not true! She’s not really hurt!
Oh my gosh! It’s not even your real car!
The waiter is an actor!
Don’t cuss! He’s not cheating on you!

I will ruin the prank. Count on it. And if you pull one on me, you’re dead to me.

5. So, I hate good-byes. And not just the legitimate kind like when someone is moving to Boston or going back home after visiting. I just hate them all. I can’t explain this. I am absolutely that person who slips out of a party like a ninja rather than doing a big good-bye scene, which if you’re still with me and on your toes, you might recognize is WAY WORSE. If my purse is in the hostess’s line of vision and Brandon won’t indulge my eccentric exit habits by getting it for me, I will leave it behind and make her put it on her porch where I can retrieve it the next day. I can’t tell you how many texts like these I’ve received:

Hey! Where did you go?
Did you leave?
What happened to you?
Did someone kidnap you? Are you in a trunk?

Even if I am 100% positive that this is the last time I’ll see you for a year, your bags are packed and in your car, which is running, and everyone is buckled in except you, your husband is giving the wrap-it-up gesture, and we’re standing in front of your sold house where the moving van just pulled away to head to your new life in Atlanta, I will say, “Let’s just talk later. I’ll see you before you leave.” I will say this. I will find a way to not have the good-bye moment, even if it is clearly, clearly the good-bye moment.

I can talk in front of 5000 people without so much as twitch, but give me a farewell to navigate and I shut down, a tad bit fixated on just getting away to a safe place where no one is saying the good-bye words and/or watching me say the good-bye words and I’m just nice and happy in my own home, even though Brandon is all, knock it off and stop being rude and just get in there and say good-bye, and I’m like, I DON’T WANT TO AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME. I am like Rain Man and Brandon cannot handle my neuroses:

Charlie: What’s it going to be Ray? What’s it going to be?
Raymond: This is a very dangerous highway.
Charlie: How am I going to get to LA?
Raymond: Course driving your car on this interstate is very dangerous.
Charlie: You want to get off the highway will that make you happy?
Raymond: Yeah.
Raymond: Course in 1986, 46,400 male drivers were definitely involved in fatal accidents.

Please someone diagnose what sort of weird social disorder I have.

So there you are, folks, the top five. Please trust me, there are many, many others, some that make even less sense than these. (I didn’t even mention my physical need to use italics and ellipses. I can’t explain my need to emote.) Now your job is to share your “issues,” because I know you people are weirdos. I cannot be the only one.

What are your quirks, tendencies, neuroses, or bizarre fixations? And if you say “my strangest habit is being too kind,” I will delete your response. Fo’ realz. Spill it.

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