Sunday, June 26, 2011

Six Flags

Today's Happiness:  Five kids at the perfect ages for a day of roller coasters, two parents who still love to play, and enough money to make it all happen.  The pictures say more than I possibly could.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


There was lots to be happy about today.  For one thing, our family of seven was whole again after almost a week of Boy Scout camp and Air Force travel.  In addition, there were quite a few robust yard sales in my neighborhood at which I bought some Tupperware and a banana hammock.  Furthermore, my husband made a delicious dinner which included fresh cucumber salad made with cukes fresh from JoJo's garden.  (This is some 17 Bites overlap we have here.  Mental Note: talk to Robin about cross marketing!)

But the happiest thing about today was when Matt and I systematically analyzed his entire wardrobe, pulling half of it out of circulation.  I can narrow the joy down even further and identify the happiest moment of my entire day; it was the moment he agreed to throwing away these jean shorts.

Here's how it went down:

Nancy:  So let's see... we have lots of shorts here... this pair is nice for golf... oh, these are cute... wait just a minute... what is going on here?

Matt:  Umm... I wear those a lot.

Nancy:  Maybe we should throw these away.

Matt:  But I love them.  They are very soft and comfortable.

Nancy:  I bet they are.  How do you think this hole got here?

Matt:  Umm... I don't know.

Nancy:  I am totally going to put this on the blog.

The unconscious-johnson-rubbing-wear-and-tear aside, there are serious problems with the j'orts.  The back pocket is about to fall off, for one thing.

There is also a mysterious hole that looks to be caused by toxic fart vapors.

Matt tells me these j'orts are from the year 2000.  This means the j'orts preceded two of our children and the debut of the Euro.  Their soft comfortable-ness has helped Matt endure four moves, 8 trips to the emergency room, an assignment to Afghanistan, his wife's cancer, lots of overflowing toilets, a couple of leaking basements, 150 lawn-mows, and quite a few losses by the Chicago Bears.  They accompanied him on at least 20 vacations, to one million children's sporting events, and to over 50 school conferences.  They sat quietly by through eleven winters, waiting for spring to come so they would again be appreciated for their own special qualities.

You are starting to think that he should keep them, aren't you?  Yeah, me too.

They give him comfort.  They have stuck by him when times were tough.  They were there when life's most important moments happened.  Maybe they are not as beautiful as they used to be, but we don't discard someone, I mean something, just because it has lost the blush of youth do we?!  Just because someone, I mean something, has a few superficial blemishes doesn't mean they are not desirable!  The j'orts are very soft and comfortable, for God's sake!  And stop calling them j'orts!  They are summertime jeans, and my husband has a relationship with them!


We are going to keep the jean shorts.  Comfort is important, right?  And today I recognize that seeing Matt happy, in his horrendously hole-y j'orts, makes me happy too.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Joy of Stuff

The best things in life aren't things.


But I think we all agree that the second best things in life are indeed things.  Lots and lots of tangible, consumable things.

Today I recognize the happiness I get from some of the things I own.  The stuff highlighted today is all newly acquired merchandise which makes it more happiness-giving than the merchandise I bought long ago -- like last week or something.  As you will see, I can justify why I needed every one of these things.  The process of getting them and the state of owning them has brought me happiness.  For now.

(Interjection: A serious scholar would take this moment to research actual scientific studies of human socio-psycho behavior, culling from the current body of work theories of fellow intellectuals on the evolutionary purpose of a desire for material acquisition.  I, on the other hand, will be posing broad, rhetorical questions and answering them with facts from my own imagination!)

Why do we always want to get new stuff?!  We (those of us set firmly in the middle class, with enough discretionary income to buy computers and enough leisure time to read blogs) have plenty of stuff already.  We have so much stuff we need to buy more stuff to hold our stuff.  It's gross.  Yet we spend hours each week seeking out and acquiring new stuff.

Some stuff we can legitimately claim to need.  Food, for instance, is an unarguable human need, something that gets consumed regularly and needs to be replaced.  Clothing is a need, for both physical protection and our civilized need for propriety.  But even these two basic needs get distorted by our urge to collect and possess.  I am admittedly not a foodie, but even I have gone to the grocery store and filled a cart when there were already thousands of calories of sustenance in my 'fridge and cupboards at home. And clothing?  Puleeze.  Come to my house and count how many pairs of jeans I own.  I dare you.

So we don't really need any more stuff on a survival level.  We need more stuff to feel content, proud, worthy, safe, and happy.  Of course, these urges are somehow related to prehistoric man's hunting and gathering.  The stockpiling behaviors we exhibit today are likely related to a need to protect against loss from nasty creatures like saber toothed tigers and fearsome forces like flood and fire.  How this human hardwiring translates into a TJMaxx fetish, I do not quite understand.


I bought new running shoes this week.  My old running shoes felt hard and flat.  I was running with difficulty, getting tired quickly and feeling sore afterwards.  So I went to the mall and bought these bad boys:

For the first day they brought me happiness.  It was like running on tiny little trampolines.  I bounded down the street with ease.  After that I was back to feeling tired and sore.  The little elves in my brain ran this story on the front page of the Nancy News:  Difficulty Running not Caused by Shoes - Age and Body Mass Likely Culprits.

I also bought a new dresser.  Like a huntress, I stalked this prey for weeks.  I thoroughly analyzed my clothing situation.  I culled the undesirables to reduce the volume of clothing that needed storing.  I tried to be happy with what I already had.  (What I already had was two $69 dollar dressers made of cardboard and plastic, the drawers of which were labeled with "Hello, my name is..." stickers, as in "Hello, my name is Underwear.")  I measured my bedroom.  I went to Value City Furniture three times to analyze their offerings.  I settled on something reasonable with maybe a little too much detail for my simple tastes.  Poised for attack at the service counter, I sniffed a note of hesitation on the breeze.  My ancient hunter's instincts told me to wait, delay the gratification of the kill and prolong the chase for one hour.  I was unexplainably lured to a small, locally owned furniture store where I found my prey - perfectly sized, of higher quality and lower price than the first find, and offering free delivery.  I pounced.  Here she is, fresh from the hunt:

As an investment in happiness, this was a good choice.  I dress myself at least once a day, and the experience is more pleasurable because I own this dresser.  I suppose I am gambling that the happiness of owning and using the dresser will last longer than it takes me to pay the dresser off.  We'll see.

Finally, I can report that I bought a portable DVD player.  If you are a loyal RecHap reader you will recall that last week I was torqued by the fact that I had somehow displaced (read: threw away or donated) the portable DVD player we used to use on trips before we got the Big Van and had a built in DVD player.  And now, with the Big Van sold to the fancy-schmancy summer camp, I need a new portable DVD player.  With last week's frustrations behind me, I solved the problem, buying the replacement at Target.
This item will not bring me direct happiness.  I don't think I will ever hold it on my lap and watch a movie on its seven inch screen.  But my children will enjoy it.  It will bring them direct happiness, and because they are an extension of me, I will be happy indirectly, I will experience joy because they have joy.  Or maybe I will be happy because they are quiet in the back seat while I drive ten hours north to Wisconsin.  That's more likely.  Either way, I own it and I'm happy about it.

So, in review, the shoes, the dresser, and the movie player made me happy.  In fact, writing about them makes me happy.  Furthermore, right now I feel happy because I am momentarily happy from writing about things that brought me happiness.  You can see how the things and the non-things get tangled up in my brain.  I'll leave it for more serious scholars to sort them out.  For today, I'll just enjoy myself.

Shop on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was the summer solstice, the one day of the year with the greatest distance between dawn and dusk.  Mankind has always had a fascination with this moment in Earth's annual cycle.  I understand why.  It is magical.  It's as if we are all at the top of an Earth-sized roller coaster, hesitating for a breath, about to start our long ride down into winter's darkness.  So it was fitting that I spend the evening outside, immersing myself in the elements.

My big boys had a swim meet.  This one was in Highland, a little farming community in southern Illinois about 45 minutes away.  There had been a storm in the afternoon, so the grass and trees were freshly cleaned and sparkly as we drove down the highway.  We saw a coyote (alive) on the side of the road which made us wonder where he lives and drew our attention deeper in to the greenery flanking the highway.  The clouds were diverse and beautiful -- huge, white, puffy ones overlapping ominous, grey ones.

Highland's facility had a pretty little pool sunken below street level in a small town park.  We observers (JoJo, Oscar, and I) sat on a grassy hill outside the pool's fence.  Adjacent to the pool, at higher elevation, was a one acre wooded glen worthy of Robin Hood himself.  It was only grass and trees, the trees intentionally planted by humans but not perfectly maintained, creating a magical forest where Jo and Oscar could imagine and act out any Brothers Grimm fairy tale.  I told them the story of Hansel and Gretel to get them started.  Jo watched not a minute of the swim meet, she was so engrossed in the natural beauty around us.  At one point she pulled me away to come see a discovery; on a sunny hillside about 100 yards away was a family of groundhogs, rooting for their dinner.

The meet itself was fun to watch.  The activity was constant, one heat after another, in constant succession. I tuned in when one of my favorites was swimming and then tuned out again, focusing instead on the many other things going on: Oscar running to and from the snack bar with quarters or candy, JoJo building a pixie house in the woods, the other spectators' family dynamics.  One fellow spectator had two puppies with her.  Puppies.  I'm not even going to waste energy typing about puppies. You know the happiness of a puppy.  This lady had two.

Midway through the meet it started to rain.  The sky was half cheerful blue, half threatening purple.  We could see the rain falling in the sunlight, like the little town of Highland was taking a shower.  The kids kept swimming, some parents scurried for cover, but somehow the rain just made the moment better,  like running through the sprinkler on a hot day.

These sun showers happened off and on for an hour without disturbing the meet.  But when the thunder started we postponed.  And when lightning struck we cancelled.

Excitement was high as hundreds of people ran to their cars.  We all drove out of that little town single-file down the main road.  I could barely keep my eyes on the road for all the beauty in the sky.  I don't have the words to describe it... you know the feeling when you look in your baby's eyes?  Or when you watch your toddler sleeping?  When you are so happy you are almost sad?  The sky looked like that.  And because of the solstice and its nearly endless daylight, the sky's beauty just went on and on and on.  The lightning looked like bright, white veins.  The clouds were every color of blue, red, pink, purple, and yellow.  The trees got darker green every second.  There was a rainbow, of course.  The combination of rain and sun demanded it.  But the sheer beauty of the evening demanded it too.  The sky was so magical it had to have a rainbow.

Then a pink unicorn galloped in the grass next to our car and winked at me.  And a leprechaun skipped across the road and threw a million dollars in my sunroof.  And a fairy godmother turned my Explorer into a carriage and granted me three wishes.

The summer solstice is magic for sure.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Fairy Tale for Matt

Long, long ago, in the faraway kingdom of Arlingtonia, there lived a pretty peasant girl, aged fourteen years, called Nannette.  Nannette was yellow-haired and fair of face.  Although her parents loved and adored her, they were each under a dreadful magical spell.  Her handsome father, the kingdom's learned scribe, was controlled by a hateful and wicked witch and lived in a cottage of stone with fancy furniture no one was allowed to touch.  Her beautiful mother, guardian of the kingdom's mentally ill, was held captive by a loathsome and diabolical sorcerer and dwelled in a cottage of timbers which often caught fire from the sorcerer's breath of fire.  Nannette, therefore, sought shelter in each of her parents' cottages alternately, as was prudent, trying always to avoid the stone-cold glare of her step-mother and the choking smoke spewed from her step-father's foul mouth.

Nannette, at this time, was caught between youth and maturity.  She was still a girl in her playful, childish ways yet also a woman, bursting with allure and busting with fertility.  Her corset could barely contain her burgeoning bosom.  Therefore, many young men in the kingdom sought her favor.  For a time, she enjoyed the attentions of Chad the Small of Chestnut Lane.  But Chad the Small was indeed quite short and resented Nannette's more generous stature.  He was a dark-hearted lad and would joust with angry words just as boys of finer character would joust with swords.

One evening in very late autumn, as the winter solstice grew near, when days were cold and short in the northern-most reaches of Arlingtonia, Nannette visited with her dear friend Beck of Waterman.  Beck was also a fair-haired lass of fourteen.  The girls laughed and frolicked joyfully when they were together, often swooning to the most gifted troubadours of the day, Kashagoogoo and Thomas Dolby.  Beck knew a lad from a nearby lane with whom she often sat at chapel.  Although the friendship between Beck and the lad was chaste, Beck thought the lad might take a fancy to buxom, young Nannette.  Beck called to the lad who rode his two-wheeled chariot over posthaste.

The lad, whose name was Mathias, fell at once for Nannette.  His blue eyes shone brightly as he took in the curves of her simple peasant dress.  As for Nannette, she was captivated by Mathias's flowing, golden locks and his soft, sultry voice.  At once they began to spend all their idle time in each other's company, taking long walks in the kingdom each evening, usually searching for a warm place in which they could lie together.  Nannette's heart was filled with the promise of a future full of romantic love and bodily comforts.  Alas, her dreams were not to be fulfilled so easily.

Beck of Waterman was a false friend.  Her true self was not the loyal sister Nannette thought her to be.  She was but a vile vixen, a sinister strumpet who wanted naught but to claim Mathias as her own, thusly thwarting Nannette's hopes for happiness!  Using her wonton wiles, Beck twice lured the simple Mathias away from Nannette.  Having twice lost her heart to such a fickle, foolhardy boy, Nannette swore she would never set eyes on Beck or Mathias again.  Their presence in the kingdom of Arlingtonia would become to her like that of the presence of a pair of rats in the woodshed:  unsavory yet unimportant.

As time went on, Nannette found small islands of happiness in the kingdom.  She sought solace in the school house where she proved to be a bright, promising scholar.  She found joy in the kingdom's gypsy dance troupe.  She worked for a small wage in the king's own kitchen, cooking and serving such delicious fare as the Whopper and Whopper Jr.  She continued to grow in beauty and voluptuosity.  For a time she enjoyed the attentions of a suitor named Trevor the Mischief-Maker whose chariot was emblazoned with the words "Make Merry without Vestments!"  But she knew in her heart that Trevor was but a distraction.  His love was not of the sort upon which a lass could rely to save her from the drudgery of her peasant life.  She continued thusly for two years, attending to her scholarly duties, scurrying from her father's cottage to her mother's cottage, avoiding the evil step-parents that lurked within.

Then one day in spring, as she bustled about her daily duties, scrubbing floors and whatnot, she received a call from the out-of-favor Mathias.  He claimed to have been under a spell during the time he spent with the twisted trollop, Beck of Waterman, but had recently broken free of her cursed clutches.  Now, in full control of his own heart, he could see that the brief time spent with Nannette had been the most joyful of his eighteen years.  He begged for the chance to see her and remind her of the magical union they had enjoyed two years before.  Nannette, curious but wary, agreed.

They met at the kingdom's finest ale house, Eros, named prophetically for the god of love.  As Nannette  fed on a delectable, international meal of grilled cheese from America and potatoes from France, Mathias wooed her anew with his charming wit and kindhearted manner.  He solemnly swore to avoid any tart, hussy, or wench who might try to lure him into a future enchantment.  His blue eyes looked into her soul  and softened her heart.  In those blue pools of love she saw the future -- a future free from evil step-parents and the king's kitchen, a future filled with love, adventure, and many blue-eyed children.  Mathias worked his own magic that day.  He reclaimed Nannette's heart.

Soon, Mathias and Nannette began their romantic journey out of Arlingtonia.  For many many years they  traveled the world-- through the kingdoms of DeKalb, Enid, Tokyo, Dover, and Milwaukee, finally settling in the aptly-named beautiful village of Belleville.  Their progeny are many.  They have been mostly happy.  Their magic continues to this day.

Nannette's loving parents have also found happiness.  The wicked witch who controlled Nannette's father was melted when villagers doused her in the local well.  The fire-breathing sorcerer who held Nannette's mother captive was run out of town by a band of ruffians, never to be seen or heard from again.  The hateful harlot Beck of Waterman became morbidly obese and now lives in a shack on the fringes of Arlingtonia.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thursday's Problems/Friday's Solutions

WARNING: the mighty, undeniable forces of PMS and a full moon are working against me today.  Read with caution.

I awoke this morning ready for a fight.  I am edgy.  I am crabby.  I am irritable.  I have little tolerance for the world and its people.

Specifically, I am pissed that I donated or threw away the old portable DVD player that we used to use because it was obsolete when we owned the Big Van with built-in DVD player but now that the van is in use by a fancy-schmancy Minnesotan summer camp I need a portable DVD player again.

Also I am mad that eye and ear drops come in identical bottles and when I needed eye drops to relieve minor redness and itching I instead used a remedy for swimmer's ear.  The stinging I experienced when I put drops in the first eye wasn't enough to clue me into the mix-up.  I did both eyes.  Then I spent ten minutes at the sink trying to do some sort of make-shift eye wash operation.

Furthermore, I am frustrated that after two hours of driving around town and going in about a hundred stores I still do not have everything I need from my shopping list.

It bothers me to no end that dogs cannot use flush toilets and that heavy rains disintegrate piles of shit just enough to make them hard to locate and pick up but not enough to totally wash them away.

I am irked by the inconvenient truth that this house has too few decent closets.

I am irritated in advance about what my dad will say when he reads this rant because I know that I created this situation, Mister, and that I should want what I get.

I am indignant about the the way gravity, time, and UV rays have stripped me of my youthful beauty.

I take offense with the pricing practices that make fattening, unhealthy foods cheap and healthful food expensive.

I feel righteously indignant that some teenagers chalked enormous erupting dicks and hairy balls all over our neighborhood.

Ahhhh.  I feel a little better having let that out.  Thanks for listening.


After just 24 hours I feel much more at peace with the world.  By embracing my anger -- letting it ooze out of me and then squeezing-from-the-bottom to get even more intolerance out of my soul -- I allowed the PMS/lunar insanity to flow over me like water over a rock.

Now, having a clear head and more balanced hormones, I present you with my plan of action:

1. Buy a new portable DVD player on sale at Target for $59.
2. Put eye and ear drops in separate baggies with humongous labels on them.
3. Go back out tomorrow and get the rest of the crap on my list.
4. Make kids pick up dog shit more frequently.
5. Get rid of stuff that doesn't fit into existing closets.
6. Ignore blog comments.
7. Stop reading fashion magazines.  Also, stop looking in the mirror.
8. Eat less.
9. After ensuring that it was not my children who drew the genitals on the sidewalks, move on.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Like Me

Great news, Marlo Thomas:  I like myself.  Thanks to your literary classic Free to be You and Me (and the daily rigor of the RecHap blog) I can report that I am feeling uncommonly satisfied with my life.  You told me I could be anything I wanted to be -- doctor, firefighter, caterpillar -- and I chose this.  There were other influences than you, of course.  Carol Brady seems to have had a big say in the life choices I have made.  Also Edith Bunker and Chrissy from Three's Company.  But it was your sage advice that let me know it was all right to cry, helped me avoid being eaten by lions, and reminded me that parents are people too.  This is helpful because now I am a parent, I spend a little too much time crying, and really it's just handy to not get eaten by a lion.

I find myself especially happy that I am me instead of lots of other people.  My life may not be perfect, but it sucks a lot less than many other people's lives.

For instance, I am thankful that I am not Lindsay Lohan.  Or that guy named Weiner who tweeted pictures of his weiner.  I am thankful I am not one of the unfortunate souls who have disfiguring diseases so ghastly they are used as illustrations on the elephantiasis entry of Wikipedia.  Look it up.  You'll be thankful too.

Furthermore, I am thankful I am not the person who lives here:


I appreciate about myself that I am not married to this man:


And I feel good that my children have never done this:


That's all for today.  Today I recognize that life could be worse.  Very easily, I could be worse.  And for today that is enough.