I mean, yes, they are actually unable to walk - the definition of lame. But they're also distasteful little puffs of fabric that collect dust and take up more space than they're worth.
Did I just define myself as a terrible person? Does not like stuffed animals = evil; cold-hearted.
Okay look, I don't hate all stuffed animals, just collections of them.
When I had my son, lots of people gifted him with stuffed creatures - which was fine at first. We kept them on a shelf and stared at them on occasion. He never played with them; I guess he's just not a stuffed-animal sort of kid. (Good boy that he is.) But then he continued to amass them over the years.
People gift them and try to pass them down - by the garbage sack full. No, we really do not want your collection of seven dozen stuffed animals from your childrens' childhoods. Whatever would I do with them?
Get one of these? An ugly avalanche of stuffed animal suffocation straight out of the 80's?
Or these? A strange perpendicular zoo/jail?
So, I was all smug and proud of my plushie-hatin for the first couple of years of my son's life. Well, in a mostly polite, quiet kind of way. (Expect to my mom; she got the uncensored version of my, NO, DO NOT give my child another stuffed anything.) And this worked out pretty well for us; we kept our plushie numbers down.
Someone once gave my son, at 4-years old, a teddy bear to which he later said to me, "But Mom, how do I play with it?" ...So, he and I were pretty much on the same page.
Then.... I birthed this little girl. This little child, who as it turns out, cradles, feeds, pets, hugs, cleans, and generally loves on every small living and pretend-living creature that crosses her path. She loves animals. She loves babies. And yes, she is a first-rate plushie-lover.
Dolls and stuffed animals litter - yes litter - her small, shared bedroom. And when she goes to sleep at night, an arsenal of textiled-stuffing blankets her body; she will have it no other way. Dog, Kitty, and Bunny (pink and brown bunny, not the white one, or the pink one, or the brown with white spots one) are her Top 3. They are must in the crib. Whatever else has caught her fancy for the day will join the Top 3 in the cushy zone of privilege that is crux of her little arms.
When they're not lining her sleeping body, she pushes them around in a toy shopping cart or a stroller, stuffs them in her clothes, carries them on walks, sets them on chairs around the table or next to her in the high chair...
It's like they're taunting me. Those glass-eyed little critters sitting up tall everywhere I look, with their complacent little smiles. They won. They fill my home. They are a collective whole that could be termed a collection.
Like absolutely everything else in parenting, my plushie hatin has been ground down into a fat slice of humble pie. Anything I was successful with in the earliest years of parenting my first, my second child came along and beat me over the head with my self-congratulatory confidence. So different; they are so different.
Each child is a wholly unique creature. We should remind ourselves of this before we judge other parents based upon our own experiences.
So, you win, you lame little pieces of fluff; you win.
I have mean neighbors. Okay, maybe
not outright mean, but definitely inconsiderate and unfriendly neighbors.
Our houses are about six feet apart.
I’m not kidding. You could almost reach out the window and touch the side of
their house. Sometimes when someone is knocking on their door, I go to ours to
answer, or their phone rings and I think it’s mine. Such is our penance for
living in an urban, beach city, I guess.
As you can imagine, we hear each
other’s business. We affect each other’s peacefulness. I’m sure they know our kids’ names
very well, probably hearing them frequently in our raised tones of admonishment
or playful excitement. I’m sure they often hear my screamer of a toddler. And,
I loathe to admit, they’ve probably heard my terrible, off-key, off-tune
singing from time to time. (I don’t even know what key and tune are, if I’m
perfectly honest. I just know I don’t have either correct. Ever. Well...there was this one time my
musically-inclined husband actually interrupted my singing to tell me that,
surprisingly, I had just sung something correctly. Once in 10 years.) Right, so
they hear us. And we hear them.
They wake us up at night with
honking car alarms and slamming doors. They wake us up early in the morning
talking to their dog - which they bring to relieve himself in our yard. And, for about a year, they housed a couple of unbelievably noisy critters outside our bedroom window.
I've spent a bit of time imagining a host of
quasi-terrible things I would like to say and do to these people. What I actually do is stop saying
hello to them when we see each other, as though this is any kind of retribution
for the many hours of lost sleep they confer upon us. At first, this makes me
feel better. Hah, I didn’t say “good
morning;” that will really show them! But they never say “good morning” or
“hello” either, so does that mean they’re angry at us too? Or are they just
For a while it really bothers me. What do we do that makes us bad neighbors?
In what ways are we inconsiderate? Why are they so mean?We talk about moving. We consider
swapping our office with our bedroom, on the quieter side of the house. But
mostly, I just wonder what they’re thinking. I understand there is an ungodly
host of mean, strange, and sordid people habituating thisearth, and living next
door to rude people doesn’t even register on the radar of enduring
Butit does get me thinking about
myself – my response to malevolence. I live under the commandment to love my
neighbors as myself. Literally. My neighbors.
So I decide to start trying to think
of them with as much grace and forgiveness as I can – or, between the hours of
11 PM and 7 AM, as much as I can feebly muster up.
I decide that if I would like them
to be just a smidge affable and a smidge more quiet (for crying out loud), then I should be the best neighbor I can.I shout “hello” at their backs,
nearly aggressively working for pleasantries. I leave banana bread on their
doorstep. I move their newspapers out of their driveway when they’re away. And what comes of my benign
gestures? Well, not much. But I am trying
to change the thing that I can – myself. And actually, that makes a whole lot of
I don't curse. I think it's ugly. Okay, sometimes it sounds both appropriate and comical from certain people, I admit. But I am not one of those people, and I would never actually say the words that WTF stands for. I do however find myself typing the acronym occasionally. Sometimes, it's just succinctly appropriate.
The other day I opened the mailbox to a $500 bill for one of the chemo infusions I received - in 2010, nearly THREE years ago. This, my friends, just might be an occasion for WTF.
I only recently have stopped holding my breath as I open the mailbox. The constant flow of medical bills blissfully subsided some time ago now. As our lives normalized so too did our financial obligations. So I was caught a bit off-guard by a fairly hefty bill from an era of indebtedness I thought to now be long-closed.
Who takes three years to send a bill? Why is that even legal?
I let the drastically tardy bill sit on my desk for a month. I see it many times over the 4 weeks it collects dust next to my stapler and cup of pens. I'll eventually call and make the payment; it just doesn't feel right to do so right away. The billing office took roughly 30 months to send it to me; I figure they can wait a few weeks while I stew over the injustice of their inefficiency.
Then, like clockwork, I receive another bill the following month, this one now states, "Your account is past due." Really? I want to call and tell them my payment is hanging out with their competency; they should let me know if they find either one.
Among my (many) poor qualities, pridefulness does not rank high.
I have never owned a fancy or even a brand
new car, and I do not aspire to. Until recently, I held out with a dinosaur of a cell phone that
flipped open and was anything but smart. I *might* have worn the same yoga
pants 3 times this week. Oh, and I occasionally bring home other people’s
Yes, that's right, trash - straight from the curb on trash day, carted back to my nice, clean home.
What can I say... other than that I take a lot of walks, so I see stuff. Plus I do live in a rather
affluent area; people throw away some pretty nice things here. Wait, hold on, that’s not a very good excuse; when I lived among people poorer than myself, I still brought home trash. In our mid-twenties, my husband and I rented a house on campus from the university
where he did his doctorate. Our charming little white house was surrounded by
apartments of undergrads, and I might have brought home their trash once or twice
too: drunken-mid-western-teenager's trash.
I recall a so-procured office chair (that was pretty uncomfortable) and, my favorite: a desk that I dragged from the side of a dumpster into our backyard. Before I could get out to purchase a proper dog house for our newly adopted puppy, I gave the DIY/(very) recycled method a go. That cheap desk, only slightly transformed, with a straw bed inside, served our pup well in the first weeks.
Originally, I had plastic stapled to the roof of said-desk to help with warping from rain/snow. Not a week later, a huge storm ripped through town and
left building debris and roof shingles scattered across the roads. Imagine my euphoria: I
needed some roof shingles to cover the top of my dog’s desk, er, house, and
then, like mana from heaven, roof shingles came raining down.
would go so far as to say this dog house was preordained by God himself. Can’t
you just tell by looking at it?
Right, so in addition to the desk/dog-house, I’ve
picked up a few other things here and there, curbside. While I am a far cry from
a hoarder - I give, sell, or throw away anything my household is not putting to
use - sometimes, well, we can put other people’s trash to use.
While vacationing in New England, I
once walked past this fantastic old painted tray. I was sure to make some room in my
suitcase so that treasure of a souvenir could make it home with me.
And lately, here among my working-wealthy-urbinite
neighbors, my repertoire of acquisitions includes: a mini basketball hoop, a plastic teeter-totter, a couple of spare chairs, a hideous framed painting that
was great for recovering with fabric, a half-dead tree that came back to life… and probably some other stuff I don't remember.
Why let them go to the landfill if I can rescue them back into
I think this sporadic hobby of mine generally mortifies my
husband; if I have to enlist his help in carrying the article home, he is none
too happy to walk up to someone’s trash at the curb and walk away carrying
something. I can understand that.
It does make me feel a little hillbilly-ish, strolling down
PCH, past the mansions, with a piece of furniture hanging out of my stroller…
stopping the flow of Mercedes and BMW’s, in my grubby exercise clothes, so I
can cross the street yielding a large piece of “garbage.”
But my hilarious and humiliating jaunts are worth it for me - to sacrifice how I look for that moment for what I get out of it that’s
lasting. Recently, on my way home from an afternoon walk, I
passed a little brown desk, set out to the curb in the rain. I kept walking.
Turned around. Did a second walk past. Yes, that has potential. I picked it up and ambled awkwardly down the sidewalk
for the remaining 25 yards until I got home.
I don’t need a desk. But I brought it home anyway. I
cleaned it up and applied a coat of hip paint and a little bit of sanding. Voila. It was a useful stand for party-favors at a soiree that weekend and the following week I sold it on Craigslist. $50,
thank you very much. And what did it cost me? Just a little bit of elbow-grease and an ounce of pride.
I'm just saying, sometimes when you swallow your pride, you burp up a treasure. Or $50.
May my trash digging escapades inspire you to consider what you would bring home, or do differently, or not
buy if it weren't for your pride.