Growing Pains — And Not Even the Kind With Alan Thicke

small__2784224532Is it in your head yet? Show me that smile again… Don’t waste another minute on your crying… (As a kid, I always legitimately thought Alan Thicke was singing that. It’s really just the guy who sang “Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head” though.)

So I did a horrible job titling this post because Growing Pains isn’t actually even the TV show I’d like to discuss here. I have at least four other things I should be writing right now, but something I read earlier hit me with a sucker punch, and I’ve been mulling over it ever since then. Seemed like I should come here to mull, clear it out, and then get on with my other writing. What I actually want to talk about is Friends (the people and the TV show).

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A Dying Practice: Please Read This Post. Thank You.

When I was a small child, my mother, greatly urged, I’m sure, by my father’s mother, made quite sure that I had manners. Sure, my four-year-old brain may have interpreted “Only speak when spoken to” a bit too literally, perhaps, as I was a very quiet child.

My dad’s side of the family is notorious for being hot-headed and temperamental. When it became clear that I had, at least to some degree, inherited his temper, I was immediately taught not to swear. This was drilled into my head such that, at the tender age of eight, after my six year old sister caused me to lose my last life playing Super Mario Bros., I threw down the controller, turned to her, screamed, “BASTARD!” …. and then immediately ran for my life.

I hid in the dark between my bed and the wall while my mom kept saying things like, “I don’t know what happened to my sweet little girl.”

By the age of nine, I was answering the phone saying, “Hello, _________ residence. Renee speaking. How may I help you?”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — The Golden Rule — was enforced at Sunday School (dad’s church), as well as CCD classes (mom’s church). Yes, adding to my education in manners was a double-dose of weekly religious education.

“Always offer to help your friends’ mothers if you’re staying for dinner.”
“Always shut the water off while you’re soaping up your hair if you’re showering at someone else’s house.”
“Always remember to thank your host.”

And always, always, always, ALWAYS remember to say “please” and “thank you.”

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Frank’s 100th Post Extravaganza!

Dino image:

Well, holy crap. Welcome, All Ye Friends of Frank, to the 100th Post Extravaganza.

What will this extravaganza entail, you ask?

That’s an excellent question. And I’m going to be really honest with you, [insert your name here], I don’t really know. I’m going to make it up as I go.

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Goodbye, Borders. Godspeed.

When I read the news that Borders would be closing its doors for good, I cried. Not sobbing uncontrollably, but my eyes filled with tears. That might seem like a bit of a strong reaction, but I think it might be more about what this symbolizes. Sometimes I really fear for literacy, and I mean that.

You also never realize how much something meant to you until it’s gone.

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t have trendy bookshops. We didn’t have large retail chains like Barnes & Noble, although on special occasions we’d visit the one an hour away. No, we had a shopping center with a small retailer called The Book Store that was hit or miss, and we had a shopping mall with a Waldenbooks, a subsidiary of Borders. So many of my best childhood memories involve books and begging my parents to take me to buy them. It follows, then, that this bookstore in particular has brought me much joy in my life.

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I’m not typically the kind who makes New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not really my style. That being said, the only resolution I can ever remember making was on the final day of 2005 when I let a friend make my resolution for me: I’d start carrying a purse and not just my keychain wallet. Sigh. Okay. I stuck to it too, and now it feels weird if I don’t have my purse (mostly because it’s full of the gum that I compulsively chew).

The theme of my 2010 seemed to be, coming off of a terrible 2009, that I was just trying to figure out what I want. I don’t know if I’ll ever totally figure that out, but as I’ve been sitting on these first couple of weeks of 2011, it’s occurred to me that there are a few things that I want to work on.

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Girls Like Me

I’ve had a blog post stewing in my head all weekend. This is not that blog post (that one will be better organized and thought-out). This one hit me like a Mack truck on a dark road, and I’ve barely thought it out at all. I had an idea, I wanted to explore, I’m taking you along for the ride (if you keep reading, but I’ll know if you don’t, and it’s cool).

I mentioned in a post earlier this summer that I’m a person who works hard to maintain friendships and, because I don’t like losing friends, I have a few friends that I’ve known since I started pre-school when I was three years old. One of those friends is Kim. It occurs to me tonight that we’ve known each other for about 24 years now, which seems insane to me, but I can’t really remember life without Kim. I don’t remember meeting her. I’ve just always known her. We aren’t as close as we used to be back in our school days, but we still keep up with each other and our moms are really good friends, too, so that helps. As I was working on editing my novel the other night, I was reading over some description and realized that the friendship that I’d described between my main character and her best friend was loosely based on Kim’s and my friendship in junior high. So when I found out tonight that she got engaged, I was really excited for her. For about a half hour we traded texts that included a lot of exclamation points (something that is very uncharacteristic of me), a picture of the ring, lots of questions, lots of answers, and lots of capital letters. While I was and am very genuinely excited for her, it didn’t take me very long to realize that part of my happiness was as a result of simply connecting with someone. I feel like that doesn’t happen much for me as often, especially because I’m away from everyone I would consider my closest friends.

A lot of people would say that I’m an open book. I freely yammer on to close friends about the mundane details of my life, and I never miss the fact that most other people aren’t quite so giving with details. I’ve been told on numerous occasions that my facial expressions give me away, but I still maintain that I just naturally look pissed off. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “that’s just the way my face looks.” But the thing is that I tell people what I want them to know. Truthfully, I feel a little scared when I come across someone who sees right through me, calls me out,  and has me figured out, sometimes even better than I have myself figured out, because, well, not many people get that far. It’s both scary and comforting when it happens, and it doesn’t happen often. Continue reading

High School Reunion? No, Thanks. I’m on Facebook.

About a month ago, I met up with a few high school friends I hadn’t really seen since that time. They were a grade ahead of me and had just gone to their ten-year reunion. I asked them how it was and the general description they gave was that it was just like high school. As I listened to their accounts, it reminded me of sitting in the cafeteria. Every group was at its own table. People who weren’t friends didn’t talk to each other. No one ever went mingling around to different tables unless an extension of a group of friends was there. I wasn’t really surprised to hear that people stuck to their high school cliques.

Then I started thinking about my own impending reunion. I’m sure that in the next six months or so, some sort of Facebook group will crop up telling me that I have to join or I’m not invited.

Once upon a time, high school reunions had formal invitations. They were a place to come home and get back together with old friends one had lost track of over the years. It was a time to be nosey and find out who was making the most money, who got fat, who got bald, who married way above or below their social caste. It was a time to meet people’s spouses, hear about divorces, see pictures of former classmates’ kids and, unless you were one of the nosiest, pretend to give a crap. Continue reading

A Post Without a Title

This past May, I crossed the five year mark from graduating college.

The day after I graduated, the local newspaper in the town where I went to college ran a story about the university’s graduation in which they quoted my roommate and me, then took it upon themselves to say of us and our job outlook that “neither seemed very hopeful.” Find me a college graduate on his or her graduation day who isn’t at least a little bit freaked out about the future. I think you’d be somewhat hard-pressed to do so. I’d like to invite that reporter to meet up with me now and I can show him what a lack of hope regarding job prospects really looks like. But I digress. Continue reading

The Internet Giveth, and the Internet Taketh Away

There’s something ironic about the fact that I have such conflicted opinions of social media and electronic communication when it is by and large the way I most often communicate. It always makes me think of the Wally Lamb novel She’s Come Undone. If you haven’t read the book, let me first recommend it (or anything Wally Lamb has written, really) before saying that I won’t ruin it for you by giving too many details. Suffice it to say that in the novel, the main character’s life goes into a tailspin after she receives her first television and her life completely changes (and not really for the better).

I was in 8th grade, awkward, shy, socially backwards, and probably with ugly shoes, when my family got its first computer and AOL account. Going into chat rooms changed the way I communicated with people. With the safety of being behind a screen, it was more difficult for people to hurt me, and I had a much easier time letting my true personality show – my sense of humor and my compassionate side, particularly. (However, for those who think Internet bullying is a relatively new concept, I can attest to the fact that it existed in the mid-to-late 90s. Some of the same people who said mean things to me at school found me online and said mean things there, too. Kids are sharks.)

It wasn’t long before I went from chatting with friends and total strangers to talking to people I didn’t know well at my school. This was a cop-out in some ways and good in others. I would never have talked to these people at school, nor would they have likely talked to me, without the buffer of a chat window. However, when it was time to meet face-to-face with classmates (I never met strangers for obvious reasons), I knew that they would think it odd if I didn’t act in accordance with who they knew me to be: my “online personality” – the person I actually was, as opposed to the person who couldn’t figure out how to be herself around others. This forced me to come out of my shell, and by the time high school was over, I was still shy, awkward, and socially backwards (still am, really), but not nearly to the degree I had been (and I have a far cooler shoe collection). Continue reading

Between Gears

I think that one of the most difficult parts of growing up is feeling placeless.

When I was out on my own, I rarely minded the occasional night in by myself. Looking back, I think it’s because I knew I had a choice. I’ve never been big on hanging out in bars. Once in a while it’s okay, but it’s really not my cup of tea. Too many people, and so many of them annoy me.  Still, I knew that I could, if I wanted to, and sometimes I did (and sometimes I still do). If I wanted to go sit on the couch at a friend’s place and watch t.v., I could. If I wanted to have friends over to my place, I could. I am growing increasingly frustrated, though, with being home (as in, the house I grew up in) and not having that option. As a result, I keep getting the distinct feeling that I have no place.  Continue reading