Smart Went Crazy

There is this song that has been playing in my head for over a week now. It is a rap song buy a group I am not super familiar with, and I am not sure how I came upon the song. It just showed up in a playlist one day, got my head bopping and my toes tapping, and I have had it on repeat ever since. It is called Smart Went Crazy by Atmosphere. Now, a lot of the lyrics speak to me and some of them don’t make a lot of sense, but the beat is infectious, and the title, well, you can see that it meant something if I am here writing a blog using it.

Here are some things you will find on my Tik-Tok algorithm: witchy stuff, funny cows, liberalisms, corny jokes, and a ridiculous amount of neurodiversity videos. The latter is what I will be writing about today.

When I was a small child, I was very gifted at reading and writing. I went into kindergarten already doing both, while my peers were still learning the alphabet. Nowadays, most kids go to kindergarten already knowing these things, but back in the ’80s, it was not normal for a 4 year old to already be able to write their name, and certainly not with the penmanship of someone who had practice for q year already. I don’t remember not knowing the alphabet, but I do remember the first time I sat down with a pen in my hand and a piece of paper and my grandmother Lois asked me to write her a story. I was three, so of course I wasn’t going to actually write anything. Instead I made loop-de-loops on the paper to mimic Gran’s cursive handwriting. Then came the library, which I have written about, and which opened the doors of reading for me. It was a secret code that only adults knew, and I was no child in my mind. I figured that code out as soon as I could and I used it to break down the doors at school.

By the time I was in second grade they wanted to put me in the Gifted and Talented program. I was light years ahead in reading, and able to do the simple math in my head- mostly because my memorization skills were really good, and this was long before New Math. My parents did not put me in the program however; my mom told me once that it had something to do with them not wanting me to feel different than the other kids. I remember her saying that and me thinking “but Ma…I AM different than the other kids!”

Anyway, with the exception of the more difficult math as time went on, as well as a Spanish class that was forced upon me, I did bizarrely well in grade school. Then I got to high school, where I was told I was now a little fish in a big pond. Instead of me trying to fight for food to become a bigger fish, I just adapted to little fish life and made a lot of little fish friends. I spent more time with my fish friends than I did on the food fight, and nobody thought I was gifted and talented anymore. What they didn’t realize is that I was glad to have found people that I could relate to, finally. I knew that relationships were more important than grades from the get-go, so I chose to work on something I have for the rest of my life instead of something that went away when I graduated. The best part of my high school experience is the people I shared it with, and yes, I went to a really good school and I got a really good education that I did struggle for at points- particularly that math. It was hard for me to reconcile that at one point I had been years ahead of my peers, and now I was falling behind, but I didn’t feel bad about it because of the relationships I was forming

So, the point of me telling you all of this is so that you are aware that my brain advanced early. As I age, some things that would qualify as intellect dulled, but other aspects have ramped up significantly. For instance, there was the day that we went to the football game and I had explained that my shoes were too hot. That was the moment that it occurred to me that my brain was a little spicy, and not just in that Mental Health way. I know a little bit about Autism, but when I was working with kids it was still a very new diagnosis. I worked with a few kids who had Asperger’s Syndrome, and they really reminded me of myself at their age…except for the fact that they were all boys. Then, neurodivergency in general became a topic, and I started to see signs that maybe my brain did a few loop-de-loops just like the cursive I was trying to mimic at age 3. I spoke on this with my sister and cousin, who both firmly believe that most of our family is neurodivergent, and the more I think about it the more I believe it, too. The more TikToks that fall on my page, the more I say “I do that! Or Bernie does that! Or dad does that!” Here’s an example: last night my father said that he couldn’t eat yogurt because he had a problem with eating live bacteria. Which is a weird thing…but then, he is talking to a girl who once said she couldn’t eat a sausage patty because it tasted too “green.” Do you see what I’m saying? That’s not normal brain behavior. Like, typical people don’t think like that.

Anyway, I started out telling you about this song because the title of it is Smart Went Crazy, and that is how I feel about myself. I don’t want you to think that I mean that in a bad way though, because I fully embrace the title of crazy and wear it is a badge of honor. I’m just saying that my smart little kid brain went a little crazy in her teen years, and it took until she was nearly 40 to realize that she was still both of those things- smart and crazy, I’m proud of it.

Smart went crazy, the rubber band went snap,
This goes to those that hold it down ’til I get back-
Hold on to me, grow along with me,
I don’t know where I’m goin’ but I’ll end up in your arms.


The Great Escape

I have lived in my apartment for over six years now.  I watched most of my kids go from single to double-digits here.  I lived here when I married my husband, and we have very many happy (and sad) memories within these walls.  But…

The decision was made in springtime that we needed to move, for varying reasons, from new landlords to space requirements.  The boys barely spend the night, and when they do it’s on t4e couch, so their bedroom became K’s room not long ago, instead.  I keep their mattresses and such for when they do want to stay and sleep comfortably, but mostly they are out there living their lives with work and hobbies and friends, just as teenage boys should be doing.  The girls always come, so it only made sense to give them separate rooms, but the point is that it wasn’t needed.  We don’t need three bedrooms anymore. 

I looked at a lot of 3-bedroom apartments during the great hunt, and I am sad to say they were all terrible.  Either they were way out of our price range, the rooms were too small, or it was a dump in a bad neighborhood.  At one particular dump, we were about sign a lease, but then a miracle happened and my uncle told me of a friend with a 2-bedroom for rent.  I jumped on that.  I sent Mark and Bernie to check it out when I was in Salem, and when their reports came back great, I called the landlord and told him I wanted it…no, I don’t need to see it.  Yes, I have the money.  Ok, see you Tuesday…and then it was ours.

Lease signed and money paid and keys in hand, we unloaded our first few boxes yesterday.  It is smaller than the place I have now, with 2 bedrooms and no dining room, but that only means less to clean and clutter.  So currently I am purging my house.  I wish I had enough time for a yard sale, but I do not.  It is however possible I will put a sign on the lawn this weekend that reads “Free Crap” in front of whatever furniture and such I do not want to take.

What I do need is a kitchen island.  Just something small.  I found the perfect thing on Amazon, but I don’t have 80 extra bucks lying around, so it will have to wait.  That and our new tv are the only things I want added to our collection of stuff.  Everything else can GO.

I find that unlike literally every other time I have had to move, I am not sad.  Yes, I enjoyed it here.  We almost always had good neighbors, and our landlord, Frank, was a kind man.  I planted all my flowers out front, and spent summers on my porch, and put the tree in the front window at Christmas time.  Alas…I’m done here, now.  Now, it is time for change.

Neither myself nor my husband have been well this year.  Me, more of the physical variety, (though lately things have been very good, knock-on wood,) though the mental plays in heavy right now, especially with all the stress I have been under.  Mark is handling his mental health in a new way, but he’s about a mile up the path to healing now…nowhere near the end, but far enough that there no reason to turn back anymore.  And so, we look at this new apartment as a fresh start for ourselves, mostly for our health and family.

I am pleased with where we are going, and the new opportunities that are arising, and I am hopeful it means brighter skies ahead.  Now, all I have to do is pack up everything I own in the next two days.  Easy-peasy.  (No, really…I’ve had less time to leave a place before.  This can easily be accomplished with focus and discipline and panic.)

Happy Thursday.

PS If you don’t hear from me on Monday, that is 1000% my internet service provider’s fault. We are at war at the moment.

Know Better? Do Better.

Yesterday, L turned thirteen. 

As a result, I have been thinking about the world I lived in at that age.  It was very different from the one in which he resides.  The kiddo’s think of the 80’s and 90’s in the way I think of the 50’s and 60’s…a far-off time before I was born that doesn’t really exist in my consciousness.  The time of my parents, not me.

And the world has changed.

L has his fathers’ mildly crude sense of humor, which is sometimes annoying and sometimes inappropriate, but usually has a way of making you laugh in spite of yourself.  Anyway, he made a Hitler joke, and we both told him that one was a bridge too far, and he apologized.  But it triggered a memory.

Me, thirteen years old, standing in front of my class and presenting my term paper.  On Adolf Hitler.

To prepare us for our papers, the first we would ever write, our 8th grade teacher took us to the public library for a field trip.  We had to find books on our research topic to take out for our papers. (First difference between me and kiddos: taking out physical books for research.  Hell, USING physical books for research.)  I asked teach if I could do mine on Anne Frank, because we were learning about the Holocaust and I had just read her book.  She said no, because we would be reading it in class in the springtime.  Dismayed, both because my topic had been shot down and because I would have to read the diary AGAIN, I asked what she thought I should write about.  She told me to choose another person in that time period, if that’s what I was interested in.

So, I picked Hitler.

I checked out a couple of biographies, but they pretty much told me stuff I already knew and could find in my history book.  I dug a little deeper, and in the left corner of the bottom shelf of a dark stack I found Mein Kampf.  I don’t know if the library really red flags you when you take out certain books, but if so, I am in a database somewhere.

I went home and I read it.  And it was drivel.  Even my little self could tell that.  I recall very little because many of the topics were over my head but it certainly seemed like the ravings of a madman to me.  Still, I powered though, because we had been learning that autobiographies can yield more information than biographies, and I was always on the search for more information.  My main question was why?  Why did he do it?

I posed this question in my paper, and my answer that I came up with is of course my own hypothesis as a 13-year-old who had just read Mein Kampf:  mommy and daddy didn’t let him go to art school.  The lesson?  Support your kids dreams or they will destroy the world.

I got an A.

Now, I don’t think a single one of my kiddos would ever be encouraged to write a paper about Hitler, and certainly not to read his book. 

We know better now.  So, we do better now.

For my first Halloween, my mother dressed me as a Mexican.  For real.  Pic below.

My kids can’t even dress up as Pocahontas or Mulan because it’s cultural appropriation.  I don’t have a problem with this, because again, we know better…so we do better.

I posed the question to Twitter: What is something you did in your youth that youth today could never do?  For me, it’s dress as a Mexican and have my teacher condone me reading Mein Kampf.  I got some great responses though: playing with cap guns (got the Nerf now, and even that is controversial,) riding in the back of trucks or with no seatbelt on, jumping off bridges, etc.  Lots of safety issues.  So many responses on that actually, that I think I might write an entire other blog post about it…it’s been 24 hours and I’m still getting messages.

Another post in the works is a sequel to Impostor Syndrome, because now I have extended my media reach to Facebook, and I have thoughts.  But that’s beside the point.

My point is that yes…we all did some crap in the past that we regret or look back on and cringe.  But did you know better?  Isn’t that cringy feeling a sign that you know you were wrong, and not just behaving however out of spite or malice?  Isn’t it just ignorance?  And, shouldn’t we forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know before we learned it? (Maya Angelou.) 

If you know better…then do better.  That’s all I’m saying.

With Age Comes Fear

As a little girl, I lived across the street from a park that had two carnivals a year, once for Memorial Day and again for the 4th of July.  I have many happy memories of these celebrations, and one of my very favorite rides was the Big Swings.  I would ride them over and over, loving flying above the ground as I had always dreamed I could.

Then, a couple of years ago, Mark and I went to Fantasy Island amusement park.  We went on the Big Swings there, and I was terrified.  I’ve been on less scary rollercoasters.  I screamed and clutched his arm the entire time.  When I got off, I swore I would never ride it again.

My question is, where does that fear come from?  I decided to take an informal poll.  I posed the question “what is something you loved as a child that you fear as an adult, and why?”  Some (paraphrased) results:

“I used to love squirrels, until one bit me, and now I hate them.  So fear of being injured; bad experiences.”

“Water.  Used to love to swim but now I am aware of the potential dangers and fear drowning because of it.”

“I loved roller-skating as a kid, and had clip-on skates with a key.  Then when I grew older, I went to a rink for the first time and had to use boot skates.  I kept falling down.  So, a lack of self-confidence.”

“Long car rides.  Road trips sound fun but the thought also makes me claustrophobic and anxious now.”

“Heights. I used to love them as a kid, but now it makes me panic and get dizzy and want to drop to my knees.  I realized it in my 20s when I tried to walk across a train trestle.  I think it may have been a past-life recollection.”

None of this explains my fear.  Nothing happened to make me hate the Big Swings.  I was never injured, or humiliated because of them.  I thought perhaps it was a fear of heights, but I’m not so much afraid of that as I am of my glasses falling off my face at such altitudes.  There was no way to lose my glasses on this ride.  Is it a fear of being airborne?  But, as a child, all I wanted was to fly.  When did that desire become fear?

If I had to make a comparison it would be to the water fear.  Now that I am aware of the dangers of the ride, am I scared of it?  And that fear, of course, can only come from one place.

Anxiety disorder: my Achilles heel.

My fears are often unfounded.  Take washing dishes; I simply cannot.  I have tried, on numerous occasions and in numerous ways, to try to do the dishes.  Yet my anxiety, my fears, my germaphobia all get in the way and leave me sick to my stomach.  I have been physically ill while doing the dishes before, and now I leave that job up to Hubs.  Mind you, I used to be able to do this.  There was a time when I was doing a show called When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?  Great show, except for the five full breakfasts I had to make and serve at every performance.  This resulted in a pile of dishes that I scrubbed clean each night after the curtain closed.  But that was before.

Before what, exactly?  Before my anxiety became so bad that I had to leave theater, leave work, leave the life I had built because I couldn’t handle the life being built inside my head.  Still, this one fear eludes me.  Is it simply my anxiety taking over that makes the Big Swings so terrifying? 

The car ride fear.  Anxiety is the culprit there, and the person in question is fully aware of it.  I am aware of my anxiety only partially, and that has been an annoying little issue in my life.  Sometimes I will find myself in the throes of a panic attack with no idea how I got there, and only after careful reconstruction with my therapist will I discover what one little trigger set it off.  So, is it anxiety, like the car ride, coupled with fear due to new information, like the water? 

I will likely not figure this one out.  However, it did spawn many interesting conversations about childhood fears vs adult fears.  I think that the take away here is that children are, mostly, fearless.  They have no anxiety yet, they have no fear until they meet consequences, and those are always unexpected.  Then, we age, and learn of the consequence of our actions, and we become afraid.  Maybe we want to keep up appearances.  Maybe we want to keep safe.  Maybe we want to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable.  What it really comes down to is that we learn what happens “after,” and that’s where the fear comes in.  I wish I could summon that part of me that was a fearless child, before life made me jaded and expectant.  I would tell her to go forth and do it all, no fear involved.  I would make her take me on the Big Swings, and this time when I screamed my head off, it would be screams of delight.