Monday, August 29, 2011

the rob-bob has a birthday

I think I mentioned last year around this time, that it's a busy birthday time in my family.  My sister-in-law's birthday (which thus far remains unblogged--maybe next year, Susan) was last weekend.  Yesterday we shared in the glory of Shane's birthday, today we celebrate my cousin Robyn (although we actually had her parties on Saturday and Sunday, today's her actual birthday), and on Thursday my moma and MacMac turn another year older.  Thursday would also have been my Gramps's eighty-sixth birthday.  We do a lot of celebrating at this time of year.  Shane and Robyn's birthdays especially get smashed up around here, but thanks to my commitment to quality journalism, I will not be smashing up my favorite things about them, giving them each their very own, high coveted post here at the opinions.  You're welcome.

Robyn is almost a year and a half older than me, but for as long as I can remember, that age difference has been completely insignificant (at least until I began to get some enjoyment from reminding her of her comparatively advanced age).  We're both in the younger half of the grandkids and one of the natural pairs that seem to have materialized among us due to similarities in age and temperament.  As kids we were usually not mature enough to play with the big girls, not willing to get beat up on enough to play with the big boys, and older and bossy enough to bend the little boys to our bidding.  In my memory, it was a fairly perfect arrangement for us.  As we've all aged, the big girls have come to accept us, the big boys stopped hitting, and the little boys are huge--but still bossable from time to time, and Robyn and I are still a natural pair, now more due to thirty years' experience being cousin-friends.
(in her natural habitat)

So to celebrate what is perhaps my longest-standing friendship, here are my five favorite things about Rob-Bob:

5.  She keeps getting better with age.  Probably most people do, but there aren't all that many people who I've watched do so across the span of their lives.  Robyn is one that I have.  I loved her and was her friend when she was younger and more selfish and more competitive and more rigid, and if she hadn't changed in those areas for the past twenty years, it wouldn't matter to me, so the fact that she keeps getting better and better is just a bonus.  But it's also an often-inspiring lesson as I see her give generously and selflessly of her time and attention, as I see her devote herself to taking care of those she loves, as I see her heart grow.  Robyn's always had a lot of strong opinions and ideas and words, and as she's become her grown-up self, she is the person I think of first when I think about people who live up to their talk.  It's the thing that makes me want to be Robyn when I grow up.

4. Robyn loves our babies.  From the time that the oldest great-grandchild was born thirteen years ago, she's been devoted to cuddling and playing and cherishing the little people in our family.  And now that many of them are not-so-little anymore, she's still focused on knowing and loving and caring for them. If you quizzed her on the likes and dislikes and basic facts of their lives, she would ace it because she listens and cares about what they're saying to her.  She has such a heart for our kids and the other kiddos she encounters in her life, and it's why they all love Rob-Bob. (And it's why nearly every picture of her I have also has a kid or two in it.)

3. Robyn speaks my language.  It has been noted by people who encounter the two of us together that we can a bit difficult to understand.  Part of that is the speed with which we communicate, a portion is the fact that we use a fair amount of obscure quotations from movies, books, and our shared history, but there's also a dash of the fact that we don't necessarily have to finish sentences or thoughts.  Our family has its own short-hand of stories and oft-repeated phrases, and I have the same with most of my friends.  Robyn is in that lucky overlapping category that she has both, which means that anything I might say to her (or she to me) is soaked in deeper meaning and memory and usually a healthy amount of hilarity.  It makes for rich communication that is completely effortless, and it's awesome.

2. She makes me laugh. Have I ever mentioned the value I place on humor, imaginary readers?  It's kind of a big deal with me.  And Robyn and I have been laughing at the same things for the past thirty years.  She can remember everything that's ever been funny in our lives together and brings out those references at just the right moment.  Her storytelling rhythm is designed to maximize my laughter (and since she has a story for everything, there are lots of laughing opportunities).  Last year when I included her (and CST#1F) as my second favorite things about MacMac, she commented that I would have to not be so serious if I ever wrote about her.  We do funny.  It's our default setting, and though I can't think of any humorous references to make here to actually fulfill her wish, I hope I'm adequately communicating the fact that Robyn and laughter and me are so tied up together.  She may not know everything (there was a muffin, after all), but she knows just how to make me fall apart laughing.
(On her wedding day--and no, she didn't get married in flannel.)

1. I'm actually a little nervous that she's going to be unhappy that I didn't end on the funny thing, but I've got one more absolute favorite that's going to take the top spot.  The adjective fierce could probably be applied to a few aspects of Robyn's personality.  She's intense in several ways, but when I try to think of a defining characteristic, it is her fierce loyalty that comes to mind.  She cherishes her friends and family, enveloping them in protectiveness and support and love.  She makes time for people and knows the value of intentionally spending time them.  She will take your side against outsiders, maybe even when you're wrong.  She loves with all her heart and manages to show it in all the nicest ways.  She's the best kind of friend and way better than I deserve.

Happy Birthday, Robyn!  So glad you're mine.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

to my blogging brother

Shane warned me months ago that I needed to get an early start on this post, as it would be a lengthy hunt to find five likable things about him.  To prove him wrong, I'm typing this sentence at twenty minutes past midnight on his actual birthday.  I would have started an hour ago, but I read his most recent blog post, giggled until I could stop, and then traveled backwards through his archives reading comments on recent posts that I had missed along the way.  I'm sometimes a terrible listener, and there are few conversational pairings that I can tolerate long-term, but the Mac and Shane duo, as long as they're staying away from too much comic book talk, is one of my favorites.  Reading their interactions at Today I was Pompous is generally something to be savored, hence the lost hour of my night.

So today is Shane's birthday.  Despite what you may have heard or observed about my higher maturity level, he's older than me--by a significant five and a half years.  He's also the last of the sibs to get the five favorite birthday treatment.  This should in no way reflect on my opinion of or affection for him.  Last year his birthday got swallowed up in library renovations.  This year, I'm not letting my tiny problems stand in the way of his birthday tribute (the way that I've let them stand in the way of responsible journalism for the past two weeks).

And so I present my five favorite things about one of my favorite brothers:

5. Shane is perhaps the most disciplined person I know.  He's got rules about everything, and although many are of the quirky and arbitrary variety, all combined they end up making him a better person:  kinder, smarter, more well-rounded, and for me, charmingly (but not boringly) predictable.  I love that there are reasons behind all the things he does, and that he follows a plan.  His rules make him consistent, which is a balm to my own erratic temperament.  And his self-discipline gives me hope that we share enough genes that I might one day get my act together as much as he has.

4. I don't remember this about little-boy Shane, but apparently he was incredibly stingy in that stealthy way at which he excels.  I have no reason to doubt this, but I can also emphatically declare that he has outgrown that trait.  His generosity is a fountain, a trait (among many others) that he shares with my moma.  I think part of Shane's generosity springs from the same place as hers:  fierce love, protectiveness, an overwhelming amount of patience.  But Shane is also perhaps the most contented soul I know, and it seems to me that he's taught himself contentment.  He gives of himself, his means, and his time in countless selfless ways, without any expectation of repayment or acknowledgment.  Last year when he won the $100,000, he gave away at least half of it.  It boggles the mind, but it shouldn't because he was just as generous before he became a hundred thousandaire.

3. Although I typically like to downplay this trait (lest he think he can compete with me comedically), Shane is funny.  Perhaps I've mentioned sometime previously that humor is a highly valued characteristic in my estimation.  Lucky for both of us, he makes me laugh.  Our senses of humor are immensely compatible, to the degree that we probably annoy those around us with how hilarious we find each other--and ourselves.  Lately, Shane's been killing it, humor-wise, in his blogging.  Seriously, if you're not reading him, imaginary readers, you should be.  The only time he's funnier is when he's dissolved helplessly into giggles.  It's a hoot.

2.  Lest anyone think I have an unrealistic view of his many positive attributes, let me tell you about my favorite annoying thing about Shane.  He's crazy-ridiculously stubborn.  I don't want to keep using superlatives, but he's seriously the bull-headed champion in a family of unyielding individuals.  I like his stubbornness for a couple of reasons.  I think it helps manifest a few of those good traits I've already mentioned, like his discipline and generosity, and I think a certain amount of steadfastness is admirable. But his stubbornness can also be super-annoying and inconvenient and counter-productive, especially when it butts up against my own inflexible tendencies--and I still like it because it helps to remind me just how far from perfect Shane is.

1.  Ultimately, Shane is an even-tempered version of me.  We're just enough alike that we laugh at the same things, enjoy a lot of the same entertainments, and want to talk about the same topics, but we're not so alike that there's no surprise or debate or disagreement.  It's a complimentary sort of relationship, the thing that makes us friends and not just siblings.  Part of it is all that shared history and probably some shared genetic tendencies, and part of it is simple geography.  We live in the same town, go to the same church, and see each other at least three times a week.  Shane is my closest and best connection with family.  He's my home when I'm not at home.  He is my safety net, and I would have driven myself crazy and fallen apart and run back to Kentucky to live upstairs at my moma's a hundred times over in the past seven years if he wasn't here being my rock.

Shane's good people, and he deserves to have the very best birthday ever.  And to help him celebrate, I'm going to force his indecisive soul into making a decision about where to eat supper.  It's my favorite form of birthday torture.  You're welcome, bro.

Monday, August 8, 2011

39 days

Forty days is a biblically significant amount of time. Thirty-nine days is nothing special.  At the time of this typing, I am somewhere between thirty-nine and forty days away from the opening of the Main Library's Teen Center.  Today I feel so overwhelmed by it, it might as well be a flood or a fast or some other horrendous-sounding f word. (No, not that f word, people.)

When I get busy at work, I like to make lists.  It wastes time I could be spending getting actual work accomplished, but then when I do get around to the work, I get to mark things off.  There is nothing satisfying in this life like marking things off a list.  It's triple satisfying in Sharpie.  When I make my Teen-Center-opening lists, they are deceptively simple.  The word interviews, for instance.  Just ten little letters comprising one brief list-item that represents at least fourteen separate meetings with fourteen qualified individuals.  When my list says "pack up desk," it can't completely convey the labor-intensive misery of going through all the accumulated junk that is drawn by some unforeseen yet powerful force to my little north-facing cube, but I am determined to rid myself of the unnecessary when I make the move.

I can't even bring myself to put "say goodbye to the Michael Jackson mime" on my list because I'm not sure I've got the strength to face it.  As much as I'm looking forward to a certain office upstairs, I know there's nothing out that south-facing window that can compare to the glory of my splash of river-view, the bustle of the River Market, and good ol' Michael Jackson mime.  I think I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow.

There have been some truly awesome moments in my list-making.  Like the email I got just after I crossed off "select gaming equipment needed" telling me that my budget was nearly double what I'd spent so far.  I must admit we're going to have a ridiculously nice gaming set-up.

And even when the list additions have been tedious and exhausting and downright daunting, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the fact that they're all so much mine is heady stuff.  My decisions, my preferences, my opinions that carry weight, my mistakes to make.  I can't take all the credit, and you should all regularly remind my gigantic ego to dial it back, but the being-in-charge-ness is pretty dang exciting.  Exciting and overwhelming and filling-up my life enough that I finally had to break down and really blog about work, something I declared long ago would be a sign of the end times.

Oh, well.  It's been nice knowing you.  Hoping for rainbows at the end of my forty days.