Stupid Is as Stupid Does?

Just had an interesting (re: frustrating) conversation with my lovely and patient husband whom I almost punched in the face repeatedly. Seriously, I wanted to punch him in his face. We were essentially discussing what qualifies a person as “stupid.” It turns out, we have vastly different definitions of the word.

The conversation started with his statement that he believes he is difficult to work with and for because he doesn’t tolerate stupidity very well and people feel that he is belittling them when he tries to teach them how to do something. He expounded on this thought with hand graphs (graphs demonstrated rather than written) and specific examples.

I disagreed a little bit about his workplace demeanor and reminded him that he can be very patient and loves to teach people new things, he just has trouble getting the “you’re an idiot” out of his voice. Thisis a trait I believe he picked up from his father who can make you feel dumb in fewer words than anyone I know. This led to our disagreement over what constitutes “stupid.”

He stated that he doesn’t really think people are stupid when they don’t know how to do something but then ruined it with “some things are just common sense and everyone should know how to do them.” I asked for examples of those things and he mentioned using a drill and I almost punched him because he tries to correct and “help” me every time I use the f-ing drill. We both vividly remember when I asked him to put shelves in our pantry and he decided that I was perfectly capable of doing it myself with just a little bit of help from him. His help consisted of hovering, pointing out errors, laughing, and making me feel like an idiot. This incident occurred probably 9 years ago and I still refuse to use the drill when he is home. I eventually walked away from the project and let him finish it on his own and everyone was much happier.

My theory is that adults should only be labeled as stupid when they consistently make poor decisions not because they have little to no experience or practice at a certain task or in a certain field. To illustrate my point, I asked Blair what would happen if he was expected to direct musical theater tomorrow. His response, “I would be stupid at first but then I would watch and learn and not be stupid anymore.” My argument is that he would not be stupid in the beginning, just inexperienced. Furthermore, the fact that he is willing to listen and learn makes him the opposite of stupid. He disagreed and would not just let it go at semantics, trying to tell me that inexperienced and stupid are synonyms. No, they are definitely not synonyms and he is irritating. (2nd punch restrained)

At this point, I am all but yelling because he has repeatedly told me that I am stupid because I’m not very good with the god forsaken drill. I do not take kindly to being called stupid, he knows this, and is finding this entire conversation absolutely hilarious. I am not. Trying to get across my point that inexperience and lack of practice does not equal stupidity to him is like beating my head against the wall and I sort of wish that I was beating his head against the wall. I continued to throw out illustrations and examples, as did he, but we could not agree on whether one mistake or inexperience qualifies as stupidity.

I tried to explain that each person has a different set of experiences and frame of reference and therefore a different skill set. This does not make one or the other stupid, just approaching a task from different perspectives. He, along with his father, believes that anyone who does not possess his specific bubble of knowledge must be dumb. Blair does realize that other people have larger spheres of knowledge than he and doesn’t claim to be an expert on everything; he just believes that since something makes sense to him, it should make sense to everyone.

For instance, the way tractors work makes sense to him, he understands the gears and engine, how to change the oil and weld on replacement parts. He doesn’t understand that since he grew up on a farm and enjoyed helping his dad work on equipment that he has a specific set of experiences and knowledge that makes it feel like common sense to him. Needless to say, it is not common sense to me but he finds it so irritating that I have no idea what he is talking about when he discusses pto shafts, bearings, and lots of other gobbledygook talk.

I don’t want you to get the impression that I was calmly stating my beliefs at this point: I was stuttering and almost physically restraining myself from punching him. He, however, was thoroughly enjoying pissing me off. I pointed out that he was using the same demeaning and belittling tone (the “you’re an idiot” tone) that he uses when trying to explain spatial relations, gears, or the ever-loving drill to me and that I wanted to punch him in his face. He laughed, gave me a kiss, and went back to the farm.

Smart bastard.

Am I a Hoarder?

There is not a simple answer to this question, although some of you have already assigned me the title. Am I an expert rationalizer? Yep. Do I attach sentimental value to objects? You bet. Do I believe that I will someday find a use for things? Absolutely, but I don’t think any of those things necessarily make me a hoarder. Here are some things that might:

I hate using the last of any food item. I will put off opening a jar of spaghetti sauce until I have a spare jar or will buy another can of pumpkin before making pumpkin muffins, knowing that I have a can in the pantry. Is that weird? Probably. I’m not sure where this strange compulsion comes from, I certainly wasn’t deprived as a child, we always had plenty of food in the house and I was allowed access to it all. Why can’t I eat the last apple before purchasing more? I tried to suppress this urge at the grocery store this morning, reminding myself that we had Cheetos and tomato sauce in the cupboard and that I am at the store at least once a week if we should run out. I held firm on the Cheetos but knowing that I am making Uncle Jack’s spaghetti next week necessitated an extra purchase of tomato sauce….baby steps.

I loved my childhood and high school years, thoroughly enjoyed my college days (well, mostly nights) and hate to get rid of the things that bring back those memories. I have pared it all down, however, and have one box with childhood and high school items and a box of pictures from college….a lot of pictures.

It could be that I hoard pictures and food, which is weird. I have trouble deleting even the really horrible or blurry pictures of my kids because, well, it’s a picture of my child. I firmly believe that I could not have parented in the days before digital cameras, at least not cost-effectively. If I had my way, I would have a camera with me at all times (and yes, I realize I could if I had an iPhone but let us remember that I am married to a dairy farmer). I love pictures: taking them, looking at them, putting them in digital scrapbooks, looking at them some more, posing my kids for some more…. I keep them on an external hard drive and on disks, I make a yearly scrapbook and look at them with the kids fairly often. I love to pull out old pictures and laugh at my friends, family, and most often, myself. Pictures don’t lie and they often solve arguments, one more reason to love them.

My husband and his hoarder mother, on the other hand, have filled my basement with no less than 10 boxes of his childhood paraphernalia. Seriously. We have tried to go through the boxes and get rid of things but, while Blair claims to have no sentimental attachments to the items, he does see a future “need” for them. For instance, the kids might want to use his 4-H books as a guide when they create their own. Really? His old college notebooks will come in handy when he is…….? I love the scrapbooks his mom created for him but just those would be enough, we don’t need to save every piece of paper he ever wrote on. Every piece of paper I wrote on, however? Yes, we will be saving those. Especially the pages covered with “ I you-know-who.” He also saves every nail, random screw, pumpkin or popcorn seed and little pieces that don’t quite fit when I build a piece of furniture. We have so many ice cream containers filled with his crap and tiny scraps of paper with very important figures on them that I could just scream.

I know that some of you are dying to call me out on some other things that I might possibly hoard, like craft supplies. I have the same weird thing about craft supplies that I do with food, I hate to use the last one. I regretfully hand over the last page of stickers, struggle to relinquish the last sheet of purple paper, and almost never allow the glue dots out of my hands. I hate to admit this but this week I let the kids use a box of crayons that I have had since college. I honestly have been saving them in a drawer for a day when….there was a crayon shortage? I broke down and got them out when I couldn’t find a single decent crayon in our cluttered crayon box but now we have rules: the crayons stay in the box, get sharpened when necessary, and we will not peel the paper off of them. I still have a couple boxes of markers that I am saving for … a rainy day? I have a box of stickers from my pre-digital scrapbooking days that I should let the kids have a grand time with but what if I need them for a project someday? Ha!

I have no problem throwing away clothes, the kids’ schoolwork, or birthday cards so why are other things so challenging? I don’t think I have any deeply repressed psychological problems relating to stickers or cans of tomato sauce. Although, now that I think about it, I was very attached to my sticker book in second grade and hated when a sticker would get put on the wrong page and I couldn’t remove it to move it to the correct location. But I digress.

I have slowly tried to weed things out, to throw away things I don’t need and go ahead and use the last loaf of bread but it is a hard habit to break. What I need is an unsympathetic niece to live with me and tell me when I am being ridiculous…anyone know where I could find one?

Little Changes = Big Results

It is often stated that it is the little moments in life that make the biggest impact, that the smallest act can change the world. A child in the U.S donating a quarter to help a child in Africa be immunized, a smile for a stranger that alters his day, a recycled newspaper that saves a rain forest…you get the idea. I have made some small changes that are having a huge impact on my daily life; some are profound and others will make you hit yourself upside your head and say, “Duh, why haven’t I always been doing that?” I’m not changing the world or saving a child but I am protecting my sanity and that is a pretty valuable resource.
Does your dishwasher’s silverware compartment have more than one section? So does mine and I am putting them to their proper use: spoons are placed together, forks together, knives together, Blair’s giant cereal spoons together. It seems so insignificant but I no longer whine inside my head while sorting the silverware.
It is harder now that it is cold but I try to sort the mail in the garage next to the recycling bins. Anything that doesn’t need to come in the house, doesn’t.
This is a tough one for me but I am trying to curb my procrastination tendencies and at the same time acknowledge the fact that I am the responsible adult in this household. I cannot continue to stare at the little piece of paper or stray ponytail holder on the floor and hope that someone else, someone such as the person who cut the tiny pieces of paper or shot rubber bands at his brother, will pick them up and put them away. I can either tell the offending party to take care of it or simply pick it up myself but stepping over it and feeling resentful is no longer an option.
Blair isn’t terribly keen on this one but I am purchasing proper containers for things so that everything has a place. Sometimes it takes me two or three containers to get it right but who doesn’t need a few extra baskets and rubbermaids lying around? Now I just need a bigger house.
Perhaps the smartest thing I have done, and the thing that makes me punch myself in the head for not doing sooner, is leaving blankets and pillow pets at Grandma’s house. Duh. What a simple concept that makes packing and unloading 100x easier. I have children that really love to sleep with their own things so I was carting 3 big blankets, 3 full-size pillows, and various animals and loveys each time they spent the night at a grandparents’ house. Thanks to one brilliant sister for the idea and the other for making extra fleece blankets, I no longer have to load and haul as much stuff! Plus, their other grandma had them each make their own blankets to leave at her house! I cannot express with words and exclamation points how much easier this makes my life, it is truly astounding.
I no longer print individual photos unless I have a specific purpose for doing so. If they are not going in a frame, being given to someone else, or being used in a craft project, they are staying on the computer. I know what you’re thinking: what is the purpose of taking 400 pictures a month if you’re not going to print them? (Yes, there are some months in which I literally take 400 pictures…I have very cute kids and friends.) I make a family scrapbook for each calendar year, online, and a book for each of the kids for every 2 years of school. I’m hoping to keep on top of this project so when high school graduation rolls around, I am prepared….ha.

This is how I try to stay organized and sane; yes, Sue, I cleaned off my desk before writing this so you couldn’t call me a hypocrite! None of these are grand, sweeping changes but little things that really make a difference every day. If we applied this to the world-at-large, who knows what we could accomplish.
But back to basics, anyone have any other great sanity-saving ideas?