********

Janis had a voice in tune with the angels and demons. Her Pretty Little Demons must have been beyond pretty, gorgeous even, much like mine. And I’m not saying I’m gorgeous here; it’s just my demons are.

So, today’s song is “Summertime”. The mood in this song is so melancholy and yet the lyrics have a mixed tinge of humor and sadness, of sarcasm and anger, of positive and negative thougths battling between this girl from a rich dad and gorgeous mom. A girl who will someday fly. I love that thought as trite as it may seem. Will she fly as an angel in death? Or will she do great things in her life? It’s up in the air.

It’s like the essence of the song describes my childhood, my youth.

I know all about having a gorgeous mom, about melancholy and being mixed up with ambivalence, confusion and ambiguity. But my dad on the other hand lost his business in Colombia when he decided to move to the States for me. He sacrificed everything he’d worked up for until that point. I always felt so guilty about it. Ironically though, the guy who took over his photography studio after we left was shot while some hoodlums broke in to steal anything they could. Colombia was in deep political unrest at the time.

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Well, it’s summer and summertime living is easy for us southern girls. ha! Somer time is ‘a leavin’.

Summertime for me has often been a time of remission from the “mentals” (usually, not always); the only brief remissions I recall. And this summer seems to be no different, despite the burdensome circumstances. I have been getting relatively “better” since July.

****

I also recall many melancholy summers in my childhood. I was a melancholy child even before the suicidals hit. Oh I do.  Child melancholy. Adolescent melancholy. Adult melancholy. It just gets worse. It’s just another bucket filling in the well.

Oh summertime though. Weren’t childhood summers the best? If I recall clearly, even my childhood melancholy summers where better than my remission adolescent and adult summers.

Summertime is  ‘a here y’all. Don’t you cry girl. Don’t you cry. Remember you’re the “mean challenger,” the “brave girl” who never cries.

Yet I’m crying now.

Oh I have so many stories about what this song means to me. So here’s just one of the many….

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Once Upon a Summertime

I became extremely close to a dirty-blond haired girl way back in 2003-2004. She had big eyes like mine, only hers were green–mine are brown. And she had gorgeous big, pursed lips. It got to a point where I had an intense crush on her. I’m still not sure why.

Back then, I was involved in this organization called the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls and used to joke that they were a cult of lesbians–I wish they were because at least then I wouldn’t have to wear white dresses and do stupid rituals for Jesus. No offense to Jesus. I’m sure he was a cool dude. I’d have kicked it with him, but I doubt he enjoys all that adoration.

This organization was VERY religious and very strict. I caught hell for wearing a brow and nose ring. Anyway, that’s were I met this wonderful girl. The day I met her, we laughed at the rituals and the white dresses.

Don’t get scared; they didn’t harm me. Well, they did once when we went to Corpus Cristi but that’s another post altogether. This Rainbow for Girls thing was more like a cult of Mason’s Christian daughters who claimed to do charity work (the reason I’d joined was because I wanted to do charity work), but instead of doing charity, they only bickered. Anyway, me and this girl (I’ll call her Emma) connected because we both felt out-of-place there. We were both outsiders.

Emma was a wild one, a  free-thinker like me. We had one of those intense connections that immediately sparked! And one summer, we had a road trip with the other Rainbow Girls, the not-so-free-thinker-ones. In the car, Emma and I jammed to Joplin. Me and her, her and me. We laughed a lot that girl Emma and I.

This girl, Emma, knew ALL ABOUT Janis Joplin. I mean, if you know anything about Janis Joplin, you know that she was from Texas. You’d know she was born in January 19, 1943 and began writing plays in the first grade (oh how I’ve always had a thing for most Aquarians I’ve met). You’d also know that she went to Lamar State College for a stretch between gigs before becoming famous. And since you’d know she grew up in Texas and that Lamar State College is where she went for a while; you’d know Lamar State College is also in Port Arthur, Texas, not too far from Houston where I grew up.

Yep, you’d know, you’d know how inadequate she must’a felt there. You’d know that in high school, she’d earned the name “pig” for being pudgy and “nigger lover” for her “tolerance” and love of blacks and her hate of racism–which she witnessed a lot of in Port Arthur and at Lamar, I’m sure. You’d know that that’s why she often left to live with her aunt in Venice Beach, California.

Surely, you’d know this, but even so, you wouldn’t know all the things this girl Emma knew. Emma and I felt her PAIN. This girl was a DEDICATED Joplin fan–must be still. I became a hardcore dedicated fan thanks to Emma.

A year after that summer, in the spring of 2004, I went on a road trip to the northwestern plains of Texas with Emma. Just us two. We went to visit her then-fiancé in prison. She and I had a thing for bad boys, only she’d slept with many and I hadn’t… yet. She was only a year older than me but had been engaged more than once. I hadn’t even had sex or a boyfriend.

I remember getting so upset when I was in that line of booths where you talk to the prisoners through a connected phone behind the windows. I got upset because the people next to us was a family of five–a mom and her three little kids. The dad was a prison inmate. The oldest child was about ten. They were all visiting their daddy, and to me it was so sad. I just sat and watched the man talk to his kids behind the glass while Emma talked to her fiance. And I wondered if it were better for those kids to visit that man, their father, or not. I was so depressed then. I remember wheeling myself to the restroom past these gates where men in solitary confinement stayed. And I just sat on the stall and cried and cried. When I got back, I sat there just looking at them but trying not to look too hard. I always felt things like that, intensely.

Springs have never been good to me, but sumertime is a little different.

****

On our way back from the prison–oh those lovely Texas prisons and there are loads of them– we stopped at this old ma-and-pa shop looking for a place to eat spaghetti. Emma got herself a Southern Comfort plaque, and we planned to see if we could sneak our way into buying some Southern Comfort whisky back in Houston.

Janis had been a “troubled girl” like Janis and I, so she drank a lot of that Southern Comfort whiskey (we ended up not getting the whisky after all).

She was my “date” at my senior prom. She wore a tucks with high heels and I wore a beautiful black and green dress. I didn’t enjoy myself. I only cried after it was over.Then Emma told me that she was planning on going to Lamar State College. She never did. She went somewhere else. She also told me she had BP (bipolar disorder), but back then I hadn’t had my monumental mental breakdown, so I hadn’t been diagnosed or sent to any psychiatric clinic. I was still struggling in silence. So I felt awkward telling her about how much I empathized. I did tell her I empathized but not REALLY EMPATHIZED like I did on the inside. I guess I paid no mind because I was trying to put “mind over matter” like a good Christian Scientist would. I still suspected BP or something similar in myself.

****

What do you think happened between me and dear Emma?

Yep.

Very borderline is what happened.

Our intense friendship broke–just as intense of a rupture as its union. We dissipated from each other as quickly as we had bonded. I see our little summer escapades as a chemical reaction between atoms, forming new molecules, new bonds–that became our friendship. Then, the borderline in me and the bipolar in her was the catalyst.

Then again, I could over analyze it like I tend to. Or oversimplify it.  Of course, life is just like that. Some people drift in and out of our lives. But for me, it’s everyone I’ve been close to. Maybe that’s just how life is for some of us.

In 2006, Emma and I rekindled our friendship online. And for a brief moment, all was well between us again. Then one day, she let me down. She asked me out to a Greek festival and the day of the festival she didn’t return my calls. I instantly went from loving her to hating her guts! I wanted to tear at my skin and pull all of my hair out.

“How could she do this to me?” I thought. “Why wouldn’t she at least call back and say she was sorry, that she wasn’t going, or that she couldn’t pick me up because something held her up?” When I emailed her about it, she didn’t reply. “What did I do? She obviously hates me. No one will ever like me.”

I insulted her in another email and cut her off completely though I missed her terribly. Now was that just life or some of the “borderline” in me?

Soon summertime will become “autumn time” in this part of the world. Molecules come together; molecules break apart. Warmth becomes cool.

****

Enjoy!

addendum: Monkey Man L. had a vinyl record of hers I really wanted. mmmhmmm. I would have wanted it as a memento. I think his sis too it. Well, she deserved it.

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… a Mormon–or was it a Jehovah’s Witness?–yeah, a Jehovah’s Witness sees you taking pictures outside of your house and hands you a Watchtower magazine and asks you what you think of politics and religion’s role together. Shit, I shouldn’t have said anything because she went on to read me the scriptures and gave me a verse to prove that Jesus believed they SHOULD go together like merry little twins skipping on the sidewalk.

“It’s the ONLY way, as Jesus saw it. We shouldn’t base things on what we feel,” she emphasized. She had a point about feeling. In fact, mindfulness is partly accepting feeling without judging it; and, in a sense, feeling without judging the feeling is not “basing things on feeling”. But it’s the context that’s all wrong. This lady here thinks, oh never mind…

Is basing things on what we THINK ok? I wanted to ask but kept my mouth shut.

It’s a good thing I DO know my scriptures because when I was a Christian kid, a good little demonic Christian kid, I loved all of those stories–especially the GOREY ones–and I’d read them on my own, no need to ask me, I just read! And I’m sure Jesus is shaking his sweet bearded head right now like, “uh uh lady, that ain’t how it went and that IS NOT how I said it”.

Now, I like me some Jesus. But dear Lord have mercy on me (this is where I get my southern girl-like accent), them Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses just don’t shut the fuck up do they? Ever. The Witnesses need to get off the stand; ain’t no judge called them yet!

This just makes me want to replay, “Judith” by A Perfect Circle.

Anyway (sorry Mormon and Jehovah Witness bloggies, it’s true though). I took pictures this morning because again, I woke up at 6am all jittery, after only sleeping four hours. Blagh. I still feel like ripping my skin off! But I figured I’d get some things done and I did! I also went outside with my camera and my borrowed macro lens and snapped away.

I think I’ll start adding these to my Photos and Sample Work Page”

*THESE ARE NOT WATERMARKED BECAUSE THEY’RE FRESH OUT THE OVEN! But they are ALL COPYRIGHTED BY ME, PAZ, MOUSE, P, Shorty Shore the Most Hardcore*

Enjoy.

Some are overexposed. Oh well.


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“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” ~ Anais Nin

I feel like I’m on the upside of down, seeing the world like a bonobo dangling hands down from a tree or like these wonderfully colored white folks full of soul. (They’re playing Ella Fitzgerld, “When I Get Low, I Get High.”) I’m a huge fan of them, especially Fiona. I’d marry her even though I don’t believe in marriage  (shhh. Keep it on the DL).

At any rate, ahem, the last four days I’ve been a mix and mash. I’m chatty, I’m full of energy, but it’s all anxious energy. Does that mean I’m a little mixed up? I don’t know. It’s the changing of seasons. Put it how you like. My body has come alive but with a vengeance, a vengeance called mad irritability.

And speaking of bodies coming alive, it’s Good Friday! There’s something about Jesus dying and resurrecting to give us eternal life and the chance to avoid eternal damnation. It makes me want to make a list! So I figured in lieux of all of these sad worldly and personal affairs, I’d write me a “Good List”. A good list is something I just came up with.

It’s pretty good. Hear me out…

I was supposed to do a “hope box” for therapy four weeks ago but never got it done. You know the habitual procrastination and then tragedy struck again or I struck it. Besides, a good list is better.

I like making lists and I know I’ve said this before but I really do. Something about making lists–about having certain thoughts cascading on paper or screen–makes me feel momentarily at ease; it’s become more of a compulsion. I also find making lists helps me clear my jumbled head a little. I like making skinny, stout lists and fat, drawn out lists. When I was in school, especially my first batch-full of semesters, I made a hell of a lot of snappy lists:

“GET STARTED ON RESEARCH PAPER!” then
“GET STARTED ON OUTLINE FOR RESEARCH PAPER” then
“FIRST TWO PAGES OF RESEARCH PAPER!” then
“GET STARTED ON RESEARCH PAPER, FOR REAL THIS TIME!” then
“RESEARCH PAPER DUE TOMORROW!” then
“GET RESEARCH PAPER DONE! LAST DAY!” then
“GET RESEARCH PAPER DONE BY EXTENSION DUE DATE! FINISH IT”

I found those were never helpful, only a cause of more anxiety. Nowadays, I make very specific detailed lists, still a cause of anxiety. But I’m no longer in school and don’t have a steady job or the like so I am able to break things down much easier. There’s even this exercise I learned from a time management tutorial called a “mind clearing session” in which you also make lists. It’s good stuff, but more on that later.

I digress. I’m having three, four, five conversations going off in my head right about now while one voice is singing and looping a mariachi song and a sixth conversation comes in to argue. My instinct in all of this mental chaos is to pace, more like rolling around the house aimlessly stopping in the kitchen or in my room to ask “what was I gonna get from here?”

But instead I’ll write down all the things I need to finish and break them down into very itty bitty chunks so I don’t get overwhelmed.

To edit a wedding video, I don’t just list say the songs, the tracks, and the approximate due date, I list every major step in a separate chunk and I only worry about one chunk at a time. “Create folders and set all capture scratch settings” then “transcribe or capture video” and so on. Even in this way, I tend to get stuck when I’m low or on the high side of low (which is 99% of the time) but I’m able to accomplish more if I just set myself to do one thing at a time. One thing at a time woman! I’m on speed, figuratively speaking. I’m just trying to survive one day at a time, one second at a time.

My “good list” is this:

I’ll write down some good things I can think of that happened this week and all the things I set out to do and actually managed to do, even if they’re incomplete (I’ll count them if I at least got started). As far as the “bad” things, and there are many (my mind tends to focus on those), I’ll list them if (read: IF) I find one good thing in them.

Taking the good from the bad in no particular order all stream of  conscious like and shit, etc, etc.

Numero 1: I’m currently polishing a turd. In fact, as soon as I’m done with this blog post and as soon as my bro’s wedding transfers I’m going to turn to the turd at hand.

In the last three days I’ve worked hard on this wedding turd. One of my dad’s wannabe photographer friends did this wedding and gave it to me to fix. Basically, I’m fixing the messed up sound, or in more technical terms, I’m repairing clipped audio. This guy’s wife does the video while he shoots and does occasional DJing. The thing is, she doesn’t know how to work the camera and she accidentally set the audio out of automatic mode and well, you got the rest. I’ve had this video for two weeks now, so it’s good I finally got started.

I’m finishing up the mariachi singing at the reception. But a turd is a turd is a turd (I’m going all Gertrude Stein on you and once again abusing the power of parenthesis). Oh well, this will be a turd that went from hella profuse, “god almighty is that a rotting corpse?” putrid stank, to “beuggh. what is that?” stank.

Numero 2: This is actually part of one but I felt I should start a new number. I’m actually getting paid for polishing this turd, not much but something.

Numero 3: I’ve been doing a moodchart again so I can give it to this new psychiatrist I started with in December. I have an appointment with her next Thursday and I feel there’s too much to even begin discussing in such a short time. I never end up saying what I want and I usually get drawn into something the doc says and forget what I wanted to say in the first place.

She’s only seen me twice since the December intake. I could never get how an accurate assessment of my past/current mental health has been if they only see me for fifteen minutes–twenty minutes at most–every two to three months at a time.

I’m being proactive and plan to slap this mood chart on her lap. The chart is dated from January on up to today. I had to go back and retrace my general moods for most of January and some of February, but I think I did a good job of that.

Numero 4: Sertraline has killed my sex drive (not that I have any great avenues to clear that one out at the moment anyway), but I actually felt a little sexy yesterday. And yes girls in wheelchairs can feel sexy.

Numero 5: I’ve been losing a lot of weight. I wasn’t overweight to begin with. Two pounds in the last three/four weeks. That may not seem like a lot to you but considering I’m only three feet tall and weigh a total of 45 lb–that’s roughly 19 kilos–a hell of a lot. In retrospect, that may not be such a good thing since the loss was a result of my downward spiral. My appetite declined along with my mind (usually I overeat when I’m down not the other way around). BUT the lighter feel has probably contributed to my sexiness.

Numero 6: My brother bought me a haircut. My hair is in a cute chin-length bop now. That definitely contributes to the sexiness as oppose to the mullet that was starting to grow after the super short cut I got sometime at the end of last summer.

Numero 7: I had more series of intense crying bouts but I’ve managed to recover quicker from them this week.

Numero 8: The chest pains eventually subsided today and also my heart didn’t explode or implode though it felt it would.

Numero 9: I actually managed to persuade myself to blog by making this silly list.

Numero 10: I did not punch a baby, break a window or smash a glass, but I found my aviator sunglasses which hide my tears while making me look fashionable.

Numero 11: On Wednesday, I saw the therapist and the immigration lawyers at the University. A two for one! Booya!

Numero 12: I went with my dad to apply for some benefit stuff. I can’t receive any because of legalities and he was denied because of legalities, so that just means we’re both going to have to work harder at launching his new website or starve. I have not started on it but discussions began rolling again this week.

Numero 13: I’ve had a lot of hip pain but I’m doing my stretches and have kept up with my exercises more or less.

Numero 14: I’ve been practicing a lot of mindfulness, especially the diaphragmatic breathing.

More good lists to come, I hope.

Happy Good Friday yall!

Jesus not God

I stole this from a FB page

(You’ll have to forgive my blasphemous and heathen ways and my overuse of parenthesis. Jesus did, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t. 😉 He told me so himself; he also told me this is not a very good image and likeness of him and that he was indeed not as fair )

Sinterklaas

December 25, 2011

Santa'sDead

Santa’sDead (c) 2011 Melancholically Manic Mouse

There’s always that one elementary school teacher you hear about somewhere, the one that murders her students and their wild but fragile imaginations by telling them Santa is a hoax; that his slaved sweatshop elves and reindeer are also a hoax, AND, that they should go home and shame their parents. I read about such story not too long ago. I can’t blame her. Sometimes the scrooge and Grinch in us comes out.

I’m reminded about the time I tried to tell my third-grade classmates about Santa’s non-existence. It didn’t go so well, obviously.

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Firstly, I’m Colombian. And Colombians–at least when I was a kid in the late eighties–don’t celebrate Christmas with Santa Clause. People do put him on Christmas trees, little figurines are sold for decoration, you can hear his bells in shopping plazas, but he’s treated more as an uninvited guest, the bawdy drunken relative–distant relative–you let into the party obligatorily. Santa is second in show, maybe third after Virgin Mary, or fourth after the endless row of saints.

****

In Colombia, it’s all about Baby Jesus, the true star of the show! White Baby Jesus abounds.

There are baby Jesus songs, baby Jesus dolls, and baby Jesus candy. Baby Jesus shoes, baby Jesus earrings, baby Jesus backpacks, cakes and ice cream cones. Man, that’s one of the commandments broken all over the place. You don’t know a nativity set until you’ve seen a homemade one that includes the entire village and spans the length of an entire living room.

And most importantly, Baby Jesus brings you your presents, because, like in most of Latin America, the Catholic population is the status-quo. I imagine that poverty stricken kids, kids who didn’t get much if anything at all risked being bitter towards Baby Jesus, but I wonder if that’s any better than being bitter towards a morbidly obese, bearded white man from the cold isle of oblivion.

In my family’s case though, we had been told, and I quote my mom, “Baby Jesus helps us with the money to get you the presents, mi amor. We’re the ones who buy them, but Baby Jesus helps us.”

I didn’t get the metaphor then and envisioned the ghost of baby Jesus spiriting down from the heavens all Sistine Chapel like and laying down some extra cash on my parent’s palms before shooting back up to the clouds like superman. In sum, we had a very different take on Christmas than here in the U.S.. We got to fall asleep hugging our presents after sniffing around for them behind couches and under beds  like hound dogs in a scavenger hunt that started on midnight of Christmas Eve. I think the scavenger hunt bit was one of my dad’s ideas, not a Colombian tradition. I may be wrong though.

****

In any case, it’s no surprise that when I was hauled to the U.S. just in time to start pre-school, I laughed at the notion. I was momentarily culture shocked. My brain tickled and I rolled high off newness for a couple of years. And when Christmas time came, I quietly giggled and scoffed.StabSanta drawing

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One day I finally decided to tell my comrades the truth. Those dumb asses had to know! I was a self-righteous crusader, sword in hand, ready to stab and deflate Santa’s imaginary bloated belly!

StabSanta2 drawingStabSanta3 drawing

****

That day came unexpectedly. As silent reading time wrapped up, the teacher prompted us to gather in a circle for a little talk about a story the class was going to read together. It was about Santa. When she began asking us what we thought of Santa and if we’d asked him for anything special, I felt the urge rise. I couldn’t resist it. I hoisted myself far back up against my little wheelchair and straightened up my diminutive shoulders.

“BUT STANTA ISN’T REEEAL. HE’S MADE UP,” I blurted midway through one of the other kid’s answers.  With my head held high, I scanned my peers for reassurance and added, “Stanta’s stupid fat red cheeks ain’t real either! They’re all made up dumb ass baby stories!”

Stillness settled in the room like fog.

“Big… ass… babies,” I whispered to myself no longer triumphant.

The overwhelming silence lasted forever and a day. I wished I hadn’t said anything. But no! They had to know!

I sat there confused and ashamed.

A few classmates started to argue with me, telling me to “prove it”. “Prove Santa isn’t real!” Others desperately asked the teacher if what I was saying was true, some were panicking while some were on the verge of crying. Their little brains began questioning childish but profound questions about the realness of things, anything and everything. I had burst their bubble, swallowed the innocence they had along with my own. A few however, agreed. Those brave few claimed they’d known all along. Mostly though, it was just the foreign ones like me–Vietnamese and a mixture of other browns. These few who knew took the torch of indignation from me and fueled it further. Then there were the clever ones who had figured it out.

****

Like a true king, I relinquished all in my defeat, backing down from a war I had started but wasn’t ready for.

At that point the teacher hushed the class with “yes’s” and “but’s” and “if’s” and I asked to go to the restroom. I was scared.  I wanted out.  God, what did I do?! Diosito lindo, am I gonna get a demerit! I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit.

The teacher let me go but gave me the squinty eyes and an impish smirk. Aaah!  I AM gonna get a demerit!

I rolled out as quickly as possible and was surprised to find my aid already waiting outside the classroom entrance. How’d did she know? She had overheard the commotion through the makeshift walls. I suspected she was always there lurking behind the walls of the classrooms which were arranged in office cubicle manner.

On our way out to the main hall, my aid began relaying the story of Sinterklaas. She assured me that Santa was once a real person who lived long ago in Sweden or Germany or Greece or some magical place of antiquities. And during Christmas, he would give coins and gifts to poor kids in his parish. He was rich and kind so his story lived on. She went on and on trying to inculcate his essence into my being. Looking back I realize that, in part, she was just trying to make me assimilate–to have me acknowledge that the bogus tradition had true meaning, meaning that was lost but that I should embrace nonetheless.

Turns out she was mixing up the stories. Sinterklaas derived from Saint Nicholas who we all know as the bishop/saint but who’s life and existence is somewhat sketchy like baby Jesus. Santa Clause then is just the Americanized mutation of that; his iconographic figure was actually popularized by the famous caricaturist Thomas Nast.

****

Imagine if the US had adopted the same Sinterklaas of southern and western Europe. Instead of green elves [read midgets in green suites], it would’ve been midgets in blackface (I’m a midget who’s never worn blackface, so it’s ok for me to say this). And on December sixth instead, these subservient, blackfaced midgets would trumpet their way into your living room to a ragtime tune while heralding presents and goodness and cheer. I think it would’ve gone superbly well with the children’s blackfaced cartoon characters of the 1920s and 1940s. Christians were always screwing with pagan holidays anyway, so I figure there’s no harm in making history even more screwed-up than it already is. It’d be nice.

Once we were inside the restroom stall, my aid plucked me from my wheelchair and planted me on the toilet seat while going on about Sinterklaas. I was fascinated but by then I really did have to go.  I grew impatient. She’d noticed, closed the stall and stood just outside of it to continue her rant.

Please, pleeease *fart* please, *fart* *fart* just let me poop, I silently pleaded.

But I didn’t get to poop in peace. Over her droning voice, the thoughts of demerits, angry classmates and very angry Sinterklaases circling above me and churning my already messy stomach.

It wasn’t until a year or two later that I began to realize how I knew too much for my own good. I began to feel that “otherness” I would battle with for years.

**********

****

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NOTE: Yes, the little girl who resembles me doesn’t have legs in the first part. And all of the kids are floating. I got lazy and tired towards the end. It’s also my first attempt at doodling in Illustrator! I’m fairly new with the program and have mainly used it to do more technical stuff like layouts for invitation and business cards. Hope yous out there are enjoying Christmas holiday (or whatever you celebrate) more than I am.

Edit: I just remembered what we called Santa in Spanish! Can’t believe I couldn’t think of it right away. It’s El Papá Noel! And yes, Papá Noel is a lot more hip and popular with the Latin America kids these days than in my time.