Tuesday, November 27, 2012

To card or not to card ....

It is increasingly obvious that many people are  no longer sending handwritten cards - even at holidays.  If they still send things via mail it often is the holiday picture cards with a preprinted message. 

Now I have a wonderful friend who makes her own cards - while I am always impressed by these treasures, I also know I do not have the time or patience to ever take on such a big task - cannot wait for the one she will send this year (Claudette - no pressure - ha!).  I also have a good friend whose company makes this beautiful stationery (Hampton Paper Designs that would be you of course) including the holiday cards - a good option as they even have one where if you must do the holiday pic you can slip it in.  However, this too takes a little pre-planning which I swear I will do every year but to date have not been all that successful in sticking to.  

I like a selection - from the whimsical to the ornate - I actually select each one,  as I write out a message on each, for the recipient that it is going to.  I have to admit I am a little appalled at how much my handwriting has deteriorated since I use it less - but if I had the time (maybe that's what I should ask Santa for!!!!) I would write it with my favorite fountain pen - since that option is not really viable I still like to find great pens.  I used to write a lot more but I too have switched to a hybrid - short personal message along with annual holiday catch up poem.  I wanted to eliminate the poem last year but thank you to the kind insistence from family and friends - it stays.  

So I am sad about the disappearance of this tradition - along with handwritten letters or notes which I miss from people, yes I kept some of the best notes/letters I have ever gotten in my life.  In an age where mail is usually 90% stuff I just throw in the recycle bin without even needing to open it is the one time of year that I actually look forward to getting mail.  I smile at the distances that these cards have traveled, yes I marvel at how much children have grown, and most of all I like to feel like I was thought of.  An email greeting just does not invoke that feeling in me.  I have given up on all the other holidays (and I admit it has been helpful to not remember to send in time, get stamps, etc...) though birthday cards for those in my very close circle of friends are still hand chosen and sent (if you get one of these you know it may be- say a few days late because I am great at buying but fail at sending on time pretty consistently).  

I will adjust - I usually do - I did with music and books (ok, ok are so much easier to get/carry/have on the ereader - though the dangerous ability to purchase these 2 things at anytime has not been exactly a good thing for my wallet).  I still love the smell and look of a card store, personalized stationery, book store -- and get excited about buying this year's cards.  

I love this season - and I love all the cheesy things that go with it from lights, holiday music - it makes me smile to see the city decorated and of course I look forward to getting cards in the mail.  

Do you still give and get cards?  Still love it ? -- 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks for the memories

I try to be and am pretty appreciative of my life on a regular basis - yes I have the New York "ahh come on..." gripes about the things I encounter, people can aggravate me but overall I really am a pretty optimistic person.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - it was not always, as a kid of course I loved my birthday and Christmas (oh stop it - gifts for a kid and the magic of both of those are pretty cool).  As I get older though I realized how wonderful Thanksgiving really is.  

First as an immigrant it is one of those holidays that pretty much everyone, unless you are a total jerk - that's right a jerk - and have no intention of assimilating (which begs question of how smart can you be also - if you hate it here umm why you stay ???) - then you celebrate Thanksgiving.  Now to add to the American flavor of this - pretty much everyone makes the turkey in some form but the part that makes it the States is that it may be surrounded from the the traditional sweet potatoes, stuffing fare to anything like sauteed German cabbage, Romanian cold cut appetizers before and no yellow vegetables (don't ask I don't why), Chinese stir-frys, Italian pasta dishes or maybe the turkey is glazed with Indian curry, Thai spices, or insert your ethnicity and dish of choice.  I think that is great - it is tradition.  It is one of those things that make us a nation.

All over the country people actually give thanks  - now life may not be good, the poor victims of natural disasters come to mind with Sandy so close at my heels, or you may not be able to afford the delicacies above, there may be illness, or discord ...or life just being life and not taking a break for the holiday.  Those things cannot be forgotten - so if you can, lend a hand in some way.  A call, a dollar, a donation, whatever - you can help a little or a lot but if nothing else be grateful for what you have and hope for more for those that don't.

I am grateful for my life - for the experiences that I have had - for the friendships that I have for so many years (and rekindled via Facebook) that are so precious to me.  I am grateful for the family that I have made with my husband and absolutely out of this world wonderful boys.  I am thankful for the family I was born into - they are quirky, sometimes aggravating, imperfect and overall amazing, they are what I bring in my DNA and who I choose in my life.  I can never really thank my Mom enough - she is a one-woman cheer leading section, brutally honest, who has evolved at her choosing to keep being better - just awed by her.  I try and instill in my kids a sense of how truly great our lives are both materially and emotionally - and I think they get it.  I am thankful for the people who read this blog from all over the world and for my friends who support it.  A special thanks to a friend who probably does  not realize how much he influenced me starting it and just saying some really nice things about the first few - gave me the push to keep going. 

I hope you can take a moment to enjoy the holiday, the food, the people you have chosen to be with.  Take a moment to close your eyes and remember all the things that have gone well and how you got past those that did not.  Thank those that mean something to you - really time flies and no they "do not know it" that you love and are grateful for knowing them.  

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The world of child care

Right before Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast there was a horrible story that was making news in this area.  It was the horror story of a mother who came home to find her two young children dead, stabbed in the bathtub by the nanny that had been hired to take care of them.  A nanny who by all accounts was a part of their family, someone who they had visited in her native country.   I cringe as I write this and cannot close my eyes for fear that I visualize any part of this. 

As a mother this a story that makes my stomach turn.  The devastation this must cause is beyond my willingness to imagine.  The story though, disgustingly, does not end there.  It led to the judgement phase.  From the left - questions about whether this high income family cared for their children, and if they had employed someone for low pay who was unstable.  From the right - questions about mothers hiring help, mothers working, mothers ability to mother in a world where women do not define all they are by being mothers.  As sad and emotional as the story about the kids made me - these rants made me boiling, want to slap the f*&k out of you mad.  This is 2012 people.  To the left - WHAAAT???? how dare you judge people by finances - pass judgement because of their income level.  Does being poor or middle class make you a better parent? NO - does it make you a worse parent? NO.  All children should be fortunate enough to be born to homes that can afford to give them both love and the safety of having their lives made easier - all children deserve at least that much.  I wish there were no children born into poverty, no children who did not know a warm bed on a cold night, who do not have enough or anything to eat.  I know this is a pipe dream but it is my dream.  It does not mean though that those children who are poor do not experience love.  Just like it does not mean you are an unfeeling, throw money instead of hugs parent just because you are wealthy.  Being a bad parent sadly crosses all economic lines and gladly so does being a good one.  

To the right -- WHAAAAT???? a mother, notice the father as primary care taker never gets put forth as an option from this side, is not better or worse for working.  My mother worked full time, hard and long hours,  and was by far one of the best moms that I have ever seen.  I have seen mothers who are home, across a financial spectrum, that are disinterested, cold, and at times downright mean to their kids.  I know mothers who are amazing at being home and make me smile at how lucky their kids are to have them as a part of their lives.  I work and I am not apologetic for this.  I never will be.  I enjoy working, I loved and worked hard to get an education that allowed me to broaden my choices and have jobs that allow for me to experience being a mother too.  I have never for one moment thought I would like to quit my job.  There might be other ventures I would try if I did not have to work for financial reasons, some that would have me home more time than I am (my ideal work world is always Tues- Thurs).   I am a dedicated, tired, loving mother who has a great relationship with my boys.  I am imperfect and make mistakes.  Another words I am a mother who works at being at mother - my mothering skills are not diminished by my working.  Around the globe studies have shown that mothers who are given opportunities for good child care and the ability to have choices for work are economically much better off - duh !!!

I had nannies, the first one slept along with the baby quite a bit - but she was good to him and quit as soon as he got mobile, the second one was an amazing woman from Zambia whose friendship I treasure to this day - my son called her GoGo at her urging (which means grandmother - really what more could I ask for) - whose dignity I felt fortunate to have as a part of my house, and we had Paula -- another woman who has remained a friend of our family.  Her dedication to our children was amazing and her skills as a mother to her own children, under circumstances that I wish she never had to experience, still makes me smile when I mention her name.  The day care we found when it became the better option for my kids (For Kids Only) had all the elements I needed, an owner who lives for community service, charity and helping kids make good choices.  It is a place that my kids ask for "5 more minutes" when they get picked up, with a chorus of same to other parents by their friends in there, give us parents a moment who have rushed to pick up a chance to breathe and talk to one another.  I have hired people based on gut instincts, they seemed like a good fit, along with reference checks. I never had nanny cams.  I never thought, nor did they, that these wonderful folks were responsible for raising my children.  That is my responsibility as a parent - they were there to take care of my children while I was at work - and to reinforce the behaviors that make kids into good adults.  

Stop - just stop - the judgement of the parents who were the victims in this terrible tragedy.  Convict the nanny and I do not care that she is obviously crazy - put her in jail forever - there is no sympathy here - she stabbed 2 young children to death.  There is no need for us to do more than offer condolences to the family and hug our own children a little tighter.  We should look at offering more affordable, safe childcare so that women at all financial levels can work if they choose to. It seems pathetic that we are in 2012 and there are still people out there who do not understand that being a parent for both men and women is a huge part of who they are, a part that requires a lot of their time/love/money/patience that most give gladly, but it is just that - a part - we are all the sum of our parts and we need to evolve to understand that.  Keeping us in single spaces is not good for us or our children.  Women work - women are mothers  - look at that you can have both in the same sentence !!!! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the aftermath of Sandy

Those of you who know me personally are aware my family and I were among the many who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. If you are a New Yorker you tend to take all weather advisories with a touch of "yeah right" cynicism.  After all for many years we have had bad snow storms as our most catastrophic weather event - and as much as they aggravate me (oh stop it for all of you who want to tell me that it is pretty - it is when you are inside, outside it is a pain to shovel, move out of the way, and no I do not want to ski, snowboard, or sleigh) they are manageable. They are expected when you live in the climate I do.  They are "natural".  All other warnings people tend to think are exaggerations and things that we send money for to other states when they get walloped.

This time the predictions were right...though the winds and rain as they were actually happening did not seem to be strong enough to cause the devastation it actually did.  The thing that always strikes me is how overwhelmingly well New Yorkers (with some exceptions) behave in times of crisis, yes New Jersey you too.  We lost power at about 6pm on Monday - a rare occurrence for our house.  We did not get upset - we continued eating the dinner I had just finished making by candlelight.  We had charged our devices, I had filled up the gas tank, so we hunkered down ready to have a night without power.  It was not a night though, it went on and on and on.  We walked around flipping light switches as if that would bring the power back, we played games, we went out to dinner and then we came home and bundled for the nights were multiple blankets were needed.  I found out some things about myself.  I am more resilient than most people (including myself) realize, I got a few comments on how "you are doing so much better than I thought" from people.  I am the girl who will not go camping after all, who considers roughing it sleeping at Holiday Inn - and I am ok with that.  I have never been one to like the backpacking, hostel life even when I was young enough to qualify for staying at a hostel - the comforts of  a private bathroom and a nice hotel  were always the way I traveled.  I found out that I can shower in the dark and put on make up by flashlight (guess those nights putting on while in car on way to clubs were useful after all).  I came down a few morning to find my husband staring at the tv, gently stroking the remote - the man was suffering - me, well since the TV is usually commandeered by said husband or boys I did not miss it that much.

I caught up on American Horror Story Season 1 - yeah bit of an odd choice in a dark house, with the wind howling, but that Dylan McDermott, well he can posses me and this house any time... I read and listened to a lot of music.  I also got confirmation that I have the most amazing friends far and near ever.  There are friends who I did not ever meet in person (we met through mutual friends via Facebook or email) who checked on me daily (yes Kris one of them be you), who though we never met offered me shelter (yes Denise T that be you and Jeremy too) - friends who we see all the time who offered us their house keys (Sylvana) and too many to name who offered us housing, showers, laundry time, food and embraced us in the time of our need.   There were friends who live far away (cross state lines, cross country, cross continents) who offered us a mini vacation location (so many of you to thank).  A week is a long time to go without power but we still found ourselves thinking we were lucky compared to others who as I write this have lost so much .  I embraced the woman of comfort that I am and did what what any New York lady who wishes she lunches does - I got my hair done, and that small act of normalcy helped me through a few days.  I spent a lot of time with the boys and was thrilled to see how great these plugged in kids were unplugged - their favorite nighttime game "spelling and math" where we threw out words and problems and they had to answer correctly (hey they have some of my Dad's genes).  They never complained and they told me they loved electricity when it came back.  I cooked by candlelight and entertained fantasies about Michael Langdon (ok that could be the cold making me a little delirious .  In the end I shrugged and was sad mostly by the fact that I had to throw out so much food that had gone bad.

I find myself though listening to people complain about Sandy - how she wrecked their lives.  Yet I do not blame her, she is a product of many, many years of the beatings that we as a people have given and continue to give this planet.  I have learned that I can survive, but hope I do not have to,  and I am scared of what is to come in future years.  I am not sure we can help the damage that was done but we can help not add to it.  There needs to be a thoughtful discussion on global warming, of how to deal with nations that will lie about their emissions (that's right China I'm talking to you) and how to combat that by possibly working to reduce even more of the emissions from nations that do not.  My sons, who along with their friends in this area, proved they are an amazing bunch of people, deserve to have women in their future who do not wreck havoc but are forces of nature.

"Sandy..baby ..I'm in misery" - John Travolta