Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thank you Gracias Merci Multumesc Grazie Danke etc...

It is Thanksgiving week and this is the holiday that I just love because it reminds me to take stock and say thank you with words and gestures for all that I have.  This year there are a few events that made me really look around and be even more grateful.  Tonight we went to a wake.  One of my sons' baseball coaches, father of a little girl that goes to daycare with them, had a heart attack and died at the young age of 43.  I saw him at the school dance for our kids the night before it happened, we exchanged pleasantries and laughed at how much cooler our kids were at such a young age compared to our own childhood.  I will not pretend that we were friends, we were acquaintances.  I would not read the letter his daughter wrote him that hung in his casket for I would have broken down and been a mess in front of his wife and her and that would do no one any good.  He had coached and been very active in our youth town league.  It was a somber event and I cannot pretend to know how the family will fare, it will be hard and my thoughts are with them. 

My first thank you goes to this town.  This town with it's imperfections, with it's diverse population, with it's "I'm not suburban in the sprawl sense" attitude, with it's beautiful view of the majestic Hudson, old houses and problems never lets me down.  It is full of people who band together in good times, like the school dance, and with an outpouring that was overwhelming tonight at the funeral home.  The parents and kids of this town show they care for one another in so many ways when times are good but even more so when one of us needs to be held up, helped up or just held.  To the Facebook pages dedicated to be a resource for other parents and a soap box for all that we feel so strongly our children deserve from the world. 

My second goes to all the fluff that I do not need but am glad I can have.   I know that some of my socialist leaning friends so want me to say that I do not get any pleasure from material things but that is a lie and I would find a world where only my basic needs met incredibly sad. I wish the world all had their basic needs met and those few things that they do not need accessible.   I am glad to be able to have some fluff and sparkle. 

This year some people close to me had close calls with their health.  I am glad they were only close calls in the end but it was chilling to wait and see them deteriorate before they got better.  I am grateful for their presence in my life in so many ways and I have made it a conscious effort to not be too busy, or too confident that they know, to tell them more often that their place in my life is one of the things I am most grateful for. 

My sons are a gift, sometimes a loud annoying gift, sometimes a gift that is so challenging that I am ready to yell but a gift for being who they are and pushing me to be that much better a person.  They keep showing me how much love I can keep giving.  I am thankful for them and for their friends because they show me that the future has such promise. 

My friends, those that I just share Facebook time with, those that I share work time with, those that I share family moments with, those that I share Scandal and Homeland obsessions with and especially those that I share my soul with.  I know I tell you periodically but I cannot imagine my past, present or future without you in some form. Your ecards, posts, music and sharing of your lives (especially pics of kiddies or milestones) have often made me smile in times I needed a pick me up.  Those who have that special place in my life  -- I LOVE YOU, I know I tell you but really can you ever get too much love?

My mother for being who she is and letting me, mostly but not always because after all she is my mother and an Eastern European opinionated one at that, be myself.  For her amazing strength when her husband got sick and to him for being the "spare" grandfather my boys just treasure.  My other Spanish mother I miss you lots and lots but you are always in my heart. My husband because he is such a great father and because after all of these bazillion of years together still tries to convince me that somehow he is younger than me (he is not) and makes me laugh.  

I am grateful for this blog and for anyone who reads it, and this year for my great blog guest writers who added such great perspectives and shared with so many what I knew - these women ROCK.  

I was saddened today by the loss of such a young person but if we learn anything from that is that we need to love what we have, be thankful for who we are and say thank you and tell those who we care about that they are important to us.  Enjoy every moment and do not waste much of your time wondering what you could have done - just do it.  

Happy Thanksgiving to all and take a moment to reflect on what you are especially thankful for this year. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tales from the Mother 'Hood - Part 2 - the Mom Political Advocates

These 2 friends are the driving force for their kids and communities in a more political way - they are strong, opinionated and most of all incredibly devoted to creating spaces for their and all children that will help them grow into the magnificent future we all need.

I loved being a full-time mom. I believe it was those fulfilling years of intense parenting that made me ready to kiss my youngest good-bye at the bus stop without a hint of nostalgia as he entered full-day kindergarten this fall. The job of Ossining Village Trustee is not intended to be full-time. But there is so much to do, and I love it, so it takes as much of my life as I allow. (A tricky balance.) My least flexible commitments are in the evenings. I attempt to be home at least two nights during the week, but that’s often not possible. My husband’s job is prone to running late, so my kids are frequently tucked into bed by one of the many OHS students that comprise my ever-growing list of sitters.
Still, the boys say they like that I’m a village trustee. They get to attend tons of exciting events in our community. Their biggest complaint is that mama talks to grown-ups everywhere we go in Ossining. I’m not the first mother of young children to serve as village trustee, but I am the only woman on the board currently. When I have meetings and the boys aren’t in school, I often tuck them away under a conference table with a portable DVD player, headphones and snacks.
My sons are ages 5 and 6 now. I wonder if they’ll still like that I’m a trustee once they are able to read Facebook posts and become aware of the sometimes harsh critiques I get from community members. We’ll see. In our home we never shy away from frank and challenging discussions. We talk a lot about striving to live our values. The biggest lesson I hope they gain from observing me in local elected office is that we all have a role to play in making our community better.
Victoria VictoriaGearity.com

I am not writer, English was my worst subject at school. I do like reading, books, blogs that I find interesting, and historical things. So when asked if I would write on being an activist mom, I said yes right away because it gave me a reason to sit down and challenge myself to do something that I was never really good at.
When it was time to register our son for kindergarten, I realized that my house is zoned for a school that is not really that great. Growing up in the neighborhood, I never heard good things about this school. The zone line was right in front of our house so if I lived across the street, I would’ve been zoned for a better school. This for me was a problem. When discussing the issue with a good friend of mine who is a Vice Principal in a great school he said he would put his kids in private school because he was done dealing with the DOE (Department of Education), I didn’t understand what he meant at that time and he didn’t really go into it so I left it at that. It wasn’t until my son was registered in the system with a DOE number that I finally understood what he meant.
I consider myself a person who fights for what I believe in and for what is fair. I don’t fight just to fight. I don’t think that I would call myself an activist but when I realized that the Department of Education will change anything that they have in writing and anything that they have told you, at the drop of a hat, well that is when I get involved and I don’t stop until what I think is wrong is righted.
As a working mom, it is really hard for me to do anything aside from going to work, taking my son to his activities, play dates, birthday parties and housework. I don’t have parents or any support system really to help me out. So anything that goes beyond my weekly routine is so much more than what I could handle. I realized however, that when it comes to promises made to me about my son’s future, I have the time, the energy and whatever else it takes to make sure that those promises are kept. I am not going to go into details about what those promises were, however, I can tell you that for about eight months the parents at District 30 where signing petitions, rallying, and sending written letters to the mayor, the commissioner of education and any other political figure that we could get our hands on to make sure that our children’s future was the future that we were promised in writing by the Department of Education. Every time we thought that we had won a battle, the Department of Education would throw us a curveball and we would have to start the fight all over again.
I was exhausted. I felt guilty for the so many evenings that I was out at CEC (Community Education Council) meetings, Town Hall meetings, PEP (Panel for Education Policy) meetings, and rallies for our cause. It had become at least one meeting a week. Then there were the school meetings in the morning (so I was always late for work) and the meetings after school. That’s not to mention the events that I missed, like Chinese New Year Lunch at 1pm at the school or the school trips, where I would get a call from another mom in my son’s class telling me that my son was crying because I was not there. All this and I am not even part of the PTA. It all became emotionally and physically draining but if I wasn’t going to fight for my son’s promised future, I realized that our elected officials were not going to do it and they had a financial gain (Bloomberg investing in Charter Schools) not to keep their promises. In the end, the parents were able to have the Department of Education keep their PUBLISHED promises to the students that were already in the school system but they changed policies for new incoming students. I am hoping that these policies will remain in place until my son gets to high school as promised.
I am glad that I only have one child and I don’t have to worry about what new policies the Department of Education will put in place for future students, but if promises are not kept in the coming years for my son, you can bet that I will be out there again standing up for the future of my child as promised.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tales from the Mother 'Hood - Part 1 Luck and the Overachiever

So I picked 2 friends that I consider in all the good ways overachievers - they do everything and then add a layer to it and still succeed.  I did not tell them that before I asked them to provide a guest blog I just asked them to tell me how they manage to do it all.  They both mention luck - to me luck is a bit what you make of it - and these 2 women make the most of it and those of us who know them are the lucky ones for having them in our lives.

I am a mom, a wife, I work full time in advertising, I volunteer for school organizations and events, and I am a triathlete who recently completed a 1/2 ironman. Some might call me an "overachiever".
Those who know me well, know that I have a rather high opinion of myself and relish all the crazy shit I listed above. A few months ago, if someone had asked me to write a paragraph about how I manage to "do it all", I probably would have talked about time-management, white boarding, my strict hour by hour planning, and goal setting (which are all things I do on a regular basis). However, recently, some events in my life have made me realize that the REAL way I am truly able to do all the things I listed above.. IS LUCK.
I am lucky. Here's how.
1. I grew up with money and an education and went to college. This lead me to be able to get the kind of job where I make good money, set my own hours and no one is telling me when I can and cant do the other things on my to do list.
2. I am in good health. Not because I eat right. Not because I exercise. Just because I am lucky to not have had anything that bad happen to me. Yet.
3. I have a support system. This just happened. I didn't build my support system, or even ask for it. It was just there. In the form of a great husband, amazing kids, a mother and father that are still alive and active, and other family members and friends who I am close with. They are there for me... for the most part. Whether I want them to be or not.
4. I am not the full time caretaker right now of my parents/grandparents/or other elder person. This may change at some point. But for now, I get to be a selfish jerk and spend all my spare time on myself.
I can name numerous other ways that dumb luck is responsible for the way I am. And frankly, I am annoyed by overachievers like me attributing their overachievements to how "amazing" they are. Frankly, our "amazingness" is just a different kind of crazy. We are mostly lucky. If not for that luck, we just wouldn't have the luxury of being an overachiever.

"How did I get this lucky?" This is the question I ask my kids all the time. Even after ten years I am in awe daily that I am the mother of two beautiful boys. I often tell my youngest son, Jackson, 6 that I sure got lucky on February 2, 2007.  I tell him on that day I called the baby store asked to speak to the Manager and said, “Do you have a beautiful baby boy with blond hair, big brown eyes, long eyelashes, and a million dollar smile”? The manger said “Yes” so I said, “Please hold him, I will be right there!“

Children change your life in an unimaginable way. Mine are no exception. They are the inspiration for everything I do, including what I consider my third child, Hampton Paper Designs. The inspiration for my paper company began in 2007 after a trip to a local stationery store to find calling cards for my son, Jackson.  I couldn’t find what I was looking for – simple, classic and stylish cards that were charming yet uncluttered.  So with an idea to create what I was looking for, on a whim, I launched my own stationery line.  Like many things I do, once I get an idea in my head I am off and running.  My mind doesn’t require a lot of planning, most days I run on ambition alone.  

My passion and the creation of so many products in my line is a result of planning birthday parties for my boys.  When planning a birthday party, I always start with the goodie bag and its contents, it’s my favorite part.  From there, I create a theme, have images design to support my theme and then I start planning away!  Most parties I start planning months in advance. My line enabled me to run the theme throughout the party from invitations, to stickers for the goodie bags to the thank you notes.

I am often asked how I juggle work and being a mom. Truth be told, some days I am not 100% sure I do! I try to incorporate my children in my work when possible. What I have found through the delicate work life balance (did I mention I have another full time job?!!)  and some of the daily challenges it creates is that  my children take away many valuable life lessons from seeing me run and manage my own business. My son Jackson will often inquire how many orders I received. He will ask if he can participate in my work. “Yes, of course” I always say. I find a little “project” for him that makes him feel included. I know it’s not about the project but his desire to be with me. I am never too busy to accommodate his request. (I know these moments are precious and limited and one day he will be out with his friends). Sometimes he will just turn on the TV in my studio and a watch a football game and will take on the role of the commentator telling me all about the plays and strategy. I relish in those moments. My older son Thomas will tell me how he wants to run his own business one day. Yes, my heart soars. 

Since my children inspire me daily I attempt to do the same with them. I outline my goals for the day and ask them to do the same. I encourage them to  “Make it Happen”.  If you are in my neighborhood when my kids are leaving to get the bus, you may hear me yelling to them “Are you a ‘Maker” Today?” and they will respond with both delight and utter embarrassment, “Yes, Mama, We are Makers Today!”
Once last comment, since you are wondering the answer is yes. When they get of the bus, they say “Mama did you make it happen today? “ I reply “yes” and ask them the same question.
Kristin Mika
Hampton Paper Designs

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

That's what friends are for

One of the things that has helped me grow as a woman and as a mother is my friendships with other mothers.  Women who represent the amazing breadth of power, intelligence and humor that make this long, crazy trip through parenthood that much better.  Thank you all for being the friends I value, the women I hope my boys grow up to marry and befriend, and the driving force behind the generation of kids that is sure to make the future that much better  for having been your children.  If imitation is the highest form of flattery well than Kris feel super flattered - I totally took the idea of a guest blog from your kind offer to let me do one on yours.  It was not easy narrowing down the women I asked to contribute, this could on for months with all the friends I have and of course then I would have to extend to the men I know who we cannot forget are the kinds of Dads most of us would build if we could, or the different types of families we are lucky enough to know.

I chose among my friends based on the women I knew had or have blogs too (some active, some not).  That was the sole criteria for picking only them.  Thank you ahead of time for taking the time out of what will seem to the readers and to me extraordinary lives. So next week you will get 2 blogs because what they wrote was so inspiring that I refused to edit them too much, ok I did it a little but we all know that I am comfortable with my control freak side, so it went from 1 to 2 blogs. 

Dori - my neighbor, my Sunday dinner buddy, and most of all my amazing friend and partner in parenting.  I cannot imagine life in this town without her and her family in ours - they are our adopted "cousins".  She does so much and is always ready to do more.  I have a ton of memories of times she has helped me pick up and take care of my kids, gave me advice, made me laugh, organized some great Mom's Nights Out, but mostly I often think of a trip we took when our kids first started school.  We thought we could take 4 young children to Target and corral them long enough to buy school supplies -- that worked for about a minute and then one of us was chasing (they were 6 years old and under) and yelling "Get here now -- now where did (insert name) just go?" and the other was getting school supplies off lists and wondering why we thought we could do this.  Supplies were gotten, children were herded and that may be the memory that explains our friendship- it's fun and we do well together even when it's not easy. 

Kris - If I was a girl in high school, and a mean one, I should not like her.  She is incredibly good looking, she looks like she and her family and her house are out of the pages of a magazine.  She has a full time job and a full time business, and 2 young boys and a husband.  She is elegant and she is that snack mom - you know the one, where she is not handing out snacks into cupped hands but has them nicely organized in baggies (with stickers - yes with stickers) for each child.  I mean really ewww - but I cannot say enough how much I do like her actually.  In all of that she is a good friend, super funny, witty, and overall just one of the nicest people I have ever met.  We can chat tv, music, and our fondness for memories of Jones Beach (and we both ♥ Dan Hill without shame).  I cannot dislike her, no one who meets her could, because she is just incredible and  you appreciate her. 

Elli - my bestest friendest who is braver than I hope to be.  She is a power house and as a friend well if you could design a best friend sister then I would have made her.  We have grown up together and through too many memories to list here she has always been there for me.  She is my rock, my logic, my what the hell do you think you were doing, and my biggest supporter.  I remember when she had her son and I knew that he was about to be mothered with a dedication that only she can bring.  As an only child my family is my chosen friends.  She has pushed me to like myself and to trust my own instincts so that I am a better mother for it too.   As I navigated job choices, living choices,  choices of men, bad choices in men and motherhood she has never been too busy in a very busy life to make sure that I have someone to run them by and remind me that even those choices that were not ideal were a good idea at the time and I can take something from them.

Victoria - is my neighbor.  She and I both found a love of politics as our common ground and from there our sense of friendship and community has cemented it.  We do not always agree and sometimes find ourselves far apart on the political spectrum but we have such common goals that we respectfully listen and learn from one another.  I wish more politics were done this way - with common goals of improving the planet, the town, the area all for our children and their playmates.  We never forget that our jobs as mothers drives our decisions and discussions about policies.  She is in public office in our town and I have to say that she has something no other politician has, my good friend Kim just got elected to the Town also so she will join this rank, my trust.  My trust that her goals are not for glory but for good.  

These are the women who I asked to guest blog next week.  I have started reading what they sent me and I am sure that you will agree with me on how special they all are.  I asked them to do this because as part of Thanksgiving I want to take a moment to thank all of them along with all the other mothers, and Dads, that are part of my life.  I asked them because they inspire me and I was hoping that they inspire whoever reads this.  I hope that you will be motivated by them or recognize yourself in these women, or maybe you know them or someone like them and takes a moment to be thankful for that too. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Movie soundtracks - memories set to music

 My good friend Kris recently sparked a great discussion with what seemed like a simple question - What are your top 10 favorite movies?  If you are a movie lover like me, fond memories of movies my Dad and I went to when I was a young girl as well as movies that I saw with friends, snuck into because I was not allowed to see them (American Gigolo comes to mind since I was like in 7th grade and pretty sure I did not know what gigolo was), or scary movies that my father didn't forbid but mom warned against nightmares (When a Stranger Calls still gives me the creeps), movies that defined my teenage years (Last American Virgin, Porky's, Grease and all the John Hughes movies Sixteen Candles 'cause I still heart Jake Ryan, Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club top of the list), and of course that movies I started to appreciate as an adult.  There that is why I could not answer her question easily - I did it but knew I left so much off.  I have the same problem with books and my lists have been known to change as I get older.  

It did get me thinking though because as memorable as those movies were there are movies whose soundtracks I played until the record scratched (Google it younger people) or the tape had to be rewound with a pencil (Google again).  The music as important and listened to over and over.  I saw Grease at least 50 times if not more and in the end I could always watch it one more time - however, I played some of the songs at least 200 times since the record first came out.  

In no particular order here are my top 15 (cause really I could not count any of these out and there are many that did not make it but should have) soundtracks - I know as soon as I finish I will want to add to it or remember one that I should have put on there but this is not an exact science.  Movies and music let the memories flow -- what's your top list (1-15)

1) Grease 
2) Purple Rain
3) Dirty Dancing
4) Saturday Night Fever
5) Forrest Gump
6) Pulp Fiction
7) Pretty in Pink
8) Trainspotting (didn't even like the movie but so much alternative music is still hard to find)
9) Goodfellas
10) American Graffiti
11) Boogie Nights
12) West Side Story
13) Singles
14) Rock and Roll High School
15) Pretty Woman