Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Poking the Bear

 As a parent and as a self identified fairly liberal minded person I find it hard at times to understand the conflict that rages through my heart and mind about Russia.  It does not extend to Russian people I meet, many who have become friends, but to Russia as a power under a man like Putin.  Under a man like Gorbachev I welcomed it .  As someone who teaches her sons to not prejudge I cannot tell you what a knee jerk reaction I have to seeing Putin. 

I am a child of the Soviet Iron Curtain era.  I guess part of me will never let that go and most of me does not want to, big believer that one should know history.  To me a dominant, expansionist KGB (cause there is no such thing as former KGB unless you are RIP) in Russia is to be eyed wearily. I separate governments from people though based on my experiences and while I shudder at the thought of the Soviet (by definition that is a government body/party in Russian) I share an experience of yearning for freedom with the Russian people.  

So I watch Sochi with less interest than I watch the news on Ukraine.  I watched Putin smile and he scares me - scares me in a way that no US citizen can really ever fully understand.  I have seen that smile on too many of the Iron Curtain rulers in the past.  It is the smile of confidence - and him confident is worse than any horror movie for me.  I write this and know I could not have written this in my native country when I was growing up without fear of jail time - not sure you could today in China or Russia either, not unless you seem inconsequential.  

The transition to freedom has not been an easy one for Russia or any of the former Eastern bloc countries.  I always thought Communism was the parent of the purest form of Capitalism.  In those countries demand truly dictated supply and pricing on a black market, unchecked by regulations and very Ayn Rand in it's reliance on self-sufficiency.  After all the official stance was that the "State" owned it all - too bad the "State" only chose to give it to a select few, take it with violence for personal gain, and then ensure that equality actually just meant officially everyone had nothing to hope for and misery was all around.  Yet hope they did, run away they did, and thrive on a black market they did.  As the walls came tumbling down that beast that had kept this going underneath with corruption, from the pharmacist who sold you the prescription only with a "tip" or not at all to the elected official, did not crumble.  Yes these countries suffered - they were left barren by policies that took and took with not a thought for what it was doing for the future of those lands - they were also left often barren of some of the keener minds who left because they understood there was no future in those lands.  

This lack of understanding of how hard this transition has been on the people in those countries has led to the rise of a nostalgia for the "old days" and Putin is everything the old days were.  It is the nostalgia that we all have "what's too painful to remember we simply choose to forget"  - after all if I can see food in a supermarket now but cannot afford it is it really better than before when there was no food in supermarket but maybe with a scrape and a connection I could buy a little at a high price off the black market?  It must be like a prisoner, wrongly convicted to a maximum security prison, comes out and the world outside is not one he knows how to navigate.  These countries have come a long way with a way to go but the rise of Putin and some of his sidekicks gives me no peace of mind. 

I congratulate the athletes of Russia because many of them and the people of that country are me, former children or next generation of a time that was grey and oppressive. I watch what is going on though less with the medal count because smoke and mirrors and distractions are not what catch my interest - but the violence in Ukraine does and it scares me because we as a world we have a short attention span and Putin has a long patience for waiting us out to do what he wants.  

In a house where my kids watch politics with me it is a balance to make sure that I voice my opinions in a way that is obvious to small children that I am not against a people but against a government, whether it be foreign or domestic. I am grateful every day for living in a place that gives me that luxury with my children - to not be afraid to say something in my own home that my children will be asked about in a school that could lead to jail time or worse for me (no that is  not a myth happened in my family in Romania).  I am grateful for being able to watch Putin only from a distance and most of all I am grateful for the people of all those nations, eventually their spirit does triumph it just may take a while. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


   As a mom I get asked questions that I file into the "what are you thinking asking me that?" category.  Among them are things that really show a lack of awareness, some meanness and some even in the "I am far superior in my parenting skills" category.  These can range from the unknowingly hot buttons - "how do you leave your children every day to go to work ? I could never" oh yes because I leave my children with no thought whatsoever to them and plan not at all for every imagined emergency by having back up plans worthy of the Pentagon.  There are the "so you chose your career?" (my friends who gave up jobs usually get the "so you what do you do all day?") again yes I did with no thought to the impact on my kids, both positively (goal setting, following a career, the financial benefits, that women can work outside the home equally to men) and negatively (no I cannot make every remind me the day before school event, yes I buy cupcakes for those that I can attend).  

I have given these folks a pass because honestly these questions come from people I could care less about  - my friends and those who care for me know the balance that this takes and what it takes of and from me.  The question though that usually will get you a range of slight to zinger sarcasm, all depends on how insistent you are in getting to zinger, is one I get more often than I would have anticipated it goes something like this; Me "I spent the day with my son X" Other person " Oh that's the one you like better right?".  Deep breath for me -- no it is not the one I like better or worse.  As an only child having two children is an experience that is quite novel to me.  I do not have my own family experience to measure good or bad against.  I do have examples though in my childhood of friends whose parents highly favored one child, in such obvious ways that it was painful to watch, picked on one child, again painful to watch, more than the other(s) or were really well balanced.  Parenting was different when I was a child, not sure there was as much reflection in it, but we all evolve right?  

I make a very conscious effort to not cause that difference in my sons - one because I genuinely do like them the same, unless there is something psychologically wrong with you - loving them the same goes even with those who did show favoritism, and I enjoy them for the same and different reasons.  My husband, who is a multiple, thinks I probably give it more thought than needed - but I as a singleton am on the right track. I mean I genuinely did not mind, and even enjoyed, being an only child.  However, if there was a sibling I would have wanted one that I could consider there for me, who would help me when my choices were terrible and who would rely on me the same way (I found that in my 2 best friends so chosen sisters works for me) . I feel that treating my children the same way besides coming naturally to me, is not only good for them but for building that bond they have as brothers.  They are best buds because in a life where they will "play" fight until there is pain for one and then it turns into "pain" fight to be stopped, in a life where many may not be genuine with them and in a life that throws them curve balls - having that brother best friend will be that much more important.  

Treating them as individuals but not differently with my actions is what I strive for. They both have seen my "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??????!!!" spinning head move aimed directly at them, followed by a deep breath and a softer "please give me a moment" so that I do not lose it anymore.  They both get time on their own as well as together with me.  I like them both for the different people they are, my older son is a more sensitive sort who loves to be popular and my younger son is less interested in popularity but more interested in making sure what he is wants to do is what he is doing.  They are both amazingly loving and overall pretty great kids.  

So to answer the question that should not really be asked - I do not like either one of them more than the other.  I consider them both a part of my life and heart in a way that far surpasses anything I could have imagined I could love like.  I make sure that I tell them equally how important they are and that I love them, discipline them equally for equal bad actions and overall never, ever do that "well your brother is better/worse at.." thing I could not stand seeing done to my friends or their siblings.  

Balance - sometimes I walk that tightrope that is my life with the best of the circus performers but other times I am glad that I have the net of friends underneath cause I take tumbles.  I am going to make mistakes as a mother but overall I am also dedicated to making sure that my boys know that I love them and like being with them.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teaching kids to Just say no

    This past week one of my favorite actors was found dead.  I thought Phillip Seymour Hoffman had an incredible talent.  Much as the media makes it seems as if we know these famous people - reality is that we don't.  It is a loss for acting, for his family and it is tragic.  His death was due to a drug overdose.  This has led to the usual chatter - "how could he?", " he had everything", "selfish" and the other side "tragic", "sad" and "how could he?"- change the tone on that last one and it is a different than the first one in this line. 

I don't know how he could - couldn't  - did or didn't.  I know heroin has always been a scary drug, others were scary too crack/meth/coke, but not in the same way for me.  I know they are all addictive but the thought of putting a needle in any part of my body (if you were ever to talk to my doctor he would tell you how he has to gently/not gently push me to have blood tests - am fine once I get there but the thought ewww) is just a whole other level.  It was a drug of bad 70s movies - we all know the nasty physical withdrawl from movies (if not personal acquaintance) like Trainspotting (yes it is that gross).  It seemed that it was the line in the imaginary sand that most people would not cross.  Yet that line seem to have gone - heroin has become cheap, available and more deadly then ever due to the stuff they cut it with. Not cut it without buyer knowledge but selling it as such, since the high is that much stronger - and the chances of death that much more likely (but am pretty sure the dealers do not necessarily add this to the sales pitch - nor would some of the buyers really think it applied to them).  It is killing our talented people, our poor, our rich .. and most disturbing the children and young adults who are drawn to it. 

As I read about him what I thought is what usually comes to my mind - addiction is difficult.  The pull of dark thoughts, self-doubt, risk taking behaviors that you know you should not do .. I applaud those of you reading this that have never had them but ask you to not judge the rest of the population that has.  I have felt the pull at different times of my life but something in me has usually been able to not push so far that I can't bounce back.  I learned from bad choices and am lucky to have a great support system that they were things that I could get over.  I never struggled with addiction, if anything I tend to be able to walk away from things once I decide to with some ease.  I gave up smoking just because I decided I didn't want to smoke anymore, left men who I adored because they were not the people I wanted to be with and generally cannot see any activity that I cannot live without if asked to.  I feel this way for drinking too - enjoy it but if I can't do it no biggie.  This is who I am - but the self-doubt, the lack of appreciation for who I am, what I look like and a host of other things - yeah I get where that comes from.  I just learn to cope in different ways. 

I used the death of this man to talk to my 9 and 7 year old about drugs.  I told them how he died, why he probably tried it, told them of the demons that he had mentioned and that if they ever felt so little love for themselves to tell me first.  We talked about how it is easy for them to say they would never try these things now but that friends may make them think otherwise at later times and that again I may not like it but I will help them deal with saying no.  Saying no .. the campaign that everyone laughed at Nancy Regan for - I didn't laugh.  It was simplistic for a complex issue in the midst of a crack epidemic but it is actually perfect in so many ways. Teaching my kids how to say no in situations that I will not be in is essential. The pull of peer pressure is to say ok ... even when you know it is not.  I have been there but I knew when that rubber band would snap if I pushed a little further - good job to my parents on that one.  

So in memory of a man who gave us the chance to view him inhabit many characters but who by all accounts could not inhabit his own comfortably I wish the dialogue about drugs would continue.  The "war on drugs" has not really worked out so it is time for the government and law enforcement to think of a different approach.  It is a monumental problem that has far reaching very, very lucrative backing.  I used this sad news to try and teach my own kids how hard it is to say no but how easy it is to have a support system when you do as well as when they said yes.  As parents we owe our kids the strength and courage to be the best they can be not for the world's accolades but for their survival and happiness. Just say no and walk away - so easy to say and write takes such courage to do.

And all the politicians makin' crazy sounds
And everybody puttin' everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds... "Heroin" The Velvet Underground 

Carmelita hold me tighter
I think I'm sinking down
And I'm all strung out on heroin
On the outskirts of town
Well, I pawned my Smith-Corona
And I went to meet my man
He hangs out down on Alvarado Street
By the Pioneer chicken stand....................."Carmelita" Warren Zevon

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

No Makeup Monday ? - No thank you

   I was listening to the radio one morning getting ready for work, putting on my make-up, when Z100 had a whole discussion with the djs on "no make-up Monday"..it was Tuesday.  The women there had gone make up less for a day and it was a big debate on how they felt about it. As I sat there with my newest stash - am total cheater as I like to use different brands (Nars, MAC, Tom Ford, Hourglass, Bobbi Brown and those are just my favorites) - of stuff and listening to this I thought "are you kidding me?".  Yes that is what went through my mind.

 A friend of mine recently wrote an amazing blog about her grandmother and among the things she mentioned was that this was a woman who always put herself together and looked elegant before going out.  That is wonderful.  I get a lot of ribbing for never going even to the supermarket in less than somewhat of an outfit, it may be leggings with some ballet flats and cute top but you are not ever going to see this girl in her pjs unless you are sleeping over or there is an emergency.  After all I am the same woman who had on platforms and a nice matching bag when I checked in, water broken, to the hospital to give birth.  

 I know that in the past there may have been too formal a dress regimen but we do not have to wear our pjs in the street, yes this is #1 pet peeve #2 clothes that are not your size -people do not understand are not really one size fits all but rather one size fits most, it is ok for us make an effort, especially when we are going some place like work or an event.  

I for one love make up - I have always loved it since I had to sneak it on. I have loved it since when I had these, Maybelline maybe or Cover Girl, red eyeliners that were so cheap you had to heat them with a lighter to get them on (as an adult the chemical in that frightens me).  I can spend hours in Sephora - like an opium den for me - a new foundation, an eyeliner that actually stays on and does not give me raccoon eyes and oh those lovely shades of lipstick - the browns and the right red (now that is a quest - to find the right red).  I have learned, after many a make up DON'T , how to wear it to hide a little here and enhance a little there - without it you would still recognize me.  I am also fond of new hair products - and for those of us with curly (frizzy) hair these have come a long way and I thank whoever worked and works on them.  

So no make up Mondays? not for me - well done make-up looks mostly natural, lots of it maybe needed should you find yourself on the red carpet, none of it ever (not even lipstick) well that actually works for some people too I guess (though you are missing out on the thrill of the free gift with purchase) what does not work for me is the annoying attitude of the hosts as if not wearing it was better than wearing it.   It is ok to expect all of us to look put together, at least most of the time.  I have friends who pull this off with a good pair of sunglasses and a scarf - it is not a lot of effort but it says a lot to say you made some before rolling out of the house.  So feel good about yourself, look good for yourself and a touch of a good shade of lipstick never hurts (though even it cannot salvage pajamas in public though).