Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Do we even want it all ?!

Another week and of course another article about motherhood and working.  This one was well intentioned but then again I am hoping even when I do not agree that at it was well intentioned from the author's perspective.  

The subject was how hard it is to be on a career track with goals once you become a mother.  I agree it is hard.  It is hard when moms are working just to make ends meet.  It is hard when you make a choice or finances make a choice for you to stay home and raise children.  Mostly it is just hard to be a mom - sorry Dads I know that you have your own challenges and expectations but this is a mom's perspective and maybe if you are a Dad you read on to see how many of us feel. 

What irks me though about all of these articles, it could be the chip on my shoulder, is that they are about having it all, doing it all and doing it perfectly.  Yet in the same vein we are somehow being made to feel bad for wanting to do it at all never mind perfectly.

I am a woman who is not defined only by the fact that I gave birth or by the choices I made to how many children I had.  I made those choices and weighed my personal options as to why I had my children but that is a part of who I am and not all there is to me.  It took me years to be ok with saying that and even as I write I can imagine how annoyed or angry or sanctimonious someone reading this will get.   I love being a mother and it is by far the best part of me but it is not all I am.  When will society learn this ? Maybe that is why the whole anti-choice, anti-birth control platform irks me - we are not just breeders. 

The article in the Times was about how it is hard to continue on a career path when you cannot always travel for work, or stay late because of child care.  It pointed out that it is more often than not the mom who stays home with a sick child.  Then there is my personal pet peeve all school meetings are now during the day - which means that at least one parent will have to take off from work and you guessed who they found that was usually I bet, I guess though if they were at night teachers who are moms would be faced with the same dilemma.   I get the other perspective too, I mean if you are a colleague who doesn't have children by choice or by timing why should you always have to cover the away business trips, the long hours in the office? 

Childcare is expensive and so involved these days so it is not that you have to get home, you have this idea of what meals to plan, to serve, to check homework, to plan events, to buy or make cupcakes for school functions, to ensure that every paper is signed, that field trips are covered ... even when you live in a place like I do where the moms in town never hesitate to live the motto "it takes a village" and help out you still want to be there for your kid because they too expect it.

Yet most of us have other wants .. we want to read, or watch tv uninterrupted, go to a movie with our friends, go for a drink, be creative, rest, run, play tennis, go to a play or whatever and many times we wish we could do it spontaneously.  This happens with work, just to be able to call up and say hey I need to work late tonight without having to follow up with a carefully orchestrated back up plan and often an apology for wanting our careers or more simply our time to be the other parts of ourselves.   Many dads I know are good at back up and pitching in but that is just it - with an exception or two they are backup and partially feel like they are helping you out when they do it.  We see them that way too a lot of times but we shouldn't.

We need to be ok to wanting it all at whatever measure we want it, just like we should feel ok to want parts of it only.  We are not better people for being mothers nor are we worse than those women who chose or could not have children.  I am fortunate to work in a corporation that has come leaps and bounds since I started 17 years ago (yikes yes I started in the gifted Kindergartners program) where we can work from home and be able to take that child to the doctor, or see their mid day performance, or take a day off with pay to be a chaperone.  I am grateful that no one rolls their eyes that I do not take week long travels and that we embrace a lot more webex even if it partially because it is more cost effective, who cares we all benefit.  It is the way I manage my team and whether they have kids or not if they need to balance work and life I encourage it - it is not just the right way to be it is actually great for productivity.  We need more companies to embrace this for their sake if not only for ours - to understand that the more we empower parents to be good workers and be there unapologetically in what their life's passions are the more they will work to move the business forward.  The more successful women are in any society the hight standard of living and economy that country has - this is fact not wishful thinking that can be seen in model after model.

So I do not know if we want it all - I want lots of it because that is who I am.  I want to succeed for me -- to do things that have nothing to do with my children - to be there for my boys in their hearts and confidence at all times.  What I mostly want though is to see women stop being pushed to have it all or to have none of it and to be empowered instead to be able to have opportunities in life, in work, in love to be the best we can be. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Without music life would be a mistake" Nietzsche

I grew up with music in my life.  I cannot remember a time when my Dad was not playing music and my mom introduced me to opera.  At a very young age they had me take piano lessons and I learned to appreciate the classics - never learned to appreciate the practice part though.   

Music is the background narrative of my life.  I escape a bit in my music - okay more than a bit.  It is what I turn on to clean my house, to start my day and at any chance I get.  I am that girl that would sit patiently with her radio turned on, shushing and begging for quiet so I can press record at the exact moment that a song came on to my boom box, JVC - silver - I loved that thing.  I bought big ear phones so I wouldn't get in trouble for listening to music at very loud levels when I was growing up and among my buying staples as I got past the age of 12 were 45s, 33s and Marlboros.  I had priorities. 

I hear a song and it may remind me of a special moment or have been playing during a significant event (good  - Theme from Mahogany for my 8th grade graduation or bad event - Proud to be an American playing after 9/11 will make me cry still).   It can even be that I do not like the actual melody but may love a lyric or two.  Sometime the lyrics are ok but the beat takes me back, short skirt, hot, sweaty, pressed up against someone, darkness, thumping rhythm- man I miss dancing.  It is the connection I made with people who can talk about music as much as me and it is the disagreements that are settled with "Nah just listen to this again" about a song we don't agree on. 

Music and songs are associated with people for me .. they are tied in my mind and they sing my feelings.  I am of course a highly talented singer -- in the shower, along with music driving in my car and of course when others are a bit drunk at karaoke.   Sometimes a moment and a song are just perfect together --- driving in a car with someone I care for and the lyrics go "long time since we been together"... or the fun of singing really, really loud along and not caring at that moment how you sound because you are making music with whoever is in the car with you.  It is what I need to have on when I paint and boy am I gone from the present and floating when that happens between the painting and the songs.  It is what I put on to write.  It is what I need to remember and to forget. 

I just can never understand the people, and I know some, who don't listen to music - who can't recall lyrics (I may forget what I walked into a room to get but put on a song from 20 or more years ago and this girl belts it out without missing a word) - who don't get transcended when aria in Madame Butterfly has her giving up her child, I cry at that one every time.  

My life can be told in the songs that were popular at a given time, or that my father played, or that I learned to appreciate though they came many decades before me.   I have passed this on to my kids and I love singing along with them.  

"Music to me is like breathing, I don't get tired of breathing, I don't get tired of music" ... The Genius - Ray Charles 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Battle of the bulge

If you have ever read this blog before, THANK YOU,  you know already I love love love fashion (if you have not welcome to my online world).  I love to look at magazines, update my wardrobe, mix Target pieces with Tiffany accessories and I believe that I pull it all together pretty well at this point. 

It is a struggle to love fashion though if you are a calorically challenged person.  I look at some items and realize the price tag is too wide and my wallet is too thin  - that I can live with because I will buy a piece rather than an outfit and find something so close among the masses, pret a porter if you want to feel better, that it will be on point.  It is harder to work around the fact that if you leave a the land of the single digit sizes your choices start to become slimmer .. pun TOTALLY intended.  

I look at belts - love the things - however, my waist or what should be my waist and I have never bonded with a belt except maybe for a few brief moments in the 80s when those double belts hung seductively around our hips.  Even at my smallest weight belts did not go I just do not have that lovely dip the same way a lot of people do.  I could admire them on others, my VBFF wears the double GG Gucci belt with a casual and sexy elegance that would make the design house proud.  

I have struggled with weight as long as I can remember - I can almost mark times of my life by the diet fad; early 80s hot water with lemon fad (cause it "melted" fat), late 80s give up fat go for carbs and put in the Jane Fonda workout of course dressed in similar duds in front of my tv, 80's/early 90s Slim Fast cause 2 shakes a day and a sensible dinner (by which point I defined sensible as a slice of pizza - cheese, carb, veggie sauce ) were what I needed, 90s cabbage soup (that lasted a day yuck), the bagel a day, Weight Watchers, fat is good again carbs are evil to present 2000s gluten gluttony will kill you, fat no/fat/no carbs/carbs debate, give up whole food groups and processed food especially food color must go.  If an alien where to come down and read this they would leave in a hurry because obviously we are NUTS (they are good for you but fattening but good for you). 

Along this journey I have been multiple sizes - there is a size that I have never been, unless it is my Calypso shirt and 0 is for small/medium and the thing is cut big, and even when I die my skeleton will still not fit into that lovely size 0 shirt I had eyed while alive.  I have made up my own diets - most successful for short term were the bagel a day diet, smoking, eat one day and not the next and breakups (those would initially start with large increase from living on Hagen Dazs for a week as sole meal).  Those are as crazy as they look, you drop pounds fast but when the delirium from hunger and the inability to take a deep breath from smoking kick in you turn into human vacuum and pretty much find every pound you lost and it brings friends. 

I hate struggling with weight and I will say Weight Watchers was by far the best and most successful, can we also say normal, program.  Yet as I get older I find it harder and harder to lose and instead fist pump at not gaining.  I love food and good food and believe it all temporarily effective but ultimate bullshit to give up anything forever, except bad food and all the crap they have to put in "diet" food to make it taste like food.  I cannot drink my foods, that is reserved for my nursing home days and hopefully then they put some pina coladas on the menu and the only Shakeology I ascribe to is the one you get from an ice cream store or when a Shakira song comes on and these hips don't lie. 

Amazing when I look at pictures, boy how I wish I was as "fat" now as I thought I was in my 20s and 30s.  In my mother's mind she has often tried to "help" me by pointing out that my weight gain is not good for me... yeah thanks you think?!!  She tries with good intent it never is taken as such.  If you have struggled with weight you know your moments of intimacy have a thought of what does (insert body part or whole body) look like to the other person, do they find them as gross as I do?  The term "well do something about it" yeah thanks, appreciate that brilliance cause of course I never have thought it. 

I came to make more peace with my body after children - not because of the granola thought process that well my body housed these awesome people - but because I just do not have as much time to think about it.  I live in an area where most of the mommies around me are dedicated to keeping their bodies in great shape - and I mean dedicated - and others worry about their weight so much that it is sadly an indication of how tied to their worth they think it is.  My children make me conscious of helping them eat in ways that they will not have this struggle in life and teaching them to think about being able to do things and not be encumbered by weight issues.  

I have battled the bulge and continue to do so - but I battle it more now to make sure I am healthy. It cannot be my obsession and I am so much more comfortable as I head toward 50 with who I am at any size because it is who I am and there is so much more I want to accomplish and do then focus on the scale or the tag that no one will see in my clothes.  I want to eat Weight Watchers style because there are no evil foods but only too big portion sizes.   While all of that is true I also want to continue to find those lovely fashions in sizes that are not only 0 - much like I know certain things do not go with my age I know certain things do not go with my size but what does should be out there .. much like the elusive truth in the X Files I know that these fashions are out there. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Home really is only where the heart is

Between the news on the refugee crisis in Europe, a book I just finished on the mess that is known as the Middle East, 9/11 anniversary and my upcoming participation in the Race for the Cure my range of emotions just really is off the charts these days.  

I am a refugee - an immigrant - and I feel the pain of those folks who are just leaving everything they have ever known, their birth country with it's traditions that are comforting and familiar because it is no longer home it is the rubble, literally or metaphorically, of the life they and their parents thought they were going to have.  I looked at the scene on the train and it brought me back to a trip I took with my mom years ago.  We went back to visit family in Romania and took the train to meet my Dad in Germany.  It was not the nice trains I took this summer in Europe.  It was an old fashioned train and there was a feeling of oppression and menace on it through every stop, every army uniformed checkpoint that we went through via the Easter bloc countries.  The people wanted to be intimidating and though we had US passports you held your breath every moment they looked at you or asked you a question - you felt it lift as soon as you crossed into Austria.  It was a sensation I had not thought about until I saw the scenes on tv - those people not guaranteed safe passage and I cried. I cried because as one who leaves a place you never again feel you have a place of your own 100%. You make a life for yourself but can move easily from place to place because permanence is not a given.  You can make friends easily maybe or maybe you are just going to hold on to what is familiar to the point that it makes you a stranger in a strange land.  I love moving and for the longest time, until I read an article in the Times written by a fellow Romanian refugee who left about the same time I did, I did not realize it may be because for me home can change and I learned to embrace that without ever adding special attachment to an actual housing place. 

This leads me to 9/11 because as much as no one apartment or house has ever been something I am not prepared to give up my refuge was NYC.  It is where I grew up, where I loved to embrace everyone being different and yet having the same needs, loves, ambitions, anger.  We are New Yorkers and to me no other city represents a refugee rebirth more than this one, a city that itself has been broken and battered and rebuild itself.  I enjoy the traveling but there is something of a comfort in NYC for me - because it was the land that welcomed me when I first had to leave my birth home maybe or because it is everything my city of birth never was.  I remember the 9/11 attacks and they are still a raw wound for me because it reminded me again how easily you may have to leave because a place is not safe.  I will not forgive those who did this ever for that - for making me feel that the place that was my home could be so damaged - that my people could be so hurt.  My parents ran and took me from the dark and truly destructive people who made life much like that train ride, oppressive, intimidating, hopeless.  The terrorist of 9/11 reminded me that they could always come to me.  Yet this time I did not run - I actually did not even leave the island at first - because there was hope in the humanity that I saw that day in my fellow refugees known as New Yorkers.  Maybe because we are a city of people who have fled hardships before we did not wish to inflict them upon one another.  We are known for our toughness, our scariness, our dirty city that is really those things in small part and in large we are just the same inside regardless of the multitude of languages we express ourselves in, the beauty of the expansive colors of our skin and the wonder of the cultural traditions we meld together.  No terrorists, you cannot take that from us we have lost so much before we ever got here and we know how to rebuild.  I will never mention their names - the names that will forever be on my lips will be those of the brave firefighters, police, average people who gave their own lives to help others - they should be remembered, those who committed the crimes you did nothing to add to the fabric of society you only tried to destroy it - tried not succeeded. 

On Sunday I will run in honor of the many women I know who have outrun cancer and in memory of those who could not find refuge and were killed by it.  I will run in the Race for the Cure because it is amazing to see people give of their time and money to run together in a world that seems often bent on chasing us away from all that we know so that we are running apart.  

This is an emotional time for me and people supporting a man whose very platform is to remind us that we are refugees who should not find shelter in a country that was founded only to welcome those kicked out of other places just breaks me.  I cannot fathom why he has support, he is not speaking against "the man or the establishment" he is the the man and the establishment and one that has denied opportunities to all but his cronies.  He is everything my parents ran from - who does not embrace democracy but dictatorship - because anyone who is going to run on ideas that his way is the only way is nothing more than a dictator.  

Those refugees are me - and that fear of displacement, that belonging to two places yet not really to either 100% will follow those people forever.  Those towers that came down were me again on the run from those who wish to make my home unbearable.  I Race for the Cure - against cancers of the body and also against the cancer that is known as hate among people.  I am a refugee and maybe we are the answer in some ways - for those without borders can build places that are homes made of where they chose to lay their hearts.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Instagram, Twitter, Kik aka adventures in a virtual world

Last week I went with my son to his 6th grade middle school orientation.  I loved the Principal she is enthusiastic, energetic and really seems so dedicated to these kids.  In the middle of this orientation she was explaining how electronics needed to be turned off and left in lockers otherwise they will be confiscated and the parent has to pick it up.  Totally on board - no need for kids to be on their devices during school hours and let's face these are expensive items that we as parents worked hard for and would be less then pleased (bat shit angry) if they were lost or damaged in the hustle of class time.  

It was at this time that my personal parenting and that of many others came to a vast difference of opinion with her version of how to handle social media.   She is of the school(pun intended) that at this age they do not need to be on Instagram, Kik etc... that she would take off data from their devices all together.  In the same breath that she mentioned how all their work would be on Google drive.    She went on for a few minutes and even got some applause. I applaud her passion on the subject even though I disagree with it. 

For me this is one parenting style that is bit head in the sand approach - if it works for you then no need to change it but if it doesn't well then my way is not wrong, opinion is not fact.  For me this is the reality of their world, even ours to some degree.  This how they communicate and it is just a bigger audience then the note writing that could be damaging when it was meant to of our generation. I understand cyber bullying and find it frightening but keeping kids away from social media is limited and to me eventually they will get there so I would rather teach them how to identify it, to discuss it and to make sure they are not doing it.  It is a good time to talk about stalkers, predators and common sense in a virtual world. 

In our house we go with the warning, discussions and frankly I look at all he posts.  I have access to his texts and his accounts - I have told him that if he was embarrassed for me to find it then it should not live in the virtual world where it could come back in many bad ways when least expected.   We talk a lot about how predators can pretend they are kids and how they should never, ever give their personal information in any way to anyone they do not know.  He asks for permission to add anyone to his contacts.

We cannot protect our kids 100% but we can arm them with tools and knowledge.  My opinion on this parenting matter is not that we  banish it but rather that we embrace it and work through it with the child.  I know the other side of this will cringe but parenting for me is one of those things where we share ideas but do not judge other ways of doing it unless they are abusive or harmful.  You can make an argument that this is harmful as a parental opinion but to me it has not been nor do I see it as such.  

Their world is not our childhood, it is not going to play tag in the street, nor waiting until Saturday to watch cartoons.  You know the cartoons that every newspaper told our parents not to let us watch because we would be violent, not know that we were not Tom and Jerry and try to order a lot of stuff from Acme like Will E Coyote.  My parents banned none of that, my dad and I watched horror movies on Chiller Thriller at night and on screen.  I heard off color jokes at a young enough age to not get the double entendre.  It is not easy to parent something that they know more about than we probably do but I would rather limit and work with their exposure then have them find out about from their friends -- that is not opinion that is fact.  

So as our kids start school their connections occur through the ether .. watch them, talk to them, know who and what they are talking, be familiar with all the apps that is a good defense.  I like the contract above even if you are not yet ready to let them go it still works for when you will be or to talk about why these things are necessary.  If you are not ready for this and think you want to hold them back for a while longer then explain your thoughts to them.  Either way they may not like how we parent but that is what good parenting is all about -- am pretty sure we all agree on that.