Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What do we have to be grateful for?!!!

Even if you are a glancer, you know a skimmer of news, in the past week and maybe even a lot of the past year it is so easy to think "what do we have to be grateful for?".  

After all there are atrocities, big/small or somewhere in the middle, happening all the time.  Our politicians sound either like snake oil salesmen with a touch of preacher revivalist thrown in or wait what they didn't or don't read reports unless the report is giving data that only confirms what they think.  There is still death and disease and a host of really ludicrous conspiracy theories on these things, our lack of science understanding is frightening.  The environment is compromised unless it's not because if I don't understand it then it is not true, see previous point.  

What do we have to be grateful for?  I mean from everything you see on most media; races hate each other, religions are battling each other while of course telling everyone how theirs is the one of love and of course the one to follow, whoever you love someone may have a problem with it.   

Yet here we are in the week of my favorite holiday - favorite, ever one of those things that I think every country should adopt (Canada already does I know) and regardless of what you think of it's origins it is a great holiday.  A GREAT HOLIDAY people.

Here is what I have to be grateful for and what I want my kids to take away from this holiday

1) I am grateful for every day - I learn something from every day, maybe it is a small fact or maybe a game changer but there is not a day that something new does not peak my interest

2) I am loving being a mom and seeing my kids and their friends prep to be a better generation who can contribute to the world - they are not like us, or like our parents, I do not look at that as negative but rather as the next step in how people keep changing 

3) I am glad that isis and it's like minded counterparts in any religion are not the majority - THAT'S RIGHT NOT THE MAJORITY - and that while they keep committing heinous acts the majority of us can say no not in my name and fight them with weapons but also without resorting to their ignorant rhetoric

4) Differences - considering how much I have moved, that I come from a country that was never quite homogeneous, that my favorite place is a city that is know for having no "one" of anything it makes sense.  I do not like to eat the same food, keep the same hair color and even traditions I like to infuse with some change.  I love how we all look different, smell different, sound different and most of all somehow overwhelmingly live with our differences 

5) I have choices  -- and I will fight to continue to remind people that we all have choices - we can choose to be better or choose to be bitter.  We can choose to limit others or we can choose to grow with them.   I am grateful to live in a country that still allows me speak and vote and yell about those choices 

6) Music and art and books and makeup and shoes - and all those things that I do not need  - how wonderful they all are and how lucky are we all when for a moment or more we can appreciate not having things just because we need them but because something is beautiful about them to us 

7) The beach and cities - my places that give me solace, one with the roar of the ocean and one with the roar of crowds - both vast - both different - both where I find my sweet spot year round 

8) Singing and dancing  - like a mad woman, loud and wild and all over the place every chance I get 

9) Great kisses -- those smoochy ones I get with my weekly Sunday snuggle with my boys as well as those that make me blush when I think of them ... what a great invention kissing is and when it is good oofta - THANK YOU 

I am always thankful to my friends, both new and long time, male and female, those etched into my very soul as well as just the casual acquaintances.  

My favorite holiday because it reminds me what can so easily be forgotten among the negativity - that we all have something to be thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I've always wanted to ...

Maybe because of the Paris attacks this blog which I started sometime last week has become even more relevant for me.

We hear it all the time - live each day,  love deeply and tell people you love them that way, dance and sing and do whatever it is you want to do because there are no promises for tomorrow. Yet do we really do it ?

I've always wanted to ... I think of how many times someone has said that to me and it is usually followed by "but I".  These are rarely huge things - like climbing Mt Everest  - rather they are things that somehow do not fit in with the person's other parts of life.  I lost count of how many times I had said this phrase but then I met a few people who pushed me to try these things and I am so grateful that they gave me permission to not be perfect but to be unafraid.

Recently a friend of mine said to me that he had always wanted to draw, he doodled a lot, and yet he had never really done it.  I bought him some drawing things but that is not what was holding him back.  He is a brilliant man in so many ways and really well rounded but underneath that there is this thing he wants to do, that is really bit out of character with the other parts of his life and that is holding him back.  He may hate it if he tries it but I just keep telling him - try it, you may be amazing and you will feel amazing for having tried it even if you are better off doodling.

I went to an art exhibit at MOMA and one of the women I went with told me she would love to sculpt - I asked what kind of art she did and she laughed and said she does nothing creative.  She has it in her if she has always wanted to try it ... she is smart, funny and confident but this, well this outside of what the world sees in her or what she projects I should say.  I told her to take a class... she may do nothing more than to find out she may like to look at it more than to sculpt or she may find out she has always wanted to do it because it is in her to produce some great creations.

For me I always wanted to paint - so I started in my 30s full on oil paintings and I love it.  In my 40s I started a blog and tennis, both because as I mentioned it to a friend of mine who basically reminded me that if I want it I should go for it.   As I get older I realize that there are things I have always wanted to do but have been too restrictive with myself to try them, too hard on how I will not be outstanding in it and most of all too hard on saying it is ok for me to do something that is for myself even though I am a full time work outside the home mom in the past 11 years.  There are more things I've always wanted to do and slowly I will try and get to them - as I got older I care more about teaching my children to embrace trying and failing just as much as trying and succeeding.

I look at the world that seems so often filled with endings and there is a realization that we all have choices.  We can choose to be hateful, afraid, angry and destroy.  We can also choose to say we want to create, to build, to be enjoy.  My friends are truly special people and yet I wonder if at times they too need reminding of this fact - that they can try those things that may not be what others associate with them but that they have always wanted to -- imagine how many inventions, artworks, musical pieces, technology would not have been a reality if their makers didn't say well I am going to do it because I have always wanted to.  We find it so much easier to not put ourselves out there, to not follow some thought because it may lead to us not being good at it but who cares ?  It is for ourselves that we should do these things if they become lauded then that much better but if they do not I feel like it is still a win for the fun of trying it.  Go ahead have fun ... be silly .. be in love .. be creative ... play video games ... take up that sport that you have always wanted to ... learn to photograph.... or learn to relax -- if that is what you have always wanted to do.

What is it that you have always wanted to do that will make you blush if you told anyone, maybe glance around before saying it and what is stopping you from changing that to "Boy am I happy that I started [ insert your thoughts here ] because it was what I have always wanted to do it."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Couch Confessionals

We all have that picture of a person laying down on a couch, a therapist sitting slightly behind their head making their inner most confessions less scary since no one is staring at you.  I have been to therapists, my humble (well maybe slightly biased considering my master's is in psych even though I do not practice) is that everyone could use therapy once or multiple times in their lives, and never once has the couch 1) seemed that inviting, both time leather and nice but not quite kick up feet up on 2) have they asked this of me.  They usually like to sit watching you a bit because you see therapists are a bit on to us what we usually start saying is not really what we want .... most people who see a therapist try the "let me see what I can get away with because holy shit why I did come here approach".  They are on to us so they usually watch you and even though at first they will let you think you are fooling them, though at the prices charged not sure who is the fool for paying and not actually using the service at first, but you are not and eventually from their chair you will make eye contact and you will let go... or you won't in which case either switch therapists or really stop spending your well earned money and their time because you are just not ready.

As I ponder these things, and yes my mind goes non-stop, I was thinking of the couch as a place of good family interactions, peaceful times sharing a cuddle with a family member and of course as the place where when you first get a boyfriend (at your own apartment - before that it is usually a couch that is not in plain sight) and you snuggle, kiss, get adventurous.  

I have a lot of memories of times on the couch with my Dad.  He laying down on the couch, me on the floor next to him (my choice, I loved sitting on the floor and watching TV as a kid, did it even when no one was home).  We watched scary movies, past my bedtime on weekends, with Chiller Thriller theater - channel 9 and a 6 fingered hand coming out of the grave .... they were not brutal but they were frightening for my young self, we both could not get enough.  We spent time watching TV shows there, or him asking me to be the remote (you know if you are past 35 what that means - you got up, you changed the channel, you waited there until they found something to watch, you messed with the rabbit years - luckily there were only 2, 4, 5 (was not a real channel), 7, 9, 11 and 13 as channels.  Yet we found a lot to laugh at, we watched the news he made sure I was an ardent Republican with no ideas about those Democrats (one step away from the Communism he escaped from if you asked him ) until we watched TV and he was appalled to see me like some of those Democrats, probably why I will never be one party or another I see good in both, I see crap in both (there goes another therapy session - why daddy influenced my politics).   He paid me to massage his scalp and his aching calves (when he owned a deli and stood all day), capitalism at it's best supply and demand (those jeans I wanted were not an entitlement, work and reward still drives me).  I did not appreciate how good those two things felt until I was an adult.  Yet one of my poignant memories of my Dad and me on the couch is one that makes me well up.  He had been hit by a car, badly, and we were on his couch (the latest wife - who I did not dislike,  boring but she was good for him because she took care of him and let's be honest I always was grateful for the wives/girlfriends for being there for him because he was not easy even if some of them were people I was glad to see go).  She too had been hit by the car but he was a mess, he had lived as if the diabetes he had was not going to need taking care of after he and my mom (who managed it for him, who he fought against for managing it) divorced.  Until the last wife he had let the disease define him while he swayed between anger at any of us who told him what not to do and at us for not understanding he had a serious disease (very typical of diabetics - add in his other issues and well times they were interesting ... I did mention therapy right?).

So there we were my Dad, over 6 foot at his youth, always skinny, curly hair gone gray and sightly too long, his olive skin bit grey undertone, dark circles (family trait thanks for passing along to his mother ... thank you concealer) very dark,  cheeks slightly sunken, nose (thank you for not passing on) looking very prominent and me in my 20s and being there for him and hoping he would be ok.   We were listening to Ray Charles, talking music and suddenly my Dad started to cry.  Not something usual in my house with him.  I moved closer, held his hand and started to cry of course.  He knew he was dying, I did not and neither did anyone else, because it was a feeling he had.  He felt that the car accident had pushed him over the edge.  He talked about mistakes he made in not taking care of himself, about feeling badly about latest wife who now would be a widow and then he talked about how he had not always been the greatest dad.  How he was really proud of me, that he hoped I would find fortune in America and most of all that he loved me.  Yeah yeah I am crying writing this.  Ray Charles stopped and one of his favorite songs came on "What a wonderful world" as sung by Louis Armstrong.  We sat there, my Dad and me, me comforting him - and we were back to before I had grown up and to when I was a little girl and I loved sitting next to him, me on the floor, him on the couch sharing a moment.   He died not long after that -- a heart that could not recover from having worked so hard along with his other organs against the diabetes, the car accident may have pushed him over the top but he had climbed up to that edge for years.

The couch - it is where I kissed men I dated passionately and with abandon, where I just sat and was held or held friends and lovers during tough times.  It is the place I sit to discuss how to get over all that I worry and don't stop thinking about if I see a therapist.  It is the place where my boys and I squish together, not super comfortable but we wouldn't change it, snuggle time watching tv together.  All of those memories are my couch confessionals but that moment with my Dad stands out because we shared so much, some good and some just awful, but in the end on that couch we shared what was most important to the two of us music and knowing we loved each other.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Homework and headaches

I grew up in a time and place where parents were either not home, out working, or did not speak English well enough to help us with our homework.  Yet the expectation was that it got done and that you got good grades, for many of us there was no discussion on "if" college it was that "when" you finished high school you went to college and if not you found yourself a job.   They did not have the cultural knowledge, the financial means often to do college visits and the like ... we did these things with the help of one another and a guidance counselor.  That was life in an immigrant neighborhood for most of us and you know what we learned really early on how to navigate school, the consequences of not doing well in school and how to get ourselves on track for post high school.  We did that because we had to.

Now my own kids and their friends have to navigate pretty much nothing because we as parents set up social things, school things, activity things.  These kids from a young age have a Hollywood star worthy personal assistant system.  This is not all bad but it is in some ways.

Throw in homework and there are nights when my head spins.   My kids do their homework, reluctantly, and seem to rely on reminders.  My older 11 year old son  - well with him I decided that I was going to teach him responsibility (ulcer and twitching eye be damned).  I am not going to check the correctness of his homework, I am not going to spend time correcting said homework with him, I will not erase the sloppy writing ... no I am going to do what my parents and those of my friends did.  I am going to set the expectation and only if he asks for help will I help him -- his progress reports will reflect if he is asking for help or doing poorly and we will have rewards and consequences if he did not ask for help and the grade reflects a lack of doing it or understanding.  That is my theory .. now my reality is (eye twitch at full blast) it is KILLING me because his writing is sloppy, what don't you take pride in what you hand in? is what is going through my mind, he rushes through writing and it lacks description (you know the hour + long description that I can get on any one YouTube video). So far his grades are good but there are a few where, see kiddies with great power comes great responsibility  - my parents had no computer parent portal to see a daily recap of my assignments and grades, they just had the quarterly report card where things could be mended to be good - so when I see INCOMPLETE on a homework then commence annoyance.

My younger son may be loving a book but if he is timed reading well we could not risk the wrath and potential for lightning strike of a higher being if say he reads 5 - 10 min longer than is required.   He still gets the erase your sloppy work and I see his snarky look .. I just don't care.

I get it and before all of you holier than thouers speak up - I did my homework with the tv on but I was that annoying kid who learned in class and absorbed in a way so that it did not need extra studying .. this led to a lot of A-s and B+s that could have been A+s but hell I was not going to you know possibly miss a social interaction to do the dreaded study.  Then I got to college and holy shit was I unprepared ... cause you need to study there.  I got it, I suffered,  I learned to study.  I know homework is not fun but isn't that part of the lesson for these kids 1) do something because it is required 2) take pride in doing something at your best 3) ask for help.

How will they navigate life if they do not learn to be self sufficient and know how to get assistance if we fix the homework or even worse in my humble opinion try the friend route here with them "Oh yes homework sucks let me see if I can get it reduced -- complain about how unfair it is --- the system and the man are out to get us".  You can be all about those things but for my kid that is not the point, special needs kids are a different story and I applaud you doing all those things to make sure your kids reach their potential.  Lazy habits are not a disability -- they are a result of what has been called helicopter parenting ... we take care of it.

I am working and learning to live with eye twitch, no guy on train am not winking at you, and hoping that as a parent I am doing the right thing by trying to make them more responsible in this thing called growing up.