Wednesday, December 28, 2016

See ya 2016

I am having a hard time with knowing what direction to take this blog in as the year ends and a new one begins.   There is a part of me that is just so despondent on a political front, seeing the wars around the world, the general state of too many poor children who do not have basic necessities, the attack and continued rage people display at others differences.  It is hard to not want to write the blog as someplace to air these feelings - to share with others that feel the same - and maybe even to have it reach a place of dialogue with people who are on the other side of the spectrum.

I started this blog and I am still eternally grateful for the friend who started his, then stopped, who told me that there is never a reason not to try it.  It was a place for all those things that bind us, a place for shared experiences and most of all a place to add a little humor to day to day occurrences that are in many ways universal.  Motherhood, friendships, lovers, loves or just plain how the hell do you get through folding laundry fatigue - or is that just me ?

As I started to think of writing the last blog of the year I went back through the blogs I have written and with quite a bit of feather fluffing on my end (yes I made that expression up - yes you can use it even if it is in jest) I love that I have over 22, 000 reads.  I mean I never imagined that it would reach that.  Then I looked at who reads this thing anyway, besides my super awesome friends and especially a core group of loyalists that I never tire of hearing from when they tell me they liked one of them.   It is people from all over the world - I mean ALL over the world, beyond my circle of friends.  I have gotten the best notes from people who I never met who connected with something I wrote.  I have gotten a few less than loving notes too but to those I responded too and somehow we did not need to be uncivil, in fact they led to some good dialogue.

We accuse each other, rightfully so, in an age of fake news and memes as truth of also having a social media presence that is an echo chamber.   This is so true - after all how else can we feel as brilliant on some days as to see others cheer on our beliefs, because hell they believe them too.  The downfall to this is that we stop hearing from the other side,  we stop the dialogue and even stop - you know interacting except with people like ourselves.  What a miss this is - I live for learning different views, information, expanding my little corner of the world and even when I don't agree with someone I find a good, robust, heated discussion is great - the polar opposite of the advice on don't talk about politics, religion, sex, money.  Talk about all of it because if we cannot be civil with one another we are losing the opportunity to be more than we started out.

So where am I going with this blog in 2017?  I am going back to those things that unite us.  My most successful blogs, based on reads, seem to confirm that I am right to think we share so much more than we don't.  That the world has more in common than not.  That we all lose it, then breathe deep, when say a child leaves a pen in their pants and you get ink on clothes and have to wash them again.  That at that moment the idea of stabbing said child with said pen is a fleeting thought.  That you get most of it out with hairspray, dabbing (no not the kind all these kids are doing) and OxiClean.  That you tell said child he is lucky that you took the deep breath and that you wanted to stab them with said pen and boy aren't they lucky to have you for a mother who did not do that.

I am going to focus on things that may seem trivial but isn't it the day to day, more mundane things that most of us share and just want to survive?  Things like that most of us are sad at the death of celebrities that we like even though we know that well we do not really know them.  Maybe they are the soundtrack to a portion of our lives. An actress who rocked a gold bikini while chained to a lecherous blob and did not lose her sass.  We mourned the passing of a man who was a Prince then was a sign then was just simply a trouble person who happened to be a brilliant musician.  We mourned the passing a boxing legend who wasn't always a nice guy but was always willing to stand up for what he believed in, his strength in his convictions of fair play made him more a world champion than those gloved boxing hands.

We share sorrow at loses on a personal level.  Are touched by kindness from others and in the end are parents, lovers, spouses, friends, children and people who just want to laugh, scream, kiss, dance, sing and be present.

In 2017 I am going to take back my optimism and bring back the blog to being the place where a mom born in the 20th century is just trying to raise awesome kids for the 21st century.  Yeah I know I will have the occasional rant because hell it is who I am but I love the saying that you can change the world one random act of kindness at a time.  What could be more kind than welcoming 2017 with those things that bind us for the future ???

Thanks for reading and please keep doing it -- goodbye 2016 you sure have been memorable.

Happy New Year

Friday, December 23, 2016

Do they know it's Christmastime?

I see beauty in the hustle, decorations and bustle that cities have during Christmastime.  I love how places decorate, I love the lights, I look for window displays each year in the big department stores on Fifth Avenue and I even brave the Rockefeller Center shove and push to see the tree at least once. I love the season and it's total devotion to just making the ordinary look dressed up.    

I will admit that the crowds get the occasional curse words, short lived because then I look at a pretty light display and I am like dog with squirrel, distracted and slightly amused in a way that I may not otherwise be. 

I also really get so psyched to give gifts, to get gifts and to hopefully have given something that the person receiving it just totally loves.  So in that spirit here are my virtual gifts to all the amazing people who read this blog. 

In this year for those of us who may not have gotten the candidates we voted for it is easy to fall into cynicism but that's not going to change the outcome nor will it be a driver to keep going, to keep working for what we want for the future.  So my gift to all in this category is a pretty snowflake, look at it, so pretty, unique and independent yet put together with other snowflakes it is a force to be reckoned with.  

In this year that we have seen so many reign terror on innocents I give you the gift of knowing that we mourn those lost by celebrating life to the fullest.  Here is your shiny gift, wrapped in a bow, pretty paper and all full of opportunities and dreams.  These acts of terror remind us not to put off for another year those things that we want to do.  

After knowing that many live in war zones take a moment to appreciate your moments of peace. Maybe it is a warm cup of coffee or tea, maybe spiked or not, but there is no maybe about how good it is to have the ability to just stop and enjoy a moment.   So here is your mug, bow on the side go fill it and take a deep breath - peace begins with each of us. 

Here is to fun - yes fun, the kind that is not good for us because it is too much of whatever you enjoy, it is fun with kids and laughing at ourselves for having a piece of tape stuck to our hair after wrapping presents (oh is that only me?).  It is fun in letting people rip the paper that you did everything to wrap so meticulously. The joy of laughter that reaches the eyes when the gift is just as perfect as you hoped it would be. 

Here is to all that holiday music - yeah, yeah but admit it there is a smirk when it comes on, a sing along here and there.  

Christmastime - full of pagan rituals like the tree and decorations - celebrating a man whose birth came to his parents who struggled to find love and caring instead of cynicism even when things got rough.  Jesus is the reason for the season because you can be a devout Christian or an atheist and appreciate that he was a man dedicated to the possibilities we all have to be better to one another, to forgive and most of all to enjoy the moment (after all he did turn water into wine). 

Do they know it's Christmastime is from a song done many years ago to benefit a drought devastated area but really it applies to all of us - we can give more if we love, live and enjoy our own lives more. 

So with that I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that jazz

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Parenting children for the future not from our past

Image result for parenting in 21st centuryI recently watched a terrific middle school production of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", this was top of my list of favorite books when I was middle school.  I think what strikes me more as a parent is that the parenting in it is pretty awful, except for Charley of course.  The parents seem to not understand that to raise children you need to teach them boundaries and accountability - luckily the Oompa Loompas do in the story.

I raise my children with a goal that they understand a few things - the world owes them nothing except a chance to prove themselves, that being kind is part of being part of this world, that we should behave as we want others to behave toward us, that you don't hit first but that at times bullies need you to strike last and stand up for what is right and to embrace who they are and who they want to be. 

I also raise my kids and struggle with understanding that they are not me at the same age.   They are growing up in a digital world and while we as parents often are befuddled by the fact that they can sit next to their friends and only communicate via a scree.  They are actually preparing for the world they will inhabit, it is different than ours.   They have their own version of social skills. They are very change agile and unafraid.  They question everything and while this is very frustrating at times as a parent it is also truly something to celebrate because they do not accept anything just because it is told to them, they want to know why and how.

It is not easy because they make us face things we are not comfortable with - we work differently, we learn differently and we see machines as less integrated than they do.  We may use social media but it is static - we view - they see it as action  - they use it.  They see the possibility of continuous evolution. I was in 6th or 7th grade when my father was very annoyed that I could use a calculator for tests.  His argument was that I should not need one and be able to do math at that level.  The teacher explained that I was going to live in a world where I would never not have access to a calculator.

Now full confession I do roll my eyes and get annoyed when a cashier cannot give me change without putting it into their register for the right amount to be calculated,  but my kids do not.  They do not see this as an issue because in their world this is the reality they have always lived with.   They are right they will not be in a situation ever where they will not have access to something that could help do these calculations and that is a skill, utilizing these devices, they need for their world much like my father had needed to know how to do this in his head for the world he inhabited.

Parenting is about adjusting to the world our children live in but the foundations of teaching kids the joys of not always having immediate satisfaction, that setting a goal and accomplishing it is really a great feeling, that you survive when you are in a bad situation if you learn from it and are lucky to have friends and family to support you and most of all that they need to treat others with kindness and respect.  The devices and their world are not the same one we were children in and while it is easier to try and make them conform to what we are comfortable in I try and remember I have to parent to make them great.

As Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate around this time of year it is ok to give them the things they like and expose them to things we may have enjoyed while teaching them to appreciate the gift of love they get.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Give the gift of confidence

If there is one thing I want to make sure my kids get from me it is the gift of confidence.  Not because I have it, actually I don't and it took a lot to even put that out there, but because I believe that giving that to them will help them not to hold back and go at life as if it is theirs for the molding.  

I believe most kids are born confident. It goes well with their curiosity, a toddler or young child knows no limits, no boundaries which can be frightening and exhausting as parents to watch but it is here that we as parents can teach caution or we can teach fear.  This parenting stuff is exhausting and totally amazing. 

My older son and I love watching a show called "This is Us" and if you have not seen it I recommend it for those of you who like intelligent dramas that are entertaining.  The acting is really good, the plot realistic enough and most of all it shows us that being part of a family is great and painful and horrible and wonderful and a work in progress.  One of the things he and I both picked up on is that of the 3 main characters, who are siblings, they have varying degrees of confidence yet they often appear to be totally kick ass confident.  The one sibling who has it the most appears to the be one that after much self-reflection and brutally honest conversations with his brother acknowledged he did get some favoritism, maybe because he is the adopted one, or maybe because he had so much in him that he learned to never fully let it go.  

Watching this show went well with a recent conversation I had about how fear has held me back so often.  For those people who know me it often garners a reaction of "You ? I think you are so confident" but from my very close friends who have threatened me with physical violence and big giant hugs and support because they understand that it is not confidence that is what most see but rather a really big, extroverted, love the world personality.  I am a person who embraces my curious and inquisitive nature and that may be some confidence in knowing that I can ask but there is a battle that rages within me to not let the "why don't you know that" or other things the negative commenter that lives in me take over. 

This lack of confidence is something that I have been working on, and as I approach 50 I am planning on kick some of the doubt's ass.  I have gotten more confident with age but it still is not where I would like to be, am on the road just not at the destination.  

It is the small things that we often can do as parents that diminish our children's confidence and it is something I actively work on not to do and to own up to if I do it with my own kids.  The small way that we never give a child a break when they are learning a new sport or hobby because we want them to be perfect and not to suffer at all when they are in public with this activity.  Maybe it is the "great job but" followed by asking for more of them.  It is when we kindly tell a child to eat better because it is not good to be overweight.  That moment when they do something so ridiculous that we shout "what is wrong with you".  If you are not guilty of any of these well then you are a lot better than almost everyone I know and I know some amazing people who excel at parenting.  

We do not do any of those things, unless there is a psychologically abusive situation, because we are bad people or even mean parents.  We do them because we have been exposed to negative reinforcement in our own lives.  For some it was even a driver - to prove that parent wrong, to throw it in their face, to get their attention.  For others it was glue, held you in place because you were going to prove them right and then some by failing or being mediocre.  

There are so many things I would have done differently in my mind but in reality I would probably not change any of them because they are all part of the fabric that makes me who I am.  I am just trying to teach my kids confidence. Confidence to know that there is no recipe for success unless they are part of writing it.  Confidence to not take a job only because of the pay but to love what they do or use the job that is just for pay to fund the life they love.  Confidence to go for it in love and ask for more and expect the world because that is what they will give to their future partners.  Confidence to not be grateful for settling for "just good enough" because you do not want to be told that is all you deserve or less.  

I do this and I fail at times and succeed at others.  The world is really good at telling us what we cannot do, how we failed, and tearing us down but that is mostly if we let it.  The world is really good at being awed by those with confidence.  This year I am looking to give my kids the gift of confidence by praising them, by making them feel safe to trust me with anything and expect that even when I do not agree with something it will be in their best interest.  I want my kids to be proud and excited and excel and that comes from celebrating their success and building on their unique talents.  
Confidence .. yeah it will be the gift that keeps on giving.