Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Did you have the talk yet ?

 As you raise a child you find yourself in the role of a storyteller, a teacher and  a bit of a walking encyclopedia (I wish I was a Google but instead I just use it all the time).

Your first forays are teaching them the basics, eating, listening to you, talking, walking.  Their curiosity grows and you seem all knowing to them, because basically you are.

I love learning so sharing that with my kids, reading to my boys and generally imparting what I know and going to find out more if I didn't was right up my alley.  I was the teenage girl that my boy crush called Eggbert, with affection.   Though if I was to be fair he was pretty easily impressed by fairly common knowledge.   I enjoy the process of listening and learning from those who can explain things that are beyond my current knowledge base and yes my friends now tease me about all the "facts" I store and share.

Being a parent is about teaching them to love learning.  It is not what they retain as much as stroking their curiosity, not dismissing their questions even when you are tired and have no idea and frankly could care less who would win the imaginary fight between the Hulk and Thanos.  I say Hulk because the grumpy green guy is still on the side of good and after all comics are about right winning out over wrong.

As they grow their questions may remind you of all that you do not know, or have forgotten.  This is the time I find I am teaching my boys patience, and sometimes my own lack thereof.   Teaching them that no one knows it all and that they should know how to find out might be more valuable than the feeding of info I have done up to this point.

Then there are the talks... you know the uncomfortable for us and somewhat for them ones.   The talk about sex, yes it is a good thing, yes it is fun, yes it comes with responsibilities.  You do not need to talk mechanics because frankly they find that as gross to do with a parent as you do.  You do need to talk about consent, appropriate age, what not to do and safe sex along with contraception.  I did not do all of this at once with my soon to be 13 year old, I am not done, this comes in bits as they ask and they do not need the whole discussion in one shot I have found.

The talk about drugs and alcohol is hard for me.  The dangers, the chances that they will try something and most of all the availability of drugs that can kill scare me, I want to duck and cover.  I want to pretend I do not know of them.  I can't and boy it is uncomfortable because you do not want to make it like some of our parents, unrealistic scare tactic that did not work, nor downplay it.   It is an ongoing discussion.  Pointers welcome.

The last of the "talks" for me is the one about how to be a good person, to be kind, to know when to push back and when to stand up for yourself or for others.  To have confidence in yourself so you are not mean to others to make yourself feel better about who you wish you were.  I want to raise kids who appreciate others, respect the planet and recognize when they may have a bias.  These are not only talks but also actions - these are learned as they watch how you act and let's be honest we are all assholes at some point.

Maybe the thing I take away from being a parent is what I have tried to do in my life, talk and listen. I smile and think of one of my closest friends and how he and I barely can finish what we have to say because the other jumps in with additional info or questions, he fascinates me because of this and our friendship grows me (of course I hope the same is thought of me by him).

I watch our world and while I do not agree with all those who say "what's wrong with the world today?", it's the same crap that has always been wrong with the world we just see it live time now, I do wonder when did we stop disagreeing and started just yelling?  When did we stop thinking of how do we find middle ground and agree to have different view points?  When did being right and sticking by someone or something we chose become more important than learning and evolving our thinking when that person or those ideas fail?

Did you have the talk yet?  Maybe it is not just with our kids, maybe we need to have the talk with one another for our kids.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

It's still mama in any language

It's fascinating to me that in almost every language the word for mother is the similar and the word for father can vary so much.   Of course because I love research and word origins I had to look it up before I wrote this blog.   It is tied to the sounds a baby makes and particularly around the sound they make often in their babble for hunger, the addition of breast feeding murmur (or bottle feeding if that is how you had to go) is also an addition to this "mmmmamamma" sound.  At the very core mama is the main part of their survival, their comfort and their feeding at the time they are totally reliant on another person to do this.

Now fast forward to say modern day teenage years and mama becomes Ma or eye roll Mother and it is the symbol not of nourshiment often but of everything that is impeding you from doing every stupid thing that as teenager you know you cannot live without, but do.

Go a little further and you suddenly realize that most mothers were not your nemesis and hey looky that as you become a mom yourself they actually suddenly seem to have useful advice, who knew ?? Take few more steps in years and they need you in ways you needed them when you were more helpless and can they really be mortal?

As mother's day approaches I am awed and flawed with what I am as a mother myself.  This balance of not reigning in your instincts to protect them paired with the need to help them grow and be independent thinkers and held together with a love that you could not imagine is hard to capture into words.  I was not one of those people who loved babies from an early age, I did not babysit, did not have any interest frankly in holding anyone's baby through my twenties.  Sure they are cute and have a unique sweet smell but they were for others to coo over.  This girl smiled politely and moved on.  I am convinced it was paired with my underlying fear also of what kind of mother would I be.

I am an independent person who hesitates to rely on anyone, working on it- not easy, so what did that mean for my ability to give that up for another being?  I was not even sure I wanted children until my 30s when I had a relationship with a man who was just truly the whole package.  Smart, attractive, interesting, well rounded, thought I was perfect exactly as I was but there to support and push me to be the person I wanted to evolve too.  It happened after I broke up with the man who would later become my husband.  It was a whirlwind romance and then he told me he knew he would never want children.  Partially due to our age difference, which hadn't been a thing for us until then even though it was considerable, and mostly because he just knew it was not what he wanted.

Many judged him negatively for this, I didn't.  I understood and appreciated the honesty.  It made me realize that knowing I had the option to have them was a lot more in line with what I wanted then knowing I would not have any.

I do not regret ending that relationship, it is a great memory and to be loved like that is part of the reason I grew in many ways.  In ways that add to the mother I am.

Being a mother these days though is hard in different ways than it was for our parents.  It is a never ending list of things you are expected to do and do well that we so easily agree to, because we do not want our children to think they are not worth it and that is what we are told will happen.  We need to be nutritionists not just common sense food suppliers, we need to have project management ability to ensure that we give or have found ways for our kids to get to a well rounded set of activities (read more than one), we need to understand science and question because we are bombarded with incorrect information about everything from sunscreen to medicine, we need to have a good knowledge of what our kids are doing 24/7, what the latest technology is, the apps and shows they watch and if we cannot do this without also being successful, fit, well read, informed about all topics -- well then we are not really being the best mothers we can be.   Or so "they" tell us.

I am a dedicated mom, as are the women I know, but give me a break.  I try and balance their food by cooking most of their meals with mostly organic food but McDonald's is not crack and the occasional meal from there will not doom them.  Do I think they will will suddenly fall apart just because I got non-organic milk here and there?  NO.   I encourage their interests and cheer them on at their big moments but they need to be happy to be at their activities not for me but for themselves.  I picked physicians for them that I connect with so I do not need to do their job and get a medical degree, they encourage discussion but in the end I trust my ability to pick people who are not out to harm my children.  Apps and screen time and gaming move at the speed of light, I do not.  So I have to rely on the fact in part that I have created a safe environment for my boys to share what they are doing paired with the random checking of their devices.  I enjoy working and I am not a size 4, good for you should you be, but I am conscious of what I eat and how I look.   It is a struggle and I do not need to hide that from them but tell them it is ok to come to me when they do.

I am teaching my boys to embrace their mistakes, and learn from them, just like I do.  To enjoy the moment instead of checking off the box and most of all to know that I love them unconditionally. To find that person that makes them feel like they too are the total package.

The mother - child relationship is not an easy one so this Mother's Day enjoy remembering those things that your mother did with you that made you the person you were.  If you lost your mother then share those memories with someone you care for.  If you chose not to be a mother share your strength to be a woman who embraces that choice and shows the future generation how to be comfortable with who they are not who society says they should be.  If you could not have children then be the woman who seeks and gives support to others in the same situation - that is motherhood too.

Most of all I am embracing the fact that to be a good mother you have to appreciate the other women in your life and be there for them.  For moral support, for sharing of pick ups and drops offs and for lots of laughter and reminders that we are all learning on the job.  Thank you for your friendship and the wine ladies.

Happy Mother's Day

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It ain't me babe ..

Image result for it ain't me babeI know you are supposed to, because i get told from every angle, love going to every kids sports activity that they participate in.  You are there for them, for EVERY game, supposed to be paying attention, cheering them on and on and on.

I frankly do not like it - there I said it - let the wrath of the perfect things you have to do these days as a mom come down on me.  I like attending some, none of the baseball ones (seriously just writing that made me cringe a little), sports but man what is it with the expectation that you have to be there for every one when this has no interest for you.  It is not a good example for your kids - no really it is not.  You are teaching them to go with the herd mentality.  I will buy the equipment, pay for the lessons and yes even attend at least half if not more, but if one parent is already there and enjoys this why do we need both of them there when one obviously does not enjoy this.

I do not like bleachers, the bugs, the nasty grass touching my feet (urban girl - ok with it).  I do not have a clue what is actually going on for the most part because my brain is in daydream mode during baseball, all I know is that when my kid is up, I mimic the lingo and give a big shout out.

Since I already failed uber mother of the year chances already while I am on the topic when did it become the expectation that we as mothers, regardless of whether we work in the home or outside of it, have to basically be personal assistants to our kids?

I am having my Norma Rae moment, writing this on May 1st International Workers day, and saying no more.  I will be there when I need to be, will be there for the big things, and teach my kids that validation comes from their own sense of accomplishment not from constant reinforcement from mom.  That does not mean I have to cater to their every need, plan their social lives after the age of 9 and make sure they are constantly entertained.  These are all life skills they need to develop.

I will continue to partake in the military precision planning of pick ups and drop offs but I need some me time, that comes without laundry and chores or constant feeling that someone is about to burst in and need something.  They are all capable of not starving at this point in their life and I swear I do not move the commonly eaten foods just to mess with them and dominate with my knowledge of where the (insert item here) that is in their face is.

We have set the bar so high that I cannot imagine what the next set of parents will have to do to match it and beat it (quit all jobs, get hired by mini army we created to cater to them?).  They need to learn to be independent, set goals and deliver on them with asking for help not helped just because we are there.

I love my kids, and I like a lot of other kids that they are friends with.  I actually had a great experience this past Saturday driving my oldest son and some of his friends, who I have known since they were months old, to and from a party.  Their slightly wobbly voices dipping lower, their conversation pretty diverse about lands traveled to and lands to be seen, their ease of talking to adults about a range of subjects.  I volunteered for that, I will do it again.

Is it not enough to do the things they need, the things you enjoy with them and only some of the things they need support on (splitting the difference when possible with the other parent?) anymore?

So to all of you who love being on the sideline at every game THANK YOU - please wink at my kid too - I will be there for some, I will be there in the way my kids are raised and I will be doing my thing without remorse for many of these missedgames - their father will appreciate your being there too with him.  He loves this stuff.  I on the other hand am all about the other things my kids are into and let's not kid ourselves our children will all have plenty to talk about at therapy no matter what we think we are doing amazingly well.

I am woman, I am strong, I am ok with making myself a priority too. Like Bob Dylan sings "it ain't me you're looking for ...babe".

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

No still means NO but you have to ask the question to know that

I finished watching "13 Reasons Why" with my almost 13 year old son and it was one of the most powerful things we have ever seen together.    I know he is mature enough to handle the content but he is also still in a formative phase understanding who he is and his growing place in the world.   He is also navigating the world of middle school and soon high school, with it's puberty, posturing, bullying, popularity contests and all those other things we as adults can look back at and wonder why we let them take such an important role in our lives.

The main theme is about bullying and the consequences of that, of how lost some kids might feel but the underlying theme is about sexual assault and the way we as a society still treat our girls and women.   Think about it the names alone are only for women - slut, whore, skank, easy.   Boys and men don't get that they get a high five for getting sex, maybe their downside is the need to lie about how much sex they may have had.   We still hear the despised term "good girl" to imply it somehow makes a girl a better person if she doesn't have sex.   We vilify girls for wondering about how to embrace how they look, to show off a curve or two and then give them clothes choices that play into that objectification as a sexual being who really shouldn't like sex to begin with.

Who made up this shit???  Women, girl, boys, men should enjoy sex -- it doesn't make you a better person if you choose to not have it nor does it make you worse it makes you a person who decided to make a choice with your body.  It is about being old enough to handle the choice.

This bizarre ritual of making girls into "less than" because of sex, into objects to treated as parts and then mistreated based on what they do with or is done to those parts, paired with the use of power that men are given has continued to lead to the sexual abuse we see.

I know of no woman that I am friends or even casual friends with that has not experienced some form of sexual abuse in their life.   Let's do this again I KNOW OF NO WOMAN and I know hundreds of them who I have had discussions with that does not have at least one story.

They range from being touched in public places on our asses, rubbed against in public spaces while we try and move just enough to not make a scene,  to kissing a bit longer while we keep pushing away from a boy that didn't actually move away from us, to just not being asked.  There are the cases of course where it went much further than that - where the girls were raped.   No one forgets any of these, these moments are burned into your brain long after they have faded from the feeling on your body.   The too many times that we all can talk about the times that "No one even asked if it was ok to kiss you - to touch you".    It did not stop even when you said no.   It was someone you liked and you felt you had to because otherwise you may lose them and then you lost yourself when that person betrayed you by telling everyone that it was just a piece of pussy.  A piece - just a piece of ... that is all you are reduced to.  A piece of inconsequential nothingness that you take with you for the rest of your life.   As for the men who do this they do it because they can.  This is not about sex - this is about power, they have it, they can do what they want.

We need to watch "13 Reasons Why" and we need to watch it with our male children because we cannot allow the girls to be asked how much they had to drink, what they were wearing, how come they said yes at first and then no, how come they didn't fight back, how come????  We need to ask how come anyone thinks it is ok to have sex with someone who is passed out ?  How come you feel that you can touch a girl as you want but you wouldn't sit on the hood of your friend's brand new car for fear of damaging it?  How come we do not start with asking the girls if they know it is not their fault that someone took away their ability to say NO, with drugs, with drinks, with just not giving a shit if they said it.

I worked as a rape and domestic violence crisis counselor for 10 years, taught others to be volunteers, and the one thing we learned was that survivors just want to get some control back over their bodies and to have someone tell them it was not their fault.  It is never their fault - even if they are buck naked and drunk and begged for it, when they say no it is NO, when they are not in a state of mind to make a decision oh yeah it is NO.   Men are better than that excuse too many abusers use "I couldn't stop"  - they can stop they choose not to.

It is uncomfortable to watch the show - to have your son ask why would someone do that - to deal with sex questions but if we don't who do we think will?

Sexual assault lives with the survivor forever, I see this from the way the pain still flashes across the faces of anyone who tells their story.   I feel it in my voice when I share my own instances.

We cannot let powerful men get away with harassment and rape because they have money just like we cannot let powerful men get away with these things because they are poor or they rape a religion's core beliefs to say women are theirs for the taking.

No means NO always and we owe it to all to understand that but we have to teach our youngsters that they need to ask even if it seems obvious.  We also need to stop using labels on women that tell them they do not control their own sexuality - like slut, whore, easy - they are not ok to use because they enable the culture of woman having to appear reluctant to not be shamed about it which predators use.  It is time we all said NO to sexual assault.

Monday, April 17, 2017

13 and 1 Reasons Why

They, you know "they" who know everything and who are never wrong, say you should try and eat most meals with your kids as this is a good way to connect with them and to establish a way to have conversations about their day.  I grew up in a house where my family could not always eat together, as both my parents worked, but I always ate with at least one of my parents.  It was like that up and down the streets of my neighborhood - you went home to eat dinner.

Now sometimes these dinners could be horrible in my house, as in many others, where conversation could be at the whim of my father's mood.  I saw a few homes where it was silent.  I saw a few where everyone talked over everyone else and the mood was energetic.  I sat with my mom and dad and had some of the most interesting discussions on everything from geography to art to science.  My dad was an autodidact who either knew something about most things or loved to help me find out about it. Our dinners were never silent.    I do not know if these were the "conversations" they talk about but I do believe there is something to sharing a meal, with family, kids, friends that is bonding.  It is why I have never insisted on my kids eating things they do not like and have made many a two different meal dinners.  I want it to be our time and laughter not about a fight on the merits of eating asparagus.

Yet one meal a day is really not enough even if it is a good start.  I want to be part of my kids lives in a way that they know they can come to me with anything, and while I may not have a positive reaction I will have a fair one and help them.   I do this through texts, notes, calls and letting them talk.  I mean they talk a lot and sometimes the subject is one that makes me want to sort of run, I do not want to hear how to beat level x in any video game, I don't book I listen and try and ask questions that keep them talking.  It is the connection and frankly we expect kids to listen and absorb what we think is important shouldn't we model this by doing it for what they think is important to them ?

The other thing that seems to work for me with a 10 and an almost 13 year old boys is finding time to watch tv shows with them.  Yes I said TV shows, yes screen time.   The way it works is that we find something we all like, or one child and I like. Each has shows we all 3 watch and each has shows that they watch only with me.  The balance of mothering 2 children is done with military precision - the perception of not getting same amount of anything from water in a glass to time with mom is monitored better than any drone by my two.  They do not begrudge the other's time they expect the equivalent.

So with my 2 we watch "Stranger Things" - I say it often but whoever started streaming services is a hero of mine.  I like it because it is well written and the kid actors are amazing, the storyline is spooky without being too crazed for me and I admit I like the whole time frame it is set in.  It has taken me back to my own teenage years lived in the early 80s, Le Sports Sac anyone??  It gets them talking about school, being a kid and of course the fascination of asking me "did you do that?" for some scenes.   No I did not have the adventure of finding an "upside down" world but I would have loved it.  

With my 2 I also watch "Death in Paradise" which is a strange show for kids their age to like - but it is a murder mystery Brit show that takes place on a gorgeous island and I think they like the detective solving skills of the main character who is just slightly goofy yet brilliant.   It transports us to a warm place and has us debating who done it.

My younger son and I tend to gravitate toward shows that are British detective shows - no clue why but they tend to be our genre of choice.

My older son and I watch "13 Reasons Why" together.   We decided to do this because it seemed really relevant to his almost teen self.   If you do not know what this is, the show is about a girl who commits suicide after a series of bullying incidents and bad choices with social media on the part of her peers that spiral out of control.  This has been a difficult watch because it happens, it happens more than we might think and it has increasingly dire consequences.  It has led to discussions with my son about his responsibility as a male to not demean girls.  It has led to disagreements on the main character's reaction to certain situations, he "oh it wasn't that bad this time and she gets so crazy" me "because it is constant and to her it was another big deal in a series of them".  It for sure has led us to discuss what he would do in certain situations.

The two of them also tend to like watch "Scorpion" with me - nothing like geeks who are sort of cool saving the world.

To me time with kids is fleeting and while at times it seems overwhelming and that they take up every moment of your time, the reality is that it goes as fast as the cliche states.   They watched little kids shows with me and asked those great questions about why, though for a while I thought the word "why" was my nemesis and non-stop, things were a color or a shape.  They watch different shows now and still ask why but the questions are harder sometimes to answer.  We do as a family still practice my father's curiosity seeking "look it up" with so much more information and easier to find via Google.  

I find the time we spend is not only about the shows but about the time they have to feel that we can talk about things that are on their mind, they still like a good snuggle and I alternate between laughing with them to a slightly wistful smile tied to my knowledge that they are getting taller, older and most of all heading toward the point where I will not be their first choice for snuggles and tv shows.




Monday, April 10, 2017

What would Jesus do ?

As an atheist many people think I am anti-religion but really it just means I do not believe in deity worship or organized religion.  I can easily see other life in other planets, other universes but the idea of a singular, or even multi, "higher being" and all the rules that man makes to justify how this, or these, deities need to be worshiped that just doesn't mean anything to me.    I find no comfort or need for that kind of being in my own life.  The other thing people think when they hear I am atheist, is that it means I do not believe in having scruples.  Actually it is my deep conviction that we should treat one another and our planet, and the other parts of space, with respect and kindness and worry about continuously improving life not only as we have it but for those long after we have been gone that was part of how I came to be an atheist.  I found no doctrine that did that even though they all claim to.   There are a few more clarifications that I feel as an atheist that I need to get out there as there seems to be lots of confusion.

First of all you do not have to whisper or ask me to whisper that I am an ATHEIST.   It is not an admission that I have ritual slayings in my house -- the irony of having ritual anything is not lost on me.  I am not a satanist either, I know but really I have gotten asked, I do believe people choose either through conscious decision or mental illness to do things we can all agree to call evil (genocide, anything to do with harming living children, serial killers, torture -- yeah we are on same page).  I do not hate religions, I just cannot agree with the many ways they are used to negatively judge others for things that some man at some point in time decreed he did not agree with or worse to justify those things I deemed evil before.   I understand their purpose and if you get comfort from them or find the need to connect with your heritage with them well then that is what you need - doesn't make it wrong or right it makes it your opinion.

Of the many historical religious figures,  after much research, I find that Jesus is my favorite. Oddly enough not because I believe he was the son of a god but because I believe he wasn't.   It is almost easier to be a better than the average person if you are a deity.   It is hard to be a leader and ask that all people are treated well if you are not.

Jesus who all religions acknowledge lived was a simple man who asked of all those who followed him to be kind to others, to give to those in need if you have more than you need.  He was able to treat Mary Magdalene with the same respect by all counts that he treated Judas, and we know who betrayed him.   Yet he did not judge Judas either.

I find myself wondering as many around the world celebrate the holiday that really defines them as Christians, the horrific torture and death of a man who until the end chose not give up his hopes for the better in humanity even when they displayed the worst, how do so many use his name as justification to be more like those who nailed him to a cross?  

Jesus - what would Jesus do when laws are made that disempower those who had very little to begin with ?  what would Jesus do when women are treated as there for the taking by men or told to cover up because they inherently are too sexually powerful and men cannot "help" themselves? what would Jesus do when the planet he thought a higher being created is not treated with the care and polluted at will?  what would Jesus do when people are discriminated against for just being themselves (note to all things like the fact that we look different, homosexuality all came before the whole religion thing)?

I do not know what he would do but based on all that is written about him, and there is loads, I would like to think that this atheist understands he would be more about forgiving and accepting than brandishing hate.   I would like to think that as I always cry seeing him and the others carrying their crosses, being whipped, being tortured that we learned from that not that it is acceptable to have others crucified but that in what appear to be his final words the word "forgiveness" is prominent with acceptance.

For all the religions out there one person seems to be woven into all of them, some who believe will see this as divine connection, for others like me it will reaffirm my belief in people.  That most of us are good and that is why the one man who spoke of this appears in all of them.

What would Jesus do ?  Probably just ask us to stop and think of that in terms of doing right by others.

Happy Spring

Monday, March 27, 2017

When you can finally exhale



As the end of March is upon us it seemed a good time for a blog about women as it is Women's History Month in the US.   

I try and look at the positive in life as a rule, look at the gains, learn from mistakes and hope we are all moving forward as a people.   However, when I start to look at the way that women have been treated and still continue to be so from pretty much the beginning of recorded history it takes a lot to hold on to the optimism and not let anger replace it. 

There are periods of time where women were not only equal to men but actually in charge, history rarely looks at their accomplishment without having to add some sort of terrible character flaw to them though.  Their strength described often negatively and do not get me started on the sexuality part. Women and sex - they should provide it but they should not enjoy it seems to be short version.  

Though even in this day and age women's rights are tentative still and we still discuss things like "when it is acceptable" to beat your wife -- short answer NEVER - in places far (Russia just passed a law that first offenders are not going to be harshly treated for beating their wives) and near (Mississippi on March 2017 voted down a measure to have domestic violence as one of the grounds for divorce - you read that right 2017, March Women's History month).  

Let's not even get started on the vile comments about rape and the fact that women have to debate what they can do with their own bodies.  

What can we do?  We can support other women, we can support men who see us as partners, we can collectively say a big get the hell out of here to anyone who doesn't, we can ask those who claim in the name of religion that women are inferior to look at how that is in direct conflict with the tenets of all religions to be good to your fellow people,.   We can raise women who understand their worth and we can raise men who appreciate those same women, who add to their self-confidence instead of trying to control it.  

In the spirit of supporting other women I wanted to use this blog to highlight someone who I am humbled to call a friend.

My friend Amy works with an organization called Exhale to Inhale.  They provide yoga and meditation services to survivors of partner and sexual abuse.   Yoga - the practice of respecting your body's limits and acknowledging your strength.  These survivors are taking back their bodies and their minds. The organization  "Exhale to Inhale was founded in 2013 by Zoë LePage, while a senior at Barnard College. Zoë named her initiative Exhale to Inhale, the idea being that sometimes we need to let go of that which is holding us back in order to open ourselves up to new possibilities. We need to exhale to inhale. Zoë’s vision: bring the healing power of yoga to survivors of intimate partner violence, especially those who would most benefit from the practice, yet might not otherwise have access to it. "

In an ideal world we would not need places like Exhale to Inhale because it should be as simple and instinctual as breathing - sexual assault and partner violence are not natural and should never be "normalized".   .   

We do not live in an ideal world but we do live by our ideals. We cannot stop it all but we can help in many ways heal those who experience this.  

I will not give you recognition by giving names or publicity to those who seek to harm us through laws or doctrine but instead I will hope to shine the light on those who do heal and selfishly do for others. 

If you want to get more information, donate time, donate money, donate your good will to share this information and just say it is NOT OK ever then you are already doing more than you give yourself credit for.  



How Can You Get Involved?
 Help Exhale to Inhale win $40,000 in the NO MORE Challenge!
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Purple Bags

In the purple plastic bags that I could not see the contents of
Held by small hands with big bright smiles
Was the nourishment of the body that allowed the soul to not feel empty
Inside the purple plastic bags were the screams of hunger being silenced
The smiles on the children holding them made by possible by the
Hope that they held in those purple bags
That someone cared about them and the endless possibility of who they will be
When they are not hungry for food but only for knowledge

That is what went through my mind as I saw kids in my district, the district of Teslas and second hand cars in the parking lot of the school, who qualify for free lunch last week as they carried these plastic purple bags at the end of the day on a Friday.  I was to learn this is food for those kids because sometimes these are the only meals they get so they get it to take for the weekends ... so they DO NOT GO HUNGRY.

Yes in my, rated most expensive and highest taxed suburb in America, there are towns like mine which are a melting pot of native born citizens, immigrants, mixed parental lineage, heterosexual, homosexual parents.   Our kids play together, play sports on the same teams, they encourage each other at events and overall they do not always know who among their friends are anything other than well their friends.

We are a perfect example how this mix is successful in a school and in creating a community.  Yet as I watched those kids on Friday I cried before I returned to my son's class.  To the many parents who were there like me, taking time off from work or from taking care of their homes, to be there for our kids.  We may not speak the same language but we understood each other through smiles and our commitment to our children.  This on the same day that a cruel budget was put out by the current administration.  It is a not a deficit reduction, not a balanced budget it is just a series of cruel budget that cuts things like free lunches for many, after and before school programs, clean environment, the arts, PBS where many who cannot afford the fancy pre-school classes are getting their preparation and many other things.   Things that make us a great society.

We do not need more bombs, we need to treat our veterans well and make sure that our soldiers are well equipped.

So this is not going to be a long anti anything blog.   It is about what we as individuals define as important and what we want to show our kids as important.   To that end we can all change our world in small ways to make it better and in big ways through our activism with our elected officials.

I am going to do that with small actions.  I am not a wealthy woman but I will be helping those kids with small donations to cover the things in school like pizza parties that maybe their parents do not have $4 to give.

Those purple bags broke my heart but renewed my spirit.   We are not a budget or budget cuts as individuals we are who we choose to be and I choose to be kind.


"...for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plains.. America, America God shed his grace on thee and crown thy hood with brotherhood from sea to shining sea".... America The Beautiful

Monday, March 13, 2017

Adventures in exercising

Image result for dislike exercise I am totally inspired by a friend of mine who wrote of her experience doing yoga to write a blog to all of us who have tried different forms of exercise.  I was inspired to write mind you not to exercise like her .. just to clarify and set some expectations here. 

Now my friend who tried yoga is athletic - I mean like really good shape, runner, biker, cross fitter - yeah you get the picture.  She is fit.  She is tight.  She is really nice so I will not hold that against her.  She like most of my friends who do it regularly actually look forward to work outs that challenge them, I like them so I will not hold that against them either. 

I have never really liked exercise - or what I think of as organized exercise.  I can walk for miles, and I mean miles, particularly in cities at NYC pace which is of course where the whole "power walk" comes from, should just be known as plain old how to get from point A to point B walk for us NYC natives.

We don't just walk, we aggressively walk, we leave people who meander behind.  It took me like 10 blocks once to realize my boyfriend, now my husband, was no longer next to me.  I was talking to myself and of course it's NY no one noticed.  He missed some brilliant conversation during that time, he is not a fast walker.  Not like me who learned to walk at that pace at age 8 when I first got to the States.

Exercise - this is the girl who told her teachers in high school that she had asthma, could not afford a doctor (partially true my parents did not have the coveted Blue Cross Blue Shield that was the insurance at the time - I do not know if there were others), and bought a Primatene mist inhaler to get out of gym.  Worked well for a long time.  What don't judge??? They wanted me to change, do you know what changing is like from panty hose and then getting a possible run into sweaty legs.  Ewww.  Also they wanted me do things like learn the uneven bars and balance beam - listen my fellow Romanian Nadia did enough for that sport so that the rest of us do not need to.

I mean I really did not like it - maybe the square dancing was tolerable - the rest not so much.  This is also the girl that had friends, ok so they were not productive friends but they were fun, from another school miss said school and wait for her in a car to complete the President's Fitness Assessment which meant walking around the outside my high school (big hill -- this is not an exaggeration) timed, in this crappy gym uniform - no thanks.  Go to bottom of hill, get ride, wait a bit 'cause we all know I could not cross finish line in top 10%.   It was all strategic planning - my brain exercised.  Now multi mile walk to hang out with same friends - that I did with no complaint. 

I was not fat then - I thought I was and I look at pictures and realize not so much - but exercise and I were not on friendly terms.

As I got older I tried aerobics, home and in classes.  I am not meant for classes - the other participants always seem to know which side the instructor is referring to and I always seem to go the other way.   I do not want to sweat and get red faced with other people.  I also do not particularly feel anything other than an annoyance for the bouncy haired instructors who are yelling at me with a smile on their face.  Please if you want to be the drill sergeant from Platoon do it without the perky boobs, hair and with some sweat looking like you enjoy being the sadistic control freak you are.   I tried doing it at home - Tae Bo anyone ?  That lasted a whopping month at which point I realized I could leave the VHS tape in my VCR and get exercise when I had to switch it out to a Blockbuster movie rental.

I tried belly dancing - ok so you would think the aerobics directionally challenged experience would have taught me that this would not be a good idea, but hey I figured I had the belly for this.  Finally my less than bounce a quarter off my abs section was good for -- well not sure what it was good for but I looked a bit like I had a disorder or a muscle condition which released my arms in spasms and I tripped over the veiled skirt they gave me.  I lied to all and said I loved it -- I stopped going when they put bells on my waist and even those were out of sync w rest of class.

Yoga was next - I mean really yoga - every one freaking loves yoga right?  I liked it most of the time but I never took to it as much as my friends.  I wanted to but when my favorite part was the nap at the end and I realized that they were pointing out to me that I did not breathe correctly, seriously I am pretty sure I can breathe otherwise I would have not made it to write this blog so much for yoga not being judgmental.   I just never got past the point where I was not judging myself against the people in my classes who seemed to look like the positions were named - locust, downward dog -- they did not have wobbly woman as one of them, I would have rocked it.

I went back to walking and pretty soon I had this brilliant idea that I could run.  Like run in my 40s. My knees laughed, then groaned and then reminded me with their friend the heel spur that yeah if you did not run all of your life then chances are you are not a runner.   I also saw that I did not even like it, my favorite activity to do in the fresh air (ok not so fresh in NYC is really my favorite) walking was not pleasurable anymore when it turned to running and breathing after a while felt like stabbing and knees wanted you to bend them and just sit my ass down.  No -- not a runner, except when I am walking in the 'burbs or near woods.  I pick up speed because I am more likely to be afraid and freaked out there than anywhere in a city, I know how to navigate a city, woods and unpopulated areas - yeah those are in horror films for a reason.   I mean you never see Jason or Freddy chasing down subway riders now do you ?  If you do it is a shitty as sequel done by someone pissed off that it really only happens in the 'burbs or rural areas. 

I tried weights and I always like them for like a month, then I get some delusion that I am bulking up too much (I am not) and then I stop based on that reason, I stop because I do not enjoy it, but hey that sounds lame even to me.

I will not try spin - do I need to fall off a bike to know I will not do it well ?  -- or Crossfit, I am not jumping on box unless it is to get a glimpse of Idris Elba in his pool in the buff.  I will not Spartan race, mud on my face is for facials at best, or I can go back to Astoria to get in touch with my inner ancient civilization collective unconsciousness via a frappe or a good souvlaki. 

I know it is good for you and I battle weight so it is really not just good but needed for me.  However, I loved dancing in clubs when I was younger and that is not something I could replicate though it helped with weight (the limited funds that made me choose booze/cigarettes or real meal am sure were part of it).

About 2 1/2 years ago I decided I wanted to try tennis, a friend of mine told me he also started much older did not mention at the time that he was a natural athlete all his life. My family's reaction, polite smile and asking me if I was going to mention my relationship with them at the gym as it may not be a good idea for their reputation.  I liked the outfits.

I went to a beginner clinic - that is what it said Beginner Tennis Clinic.  My reading skills are fine, far outpace my exercise ability, but apparently the people who signed up with me took beginner to mean far advanced and need a cheaper option than individual lessons.

I did not know how to hold a racket, though in typical me fashion I had purchased a lovely tennis skirt and the little socks (so far BEST exercise outfit of anything I had ever tried - those skirts are soo awesome).   I borrowed a tennis racket and at the end the instructor politely took me aside and told me that he would find a class for my level.  That was code for holy cow you do not even know how to hold a racket level.

The club did just that and I spent a few months learning things like how to hold a racket (trust me there is way to do it so you do not get hurt), how to stand, how to return a ball and not hit it like a home run.  This sport looks much easier and like it requires less coordination on TV than it actually does.

I have not only stuck to it but have looked to play more and more.  I never thought I would say this but I actually miss it when I am not playing.   My family now is pretty happy to say I play and they ask me for pointers - they do not play - because they have seen me and they are more than mildly shocked that I am playing as well as I do. 

Exercising is not a competitive sport - yet it is treated as such.  It is meant to find whatever you like and do it and when you do, you will actually seek time to pursue it.   It is meant to challenge you not break you.

Now it is time to be off to play in my weekly league, my 2nd year, last year the ladies I played with told me I was the most improved player they had seen (nice way of saying we were not sure when we first saw you but guess you proved us wrong).   I want to get better and yes I still love the outfits.   I seek my friend's advice on technique and still take clinics.  I am pretty sure Venus nor Serena would ever play with me but if they did -- well I would lose but one return and this girl would be over the moon.

Here is my friend's blog on her yoga experience - trying things is not only about finding the fit it is also about eliminating the things you do not want to do.
http://hamptonpaperdesignsblog.com/BLOG/2017/03/12/yoga-simple-easy/


Monday, February 27, 2017

We are not a nation of OR we are a nation of AND - Uniting the United States

Related imageThese days in the US it is near impossible not to be aware of and have an opinion on the current political climate. 

It is actually difficult these days to find ways to not be angry or dismayed on both sides of the aisle when you see how divided the country is.  

There is no blame in that statement for there are ways we can all do better to reach across the aisle and then there are people we have to let go of because longevity does not make a friendship if there is no shared moral compass, no shared vision of any kind, no shared goals.   

What I will not give up on though is my belief that we are a country as the US that is not made of "or" but we are made of "and".

We are the wealthiest nation on the planet by many standards.  We are the nation who was created by  people who left someplace to seek a better future or were dragged here via vile means and still believed that there is a place here for them.  A nation whose contributions and innovative spirit is oddly optimistic and has driven our success.  A nation that can be breached by the very thing it invented, technology, and saved by the thing that makes all feel the greatest parts of our humanity.  A nation that needs to rebuild or damns and walls and roads - without needing to damn ourselves with walls on the road to hate.  We are nation that has the right to secure our borders and ask for immigrants to bring with them their culture while asking them to accept the one we have built.  We are nation that can be mighty and fair.   We can ask for great trade deals and offer them in return without forgetting that our success and the success of nations who work with us are not two separate things.  We are nation that should help our hungry and lead to end world hunger. 

We have money to help veterans AND refugees.  We can screen people who apply to come to our nation for a visit, for residence, for a new life AND still welcome them to add to the fabric of this nation.

We have money to have a good military AND still have a lot of money to help our civilian population - isn't that what we protect and fight for?  We can fund social programs, healthcare benefits, arts AND expect that funding to be handled effectively and not squandered through bureaucracy. 

We have the ability to allow people to worship whatever deity they choose AND we do not have to pick one as better.  We do not have to pick a religion at all AND we can still work toward humanitarian goals of charity, kindness, caring, lawfulness.  

We can love and love and love and make that love legal AND we can choose who that is for ourselves because the OR to love is hate.  

We can teach all of our children in public schools AND demand those schools are funded and brought up to the standards all of our children deserve not just those in a certain zip code.  We can have private schools AND still improve our public ones. 

We can establish laws and jails AND make sure that is not to create a business for those who run the prisons instead of a place to truly protect us from those who mean to do all harm. 

We can have religious instruction in religious institutions AND we can laws made in courts and government offices.   Our laws mean you can practice your religion without fear AND we can practice our personal beliefs without imposing them on one another. 

We can have rules and laws that keep industries in line to protect our environment AND those companies can still make A LOT of profit.  OR they can choose to make it seem not so AND we can choose to not believe their greed. 

We can have people who hunt or want to own guns AND have common sense regulations that at least match those we ask of people to get a driving license.

We can rely on science and it's results AND we can say it is hard for us to understand scientists without saying we don't believe because of that. 

We can use birth control AND we can opt not to.  We can have an abortion AND we can choose not to.  We can adopt children AND we can choose place children up for adoption.

We can have equal rights for all AND embrace the differences in people.  

We have enough money for conflicts AND we should have enough for rebuilding in a Marshall plan way because without an after plan we will just have more conflicts.

We can streamline government and regulations that are redundant AND still have government and regulations. 

We can dislike a person AND not be prejudiced against the ethnicity, race, religion, sex, orientation they identify with. 

We can have voted for someone AND acknowledge what they do poorly just as easily as the things they do well without having to become oddly cultish about it the people we vote for.  

We can pee next to one another in different stalls in the same bathroom AND still enforce laws if anyone breaks them and tries to harm someone in those places. 

We can protest AND be patriotic. 

We can believe in each other and not hold our politicians accountable AND we do not have to like the same politicians to do so. 

We are a nation of ANDs - not ORs.  We want a better future for ourselves AND our children, we want fair play for ourselves AND others, we are fallible and flawed AND we balance each other and make those flaws into opportunities. 

If you are not on board with wanting all of these things AND more for each of us who are Americans by choice or by birth then really you have to decide if you are just not willing to imagine such greatness OR that you have embraced your prejudices instead of your possibilities. 

We really a small blue dot of a planet AND across it we all hope for these things regardless of where we live or what language we say it in.   The people who want to do us harm, who choose to make us feel divided, who foster hate can only win if we allow them to OR we could just stop listening to them AND start listening to each other. 



Monday, February 13, 2017

Loving you is easy cause you're beautiful

Love, love, love .. every year I find myself defending the St Valentine's Day holiday when all I want to do is expand it to a monthly event.  

Let's get the commercial aspect out of the way - cute, over priced for the most part, seems bit of a push if you haven't been all that great to think a card better written than any feelings you have will fix it, did I mention over priced?  Yet there are the occasional musings on a card that say just what you are thinking, there is something in getting a small token that makes the recipient smile and really save the cash on the flowers for much better quality ones throughout the year.   

Now that that's over - a random gift means a lot to me, price not even a thought, but one that says hey I walked by a place and you were with me in my thoughts.  

Aside from the cynics need to push back why are there so many people so annoyed with this holiday? Could the world really not use a more than one day to just stop and say you matter to someone?  A day where you send a note telling people those things you may have not, "well they know how I feel" so what if they do, think anyone tires of being told they are important?

If I had to get rid of a holiday I would say I would get rid of groundhog day - I mean seriously let the rodent alone and let's use something slightly more scientific than his shadow to worry about winter. 

What is wrong with a day dedicated to listening to the ridiculous songs that make you roll your eyes but you know every lyric to, to being grabbed for an impromptu spin while your partner croons in their best voice to you and off key or not it makes you smile, a hand held while you cross a street or just maybe something done for you that you normally do for yourself. 

You know what's wrong with all of this ? NOTHING.  The people who want to complain am sure can find something to complain about on any day.  There is nothing wrong with this and no every kiss does not begin with Kay's (actually let's face it, takes more than kissing usually to get the bling but am pretty sure that's not gonna fly as a commercial - often sex ends with Kay ??) but good kissing is as good as any gem.  

So on this day go out, write that bad Roses are Red poem, get a little naughty in the card, tell someone they mean something to you, say the love word to anyone you do and haven't told enough.  They may know how you feel but they may not always understand their importance to you. 

It is good to add a special holiday to a short month but maybe you add some special to every month... love should also start with you, love yourself first and expect only the best for you much like you give to everyone else. 

Happy ❤️  -- happy loving - happy kissing and most of all smile and put it out there, the world could sure use it seems.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

And then some days you are just not sure

Image result for parenting confusionIf you have read any of the blogs I have written in the past, if you have not you can from this link, I often use this space to process my own parenting skills.

There are days when I get the "you are the greatest mom ever" from my boys and then there are moments where I just know, sigh, that I have no real definitive clue on what I am doing but I do know I could have done it better.

You have to add in, if you are trying to be self-aware like I am, those things you carry from your own childhood, the projections you place on your child and admit there will be times when you do something exactly like your parents.  Both good things and yes some things you cringe and think f^&k why did I just do that when I hated it ?!

I am a person who struggles with weight.  I do not know when this struggle started because as a young child, could be living in a Communist bloc country and the lack of variety of food had a lot to do with it, I was not an overweight kid.  Actually I was an underweight kid for a long time because I suffered with tonsils until 3 and could eat very little.

I do not remember noticing my weight in first grade in Romania and it is not because we did not notice, as I also distinctly remember the mean jibes the three kids in my class got from other kids and worse from the teacher for being slightly more padded.  I do not recall them being severely overweight and the horror of these memories revolve around the teacher in particular that we had calling them out on it.  I am glad times have changed because that sucked for them and I am sure had some impact on the rest of us, knowing that it was not something you wanted to get attention for.

There are numerous pictures of me when I first arrived in the States and while I would have described myself a chubby if you asked, when I look at them I wonder why did I think that.  I am not a skinny kid but I am not overweight.

By high school it was something I hated and again I found my graduation picture and where is that heavy girl I swore I would see?  I did have friends who were teeny, tiny sizes but there were plenty of girls my size (and hey these size D boobs did nothing to help with the "skinny" look) or bigger who were not fat either.  Yet I know it was a big deal to be thin, to be a certain size - but I have also always liked good food and diet food has yet to seem appealing.

By college I lost weight on the I have money for cigarettes and going out diet, not much left for actual food  - not recommending.   You are thin but your health and your lungs are giving you the finger.

I have struggled with body image, with how much I weigh, lose, look like.  I have gotten to a better place with it in the last year, where I am looking to lose some weight but not obsessing about it.  I cannot tell you how often I have changed before I left the house because something showed more of fat area than I was comfortable with.  I cringe at the image of me without my clothes, I am glad I do not have to date new people and have that added burden to contend with (you know is he going to make a face when I take it off, mood lighting is code for I do not want you to see me).  The only way you know the number on my pants would be if I told you and who cares, better to be my size and fit than the smaller size and I look like they are a torturous device.  I am working on my own cringe.  

I who do not like classes, tolerate the gym in small doses and miss walking through the city because walking through the 'burbs is snoozville have found one activity I love - tennis.  Of note this city girl also finds empty streets and wooded areas much more frightening than anything the city has to offer.  Tennis I love, I found a coordination I would have sworn did not exist, I look forward to it - I actually make plans to play and miss it.  It could be the outfits, it could be the people I play with, it could be the fun times I associate with the times I get to play with a friend who coaches me.  It is awesome and yes it took being in my 40s to find it. 

Is it any wonder that I do not know how to approach my son who is gaining weight in a way that concerns me ?  Who has no affinity for the gym or exercise for the most part ?

I mean how do I do it without all the negative stigma I associate with the comments my own parents had for me.  My mother thought she was helpful, my father thought he could point out the shame and difficulty it would bring me.  I heard none of that - I heard you are fat.

So here we are, the long road to this blog topic, how do I parent a child who needs it in a way that it is at 80% well received?  I want him not to be the one laughing at his weight when others tease him because that is the way he can control the hurtful situation.  I want him to want to lose the excess weight because it is better for him.  I want to help him understand before his teens that changes that he makes do not mean deprivations.

He was not blessed with those metabolism genes, you know the ones that some people have where they eat and eat and oh yeah eat and I listen to them tell that story and gain weight.  

Some days I am the "greatest mom" but many others I am the I am trying my best mom.   I decided to approach it as a health and lifestyle choice.   I am hoping those who read this who know him understand that he would not want to hear "advice" on the subject unless he approached them for it.

I am going to work with him as I work with this for my own issues,  with getting into better shape.  He knows I started weight watchers and I love that he said he has no idea why I need it.  

The struggle with body image is real for boys and girls.  The struggle with parenting to make it better is real for all of us who want to do this parenting thing as well as possible.   I do not know if others have kids in this predicament but any ideas are welcome.  I have these amazingly confident kids who just seem to want to keep being great - I just want to give them the tools to do that.  I wish for my son not to have this be such a big part of his life, the way it was for mine, while never losing the fact that it is important to manage it well.  I guess I want him to manage his weight not have his weight manage him.