Friday, December 22, 2017

It’s Christmas there’s going to a list

If you celebrate Christmas you always have a list, no matter what age you are.   Even if you are one of those people who will just buy most of it yourself, you still have a list.

When my children were younger we asked them for a list and they always pleasantly surprised us with the shortness of them.  Now it is funny when kids write those super long ones because if you look at them it is actually a lot of funny stuff.  Kids have no idea that Santa doesn’t subsidize the gift giving, they think he makes these things, nor do they really grasp cost.

As my kids are now past the age of Santa, they get the spirit of it but understand there is no actual place that makes it, the list is still short but it is a good time to talk about the finances of these things without making it a painful talk for both of you.

My older son this year asked for a sweatshirt, a sweatshirt that on sale was $204.  Yes you read that right.  It was originally $400.   Now I do remember my own teen begging for a pair of Jordache jeans that were $80 in the 1980s, so probably about $200 in today’s times.  I begged, I pleaded, everyone had them, my parents didn’t understand the horror of not having them.... on and on.  I believe I got a pair when I got a job at 15 at the deli on the corner of my block.   It took a while.   I was frustrated then it was a good lesson.

So when I told my son that is a crazy amount for a sweatshirt he responded with “it’s reasonable for xx brand” (nope not advertising for them).   It’s not reasonable - not for a 13 year old and not even for 15 year old.  I took a deep breath and told him about my jeans and then asked him if he thought that spending all the money he is given as gifts on this would be something he would do.  He said it was.  Then went and thought about it.  Came back with “probably not but I still like it”.

It is a balance during the holidays, we want to give our children everything.  We want to see those crazy, excited moments when they open a gift and ta dah, there it is.  We work hard and we love our kids.  There is nothing wrong with any of this.  What we also have to remember that everything we do for them goes beyond the moment, they will remember the gift maybe, they will remember that they got everything they wrote down without thinking about what that means.

Like everything else the list is a balance.  A balance between the pleasure you give and the lesson that it is wrapped in.   My kids will get some things on their list, those they do not they will have to learn to save for.   There is a thrill in being able to get yourself something, to work for it too.   It will help them decide what’s worth spending that money they take a while to save, it’s always funny how much more reluctant they are to part with their dollars.

Christmas isn’t just about the gifts but it is about the gifts too.   I love finding the right things for people who are dear to me.  I love giving gifts and let’s be honest when I get something that obviously has been bought for me with thought to who I am and what I love, it feels great.

Christmas and the holidays are also about enjoying the pretty decorations, traditions that your family has and time with people that you wish to be with.  It is many things and the gifts are just one part of it.

This blog is my gift to me, the time I take to write it is precious, the fact that is read makes me feel like I unwrap something everytime I see someone has.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy whatever other holiday you may celebrate.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Please step outside

Image result for waiting roomYou know the day is coming, you prep for it and then when it does there is a small, gut punch reaction that you cover with a smile.  You nod and agree as if you too were on board with the decision. 

I am talking about the first time your child becomes a teenager and they get the option to have you leave the room when having their annual physical. 

I get it, I have boys, he wants "privacy" but this is important stuff, what if the doctor asks a question I need to know the answer to?  What if he tells the doctor something he has not shared with me?  What if, what if, what if???? "Please step outside"...hell them's fighting words where I grew up, ok minus the please, but you get the idea.

Of course I smiled and said "sure makes sense" and sat outside and hugged his not yet teenage brother who I had been in the room with, who had no objections to me being there.  The waiting room !!! What was I waiting for him to come out a kid again, the one that dealt with shots because I taught him that a pinch was bad but getting the disease was worse.   Oh the waiting was going to kill me.

I consider that I have great relationships with my sons.  They tell me things, we discuss, I advise, I understand that I do not know it all.  Yet here was proof, he was growing up, growing apart, getting rights.

It is the right thing to do, to allow teenagers time with their doctors.  To give them a place to speak of things that they may not be able to in some cases with some parents, to give them a platform for kids whose parents may not want to talk about.  If there was a real issue, you bet I researched, yes they would have told me.  Unless you are the issue but that's a whole different story.

What's hard about that is that it opens up all those things you fear for your kids.  Things that they will be exposed to, have to make decisions about, be pressured on.

There will be drugs, they are cheap and deadlier than ever, now in their growing social sphere.  You may read that and think not in mine but there was an epidemic of crack when I was growing up, then it was meth, now it's opioids.   It is always out there and the only thing the "war" on drugs did was to make it difficult for police to be police and instead now they are in a "war zone". 

There will be smoking or vaping and these are both awful for their health with long term implications.

There will be drinking and potential for addiction and poor decisions from it.

There is consent about sex, there are STDs and there is the world at large which is scary.

We may be uncomfortable but we need to have these talks with kids in ways that they hear us, in their language without fanciful stories because the reality is frightening enough.   We need to give them tools to walk away when we all know that at these ages it is so important to "fit in" for them.

So how am I supoosed to "please step outside" when my baby ... oh wait he is not my "baby" even though that he will always be.  He is my teenager who I have loved and tried to instill self worth in.  The boy on his way to becoming a man who I have talked about all of these things with and who talks to me about them.  He has his secrets, he stumbles but he still talks to me and I am never "outside" for him because I have learned when to lean in and when to let him pull me in.  Even when that is uncomfortable for me.  I will stomp in if necessary.

I stepped outside and reluctantly acknowledged that he is growing up, that he is gaining independence and that he needs this space. 

He came out and told me all about it, we had a chuckle over some of the language used and he thought it was a miss that the doctor didn't ask him about vaping, which he doesn't do but knows many who do.

Please step outside ... and this big, scary world is yours to conquer and make better, it is full of dangers and even more full of potential  - that is what I hope my sons learn from that saying.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I got nothing to grateful for

There - easy.  Nothing to be grateful for.   Not one little thing.  Nothing.   Life is unfair.  It seems that the vile are ruling the world and that hateful behavior is the norm.  The whole holiday is a sham.  No one even likes turkey.   Nothing to be giving any thanks for.  “It stinks to be me” is the universal sentiment.  The planet is going to pot and you either care or think well it’s sucks anyway so the science is not relevant.

That is what it feels like.  This is my favorite holiday.   Yet more than ever somehow it feels like the above.   If we let it.

I have so much to be grateful for.  My blog, which is read across the world.  It reminds me how good technology can be, it can connect us.  We do not always agree but at least when you are reading something you are paying attention to what the other has to say.  Besides you formed an opinion reading that first paragraph but if you got to here you know that reading just a snippet tells you nothing about the entire discussion.

I am grateful for friends the females who this year are all distracted by the outpouring of what each and everyone of them has experienced in some form at least once, most a lot more than that, in various degrees.  They stand tall, they make others laugh, they are not victims they are survivors and while this is like a tsunami boy are they the Damn it’s Got to Stop brigade if I ever saw one.    They make me stronger, they make me laugh, they hand me wine and tissues when I cry (or food or just an ear).  They have opinions, they vote, they contribute to life.  Thankful to know them, to hear about them, to be a female.

I am grateful for men friends because the ones I know well are not in that pool of sewage that seems to have at some point washed over too many of their gender.  Because they are raising children who are better than the ones in the past.   I love the way you guys think, it is so much more straightforward, good balance to the tangle of yarn most of us women use.  I am grateful for the differences between us and for the laughter, flirting (that you know how to flirt and can differentiate between it and harassment seamlessly) and the feel of you.  You are awesome, you are not the ones in the media, you are the men we hope our children turn out to be, or marry, or date.

I am thankful for family because the boys have taught me to strive to be a better version of myself and to love infinitely.   I am thankful for my mom who has always been strong and that wind beneath my wings like the song says.  My cousin who always had and has a smile for me since I was small and thought she and her sister were the coolest girls ever, I was right.   My husband who works to be a better father than the one he lost at a young age to our sons.

As for the holiday it was a moment in time for groups of people who would later hurt each other, one more so than the other, had a feast.  There is nothing better in the world than people sharing a meal.  The turkey is not most people's favorites yet it appears at both native born and immigrant tables.  Often surrounded not by the traditional things we see in pictures for those who adopt this land as a home but by their own flavors and smells.  A good metaphor on a table of old customs, new customs and a moment not to think of wrongs but to argue as family and close friends can with passion but not hatred.

I can go on and on, I am glad to always have a beach to go to, to paint, to write, to love, to be loved, sex, books, art, travel, New York City there is so much this would not be a blog but a novella.  There is much that can be made better, made more equitable in the world but if we do not remember to be grateful what's the point of making anything better. 

So go forth, eat more than you should, give a thanks for whatever it is that you find good and most of all remember it is as easy to notice the negative as it is to be thankful for what you can do that's positive.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING - let them thanks begin

Saturday, November 18, 2017

From only child to chosen sibling - guest blog

My best friend, chosen sister, wrote the below one day and sent it to me.  I can relate to so much of this - I would not change being an only child because I have the good fortune to have met people who are my chosen family and she is my sister-other half-bestie.  She knows when to tell me I am better than I am currently feeling I am and when to tell me to cut the crap and get over my own issues.   She is having her recurring 29th birthday soon and I love her dearly for everything she is.  

This morning on the Today Show there was a piece on Sisterhood and the special bond between sisters. They had Hoda Kotb and Savannah Gunthrie and their sisters talking about their special bond and showed images of them playing when they were young. Being an only child and having only one child, I sat there wondering if I missed something not ever having the experience of having a sister or a brother. Is my child missing something never being able to experience that bond? As I sat there looking at the old photographs that they were showing on the TV of the siblings playing with one another at the beach or at a playground,  I think back to my old pictures of just me.
People think of only children as “spoiled”, never learning how to share, getting what they want and maybe even thinking that they are entitled, “it’s all about us”.  So I sat there reflecting on my life a bit. Was I spoiled? Was it all about me? As I thought about my life as a child, I saw a child that was always looking to be accepted. I would give away my toys, books, anything really just to have friends. I was always trying to be with the popular kids and when I made friends, they were the most important people in my world.  I did not fit these ideas of an only child because I was always sharing, giving, loaning my stuff out so that I can be accepted. I now see that sometimes in my child. 
It was hard growing up as an only child because although I made some really good friends along the way, in the end, they always went home to their siblings and I always went home alone. Even in high school where I had many friends and was always invited to different parties and gatherings, in the end, I went home alone. It wasn’t until after college, when I started to realize that it was ok to go home alone. That not everyone is going to like you and that is fine, as long as you are honest with yourself and everyone around you. You need to be who you are and have your own opinions. I think sharing experiences with a special friend made me come to this realization.
When I went to Hunter College, I didn’t realize at the time, but I would come in contact with a person who has grown with me and has guided me to become the woman that I am today.  I took a History of Art class. It was my first semester and I didn’t know many people. I would hang out in the back of the cafeteria, which is where most of the Greek and Eastern European students would hang.  Trying to be accepted again, not knowing my way around school yet, not sure of myself in any way. The class was a lecture class and then we were split into small groups. As I entered the small group, I saw a girl who I knew from HS. We had never spoken in HS, she was friends with some people that I was acquainted with but we never were in the same group. I would always see her in the smoking yard, smoking a cigarette sitting on an old tree stump. She smiled at me, I smiled as her and the lesson in Art history continued. During our break, I found her in the bathroom smoking a cigarette. She looked at me and said “St. John’s Prep, right?”. I said “yeah, smoking yard?” She said yes. Then we walked back to the cafeteria together. She was hanging out with the Greeks in the back also. We started talking and we became friends, not best friends, but friends. We started going to the same college parties, we started going to the same clubs, playing cards together in the cafeteria, studying cafeteriology
One year, I think it was my 22nd birthday, I decided to have a party at my parent’s house in the Hamptons. It was a cute little house that my dad had bought with his friends with the thought of later selling it. It was a kooky house with wallpaper on everything. It was November and cold outside. We had a few friends over and we just hung out drinking beer, having fun, and playing cards. As the night wore on, we had one too many beers, smoked way too many cigarettes and my friend from Art class and I got into a game of backgammon. I am not sure who won that game, or if we ever even finished it. All I remember is that we laughed all night long, reminisced about the neighborhood we grew up in, realized that we were both only children and that around the same time in our life we inadvertently stabbed ourselves with a lead pencil, therefore creating a blue lead spot in the same exact point, on the same hand. From that night forward, we became the Blue Spots. I didn’t know it then, but I had just found my sibling. 
This woman has been with me through thick and thin and I have been there for her also. She sometimes tries to hide when she needs help or support, but I pick up on the clues and show up anyway. We have driven cross country together, been on the boat ride from hell together, drank “a little bit” of retsina together, went to a gay bar in New Orleans together, went swimming at night in the Aegean together, peed in the Nevada sand dunes together, ran out of gas in Red Rock WY together, held each others hair back when we were hugging a toilet, held each others hand in support of one another and still laugh together when we hear the name Flouskakos. All of these experiences have given me the strength to overcome obstacles and have given me the self confidence to be myself and to like who I am. There is no question in my mind that no matter where I am in the world, or no matter where she is, if either one of us needs the other, we will be there for each other. I was there for her when her father died and she flew half way across the world to be with me when my mother died. 
We support one another, we listen to one another, we give advice to one another, but most importantly we do not judge one another.  I know that I can tell her anything and she will be my rock. She knows that she can tell me anything I will be hers. She gives advice to me when I need it, and is there to listen to me even if she doesn’t agree with the mistake that she feels I may be making. We both know that if I make that mistake, we will be together to pick up the pieces and move forward. We don’t get mad at one another because our relationship is one of understanding. Her mother said it best when she said “ I made one, and then two years later another woman made one”. This is what it is like having a sibling of choice.
Although I may never know what it is like to have a natural, by birth sibling, I do know that my sibling of choice has helped me become the woman that I am today. We have had a lot of fun and exciting experiences in many different areas of the world. We have had a lot of difficult times, trying times, and challenging times but we take the challenges and make them into opportunities. 
For many years, I was asking, even begging my parents for a sibling, jealous of all the kids who had brothers and sisters to play with. Looking back, I am happy that I found another only child to create my own sibling bond with, realizing how lucky I was to have a choice. Siblings do not have the opportunity to chose who they have as a sibling. They may create a bond or they may not. Being an only child, I have had the opportunity to find my sibling and create a lasting Blue Spot bond. We may not have old pictures of us together playing in a park or at the beach, but we have a lot of experiences that we have shared and a lifetime of memories that have made us who we are today.

I am hoping that my son will be as lucky as I was and find another only child to create a never ending bond withto have his own life shaping experiences with.

I love you Blue Spot.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Stranger Things

I needed to take a break from writing the blog.  Like many I am emotionally and mentally drained by the state of the country, the world and the lack of discussion that seems to have infected our lives.   There are no conversations, we are all guilty of this, there is only your side and my side.   For many facts no longer matter, for those for who they do shouting them does not make them easier to hear on the other side.   We cannot go on like that, I cannot go on like that.  I am not that person - I am a facts person, I am a debate person, I grit my teeth and support your right to an opinion, not when it differs with mine but because it may differ from mine.   So I needed some soul searching, recharging time.  This blog was never meant to be my political platform only, yes it is sometimes but it is not it’s main purpose.   So here I am back, on a day where I can take my frustration and actually do something.  It is voting day - a most precious of rights that I never miss because I know what it is like to not have them.

On that note when I was thinking of blogs and having my current events swirl it felt a bit like I was in the Upside Down.  Now if you are a fan of the show “Stranger Things” then you know what that is, if you haven’t seen this Netflix original it is the place in the show that is our world, but dark, infected with shadows and monsters, where nothing thrives.   

My boys and I started watching the show last year, season 1 debut.   It is not for those who scare easily but my boys got my scary movie/show addiction.  I love them, my father and I watched them when I was a kid.  I refuse to watch torture films, they are just disturbing.  I still cannot hear “Jeepers Creepers” without remembering one of the more horrifying movies I saw of that name.  Yet a good jump scare and this girl gets a thrill. 

Why do we love “Stranger Things”?   We waited for it an stalked it on line until we saw the second season, doing our best not to binge watch and to prolong the experience.  We found ways to sneak it into our days to finish the second season and then complain like we did after the first that there were no more episodes.   

It is a clever show, the main characters are kids who are put in the position to use their wits to defeat something that many adults don’t even realize is present and dangerous.   It gives my boys and I the opportunity to talk about what “we” would do.  I love the 1984 setting, yes I am reliving some of my youth.   The music is spot on, the trends exactly as I remember them.   The angst of that age not that different than some of the angst kids today experience.   I watch with fascination how easily people turned into "old people" who complain that kids are loud, that they are not as polite, that they don't listen, that they do things like drink and misbehave.  I have a hard time not reminding them that most of us did those same things, some less and some more, but we laughed at the people who made those same arguments.  

Watching the show gives the boys and I a chance to talk about me at that age, at their ages.   It gives us family time.   We have to sit close, there are scary scenes, it makes us angry that there is a conspiracy behind this.   It shows the characters dealing not only with the netherworld monsters but those that kids face day to day, bullying, falling in love, unrequited love, uncomfortable situations, not being heard because they are kids.   

Spending time with kids while they still want to should never be turned down because around teenage years most want time with friends, I did too, and that is what will happen.   They will come back around as adults for the most part.  I treasure the time I have with my boys, we share info, we laugh, we build trust.   

So find your “Stranger Things” if you can and enjoy the parenting moments you get where there is no  discussion on homework, activities, you saying no, them rolling their eyes.   Enjoy the togetherness and build your memories together.   Otherwise the overwhelming crap in the world will take more of your time than it deserves.     Oh and if you were wondering - we look nothing like this picture, my family growing up never did either because one of the first rules of my parental home was change from your outside clothes.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

When disaster strikes ..this who I see as Americans

In the recent news from around the world there reads an underlying "I knew it"  tone.   The despots and dictators seem to like the whole nationalist undertone they are seeing, they should they use it in their own justifications.   The rest of the world though has always had a bit of a chip on it's shoulder about the U.S.   Now they say it - see I told you so -- they are arrogant, only care about themselves, are bullies. Yet I wander much like we assume things by seeing them on tv can we all do what Depeche Mode says and "let me see you make decisions without your televisions?"

Some of it is warranted.  In many ways the US is this giant baby that looks over the world.  The curiosity, the sense of possibility, the occasional drool, the odd naiveté that always thinks it can do something even when chances point to no.  It is omnipresent even in countries that denounce it, it after all is part of that conversation just as much.   It is also temperamental, needs a lot of attention and somehow has a lot of adult powers that took others whole centuries to get to and then cede.

There is also a small wrinkle of the nose at a place made up of people who left the countries that wrinkle said nose because these were not the upper echelons, so how could be bigger, faster, wealthier now ?  These were the poor, the down trodden, the ones from countries that told them not to dream big, not to think they can get out and they did.  They not only did but then they were the ones that have had to help these worlds that they left behind.

I am an American by choice but it has been hard for me lately.  I know that many are struggling. I am angry to know there are people in this nation who go to bed without food, children who cannot get an education, people who cannot get medical treatments because they cannot afford them.  There are people who want a job but jobs were taken by technology.   These are scared and angry people but they seem to be scared and angry in a misdirected way.  They forget their ancestors were treated as bad or worse then they want to treat people today.  Your anger should be at those that hold the power to offer opportunities not the ones that want them the same way you do.

This is America and these past few weeks we have seen devastation from fires and hurricanes.  I do not see people there who are anything but Americans in need.  I see others helping one another and sending relief aid and money where they can.  I see people mobilize and ask the famous JFK question not what can this country do for them but what can they do for this country.  For their fellow Americans who when the waters and fires came were not spared or engulfed because of who they love, the color of their skin, the god they prayed to or didn't.  They were Americans, ordinary people who just want what pretty much people around the world do.  To take care of their families, to have opportunities, to be treated with dignity and respect.  Most of us see those who help but there are a few folks who seem to only focus on those who loot.  The looters are the small minority and should be punished, the helpers are the majority of us.   When you focus only on the negative it says everything about you and your smallness.  It is easier - but we do not do easy in the US. We are known for doing what is in our wandering spirit - we do what we are told we cannot.

It was the anniversary of 9/11 this week.  I am always reminded of the quiet way this vast city I live in was full of grey people, made so by ash, where we asked each other what can I do to help.  I am reminded of the quiet way people from across the nation and around the globe offered comfort and help.  I am reminded of the way we as a country are known for our generosity across the globe when disasters strike anywhere.

I love American optimism, it is easy to make fun of it, but without it there is no hope, no making the impossible possible.  Those who want to deny us optimism want to have us live in the dark while they guard the light switch.

People - treating each other as people - helping others when they need it.  That is the American people that I cherish, those are the people who are patriots.   Be the Americans that the rest of the world is annoyed by, the baby with a lot of toys but who shares some and who is full of that infectious giggle and curiosity. They may be annoyed by the baby but let's face it they will tolerate it and know they need it, we do not want to be the sullen teenager.  We are better than that, flawed, with a nasty past, but with a connection in this land someone chose to come to or someone chose to stay in.

We are the best when disaster strikes so maybe we can continue to the best when the fires and the waters recede.  I am an American by choice because I believe that we can do better and because I think we are pretty great already in so many ways.  We can be the greatness we desire or we can be the disaster -- I chose to believe that what we see in times of trouble is the greatness that we can sustain.  I chose optimism not nationalism.  I chose to be patriot enough to be awed by these acts of kindness and demand more from our government to help it's people, because we are bits and pieces of the world and the world is watching.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Looking backward

Much like many of you I see a lot of memes on FaceBook and Instagram, some of them so clever I tip my imaginary hat to the person who created it and some so ridiculous they make me laugh.

I see a bunch of them with the Like and Share option at the bottom that go something like this - group of kids, picture roughly from 70s or early 80s based on clothes, outside and the tag lines are lengthy tomes to days gone past, childhood activities that I engaged in as did many of those of my or older generations and inevitably they end with "I am glad I grew up then and not now or Too bad kids these days will never know the joy of" like and share.

Yes I had fun doing those things that most parents today would not let me do  - run around the neighborhood without supervision, without cell phones, with streetlights to guide me to my curfew for most of my childhood.  I rode in cars without seatbelts to go to the beach with baby oil, SPF no where to be found.  I drank from and partook in opening fire hydrants, played tag in the street with parked cars for base and on coming traffic being dodged.  I made my own play dates by knocking on doors and asking if someone could come out and play.  I watched R rated movies by sneaking into the theaters and watched like 6 movies on hot summer days while paying for one - the a/c was a good thing.   I jumped subway turnstiles and no one tracked my phone, since they didn't exist, to know that the place I claimed to be was no where near where I actually was.   TV was on when I did my homework and the phone was attached to my ear as it was to the wall cord.

That nostalgia is great - it doesn't mention that crime rates in NY where I grew up were about double than they are now, so no people it wasn't "safer" as that statistic applies nationwide.  It doesn't acknowledge that kids disappeared, that pedophiles existed but we did not talk of those things, that kids were abused.  We did not know the sexual predator moved in because there were no sex crime registers to alert us to that.   You knocked on doors and for the most part you were safe but no one told us to watch it even when they probably should have.   Teachers sometimes abused kids physically and verbally and we kept it to ourselves because rarely was our side taken so it continued and for some scarred forever.

We do not talk about the crack vials I saw rolling around subway cars or that the kids who were in need of special services were highly unlikely to get them or even be identified to need them, they were odd, weird, tortured often, too often.  There were kids who were gay when we were growing up and there were kids were transgendered it is just that we did not think of what they needed, we did not think of them at all or if we did we were too often told they were abnormal.   Those children do not look at these memes with fondness, that was a dark time for them.

There were good times then and there were many things that we have evolved from, sadly not enough and not all of us.  This nostalgic look is often about our need to hold on to our youth, our wonder at the great times and people that were and may still be in our lives and for some a false reality of a time that exists as "perfect" but in reality at best was "perfect" for them at the expense of others.

Kids today will grow up and see their own version of memes, whatever they will be in the future - holograms per chance.  They will pine for days of apps that were not virtual reality based, for days when they do whatever it is they are doing today.  They are not missing out they are growing up doing the things they need to that make them happy.  Their kids will roll their eyes and not see what the "advantages" were just like ours smile and nod at our stories.

It is good to share our stories with our kids, they will see us as the kids we once were, funny, confused at times, feeling things they might be feeling.  They will get a kick out of how "hard" life was, goodness how did we survive without On Demand and streaming services?.   They will find us retro. We all wish we had the freedom of childhood that you appreciate so much more as an adult.   It is not better it is just different.

I look backward, kind of like I flip through pictures, to smile at that moment in time not to pretend that it represents every moment of that time.   It is ok that our kids are not growing up like us for me - they are growing up like them and maybe we could learn a few things from that too.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Raising Sons

Image result for mother with two boysI remember being pregnant with my first child and knowing that I would find out the gender of the baby. Now some people like to wait, for the surprise they say, I for one wanted to know.  I also quickly found out after giving birth that there is no lack of surprise, for knowing the gender means you know almost nothing anyway once the baby comes.  I wanted to know because I wanted to prepare for the colors, not a big fan of mint green stuff and yellow that seems to be norm when you don't know, and I wanted to think of a name.   It was same with second child.

As a pregnant mom I thought it would be crucial that I take a baby class, I did not babysit and neither had my husband, my exposure to babies minimal and frankly I am not a baby person.  They smell good and can be super cute but I was never one to rush across a room to offer to hold a baby. In case you are wondering I did question my maternal instincts as I was a hormonal, pregnant mess but apparently and luckily for my boys they kicked in as needed.   I still do not rush across a room to hold a baby.

I was and am shocked at how many times I have been asked the most bizarre questions about being the mother of boys or been offered sympathy for they must be "a handful".   Aren't all children a handful?  Even when they are not misbehaving they are challenging because they are ....kid.  Not boy kids or girl kids but just kids.    I know my friends who have girls get the same unsolicited sympathy "ooh you have to be careful".   Don't we all have to be careful and teach our kids how to make good choices no matter if they are boys or girls.

I love my boys and the older they get the more I enjoy the way we interact.   I had fun when they were little with them, was amazed to see them develop and now am watching them evolve.  I had a long discussion with my oldest son the other day that went something like this.

Me "I am a feminist"
Him "No you are not"
"Umm yes I am why would you say I am not" sit up on couch, defiant tone in my voice evident even to me
"Because you know ... because those people hate men"
"Please stop right there you are talking about extreme people who may just also be feminists and I am talking about feminists.  Do you even know what a feminist is?' Tone calmed down since apparently there is nomenclature not sexism at play in son
"Yeah they don't like men "
"No baby they just want the same rights and opportunities as men.  I do not want to be a man, never have, I like being a woman and I like all those things that make me a woman but I just want not to be told I cannot do something because I am one and I want to be paid equally for whatever job I do that a man might be doing"
"You sure that's what a feminist is?"
Ends in hug ... long discussion ensued all good.

Raising sons for me includes teaching them to be kind, prepared for choices and fair.  Raising sons means teaching them about their physicality - that they are strong, that they can overpower or that they can use that strength to help when someone isn't strong enough.  It means teaching them that what they constantly say they love about their mom is that she is a feminist even though the word has taken on a negative connotation.   Amazing how media has made people asking for equal rights into some weird fringe element - shouldn't people who want to mistreat others based on appearance be the ones feeling like the deviants?

It means having hard conversations with them about the power of permission that has to be given to them when they are with a partner.   It means telling them to be careful with potential sexual predators.  It means teaching them that it is amazing to be a man, to be who they are, to understand that they should be proud of themselves, confident to pursue their dreams and that all of that comes with the help and support of others not at the expense of others.

It also means that I need to understand that they are different than I am, in reactions, in emotional intelligence and that I am here to help them grow into men not to make them into my image.  I think that might be a good parental lesson for raising kids and one, difficult but needed, to follow.

I think I am raising good kids, not perfect ones, good boys who will be great men and amazing people.  I still get the ridiculous "I bet you wished you had a girl" statement at times, but frankly no.  I did not wish to have girls or boys I wanted and got to have children who I admire for who they are - and I got that.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Money, money, money

There are two songs that come to mind when the word money comes up for me.  The first is ABBA's "Money, Money, Money" and the second is "How much is enough?".

I am pretty sure that is not unique to me but putting it to music might be.  Music is never far from my mind and it is background in my head for most of the things that mean something to me.  Before you wonder I do not mean I hear music and not understand that it is a conscious addition to the emotion I am feeling - meds not needed (yet).

Recently was texting with my friend who is reading a book about the relationship we have to and with money.   As a woman of 50, as a woman period, money and I have a relationship.  It has not always been a healthy one and yet it was also an empowering one as a woman.  It is now becoming a side note as a means to the end that it should be for me. 

I do not understand the whole "you don't need money" line.  Usually uttered by those who do not need money, because anyone who has ever struggled with it knows you do need it.  I am not sure how those "you don't need money" folks pay their bills, manage their basic needs without it, hence my sarcastic cynicism when I hear it.  They often "do not need it" because someone has always made sure they get it if they do.  

We revere it, we make it evil, we want it, we hate that others have it, we blame those who don't and on a personal level it makes multiple parts of our lives possible. 

Interestingly enough it is money, or your lifestyle as currency, that is often quoted as the root of all evil. That's some power we ascribe to it.  For me money is not the root of all evil, or evil.  It is power and money used in conjunction with small minded meanness that makes it from a means to ruthlessness.

As we get older we hope we have enough to not be a burden during the part of our lives where we no longer are working.  We wish to be independent, to be able to help our children as much as we can so they too learn to think about money without wondering how much is enough and switch to thinking how much do I want to be as (insert career choice here).

As a parent I have always taught my kids, so far, that money is not infinite, nor easily replaceable while also giving them not only things but experiences.  I spend my money when I can on vacations with them, I have not replaced expensive electronics because they lost or broke them until they could save up some contribution to the replacement or fix.  I want them to know that it may be only  $5 but that $5 is part of a bigger pot of money that we use to give them the things they have.    I am not sure yet how well I am doing since they are quite young.  

The harder part is something I needed to teach myself.  You cannot fill a void with money, you can pretty it up, you can cover it in lovely things but you cannot fill a void.  It is easier to do it with buying things but it is like the little boy holding the finger in the dam.  If something is not fulfilling I am now looking for what that is and then looking to see how I can appreciate myself enough to know I deserve that void filled.   

Money doesn't buy happiness but it does make things happier to not have to worry about how to pay your bills.  If we have extra maybe we pay it back to others without having to forgo our entire share. It is ok to want and have the higher end things in life but maybe we can take a page from the minimalists and stop before we have more of those things that we can ever use.   I want to have money to continue to travel, to eat at great places, to buy my artist supplies (and boy are they pricey), to write on the gadget of the future and yes to have some things I really do not need but just want.  I do not rely on money for the contentment that I will find enjoying a walk on the beach, time spent with those who care for me and I for them, laughter, passion and all those other experiences that I plan on keeping priorities. 

Money, money, money we can manage it but it should not manage us.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The art of censorship - for parents

For those of us who are liberal the idea of censorship is truly abhorrent, unless it is plans or outright calls to violence then we are probably our own worst enemies in the belief that we should uphold free speech.  Yet it is who we are and the notion is built on the belief that people are good, that they will try to see through the negative rhetoric.

However, as parents, us same folks who consider ourselves liberal are censors that would rival the Soviet era mail readers.    I love the quote from Judy Blume that I used for a pic, it applies to everything from books to games to whatever media is out there.  It is how I try and censor, not with only denial but also with discussion.

When my kids were really young this censorship thing was easy because no one questioned it, I had total control and most of all they were young,  really there was much less that tempted them to look at things they were not ready for.  It was easy to turn on Sprout or PBS or maybe even Nick Jr when they had TV time.  The shows were musical, colorful and had been scrubbed of the violence of my own cartoon viewing days.   I have to admit I did love my Tom and Jerry and Bugs when I was a kid, as did many of us, and no we did not believe that the violence could be replicated.  Besides where the hell where 1) any of us going to get an anvil 2) be able to carry it to drop on someone --- we understood fiction and fantasy.  

As my kids get older that line started to need to be drawn.  The games they have available today have great graphics.  Impressive what they can depict but the down side is they have great graphics.  Some have frankly bizarre story lines, like does any kid really need to know how to live like Grand Theft Auto???  I understand much like my Tom and Jerry, I get it's not real, they often cite the same thing.  You need to know your kid, if that kind of gore and violence stimulates their brain to the point where they are not the nice kid you usually live with it is not for them.

For me life is about ages and stages.  For me as well as for my kids.  It is not only the content, and the child's processing of it, but the age.  The brain goes through developmental stages so your 4 year old may be precocious but they are still not ready for Call of Duty.  

So I break out the invisible black marker with my own boys as they are tween and teen ages.  I love the guys in the GameStop by my house.  I not only read about a game the boys ask for, and often am appalled that they want something where a method of death is being eaten by rats -ewww or worse, but then I take them and let the "cool" gamer guys tell them what they think about it for their age.   So far my spidey sense on the appropriateness of a game has been in sync with these young men who work in the place because they love playing video games, withholding judgement on their ages and this obsession.

I censor through discussion mostly - the "I said so" worked well for their younger selves but I do not want to be the one that says no only I want them to understand that I say no and that they see why they aren't ready.

My father was appalled at the ripped out of magazine pictures on my bedroom wall of Vince Neil and the rest of Motley Crue, Ozzy in his full attire.  They were men who looked a cross between menacing, jailhouse material and weirdly full of make up and hairspray.  I loved them, their long hair and air of rebellion was exactly what this teenage girl's soul needed.  I liked their songs of angst and anger, of sexual undertones.  They were not singing about my life, they were singing of a life I had no access to in such excess.  What else is being a teenager about if not that?  The funny part was I always liked other music, found Dean Martin super sexy and no I did not wind up all those things my father told me I would if I liked those boys on my walls.  I still understood the difference between fantasy and reality - Tom and Jerry replaced by Vince and Axel.

I let my kids listen to music and I expose them to songs from all eras, they have an appreciation for Frank Sinatra, as they should, and others.  My 13 year old though, much like his peers, likes rap.  The rap they listen to though often is so bad, not because I do not like the genre because I do like a lot of rap songs, but because it is frankly crap.  There is no music in it, there are no statements, it is a contest to see how many times you can drop the f bomb, the getting your d&*k sucked and the number of women who are "ho"s who are just out for money.

So I do not ban it, because I know he can always find it, what I do instead is share some of my thoughts on it, ask him to alternate between that and some old school rap or even new artists that use rap with poetry to a beat it was meant to be.   I talk to him and make him wonder if a song really is worth listening to when the person performing it did not even bother to try and make a song but just cursed.  It does not eliminate it from his life but I do see that he can laugh with me at the ridiculousness of some of it and that in the end women are not to be spoken of and treated that way, that the f bomb is more effective when used more sparingly (cursing if I remember from my own days withers down but it is the ooh look what I just said among friends for a short teenage bit) and most of all that he should learn to censor his own stuff.

The same goes with movies, shows, graphic novels for both.  You cannot block out everything.  In the movie, amazing movie I should say, "Hidden Figures" the central character holds the black out to the light to see what she needs to solve a problem.  Our kids will do that too with whatever we say no to.

Same goes for their exposure to sexual content, it is not right at any age it is right for the right age.  There is nothing wrong with sex, actually it can be very right - say that in a Groucho Marx imitation, so I want them to be open with their questions, their thoughts but not open with their bodies or that of others until they are mature enough for it.

I do not know if I am right in my way but I do know my kids.  Maybe that's the best censor in all of us, knowing our kids and what limits they need.  It is not a one size fits all.  We all want them to be the best and for me that means teaching them to make good choices not because I said so but because that is what feels right.

Enjoy your day and remember our parents shuddered at our music and taste, their parents at theirs and somehow most of us learned to navigate life pretty well.  It is those who were overly repressed and become oppressors through extreme views who add the least to life.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Still crazy after all these years

I am going to be 50 tomorrow ... 50!!!  Man, I thought that was so ancient, at best middle aged, nah ancient when I was younger.  I mean 50 - wasn't that the time you retired and started to eat at like 430 or something?  Broke out the white shoes with the thick soles?  How wrong our perceptions of age are when we are younger - or maybe we keep busting those perceptions as we refuse to let the number dictate to us and we chose to write our own stories of aging.

The insanity of youth is that anything slightly older than it seems outdated, to be put out to pasture.   Yet as my friends and I, mostly my  high school classmate friends, started this year with a foot in the last year of our 40s and a weary eye at a cake with many candle, somehow 50 didn't seem old anymore.

We tell each other it is the new 40.  In the scheme of how much longer people live that isn't quite wrong, and at some point 40 was something those who are young did and do still think of as over the hill.  It is middle age no matter how you cut it.  So what ??  It means you still have a half or more to keep doing what you want.

Yet 50 - wow.  I am not one to be defined by milestone birthdays but this one, well this one has been quite different for me.  I have found out that it is for many, especially women.

My reflection on this birthday started about 2 years ago - what do I want to do, to be, to want, to get when I am 50.  I do not want to be "normal" or go without being slightly insane.  I want to be the woman who makes others wonder "what's she up to now?".

I am more confident than when I was younger, I made peace with my imperfect body though we still have an adversarial relationship, I also started to really think about my goals.  So many of my goals, like many women, up to now were tied to outcomes expected by others.   Goals always included what was good for others too.  As I approach this milestone I started to really focus on what do I want, what do I want to accomplish, what do I deserve.  I learned from a therapist friend that to have real goals you have to visualize details in them, the colors, the smells, see yourself in them - so am starting with that as I build mine. I also came to realize that therapy is also necessary in the process for most of us, it just takes getting over the scared to be fabulous to start it.

How often do we really ask ourselves what do I deserve and not put any caveats on that?  Not be afraid to think it, want it, say it?  For me this is still a learning process.

So what have I learned in these 50 years - that love is meant to be celebrated, taken when you can, given freely even if it means you may get hurt.  I learned that passion and desire is not shameful but a driver and in itself a way to make life brighter, better, whether it is for a person or for idea.   I have traveled and appreciated different places and I am starting to wonder where I want to live beyond just where I am.  I have read a tremendous amount of wonderful books.  There has been art I have seen and art I have made that added to the memories that make me smile.

There is music, so much music, I cannot imagine not having it in my life throughout the years or going forward.

There are friends, some who stayed in my life, some who taught me that not all people are sincere and most who added a pebble to my soul to make it fuller.

I have not always had easy times, there were too many bad choices but luckily there were many more good ones and learnings from the ones that weren't.   I have lost people along the journey, they are all still part of who I am today in memories and things I learned with them.

Fifty is looking pretty damn fabulous from where I sit.  I see it in those who are turning 50 this year with me and in those that already celebrated it in years past.

It is not just a number because that would mean in some way it is not significant, for me it is significant.  I finished my book, which I swore I would do before 50.  I switched from exploring what's next in my career to what is my next career going to look like as I get closer to retirement.  Will it be full of creative endeavors or do I want to put my passions into other areas?  Not sure the world is full of possibilities.

As I turn 50 I also reflect on the wonder of human accomplishment, from kindness that pours over borders and in person when truly awful things happen, to scientific advancements, technology, architecture that has happened in my lifetime.  I was born in a world where nothing is impossible it just needs to be looked at from different angles and determined how it could be possible.

So happy birthday to me .... and thank you to you all who read this ... let the 2nd half of my century, cause yeah there is a chance I could live to a 100 (but only if I could be as cool as Betty White), begin.  I am ready to have people on this journey that appreciate who I am, who I appreciate and gently let go of "just what might have been".

Bring it 50 .... this girl is still not ready for you!!!!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Love it or leave it

In my many years of living in the States, choosing to be a citizen of this country, defending the US even when I disagreed with the politicians I never was told to leave here as much as I have been since the current president's run for office and even more so since he got into office.

As if caring for a country, disagreeing with the government, not supporting the person in the office because of his policies and lack of acumen (or his crass and morally repulsive behavior) and blindly bowing down is more patriotic. It is not it is nationalistic, the stuff of fascism, bolshevism, and yes nazism.  Patriotism is loving a place enough to see it's problems and looking at how you as one person can make a difference for the better.  Nationalism is seeing the flaws, blaming everyone but yourself and then following blindly anyone who only agrees with you.

People have forgotten they too are not from here, at some point even if they were born here, because the people who have told me if I do not like it 1) do not have Native American names 2) have said it based on my last name or when I mentioned I am immigrant 3) ironically seem to have immigrants in their family tree too.

As if people who came here didn't come here from places that didn't allow dissent, asked for blind following and total submission to the thought that government and one particular head of state is always right.  As if others didn't come here for financial opportunities.  Interestingly the people who were brought here against their will,  because no Dr Carson they did not emigrate immigrate here the only "grate" they saw were the ones that were on the windows of the floating prison barges that brought them here, do not say this to me ever.

People also seem to have really short memories - apparently some think this president is under more "attack".  Makes one wonder if they had their tvs, radios off since the 70s .  You don't have to go back that far you can go back say 8 years to see our former president's likeness lynched, burned, called crazy names, for some reason some crackpot started a bizarre birther theory, his daughters assailed, his wife called vile names.  Here is the beauty, wait for it, it still is all available for many years prior on this fancy doodad called the internet.

I am grateful for all that I have accomplished in this country.  What is happening  disturbs me because I grew up and lived with what happens without a free press, without the ability to dissent, without hope to change anything because you were supposed to smile and say thank you even when they kicked you.  It is because I believe in the concept of America - not a perfect place but a place perfected by those who come here.

I fulfill my part as an immigrant, I add to the fabric of society as much as I can, I contribute to the tax system, I vote and I had children here who I am raising to continue to add to the quilt that makes up the US.

Every day the dignity we once associated with the office,  even through scandals, has been diminished by a man who was never fit to sit in the chair to begin with.

I see his rallies, who has rally after rally right after they are elected ?  oh yeah dictators with their fragile egos who need to keep whipping their supporters into a frenzy, and there he is even less coherent but yet more applauded.  His supporters cannot seem to accept any chinks in his teflon armor.  They fiercely defend him if someone points out his audacious lies and believe that he is in their corner.  They need to believe because he still sells them on the idea that he believes in them.

As we celebrate the birth of this nation all of us chose at some time to cross oceans to get to, or for those that did not choose to come here they still have given their lives to try and make it a better place, that I want to remember that the founding fathers of this land were not men who were flawless.  Nor where they ideals of mankind.  They were men, who made poor choices but whose character was not shaped by those poor judgements but rather they were shaped by their belief in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  We can emulate that spirit and do better with those things they did not, like equal rights for men and women, like treating people the same regardless of their race, like making those pursuits available to all.

I believe that those who still support him believe that he will make it better for them,  isn't that what both left and right want though?  To make it better for all - what his message is most flawed in is that it seems as if the pie is finite when America is built on the idea that nothing is impossible.  The world will NEVER go back to what it was, who wants it to ?  We need to figure out how we can make it go forward with us at the helm, not standing there talking about the remember whens.

Happy Fourth of July - I leave you with words from Bono, a man who like me chooses to live in the States not because we see it as without need to make it better but because we love it enough to want to do so

"Anyway, it’s not a right/left issue. It’s a right/wrong issue, and America has constantly been on the side of what’s right. Because when it comes down to it, this is about keeping faith with the idea of America. Because America’s an idea, isn’t it? I mean, Ireland’s a great country, but it’s not an idea. Great Britain’s a great country, it’s not an idea. That’s how we see you around the world, as one of the greatest ideas in human history, right up there with the Renaissance, right up there with crop rotations and the Beatles’ White album. The idea, the American idea—it’s an idea—the idea is that you and me are created equal, and will ensure that an economic recession need not become an equality rescission. The idea that life is not meant to be endured but enjoyed. The idea that if we have dignity, if we have justice then leave it to us, and we’ll do the rest. This country was the first to claw its way out of darkness and put that on paper. And God love you for it, because these aren’t just American ideas anymore. There’s no copyright on them. You brought them into the world. It’s a wide world now. I know Americans say they have a bit of the world in them, and you do, the family tree has lots of branches. But the thing is, the world has a built of America in it, too. These truths, your truths, they’re self-evident in us.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

School's out for summer...

Image result for summer vacation kids Can't speak for anyone else but I hear Alice Cooper every year when my kids and their friends go to their final day of school, more energized then ever, antsy to have the day start so it could finish and then they are out for summer.

Man I miss that -- bit jealous always of my teacher friends who have it too - the idea that I could have a whole summer off.   I am a high energy person, not quite hyper, so that would include keeping busy but it would also include doing a bunch of nothing except pleasurable things, like reading, beach going, travel, painting, writing.  Doing those things without wondering what chore, work thing or commitment I needed to get to.

For those of us that are parents in this day and age we are also told about the planning we have to do for our kids.  I do not mean for wee ones that need actual caretakers, I mean for every age group living under our roof.  After all we cannot have kids do ... brace yourselves ... NOTHING.

Yet isn't nothing, no schedule, what we as adults look at them longingly for having during this time? I mean none of us see the last day of summer and think "man if I was kid I hope my parents made sure I was busy every nanosecond of every day until school starts."  No we look at them and wish we too could have that break to do what we want.  Now what we fill that time with might differ from what our kids want but to me the possibilities and pure lazy days of summer as a kid are part of the magic of being a kid.

These kids are kept busy throughout the year and this is not a good or bad thing, it is just the way parenting happens for those who have the ability to put kids into activities.  For those that do not, their kids still have some schedule.  If parents care for their children, focus on being there for their kids they should all grow up to be in pretty good shape.

Summer though - I remember it well.  My dad was fond of giving me some math problems to do every day, eye roll even now and sorry dad they did not make me like math more, I had assigned summer reading lists for good part of my school years and then I had a few chores each day.  Beyond that my parents worked and I was not tethered like my kids since I lived in New York.  In a borough that allowed me free roam within in and out of it to the City without parental supervision.

You know what we did for a good part of it, my friends and I, not much.  We went to the public pool, where you had to watch your towel and your money as this was New York in it's high crime, low quality of life era.  We walked around aimlessly. We played video games in candy stores, where people smoked.  We hung out in alleyways and parks.  When younger we played kickball, tag and some other things until dinner, where you gobbled and then ran back down, until streetlights came on and then you begged for "just a little while longer".  You were hot and sometimes someone opened a fire hydrant so you can cool down.  We also went to the movies, and paid for one movie, but often saw several in the movie theater (it was air conditioned and no one checked or cared I think).   We sat in homes and watched some tv.  Overall though we did not do those things that we seem to expect our kids to do these days.  Keep a schedule being top of the list.

I know some people went to camps, day or sleep away, I did not grow up in a neighborhood like that. Your parents may have shipped you off to relatives in Europe, but there you did a lot of the above stated only in a different land.  We went to the beach when we got older, on subways, sweating as we stuck to plastic seats on our way, until we had cars.  If you were in Europe you did whatever it was that kids there did, but again not much of a schedule.   We went on vacations with our parents, or weekends at Jones Beach, Robert Moses or Sunken Meadow.

So this summer I thought I would let my own kids figure out how to be bored, not have as many scheduled things, and get to do whatever they do these days to be entertained.  I figured I and most of the people I grew up with are doing ok.    They have some scheduled camps, some vacation with us and a bunch of let's play it by ear.

I gave them the summer I think as an adult I miss from when I was a kid.  They have a lifetime to be "productive" and only a short while to live without the responsibililties of adulthood.

Do what you think is right for your kids always but once in a while it is ok to let that be letting them enjoy the luxury of being a kid ... especially in the summer.

Happy summer off kids ..

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer time and the parenting advice is not easy

I appreciate good advice, knowledge as much as anyone I know.  I am totally comfortable with my dorky nature of wanting to know things, to seek things out, to be grateful for those who offer advice and help when I need it.

Yet I am so over and so annoyed with the vast amount of parenting advice out there that is not really advice. It is all about waxing poetic on how wonderful that person's decision was to do whatever and how if you aren't doing it you fall short.  I am over being told how I fail as a mother, as a woman just to be told a few weeks later that whatever I tried to switch too will pretty much be the end of any hope for my children.

It is easy these days to be an expert - I mean I could blog about it and pretend that it is based on professional opinion when in fact a blog is pretty much the editorial section of the newspaper. Yes some facts will be there but opinion is not fact, though this seems to be very blurred on all levels these days.

So as I raise my kids to the best of of my ability, I triage through advice and rely on my trusted resources - women I actually know whose kids I happen to also know.

It is not easy being a parent, rewarding and amazing yes but not easy.  It shouldn't be, you are after all responsible for a whole other being, beings.  Their care is in your hands, literally, and who they become is a result of most of your influence.  I know we like to say that their peers, and they do too, are their greatest influence but they aren't they are just the voice they choose to hear.  However, I am a firm believer that our voice lives on like that annoying supermarket muzak in their head.

I do not think, beyond living in places of extremes, that doing one thing or not doing one thing is what is going to make the child. For me I find it works when I try and parent much like I am told to do with all else, think, be moderate, be fair, I am not always right and have to admit it.   That's it - I got not other must do's because this blog is my opinion and I have no real qualifications, as most authors of those "you must make sure to" articles don't either, to make a fact based declaration.

I try to teach my kids to be kind, to understand their world and how I can be of use in helping them navigate it and most of all to build a trust (hence the muzak in their heads) that translates to them knowing when to come to me for advice.

My kids are fortunate and they are told so but we chose to give them things, in good spirit, so we also choose to make sure they know that they have more than they need but not so much that they forget it.

I expose my kids as often as possible to people, places, foods, ideas that are diverse not because I think that makes them better but because it makes them curious and open to ideas.  That is my kids, may not be yours, neither one of us is wrong.

Maybe all these articles annoy me because they serve to remind us more often than not to focus on the "parenting as competition with other parents" instead of being truly a reference for all of us who should admit that we wing it a lot more than we actually know 100% of what we are doing.  Maybe you don't, maybe you are reading this and think none of this applies, that works for me.

I applaud anyone who chooses to be a parent, as much as I also support those that choose not to be for whatever reasons.  So what if our children are imperfect they are human after all, not some prize to be held up.  They are the reward not the means to get one for being written about.

So go be parents - whatever that means to you - be the parents you know your children need because most of us know that more than any article can ever tell us.  If you have a nugget of info to share pass it on but if you have only "I did it betters" well then good luck with your writing career, this girl is passing on that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hey hey daddy-o

Father's Day is coming up - there I told you, no excuses to forget to get something for your dad, father figure, male who acted as your father or just a guy in your life who fills that need.

Fathers have evolved through time, and we do not always take the time to acknowledge their contributions to the family as much as we do for Moms.  It makes sense, even in the most egalitarian of houses I still see the mother organizing what dad executes, managing and doing the workload and most of all let's be honest there is nothing like a mom.  Moms love with some super elevated emotional nerve that the best of fathers only get close to.

Yet I am so really overwhelmed with emotion when I see how fatherhood has evolved.  There were always good fathers, bad fathers and the average bit of both of those things fathers when I was growing up.  They were there but not present, they were often loud, often the discipline stick used and many a time they were the ones that were in need of taking care as much as the kids.  These men of a previous generation were teachers to their kids, they loved their kids but too many did not know what that meant in terms of showing it.  We also have as a society changed our understanding of what parenting is and with that both mom and dad have become different than our parents.

My own father was a complicated figure, kind at times, really mean at others.  An auto-didact without a way to teach what he learned most of the time without derision.  A selfish man who loved to entertain.  A man who loved music, art, education and travel and passed those things on to me.  We struggled my father and I.  I did not respond well to his constant measurement of me to others where I fell short almost every time, to his pushing me by telling me that it was expected that I achieve more and more and most of all the times he just was mean because he could be.  I was not that kid that would rise up to "show him" yet that was not the man I choose to call the whole of my father.  He was funny, really funny, we went record shopping together, we went to the movies, we did a lot of things and he was great to learn from.  He was my Daddy and I miss him even when I have consciously self-corrected behaviors that I saw myself mimick of his that had been things that I disliked in him.  The other things he was were about him I realize, after years of therapy, not about me.

Today's fathers that I know are so different.  I see them with kids, they take them to events and stay there cheering them, giving unwanted advice and then softening it up.  There they are helping coach various sports teams and being good with other people's kids not just their own.  They are doing carpools and changed diapers.  They are an active part of school performances and events. They spend time with their kids and enjoy it.  These men follow through on the things the mother's of their children ask of them.  They are not "helping" their wives or partners because these are their children so they are sharing in the raising of them.

Today's fathers want to be more than the threat needed when a child misbehaves.  They are working on being the person their children will want to be with when they are adults and do not need to be with either parent except because they enjoy it.

Yeah I know we make fun of the fact that you still cannot find things in the house that have always been in the same spot, that you still ask us questions about basic routines and things that we as moms do not ever seem to need input on (what should I feed the kids among my personal favorites?).  You are there as our bookend to prop up our children until they are their own novels, and we will be there when they need a rest on that same shelf.

I watch my male friends, and other dad's that I know, and I want to say you are an awesome bunch.  I applaud you and am glad to have you around my own kids who, if they choose, will have some great role models to build from as fathers.

You will never be moms but you do not need to be you need to be the best fathers you can be and from where I am standing you are all doing a pretty kick-ass job with that.   Anyone can father a child but it's the best of men who are truly Papas, Daddy's, Tati, Pops.

Happy Father's Day

Monday, June 5, 2017

Then there were 5

My parents surrounded themselves with several families when they moved to the States, families who were the same ethnicity.  Families who they could speak their native language with, share the same foods, the same cultural norms and had friends who were around my age.   We were 6 girls.   Three of were only children, one was an only child for a long time until her parents had another son much too late for us to be anything but annoyed by, and two were sisters. We had each other's families known over for dinner parties that lasted until the wee hours of the night, for weekends driven to the beach, all of us crowding in the back of one car, begging to put on Top 40 Casey Kason and dealing with listening to whatever they wanted to as well.  My father was notorious for having us also answer various school related topics, I am pretty sure all of us know capitals and geography more from those trips then from school.  

These are my memories, these girls, endless hours spent together talking, talking on phones that were tethered with long, stretched out cords.  I can see us walking away from our parents at the beach, burning plastic (don't judge we were poor) at the picnic area we went to just to see the patterns they would melt into (don't judge I said).   We were a unit, like steps each a year younger than the other. One of us lived in New Jersey, in a house to our apartments, so we spent many New Year's in her basement while our parents danced, laughed, played poker and basically left us alone to listen to our music, to drink our bootleg shampoo bottle of booze that I had brought (it was nasty for the record), to be silly.  

We were family and those of us who lived in NY went to the same schools or schools near by, followed each other around, walked endless hours by boys we liked and asked if they had looked at us.  We supported each other and debated the merits of Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Doors and swooned over Rick Springfield at the first concert we all went to,  our mothers complained for days about the noise level (of the girls screaming not Rick).  It baffled our parents how we could talk so much, then get on the phone and talk some more.  We were sisters and fought like such, we loved each other.

Yet we were not the same.  I was the oldest and the easiest going, maybe I was bossy at times but for the most part I was pretty much game to go with the flow.  G was the next in line.  She was always a little bolder, ok a lot bolder.  She called her dad by his first name, we met when she was 9 and I was 10.  He wasn't her biological father, she knew and told us, we nodded but probably not quite understood.  She was like us but she wasn't.  She was allowed to roam freer than the rest of us, she was raped at 11 by a group of teen boys.  She told me, she made me swear not to say anything or she would deny it, we did not say anything.  I am not sure now if we knew what "rape" meant.  After all she still hung out with them after so was it that bad?  The adult in me shudders remembering this, we did not tell we should have but we thought the parents would be mad at us.  I know her behavior was typical of a survivor now, I did not know that then.   

We all started smoking pot in our teens, I started to pull away when I realized it was getting beyond just that.  I saw the people that we were with and I did not see them leaving the place we were, I was 16.  I did not explain this to the other two of the 6 of us who were with me, G and M, I left them and I left it behind because a part of me wanted more, wanted to be anything but stuck in the same place in life.  I left her slowly and I loved her a lot but she stayed.  She took more and harder drugs. Her depression, as an adult I see it, her self destructive behavior hidden behind an always present smile, a big personality.  She couldn't be an addict, she was too smart, too popular, too everything right?  

We drifted apart and we drifted back together when my father and two of the mothers died the same year, mere months apart.  G's mom was one of them.  We shared each other's grief, we laughed at every memory we had of them, we were in our 20s.   They died much too young.  We lived without a parent each much too young. 

Her addiction took her, she thought she was in charge, she could convince us she was in charge but she was out of control because that is addiction.  It starts by giving you a good feeling, it makes you fill a void, it takes you.  It takes everything from you, it becomes the best friend you need, you want, you defend against those who tell you to give it up.  It is a disease and it is rooted in pain and we did nothing to help, she never asked us to, we all had moved on.  One of us kept in touch with her.  

I saw her not long after I had my son at a party that our New Jersey friend threw.  She had tracked G down.   She had been in Riker's, she like many in there had been sexually abused and raped by the guards, she was not some character in Orange is the New Black she was my friend and she had called none of us.  Not to visit, not to see her, not for help.  She had her addiction still and it would wait for her to get out of jail.  She had her smile, we all hoped she would be ok. 

G died last week.  She had been clean for 10 years, she had been with her husband for 20.  They had spiraled down and up together, he was helped her stay clean along with him.  They gave up heroin.  Read that again, they gave up heroin.  He replaced her addiction with love, the way he spoke of her was a gift, I was happy she had that kind of love.  It was the thing that filled a void that topped addiction.  It was something she chose to do because she finally found a way back to being able to make that choice. 

We were once 6 girls and now we are 5 and every part of me hurt when I heard of her death at 48.  Her smile is what I remembered first, her laugh and the way she seemed like life was hers for the taking, addiction took her potential to be bigger than life. She could not control it, it controlled her.  

G made me laugh in her death like she had when alive, she made me remember how good my childhood was and how close to going in a different path we all were.  It made me wonder where I failed her and it made me realize that in all of the years I knew her she never asked me to help her except for once, and I did but I could not help the pain she carried since we were children.  G is part of every childhood memory I have, part of how I moved in a different direction and now part of the way I spoke with my kids about drugs and what they do to you.  

She had love and that means a lot to me.  It also reminded me that we need to not be silent about sexual abuse, pain, and offer real treatment for those things along with treatment for addiction.   Too many have become one less number to their friends and family and left us with memories instead of being part of the ones we will make.  If you know anyone who is an addict try and give them the option to ask you for help - they will not get better until they realize that there is more to life than pain, that the drugs or alcohol they use will not make it better and that they deserve our compassion and support not our jails and indifference. 

Then there were 5 and as it always was - we grieved together, we laughed at memories together and no matter where we live we live within each other always.   We have been friends for over 40 years, through many decades and from a previous century.  Goodbye my friend I will love you always.