Thursday, May 26, 2011

Forty IS Fabulous

There, I've said it.  I'm the big 4 - 0.  Yesterday was my fortieth birthday.  And I truly could not be happier.  I could be coy, and lie (maybe a little bit more each year) about my age, but that is not my truth.  The truth is, no matter how you slice it, whether you use "old math" or "new math," I am forty years old.

In having attained forty years, I have experienced my fair share of triumphs and tragedies.  But all that I have lived through has been the greatest learning experience.  Looking back on my twenties, I realize that I didn't know much at all about life - but I was a quick learner.  By the time I was thirty, I was certain that I had it all figured out.  But thirty-one through thirty-nine taught me that I had only reached the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  I can tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, now that I have reached forty, there is still plenty more to learn, to live, and to experience.  

According to the CDC, the average life expectancy for women in the US is just under 78 years of age - which means I'm more than half way there!  As I am now aware of the fact that there are more days behind than there are ahead, it is near impossible not to reflect back on my life.  Scanning through both major and minor events, I cannot help but think, "Has my life meant anything thus far?"  The following poem (often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, though some speculate that to be incorrect) has helped me to answer that question:

What Is Success?

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,
This is to have succeeded.

At forty, I can declare myself a success based on Emerson's criteria.  Can you?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Is Your Truth?

I have started and stopped writing this post for the past four days.  At first, I wanted to write about accepting ourselves for who we are.  I planned to use my father as a prime example.  His hearing is not what it used to be.  In fact, it’s not even half as good as it used to be.  It has become so poor that he actually convinced my mother to celebrate Mother’s Day a week later this year so that when we had our usual dinner out in a restaurant, it would not be as loud and busy.  This actually backfired on Dad, as May is also communion “season,” and the restaurant we ate at had two parties running concurrently.  I planned to call that post “What Interferes With Your Quality of Life?”

Then, I was distracted by a custody battle a friend is currently going through.  This got me thinking even more about the concept of  “quality of life.”  I began to contemplate  how one goes about proving to a judge that one parent can provide a better quality of life for a child than the other parent can.  This can be a very sad situation, since essentially you participate in character annihilation of a person who you, presumably, once loved - or at least you thought you did.  So now you have to confront the choices you’ve made, and perhaps your lack of ability when it comes to such choices.  You do this, of course, to the mother/father of a child you adore and have to come to terms with the idea of hating this person, yet at the same time, putting on a happy face for the child or children involved.  Very few people can accomplish this.  Most of the time, the kids (depending on their ages) can tell you EXACTLY what caused the rift between their parents, and what each parent has said about the other  - both directly to them and to other adults when they thought the kids weren’t listening.  I was going to call that post, “How Do You Measure Your Quality of Life?”

Finally, I watched Oprah’s two part interview with author James Frey.  You’ll recall  that he is the author who was “disgraced” when it was revealed that his book, A Million Little Pieces was actually not the no-holds-barred memoir that it was published as, and was, in fact, a novel “based on” his own personal experiences but with many embellished details.  Many felt that this left Oprah with egg on her face, as she had chosen the book as one of her very popular “Oprah’s Book Club” selections.  The show featured clips of the original show, where Oprah had Frey on to discuss his memoir, as well as clips from the follow up show where Frey was taken to task for duping the American public.  Following Frey’s admission, subsequent copies of the book were printed with a “note to the reader” from Frey in which he clarifies the nature of the story he had written.  This got me thinking about the concept of  “truth” and managed to pull all of my ideas together.  

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines truth as “sincerity in action, character, and utterance; the state of being the case.”  In the case of James Frey, it can be argued that his book was NOT “the case.”  It can also be argued, however, that there was sincerity in its intention.  Frey explains in the “note” that the work is a “subjective truth, altered by the mind of a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.  Ultimately, it’s a story, and one that I could not have written without having lived the life I’ve lived.”

isn’t our entire existence on this planet part of our own subjective truth?  Ask three witnesses to a crime to describe the incident and you will probably end up with three different versions of the same story.  Since we constantly see life through the lens of our own life experiences, our position cannot be anything but subjective.  So my Dad’s creation of fake holidays helps him maintain his truth - that there is nothing wrong with his hearing.  Anyone involved in a custody battle is able to maintain their truth of being the “better parent,” even if it means picking apart the character of their former partner and manipulating details, because getting custody of the kids is what is important.  And Frey is able to maintain his truth, that while his book is not a 100% factual account of his experience, it is the reality of his addiction (as he told Larry King) and the message of the story is what is truly important.

We all play this game.  We tell ourselves: taking something from a retail store is not stealing when the cashier failed to ring it up properly at the register, adjusting the number of your age or weight is not lying when you look younger or thinner than the actual number reveals.  This is our truth, as we see it.  So think about it,  what “subjective truths” do you tell yourself? 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pregnant in Heels

I happened to catch a re-run of the premiere episode of Bravo TV’s Pregnant in Heels the other day.  I had seen commercials for the show but didn’t think I would be interested.  I tend to watch shows like that when I’m in “that mode” only.  When planning my wedding, I was obsessed with WE TV’s Bridezillas.  But on the recommendation of a friend, I tuned in.  I was pleasantly surprised, though initially horrified.....
My initial horror was surrounding Rosie’s first clients, Sarah and Jon.  My jaw hit the floor when Sarah, four weeks from her due date, revealed that she and her hubby thought of their baby, from conception, as a “life force sucking parasite.”  Ummm, what????  Why exactly are these people having a baby???  When Rosie questions the parents about their parenting style, Jon says, “When I was a kid, in the ’70’s, it was made very clear that I was not the center of the universe.  I was along for the ride.”  Sarah chimes in with, “The world doesn’t revolve around them.”  My horror slowly turned to disgust and then repugnance.  I also was a kid in the ‘70’s and my parents did indeed make me the center of their universe.  Mind you, I consider my parents to be “middle of the road” in parenting styles.  They weren’t the type to let me curse as a toddler (in order to be able to fully express myself), but they also weren’t the type to make me sit at the dinner table until all the food on my plate was consumed. (Side note: there was a single incident involving pancake syrup, but I’ll blog about that another time).
There was a bit of a reprieve when in a “confessional shot,” Rosie tells us that, “Actually, that’s exactly what a baby should be - the center of your universe.”  I felt a glimmer of hope - at least not everyone on this show was crazy - but it was short lived.  Sarah revealed that she didn’t talk to her belly, that the baby is “just there.,” and that she thinks its ridiculous for people to think that she should be completely bonded with the baby just because she is pregnant.  Seriously???  I think most women bond with their babies from the moment they find out they’re pregnant.  I know I did, and so did all of my friends.  
So back to my original thought - why are these two people having a baby??? Clearly, they do not want one.  They have ZERO prep done for the baby’s arrival.  Remember, the baby was due in only 4 weeks when Rosie arrived and they had yet to purchase a stitch of clothing, a stroller, not even a car seat to bring this baby home from the hospital in.  Before you start emailing me about people who are superstitious about bringing things into the house, know that I am one of those people.  I did not have a baby shower for that reason.  But there are ways to plan ahead without having to bring stuff into your home.  Most baby furniture stores, especially the ones these Madison Ave Moms shop at, will gladly order and hold your furniture, etc, until you call and say you want it delivered.  I personally kept all the clothes I bought at my moms.  But, I digress..... This couple couldn’t have been more disconnected from their baby if they tried.  They didn’t speak with excitement about his impending arrival.  Instead, there seemed to be a feeling of dread in the air whenever they spoke of it.  But here is where the GENIUS of Rosie Pope happens.  She shows up at their apartment WITH A THERAPIST.  That’s right, a therapist.  One cute, young Dr. Ryan, looking a lot like Doogie Howser, swoops in and after ignoring the death glares of the couple facilitates a breakthrough.  Rosie tells the couple to their faces that they seem to have “whacked ideas” about babies and parenting and that they seem to have used their superior intellect to come up with good reasons why they have put off being prepared.  Dr. Ryan asks a few questions and then immediately diagnoses Sarah as having “experiential avoidance.”  This is where in order to avoid feeling anxious about something, you simply avoid thinking about it at all.  Sarah had what I like to call an “Oprah Winfrey lightbulb moment” and a happy ending was the result. Baby Fox (follow-up post on names coming soon) arrives and Sarah and Jon actually seem happy about it.  
God bless you, Rosie Pope, for having the patience and resources to deal with these people.  Their crazy ideas would have been such a turn-off to me that I don’t think I could have worked with them. True, I was scared, too,  when I was pregnant for the first time, but I talked about it.  I read books about birth, and babies, and parenting.  I asked my mother and aunts and friends questions.  That’s how most people prepare themselves.  Since I am not an avoider, I can’t relate to Sarah.  I immediately felt that she and her husband were callous and thoughtless.  Turns out they were just scared.  I just hope little Fox NEVER gets to see your show.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Tale of Love Between Sisters

Below is a photo taken of one of Sam/s "spelling stories."  Her fifth grade teacher assigns such stories once a week for homework.  The purpose of the assignment is not to illustrate understanding of the words (as would be the case for vocabulary words) but simply to practice spelling the words correctly.  Apparently, Sam needs to work on that part a bit.

I just LOVE these stories?  Why? Well, for one thing, I think they illustrate Sam's level of creativity and imagination.  Second, Allie enjoys these stories immensely.  She is often the subject of Sam's weekly spelling stories and even posts them on her Facebook page for everyone to see.  And, most importantly, by putting those two points together, it proves to me that Allie and Sam, though they often deny it, truly love and respect one another.  They are both intelligent, creative, and sarcastic (a requirement in our family).  They are confident enough in themselves to appreciate the creativity and humor of the other, even if it is at their own expense.  They take each other seriously when need be, and not too seriously most other times.  Clearly, I've been doing something right.   =)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Should You Discipline Other People's Children?

I attend a weekly "Music Together" class with my 15 month old daughter, Lily, my sister-in-law, and nephew.  It has been a fun way for my SIL and I to get together weekly, as we often meet for coffee before or after class.  It has also been a great way to get the cousins together since, let's face it, life can be really hectic and finding time for such get togethers can be tricky, especially if you have multiple kids.  At this morning's class, a new mom and her two boys appeared.  One boy was an infant.  The older boy looked to be about two or three years old.  The older boy was a bully.  He spent a good deal of time during class harassing the other children to various degrees.  Those of you who are familiar with the "Music Together" program know at some point in each class there is a "play-along" song where the children are invited to pick their own instrument from a wide variety (usually spread on the floor in the middle of the circle) and "play-along" with a song.  Lily picked up a pair of finger cymbals and sat in front of me while I shook a tambourine.  The bully came over and grabbed one of the cymbals out of Lily's hand.  Without even thinking, I grabbed the cymbal back from the boy and said, "Lily is still playing with this, but you can have it when she's done."  He looked and me and slid back on the floor.  No response from the mother.  I went so far as to make good on my word, and when Lily found herself another instrument, I handed the cymbal to the boy, saying, "It's your turn now."  He took the cymbal and moved on.  Later in the class, the boy found himself a seat on the bottom of a nearby wall unit, along with a few of the older children, whom he proceeded to push, kick, and poke, until they cleared out, leaving him alone in his spot.  This time Mom gave him "a look" from across the room and politely asked him to return to his spot next to her.  He ignored her.  Mom did nothing.  

I was INCHES away from getting up and addressing the issue myself.  But I was torn since Lily was not  directly involved.  I even found myself tempted to trip this boy as he ran past me in the circle!  Clearly that would not have helped, but I was so angry!  To quote Peter Griffin, of televisions Family Guy, it really "grinds my gears!"  This boy's mother saw quite clearly what this boy was doing and didn't find it necessary to even get up from her spot on the floor.  If one of my girls ever got physical with another child, not only did I address the behavior immediately, I also addressed the other parent, offering an apology, or having my daughter apologize directly to the other child, depending on age.  

I just cannot wrap my brain around this mother's response - or lack thereof.  What was going through her mind?  Based on his repeated abuses, I think it's safe to assume that this type of behavior is a regular occurrence for this boy.  And since there appear to be no repercussions for him, it seems logical that he would continue to bully and torment.  The parents of the other children involved did get up and remove their children from the bully's line of fire.  I'm disappointed that one of them did not address the boy or his mother directly.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to hold my tongue next week.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Things I Love About Being A Mother

  1. Unsolicited hugs and kisses
  2. A constant barrage of "Look what I made for you..." art projects
  3. Reading bedtime stories
  4. Having stories read to me
  5. Being asked for advice
  6. Being asked "Can I help you, Mommy?"
  7. Wiping away tears
  8. Being the loudest cheerleader at the game
  9. Experiencing the joy of Christmas morning through the eyes of my children
  10. Breakfast in bed on Mother's Day
and most of all, being called "Mom."

When I was pregnant, I thought I knew how hard being a mother was going to be.  But it has been a thousand times harder.  I also thought I knew how much joy being a mother would bring me.  But it has brought me AT LEAST a thousand times more joy - and for that I am the most grateful.

Happy Mother's Day to one and all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Normal Parents Don't Quote Shakespeare - Or Do They?

My 14 year old daughter recently berated me for "stalking her Facebook page."  By "stalking" she meant "looking at."  Why did I have to read all of her statuses, along with all of the comments for each status, she lamented.  Mind you, some of the comments for a particular status can go on for pages - more than 30 or 40 comments.  This is what usually piques my interest =).  When I mentioned in conversation something that her friend had said in a comment, she went crazy.  The words "stalker" and "creepy" flew at me.  At first I was laughing at her reaction.  When I realized that she was actually upset by this, I got angry.  Aren't your friends supposed to read your statuses (and the requisite comments) on Facebook? Was this not the purpose of Facebook?  Now I was yelling.  Seeing how upset about this I had become, my daughter quickly back-peddled.  "God, I was just kidding..." was the reply I got - along with a roll of the eyes.  "Do you know what Shakespeare once wrote?" I retorted.  "Many a truth are said in jest."  A pregnant pause.  She looked at me and said, "He should've been more clear about what he meant......Oh, wait."  The lightbulb went off over her head.  I smiled.  As she turned away she said, "You know, normal parents don't quote Shakespeare."